Go online to one of the college textbooks sites and order yourself a Japanese textbook there. From there, it just depends on how dedicated you are at it. Japanese is not an easy language to learn, at it WILL frustrate the hell out of you sometimes. But it can be done, if you’re willing to work at it.
I don’t have any specific book recommendations, as I wasn’t particularly fond of any of my textbooks. I will say though that for kanji, the Kodansha Kanji Learners is probably one of, if not the best resources you could buy.
As for media, Japanese TV shows like variety (if you can stomach it) and drama are good. But not anime so much. The Japanese used in anime is not natural (intentionally so) and all you’ll learn are terribly unuseful phrases anyway.
And of course, stay far away from Japanese porn. Forget the language, it will darken your soul. You have been warned.
After a week of dancing with the elderly, the staff at the welfare center took me and my friend out to a drinking party.
The work drinking party is a bit of a custom in Japan. They spend a great deal of their lives enslaved by their work, so the drinking party is a chance to get wasted and let it all out. Although it is a bit counter-productive to go out drinking with the same people you work with, as Ms. Americanized pointed out to me once. We were on our way to the end of the year party for the Ghetto School, and as I was saying how nice it was to finally be on vacation, Ms. Americanized corrected me – “This isn’t a vacation yet. Not as long as I’m with those people.” She said those people with all the conviction as if they had robbed her house, thrown her family dog in a river, and then organized a successful letter-writing campaign to get South Park removed from all Japanese video stores.
Anyway, to thank us for our hard work, the staff took us out to a drinking party. My friend and I agreed, figuring that we could eat and drink to our hearts consent and they would pick up the bill for it aftewards. Don’t think us cheapskates – we worked hard during that week, especially me in all my Golden Matsuken Glory (or shame).
Little did we know though, we’d end up paying for the night in other ways.
So as many of you know, I spent a week doing Obon Dancing with the elderly at the welfare center at my town. While this seemed normal enough, part of the program included me at one point coming out in a shiny gold Matsuken Samba kimono. Because my life is just that special. And it wasn’t just one day of shiny glamorous torture, it was a whole week. Since the elderly could come and go as they pleased, the staff had to make sure they put on the exact same program every day of the week so that no one missed out.
However, my friend and I noticed that at least 50-60% of the audience had already been to the program. There were quite a few who went all five days. Sometime around Friday, my friend points this out to me.
Friend: Hey, that guy is here again.
Me: Yeah, I’m seeing a lot of people who were here yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that.
Friend: Man, they must be so bored of seeing the same thing over and over again.
Staff: (overhearing our conversation) Not really. Most of them probably don’t remember that they saw this before.
Me: (hopeful) So, you mean there’s a chance they’re not gonna remember me in the Matsuken outfit?
Staff: Oh no. They’re definitely going to remember that.
Me: That’s just wonderful.
Friend: I was going to say “if it makes you feel any better, they’ll be dead in the next few years”…but then I remembered that Japan has one of the highest life-expectancies on Earth. So sorry bud, you’re screwed.
Me: …Remind me to shorten yours later.
Matsuken aside, it was a pretty interesting week. Speaking of people who came everyday, there was one guy who was pretty lively. He got up and danced everyday, sometimes with the aid of a walker. But hell – according to the staff, this guy was in his late 80’s/early 90’s, so I was impressed at any kind of movement, really. We also came to find out that he had been a soldier in WWII. He was really outgoing and friendly, and seemed genuinely happy to be able to come do the dancing with us.
Even more than that though, everyday he came…he came with a date. And everyday…it was with a different woman. My friend asked one of the male staff members about it, who after giving his response a little careful thought, said, “Yeah, he’s still got a lot of kick left in him at this age. He’s the…how do I put it…he’s the playboy of the facility. We think he’s got about 10 girlfriends.”
Please, please, please, please please NO MORE JET QUESTIONS. I give up, I’m raising the white flag, stick a fork in me.
If you want to do JET and can’t find the information you’re looking for on their website, consult your university’s career center or Japanese department. If you are not in university…you are still a long way from doing this, and shouldn’t worry about it too much now.
If you actually get to applying, most if not all of your questions will be answered along the way. If you get in, they will ORIENTATE YOU TO DEATH. Seriously. They will give you answers to all the general questions you may have, and even put you in contact face-to-face with former JET’s. They will tell you everything you never wanted to know about Japan, except for the really useful stuff, like the threat of kancho or that your kids may one day ask you “Do you play masturbate?” But you’re hearing this now so it’s all good.
And then if/when you actually get there, they will ORIENTATE YOU SOME MORE. It never ends. They’ll be shipping you off to seminars until your human spirit is absolutely crushed, and the words “group work” or “brainstorming activity” will be enough to send you into uncontrollable fits of crying and swearing.
But I’m not the JET spokesboy. Never was, and I don’t want to be. JET questions clog up my mailbox. No More!
One of my friends is another JET in my town. Where I’m an ALT, he is a CIR – coordinator for international relations. What this is, is a fancy title for discreetly reading Yahoo! News stories all day long. They do occasionally make him do stuff to justify that paycheck he’s getting from Japanese Uncle Samu. When possible, he likes to drag me along, sometimes I guess because I’ve been here a year longer than he has and he considers my seasoned experience a valued asset, and other times because, I can only guess, he hates my mortal soul to the core and wants to make me suffer as much as humanly possible.
One such time was a program at the welfare center to do Obon dancing for the elderly. I was not opposed to this for a number of reasons. The biggest and most important was that it would get me out of a whole week of afternoon classes at the Ghetto School. I would do anything to get out of class at the Ghetto School. I would sign up for a “Throw 20 Pound Medicine Balls Doused in Jet Fuel and Lit on Fire at the Gaijin’s Exposed Genitals” festival if it meant getting out of class at the Ghetto School. Yes, it is that bad.
Aside from wanting to get away from evil little children, I thought it would be interesting to get to interact with some of the elderly members of the community. As they were around during World War II, they’ve seen Japan go through A LOT of changes. I was sure they would have some interesting stories to tell, and if not, at the very least give them the chance to interact with a foreigner, something that’s hard enough for your average Japanese person.
So one week, me and my friend headed out to the welfare center. On Monday, I ditched The Ghetto, met up with my friend at the town office, and we were picked up by car by one of the welfare center workers. A girl maybe in her late 20’s, I thought she was really cute in a dorky kind of way (I like the dorky look, so sue me). However, as she got out of the car, I saw that not only did some other guy have the same thought, he beat me to it by 8 or 9 months.
Friend: Still think she’s cute?
Me: C’mon, do you really think I’m going to let something as trivial as an almost-fully developed human child stop me?
Friend: Man, you’re awful.
Me: What? When you get married one day and your wife is pregnant, are you really going to abstain from sex for a whole nine months?
Friend: I dunno man. Like, what if you poke the baby in the eye?
Me: Give him an eye-patch and name him Sagat?
We got in the car with Dorky Pregnant and off to the welfare center we went.
It’s Valentines Day. At least, it was yesterday. I figure I should write something love/dating related. And, relate it to Japan I guess. I have a new V-Day editorial I’m writing, but as it really has little to nothing to do with Japan (other than the girl being Japanese), I’ll probably put that one up on Outpost Nine.
If you’re a young man, and you tell someone that you’re going to Japan, one of the invariable responses that you wil be hit with at some point will be “Dude! You’re SO going to get laid!” Obviously, this response changes depending on who you talk to. You might expect that your parents wouldn’t say that…unless of course you are me and your Mom actually does say something along those lines to you. God, why you hate me?
Ahem. Anyway, it’s well known that in America, white guys are Asian girl’s kryptonite. This belief extends to The Motherland as well. There is a certain type of girl in Japan who does chase after Gaijin exclusively, so to a certain extent it is true. (Really, there’s a lot more to the situation than that, but in order to make this not excruciatingly long I’m skipping over a lot.) This also leads to the belief that there are scores of men who couldn’t get laid in America even if you coated them in syrup, rolled them around in hundred dollar bills, and then dropped them off at the Playboy mansion, but then come to Japan and find more pussy than they ever knew what to do with. To a certain extent, this is somewhat true as well.
Thanks to those beliefs, there are a lot of men jumping at the bit to come to Japan. Not for the green tea and onsens. …I wasn’t one of those guys. Maybe I was before, back in my Japanophile days when I had a healthy case of Yellow Fever to go with it. But as I’ve said before, I was cured well before coming to Japan, and actually dated a bit back in America.
So, rather than park myself at a veritable all-you-can-eat sushi bar and gorge myself on wanton Gaijin Chaser Japanese Skank, if I were to date in Japan I wanted something more meaningful – a relationship. And it is here where all the complications start to set in. Where sowing wild oats in Japan may be easy, succeeding at the dating game, and relationships, is much harder. Dating in any country is hard, but dating in Japan is a lot like trying to beat Battletoads on the NES with one arm tied behind your back.
Most of you are vaguely aware of my biggest strikeout, the Whore of Legend, the infamous ex. But aside from her there have been some other girls, some other candid tales. While I don’t know if I want to share all, or even some of them, in the spirit of Valentines Day, and in my continuing crusade to curb the tide of Yellow Fever, I’ll tell the store of one here today – Sachi. I can’t promise humor – even Barry Bonds doesn’t hit homeruns every time he bats – but maybe at least you’ll find something interesting, something different from all the other “I went to Japan, met a nice girl and we got married/I porked her and her sisters and her friends and her grammama until I got on the plane home” tales floating out there.
And yes, I know this editorial title is a complete rip-off. I know, and I don’t care.
You don’t need anything specific. You don’t need a day of Japanese language/culture classes, English teaching methodology, whatever. All you need is a bachelors degree – doesn’t matter what field or from what university.
Additionally, JET is not specifically offered through schools – it is just a program that exists for university graduates.
The girls in the English Club at the School of Peace participate in English speech contests. The biggest of which is called Prince Takamado or something like that, and is held on the national level at Tokyo. Before getting to that point though, each prefecture holds a semi-final to determine which kids they would send to Tokyo to represent them in the contest. Both Ultimate Sweetness, and another girl I’ll call “Mel”, decided to enter this contest.
Sweetness was playing to win. She’d lost in a big competition the year before, and seeing as how many of her other English Club friends had won various other contests of their own, Sweetness wanted to finally win in something. She wrote a charming speech about how much she loves her family (it’s Ultimate Sweetness … would you expect anything less?), especially her father.
I’d known before that the Father of Sweetness was some kind of national judo champion. But apparently, in addition to that he was also handsome. *Very* handsome. The English teacher told me about meeting him once, and as she put it, “I couldn’t really look him in the eyes without getting all faint in the knees.” And this woman is not the swooning type. From reading Sweetness’s paper, Father of Sweetness was also a big advocate of free-thinking and gender equality. Are we sure this guy is Japanese? Seriously, free-thought and gender equality go against like everything Japanese men believe in. They go to work and do exactly as they are told to, then go home and order the missus to have dinner ready and bring him a beer. And to do that exactly the way it’s always been done, for any deviation would cause the Earth beneath Japan to crack and the whole nation to sink into the Pacific.
I think I mentioned before that I have some fake money that I occasionally like to use in my classes. It’s the fakest shit ever, there’s a big goofy king on the front and it has “Game Counter” written all over it. Despite that, and me having a fat stack of it, the students always, ALWAYS ask “is that real money?” Yes, products of the legendary Japanese school system, ladies and gentlemen. I always have to remind them, if I had a fat stack of real money, of all the places in the world I could be, do they really think I’d be standing there waving it in front of them? Hell fucking no. I’d be at a BMW dealership, waving it in front of a salesman. Or, at the Playboy mansion, waving it in front of the legions of scantily-clothed playmates. Or, standing in front of Thailand, waving it in front of the whole country.
As you might imagine, all of the kids want a $100 bill or ten as a keepsake. Many of them directly ask me, but I have to turn them down. If I give one kid a fake bill, then I have to give to all of them, and then suddenly I have no money. Not to mention that it throws off the results of the game if kids are producing saved $100 from their reserves.
Of course, telling a kid no is by no means the end of the story.
So with The Bank of Azrael holding a tight lease on its funds, the kids are forced to try and shinobi it away from me. The boys are really, painfully obvious. At the end of the game, they return about half of what I doled out to them, with silly “huh huh I’m hidin’ somethin'” looks on their faces. All I really need to do to find the missing bills is to check their pants or blazer pockets, or inside of their desks. Or on a lazy day, just exert my Gaijin Influence with a menacing Black Man Glare powerup, and they cough it up right quick. And this is the country that pioneered the ninja arts? Pathetic!
You know, I feel that internet porn is really having a detrimental effect on the young men of this generation. When I was a kid, we didn’t have porn delivered to our very rooms, hell no. We had to work for every titty. We had to discover Dad’s Playboy stash, and return it as we found it before he noticed a disturbance in the Jack-Off Force. We had to watch really crappy Showtime skin flicks at 1AM or later while the family was asleep. We had to deploy weather balloons to find out when electron count in the air was just right enough to make the scramble on the porn channels lenient enough to see something. We were masturbation ninjas. But the kids of this generation don’t have to run the trials of fire that we did. They’re complacent. I feel that this is what’s lead to the rise of emo over the years. We didn’t have time to be all angsty and shit, we channeled those energies into getting us some wanking material.
I did a program called JET. All you need is a bachelor’s degree (doesn’t matter what field), fluency in English, a pulse, and to not be a total fuck-up. Even then, the last two are debatable. That’s it. You don’t need any teaching experience (I had NONE prior to coming) or any Japanese language abilities.
JET actually discourages the use of Japanese in some ways (after all, they’re not bringing you to Japan to speak Japanese with Japanese people), but I personally think it’s extremely useful, inside of the classroom and especially outside. Most of the JET’s who come don’t actually have that much Japanese ability (most of my friends couldn’t speak Japanese when they got here, some of them still can’t). If you really want to learn, well, there’s no better way than total immersion. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to do so, and it would be good for your students to see you learning their language as they learn yours.
If you are really interested in JET, you can inquire about it at your university’s Career Center, Japanese Department, or go to the JET Program Website.
There are other programs besides JET, which place people in conversation schools like Nova and ECC. I don’t know too much about them, so I can’t be of much help there. From everything I’ve heard though, they’re not quite as good as JET. I believe the requirements are the same though – you just need a bachelor’s degree and to be fluent in English.