Enduring Japan During the Crisis

Japanese Baby - Japanese Rule of 7

Yep, nothing like a pandemic to test one’s commitment to a cause. And until a couple months ago, I was largely settled on the idea of living in Japan forever. I appreciate all aspects of this country, from the mountains to the oceans, and all the convenience stores in between. Japan’s a wondrous neon land of late-night karaoke, bullet trains, and spotless neighborhoods, maintained by an upstanding citizenry steadfastly dumping broken stereos and microwaves into the forest. Gotta admire the conscientiousness. I like everything about Japan except the people.

And of course, there were the ladies. Chatting up random birds in bars, restaurants, the Unemployment Bureau. “Come here often for government assistance? Me too. We’ve so much in common. Let’s hang out.” They say working on a hobby keeps your brain healthy, and you know Ken Seeroi ain’t trying to get no Alzheimer’s.

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Stop Saying “Gaijin” and “Gaikokujin”

Japanese Cats - Japanese Rule of 7

I recently looked for a new apartment in Japan. The very first realtor I called stated flatly, “We don’t do business with foreigners.” I was like, Ohh . . . kayyy . . . This pattern has played out enough during my years here that I’m pretty used to it. I’ll go get my shoe shine box now.

But eventually, I secured a room from someone brave enough to rent to a white guy, then set about getting a parking place. Fortunately, there was a dirt lot full of weeds just down the street advertising open spots, so I dialed the number.

“Sorry, we had past trouble with a foreigner,” said the man on the other end.

“In a dirt lot?” I started, “what could possibly . . .” but then a different thought popped into mind. “What kind of foreigner?”

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Coronavirus, Japan 2020

Japanese Sashimi - Japanese Rule of 7

And then suddenly there was no toilet paper. I first knew things were heating up when the girls at Starbucks all started wearing face masks. It’s not uncommon for people to wear them on the street or in the train, but to see service staff looking like hospital orderlies was a bit disturbing. Of course, I had on a mask too, so our interaction went something like,

“Wrrcome tr Srbucks, mray I trk yr rrrder?”

“Whrt?”

“Mray I trk yr rrrder?”

“Grrrnde crrffee prrease.”

“Whrt?”

“Whrt?”

I also discovered it’s pretty hard to drink coffee while wearing a mask and without touching the cup. So I bought a bag of beans and resolved to start brewing up at home.

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I’m on Japanese Unemployment and it’s Awesome

Japan Christmas - Japanese Rule of 7

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.

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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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