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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Blog Is Late

Just a brief note of explanation... the blog entry for this date and time is delayed by nine hours. I actually wrote a blog at lunch yesterday - at work - and forgot to save it into this worksite for me to manipulate at home. Oops.

So... soon, my faithful readers... I shall continue with the minimum one-a-days.

Thank-you for your patience.

Andrew 'pallbearer' Joseph

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Why Is It Hard For Japanese People to Live With Foreigners? It is?

So... you the foreigner have just moved in to an apartment or house in Japan... did you notice all of the For Sale signs pop up all around you?

Probably not - because it would be in Japanese, but basically, if you happened to see signage suddenly pressed down into the grass next door... sorry, pressed down into the small area where grass SHOULD be, perhaps that should be clue enough to realize that someone is moving.

Now, if you weren't already paranoid enough just by being in Japan - yes, they are talking about you... sometimes - now you have to wonder if the Japanese are moving simply because it is time to move, or because you moved in and "Kso! There goes the neighborhood!"

Or... just why is that after that family moved away when you moved in that the apartment still hasn't been rented? Didn't you hear that there is a dearth of living space in Japan, which is why, rather than build more affordable living quarters they tend to jack up the rent for everyone?

How can there be living spaces in japan that no one wants to move into?

Is it you, oh mighty foreigner? Do the Japanese simple hate to live next door to foreigners?

That is the crux of the forum question and responses going on over at Job Discussion Forums, the self-proclaimed: "The Internet's Meeting Place for ESL/EFL Students and Teachers from Around the World!" - see HERE

The main poster - from 2013 - Black Beer Man , a moniker which suggest they like dark beer, rather than that they are Black says: 

Have a look at this job posting for a real estate agent position. It says that Japanese people have extreme difficulty living in apartment buildings occupied with foreigners.

"Despite this need to coexist with foreigners, it is difficult for Japanese people to live with them in harmony due to anxiety caused by cultural differences and the language barrier. These obstacles make it harder to organize a society of coexistence for both Japanese and foreigners. (Company name omitted) JAPAN was established in order to solve these problems in terms of renting and settling into a new environment."

It goes on to say "...we hope to raise the language barrier between customer and landlord, thus creating a harmonious living environment, free of anxiety and fear."

Fear? Really? Is dealing with foreigners THAT stressful? I've heard the cultural differences and language barrier arguments before. However, considering the fact that Japanese people hardly ever speak to their Japanese neighbors, they are already not likely to speak to their foreign ones. Therefore, I think this argument is invalid. If problems with the foreign tenants do arise, there should be at least one employee at the real estate company that manages the apartment that can speak enough English. If an English speaker does not exist at the real estate company, maybe the foreigner's employer can help with the communication.

In many other countries, the native people do not want people from specific cultural groups living in their apartment buildings (like the French and Muslim people). However, it seems like the Japanese are not comfortable with foreigners of ANY kind.

What do you think? Why is this so?

Me again. Wow... an interesting poser of a question.

Do the Japanese really not want to live next door to a foreigner?

Now... granted I lived in Japan back in the early 1990s (1990-1993), so perhaps my thinking is outdated - that's my qualifier... but I don't think the Japanese have regressed into anxiety and fear of foreigners simply because 20 years have passed.

I personally never really talked much with the neighbors - except a greeting if we saw each other.

It's like now here in Toronto - I don't really interact with the neighbors. I say hi and all that crap, but I'm not BFF's with any of them.

I'm friendly but hardly friends.

I'm not saying that others aren't friends with their neighbors - good for you if you are... that's just not my bag. Despite the tell-all nature of this blog, I'm actually a pretty damn private person and rarely discuss what is REALLY going on in my head for fear of... well... fear. 

As a kid - in this very same neighborhood and house, I would spend time chatting with the neighbors  - who were all retired grandparents. I enjoyed talking to them, and since they were the ones who initiated the conversations with a "Hi Andrew" and a wave to come over, well... I learned a lot about them and the way things used to be in Toronto's suburbs and the city itself.

More importantly, I still remember what I was told. 

Still, despite the camaraderie shown me by the neighbors, I never participated in parties and stuff with them - they had their own grand kids et al. Family, you know.

This is sacrilegious, right? I mean everyone getting along...

I did end up (as an adult) carrying many of them out via coffin to their final resting place - an honor for me, to be sure. I certainly never received any monies or gifts in their last will & testament. Didn't expect it and wasn't disappointed.

As for Japan... I lived there for three years in a small city some 200 kilometers north of Tokyo... hardly an urban sprawl where foreigners (gaijin) were the norm. ... and yet... in that city of 50,000 people, there were some 50 foreigners or more living there at any given time.

That's just a guess, because other than meeting them rarely or hearing of them, I only knew maybe five - two friends (Matthew & Ashley) and the rest bartenders.  Ashley didn't live in my city, but did work in it. Jeanne, another AET lived in Ashley's nearby town and worked the outer areas as a junior high school teacher. Matthew and myself were junior high school teachers, Ashely - senior high school teacher.

While the three of us hung out together, we didn't act like idiots - certainly not in  a loud manner to constantly draw negative attention to ourselves.

Matthew an Ashley learned the Japanese language far better than I did - mostly through better effort and skill, while I... I just got by with their help and the patience of the Japanese people around me.

Straight up... while every day I could certainly hear the word  'gaijin' said in reference to me - gaijin literally means "outsider" more than "foreigner", I simply put it down to the fact that in most instances it was just a term the Japanese had grown up with, and even when it was used, rarely was there a negative vibe to it.

As for my living quarters... I lived in the lap of luxury: a three-bedroom LDK with two balconies in an apartment that was built not just for a Japanese family, but rather for a Japanese family with more money than most. So... perhaps I was insulated.

Matthew also lived in a very nice and tidy place, Ashley - not so much... but not once did we ever feel that we - the outsiders - were ever a cause of anxiety for the Japanese around us.       

I never thought that the Japanese might have some anxiety with living with me next door or near them—and to be honest, I refuse to believe that sort of thought process existed between us.

In my apartment building complex, it was just families going doing about whatever it is that families do. Regardless of their country of origin.

I certainly think there might be some Japanese people who wouldn't want to live next to foreigners - but that night be for the usual reasons - like we're a bunch of party animals and noisy.

But, that's just some people believing a stereotype - that while it may exist for realsies, isn't how most people live their life.

The whole question about gaijin and Japanese living together-quandary makes all the Japanese sound like they are xenophobic.

In my city... we had an international friendship society... where's the xenophobia?

I think people who respond to forums - or rather are active participants - have strong feelings, but those are personal feelings and certainly shouldn't be taken to represent everyone. 

I think in some instances people don't want to live next door to people of other cultures. How many white people wanted to live in Harlem in the 1960s or 70s? Few, if any. It was fear of the unknown. It could have been racism - from both sides.

I think that if the real estate folks were to have asked their prospective clients why they didn't want to live next to a foreigner they would soften the blow by talking of such bull-crap excuses such as anxiety over having to talk (let's say) English.

They don't have to talk anything except Japanese in Japan. If I wanted to communicate with my neighbors - I would speak Japanese to make them feel more at ease.

But really... people don't talk to their neighbors much anymore.

For those that worry about stuff like that, there could be a perception that having a foreigner in the neighborhood could bring down property values - but that would be racist... and I am sure those people exist, but I doubt that that in 2014 it is a anything but a 'minority' voice.

Lastly... for those of you who point to Japan's immigration policy as BS... or the fact that it is next to impossible to become a Japanese citizen... well... you are indeed correct.

But, if it was a completely lost cause for gaijin-love, then why allow anyone in? Why not simply close the doors to allowing any foreigner to work in Japan?  Why not go back to its isolationist policy from the 1600s-1850s?

Because it has progressed. It takes time.

Hell... look at the west. Racism from soccer fans in Spain. Washington Redskins team name debacle in the US. Why do we still allow the team name Edmonton Eskimoes in Canadian football? They are the Inuit - not Eskimo!

Canada still has enclaves in its cities - China towns, little Italy, little India... people of race an color congregating in their own little private Idaho... how much time have we had? Too much? Not enough?

Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends? Why can't we be friends?

Somewhere wondering why I didn't just copy and paste that three times,
Andrew Joseph     

Monday, October 20, 2014

Blogging About Japan: By The Numbers

As the days grow shorter, so to does my knowledge of understanding how this whole social media thing is so popular.

I suppose in the common vernacular, I'd be a Luddite, as I do not have a laptop, smart phone, cell phone, tablet, iPad or even an iPod.

I have a computer at work and one here at home. I have a digital camera.

How do people contact me if I don't have a cell phone? Leave a message at home or at work, and if I get the message, I'll get back to you when I'm not busy doing other things.

But I'm not here to rail against all of you who seem to be at the beck and call of others... if you like having a short attention span and need to be in constant contact with what other people are texting - by all means. That is your right to be used that way.

Seriously... what is so important that at 7:30AM or 7:30PM someone needs to contact me to spout some drivel. I'm LOL-ing my @$$ off. It's so funny I think I need to provide you with instantaneous gratification by texting right back. Poor lonely people.

I walked down a busy thoroughfare a few days ago in Toronto... out of the 1000s of people I passed, I could literally count on two hands the number of people who weren't chin deep into their phonies, sorry, phones - not talking to someone, but rather twitching their thumbs in a manic-level frenzy to comment on the latest and greatest witticism of some person they like, but are obviously too uninterested to talk to either on the phone or in person.

But that's not what I'm here to bitch about.

Does anyone understand how people make money off the Internet stuff ON the Internet? Providers - sure.. pay money, you can use the Internet... unless you are scooping it for free from someone else's paid wi-fi service.

Advertisements? Really? For advertisers, there is this instant gratification that lets them know that people are clicking on their ad... and they can trace back to see who did so and can then contact them to see WHY they clicked on the ad.

But who does that?

I'm mean sure, I want to click on the ad for penis enlargement - why not? Everyone want more out of life, right? Sure I'll bet those Chinese medicines are a great bargain.

But seriously... who clicks on the ads? People who already want something - and that ad speaks to them.

When you click on a newspaper (free one) on-line... are we not all aware that the ads are on the right... or the far left.. and have already trained ourselves to not look anywhere but the center of the screen?

Now advertisers want their ads placed in the middle of articles in the middle of the screen. It gets placed there alright, but readers tend to gloss right over it so they don't have to be bothered by it.

So - what is the point? How do people make money from digital advertising? For those that like the tactile feel of paper, the visual allure of a paper ad can make one look.  The only problem for advertisers is that they do not get that instant gratification of knowing that anyone was looking.

Did you know that there is a ratio of 10:1 regarding advertising price for print versus digital? Digital being cheaper. So what if it is cheaper - do people actually look at the ads on-line?

There are those who hire out services from companies to click on such ads, just as there are those on-line services that will give you X amount of Facebook likes and X amount of Twitter followers... which makes me wonder how people  - average non-celebrity or sports figure people - have thousands and thousands of followers?

I've read what they have to say - and baby, it ain't that astute or interesting. It's insipid pap from people who just re-roll famous adages.

And what do they get from these Likes and Followers? A false sense of self-importance?

i know all about self-importance.

I'm a writer, and writer's like to know that what they put out there is indeed being read, or in my case - ogled.

I write everyday and try to present a different view on Japan or just provide information on subjects people might not even have considered knowing. I'm trying to create my own Encyclopedia Japonica mixed in with such mundane things as advice and personal stories about my time in Japan.

I must be doing something right? I have over 1.7 million hits - and not many bloggers can claim that.

But, I am aware that most of my hits are transient visitors... not so much people who Follow me and this blog, but those who are seeking information on any given subject... which means that most of what I write about isn't seen by people.

It would be disheartening, but I write mostly for myself and a few others who I know read what I write. I've always said that as long as at least one person reads this stuff, I would continue to do it.

So why this diatribe?

Ego. During the month of August, I was getting several days of over 3,000 hits per day, averaging around 2,400. Not bad. It made me pleased - even though I am aware that the majority of hits are for those related to one of the 'sex' topics I have covered - see the popular topics to the right... I don't keep those there... the readers do... a weekly affirmation of my output...

September - the numbers went down to around 2,000 hits on average. October so fare... holy crap - down again, rarely breaking 2,000, hitting an all-time 2014 low of 1,450 or so hits on a day.

But... to quote Mad Magazine's Alfred E. Neuman: What Me Worry? I don't.

To those of you who read and to those of you who occasionally drop me a line of encouragement - I thank-you.

One can't worry about 'numbers' when one enjoys doing what one is doing.

I don't have much else exciting going on in my life - that's be a book one day, which will reveal the exciting concept of why not much is going on - but writing... writing at least keeps me sane, believe it or not.

For those of you who care, keep reading or looking at the pictures.

If you don't see anything from me for longer than a day or two - there's obviously a cause for concern for my well-being... but until then... thanks.

Andrew Joseph



Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mitsubishi MRJ Jet Unveiled

The Mitsubishi MRJ passenger jet was unveiled on October 18, 2014 in Komaki, Japan near Nagoya. It is the country's first passenger jet to be made in Japan in nearly four decades, with an eye for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to take on such passenger jet manufacturers like Bombardier.

For those of you who were not aware, Mitsubishi's aviation division was best known for its design and manufacture of the Zero, a WWII fighter craft that was the scourge of the skies when it first debuted, as a quick killer with little shielding.

This new MRJ passenger jet however - the Mitsubishi Regional Jet, is a fuel-efficient, next-generation aircraft that the company hopes will provide better passenger comfort at a low operating cost - which, if I may be so bold is what every manufacturer says nowadays.

The MRJ was built alongside Boeing, and will begin deliveries to customers in 2017.

Japan last built a commercial aircraft in 1962 - the YS-11 turboprop, that was more zero than the Zero, being discontinued a mere 10 years later.

According to Mitsubishi, the MRJ has a state-of-the-art aerodynamic design, and a new type of engine that will cut fuel consumption, noise and emissions, helping airlines enhance competitiveness and profitability in the future.

How did Japan come to not being a participant in the aviation industry after producing massive amounts of planes during WWII?

Well, Japan was banned from building aircraft following its WWII surrender by the Allies - specifically the U.S., who created a new Constitution for Japan in the ensuing years.

With financial help from the U.S. and other allies, Japan rebuilt its smashed industrial sector - perhaps first becoming famous for its development of electronics... such as radios, TVs, cars, and the in the 1980s personal entertainment devices such as Walkman's and more.

In aviation, Japan satisfied its curiosity in the 1950s by being allowed to perform repair work for the US military, before producing licensed production of American-developed aircraft for its own Japanese Self-Defence Force (Jieitai)... not army. Of course, Japanese firms have also been a long-time supplier of parts to Boeing.

The Mitsubishi MRJ will (initially) be available as short- to medium-haul jet planes in both a 78- and 92-seat version - but with three versions of each, for a total of six different MRJ planes:

78-seat versions: MRJ 70STD; MRJ 70ER; MRJ 70LR
92-seat versions: MRJ 90STD; MRJ 90ER; MRJ 90LR 

What's the difference? Let's look at the similarities first.

BOTH 70 and 90 versions: 
Cabin Height: 2.03 meters (80 inches)
Cabin Width: 2.76 meters (108.5 inches)
Motors: Pratt & Whitney PW1217G - x2
Tail Height 10.5 meters (34.4-meters)
Wing-span: 29.2 meters (95.9 feet)
Cruising Speed: Mach 0.78 (515 mph, 828 kph);
Maximum: Mach 0.82 (563 mph, 906 kph)

70 versions:
Length: 33.4 meters (109.6-feet);
Maximum Landing Weight:  36,200 kilograms (79,807-lb)
Empty Weight: 21,700 kilograms (47,800-lb)
Landing Field Requirement (dry):  1,430 meters (4,700 feet)
Engine Thrust:  69.3 kN (15,600 lbf) × 2

90 versions: 
Length: 35.8 meters (117.4 feet);
Maximum Landing Weight:  38,000 kilograms (83,776-lb); Empty Weight: 22,600 kilograms (49,800-lb)
Landing Field Requirement (dry):  1,480 meters (4,860 feet)
Engine Thrust:  78.2 kN (17,600 lbf) × 2

Specific Variation Differences: 
MRJ 70STD Max takeoff weight: 36,850 kilograms (81,240 lb) 
Max range: 1,530 km (820 nautical miles)
Takeoff field length: 1,450 meters (4,760 ft)

Max takeoff weight: 38,995 kilograms (85,969 lb) 
Max range: 2,730 km (1470 nautical miles)
Takeoff field length: 1,620 meters (5,320 ft)

Max takeoff weight: 40,200 kilograms (88,626 lb)
Max range: 3,380 km (1820 nautical miles)
Takeoff field length: 1,720 meters (5,650 ft)

Max takeoff weight: 39,600 kilograms (87,303 lb)
Max range: 1,670 km (900 nautical miles)
Takeoff field length: 1,490 meters (4,890 ft)

Max takeoff weight: 40,995 kilograms (90,378 lb)
Max range: 2,400 km (1,290 nautical miles)
Takeoff field length: 1,600 meters (5,250 ft)
Max takeoff weight: 42,800 kilograms (94,358 lb)
Max range: 3,310 km (1,780 nautical miles)
Takeoff field length: 1,740 meters (5,710 ft).

So... basically, not every MRJ is considered equal. 

Backed with monies from the Japanese government and a host of other Japanese firms like Toyota, the development costs alone total around ¥180-billion (US $1.7-billion). That's a lot of money... and I suppose most of the money will be made up through sales or through parts replacement and maintenance.

Each plane has a list price of around $40-million, and will only be used for domestic flights - not anything international.

Right now, there are orders for 375 of the Mitsubishi MRJ jets, including All Nippon Airways (ANA), and the U.S.-based Trans States Holdings, and SkyWest.

Not yet finalized, the Japan Airlines (JAL) is planning to order 32 of the MRJs planes

Japan's car maker Honda is also entered into the aviation business, with a business-class jet, with the first plane to be delivered sometimes in 2015.I've written about the Honda Jet HERE.

Andrew Joseph

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Studio Ghibli In The U.S.: The Tale of Princess Kaguya

Here's another cool movie from Japan's Studio Ghibli... one that has been out in Japan, but is now coming west: The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

Based on the classic Japanese folk story “The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” or “Princess Kaguya,” it is considered the oldest example of Japanese literature. It is also known as The Bamboo-cutter And The Moon-child.

Of course, since this is a movie, there are a few differences from the original folk tale.

In the story, an old, childless man called Taketori no Okina (the Old Man who Harvests Bamboo) finds a shining bamboo stalk in the forest. Cutting it open, he finds a baby as small as the palm of his hand. He and his wife name the baby girl Kaguya and raise her as their own.

As perhaps a measure of good karma, whenever Okina would later cut down another bamboo stalk, he was blessed to find gold rocks inside.

As the girl grows up, her beauty does too and soon everyone with a Camaro gathers many suitors.

Naturally, rather than just fall in love with the right man, she instead gives each an impossible task to complete, such as: bringing her a colored jewel from a dragon’s neck; or the Buddha’s stone begging bowl.

But, in the story, she seems to fall under the wiles of the Emperor of Japan, but eventually spurns his advances.

Whenever Kaguya looks at the moon, she begins to cry, though she is unable to tell anyone what upsets her, because she is actually from a city on the Moon - and that gold her 'dad' keeps finding, well, its just the Moon folk's way of saying here, thanks for taking care of our little girl - which all sounds like a pretty stupid way to raise a child.

Surely they have nannies on the Moon?!

Of course, other bloggers writers of this story created versions where she was either sent to Earth as a form of punishment (like Thor was back in the original Marvel comic books) or that she was being protected from an on-going celestial war (think Men In Black II).

Anyhow, before eventually heading back to the Moon, she gave a letter to the Emperor, who then ordered his men to take the letter to the highest summit and burn it.

It is said that the kanji for Mount Fuji, which when read literally means "Mountain abounding with warriors" comes from the soldiers climbing the slopes to follow the Emperor’s orders.
You can read the entire tale HERE.

Studio Ghibli's animated movie is a little bit lighter in tone... they love having women as the lead...

Directed by Takahata Isao (surname first) and released in Japan last year on November 23, 2013, there is a limited release in the U.S. starting October 17, 2014.

It's a pretty good story, and the director has done some nice animated work previously on such beloved animated  films as producing Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind and Castle in the Sky, and directing Grave of the Fireflies, Pom Poko, and My Neighbors the Yamadas.

Andrew Joseph

Friday, October 17, 2014

Relevance Of JET Programme: Familiarity Breeds Contempt

Maia, a current member of the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme in Japan and author of the interesting Maia Does Japan blog, which despite my hopes it was porn-related, was instead a simple misunderstanding on my part.

Anyhow, recently Maia wrote about how she was sitting in school studying Japanese when she heard a couple of Japanese teachers complain about her - chatting amongst themselves in Japanese with the belief that no gaijin would be able to understand what they were clucking about.

Turns out Maia says she DOES understand, and realizes they were speaking negatively about her.

I feel bad for Maia. I don't mean to appear to pick on her in the few blogs I have mentioned her in.

She's a JET. And so was I. And when you're a JET, you're a JET all the way. From your first cigarette till your last dyin' day. When you're a JET if the spit hits the fan, you got brothers around, you're a family man.

Okay, enough of that gay banter.

Basically, it means that I am a team player... even if I am better than you, or you than me - there is no "i" in TEAM... though there is an "i" in WIN. Go JETs. Just not the Winnipeg or NY Jets. I hate you both. I would like to be in San Juan, however.

So… I was wondering, and during a complain out loud diatribe to my buddy Vinnie via e-mail, I wondered why Maia seems to have such crappy luck re: Japanese teachers.

In the past, this poor person has been severely under-utilized, often left to grow mushrooms from weeks of non-activity as an assistant English teacher (AET) .

I wondered if she was just a weak person, and NO ONE (other Japanese folk) had offered to adopt her to provide protection. Sharks - no matter the society - tend to circle the weak before... well... whatever it is that sharks tend to do.

There is also the possibility that mental illness is involved, and that she only think she hears the negative - but let me state right now, that I do NOT believe that to be the case in this instance. I do not know Maia. I have never spoken or written to her. I am sure that what she has written about her so-called life in Japan has been both terrific and terrible.

I can't relate - and for that, I am both lucky and glad. I pretty much went through three years in Japan as though I was able to poop thornless roses and the people and children all loved me for who I was.

I want to believe that, and I have no reason to believe, other than the pooping of roses, that it wasn't as real as I recall it to be. Time does have a way of distorting one's memories, but aside from my own self-manifested women-problems, life twas but a dream for me in Japan.

So why would I even bring up something such as mental illness when I have no reason to suspect its appearance? Because when one is trying to come up with answers: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth." Or so claims the character Sherlock Holmes applying Occam's Razor.

So… poor Maia… I only ask these questions because by all appearances she has had a tough go of it being accepted as an AET in Japan... so why would she stay for a second year? What is the allure? There's another adage that claims that insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

And that leads me to the JET Programme.

Vinnie pointed out that when I first entered the gladiatorial arena that is Japan, the JET Programme was a mere three years old in 1990. He says: "The program was new and many schools had ALTs for the first time. You were probably one of the first three or four they had. Now the program is 27 years old and some schools (and the teachers) have had a variety of JETs so the novelty has worn off for them. I've seen hints of this in other writings."

Well, who am I to disagree? I mean I could disagree if I wanted too, but Vinnie's point is anti-moot. It's valid, Chachi. And, for the record, I was the second AET working for the Ohtawara Board of Education.

I replied back:

Yes. Familiarity breeds contempt. In one of my earliest blogs, I wrote something similar:

During Year one, the students were all: "An-do-ryu-sensei!!!! Yay! Konichi-wa!"
Life was golden.

During Year two: "Konichiwa An-do-ryu-sensi."
I was still feeling the love, and while I may have felt life was golden, perhaps it was just gold-plated.

Year Three: "An-do-ryu... are you still here?"
Fool's gold. See... Familiarity breeds contempt.

I wasn't as special to the older kids because they had seen me and my antics for three years. I was old hat. I was also so familiar a face in the city that I was more of a fixture, rather than a curiosity to be gawked at.

I take that as a good thing. I wasn't just the gaijin... I was the gaijin who came to supper and then loosened his pants and stayed to see what was for dessert for the next three years plus.

Now let's look at things from the point of view of the Japanese... 27 years of watching people come and go... teachers seeing gaijin walk in like the world owes them a living. There's also 27 years of a JTE watching a 'friend' leave for home... maybe feeling jealous or jaded or just plain rebuffed.

Or... maybe it's the idea that the gaijin aren't needed for the same reason it once was.

Has Japan and its needs changed in the past 27 years? Damn... one hope's so.

Between 1990-1993, I was in Japan to internationalize. Not teach. I did not have my TESL (Teaching English as a second language) qualifications. Aside from being a private music teacher and community soccer coach, I was not a teacher... at least not in the same sense as a JTE (Japanese teacher of English)... I was told prior to leaving Toronto for Japan, that I was there to show (teach) the Japanese that they aren't as special as they think they are... that they can't have that attitude and succeed as part of the global (English-speaking) community.

I was there to break down cultural barriers while showing you can still maintain your own culture. I never thought Canada was better than the US or better than Japan - and vice versa, despite how often then Japanese would try to show me how cool and better Japan was. It wasn't better. It isn't better. It is cool, however, but so is West Side Story.

Japan is just different.

The blog is my way to celebrate the differences - I get that now - and that it's okay to be the nail that stands up sometimes... you don't want to snag yourself on the nail, but sometimes different happens.

In that sense, I think Japan has succeeded.

Y'know... I once had a shirt made up for myself with a famous Monty Python quote. On the front: "We're all individuals." On the reverse: "I'm not."

I just LOVE that line... and funnily enough, five or so years later when I went to Japan, that saying meant soooo much... I never had to say it, but I knew what my job was.

Teacher of English? That was just a cover.

Nowadays... maybe the Japanese get it... sort of... but having someone come in and internationalize is no longer fresh. A different method is required. Having the JETs come in and take an active role in teaching English... holy crap... Devil's Advocate here... but that would make me, the JTE feel like people don't like the way I do my job of teaching the kids English.

Resentment could easily rear its ugly head.

I could see how a foreigner assistant might be utilized to accentuate proper pronunciation - I did plenty of 'Repeat after me" drills. I also did plenty of performing monkey acts to make the kids look forward to English, whereby if they weren't careful they might learn something (to paraphrase Bill Cosby from Fat Albert & The Cosby Kids).

But what about Maia? Myself, I came off as confident, witty, loving to laugh - a regular guy who wants to learn everything about everyone and everything. BUT, and this was also a BIG help... I came across as the helpless man... which the Japanese women loved... everyone wanted to make sure I was okay... to help... the men, too… they don't want me to appear weak. I appreciated the help at first.

Then I became more confident in my abilities to survive Japan. You have to recall that I had never left home before - not even for seven years of post-secondary education. I had no idea how to shop, cook, clean - do any damn thing… it's why I lost 10 pounds in two weeks… and also why I was able to gain it back (and more) as I learned how to cook, clean, shop… everything… even sew, of which I was just so-so. But I did it!

Later, Japanese folk might come over to my house and marvel at how clean it was, wondering if I had a girlfriend. Excluding Noboko, all my girlfriends were not as tidy as… well… me, to be polite.

They would come over for a visit, and spy my flower display - and ask if I took an ikebana class. It could be them blowing hot smoke up my ass (it didn't feel as weird as you might think), or... it was them realizing that I'm now confident to try things myself. It's why in Japan, for school club participation I did every club but English.

Ah... opinionated gaijin... good times.

Vinnie says: You pressed that button activating the question, "What is the purpose of JET?"
That has been debated up and down the line including at the government level. Is it just an internationalization program so the kids get used to seeing a round-eye without freaking out? Perhaps. That is why so many JETS end up in the inaka. But now JET is expanding and this year started sending more kids to placements like Tokyo. PM Abe has publicly stated that the English teaching needs to improve and expand before the 2020 Olympics. As part of that JET will expand (especially in elementary schools). That sounds a bit like needing them to do some teaching of that there English stuff. The problem in the near future may be expanding the numbers without changing the purpose or selection process. They say they are going to pump more money in the program. Perhaps change the salary scale to include bonuses for those with a CELTA or a teaching degree attracting more teacher-oriented applicants. Perhaps have a one-week prefecture seminar with the JETs and JTEs to learn how to be an effective assistant in the classroom. Perhaps pay some of the experienced JETS with good reviews to stick around giving schools the opportunity to dump bad selections and have one of them step in the breech.  The next few years should be interesting.

Me again... for the record, when I was there, JET did offer three-day long meetings for JETs of several prefectures to get together and to learn teaching techniques.

Now... for some reason... after three months, I was asked to lead a seminar on how to survive Japan... I am pretty sure I was suffering from alcohol poisoning, had spent the night making out with a 35-year-old former nude model from Edmonton because Ashley had broken up with me two days earlier... and I had no script.

From what I recall, it went well, and more boozing and whoring went on.

The one thing I recall from my session - besides having a dry mouth, was me telling people to recall that we are not in Japan to be a teacher of English. We can assist with that, but in Japan, we are not on the same par as the Japanese teachers. We don't know their system - at least not intimately. We are here to internationalize.

It's why there's that whole 'assistant' part of the whole AET make-up. The folks who work for the private teaching schools... those people are teachers. I don't know if they are any good, but at least they can run a class any way they want to.

Despite Japan Prime Minister Abe Shinzo (surname first) saying he wants Japan to speak better English by the time the country hosts the 2020 Olympics, the song remains the same: Is the JET Programme still relevant in today's Japan OR, how can it be better utilized by Japan?

Does Japan need to change or does JET?

I think Japan has already changed - and while we can talk about how Japan may not speak English as well as it did in the past - the fact remains that JET as an internationalization fraternity is long past its prime and that having AETs in place is great, but perhaps better training from JET needs to be done with the JTEs to demonstrate how two heads can be better than a two-headed monster.

Andrew Joseph

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Relationship Advice: Break Up Before Going To Japan

My friend Vinnie likes to read a lot of different blogs - to get a wider perspective and flavor of what life or culture is like in Japan. Don't worry, I don't get jealous about stuff like that.

By the way... that photo above - spectacular commentary.

Anyhow, one of those blogs is the annoyingly perky or depressing blog, which is either quite good or quite bad, depending on how one wants to view it.

It's funny... every time I think of Maida Does Japan, I think of the old Adult Video porno film - Debbie Does Dallas, a movie that was doing it for me long before Maia was born, I am sure, so perhaps she can be excused for not understanding the "cultural" significance of her blog's title. Unless it really is an Eff U as in Maia Screws Japan?

Hell... at least she is parodying a porno film from the 1970s (something of a more recent vintage)... look at me... I'm parodying a family flick from the 1940s! But yeah... I meant to do that.

Maia... she certainly has a more chatty style of writing than myself—and I'm not criticizing that at all. It's Maia and she is certainly interesting.

While not a plug for her and her grammatical mistakes (owtch, did I just go there?! Oh yes I did), she recently wrote about the long-distance romance... about being in Japan when your boyfriend or girlfriend isn't. Or rather someone asked her if it was possible to do the long-distance thing.

Maia has been in Japan for over a year, and yet she reports that only recently did she and her boyfriend back home break up.

Maia does say to the writer requesting information that she should try to maintain the long-distance relationship.

Even if I wasn't far more cynical now than I was 24 years ago, I would still think that's crazy advice. For a number of reasons.

Holy monastery, Batman! Are we to believe that two people some 14-17 hours apart in time and space remained faithful to each other by not forming new cohesion bonds via physical chemistry in different labs?

Sure... why not? I bet that's very difficult, though.

I didn't know all this at the time, but apparently my girlfriend Ashley - whom I met on Day 2 in Japan - had just a week earlier broken up with a boyfriend back in the U.S.

I no longer know his name, don't know what he looks like - blonde, I think, but other than that, I know nothing about him. Didn't care. Ashley was available, and so was I. Despite our continued bashing of stubborn wills, I am sure we were a great comfort to one another. She was to me. 'Nuff said.

Now… there were a few 'foreign' women in Japan that I hit on like a house on fire, but they claimed to have boyfriends back 'home'. I never understood that, by the way. Wherever I laid my head - that was home. Japan was my home for three years.

Anyhow... so while they were in Japan, they decided to remain chaste.

Maybe I'm just talking out of my @$$, but I'm pretty sure it is easier for a woman to shut down and not have sex than it is for a guy. Hence Maia's advice to maintain the long-distance relationship... to at least try.

Yeah... It's why men masturbate a whole lot more than women.
It's like shaving. Both men and women do it, but women - not every day. For men - twice a day if Tomb Raider is on television.

Or, to quote the great Mae West... "My name is Angela, but my friends call me Angel for short. But not for long."

So… for a woman to go to Japan and to leave her boyfriend back 'home'… and I'm talking about boyfriend/girlfriend NOT about husband/wife or fiance/fiancee…

In my opinion, it's the rare guy, indeed, who won't stray… and he won't stray if you invite him to come and visit you in Japan and ply him with all the goodies you can… like festivals, food, booze and, oh god, yes! Sex.

If I sound like a jerk - I probably am… but I'm just telling you what most heterosexual men are thinking.

Think about this… by leaving your home country - boys and girls - to go to Japan… just what sort of a message are you sending your boyfriend/girlfriend back 'home'?

The message is: "My life is more important than our life back 'home'." What… you don't think people think like that?

The person NOT in Japan is wondering what the hell you are up to. Even if they trust you - and let's say they do - you are experiencing so many new things about Japan on a daily if not hourly basis - things that you can only talk about, but can never truly share with anyone who hasn't experienced it yet… unless you are one helluva great writer or videographer.

For me… just my male friends… I was away for three effing years… it's difficult to recover from a gap of that length of time… but for my core group, possible. Now… while I had hundreds and hundreds of stories to tell them and my family (the family gets the clean stories), my friends and even my family just aren't all that interested in how I saw blah-blah, or did blah-blah-blah or went to blah-blah….

My long-time friends are great guys: Kevin, Rob and Nigel… but dammit, they might care, but they aren't interested in my tales. Rob is interested in learning about new things - and so he reads this blog when he can… but the others… no… I learned quite quickly NOT to talk about Japan to others who lack an interest in the subject. My wife is one of those. No interest in Japan whatsoever, and has no clue why I bother writing this blog, or WHY I have to publish something every single day.

Why? Because I'm a writer. That's how I describe myself. It's who I am. I write about Japan because I have some knowledge about the subject… and because I have a little knowledge on the subject and enjoy learning and sharing.

As for living in Japan while a boyfriend or girlfriend does not - I would be interested in knowing for how long you stayed and how that relationship worked out.
I'm sure there are people with better willpower than myself…

Although… when I was in Japan, I slept with around 30 different women - some Japanese, a few Thai, American, Australian, Canadian, British, Australian… all beautiful and interesting people - many of whom I no longer recall the name of…

... but none of them mattered towards the end, when I met Noboko… whom I initially left in Japan… and… no spoilers… but let's just say that I went one whole year of not even thinking about another woman except her until… no spoilers, I said.

So yeah… a guy can be trusted 17 hours away in time and space away from the woman he loves. I am proof of that. And I'm a slut.

But let me tell you… it was tough. "Reach out, reach out and touch yourself. That's the long-distance feeling." It's also a parody of a famous telephone commercial from the 1970s or 1980s.

Here's the thing… while I admire and respect those people who travel away to another country and grasp onto their past life with a boyfriend or girlfriend… just how fair is that to them?

Also… by avoiding a romantic relationship or even a sexual relationship in Japan, you avoid and miss a whole different societal aspect of life in Japan.

And trust me… despite the politeness of the Japanese people, the Japanese people only appear to be conservative. Japan's dirty little sexual community is a whole different part of Japan that while it can be described, is more fun to experience.

Here kitty, kitty, kitty...
Anyhow... summing up, to be fair to the other person and to yourself... if you are being self-centered enough to leave the other behind, take the next brave step and end it. Why string people along?

My plan was to stay in Japan for just a single, solitary year... to honor my commitment to the JET Programme and then to get safely out of Dodge.

But, a funny thing happened on the way to the Coliseum... I liked Japan, and Japan liked me right back. I made it known after a few months that I wanted to stay a another year. Kanemaru-san, one of my bosses with the Ohtawara Board Of Education asked if I would stay forever. That scared me, but I know now what he means. We were friends, and it hurts to lose a friend.

That second year turned into a third, and if there was such as thing as being able to stay longer on the JET Programme back then - as there is now - I would have leaped at the opportunity.

What if that happens to you, oh JET settler? How is it fair to keep stringing someone along while you look after your own selfish needs? Hell... Maia and her boyfriend apparently broke up after a year... sucks... I mean, she just wasted a year of this guy's life with the 'promise' that all would be the same after one year.

It never is.

Japan changes you. Hopefully for the better... but it changes you... you'll come back home and sometimes you'll realize that everyone else is still the same... but you aren't.

If you are JUST boyfriend and girlfriend, and one of you are going away for the year - do the honorable thing...

Let them go. If it is meant to be, they'll be there waiting for you when you come back. Whomever you are.

Andrew Joseph
PS: Although a slut in Japan, I purposely avoided the more seedier elements of Japan… for one reason… on the JET Programme, I was there as an ambassador to Canada… can't let the 'home' country down, eh.
But… I've heard stories - even read one… later.