One thing about living in Japan is having many more people around you than you may be used to, especially in Tokyo, where the population density is 5500 people per square kilometer. Just about everything in Japan’s capital is more semai (narrow, cramped), with the average width of tables in restaurants being about half what you’d expect to find when eating out. Riding trains during the morning or evening commutes is the worst — being entombed inside a train, completely unable to move, can really take getting used to. (I quickly learned to wait for the rush to subside before taking the train.) Many Tokyo residents tire of living in such a densely populated area and dream of moving back to their more rural home prefectures (called a “U-turn” in Japanese), escaping the daily grind of life as a salaried employee in a large company (which is called datsu-sara or “escape from salaryman prison”) and running a rural bed-and-breakfast instead.
Riding a crowded train in Japan (artist’s concept).