Job Hunting: Part End

I have a job. I will be an associate consultant in a consulting firm in the middle of Tokyo. I will be headhunting, working with HR with different companies at first, at least to the best of my knowledge.

Which means that this blog has served its purpose, even if it was never utilized as a tool for finding a job. I do enjoy writing from time to time, so I’ll probably keep it alive as best I can with occasional posts on my new life in Tokyo.

Although you’ll notice that I don’t really share much of what happens in my private life. More like general musings on life that are hopefully applicable to my readers. Like “Ah, I’ve been through that before” etc… Of course if I started writing about what I ate everyday and how many times I pooped and what color hairball the neighborhood cat puked up, maybe my readership might increase…

Now that the future is set, I can reflect on the past and my last 2 years here.

From this point on, it’s going to be a lot of bitching. You can stop here if you’d like.


After the first 6 months, I realized how utterly empty this place was. Unfortunately, I had already recontracted 3 months before that, and I felt lied to when winter hit.

Like newlyweds living together for the first time. “I never knew he farted so much. :(”

Nothing can prepare you for a Tsugaru winter, unless you’ve lived in the arctic for the majority of your life, then you should be ok. There is nothing here. Rather than lament, I decided to make the best of my time here. And so I decided to become a monk, and live an ascetic lifestyle to further my own path to enlightenment.

And by enlightenment I mean getting skinnier and a lot of reading and videogames.

I think I have done very well, as my friends will tell you, but they won’t, because I don’t have many here. I have also adopted a great diet and exercise program, and have plowed through much literature and a couple Mozart piano concertos (Nos. 20, 21) and beaten more games than I care to list. I have also spent countless hours studying Japanese and watching youtube and have become a connoisseur of Asian cinema. Which means I have done a good job of hermiting in my hermitage.

Also, if you need a good skincare regimen, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good one. Please ask!

One of the many maxims I try to live by is, “Don’t bite the hand that feeds,” but when that hand stops handing out salary and belongs to a real asshole, can I chomp down hard?

I shall. Let ‘er rip!

Let me tell you what a pain in the ass it is to live here. The nearest McDonald’s is 40 minutes away by car. The nearest train station that actually goes anywhere is an hour. Everything shuts down at 8PM (the banks at 3PM),

Everything is a loose term because there is only a supermarket and a hardware store here

and then it gets completely dark and quiet, and rather scary, like I’m in a zombie movie and have to get my chainsaw ready every time I leave the house at night.

And boy, don’t get me started on winter. Right now, there’s a heat wave and we’re all kinda melting in our chairs (yesterday it was in the upper 30s, so higher 90s for all you non-metric peeps), but I have never wished for winter instead. It is an abysmal half year. The snow is ridiculous. It’s fine if it falls, but the local specialty here is 地吹雪 or literally “ground blow snow,” when the snow doesn’t exactly fall but rather swirls from the ground into giant funnels that leads to whiteouts. And they’re kinda interesting to be in, like a really bad dream and you can barely see past your nose and all that your headlights illuminate is a wall of white, except there’s a car coming at you since no one knows what lane they’re in since they can’t see the ground anymore.


I should also like to mention that they don’t salt the roads because it’s “bad for the environment.” Of course, compacted icy roads are a joy to drive, err, skate on. You know the McDonald’s I mentioned earlier? Make that an hour and 20 minutes in winter. Also, the nearest ski resort is about 3 hours in this frozen hell. Remember the big hullabaloo everyone made over Toyotas and not braking? One person with a Prius from Aomori was interviewed and they said (to the best of my memory), “Oh, there was a braking problem? I didn’t notice since the roads are iced over in Aomori and everyone slips anyways.” You would think with the nuclear disaster Japan wouldn’t have much right to be concerned about the environment anymore, but of course, living in the middle of nowhere tends to have people who are more conservative and slow or backward thinking. Of course, this isn’t true of everyone, and I have met a very, very small handful of Japanese people here that I like. However, balance that out with the fact that I make friends almost every time I go to Tokyo, and I have come to realize that there has to be a strong reason for people to stay in Aomori (especially where I work), whether it’s family or job commitment, or they have tasted what the world has to offer and find this place best, or something else I don’t know. Of course, people stay here just because they have never dreamt of anything bigger; they never sought to explore the world; they do not have the talent, knowledge or money to escape; or in the worst case they resign themselves to their lot in life, and that goes against basically everything I live for. The people from Tohoku (northern Japan) that I’ve really took a liking to are all in Tokyo because they needed to achieve more and couldn’t stand to live where they were born.

And I’ll be there soon!!! WHOOOOO!!!

Aomori is the second poorest prefecture in the nation. It also has the second highest suicide rate. And it can’t even be first in the categories of sucking. The best argument I heard for this place is that “the water tastes better than in Tokyo.” I use a Brita filter thankyouverymuch. I also work at what is well-known as one of the shittiest schools in the prefecture. At the welcome party all the new teachers said “I’ve heard it’s tough, but I’ll try my best.” They use the term ganbaru, which I connote in this situation with resigning oneself to one’s fate because there’s nothing they can do about it. I was a little taken aback, because Japanese rarely ever voice their opinions so bluntly. But if they all said it, then I guess that’s some kind of group permission.

My relationship with the Board of Education (BoE) has also hit an all time high, like shit ceiling fan high. There was a personnel change in April, and all the good people were promoted and replaced with assholes, and since then everything has just gone downhill. It’s not that my new supervisor isn’t nice, he is, but it’s just he’s completely new and doesn’t know anything about what I do. So it’s basically me against his boss and he’s stuck in the middle of our bickering. Poor guy.

I was speaking to my previous supervisor, and thankfully he has given me all the guidance and directed me to the necessary forms to make my transition from here to Tokyo much smoother. The BoE has just given me contradictory bullshit, facts they made up on their own and decided not to check, or just decided to ignore my questions altogether.

Let me give you some examples:

Q: “I’m moving out soon, I was wondering if you wanted to do the gas, electricity, water bills together so we could put my successor’s name on there too.”

A: “The Board of Education doesn’t pay the bills, so it’s not our responsibility. Do it yourself.”

And so I did it, and cut the bills early. If there’s any problem, well, it’ll be their responsibility then, won’t it :P

Two can play at being an asshole.

And of course, there was that incident when the kachou 課長 got drunk and started talking shit about me behind my back. I think I’ll give him a piece of my mind after payday. Or I might not even bother, because frankly cranky old men don’t deserve my time.

Of course, in any argument, there are two sides to the story, and yes, there is a reason behind their ire. These really demonstrate the difference in our cultures, and in the end, despite what everyone thinks, I am not Japanese. Thank god.

Fault 1:
I used to eat breakfast at the BoE.

Fault 2:
I came in late a few times.

Fault 3:
I want to use all my vacation days.

Let’s address these separately.

1. Yes, I used to eat breakfast there, and didn’t know it was a problem. In fact, my last supervisor said it was ok to eat there in the mornings. Not the new management. They threw a hissy fit. So cool, I won’t eat breakfast there anymore. I don’t now.

2. This is, admittedly, my biggest flaw. I cannot for the life of me get up. Mornings are not my thing. However, I do my best, and I have never missed a class. What I have done, is punch in late. By late I mean about 1-4 minutes late. I never understood the fuss because I don’t do anything there in the mornings anyway. My job lies solely with the education of the children, and if I do that to the best of my ability, then I see no problem. Also, to make up, I punch out later as well. Ah, but the BoE values timeliness above actual work done, and that is where we have a big riff. I see no point, but they see it as a rule that must be obeyed, even if I have no productive use during that period. To fit in with their culture, this is perhaps the spot I feel like I could have improved on the most, and I have. I haven’t been late in recent memory.

Check this out, next job, I can eat breakfast AND can come in later the next day if I work overtime. Win.

So now, I have improved, but has their treatment of me changed? Nope. They still refuse to give me the time of day. So…fuck it. I barely spend any time there anymore. I kinda stay home and do my stuff and show up for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 in the afternoon. The glory of being able to speak Japanese is that it has made me autonomous, while some other ALTs need their BoE to communicate with other entities. Of course autonomy means an excess of freedom, and perhaps I have drifted so far away from them and do everything on my own that they don’t know how to approach me anymore. Which is fine with me. Being able to speak the language also has backfired in some senses because it allows them to communicate with me and I can’t pull the gaijin card and say I didn’t know. The earlier bill example would never have happened if I couldn’t speak Japanese.

Ah, and the last one is my favorite, using all my vacation days.

3. I was discussing with my new supervisor the time I was planning on taking off. And out of nowhere, the woman in charge of vacation time jumps in on the conversation and asks,

“Are you going to use most of your vacation days? Like close to all of them?”

“I’m going to use all of my vacation days.”

“ALL of them?”

At this point, she gave me a dirty look and seemed quite offended.

“Yes, all of them.”

“Well, that one day you helped after the earthquake doesn’t count because it wasn’t an order from the boss. Also, we need to deduct one hour of vacation for every minute you were late.”

I see what you did there.

“My last supervisor said that I could get vacation for helping out.”

And the conversation died at that point. From the Japanese POV, I am supposed to be the drone and work for the establishment that is the BoE. Taking vacation is a bad thing, even though we have set days for it, because it looks like I’m slacking and not working for the greatness of the BoE.

But, once again, everyone seems to forget I’m not Japanese.

My logic is quite simply: Since I’m not going to be working here, why wouldn’t I spend all my vacation days? Also, the kids are on summer vacation. There’s no one for me to teach, and you hate my guts, so why do you want me to stay one day longer? I don’t want to be here any more than you want me here.

I will be using all of my vacation days, including the ones promised me by my last supervisor. Done.

Please excuse what this entry has become. A long rant, but a cathartic one for sure. I apologize for its lack of cohesion and really one-sided view of all my problems.

Part of my dissatisfaction certainly has to do with my inherent nature. I’m really goal oriented and put results above most other things. I have high standards when it comes to food and classical music; I need to go to at least three symphonies and one Michelin ranked restaurant a year or else I get grouchy. I dress up to gambol along the most gorgeous streets of the most beautiful cities, not the mall. I expect the students to exert the same effort I put into teaching them. When I am greeted by “die”, “disgusting”, and “big dick” I question the life decisions that brought me to this place, and moreover my absurdly low fate score that sent me here.

And with students like that, the BoE has no right to complain about me when they’re supposed to be in charge of education.

However, just a few minutes ago, a giant chrysalis popped into my mind’s eye, kinda freaky and large (for you Starcraft fans like the one Kerrigan was in), and at the top, a vertical rift formed across the hardened membrane. I will come out of this a butterfly, and enjoy all that life has to offer me and all the opportunities that abound in the city of trains and great technology and people that feel the innate drive to achieve and accomplish. I can’t wait.

I’m going to get an apartment next week.

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