What I hate about Boston

shawn

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Spent the last few minutes poking around Saitama on Google Maps. I can see what you mean about the relative lack of vibrancy, but I have to say that I like the way that houses in Japanese suburbs don't have yards and are tightly packed. Makes them appear pretty urban by New England standards.
It's urbanesque, but frankly it's all the negatives from living in high density with little of the benefits (you're living in housing densities like you'd find in South Boston, but instead of being a 20 minute walk to the Financial District, you're still 40 km and an hour+ train ride out from the core). Or from the other side, it's all the negatives of the suburbs but without the positives (like more space and a yard). And people are, shall we say, less sophisticated in Japanese suburbs? Put it this way: I'm invisible in Bunkyo-ku to every Japanese person I come across. And that's how I like it, that's how Japanese people treat other Japanese people. In Saitama, I'm a spectacle. My wife and I don't need that shit, so we stay where non-Japanese don't draw stares.

Most of New England's housing is wood, though..
It is, but it's made for New England winters. It's on a quality level you won't find in Tokyo. The only place you'll get New England-level wood frame quality is in Hokkaido, where they actually insulate for winter. No joke, I had to go out of my way in explaining to my architect that in fact I did want "Hokkaido-level" insulation and that I was aware of the incremental cost.

There's no wood siding here, for example. It's all plastic and only two companies make it, so you see the same 10 Lixel or YKK-brand siding, front doors, fences, roof tiling etc. on every single family house built anywhere in Japan in the last twenty years. My wife and I will be walking down a street we've never been on and one of us will say, "Hey! I remember that door, it was one of our top 3 choices," or "Wow, glad we didn't pick that one."
 

shawn

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Thanks for this. I visited Japan back in 2016 (direct flight on JAL from BOS to NRT) and absolutely could not get over how vibrant the streetscapes felt in much of Tokyo (though less so in some newer areas like Odaiba). How many small shops were tucked along every nook and cranny of every street and alley (would LOVE to see more small-scale and micro-retail in Boston). The comprehensive and ubiquitous high quality transit. I loved it.

Heck, even in the smaller cities we visited (Kyoto and Hiroshima), I felt the pedestrian experience (in terms of activity) was much more interesting than anywhere in Boston and anywhere in the US outside of NYC. I'm now obsessed with the Youtube channel Rambalac, which is just a dude who walks around various Japanese streetscapes, because one can get a vicarious experience of sorts!

But your post is a good reminder that for as much idolizing that US urbanists do of Japanese cities, the actually lived experience of many residents and workers can be difficult, especially with insane commutes.
Rambalac is fun, I've shared that with family members too.

You touch on what I emphasized in my OP: it's the small-scale retail that fully saturates every neighborhood, inside the Yamanote especially, which makes Tokyo stand out. It's so ugly too, with the overhead wires and plastic siding, but that's honestly part of the vibrancy and charm.
 

MrDee12345

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It's urbanesque, but frankly it's all the negatives from living in high density with little of the benefits (you're living in housing densities like you'd find in South Boston, but instead of being a 20 minute walk to the Financial District, you're still 40 km and an hour+ train ride out from the core). Or from the other side, it's all the negatives of the suburbs but without the positives (like more space and a yard). And people are, shall we say, less sophisticated in Japanese suburbs? Put it this way: I'm invisible in Bunkyo-ku to every Japanese person I come across. And that's how I like it, that's how Japanese people treat other Japanese people. In Saitama, I'm a spectacle. My wife and I don't need that shit, so we stay where non-Japanese don't draw stares.



It is, but it's made for New England winters. It's on a quality level you won't find in Tokyo. The only place you'll get New England-level wood frame quality is in Hokkaido, where they actually insulate for winter. No joke, I had to go out of my way in explaining to my architect that in fact I did want "Hokkaido-level" insulation and that I was aware of the incremental cost.

There's no wood siding here, for example. It's all plastic and only two companies make it, so you see the same 10 Lixel or YKK-brand siding, front doors, fences, roof tiling etc. on every single family house built anywhere in Japan in the last twenty years. My wife and I will be walking down a street we've never been on and one of us will say, "Hey! I remember that door, it was one of our top 3 choices," or "Wow, glad we didn't pick that one."
Thanks for reminding me about my time in Japan.

I spent a year in Shizuoka back in 2004 - It was memorable and I did enjoy myself, but after six months I was ready to move on.

I loved Japan's dense cities and very advanced public transit systems, but I got tired of the "gray" architecture, small apartments and lack of recreational space. As a suburban guy, I learned to appreciate denser areas, but it made me long for more Boston style city- basically one that has a mixtures dense, moderately dense and detached homes with decent public transit and green parks to walk around in. Shizuoka was a fairly dense city, but Tokyo was another animal. It was fun to visit, but I couldn't imagine living there.

I currently live down here in Kuala Lumpur, and this city is very different from Tokyo, for better or for worse.
 

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