No, you shouldn’t.
See how easy that was? No endless scrolling or clicking through ten pages of images. So maybe you’re on the fence, wondering “Should I visit Japan?” Well, Ken Seeroi’s here to tell you, Yeah no, don’t, not just yet. So helpful, that guy.
But you’re like, “The yen’s super cheap and plus I really, really just want to visit Japan.” I feel that, but hold off a bit. Here’s why:
Why You Shouldn’t Visit Japan Now (Autumn 2022)
1. Winter’s coming. Okay, if you can get here in the next couple weeks, you might be able to enjoy the tail end of clear fall weather and marvel at what trees haven’t lost their leaves or had their limbs sawed off by the old geezers from the civic center. But once mid-December hits, all bets are off. Seriously, winter in Japan is freaking cold; just wait till April or May. The yen’s unlikely to recover soon, and the weather, along with everything else, is bound to pick up by then.
2. The restaurant death spiral. Between COVID and the rising cost of essential ingredients, restaurants have been forced to raise prices. Japanese folks, many already living on a shoestring, have responded by just saying no. What America is to drugs, Japan is to izakaya. Then with fewer customers, restaurants have had to cut back on service and raise prices even more, resulting in subsequently less customers.
It’s also worth noting that an ever-increasing number of restaurants in Japan are employing immigrants, who are at least temporarily willing to tolerate less pay and worsening conditions. Similarly, those diners at the table next to you, whom you might assume to be Japanese, are actually Korean, Taiwanese, and Singaporean. Visitors from other Asian nations are thrilled at finally being able to bum-rush Japan’s borders after a long hiatus. Now, nothing wrong with that, of course, but if you were hoping to interact with honest-to-God Japanese folks, you’d be better off with a trip to Los Angeles. On the plus side, foreigners are probably friendlier, so there’s that.
3. Japan’s in the middle of a massive pandemic. I hear Americans talk about “back when we had the pandemic,” like COVID-19 is over. Yeah, Nippon never got that memo. “Corona” is still very much on everyone’s mind. 90 percent of the people on the street are wearing masks, and in trains and stores, the number’s closer to 99 percent. The prevention theater of alcohol sanitizer, temperature checks, and plastic dividers is still wildly popular. About the only place you’ll see people freely engaging without masks are Irish bars. Welcome to Japan; now eat your fish ‘n’ chips, drink your pint of Guinness, and get the fuck out. Turns out the punters willing to flood their bodies with alcohol and nicotine aren’t too concerned with viruses either.
4. The mood’s all effed up. Japanese people have had their minds exploded by a Hiroshima of rising costs, lost jobs, the lowest birthrate ever, an ever-increasing retirement age, the recent influx of foreigners, rising cases of COVID, and being unable to see anyone below their eyes for going on three years. Don’t be fooled by low unemployment figures. Waving a traffic wand, helping school kids cross the street, or endlessly rearranging parked bicycles—are those even jobs? I guess. The bottom line is that people have a lot to fret about, and if there’s one thing Japanese folks excel at, it’s worrying.
5. A bit of the polish has worn off the knob. Things that were once relatively uncommon in Japan—graffiti, litter, tattoos, people wearing Crocs—have seen a tremendous uptick. In a nation already struggling with overwork and social isolation, the pandemic and a global economic meltdown have really done a number on the national psyche.
When You Should Visit Japan
Now, I’m not trying to bag on Japan, just trying to give an honest assessment. It’s the country I’ve chosen to live in, after all. It may have lost a step, but it hasn’t gone completely to hell. I mean, it’s not the U.S. As a tourist, you’ll probably still find Japan to be clean and orderly, and the food and service pretty good. Them Nepalese sure can cook a mean fish taco. All I’m saying is, give Japan some time to recover.
Spring will be good. Of course, don’t wait till summer, ’cause then it’s too hot. Choose your porridge wisely, Goldilocks. April’s about right. The weather will be warmer, the mood lighter, and the sakura blooming. Hey, you like flowery trees, remember? Yeah, there you go.