Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tatsuya Ichihashi Caught and Charged!

Six weeks ago Tatsuya Ichihashi, the suspect in the brutal murder of Lindsay Hawker in 2007, was finally captured by Osaka police; he was attempting to board a ferry to Okinawa.




Advance to 6:05


Two years. I honestly thought they would never catch the guy. Hawker's family has been keeping the search alive with semi-frequent visits to Japan and interviews with her father, her wife, and her sister, Lisa.



This case was about to turn into just another sad story when it comes to foreign women making contact with less-than-reputable characters in Tokyo; Lucie Blackman's and Lindsay Hawker's experiences have already been the focus on media attacks on hostess bars, the subject of the book Tokyo Hostess by Clare Campbell, even alluded to in the BBC radio series A Tokyo Murder.

Ichihashi was on a two-week hunger strike before finally caving to a terayaki pork bento; I guess we all have our weaknesses. Who knows what he's thinking? The man escaped the Chiba police, supposedly spent the next few months in the city bouncing between his gay lovers' flats, made his way west, had cosmetic surgery done, and was attempting to head south when finally apprehended by police in Osaka. My apologies if I missed anything.

Bottom line: the man is in custody, and as of today, has been formally charged with the rape and murder of Lindsay Ann Hawker. He is already quoted as having bound and gagged the young English teacher to rape her on March 24th, 2007, but has yet to give further details on her murder the next day (putting her in the sand-filled bathtub is another story entirely).

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Leaving AEON

I remember my last few days at AEON quite clearly. I was already having issues getting my boxes shipped to Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories in Kagoshima, the luggage service still relatively unknown to me. On top of that, AEON usually has the incoming teacher occupy the outgoing teacher's apartment, meaning I had to vacate two days prior to my leaving Hiroshima. No worries, though, as they usually put you up in a nearby hotel (I actually got shifted between two; how can a hotel in Saijo ever be booked solid??).

My last few days, as you might imagine, were rather hectic:

- Getting my boxes transferred to Kagoshima
- Keeping just enough supplies for those last few days
- Training the new teacher
- Disconnecting my internet service, settling final bills
- Planning my farewell speech and gifts to teachers

It should be noted that my branch of AEON was a pretty tense working environment since I had disrupted the group harmony by posting my teaching experiences on this blog. I couldn't really read anyone's expressions in the end; I didn't even know if I had a single friend at that branch (really liked the part-time teachers, strangely enough). Whereas another outgoing teacher had been treated to a nice dinner party with gifts from most of the staff, I would have been relieved to receive a handshake and "thank you".

That's more or less what happened. My dinner party went through without a hitch (a few days before my last teaching day), though I did pay 4000 yen for everything there. After my last class was finished, the teachers and staff gathered at a nearby restaurant for one final dinner, where I received a chopstick holder and cover... something they probably got at a 100-yen store. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it occurs to me now that gift really was as close to a slap in the face as the staff could manage. Think about it... a chopstick holder... yeah... that's exciting. Still, I just thanked them for their gift, offered my own - a Texas T-shirt for the assistant manager - and walked outside for the final farewells. My last paycheck, end of contract bonus, and airfare stipend added up to about 400,000 yen, which I had in hand as I bowed to each teacher in turn, bade each of them farewell, and set out to walk down the street as I had done so many nights: leave the glowing sign of AEON behind, pass the hair salon, duck slightly under the hanging vines, cross the river, maybe pick up a snack at Lawson convenience store, cross the street at the all-night diner, pass the Ford dealership and the Hiroshima Bank, then take a left turn to face my apartment building.

That last walk still sticks out in my mind. A huge relief, a sense of a job well done, satisfaction having stuck out the year, more satisfaction with the money in my pocket, and a bit of sadness over leaving Hiroshima. Less than twelve hours later, I took the shinkansen heading west.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Questions About AEON Interviews and Training

How should I dress?

I place this at the top for a reason; Japanese business standards are almost always very strict when it comes to professional dress. White and black are the standards. Full black or charcoal suit with white shirt for men, the equivalent for women. More important than knowing what you're doing is looking the part.


What can I expect for the information session?

Not much. Your usual witty banter with fellow candidates, a brief history of AEON, a video covering a day in the life of an AEON teacher (probably still showing the same one), some Q&A, and a preview of what is to come should you be chosen for private interviews, and eventual employment.


What can I expect during the group interview?

90% of it is you just keeping your mouth shut and acting like a typical ESL student. When it comes time for your turn to present your prepared 5-minute demo lesson (for which you should have written a 15-minute lesson plan), just relax, and focus more on your presentation than the material; the recruiters will be more interested in teaching mannerisms and classroom English - how simply you speak; do you use complicated words - rather than your explanation of the future perfect tense.

After the group interviews finish up, there will be a brief recess while all the recruiters decide whom to cut and whom to schedule for private interviews. Stick around, and everyone will be given an envelope sealed with your fate: an interview time, or a note stating "sorry, try again."


What can I expect during the private interview?

If you are selected for a private interview, it may be scheduled later that evening, or sometime in the next two days. If you have traveled far for the AEON interview and have already made plans to leave, let the recruiters know and they will try to work around that.


What happens next?

Not much, at least for a few weeks. If you're lucky you'll get a phone call offering you a position; they will have the location and start time. If these are impossible, you may defer employment for some months, but I encourage you to get into the country as soon as you can. Should you accept, the recruiter will add you to the AEON mailing list and forward you cultural tips, paperwork, and any problems that might occur.

The first step in your paperwork will be to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the Japanese government. AEON will do this on your behalf, provided you forward them everything they need. After that, you need to send the COE with your passport and the appropriate forms to the nearest Japanese consulate or embassy for the working visa. You will be entering Japan with a 1-year "Specialist in Humanities/International Services" visa.

Once you have your passport with the visa sticker, it's simply a matter of purchasing a flight, packing your bags, and saying goodbye to turkey sandwiches.


What can I expect during training in Japan?

This varies significantly by location. I believe they hold training classes in Sapporo, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Omiya, and Okayama. AEON asks that you schedule a flight landing within a given window of time (a few hours, so as to not keep the representative waiting; chances are you'll see another teacher on the same flight). You'll land, forward one or two bags to the school branch where you will be spending the year, then catch the train to the training center, as the representative has purchased the tickets in advance and will be "holding your hand" most of the way.

Housing at training, in Okayama at least, is dorm-style, two to a room. You may be the only person in your training class, which would suck, but will leave you a little freedom when it comes to settling in at night. Many people have asked me about free time during training. Let me stress: working at AEON is not summer camp. You do not have to ask your trainer's permission to leave the dorm or go anywhere (provided you're at training when they request you to be). This is a job, and you are an adult. Don't forget it.

Training itself also varies. If you're teaching at an A school (adults only), it will last one week. B school - kids and adults - about ten days. Generally they'll have you start around 10, 11 AM and finish up around 6, 7 PM, with an hour for lunch. There aren't any "official" outings during training, but I encourage you to go out with your trainer and fellow trainees on the town. Go to dinner. Sing karaoke. Check out the nightlife. See the local castle. It's alright if you're too jet-lagged and need some time to chill in the dorm, but don't be anti-social. During my ten days of training I believe we went out to karaoke three times, dinner almost every night, and played poker over pizza at my trainer's apartment one time.


And after that?

Say your goodbye to your fellow Japan newbies, take the train to the station closest to your school, and prepare for your welcome dinner, greeting a few students, and settling into your apartment. Congratulations.



Any other questions?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

I'm Still Here, Chief

Will post on some of the common questions I've been asked regarding AEON interviews and training soon.