Archive for the ‘Working in Japan’ Category
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 the rest of this entry »
When it comes to teaching languages, the grammar-translation method has become the child nobody loves or wants to acknowledge. But is it really hell on toast? No, it ain’t. There, I said it. Leave it to Seeroi to be the one to defend something he doesn’t even like, but hey, somebody’s gotta stand up for the downtrodden.
Before getting into a whole deep analysis, let’s talk booze, if for no other reason than it’s a whole lot more interesting than grammar.
So I went to a gaijin bar last Saturday, which I rarely do anymore, since I’m always hanging out with old drunk Japanese dudes in izakayas. But for some reason I was walking by this place and I saw a Guinness sign and I remembered, Hey, I love that beverage. So in I went.
Just in case you’ve never been to Japan or live in a cave or something, a “gaijin bar” is what the Japanese call a tavern full of drunk English teachers. For some reason, the bars always resemble Irish pubs, despite the fact that there’s only about four Irish people in the whole nation. Yet another mystery of the Orient, I know.
The thing about English teachers is they’re loud. And you know who you are, so don’t try to deny it. Read the rest of this entry »
I used to think there were three possible answers to any question: yes, no, and whatever’s not covered by yes and no. Like, when the waitress asks, Do you want another beer? That’s a yes. Isn’t it about time you thought about going home? That would be a No, not until I get that beer I’m waiting for. And, Would you at least please stop bothering the other customers? That would would be a Well, if that’s how you feel about it, then I’m leaving. Just as soon as I get that one more beer.
It’s interview season in Japan. The weather is getting warmer, the ume buds are starting to appear, and maybe you could even see a bird. Yeah, like maybe in a zoo. But anyway, about this time every year I pick my two-sizes-too-small Japanese suit up from the floor of my closet, polish the front of my shoes, and head out with my resume.
My Japanese Interview
I went to this interview last week. It’s for a job teaching English, so for some reason unbeknownst to anyone, the entire interview was in Japanese. Read the rest of this entry »
Everyone knows Japanese people aren’t exactly Masters of the Universe when it comes to speaking English, despite receiving six years of English education. Six years? Are you kidding? You could build yourself a Great Pyramid in less time. I’m pretty sure. Just chop up some limestone and stack it up. Probably take you a couple of years at best.
But okay, there are clearly some good reasons why Japanese folks can’t speak English. And if you study Japanese, you also need to avoid the same traps.
Ask any foreign English teacher, and they’ll tell you, “The grammar-translation method doesn’t work.” Sure, but people also say that we swallow spiders in our sleep and the Apollo moon landings were merely elaborate hoaxes. Read the rest of this entry »
So I was in a “standing bar” a couple of weeks ago, which is like a normal bar, or really a restaurant because they serve food too, only without any seats. It’s just about the worst invention the Japanese ever came up with. Like, who wants to have drinks and food standing up? Would it kill you to put in some barstools? But anyway, so I’m standing there having a conversation with this rather attractive Japanese lady and I order some fish in a can on toast. And things are going pretty well between us, you know, until suddenly her husband shows up. So that was a little disappointing. But whatever, he turned out to be a really nice guy and bought me a beer and I Read the rest of this entry »
The Land of the Rising Sun isn’t for everyone. But like Sirens to a sailor, Japan exerts a pull on the naive to the point that any job, no matter how miserable, seems tolerable in exchange for a brief encounter. I was among that number.
Now, you can’t put the words “Japan, “miserable,” and “job” into one sentence without mentioning “eikaiwa,” in the next. Try it–it’s physically impossible. Jobs at Eikaiwa (English conversation schools) are plentiful, due to the ample supply of Japanese folks willing to pay to learn English. And, perhaps fortunately for you, the teaching qualifications are close to nonexistent. If you speak English and have a college degree, Congratulations, you’re qualified. A number of eikaiwa schools will even arrange for an apartment and help you sort out official hassles like a visa, health insurance, bank account, and taxes. Plus, the salary is reasonably good. Yo, what’s not to like?
To understand why working for an eikaiwa will be your personal Hell on earth, let’s begin by looking at a typical job ad:
Fellow citizens, our long national nightmare is finally over. Let us now embark upon that shining road to recovery. Of course, by “national” I mean Japan, and “long nightmare” as in my teaching English here while everyone else listens to my grumbling about it. In retrospect, I guess I should have read my one-year school contract more carefully. I assumed “one agrees to be poked by devils while drowning in a pool of anguish” was just boilerplate contractual stuff. Who knew they meant it literally?
When I arrived, I had simple career goals. Specifically, bailing on my eikaiwa job and befriending the Yakuza, using a mix of rough but charming Japanese. They would encourage me to sell knock-off Rolexes, get a full-back tattoo, shake down some ramen shop owners, and engage in crazy money laundering schemes. I thought the latter had a particularly nice ring to it. It’s like you’re taking money—which is already great stuff—and you’re making it cleaner! How can that not be a good thing?
When I finally looked in the mirror after a month of eikaiwa teaching, my first thought was—who the hell’s that? My signature dark and flowing locks, which had once glowed with the radiance of a dozen hair-care products, had gone white almost overnight. While it’s true that I might have had one or two gray hairs before, my class load was clearly making me look like Keith Richards before my time. So, thinking of ways to reverse this trend, I made the rational-while-drunk decision to color things a slightly darker brown. I walked to the 100-yen store in front of the train station and carefully selected the perfect Japanese hair-care product, which when used as directed immediately rendered my hair a vivid Orphan Annie red. So that was bad. But then my buddy Carlos said—that’s no problem, just do it again, only leave the dye in longer. And since he’s gay, I figured he knew about such things, so that’s what I did, only to find that my hair turned a disturbing shade of Concord grape. The following day the Head Teacher at my school pulled me aside to tell me the Manager was peed off regarding my hair color. I was like, Well I’m not too thrilled about it either, and have taken the matter under consideration.
So somehow it came to pass that I found myself in Ikebukuro at 3:30 a.m., drinking malt liquor, eating kimchee and a really fabulous grilled mackerel, helping this random izakaya owner translate his signs into English. If you go into a bar there and see a “Customers must pay when they order” sign, then yeah, that was me.
Though I’m happy to finally be teaching in Japan, I’m certain that hummingbirds on crack lead more relaxing lives. Students rush in and out of my classroom while I madly prepare for the next lesson and remember that I left the notes for it in the men’s room stall. In an average day, I teach seven classes, plus give tests, do interviews, and carry out the garbage. I have neither a desk or a chair, which is fine, since I have no time to sit anyway.