Naked Japanese

Guest post by Akita Ben

Well, wish I could say I’ve been too busy enjoying life in Japan to write any updates, but that depends on whether you consider spending the better part of February binge-watching The Sopranos as being busy. Or Japan. Nothing like watching an American drama about Italians to make one really appreciate living abroad.

I survived the long snowy winter, which coming from California, was my first real experience with freezing cold. Actually not so bad, though I was lucky since this year was exceptionally mild by Northern Japan standards. Still, any amount of snow is a lot to me, but I was able to endure it and drive in it without incident. I’m actually quite proud of myself. I even enjoy the snow – though, not gonna lie, I’m thrilled that spring is coming. I’ve now been in Japan for half a year and have come to discover a bit about myself and the place in that time . . .

Continue reading “Naked Japanese”

My First Month in Japan

Photo by Akita Ben

Guest post by Akita Ben

As night closed over my first month in Japan, I walked past the Lawson, Daily Yamazaki, and Iwai-san the barber until I got to the river. From the middle of the bridge, I stopped and looked down at the serpentine water and beyond to the three-story Itoku and rectangular old hotel that comprises my town’s skyline. Everything was tinged with purple and orange in the fading light. It was beautiful, but I felt alienated. My mind became clouded with dark doubts: “Why am I on a bridge in Northern Japan? I don’t belong here. This is a waste of time.” Japanese joggers trotted past, like, “Great, another gaijin going over the rail. Better pick up the pace.” But after a few more minutes of sullen reflection, I walked back to my prison cell. Continue reading “My First Month in Japan”

Nature in Japan

Nature is one of the great wonders of Japan. In that you wonder what happened to it all.

But look around. The hillsides of Kyushu terraced with rice paddies, fields of Hokkaido lavender as far as the eye can see, and deserted white sand beaches on remote Okinawan islands. There’s definitely some nature in Japan, still.

Japanese School Daze

So I was working at a Japanese middle school recently, dozing off in the teachers’ lounge, when a cockroach the size of a cat skittered across the floor. Michiko-sensei screamed. That’ll wake you up in a hurry. Then the Vice Principle screamed. He used to be a wrestling coach, so that was a little alarming. Then the old lady who makes tea screamed, and nothing scares her. Continue reading “Nature in Japan”

How to Get a Job in Japan

The way I figure it, jobs in Japan fall into seven categories:

1. High-level corporate
2. Technology
3. Sales and Recruiting
4. Teaching English
5. Washing dishes

Actually, I had seven in mind, but it was late at night when I started this and then I fell asleep on the floor with a glass of white wine and some Calbee’s potato chips, so I ended up typing something like 6. Mmmy handss are alllll greasy and 7. I’m sooo sleeepyzzzzz . . . So apparently now it’s only five.  Maybe I’ll edit this later.  Anyway, I’ve got a mess of tiny, tiny chips to vacuum up, so let’s not get stuck on the details. Continue reading “How to Get a Job in Japan”

Going to a Japanese Hospital

Death is coming for us all.

Not to worry though, because I plan to upload myself to iCloud in anticipation of my eventual robot body. Then we’ll see who has abs of steel. Heh, you can keep your reverse crunches.

In the meantime, since I still need to maintain the meat body, I went to a Japanese hospital. I blame the children, naturally. At lunchtime, they formed a 3-foot high flashmob, pleading “Ken! Ken! Pick me up!” I’m very popular among the under-nine crowd.

“Uhhh . . . it’s Seeroi Sensei, remember?” I said. But all right, they’re only kids, so I gave them a pass. Not like that crusty old Yoshida Sensei, always calling me by my first name and commenting every time I write something in Japanese.

“Wow, you can write the word for ‘today’! Sugo~i, Ken.

“Thanks,” I said. “Normally I just write ‘tomorrow’ the day before, and wait.

Jyouzu,” she replied, “Keep going. You’re almost like a Japanese.

“Ah, my life’s ambition.”

And so I kept going, out to the brown swath of dirt that passes for a school playground in this country, where I picked up a succession of kids, each heavier than the last, until I got to Fat Joe. I don’t know why people say the Japanese are skinny, when I’ve got such a bunch of porkers in my class. Whatever. I didn’t want to make the little guy feel bad, on account of his morbid obesity, so I put my hands under his arms and gave him a solid heave ho.

“Jeez, what’ve you been eating?” I groaned.

“I like donuts,” he replied.

“It was a rhetorical question, kid.

“Oh,” he said.

After that, something just didn’t feel right, so I went back inside and took a trip to the restroom. Sure enough, there was a bulge in the groinal region, and not the good kind either. Now, I’m not a doctor, but I think I know a hernia when I see one. Fat Joe had done me in. People talk a lot about child abuse, yet you rarely hear about adult abuse, which is strange.

The Japanese Medical Exam

Since I had nothing better to do than sit in a hospital all day on a sunny Saturday, that’s what I did. You know how punctual the trains in Japan are? Well, they save up all that time and use it against you at the hospital. It took like six hours before the doctor finally called me in.

“Did you come by yourself today?” he asked.

I looked around. “I believe so,” I said.

“What seems to be the problem?

“I think maybe I have a hernia,” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

We sat there in silence for a while. It seemed like somebody should’ve been talking.

“I guess I, uh, should have some sort of operation?” I ventured.

He checked something on what I believe is the last functioning MS-DOS computer. The screen lit up with the brilliance of sixteen different colors. “Okay,” he said. “How’s next Thursday?

“Fine by me, I guess.

“Okay, see you then.”

And that was it. No examination, no Turn your head and cough, just See ya Thursday, Ken. Easier than making plans for lunch.

On the way out, the nurse told me to come on Wednesday for some complicated Japanese medical stuff that amounted to poking and prodding, so on Monday, I went to school and requested three sick days.

“So you’ll be in the hospital Thursday night, and also on Friday?” asked my supervisor.

“That’s right. The unfortunate result of playing with children.

“Well, you can use two sick days,” he said, “but you’ll have to take Wednesday as a vacation day.

“Vacation?” I stammered. “We get ten sick days a year, and in 3 years I’ve never used one.

“But the operation isn’t till Thursday.

“I’m having a medical procedure,” I said, “not going to the beach. I can’t just show up at the hospital Thursday morning.

“Hmm, I’ll need to contact HR,” he said.

And that was it, the seal of death. Contacting HR, like Go ask your Father, consulting scripture, and praying to Santa, is just a way to insulate oneself from delivering bad news. Sure enough, later in the day he came back, along with a guy in a stained gray suit, and we all sat down to discuss what amounted to: Vacation day or nothing. Well Seeroi, at least you know where you stand, I figured, so that’s something. Now get back out to the fields and pick that lettuce.

So on Wednesday, I went to the hospital for my vacation. If Yoshida Sensei was impressed by my writing ability, she would have been floored by my capacity for bluffing through stacks of forms, randomly checking boxes for diseases I did and did not have, and bravely agreeing to donate several organs. See ya later, appendix.

Then I went around to various rooms where they took measurements, blood, sweat, and tears, until I finally reached the anesthesiologist.

“We need to be very precise in the amount of anesthetic we give you,” she said.

“That sounds like a good idea,” I agreed.

“So how much do you weigh?” she asked.

“46 kilograms,” I said with great confidence. “No, wait. 76? No, 74. I think. What’s that in pounds again?

“I’ll put down 74,” she said.

That evening, I didn’t exactly have a real good feeling about the whole thing. What kind of hospital doesn’t use a scale? And the doctor hadn’t even looked at me once. I decide to shave the left side of my groinal region, so at least they wouldn’t operate on the wrong side. Then I weighed myself: 76 kilograms. Must’ve been all those damn potato chips. Well, close enough, I figured. Finally, I took a ballpoint pen and drew a dotted line across the area that needed to be operated on. I’m very helpful like that.

When I got to the hospital the next morning, they sold me a special pair of underwear for 300 yen, put me on a gurney, stuck an IV into my arm, and wheeled me into the operating room. The doctor was sitting there, legs crossed, reading a paperback novel.

“Good morning,” I said in Japanese.

“Oxygen,” he said, in English, and somebody put a mask over my nose and mouth. It was the first and only word of English anybody’d spoken to me at the hospital, and I wondered why he chose that exact moment to remind me that I was different. But then everything went strange, then blurry, then black.

Next week, Back from the Dead.