As fun as my new Japanese housewife lifestyle was, I couldn’t keep it up. It’s a special kind of depressing to see your bank account only go down, never up. And my nice, new apartment certainly wasn’t going to pay for itself. I needed a job. I was up for almost anything. Bartender (would have been cool actually–however my girlfriend had several blaring objections to this one), waiter, gas pumper, male whore, street scrubber, even one of those people who holds a sign pointing you in the direction of an internet cafe/porn shop.* I really only had one requirement–absolutely, under no circumstances, would I accept a job teaching English. Sure, it was fun for a while, but it was time to hang up that hat. Unfortunately, English teacher is the easiest job in Japan for a foreigner to get, so for me to levy this restriction upon myself would be a lot like Samuel L. Jackson saying, “I don’t want to act in any roles that involve me being an angry black man.”
*I always feel kinda bad for these people, especially the young college students. Essentially, they’re doing the same work that a couple of old spare tires could accomplish. Or hey, even a really heavy cinder block. They always look like they’re in their own personal little hell too. But then again, since they’re Japanese, they’re probably enjoying said personal hell. Remember: Japanese love suffering!
With my “no English teacher” clause, I found that the number of available jobs decreased substantially. Furthermore, there were few jobs available to foreigners in the Kansai region. Anything that didn’t involve teaching English almost required you to be able to speak Japanese. While I can speak Japanese, the only credentials I had were the JLPT, 2-kyuu. As this was December, I’d taken the 1-kyuu test, but the results wouldn’t be released until February. I marked on job applications that I had 2-kyuu at first. 2-kyuu, for all intents and purposes, is fluent Japanese. You may not be able to follow along 100% about conversations regarding politics, or superconductors, or how to re-calculate Einstein’s theory of relativity, but you can converse with people quite easily without getting lost or confused at all. I was kind of hoping that 2-kyuu would be enough, but after the first few interviews I noticed a disturbing trend.
Interviewer: Ok, well, do you have any Japanese language certification?
Me: Yes, as you can see on my application, I received JLPT 2-kyuu last year.
Interview: Ah, 2-kyuu. Oh, that’s cute. DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS THAT ARE COMING OUTTA MY MOUTH?
After that happened a few times, I wised up and put “Took the JLPT 1-kyuu This December” on my application. Although I personally sorta knew I failed, I wouldn’t have official documented proof of my failure until February. Hopefully I’d be able to snag a job before then. And hey, who knows? Maybe by some stroke of pure, God-loves-me luck, I actually passed! Right. And if I passed, Monica Belluci would come to my door to personally deliver the results, and give me a congratulatory “fuck me raw!” in the process. “God-loves-me-luck,” who am I kidding?
The resume h4x helped somewhat.
Interviewer: Let’s see…it says here you took the 1-kyuu this month.
Me: That’s right, I sure did.
Interviewer: How do you think you did?
Me: (blatantly lying) Well, I feel I did pretty well. There weren’t a whole lot of things that threw me off.
Interviewer: I see. So, you know Japan has four distinct seasons, right? This is probably because of the molecular neutrino content of our sub-pressurized atmosphere. It causes atom diffusion which, due to the Fosters Chain Reaction theory, causes things to happen in a cyclic pattern. But tell me, what do you think?
Me: (no fuckin’ clue what she said) …Um…well…that is to say…oh wow, you’re pregnant? That’s great! When are you due?
Interviewer: I see. (Writes something down in her notes. Probably “big stupid liar,” but I suck at kanji so I have no flipping idea what she’s writing.)
The hard thing about going for non-English teacher jobs in Japan is, as a Gaijin, we have to somehow convince the Japanese that we would be better suited for the job than all the other Japanese people who are applying. It’s like being the fat/scrawny kid during dodgeball team formations at recess. Despite all the other boys being stronger, faster, and maybe even better looking, you’ve gotta convince the team captain that somehow, you’d be great on his team. Not such an easy thing.
I did find a few postings I was able to apply and even interview for. One such opening was for a translator/interpreter at Capcom. Now, I don’t know how many of you have been closely reading along, but I am a video gamer and a HUGE Street Fighter fan. I grew up in the arcades. Back then, quarters were life. If you found one, that meant you had at least one shot at the local SF champion. I’d skip lunch to save up lunch money, rummage between couch cushions of homes that weren’t even mine–hell, I probably would have killed any one of you if I thought your liver was filled with quarters. It was that much of an obsession. So the prospect of getting a job at the place that fueled the obsession…I can only imagine it felt a lot like a crack fiend winning an all-expenses paid trip to Colombia.
Although my interview went fairly well (I thought), I ultimately didn’t get the job. That’s probably for the best though. It seemed like it would have been a really busy job–lots of overtime work and what not–and if I had fully immersed myself in the obsession, it probably would have changed me somethin’ down-right fierce. I’d walk the streets of Japan in my karate gi, only carrying a duffel bag, dedicating my whole life to the fight and the next strongest opponent. Oh, and wearing out the pause button whenever Chun-Li did her spinning bird kick. Guys, don’t even try to pretend you didn’t do the same thing.
I found another job in Osaka as an English checker for a translation company. I interviewed twice for the position, with the first interview being in English and the second in Japanese. It was really just your ordinary job interview, anyone who’s ever been on one knows how that goes. There was one thing that kinda bugged me though.
Interviewer: So, tell us about a difficult situation you’ve faced in your life, and how you overcame it.
Me: Hmm. (thinks about it) Well, you know, last year Bobby Ologun was really popular on television. Anywhere I went, people used to say, “Hey look, it’s Bobby!” Even at work, where people knew my real name, they called me Bobby, and I really hated it.
Interviewer: Ah, yes, Bobby! But, you do look a lot like him.
Interviewer 2: Yes, there’s a definite resemblance.
Me: And also, there was this other time, where I went to a job interview, and the interviewers said I looked like Bobby….It took A LOT of restraint to not leap across the table and start beating them into a fine grapey pulp. A LOT of restraint.
I really hate that question at any rate. I mean, I know what they’re getting at, but I just don’t have a good answer. I haven’t really had a Hard Knock Life. All of my “difficult situations” seem kind of trivial. What am I supposed to say? “Well, there was that one time when Optimus Prime died. Turned stone cold gray right there on the table. I cried for DAYS man. Couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, all I could do was wonder if freedom really was the right of sentient beings, and if Unicron was on his way to come eat my ass right now. *sniff* It was a difficult period.” I kind of want to make something up for this question, but I’m afraid of my imagination getting the best of me.
Interviewer: So, tell me about a difficult situation in your life, and how you dealt with it.
Me: Okay, this one time there I was, surrounded by 1000 pirate ninjas, and all I had on me a paper clip, some Mentos, and a shoe string.
My all-time most hated interview question though has GOT to be, “What are your three worst attributes?” What the hell? I’m trying to GET this job, and now I’ve got to come clean about all the worst aspects of my personality?! What’s that going to accomplish? NOBODY answers this question truthfully, NOBODY.
Interviewer: So, what are your worst three character traits?
Me: Well, I enjoy the services of prostitutes, sometimes I use the bathroom and don’t wash my hands, and occasionally I’m filled with a blind, soul-consuming rage, a hatred that can only be quenched by killing the nearest Japanese person as painfully and horribly as possible.
Me: I’m also brutally honest, and always on time.
It’s a question that asks you to lie, and gauges how well you can lie. I forget how I answered this one in America, but I have my Japanese version all prepared.
Interviewer: So, what are your worst three character traits?
Me: Obviously, that I wasn’t born Japanese, I work far, far too long and hard, and, *wistful sigh,* my penis is just too big. Every woman I’ve been with complains that sex with me is just like punching her uterus over and over again. If only I had a smaller, more flaccid penis, I’m sure she would make “toddler having her diaper changed by someone with IcyHot on their fingers” screams of pleasure.
Interviewer: *nods with approval*
Does this question get asked in any other circumstance? I think not.
Customer: Wow, this is a nice car.
Salesman: Yes, its our newest model, a real beauty.
Customer: Tell me about the three worst things about this car.
Salesman: Well, she’s a gas guzzler, it won’t get you laid at all, and if you get into even the tiniest of fender-benders, it will explode into a magnificent fireball which no living thing can survive.
Anyway, I ultimately did not get this job either. It actually went to a friend of mine, who happened to interview for the same job. He told me that I was the first runner-up for the position. I’m sure a big factor in their decision was that he had 1-kyuu, and I didn’t. Oh well, the final joke is on that company in the end–during the interviews, they stressed that they wanted someone who’d be able to work for them long-term–a couple of years at least–and my friend was planning to leave Japan in six months time.
At the same time I interviewed for this job, I found another listing in Osaka for English translation and customer support for a company that sells Japanese goods overseas. The work seemed like it would be good, and transportation was also going to be fairly smooth. My girlfriend took a look at the listing, and she noticed something about the job in particular.
Her: Hmm, under “Current Employee Information,” it says that there are four guys and 15 women.
Me: Really? Wow. It’s like high school all over again.
Her: Is this okay? I mean, there are more than three times more women than men there!
Me: Yeah, but, what does it matter?
Her: C’mon. This is Japan. Illicit workplace affairs are a staple of this society.
Me: Oh, you’re worried about that? C’mon now. I’m sure those 15 women are all over 30 anyway.
Her: Hey, didn’t you once have a fuck buddy 10 years your senior? You LIKE older women!
Me: Shit, she knows my weakness. Okay, okay, I’m sure they’re all over 60 and married.
Her: (suspicious) You wouldn’t fuck a 60-year old, would you?
Me: Well, probably not.
Me: Okay, okay, definitely not.
When I went to the interview and sure enough it was mostly women. Mostly women in their 30’s or so. But I didn’t get a good look, so I wasn’t able to tell if there were any hot Mrs. Robinsons among them. I did notice that when I walked in, they all pretty much stopped what they were doing to look at me. I don’t have to be Charles Xavier to know what was running through their minds–“Why is this very large yet well dressed black man here?” Don’t think I’m exaggerating here either. I interviewed with the company president, one of the four men, who later told me that indeed after the interview all of the company employees, one by one, came up to him and asked, “Are you really going to hire that guy?” I guess it’s an understandable reaction. I mean given some of the other things I’ve been hit with during my time in Japan, I can only imagine they feared their likelihood to be raped on the job would go up by 300%, or after just a few short weeks at the company, I’d show up in a tank top and cut-offs and start forcing everyone to do Tae-Bo.
A few days before New Years, the president called me to tell me he wanted me to work for them. At this time, I was still waiting to hear back from Capcom, so I couldn’t accept immediately. But I didn’t want to say I was waiting for the results of another interview, so I needed another story, quick.
Me: Well, can I have some time to think?
Prez: Sure. May I ask what it is you have to consider?
Me: Well…uh…y’see, it’s my girlfriend. She noticed that there are a lot more women at the company than men, so she’s a little worried about that.
Prez: Oh, I see. Well, if you like, I can have a talk with her to help ease some of her fears.
Me: (That’s something I’ve never heard before.) Well, I’ve told her that everyone is over 60 and married, so hopefully that’ll work.
Prez: (laughing) Over 60 and married? You know most of the women are in their 30’s, and a few are still single.
Me: Yeah, but she doesn’t need to know that.
As Capcom didn’t come through, I ended up taking this job. So now I work for a company called Navibird Inc., which runs the website JSHOPPERS.com. (Website is not viewable to anyone who happens to be in Japan, sorry.) I’ll be doing English translation and customer support. JSHOPPERS sells Japanese goods overseas–the primary good being clothing at the moment. Now, I don’t know anything about clothes other than I need to wear them. So it’ll be interesting working a job that’s fashion-related. But hey, I’m certainly not complaining. I’m glad to be working a job where I no longer have to worry about anyone trying to grab my dick or stick fingers up my ass.