Monday, November 26, 2007

2 Weeks Left

In 5 days, it's hotel time again.

Goodbye ideal apartment in a tiny town, hello tiny apartment in an ideal town.

Goodbye work, Hello Work.

Goodbye warm heater and fluffy blanket, hello 11 hour overnight motorcycle ride to Tokyo in winter. Yeah, I kinda need to be in Tokyo by 3pm to do paperwork for the guest house. The day after finishing in Kure. The only way to make it work is an overnight ride, starting at 2am-ish. Memories of a ride across the Japanese Alps in the snow are haunting my dreams.

Once again, the national holiday of Japanese Labor Day falls close to Thanksgiving. Another excuse for foreigners to get together and drink. And eat cake.

An impromptu karaoke session was narrowly averted.

Top 5 office customs and rules which Japanese people want abolished according to a survey.
  1. Service Zangyo - unpaid overtime. Pretty standard. Be at work early and stay later, even if you aren't doing shit. But make sure it looks like you are doing something. Minesweeper doesn't count.
  2. Compulsory attendance of year end parties. The Japanese staff at my school has to do this. And it's not about having fun type of parties. I see fear and loathing in their eyes.
  3. Required participation in employee group travel. We have something like this, where if a school branch meets their financial goals, they get to go on a trip. We went to Kyoto about 6 months ago. Maybe it's not as good with other companies. A free trip to Kyoto isn't anything to complain about.
  4. Valentines and White Day customs. Sorry ladies, but you are kind of required to get chocolates for all the males in your office on Valentines Day. Things are reversed here, where girls give chocolates to guys on Valentines Day, and guys are supposed to reciprocate on White Day, 1 month later. I've heard stories of women having to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy chocolates for their officemates, out of tradition. The funny part is, that you (a dude) only give white chocolate to the 1 girl you like on White Day.
  5. The seniority system. Senpai, gotta treat them different. Of course management has a different role, but even teachers treat each other different based on who got there first. This whole system has a terrible effect in the long run. Promotions aren't based on merit or ability, but how long you have been around. Brilliant young people who would be a CEO in an American company are stuck bowing to older men who have no idea what they are doing. Changing careers in your life is very uncommon, due largely to this notion.
Does my company behave like this? Sort of. The Japanese staff of course has a much more business feel to them. Those who have lived abroad, which is a lot at an English conversation school, tend not to last as long as those who have only traveled a bit. Each school has a very different atmosphere, largely dependent on the manager who runs the school. When it comes to company business events, things are a little on edge. The perfect example is our annual training. Foreign teachers arrive with bright eyes and smiles. It's a time to make new friends, build up your social network, populate your facebook. And drink. For the Japanese staff, it's a time to get yelled at because your hair isn't black enough and your sample lesson performed to the boss lasted 1 minute too long.

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