Unfortunately, unlike going to the Japanese doctor, or being arrested by the Japanese police, there’s no apparent redeeming quality to visiting the Immigration Bureau. It’s crowded, you have to line up for hours, and unlike the rest of Japan which is full of nice, clean Japanese people, it’s packed full of foreigners. Eeewww.
My Employer, My Sponsor, My Friend
Exactly a year ago, in May, I went through the same process. And the moment I got the visa renewal paperwork from my supervisor, I noticed something concerning.
“I’m looking at this ‘Period of Work’ field,” I said gently. My supervisor is a Japanese woman, so I try to be a little more charming, by using my bedroom voice. Read more »
And then somehow I ended up in Fukuoka for Golden Week, eating at this yatai along the river. It all had something to do with a Japanese girl and way too much sake, as I recall. I mean, assuming I could recall, which actually I can’t. But anyway, Golden Week is a great holiday time in Japan, since everyone has Friday and Monday off from work, and those two days magically add up to being called “a week.” That’s some Japanese math for you. Anyway, it was golden.
Unfortunately, there’s no English word for yatai, probably because no Westerner ever dreamed of serving steaming bowls of ramen noodles or chicken skewers from half a shack cobbled together out of old doors and tattered plastic sheets. But Fukuoka’s got a string of these little rickety stalls on the banks of its black river, lit up at night with bare lightbulbs and red paper lanterns, full of wobbly customers sitting on folding chairs drinking beer and sake. And since the night was lovely and warm, I picked a yatai with a friendly orange sign, where folks were being welcomed with small plates of edamame and fish eggs mixed with chopped green onions. So hospitable, the Japanese. Read more »
Anyone with an interest in Japan should learn a little Japanese, I really believe. Daily life is much better when you know a few key phrases: Hello. My name is. Please. May I? No really, please. Why not? Oh come on, please. You sure? Last chance. Well fine, be that way. Sorry for causing a scene. Even if I pay you? No? Hmph, well I didn’t want to anyway.
But when I say “a little” of the language, I mean it. Beyond a handful of survival sentences, you should give a really good think to whether or not you want to continue learning Japanese.
So this is Phase II of the Japanese Rule of 7 Learn Yo’ Ass Some Japanese project. Phase I was here. Phase III? Well, okay I haven’t written that yet. Hey, what can I say, I’m lazy. Anyway, where were we? Oh yeah, Phase II. The “selection” phase. For this, you’re going to want to find yourself a really tall mountain. The taller the better, preferably with a sturdy pine tree. Climb to the mountaintop and sit there. If there is a pine tree, then climb to the top of that and sit there instead. Then stay there for exactly one week. You should probably pack some sandwiches, now that I think about it, and maybe some beers too. Just think how refreshing they’d be. And while you’re there with your pine cones and sandwiches and beer, ask yourself: Do I really want to study Japanese? No, really. Because here’s what it’s all about. Read more »
If you’re planning to visit Japan, there’s definitely some stuff you should and should not bring. And moving to Japan? Whoa, then you really need to consider what to stuff into your gym bag. But not to worry! As always, Ken Seeroi is here for you, doing all that pesky thinking business so you can kick back with a margarita and relax. Here’s all you really need to know.
First, carefully select your all of your best clothes and neatly pack them into two suitcases. Then put the suitcases in the trunk of your car and drive to the nearest forest. You’ll also need a can of gasoline. I guess I forgot to mention that. Then once you get there, you’re going to want to send your clothes to Fashion Heaven in a massive conflagration because no one in Japan wears stuff like that. This goes double if you’re a guy. Japanese people place an insane amount of importance on personal appearance, and what’s popular overseas is usually not popular here. So if you want to look good in Japan, buy clothes in Japan. Unless you’ve got some crazy size, like you’re super fat or much over six feet tall, in which case, okay, you shouldn’t have burned your clothes. Sorry about that. Read more »
Someone on Facebook recently asked me: What’s the best way to begin learning Japanese, for someone starting from zero? Never one to shirk authorial duties, I did the responsible thing by jumping up, slamming my laptop closed, and running to the convenience store for a bottle of cheap white wine and a bag of spicy dried corn snacks. They’re super salty, but man, are they ever good. But then at the store I ran into this girl I know and she invited me over for some tea, and then we drank the bottle of wine, and then a bottle of red she had, and then I woke up and it was 3 a.m. and I didn’t know where I was, and by the time I got home I’d forgotten all about the question. But I really meant to answer it. Sometimes Japan just gets in the way like that.
Anyway, anything big—learning Japanese, making a million dollars, drinking a case and a half of beer—there’s probably no “best” way to do it. There’s a lot of ways you could do those things. You could pour the beers into a glass, or drink them straight from the bottle, for example. So many options. Actually, I generally avoid telling people “how to” do anything in Japan, since there’s already a ton of that noise on the internet, and most of it seems wrong to me. Which means that anything I say will automatically seem wrong to somebody else, which is depressing, since I know it’s actually right. Because I so feel it’s rightness. Whatever, okay, here’s the best way to learn Japanese. Really. Read more »
Sakura season isn’t just great. It’s better than great, whatever that is, since everyone’s waited like six months for Japan to get warm again, and then once it does, Boom! it’s Hanami Party Explosion. I guess I should say that hanami is a Japanese word that translates to “Sitting under blossoming trees on giant blue plastic sheets and drinking ridiculous amounts of sake while eating boxes of rice with little weiners shaped like octopuses.” But maybe “hanami” sounds better, and anyway it’s shorter.
Japanese April Fool’s Joke
On a related note, have you noticed that everything in Japan starts on April first, like a giant April Fool’s joke the nation plays on its citizens? Schools start, companies welcome their new employees, and contracts are renewed. I finally figured out why. Read more »
Ah, springtime in Japan; there’s nothing like it. The world is once again alive with color as the ume trees bring forth their red blossoms, sakura bloom with pink, and half the nation is covered in a delicate, yellow smog from China. It is, as the Japanese say, a breathtaking sight. And God, nothing makes a man feel more alive than a city full of women in miniskirts, high boots, and white surgical masks.
Yellow Sand from China
I’m not sure what’s happening to the earth, but I’m pretty sure it’s not good. Between the desertification of Mongolia and the smogification of Beijing, carried on the winds, Japan is turning yellow. Not like it needs any help in that department. Every surface is blanketed in smog and dust: cars, park benches, children. As a result, the everyone’s either sneezing, coughing, or wearing surgical masks, and usually all three.
The Importance of Daily Routine
So I came home yesterday wearing my white mask carrying a plastic bag full of malt liquor and tempura shrimp. You know, Ken Seeroi is a great believer in keeping a daily routine to maximize personal effectiveness. Read more »
Now don’t deny it, you want to believe those guys on the internet claiming to have “learned Japanese” in like a year or two. For some reason it’s always guys too—why is that? Aren’t women supposed to be better at languages? Nah, that can’t be right. Anyway, since they apparently learned Japanese so quickly, you (presumably) can too. But how’d they do it, and more importantly—do you have what it takes? Let’s find out. Read more »
So last Wednesday I taught at this Japanese middle school. And as I was riding home on my midget little scooter, I caught a glimpse of a Japanese motorcycle cop off to my left. I was cresting a small hill, and he was just kind of sitting there when I cruised past. I thought for a moment: Is this cause for concern? and then concluded, No, Ken Seeroi, you are a most excellent driver.
Sure, everyone says that, but I really am. I know this based upon the large number of cars, trucks, and bikes I’ve demolished. Well, maybe “demolished” is a bit strong. Let’s just say “crashed,” or “rendered unusable.” That sounds a bit better. But I mean, let’s say you’re going into battle—who’re you gonna want beside you in the trenches?—a pie-faced file clerk who’s driven a desk the whole war, or some William Dafoe-looking dude who’s all scarred and gnarly from scores of battles? That’s the guy you’d want to ride with, right? Yet somehow when I explain this to women I meet in bars, they never get it. It’s just simple logic, really. Anyway, I’m a good driver, is my point. Read more »
Somehow, things never work out like you think they’re gonna. Take for example, my plan, if you could call it that. I was working an office job in the U.S., and I concocted this great escape by which I’d run off to Japan and teach English to pretty girls for a year before settling into another “real job.” Tangentially, the dream also included laying on the beach, drinking Asahi beer, eating cotton candy, and improving my tan. So why I chose Tokyo, God only knows. Hindsight, as they say, is a bitch. Or at least I say that. Well, whatever, after a horrible year of teaching English, I somehow managed to interview and get a high-paying office job in Tokyo, twice. I’ve got good credentials, so people often mistake me for being responsible and able to get stuff done. Hey, just because it says that on my resume doesn’t make it true. And you know I was also pretty naive at that time, because I thought there was nothing worse than teaching. So color me shocked when I learned that working in a Japanese office is like that musical with all the singing, fake French people–miserable.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s only two jobs,” is what you think. That and, “Ken Seeroi, though brilliant and ruggedly handsome you may be, even you know that’s not much of a sample size.” Okay, good point, but hear me out. See, there are some things that are part and parcel of working for a Japanese firm, and if you plan on working here, you’re gonna want to know them. Read more »