How to Work in Japan as an English Teacher

Japanese Yatai - Japanese Rule of 7

If you 1) want to work in Japan, 2) were born in an English-speaking country, and 3) possess absolutely no other skills or abilities, then English Teacher’s the job for you. Trust me, I’d know.

So recently, a reader asked about a line I’d written before: “Your job is to stand there and look white. Or black or whatever, but at least foreign.”

And her question was,

As an Asian American planning to teach in japan, does this mean I have less of a chance in finding an English teaching job or get hired Japanese schools? Japanese employers are more likely to hire a “white” teacher than an Asian who is non-Japanese?

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The Japanese Tsunami Drill

Yabusame - Japanese Rule of 7

Sunday dawned cool and sunny. It was a perfect day for our early-morning Japanese tsunami drill, so when the sirens sounded we all strolled up to the park and watched the fire department explain how to use a fire extinguisher for half an hour. Then we played some “ground golf” and sat around eating pig soup and drinking shochu. I was like, man, if this is what tsunami’s are like, I can’t understand why people aren’t more enthusiastic about them.

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What I’ve Learned About Japanese Customs

Rirakkuma - Japanese Rule of 7

It rained last week. And as I walked into the lobby of my Japanese office building, there was my coworker in front of me, the strawberry-blonde gal who speaks pretty good Japanese. And perhaps because she’d mostly mastered the language, it was surprising to note she’d failed to successfully navigate the entire minefield of Japanese customs: she hadn’t wrapped up her umbrella. You know that little strap you wind around to hold the umbrella closed? Yeah, she hadn’t done that. This is the Japanese equivalent of not zipping up your fly.

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How to Make Japanese Food

Japanese Cat - Japanese Rule of 7

Making Japanese food’s like making love. Doesn’t have to take a long time if you know what you’re doing. The best way to acquire the necessary skill is probably working alongside a Japanese lady in the kitchen, although I hesitate to recommend anything that combines women, fire, and sharp objects in a confined space. Well, life’s all about managing risk, so it’s either that, a lifetime of TV dinners, or learn how to cook Japanese food yourself. Yeah, let’s look at that latter option.

But What is Japanese Food?

Right from the start, even defining Japanese food presents a challenge. As with everything in this damn nation, what’s blindingly obvious to Japanese folks is utterly baffling to outsiders.

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Cheating in Japan

Kyoto - Ken Seeroi

“Hi Ken,

What do you think of cheating as a subject in Japan? I recently watched this video and it says over 80% of women here cheat. How true is that?”

Okay, so several years ago I met a dude in Osaka, who’d just moved there for work. We were standing in an empty shell of a building, drinking shochu and eating dried daikon with bits of cream cheese. Who says Japanese bars aren’t the best?

Me? Oh, right. Well, anyway, he mentioned a wife and daughter back in Chiba, so I replied, “Must be hard being away.”

“Nah,” he answered, “my wife said I can have a girlfriend.”

And I was like, “Whaaa? She said whaaa?” Probably should work on sounding out my consonants a bit more.

Cheating in Japan

Then fast-forward a couple of years, when I told my girlfriend at the time I was moving out of Tokyo.

“I’m leaving,” I said.

“Yeah, okay,” she said. Really thought she’d take it a bit harder, to be honest.

“I don’t mind if you have another girlfriend,” she added.

“Will you have another boyfriend?” I asked.

“No guarantees,” she replied.

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