I have finally come up with a trivial, simple solution to letting the everyman understand this country of ours. The perfect analogy to working in the Japanese world, whether it be an eikaiwa (英会話) or a Tokyo newspaper. True, this may not be the clearest picture, but I still think it’s pretty funny. Read, relax, and enjoy.
The stereotypical foreigner come to Japan. Just looking for his place in this world of ours. He picks up girls using very simple English, and enjoys the entertainment surrounding Asian culture (Kung Fu). Not primarily concerned about working for a company in Japan when there are places to go and times to sleep.
The epitome of every single foreign friend you have. Just when you are starting to get Japanized and comfortable in your new home, your neighbor comes knocking to remind you of what you’re leaving behind. Also someone who makes it very difficult for you to concentrate on learning Japanese. Seems to be surrounded by Japanese women.
Your stereotypical Japanese girl. Has been around the block. Attracted to the gaikokujin for reasons unknown. One exception – Japanese girls love pieces of flair.
Every single manager, Japanese or otherwise, on the face of the Earth. Gives orders without purpose or intent. Domineering. Controlling. Has the ability to make you feel bad for doing the smallest thing wrong. Hassles you at all hours. No method to the madness. And, to top it off, makes more money than you.
The foreigner-in-denial type. Refuses to deal with his present environment and is reminded of previous days back at home. Won’t conform to Japanese work conditions, and is social with no one. Doesn’t study Japanese. Doesn’t eat Japanese food. Let’s the anger from cultural differences build up and up.
Most Japanese companies. Working in a cubicle or small desk. Surrouded by management and business papers. You’re in a world of gray. No green grass, no blue sky, no yellow sun in this office. One noticeable difference – the fax and copy machines usually work.
“Is It Good for the Company?”
出る釘は打たれる。 The nonconformist will be pounded down. You can’t go against the grain on this one. Every Japanese manager you will ever encounter is concerned with only one thing – the well-being of the company. Your life outside of work? Not important if it interferes. “Why are you outside enjoying the beautiful weather when you could be filing TPS reports?”
“It’s a problem of motivation, all right? Now if I work my ass off and Initech ships a few extra units, I don’t see another dime; so where’s the motivation?”
It’s called zangyou (残業): literally “after time”. Overtime. The time that technically is not part of your workday according to any other contract in the world, but by Japanese standards, you have to stay late, work during breaks, arrive extra early… it’s just common practice. No extra money, no extra praise. Working overtime in Japan is like working your standard 9-5 hours anywhere else. The money goes into the company, not back to you. If there are companies in Japan that work on commission, I’d love to know if they hire foreigners.
The business side of the eikaiwa. It’s not all classes and teaching. It’s paperwork. TPS reports are the archetype of every single stupid, inefficient, bureaucratic thing you might be asked to do in the office. Doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not. Do it, or at least find an effective way to lie about it.
The Swingline Stapler
Sweet escape. Everything that makes Japan good and pure. The food. The people. The enjoyable parts of working, teaching. Travelling. The Shinkansen. Skiing. Climbing Fuji. Language. Okinawa. Tokyo. The experience alone. Hang on to it; don’t let your manager tear it away from you.
Saturday 28th, 2006. Halloween party. Chinatown, in Hiroshima. Come one, come all. Look for me wearing a red cape with a special symbol on the back. Kombanwa.