Gaijin Smash

A Hard Day’s Night

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on July 11, 2005

You probably have some idea of the insanity that is the Japanese workforce. They work from 8-9AM until 8-9PM, oftentimes even later than that. And they work on Saturdays. It’s all pretty suicidal, and I can’t think of one Japanese person who actually enjoys working that much. They do it though because the Japanese love suffering. Well, everyone loves suffering to an extent (we all stay glued to our TVs when some tragic event occurs on the news), but the Japanese fuckin’ LOVE suffering. You are not Japanese if you are not suffering in some way. With everyone else at the same time.
It’s especially rough for teachers. Leave school around 8-9PM, go home, eat, bathe, probably do some more work at home, then go to sleep to wake up and do it all over again the next day. Teachers don’t even get Saturday off, as that’s the day for sports clubs. Sundays too can be occupied with sport club competitions, or they may have to come in just to get stuff done.
I was doing a lesson with Ms. Americanized. We were teaching the ninensei the “I went to (somewhere) to do (something)” form. We do a little skit at the beginning of the lesson to demonstrate how it works. She asks me what I did over the weekend. I said something like, “I went to Nara to buy a study book. And I went to Kyoto to watch a movie.” I then asked her what she did over the weekend.

Her: I came to school to work.
Me: Really? What did you do on Sunday?
Her: I came to school to work. Again.
Me: Wow. That really kind of sucks.
Her: Yes.
Words alone cannot describe the conviction with which she said that “Yes.”
Remember that the kids do know what “sucks” means because she taught it to them.
So anyway, she’s explaining the meaning of the English sentences in Japanese, and she gets to her part. “And I went to work. Fucking work.” It rolls off her tongue so naturally, too, the way any red-blooded American would swear at their job. I don’t know why, but even after all this time I’m still not used to her liberal swearing, especially during class in front of the kids. The kids just sit there, with no idea what she just said. Well, the bastard boys would know (thanks MTV) but they rarely ever sit in class so they missed out on this gem of a moment. As usual, it cracked me up, and I just couldn’t explain to the kids why.
Later in the class, we could hear some kind of strange siren going off in the distance. The school isn’t too far from the fire station, so I imagine it was some sort of fire alarm. But it sounded a lot like the old WWII bombing-raid alarms that you hear in movies. I turned to Ms. Americanized. “Are the Americans bombing again?” I asked.
Normally, this is not a joke you’d want to make in Japan, as you can imagine they’re still kind of sensitive to that kind of thing.
Ms. Americanized turned to me, and in all earnestness, said “God I hope so.” Whoa! Homey say what now?! I didn’t get to actually say that, but she must’ve read the expression on my face, so she elaborated. “If they did, maybe, just maybe, I’d finally get a day off. C’mon America. Come bomb the shit out of us.”
Now, I’ve had long working days, but I can honestly say I’ve never gotten to the point where I’ve wanted my country bombed back to the Stone Age just so I could take a day off. I reeeaally hope she gets a vacation, very soon.


26 Responses

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  1. Mikhail Lvovsky said, on October 16, 2006 at 12:32 am

    I hesitate to offer advice when I don’t know the people involved personally, but I get the feeling that Ms. Americanized wouldn’t mind getting more lessons in Americanization from you.
    If anything you owe it to your readers to try to get with a female as awesome as this one, so we can get some vicarious thrills.

  2. Roiyaru Ookami said, on October 16, 2006 at 1:39 am

    ROFL! You’re right, she DOES need a vacation. Infact, if you put in some cash, i’ll pitch in to help her get it…I feel so sorry for her X_X
    Just hearing the hours of work the Japanese put out makes me not feel so bad about my work hours now 😛

  3. Sean said, on October 16, 2006 at 2:12 am

    Give her the vacation she needs.

  4. Zach said, on October 16, 2006 at 3:00 am

    Being an English teacher in Japan myself, I can definitely corroborate Az’s story. I generally leave my school between 6pm and 6:30 and I am always the first one to leave. (except for the students whom many leave at 3:30 when classes are done)
    On the other hand, I have to say that many of the teachers who work long hours really don’t work that hard. Don’t get me wrong, some of the teachers are genuinely very busy once classes get finished for the day, but a number of the teachers at my school often sleep during every free period they have. (which is understandable since teaching can be really both mentally and physically taxing) Many of these teachers could be finished with all of their work and leave at 4:30 or 5pm if they really wanted to, but many of them either sleep, read the newspaper/manga book of the day, or do some other activity which consumes time instead of actually working.
    I’ve heard from my male Japanese adult friends that this is similar in the business world. Apparently many people in the business world actually do only about 4-5 hours of work on a daily basis, but they stay long hours and attempt to look busy so that way they can “suffer with all of the other Japanese people” as Az points out.
    (Az’s Note:
    Actually that’s how it works. It’s not so much how hard you work, but how long. Most Japanese workers, if they applied themselves, could probably finish their work and leave at a respectable time. But if even if they did that, it would look like they weren’t working hard (despite finishing all their work) so they have to stretch it out.)

  5. Anonymous said, on October 16, 2006 at 3:09 am

    I’m sure Nth Korea will lend her a hand.

  6. Anonymous said, on October 16, 2006 at 3:09 am

    I’m sure Nth Korea will lend her a hand.

  7. Beavis said, on October 16, 2006 at 3:29 am

    Ms. Americanized is great. She seems like the only Japanese person to realize how crazy her country is. Tell her that the Americans love her.

  8. Cloak said, on October 16, 2006 at 5:23 am

    Yeah you should really tell Ms. Americanized how much we love reading about her. Awesome story Az, lol. Keep it up!

  9. Anonymous said, on October 16, 2006 at 6:44 am

    Yeah Japan, lay off of Ms.Americanized!

  10. Anonymous said, on October 16, 2006 at 6:44 am

    Yeah Japan, lay off of Ms.Americanized!

  11. Joshua said, on October 16, 2006 at 7:20 am

    Once again another amazing story Az. Even the greatest comedies and such don’t make me laugh as much as your tales do. I think Japan need reality tv. America should lose it and japan should get it. You say japanese tv sucks, well it wouldnt if they had true reality tv. Shows that are literally just taped in places like schools (such as the ones you work at) cuz that seems to be high quality entertainment there. (not to mention im sure anything would be better then the stuff you say they air) Just a friendly opinion though.

  12. Zen Gentleman Lifeguard said, on October 16, 2006 at 11:13 am

    I don’t want to sound like everybody else who keeps badgering you about taking Ms. Americanized out. But maybe you could do something nice for her… something that’s ‘platonic’ or of good intention?
    We can all see how you try very hard to be a gentleman (except when you start having voice conferences with yourself in night clubs… that gets a little weird… j/k), but I’m sure you could do something nice without giving anyone the wrong idea…

  13. Azrael said, on October 16, 2006 at 11:48 am

    I actually did used to invite Ms. Americanized out for drinks or whatever from time to time. …Not as a date or anything, but just as friends/co-workers. I tried this with many of my young co-workers, not just her.
    The one answer I always got in return was – “Sorry I can’t. I’m busy.”
    And it wasn’t necessarily an excuse, sometimes they were stuck at the schools until 9PM on a Saturday night, or had to get up early on Sunday for some sports club duties or whatever. It comes to a point where you don’t even bother to ask anymore because you know the answer is going to be “Sorry, I can’t.”

  14. Grant said, on October 16, 2006 at 5:13 pm

    I keep hearing about how the Tokyo salarymen work such ungodly hours. Last week I put in 119 hours in the office, and the next few weeks don’t look like they’ll be getting any slacker. I’m taking my next vacation in Japan just so I can laugh at all the part time workers. :p

  15. Nono said, on October 16, 2006 at 9:19 pm

    You are all missing ONE detail: Japanese salary workers are paid overtime. Wouldn’t you stay longer hours too, if those hours were paid? Overtime is a big reason japanese people stay at work so long when it seems they could be home earlier.
    This is all part of a scam, going on at the national level, where your salary seems little, but you are paid a lot of overtime for doing nothing more.
    The suffering and group-think is a reason, but the money compels them to stay in the status-quo.

  16. Becca said, on October 17, 2006 at 12:21 am

    I just have to say that you’re my favorite journal to read. You have me in tears because I’m laughing so hard at your crazy adventures!

  17. Andy said, on October 17, 2006 at 1:05 am

    (Group) suffering in Japan seems to be the way of EVERYTHING. Crammed like sardines into train cars to go to work. “Work” a 12-14 hr day. Drinking to excess with the boys nearly every night. Sleeping in a capsule hotel (if you don’t make the last train home). Rinse, repeat.
    Even the festivals involve suffering, usually wearing “socks” and carrying heavy stuff around as I’ve seen countless times in Asakusa.

  18. Lain said, on October 17, 2006 at 5:35 am

    Im back its been like a year since I read this and Im glad to see how things are going =D

  19. Michelle said, on October 17, 2006 at 10:16 am

    ok so some of these comments are bizarre…
    where did all the rest of the posts go?!? i was up to date until i missed like a months coz i moved and couldnt get internet, and then veverything was different, and now im back here and its still old posts, do you have new posts or are you juts loading old ones up, coz i would still like to read your new stuff, like what are you doing after japan!?!?!?!
    im dying to know about that coz im going home in january, and REALLY dont want to be doing that.
    (Az’s Note – New, never before seen posts on Thursdays.)

  20. LLJ said, on October 17, 2006 at 9:52 pm

    “…I turned to Ms. Americanized. “Are the Americans bombing again?” I asked.”
    My jaw abso-fricking-lutely hit the floor when I read that….NO WAY, TELL.ME.YOU.DIDNT
    Then I neally p*ssed myself laughing.

  21. Sone Cisneros said, on October 24, 2006 at 3:22 am

    LLJ, I would like to know if you have been to Fuchu? It is near Chofu. I ask because I used to live there in the late 1950’s and just want to know if the old place is still there. I enjoyed reading your stories and would like to e-mail you occassionally if that is ok with you; just to catch up on what has gone on all these many years.

  22. Kosetsu said, on November 19, 2006 at 6:31 pm

    Y’know, I’m reading through your archives [again/ for the nth time/ etc.,] and I’ve come to the conclusion that being a Japanese Salaryman is the only way I will /ever/ survive in this world.
    Now, I know college wasn’t a long time ago for you, Azrael, so answer me this – how many people did you know who procrastinated the LIVE LONG DAY and still barely managed to get their homework done like, 30 seconds before class started? I mean, the people who could take a FIVE WORD SENTENCE of a quiz and stretch it out for a good half-hour? Those procrastinators would THRIVE in a Salaryman world, as they could always just ‘throw in more overtime’ to get the job ‘done’. It sounds horrible, but it would work, because they would just be doing as they normally would, and it would flow with the natural ‘national suffering’ of the Japanese workforce.
    Of course, there are the problems of finding residence (NOT hosting – I’d feel bad asking a random Japanese family to host me for free while I ‘work’ all day long. Cultural enrichment only, please), and of finding a job in the first place as a Gaijin, and quite possibly of the adventures of surviving the Japanese public transport system (as covered by your other posts), but it sounds reaaaaaally tempting to be paid to slack off from work on a daily basis. I mean, sure, Japan’s still a weird place, but I’m not allergic to fish, and I’ve been developing a means of defending and countering prodding/grabbing attacks since middle school (Harisenken GO!!), so maybe I should try my hand at a JET position as well.
    Seriously, stop looking at me like that. I don’t know what else to do with my English B.A.

  23. Syhming said, on December 15, 2006 at 12:33 am

    “C’mon America. Come bomb the shit out of us.”
    Hahaha! Sounds like she really could use a break, but then we’d miss out on some of her hilariously twisted comments.

  24. evil_tennyo said, on December 15, 2006 at 10:20 pm

    lmao! holy shit thats funny.

  25. Corey said, on February 19, 2007 at 1:35 am


  26. Elizabeth said, on May 13, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    This is true, I too have to work 12 hours a day, six days a week.
    Anyhow, I am going to go to college soon (here in Japan of course) and get my degree.
    So my question for Jeffry (Azreal) is:
    as a foreign english teacher, do you have to work on saturdays as well?

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