I’m on Japanese Unemployment and it’s Awesome

Of the many wonderful things I’ve experienced in Japan, the wonderfulest may well be Japanese unemployment.

It’s pretty easy to see the benefits of being unemployed, as one can immediately dispense with various life unpleasantries, such as waking up, showering, and being sober.

Yet like all things bureaucratic, Japanese unemployment got off to an inauspicious start, waiting on a pastel chair in a 70’s-era office building among the ranks of the downtrodden for my laminated number to be called. The room was crowded with rows of outdated computers and old ladies hunkered over desks stacked with files. In the distance, rain drizzled against a few tired windows. In the hall was a broken water fountain. Welcome to Hello Work.

Hello Work

In an apparent burst of English enthusiasm, the Japanese unemployment bureau decided to cheerily label itself, “Hello Work.” Nice try.

And my buddy Craig was like, “Yeah, that’s where you go when you lose your job.”

 “There and every bar in town,” I said.

“Sounds more like ‘Goodbye, Work,’” he observed.

Which I thought was an excellent point.

Sayonara, Bitches

Anyway, I slumped in my seat at the unemployment bureau contemplating the tops of my shoes, unshaven and unemployed, realizing it was the worst day of my Japanese life. Then a voice called my number and I sat down at a desk facing a substantially well-endowed and surprisingly beautiful young lady, who patiently explained the rules in what was undoubtedly clear Japanese, except that all my energy went into not staring at her breasts and consequently I missed a lot of the details. But I got the general picture—Hottie-san was going to give me free money. And suddenly, sun was shining through the windows. I was like, Girlfriend, this be the best day of my Japanese life. Weather sure does change quick in this country.

The Japanese Unemployment System

Now, there’s an odds-on chance you’ll end up on Japanese unemployment at some point. I mean, assuming you’re working in Japan, that is. All these jobs are based on one- or two-year contracts, with companies just looking to jettison experienced employees rather than retain them. Who wants someone who knows the job when you can bring in fresh meat? Then there’ll be no one to challenge your authority. Add that to the long list of things that make no sense in this country. Whatever.

At first, I didn’t really think about it too much. The Japanese schools and offices I worked in were mostly pretty horrible—okay, actually all of them were—so when the contracts expired, I just moved on to the next one. But after my latest job ended, my partner was all, “Ken, you don’t want a new job.”

“I don’t?” I asked. I mean, yeah of course, but it’s hard to maintain this beautiful head of hair sleeping in a cardboard box.

“You want Hello Work,” she said.

“Hello, what?”

“Japanese unemployment,” she replied. “Just take a few months off.”

And I was like, Ken Seeroi do nothing for weeks on end? Just like lay around in my underpants drinking beer? That sounds, uhh, what’s the word? Fantastic? Yeah, that’ll do. Finally, God’s given me something to excel at. Who am I to question His divine wisdom, and why’d nobody tell me about this sooner?

Understanding Japanese Unemployment

So I went to Hello Work with my “My Number” (Good try on using English again, Japan), my personal seal, alien registration card, bank book, and documents from my last job, indicating how much I’d made and how long I’d been there. Apparently, if you leave of your own accord, there’s a 3-month waiting period, but if an employer doesn’t renew your contract, you only have to wait a week before the free money starts flowing. Hottie-san seemed to think the waiting period was a big deal, but I was like, Yeah, I can wait a week. What’re you doing next Friday?

Now I’ll say right now that my understanding of the whole thing’s pretty nebulous, despite poring over the 67-page Japanese explanation booklet, the 26-page English booklet, sitting through an hour-long briefing in Japanese, and watching a video covering the same subject in English.

But here’s what I think I know . . . You have to initially go to Hello Work three times: once to meet Hottie-san (whom you’ll sadly never see again), then again for an explanation meeting, after which you should pretend to use the computers to search for a job, and then for a third time in order to qualify for your cash, which is Chi-ching! magically transported by the Wizard of Oz into your bank account. Then you should pretend to use the computers again. Thanks, Tin Man.

Looking for Work in Japan

To qualify for Japanese unemployment, you need to appear to be looking for work in Japan at least twice a month, which frankly is a pretty low bar for someone who sits around drunk all day in their boxers. You just show up at Hello Work, use their computers for half an hour, and then meet with a counselor for five minutes to lament the fact you failed to find a suitable job among the hundreds of listings targeted solely at Japanese nationals.

Using the Computers at Hello Work

The computers at Hello Work access nationwide job listings, which is great if you read Japanese, because English is a non-starter. I have no idea what actual “foreigners” do—just sit there like a dog watching TV? Anyway, you can search by region, and include search terms to explore the myriad of jobs you’re fantastically unqualified for.

Probably the most interesting thing is that the computer begins by asking how old you are, after which it only displays jobs for that age or higher. There’s no such thing as ageism in Japan, because like all discrimination here it’s de facto baked into everything. If you’re too old, sorry, shit outta luck. I tried putting in a few different ranges and sure enough, as one gets older in Japan, the job opportunities successively dry up. If you’re over 60, the computer suggests you walk into the mountains and die. But it does so nicely, so it’s okay. Such a polite country.

How Much Cash Will I get on Japanese Unemployment?

This is probably the biggest mystery, as I have no idea how anything’s calculated. It factors in any hours you’re working part-time, how much you made at your last job, probably how long you worked there, maybe how old you are, the number of dependents you have, and then multiplies everything by the last digit of pi and divides the whole mess by zero. How long you’ll receive said cash for is also a mystery. The range seems to be between 6 months and a year, based upon precisely what I’ve no idea. The great irony is that if you’re smart enough to understand all the calculations, you definitely shouldn’t be on Japanese unemployment. Fortunately, Seeroi Sensei ain’t got that problem.

So this plus a part-time job enables me to now enjoy various luxuries such as health insurance, cooking sherry, and heat. You don’t really think about how arctic Japan is until you’re sitting around a gas stove wearing a sleeping bag. But spring’ll be here eventually and until then I’ve got a few more months in which to find a new job or a hot old lady with a pile of cold cash. I must say that although being on Japanese unemployment isn’t the cat’s pajamas, it sure beats the hell out of working for a living. Next stop, figuring out how to get on Japanese welfare. Soup kitchen, here I come.

123 Replies to “I’m on Japanese Unemployment and it’s Awesome”

        1. I’m kinda interested to hear your take on this “amae” phenomenon, if you ever have the time or inclination:

          https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191212-japans-deep-connection-to-childish-relationships

          I see this to some extent on the occasions I meet Japanese or Korean people, but I’m from a country that probably abhors this behaviour. People here are blunt and rude and quiet and the manipul… interpersonal skills rely on very different things than this. Your take on this would probably be the most interesting I’d get to read in the subject, ever.

          1. I read that, but it’s really hard for me to grasp just what the hell they’re talking about. Here’s a little excerpt:

            “Amae appears in any relationship, at any age, and can be positive or negative…It’s unique in Japan because one word takes care of so many phenomena, behaviours and interactions…but amae exists everywhere beyond Japan.”

            So it’s in Japan, but everywhere else too. It covers a range intereactions, both good and bad, for any relationship at any age. Okay…so I don’t even know what we’re talking about at this point.

            The writer seems to be mixing together acting and dressing cutely, workplace hierarchy, behaving childishly, being nice to one’s friends, and the shirking of responsibility. And then trying to say this thing, whatever it is, is found in Japan, but also elsewhere. Great, now it’s all completely clear.

            This way of writing about Japan perplexes me to no end. It’s like people have a vague sense that something’s amiss, but they can’t quite put their finger on it. But no time to sort things out…the editor wants a piece by today at 5:00, so just slap a bunch of unrelated stuff together, insert a few stereotypes, and call it an article.

            So to answer your question, I don’t have a take on it, because I don’t know what the hell it is. It’s a phenomenon? News to me.

    1. I sure would like to think so, but the reality is that being unemployed takes up a lot more time than I imagined. Looking and applying for jobs takes up half the day, with the other half occupied by de-stressing at the local izakaya. Life’s rough, I tell ya.

      1. Oh man…that’s the flipside…well sending positive vibes your way. I’m hoping if you’re looking domestically it does better than when I tried to get a job in California while looking in Japan…it was hard getting prospective employers to take me seriously when they could just get interested people closer.

  1. Very insightful and you take a lot of the intimidation away from this process.

    Hello Work! What an odd, odd name.

    My experience was similar except I don’t speak the language very well and my kanji reading ability is terrible.
    The nice old guy at the counter didn’t even bother sending me to a computer and he told me to come back next week for my money. Collecting was easy as easy as taking a number, handing in a form, waiting 5 minutes and money confirmed. I think this continued for about 6 months. I wasn’t quite sure when it would all end but when the guy gave me the payment receipt and crossed his arms in a big X symbol, I got the picture.

    I’d like to figure how long I need to work again before I can start collecting again.

    1. “I wasn’t quite sure when it would all end but when the guy gave me the payment receipt and crossed his arms in a big X symbol, I got the picture.” I had to laugh at that. Yeah, that’s essentially how I live my life in Japan. I mean, you could read all the forms and somehow work out the details with the help of Google Translate and several Japanese friends, but it’s usually just easier to cruise along and not worry about stuff. Kind of a weird existence though.

        1. For some reason, discussing one’s finances on the internet strikes me as spectacularly bad idea. Also, I’m not sure how meaningful any figure would be without understanding the Japanese standard of living. A great number of Japanese folks, myself included, live in circumstances not much above the U.S. poverty level. When I describe sleeping in a hat and parka because the wind is blowing through cracks in the walls, that’s not a joke. And now what I receive in government assistance is just enough to cover rent, health insurance, some rice and vegetables, and maybe a couple of hot showers a week. So basically, the same as when I was working, only minus extra money for essential cans of malt liquor. Of course, the amount also varies depending upon each person’s situation.

          1. “Also, I’m not sure how meaningful any figure would be without understanding the Japanese standard of living. A great number of Japanese folks, myself included, live in circumstances not much above the U.S. poverty level. When I describe sleeping in a hat and parka because the wind is blowing through cracks in the walls, that’s not a joke.”

            One of my best life decisions was to look for a job in Germany after my 10 year excursion to Japan. The quality of life for both me and my family are just so much better.

            I remember the housing in Japan well. Sure, in the most recent 5 years in Japan we upgraded from Apato to Mansion, but still, I always thought the housing was shoddy in Japan.
            Now in Germany I get to build a nice house on a nice big piece of ground with solar panels, e-car infrastructure, almost no yearly cost for utilities, insanely good thermal insulation etc. etc.
            I could NEVER have afforded this in Japan …

            1. That’s it in a nutshell. You really feel the opportunity cost of living here. Stay from the time you’re 20 to 30, and come away with a decade of no savings—that’s an expensive vacation.

              Most people in Japan make a pittance, and work like slaves for it. A few make decent money, but rarely for long. It’s hard to have a sufficient and enduring source of income. I don’t know if Japan was ever the land of opportunity (maybe the 90’s?), but it certainly doesn’t seem to be anymore.

                1. Maybe an easier way to desribe Japanese dole is to compare it to average earnings. Is it based on your previous income, or is it fixed? Is it means tested, or does it ignore your assets?

                  For instance, UK Job Seeker’s Allowace is a fixed amount that works out at 15% of UK average earnings. As long as you have worked for at least six months since the last time you were unemployed, the first six months is untested, then your means are tested and you get nothing if your savings are more than 60% of average earnings. If you are receiving JSA that passports you through to getting Housing Benefit which is typically up to another 15%.

                  Even if you get no JSA, they still pay your National Insurance (state pension) contributions for you, which was the only reason I bothered continuing when my dole ran out.

                  And, of course, you have to turn up every fortnight and “prove” that you’ve spent at least 15 hours a week looking for work. yerwot? It took me 60 minutes maximum to go through every job vacancy I could find every day.

                  1. Japanese unemployment is based upon your previous income, as well as factors such as length of employment, dependents, and perhaps age. It does not ask about your assets. If it did, that’d be a pretty strong incentive to stash all your yen in the futon.

                    Unfortunately, local tax and Japanese health insurance payments are also based upon your previous income, so you’d better have a lot of yen in that futon before losing your job.

                    1. Tax is based on *previous* income? Not current income? (Or occupied property value?) Doesn’t that mean that retired people go bankrupt paying taxes on income they no longer have?

                    2. You pay residence tax based upon the income you made during the previous year. So during the first year of retirement, yes, you’d pay a higher amount of tax based upon the income you earned during your final working year. But after that, your income will go down, and thus your tax will too.

                      I’m only talking about money made on income here, not property value. I don’t know how property tax works in Japan, having never purchased any here.

              1. Hi Ken – Hope it all works out for you. I think the time when Japan was the land of opportunity (at least financially) was the 1970s and 1980s. Gaijin-type foreigners were pretty scarce in those days (apart from those on US military bases), and English-teaching jobs weren’t hard to find. Someone arriving with a master’s degree or doctorate could find themselves teaching at a university fairly quickly.

                Then there was the appreciation of the yen. In 1970, there were around 350 yen to the US dollar. Over the next 25 years the yen appreciated (with a few see-saws up and down) until it reached 100 yen to the dollar in 1995. This meant foreigners who had previously been on a modest salary often became quite well-paid in dollar terms over this time.

                All that has changed. English-teaching salaries have been stagnant for decades, and there seems to be a never-ending supply of starry-eyed foreigners who are willing to come to Japan to work for low pay.

                1. Wow, you really summed that up perfectly. That describes the situation to a T.

                  Yeah, I’m sure something will work out. There are jobs to be had, but good jobs…well, good thing I’ve got a few more months.

                  1. If I were in my 20s or early 30s looking to teach English abroad I might consider Vietnam. I love visiting there, and it seems to be on the upswing economically.

                    1. Agreed. There are a lot of countries with good opportunities for teaching English. Japan’s certainly one of many.

  2. Well, Seeroi-San, hope you enjoy your time off. I’m sure you’ll be contemplating your next move as you slam down some brews, chomp on some Cal-Bee chips, while lying down in some children’s playground.

    Having read your good writing for so many months (years?), I’ve learned that teaching English in Japan kinda sucks the Big Root. But, did you know there’s apparently a stigma to teaching English in Japan too? Check this out,….you could probably use a laugh or two,….or cry.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnVBFBq0qhg

    Seeroi-San, it sounds like you’re living a life of Quiet Desperation in Japan. I’m not judging, just offering a respectful observation. You’ve written about your exploration with AA, adventures in weight management, and the constant war with the language barrier. Why stay in Japan? Are there that many Hotties throwing themselves naked at your feet? Do love Kanji that much? Might it be slightly better to be a drunk in the US,…..like me? Just sayin’.

    My interaction with Japan mimics your best advice about Japan–it’s better to be a fervent visitor than a depressed, angry, and confused expat. And, boy, you were right. I’m still on that pink cloud. I visit Japan every year. This year I attended a Japanese language school. Despite the crowded trains, the bitchy sensei’s, catching a cold, not being allowed into a restaurant because of my language inability, Typhoon 19 (plus the earthquake), and gaining five pounds from all the chicken karaage I ate, I still love Japan.

    It sometimes sounds like your relationship with Japan has turned toxic. If Japan were a woman, I’d say it might be time for you to trash that bitch. As I said,….just sayin’.

    Keep up the good works!

    1. Why stay in Japan? Remember Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman“?

      But on the real though, it’s not Japan that’s problematic—it’s life, man. Like I’m gonna move to Korea or Germany or the U.S. and magically not to consume my body weight in french fries and beer? And it’s not teaching English that sucks—it’s working for a living. Like having to actually wash my armpits and put on clothes. So bothersome.

      There’s lots of good stuff about Japan (and contrary to what some folks have said, I wouldn’t necessarily put “women” on that list). But there’s also lots of stuff that’s not great. I guess I just try to point out both. Japan’s a supremely normal place. If it were a number, it’d be 5. If it were weather, it’d be partly-sunny. If it were a color, it’d be beige.

      I get why people are interested in Japan. Particularly if you were born in a Western country, it’s a really different place. What I’d really like to say is that, once you live here long enough, that stops being the case. Eventually, Japan becomes your point of reference, and then everywhere else is weird and interesting. Welcome to life, eh.

      1. My wife asked me the other day if I didn’t like my job…and I said that it’s fine…it’s just the whole working thing that can get to you…having to wake up and be somewhere when you’d rather just stay home, having to do similar things day in and day out for years…I knew like 30 people working at Google pre-IPO and a few years after IPO when it was known as the best place in the world to work, and they’ve all left…inevitably even having free food, massages, etc. can get old ;p. My wife asked me why I don’t try to find something else…and I just told her it didn’t suck enough yet, heh.

        I think people who say they find fulfillment at work are either delusional, lying, or both…I think a lot of stress could be removed from our lives if we stopped trying to find meaning in work and just see it at best as a neutral enabler of the rest of our lives.

        1. It’s probably safe to say that there’s a range, between really horrible, soul-crushing jobs, and those that provide fulfillment and self-satisfaction. A former boss of mine once said that if you worked with good people, you’d be happy in your job. I gotta say that’s a large part of it.

          I’ve had jobs on both ends of the spectrum. There were a few times in my life when I did work that was really fulfilling and fun, and I was happy to do it. And yeah, I was working with some great folks. Finding anything even remotely like those jobs now, in Japan, seems borderline impossible. I’d be content just to find a position that was a “neutral enabler.” Note to self: Don’t go chasing rainbows.

  3. I just started reading your blog, very cool. but I don’t know how old you are or what you look like. What if you were to say to hottie-san something like “nice blouse” or “that’s a nice outfit”

    1. Nice blouse? Might as well just lead with Jeezus, your tits are huge! But yeah, you’re right, making a connection would require saying something. God only knows what sort of ridiculousness would spout out of my mouth. Which would only complicate my personal situation, so it’s probably best that I just shut up and settled for the cash.

    2. Yeah, that is completely not appropriate at Hello Work.

      She doesn’t care what the clients think of her appearance. She may be in a relationship. She may be going through a horrible breakup or grieving for another reason. She may not be into dudes.

      She’s trying to do her job. Leave her be and let her do it.

      1. …She may be a North Korean spy. She may have escaped from an insane asylum. She may be Chuck Norris in drag. God forbid a man should actually speak words to her.

        1. Um…

          She is at work. She is not a Roppongi bar hostess. She is there to help you with unemployment, and that is it.

          You had the right idea at the time – be chill, and let the nice lady give you the money. It’s fine that you noticed how fine she was. You handled it perfectly by not saying anything but “arigato.”

          Hitting on someone in a work situation is inappropriate. She will think you are sketchy. And she won’t be wrong.
          ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

          I’m a woman. This is my lived experience (in many countries). We get hit on at work. On the subway. In elevators. When we’re walking down the street, already talking with someone else…

          I’m not even a young Japanese hottie. Yet I still have to fend off clueless dudes just to live my life. Don’t be a pigeon. Don’t hit on people in the workplace.

          FFS, there are so many hotties who might welcome some interest. Go to those places and talk to them there!

          You already did the right thing. The polite thing. Please don’t come after me for saying so.

          1. I agree you shouldn’t “hit on” people, that it’s far better to simply treat everyone as regular folks, regardless of gender. Still, that doesn’t preclude being pleasant in conversation. Sometimes you’ll even make friends, which is great. You’ll certainly never get anywhere sitting there like a doorstop.

            Sorry, that’s incorrect. Men won’t. Women can. And that’s the problem in a nutshell.

            So men shouldn’t talk to women at work. Or on the subway. or in elevators. Or when they’re walking down the street. Or when they’re talking with someone else. Got it. Want to know the right time and place to talk with a woman? How about never and nowhere? Because you can wait weeks, months, or years for just the right opportunity, and lots of guys do. And even then, when the magical chance finally presents itself and you muster up the courage to speak to a stranger…well, turns out you didn’t shave that day, or just had a sandwich with onions, or she’s got a partner, or just flat doesn’t like you.

            The fact is, men have always had to make the effort. That’s why our species is alive today. I get that it’s not great to be a woman constantly bothered by men, but it’s not so fabulous on the other side either. Unfortunately, most of the time, it falls upon the man to make the initial conversation, and the woman chooses to continue it or not. Which leaves both parties feeling like a visit from a vacuum cleaner salesman.

            If you want to reform gender roles, I’m all for it. I’ll be waiting at Starbucks for you to sit down and try striking up a conversation.

            1. There IS the organic way to find a partner too. I got to know my first girlfriend in an online game back in 1998 or so (!). Just mutual attraction, no one planned to find a boy/girlfriend. At least I didn’t

              But apart from that .. I had to do the first step three out of four times. Not planning to take any first steps in the future though.
              (The one time a girl made the first step I felt really flattered :))

              1. There’s always the fall-back of the matchmaking agency. In the past that used to be church socials and nosey aunts, but today’s society has rejected all that… and then complains they can’t meet potential partners.

                I think I’m of an age where I was just on the tail end of well-meaning female relatives saying things like: “Do you remember Mrs Jones’ daughter Suzie? Why don’t you give her a call?”

            2. Indeed, I am all for reforming gender roles. Not like it’s going to happen in my lifetime… but, still…? One can always hope?

              I understand that *most* women expect to be propositioned and won’t make the first move.

              Can you blame us?

              Most times when I’ve chosen to make an exception to that it has gone badly for me.

              Do you understand how tiring it is to perpetually be a prey animal?

              Yes, Sure, Not All Men.
              But.
              50% of everything is below average.
              so, yeah.

            3. Hi Ken, long time, maybe you don’t remember me but nonetheless I am happy to find out that you are still writing.

              I laughed out loud when I read the discussion about the idea of hitting on your unemployment benefits agent – no offence to unemployed people there and not mocking the seriousness of unemployment, but it sounds to me like a patient hitting on his doctor when trying to explain her about his bloody diarreia problem.

              I believe that the discussion on when it’s appropriate for a man to approach a woman is a hopeless one – men and women will never agree on that, and no two men and two women have exactly the same standards.

              But I think in the end it boils down to common sense – a woman who is quite attractive probably knows that already and has no doubts about her self-confidence , so any flattering from a man may sound disrespectful or at least inappropriate, unless it is from the right guy and the right circumstances. Conversely, a woman who is not used to being flattered neither so confident about her attractiveness may find such conversation more pleasant.

  4. I would like to hear more about that “partner” of yours, you have found her and what kind of relationship you have with each other. If you don’t mind that is…

    1. Great sense of humor, doesn’t sweat me too much when I come home reeking of sake and grilled chicken. Let’s see, what else? Short, brown hair, does yoga, unbelievable cook. We met at work. Our relationship’s about as normal as you could imagine. We go to izakayas, sing karaoke, spend mornings at Starbucks, play Frisbee in the park. All the usual stuff.

      1. How old she, though? She doesn’t mind having no kids, as you certainly don’t seem have suddenly decided to have some yourself?
        The fact a Japanese woman would tell you to get on unemployment, just so you can have it easy for 6 months, make her seem like she would be like one in a million.

        1. Hey, who doesn’t like vacations? Any person who’s got a problem with a few months off is a person I’ve got a problem with. Nationality and gender has nothing to do with it. There aren’t many times that life gives you a break from work, whether by choice or necessity. You want to surround yourself with folks who support the fortunes that befall you, whether good or bad.

          As for the more personal questions, I think I’ll just leave those aside for now.

          1. I totally agree with you, just seems rare and lucky. It is not just that she let you, she pushed you. And it is unemployment. I would think especially in Japan most people must consider it too shameful and wouldn’t look favourable at you, but again, she suggested it herself.
            I mean no disrespect with the personal question. But especially as a sort of a young fellow, I like to learn how other people make things works.

          2. Ken, I have a very personal question for you. What do you do when it’s the end of the day and your friends/co-workers want to go to a restaurant where you need to take your shoes off and… your feet stink to high heaven from being in your shoes all day?? Or your feet are seriously sweaty because it’s the middle of summer and it’s 1000 degrees outside. Seriously, that aspect of living in Japan is one that I find terrifying.

            1. Yeah, that’s a real thing. I just washed a pair of my tennis shoes for the fourth time. I don’t think I washed a pair of shoes when I lived in the U.S., ever. Of course, you can’t do that with leather. You’re going to need to Fabreeze those puppies.

              Personal cleanliness is a fairly big deal in Japan. In the summer, I take two showers a day, and wear deodorant. Drug stores sell spray deodorant especially for feet. You should also periodically Fabreeze shoes and suits. If I know I’ll be having a big dinner or a meeting with clients, I’ll also avoid eating strongly flavored foods the day before, such as curry, which comes out in sweat. It goes without saying you should always wear clean socks, and I’d absolutely take an extra pair with me if I was anticipating a particularly hot day and important meal.

              In reality though, there’s not that many restaurants where you take off your shoes. Still, having good personal hygiene will go a long way in Japan. And for fuck’s sake, don’t wear cologne.

  5. Holy shit, you’ve been at this thing for seven-ish years or more! When’s the book coming out? And, I want to hear more about Hottie-san…when will I find my hottie-san? Please write an article on how to get hottie-san too.

    1. All women can smell desperation. You may want to consider working on that first. Sex is merely a by-product of living a life women find attractive, and not “how to get hottie-san too.”

    2. The moment I figure out the secret to success with women, I promise to let absolutely no one know.

      I will say though, that Japanese women are still women, and most of what you’d need to do to attract any woman is probably pretty obvious. Whatever success you have with ladies in your home country, you’ll probably have about the same level here. So if what you’re doing now isn’t working—hey, it’s a new year—maybe now’s a good time to change things up.

    3. Be nice. Listen. Pay attention.

      Pro tip: You do not “get” a “hottie-san.”

      You develop a relationship – with a person.

      Do not think of us as some THING to get.

      That’s your first issue right there. Until you can get past that, no one is going to want to give you the time of day.

      And, why would she?

      We are not prizes or objects. No one is going to sign up for that, outside of video game NPCs. That’s just not how it works.

      1. While you made your point loud and clear, I think it’s fair to note that “get” in this context is common English usage. For example, “I’d like to get married,” “I want to get a cute boyfriend,” or “I hope I get elected President in 2020.” None of which do I actually want, except maybe the boyfriend. Whatever, it doesn’t imply acquisition or objectification. Now, if you want to change the way the world communicates in English, have at it. But take it easy on the commenter, hey.

        1. Words shape thoughts. Isn’t this one of the things you say? Thinking in English is different than thinking in Japanese.

          The OP requested advice. I’m trying to say a bit about what it’s like to be on the other side of that particular situation.

          If he wants a girlfriend, he’d do well to consider her – as a person – and her needs and desires.

          Ex-Expat had good advice. We can smell the desperation. And we can tell the difference between actual interest and just “me want woman.”

          No one wants to be a prey animal.

          I’m just saying, try to be chill and remember that even hotties are people too.

          1. “I’m just saying, try to be chill and remember that even hotties are people too.”

            No way! Hehe.

            My wife of many years was just someone whom I found interesting, maybe call it “different”, so I invited her to coffee. The rest, as they say, is history 🙂

          2. As a woman, I have guys approach me at work, in the street, in an elevator – and I don’t find it insulting when they do so. On the contrary, I think it’s empowering to women – in the end, they are the ones making a decision whether or not to respond to a man. I don’t feel like a prey animal when it happens.

            A lot of us, women, need to stop thinking of themselves as victims or prey. They need to start behaving and thinking as confident persons they are, and not blame men, or anyone for that matter, for their insecurities. Be the change you want to see.

      1. Quick guide to attracting a partner:

        For men: Be a man with as many of the following as possible: young, talented, good-looking, single, straight, tall, nice head of hair, well-built body, career success, future prospects, artistic, social status, network of friends, good family, good dancer, good lover, money, connections, nice house, clean car, funny, entertaining, intelligent, masculine, sensitive …

        For women: Be a woman.

  6. Dear Seeroi-san,

    I came around to see how you spent your Christmas time, and by golly you did surprise me again. Well, now I have to adjust my “season’s greeting” to include my best wishes for you to find a new job in time. And in the meantime: How about writing your book? Although writing most probably won’t drown you in cash, it does have its benefits trickling in. And your partner (you really mentioned this person for the first time here, didn’t you?) will not think of you as being merely lazy. Don’t forget to post your ISBN when the book is ready!

    Best regards,
    Trurl

    1. Thanks much. You know, at every turn in my life I always think, Okay now I’m gonna have the time I need to write a book. But somehow it all gets taken up by booze and womanizing. Surprisingly time-consuming activities, those. But for 2020, I’m finally resolved to get my life together. Not like all those other years. Well, 2021 at the latest.

  7. A friend recently intentionally took his Japanese unemployment, and it worked out really well for him. Had his first extended break in about 20 years, spent time doing important family stuff, and then found a job with what so far seems to be better atmosphere and conditions. Early days of course, but things are looking up for him.

    To make the break as liquid as possible, there’s a small donation on its way to you. All the best for 2020!

  8. I kinda envy you, Seeroi-san. Not the great ventilation of your home and the accelerating liver destruction, but the unemployment system. The concept of “taking a break from work” is unfathomable to me. On purpose nonetheless. I mean, I was unemployed a few times, but those times were filled less with boozing and reclining, and more with fending off debt collectors with a garden rake every morning, en route to another interview for a job I would most assuredly hate. And don’t get. And back to the cold dread of deciding if with the last of my money I should buy some canned soup…or rope…

    You see, the unemployment system in Hungary is such: there is none. You can get “job seeking aid”, which is a percentage of the salary you got from your last employment, to the maximum of 3 months. After that, you’re on your own, the system kicks you to the curb. And that 3 months, as you said, is spent with sifting through hundreds of job ads you are woefully unqualified for. Personally, I would love to take half a year off from the daily torture of getting up way too early, having to go to a place I don’t wanna be, and making a shitload of money for someone to whom I’m nothing more than a number on a spreadsheet. And I should even be thankful for the opportunity.

    I have nothing against honest work. I’ve been doing for close to 20 years now. It’s just the constant dread and anxiety that comes with the danger of losing it I can’t get over. If you ever were on the brink (or over) of becoming completely destitute, homeless, despite having worked your ass off your entire life, you would never want to go back there again. I know the Japanese system is not exactly a vacation from work, but at least it gives you some breathing room and time to decide what comes next. I kinda envy that.

    1. Not gonna lie, it’s not bad. The thing is, there are some pretty heavy monetary burdens that come with losing a job here, including having to pay heaps for health insurance, local tax, and re-renting one’s own apartment (after losing the company as guarantor). So the unemployment income is a real help. Honestly I’d probably be sleeping under a bridge without it.

      1. That’s exactly what I mean. All those monetary burdens (health insurance, rent, etc) are also present here even if you lose your job. But the difference is, the government here does two things to help you: jack and shit. If you become unemployed, you burn through your savings like paper (if you even have any). The job seeking aid is enough to pay for rent OR food. One of those, not both. You can choose to starve in your home, or eat packet ramen in a cardboard box. If you can’t find a job in 3 months, you are pretty much a financial black hole at that point.

        I know there’s the added bonus of being a foreigner in Japan. By bonus I mean evil brand you can never wash off. I have a German acquaintance who went to live in Japan a few years ago, and he told me there were job interviews he applied through email (in perfect Japanese) but were turned away at the door because he looks like a foreigner. He told the lady in Japanese he came to the job interview, and she started chanting “no engrish no engrish” and ushered him out the door. Or the interviewer flat out told him in his face they only hire Japanese natives as a company policy. I mean, they have every right to do that, but still….

        Did you have any such experiences?

        1. Well, for starters, many job announcements state they want a resume, cover letter, and application in hand-written Japanese. What is this, the 1800’s? Hang on while I get out my quill pen. So that’s barrier One. Your name alone, unless it sounds like Shunsuke Takamoto, is barrier Two. Finally, there’s appearance, barrier Three. Most workplaces are clearly divided into jobs done by foreigners and those done by Japanese.

          I worked for a company where they attempted to create a balanced department, roughly 70-30 Japanese-Foreigners. The culture was incredibly strained, with the Japanese folks all communicating in quiet Japanese, eating lunch silently at their desks, and working overtime, and the foreign people literally joking in English around the water cooler, taking long lunches, and going home at 5. Within a couple of years, all the foreign people were gone, replaced by Japanese folks, and I was the last one left. In our department meeting, the boss literally said, “Well, I’m glad we’re finally all Japanese.” And I was like, uhh, okay . . . And then a month later, that sentence came true.

          1. Ha the resume thing reminds me of the time I found my boss furiously copying a print out over and over. He explained that he was practicing. He was getting married soon, and apparently it’s the custom in Japan for the suitor to give what is essentially a perfect, hand-written resume to the woman’s parents. Yikes.

            He said he thought the custom as kind of silly… but “shikatanai”

  9. Always interesting! You are truly a talented writer. Please write a book I would definitely read it. Also, I think writing about the tension between Japanese and Foreign staff would make an interesting post if you were willing to discuss more of it. The tension in my office always confused me because it seemed based on things that ultimately linked back to the foreign staff not being Japanese rather than any actual problems (ex: one of my foreign coworkers makes food for everyone and brings it, my colleagues accept it but complain in Japanese about the taste in front of the woman because she can’t understand Japanese)

  10. The last time I was unemployed (in the US), I blew through all my savings and had to move back in with my parents. Perhaps the ultimate humiliation was being flown out to interview with four organizations that used to be my competitors, only to be rejected by all four. If I could do it over again I would have just enjoyed my time off (which seems to be your plan). You might find a receptive audience if you were to some day write a book that chronicles your life experiences in Japan. Your blog is consistently pretty hilarious.

  11. It’s true indeed, searching for a full time job is a job in itself. As someone who is long-term unemployed, my advice would be to try not to stress about it too much although I know this is a very difficult feat. Try and relax, enjoy the time off, get fitter, do the things that you wanted to do before but had no time to.

    I used to follow this method: Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the morning I’d fire off an epic truckload of applications to pretty much everything going. If I thought I even had a vague chance of doing it, I’d go in, perhaps write a slightly different cover letter, etc.

    It is hard for me to describe but it is basically a method of refinement, don’t do the same thing all the time, if your CV gets no hits, change something, repeat, see what happens and so on. Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity after all.

    Good luck!

  12. If you find a new job before your benefits period runs out, you can apply for the early re-employment allowance which which will pay you a portion of your remaining benefits. Check into it.

    1. Yeah, that’s a good point. If you get off the dole before it runs out, the government gives you either 60 or 70 percent of the remaining balance, which is probably the most sensible idea I’ve encountered in my entire time here.

  13. Hi Ken, Happy New Year! Hope that 2020 brings you happiness and good health. With your skills, I’m sure it won’t take you long to find new work. Have you thought about Rakuten? I’ve read pretty good things about them as an employer, especially for non-Japanese. Only thing is their head office is out in Setagaya-ku.

  14. Hey Ken,

    Thanks for another solid read.

    Been meaning to send you some cash for a while now, and this seems like as good a time as ever. I hope my beer maths were not too out.

    Best of luck with the winter!

  15. Far be it from me to offer advice, but I think that you basically nailed it, although perhaps the methods of piecing the working parts together was unclear.

    You mentioned walking into the mountains and dying, but also something about dogs and watching TV. I suggest that you open up a new business babysitting dogs that don’t like watching TV alone while their owners are away from their mountain hideaway, doing something productive in the way of having a working life.

    The great thing is that nobody has to die. (Except that your standard contract with your clients obviously has to have a clause about dogs sometimes dying through hypothermia, which has absolutely nothing to do with you passing out drunk in front of the TV while the dog took itself for a walk.)

    Would I fit in in Japan? Well at least I like to think that I’ve got the right fighting spirit. 頑張ろう!

  16. Just stumbled upon this blog. As a long time resident of Japan (came as a student in 98 and started working in Tokyo in 2001) it has long been my dream to be let go from a Japanese company.

    The prospect of a bit of a buy out (I have been a “regular employee” for most of this time) and some time off is highly appealing. Though through 2010 I was paying of soul crushing student loan and credit card debt.

    Don’t worry. You’ll get a job soon enough and then look fondly back at this time.

    1. Thanks much. Time off certainly seems to agree with me. I have to admit that the prospect of working for yet another Japanese company isn’t exactly appealing.

      Good luck with losing your own job. Maybe you could try doing a shoddier job, or leaving early? I’m sure with enough ambition and determination, you can succeed.

  17. Good advice.

    I hear you on the Japanese company point. I spent many years at Japanese companies, and now several years at my current, U.S. HQ’d company. To be honest U.S. companies in Japan are culturally barely different day to day from Japanese companies. But a bit better I suppose. Definitely give it a try if you like.

    By the way, have you ever considered writing a post about the reasons gaijin get “trapped” in Japan? Having a Japanese family, client based job (recruiter, lawyer, etc.), coming from a country with few good job prospects (no offense, Canada), just having lost touch and not knowing where to begin.? Might be an interesting topic.

    Anyway, try not to stress too much during this period!

    1. That’s a good topic. Let me roll it around in my brain for a while. Just off the top of my head, getting married and having kids seems like the biggest reason. How about for you—just the job?

  18. Thanks. Agree that getting married and having kids is definitely the biggest reason (for the majority of my friends here). My situation is a bit more nuanced, I think. Basically my first couple of years in Japan were the best of my life. Then I ended up in jobs that I didn’t like. But I always hoped I’d be able to get back to that feeling of when I first came. My job and life now are pretty good, and looking back on the years when I was in crappy jobs, I had a lot of good times too, but of course you can never go back to that feeling when you were young and first here. I supposed I’ve just settled into a comfortable life that I’ve spent years building. Hard to give that up. Though I do sometimes consider moving back to the U.S. If it’s not “too late”. In my 40s now.

    1. Wow, it’s like looking into a beautiful mirror.

      Yeah, those first few years…I always tell folks the ideal amount of time to stay in Japan is a year and a half, maybe two. After that, leave and you’ll always believe Japan to be a magical land filled with wonder. Stay longer and, well, it just becomes a normal place with somewhat equal parts good and bad, just like anywhere else.

      What concerns me now is the impending end game. In your 30s, still plenty of time. In your 40s, okay, suddenly not so much time. In your 50s, ah crap, shoulda moved in your 40s. In your 60s, and now you’re that guy with the safety vest and orange wand at the construction site.

      1. Funny. I have a cousin moving to Japan for his job, and I was thinking of giving him the same advice. Stay a year or two max. Also, you can always try to come back again and perhaps relive a big of the newbie magic with a fresh start.

        In your 40s you can probably still build a life and relationships back home, and reconnect with people you left. After that, much harder.

        Also, as you get older things inevitably start to break down form time to time health-wise. Do you really want to deal with doctors in Japanese for the rest of your life? Had my appendix out a few years ago, and there was no time to have my then girlfriend come over and help out. No matter how good our Japanese is, we all play the fill in the blanks game. That’s all well and good when reading a menu or something, but when you’re about to go under the knife, it’s a bit disconcerting. Am I agreeing to the “good” anesthetic or the “other” anesthetic? Hmmm, that’d be nice to know. If I’d known I was having my appendix out today I might have brushed up a bit on the relevant vocab. Oh well, I’ll just choose answer B and hope for the best.

        One other interesting factor is that, at some point you find that you have more “Japan” friends outside of Japan than in Japan, since friends come and go, and there inevitably comes a time when you start going out and making friends less and less (and there are fewer gaijin around your age left). I saw your post about making Japanese friends, so let’s just cut to the chase and admit that most of your friends will be fellow gaijin. Anyway, I swear I have more “Tokyo” friends in NYC now than in Tokyo.

        So, the impending end game is indeed something to think about. I’m not “trapped”, as many of my friends are, by family or a client based job (my fiance is Chinese and fine to leave Japan). But I fear that I’m approaching the precipice of no return. That would be my “trapped in Japan” scenario. Something to think about…

        1. “so let’s just cut to the chase and admit that most of your friends will be fellow gaijin.”

          That’s not a natural given. Not to take away from your comment but I have more Japanese friends in Japan than “Gaijin friends”. In fact I don’t have a single Gaijin friend right now.
          (I do have old friends from Germany and Europe from back when I was young.)

          1. Point taken. It is surely the better way to go, especially if one plans to stay in Japan “long term”. I think that many of us do form Japanese friendships. I have had good Japanese buddies over the years, but unfortunately when people change jobs or have families, it becomes a bit tougher to keep up, and its generally, in my personal experience, just easier to make new friends with fellow gaijin since we immediately have something in common. That seems to be the pattern. I do wish I had made more of an effort to maintain my Japanese friendships.

          2. Myself, I’ve got a mix of “Japanese” and “foreign” friends. Frankly, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s what, but that’s another issue.

            I will say that the way I relate to people differs greatly depending on what language we’re speaking. It’s much easier to feel open and close to people when speaking English, although I’m not sure if that’s due to culture, the fact that English is my stronger language, or both. I suspect it’s both, actually.

        2. Yeah, that’s why I’ve not gone back to Hong Kong. I’ve been in the UK for almost 30 years now, and was 51 yesterday – eeekkk!!!! All my family in HK have scattered to the winds or died off, I’d essentially be an immigrant, and I look nothing like the photo on my ID card. Though I got me a UK passport last year ….. and visited Japan! 🙂

          Crap! Not last year, two years ago! Argh! Who keeps moving the calendar?

  19. Dude I met a Japanese girl here in the U.S and it has been such a great time. She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Japanese but somehow we get along pretty well.
    Mine is a lot more serious about everything, lol. Also short, but long black hair. She’s pretty, best feature has to be her bubble butt. Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before , even on the internet.

  20. I feel like I shouldn’t have posted that. I totally understand where you’re coming from about the personal information. We’re from the same area. I wouldn’t want to have the feeling of randomly getting jumped for whatever reason the Japanese may have. I got beat up by 4 people in Oakland. It sucks having to watch your back. Anyways, were you able to enjoy a beer?

    1. Hey, ain’t no thing but a chicken wing. No worries.

      And yes, I enjoyed the beer very much. I had him and several of his brethren last night. Thanks so much for the donation.

  21. Ken-Sensei, my condolences on your current economic situation. However, can you now start writing that book? I promise to buy a copy. I hope that you can get a decent job ASAP, so you can continue living in Japan and continue writing, which we would all miss.

    1. Thanks for the good wishes. To be honest, not having a job—as in looking for a job—is pretty damn time-consuming. It’s hard to get on a regular schedule too. I don’t know, I guess it’s always just more excuses not to write a book. I’ll shut up now.

  22. Happy New Year Seeroi-sensei.

    Regarding health insurance, does NHI only require an annual premium? If so, hopefully the remainder of your benefits won’t have to be stretched quite as thin.
    Also, I’m interested in why you think AI will disrupt language instruction. Do you think AI will be the ones teaching a common language like English or do you think people will talk to each other through their smartphones or something else? Natural language processing has matured, yes, but at least for the foreseeable future, it seems what you described in another thread above is the real hurdle. There’s always going to be someone your employer prefers more (because they can pay them less, they clash less with the office culture, etc.), if not downsizing and getting rid of the position altogether.
    I find it funny that my country and yours are macro-economically in a labor shortage (lots of job postings, low unemployment) which one would expect to mean employers would be tripping over themselves finding someone with a pulse and the absolute bare minimum viable skill set. Yet where I am people are underemployed for even their bachelor’s and resort to the gig economy.
    Now I’m wondering if there are any industries with strong unions in Japan or if there’s a culture of continuing tradition there.

    Anyway, whether it’s your next job or that book you’ve been meaning to get to, I hope you know this internet stranger is rooting for you. Here’s to a prosperous year for us both.

    1. Thanks much. Yeah, I’m excited to see what the new year brings.

      So about Japanese health insurance…it can be paid in (roughly) monthly installments, or you can pay them all at once. Either way, it can be the equivalent of several thousand U.S. dollars a year, depending upon how much you made at your previous job. The number of zeros on my bill alone was enough to give me a heart attack.

      Regarding your questions about AI, my answer is to both is Yes. Right now, we’ve already got technologies that do a better job than most teachers. For example, video instruction. I’ve been a huge fan Nihongo no Mori on YouTube for years. Their lessons are simple, straightforward, and effective. So instead of paying an instructor (e.g., me) 30 bucks an hour to do the same lesson 20 times a week, they just film it once for 30 bucks, and then can market the lesson to 10,000 students for a dollar a view. The economics of online instruction are a huge driving factor, and every university in the world is moving in that direction.

      The next thing technology can do is keep track of what you’ve mastered, failed, and are currently studying. There are scores of such programs currently available, that provide individualized learning based upon your progress. So instead of teaching the same lesson to 30 bored students (which, again, I do), these programs can give each student exactly what he or she needs.

      Then, enter AI. I think something like the new Samsung Neon bots will likely eventually replace teachers. They’ve still got a ways to go, but it’s a matter of when, not if. Once you get a humanoid bot that can provide an individualized video lesson (combining the two previously-mentioned technologies), and respond to questions in real-time, it’s game over. Why would you need a teacher at that point? And really even, how much do we need them now? Half the time when I need to learn something I don’t go Ah, jeez, where’s an old dude with a tweed jacket—I just YouTube that shit.

      Finally, you’ve got translation tools like Google Translate, that essentially obviate the whole language learning process. Again, not saying this is going to happen in 5 years or 10, but eventually computers will be able to instantly translate language, and people will naturally gravitate to such tools. It wasn’t long ago that if you wanted to eat, you had to either grow your own vegetables or shoot something. If you needed clothing, you had to sew it. Now you just go to Whole Foods and on the way home stop by The Gap.

      When I first came to Japan, not long ago at all, Google Translate didn’t exist. Nor did Google Maps. Or restaurant guides or anything else, because we didn’t have smartphones. We were using freaking books. Written on paper. And in just a few years, that landscape has changed.

      Now there are billions of white, black, and brown people walking all over Japan staring at screens. So we’ve already gone past the tipping point. Not saying it’s a good thing, but read the tea leaves.

  23. Hi Ken,
    I’ve been following you for years I think and have read many of your articles which were so interesting for me, as a Chinese.
    I strongly suggest you come to visit China and it will be great if you can work here….lol.
    I think China could be a good place for you to live in because there are so many choices on “cost-effective” living. You can lead quite a quality time and save money at the same time. Take me for example, it could just take me 40% of my income for the living (house rental could the major part of living costs in Shanghai) and save the rest. Since I have my family to support (in total 4 adults and 4 cats), I think 60% of my income is enough (I don’t know the income level for expats teaching English though).
    Actually my point is there are so many choices of living in China on almost everything, from where you live, what you eat, what kind of lifestyle you want, what you want to do, etc and etc, and you won’t be judged too much by society.
    DD

  24. Hey Ken,

    Good to see you are still writing. Realized that it’s now been four years since I got out of Tokyo. Apropos of nothing (procrastinating on something), thought I’d share a few observations / developments since then…

    1. Background stress levels immediately went from 11 to 2 or so and stayed there.
    2. At the same time, it felt like my own country was very strange and foreign for about six months. Why is everybody so loud? Why is everybody so opinionated and aggressive? Why is the service so terrible?
    3. After about one year I started feeling a bit less bitter towards Japan. I didn’t change any of my opinions and still haven’t. But it no longer felt quite so personal.
    4. After about two years or so I started feeling more like a human being again and even began to have some general optimism, including some motivation to learn new things.
    5. After a bumpy time finding work (terrible Australian government visa issues), partner went from life-threatening level of overwork and mental stress at a gaishikei black company to coming home at 5pm. She’s now on a paid summer internship while doing a masters degree (not that hard here to start again past age 30).
    6. Partner and I went on a holiday to Japan after two years to meet up with old friends and so my partner could do a bit of shopping. Had a few bizarre / sad / racist experiences worthy of a blog post if I had one. Definitely needed a holiday after that ‘holiday.’
    7. Adjusted to living in a spacious house, driving a car, and getting paid actual money for my work.
    8. Was well and truly reminded of how terrible my own country is when it comes to politics. (But while I despair at our coming spiral into a firery inferno down here my day-to-day life is still infinitely nicer.)

    Apart from old friends I sometimes miss very specific things about Japan. Like the a certain kind of “life sucks” collective melancholy that you can take part in, whereas here it’s much more of that Anglo-style individualism. But it’s getting easier to enjoy some of the good stuff without the bad. We can order Japanese books and manga online. I can watch Japanese netflix shows. We can go get some kushi and sapporo beer at the local Japanese izakaya style hole in the wall. Sometimes we rent a spare room (we have spare rooms!) to a Japanese working holiday person or student so we can chat with them from time to time.

    Now I’m finally in a position where I can say I don’t entirely regret going through the whole experience. If nothing else it gives you that extra perspective through which to see things.

    Anyways, hats off to you for sticking it out for so long. Hope you’ve had a bit of a break over the new year before launching into the job hunt.

    1. Your message is insanely timely.

      One of the options I’ve naturally considered has been returning to the States. Because as much as Ken Seeroi enjoys Japan, you gotta wonder if “sticking it out” actually makes sense on any level. Low wages, freezing apartment, constantly reminded you don’t fit in…yeah, where’s the attraction again? But at least the food’s good and you can sit on a park bench and drink a beer and not get arrested. So that’s…great… Anyway, in imagining what it’d be like to return, I’ve run through literally every point you mentioned. Your observations are spot on—you been reading my diary?

      Clearly, any sensible person would at least consider leaving Japan at this point. Fortunately or unfortunately, I suppose that rules me out.

    2. I wasn’t bitter when I left Japan and I “held out” quite a long time I think, but my experience returning to Germany pretty much mirrors yours. Down to the spare room.

      Minus the terrible politics. (Some things are bad in German politics too, but it’s nothing compared to Japan, US or down under)

      1. Hi Hanayagi. This is going back quite a few years now (2015) to some griping Ken would be familiar with, but we had a particularly bad experience after we graduated from our postgraduate courses in Japan. Working 12-14 hours a day (sometimes actually more and I’m seriously not kidding) does terrible things to your mental health. It’s also not an easy thing to watch. Not really reflective of everybody’s experience, but at the same time the proliferation of black companies / toxic workplace culture says something about Japanese society that can’t really be isolated from the rest of the shit that might be relatively easy to deal with if your working conditions are more comfortable. It’s a bit like a magnifying glass. Everything gets thrown into sharper relief when you feel like you are getting ground down and brutalized.

  25. Never too late to be sensible. 😉 Then again, hard to say that Australia or the U.S. are sensible destinations either. Have you considered Germany? I hear that they are quite relaxed about public drinking. I would also enjoy a German Rule of 7 Blog. ;p

    Jokes aside the feeling that everybody back home is loud and aggressive did go away after a while. You’d probably feel fine after a few months. Myself it feels pretty much like I never left. Funny thing is that when on holiday in Japan I had the same feeling after a week adjusting again. Like, don’t I live here or something?

    But yeah, it’s tough. Moving and adjusting yet again takes effort. Something for me to look forward to in my future life as a climate refugee!

    1. As someone who’s lived in Japan a long time with no regrets and no thoughts whatsoever about leaving (actually had a chance to move to Singapore a few years back which I flatly turned down) until very recently, I have found that it’s quite a shock to the system to actually start considering leaving. I think that for some it can then turn into a long process of going back and forth about the various fears and benefits and negatives of staying versus going. But the fact is that once you start even considering it, that may mean that the magic spell of Japan is finally broken. Just speaking about myself here.

      Regarding politics back “home”, my feeling is that one can find an environment to suit them depending on the city/state/province or whatever.

      So Ken, perhaps being out of work for a bit will break the spell. Or perhaps it will give you clarity that this is where you really want to be, ideal job situation or not. At least for the time being. Either way is perfectly good. And no need to make an immediate decision. It’s for sure easier to look for a job here since you’re here.

  26. Hi Ken, sorry, I just noticed your blog posted some Google profile picture I had years ago (and I don’t use anymore) in my comment. Very scary / weird! Can you delete this and my previous comment in this page? Regards

  27. woah, those are way too many requirements to attract a woman. All you need is confidence and subtle body language. Maybe a little bit of fashion and grooming, but not too much effort. Keep talking to a minimum. Be more direct about what you want, ask for her number. Get rejected? Move on and repeat with a different woman. You got to talk to at least 10-15 women to find one that’s interested. Most important of all, politely ignore the woman that know they’re attractive.

  28. Hi Ken – Nothing at all to do with unemployment (although that may be the safest option at the moment), but any thoughts on the current coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan and those onboard the cruise ship docked in Yokohama. Is it having any effects on folks where you are? I’m back in Australia – all known cases (around 15) are currently in isolation, but I fear that a breach will occur sometime, and the virus spread through the population.

    1. Well, I’m never, ever going on a cruise, I can tell you that. This coronavirus looks contagious as hell.

      Yeah, lots of people talking about it, and it’s constantly in the news. More people are wearing masks, and tourism seems to have fallen off. In general though, it doesn’t seem to be changing daily life much. People still ride the trains and sneeze without covering their mouths. Gotta love Japan. Anyway, let’s hope it’s contained soon, and that the folks on that ship get cleared and get off. I imagine there’s only so much Netflix a person can watch.

      1. Okay, so that’s two of us booked on the “no cruise ever” boat (if it ever departs).

        I actually got a little scared and ordered up a supply of face masks via Amazon in Australia (where masks are in short supply, and wearing one still reminds people somewhat scarily of Michael Jackson) only to find my masks were coming from India and were at least a month away before delivery. So another couple of weeks wait.

        Seriously, I’m stocking up on non-perishables, in case I need to stay at home to avoid contagion (but maybe my response is over-the-top).

          1. And because they didn’t do their make-up, they have a cold, want to avoid a cold, don’t want to be seen in public… Japanese folks jump at any chance to wear masks. It’s a weird society.

        1. Yeah, a response is always over-the-top until something happens. And then who’s the nitwit? I figure it’s not going to hurt to limit trips to izakaya and unnecessary train travel for a couple weeks until we see how things are progressing. As for having extra food, hey, you can always eat it, so why not.

  29. My masks haven’t arrived yet, but I’m starting to build up a war chest of supplies if things go pear shaped.

    We were always told to stock up when I was in Japan, in case there was a massive earthquake or other disruption. But I never did. Now, back home in Australia, I’m stocking up on needed items, when the official response from my country does not go that far.

    But Ken, how are things with you? Have you noticed any change in how people are reacting since your last post?

    Otherwise, take care. This virus could strike any of us.

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