Living in Japan

Submitted 6 years 11 months ago by CultureWhiz.

Most Japanese city dwellers enjoy a comfortable standard of living. There are some poor neighborhoods but few slums. Many city people work in banks, factories, hotels, offices, restaurants, and stores. Some own businesses. Others hold government or professional jobs. Japan has a low unemployment rate. The Japanese economy is fairly healthy so most people can find jobs. In addition, some large corporations in Japan guarantee their workers lifetime employment.

City housing includes modern apartment buildings and traditional Japanese houses. Most traditional houses are simple one- or two-story wooden buildings with graceful tile roofs. Many of these houses are set within walled gardens. The floor level is above that of the entrance. People leave their shoes in an entranceway and put on slippers after they step up into the main living area. Rooms are separated by sliding paper screens, which can be rearranged to change the size or shape of the rooms. Some people remove these screens in the summer to allow breezes to blow through the house.

In traditional rooms, tatami cover the floors. The people sit on cushions and spread out padded quilts, called futons, for bedding. The futons are folded and put away in the daytime. This enables a room to serve as a bedroom at night and a living room during the day, a great advantage because most dwellings are small. The principal room in a traditional house has a tokonoma (nook) in one wall. A decorative scroll hangs there, with a flower arrangement in front of it. Many Japanese apartments and houses have one or more rooms with Western-style furniture and with carpets instead of tatami.

Japan's big cities, like big cities in many other countries, face such serious problems as housing shortages, overcrowded streets and highways, and air and water pollution. However, crime is not as serious a problem in Japan. Japan has achieved a remarkable safe society compared to other industrialized countries.

Only about a fourth of the Japanese people live in rural areas. Farm families make up most of the rural population. In rural areas along the coasts, some Japanese make their living by fishing and harvesting edible seaweeds. Most rural workers do not earn as much as city dwellers. But the standard of living in rural Japan has increased steadily since World War II. Almost all rural families have at least one color television set, and many have a car Most rural houses have a washing machine, a refrigerator, and other modern appliances.

Almost all Japanese farmers own their land. Most families can afford some farm machinery. Even on tiny farms, small gasoline-powered tractors have replaced the oxen once used in plowing fields. Japanese farms are extremely productive because of the use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, and advanced agricultural methods. Among most farm families, at least one member adds to the family income by holding a part-time job in a nearby city or town. Some industries have established factories in rural areas because of the availability of these part-time laborers.

Most rural families live in traditional Japanese-style wooden houses much like those in the cities. Country houses have one to four rooms. Older dwellings have thatched roofs. Newer ones have metal or tile roofs. Since the late 1950's, many of Japans rural people have moved to urban areas to seek better-paying jobs in business and industry. Farming has increasingly become an occupation for older men and women as their children leave home to look for work in the cities.

Even in the biggest Japanese cities, however, many old customs still flourish. Tiny shops on narrow side streets specialize in traditional items, such as straw mats called tatami, which are used as floor coverings. Modern stationery stores sell not only ballpoint pens but also special brushes and sticks of ink for Japanese calligraphy (the art of fine handwriting). Toyshops have the latest electronic games, as well as dolls dressed in traditional Japanese clothing. Even the most crowded cities have beautiful gardens, parks, and shrines— all of which reflect the Japanese love of nature. Many city residents attend performances of traditional Japanese drama and music and take part in traditional festivals, some of which date back hundreds of years.

Japan, Japanese