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When foreigners first move to Tokyo, they’re often amazed and overwhelmed by Japan’s biggest bustling metropolis. But sometimes culture shock can be more localized, and just because you haven’t left the country doesn’t mean there aren’t any surprises in store when you move to a new town.

Hokkaido has more than five times the area of any other Japanese prefecture, and the lowest population density in the country to boot. So when someone born and raised on the northern island moves down south to Tokyo, which is more than 90 times as crowded as Hokkaido, he’s sure to be surprised by a lot of things, and here are 30 of them.

Largely rural, Hokkaido is rich in delicious seafood and beautiful scenery, but it’s not exactly bursting with educational and economic opportunities. As such, many Hokkaido natives spend at least some part of their adult lives away from their hometown for school or work,. One such periodic transplant is RocketNews24’s Japanese-language correspondent K. Nagahashi, who shared with us his list of 30 things people from Hokkaido find themselves thinking after arriving in Tokyo.

1. “The gap is between one building and the next is so narrow!”

2. “And the streets are narrow too!”

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Yep, things can be incredibly cramped in Tokyo. So why doesn’t everyone just build on bigger lots that allow for a little more buffer space? Because there’s just not that much land, which means…

3. “Apartments are so expensive.”

4. “They’re so expensive I have to email my friends in Hokkaido and tell them.”

5. “The monthly cost for a parking space is as much as for an apartment in Hokkaido.”

But don’t worry about parking, because Tokyo’s public transportation network is so convenient that everyone takes the train.

6. “I’ve got to get a prepaid card for the trains right away.”

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And we mean everyone.

7. “When I get onto a packed train at rush hour, I don’t know how strongly I should push the people in front of me.”

But there’s an upside to everyone and everything being in such close proximity, though.

8. “If I see a restaurant that looks good on TV, it’s probably pretty close by.”

9. “I’m amazed at how much part-time jobs pay!”

See? Sometimes everything being more expensive in the big city works out in your favor. Not that K. wouldn’t like to make even more, because…

10. “I keep pushing back my trip to go home for a visit because air tickets are so expensive during the New Year’s and Obon travel peaks.”

11. “I don’t have as many chances to eat hokke (Atka mackerel) as I did in Hokkaido.

12. “The shrimp at kaitenzushi restaurants is boiled instead of raw. What a disappointment!”

13 “The ramen tastes different.”

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Actually, you can find raw shrimp at revolving sushi restaurants in Tokyo (although they cost more than the boiled variety), and while they’re not as prevalent in soy sauce broth-loving east Japan, the capital does have ramen with the miso broth Hokkaido prefers as well.

Along with getting used to the food, one of the biggest adjustments that needed to be made involved Tokyo’s weather patterns. While Hokkaido is cool in summer and freezing in the winter, things can get a lot hotter and muggier in the capital.

14. “I feel sick after using the air conditioner for too long.”

15. “I get fed up with how long the hot and humid parts of the year are.”

16. “In the winter if I wear the clothes I brought from Hokkaido on the train in Tokyo, I get too hot and it feels nasty.”

17. “Even though I’m fine without a jacket, I see everyone around me is wearing an overcoat.”

18. “When I go back home in the winter, shoveling snow seems like more of a pain than it did before.”

19. “The cockroaches are scary!”

Hokkaido’s drier summers mean comparatively fewer visits from these unwelcome houseguests.

20 “The convenience stores don’t have restrooms so I panic.”

Having used several convenience store bathrooms in Tokyo, we’re not sure how K. seems to have had the misfortune of only having found himself in ones without such facilities.

21. “I’m always buying water.”

We’re also confused as to why K. had more occasion to buy water in Tokyo than he did in Hokkaido, but it might explain why he seemed to always feel the need to be near a toilet.

22. “When I go to Tokyo Dome, it’s somehow…older than I’d imagined it would be.”

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23. “For some reason, I feel moved when I see the Metropolitan Police headquarters.”

24. “Even though there are so many more people in Tokyo than Hokkaido, it’s hard to make new friends.”

25. “I feel happy whenever I run into someone else who’s from Hokkaido.”

26. “I realize I’ve got a Hokkaido accent.”

27. “My friends from Hokkaido all want to come crash at my place in Tokyo.”

28. “Almost all the stations have a shopping arcade next to them.”

29. “There are so many streets and stations that you can’t get anywhere without relying on a navigation app or map on your smartphone.”

Yeah, we have to agree, when you’re still settling in, Tokyo can feel pretty intimidating in its scope and scale. But after you’ve lived here for a while…

30. “When someone comes up to me on the station platform and asks for directions, and I can help them out, I feel sort of proud of myself.”

…you just might find it starting to feel like a second home.

Top image: Wikipedia/Morio
Insert images: Google Street View, RocketNews24, Guru Navi, Wikipedia/DX Broadrec
Pasmo photo ©RocketNews24
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