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Monday, February 16, 2015

Home Depot and Rona: Tales of Japan

Okay, I'll come clean right at the beginning. This story is NOT about big box hardware stores Home Depot or Rona, but despite that, the headline is appropriate. 

Let's pretend it's 1993 again.

For the nearly three years now, I've been living and growing up to teenagerhood as a now 28-year-old in the rural city of Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan.

That is to say I'm an assistant English teacher (AET) on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme and I'm preparing to go back to Canada after being anything from mature to intellectually simplistic during my stay - specifically where women are concerned.

Anyhow, while I am in the process of having to leave my own Tokyo Disneyland with no job prospects back in Toronto, no place of my own to live (I have my parent's), and no Noboko.

Noboko is my Japanese girlfriend and the love of my brief life and while I would give all those great expectations of Toronto up for the chance to live my life with her in Japan, her unhappy father (unhappy with her dating a foreigner or dating me) has caused me to not know exactly what Noboko's plans for the future are... which, of course, means I have no idea what my plans for the future are.

Sounds like a plan. I just don't want that to be something that hangs like a dark non-silver-lined-cloud over me the rest of my life.

So... in the meantime I am making plans as though I am indeed exiting Japan per the terms of my third one year contract on JET.

At work - any of the seven junior high schools I taught at in Ohtawara-shi - there was resolution, as I said good bye to students, many of whom I had seen grow up these past three years, to be fine youngsters, all of whom by 2015 probably have kids of their own who are the same age as their parents were in 1993.

By April of 1993, I was already aware that despite the glowing performance of myself as a JET participant these past three years, OBOE was not continuing its affiliation with the Programme.

Rather than pointing fingers, it was pointed out to me that the OBOE's decision was a political one.

Ohtawara's esteemed mayor Sembo (who was there in 1990 and is still there in 2015), had decided Ohtawara should utilize its sister-city status with St. Andrews, Scotland and hire an assistant English teacher from there.

So, they opted out of JET and hired a Scotch lass named Rona MacKenzie.

I laughed when I found out, as I pictured my students learning to roll their "R's" like a Scotsman.

I had already communicated a few letters to her, regarding the ins and outs and what to bring to Japan and to the OBOE people, but other than that, I was purposely vague - not wanting to build up or spoil any of the surprise 

I'm was sure she'd have a good time in Ohtawara and Japan.

Years later - I have no idea if she did.

Regardless... I broke JET in Ohtawara-shi.

Andrew Joseph 

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