As some of you know by now, when I taught in Japan a few years ago, I lived in an older apartment in a very rural town. For the most part, I enjoyed living there, but some of the minutiae of daily life frustrated me. It was so different from my experiences in the United States.
One such struggle was the internet. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve had internet troubles in the States. For the last couple of years, almost every time we use the microwave at my house, the internet cuts out. Or every now and again, the internet will quit working for some reason, and we’ll need to restart the router. The microwave issue is exceedingly annoying, but luckily we all have different schedules, so the connection doesn’t cut that regularly.
In Japan, my neighbor and I each purchased a router so we could have internet access. She got one brand, I got a different one. As I was the less tech-savvy of the two of us, I picked almost at random.
By and large, the internet worked for me. However, especially after my first year there, my internet connection began dropping. I had to switch my connection over to the other Wi-Fi setting, but that would drop, too. Sometimes it would be after ten minutes, but more and more it began dropping after a number of seconds. I recall times when, during a span of five minutes, I switched to different internet connections ten or twenty times. That’s not remotely an exaggeration.
Eventually, whenever my connection went out, I would switch to my neighbor’s internet. Sometimes I would use it for a few minutes to let my Wi-Fi connection “rest”, and when I switched back, it would oftentimes work. Of course, it would go out again, and the cycle would repeat. It even got to the point where my connection to my and my neighbor’s internet would drop. I constantly switched between ours—again, sometimes multiple times per minute for a span of time ranging from minutes to hours.
Frustratingly, my neighbor rarely had this problem. I think she connected to my internet a handful of times in the two years we were in Japan. Maybe her router was better, or maybe her connection was more stable because she lived in a corner apartment and mine was between hers and another apartment. Either way, she didn’t experience the same frustration as I did when it came to her internet.
In the end, I got used to it. Switching connections every few minutes (or every few seconds) became so commonplace that I wouldn’t send chat messages or post things without either saving a backup first or refreshing a page to make sure I was connected. Sometimes I even went ahead and switched the connection first, posted what I wanted, and then waited until the internet cut again before switching back over.
Obviously, I can’t speak for the internet connection everywhere else in Japan. Even my neighbor’s experience was drastically different than my own! All I can say is this was what I went through. It was rarely a pressing issue (Skype calls to my family, for instance, could always be resumed at another time), but it certainly frustrated me, especially as half of my life is lived on the internet. It has also made me curious—and even wary—of what my internet experience in other countries will be like. As long as I have internet in some respect, though, I’ll be happy. (Unless it’s like Australian internet. Then give me pen, paper, and an envelope. We’re going old school!)