Gaijin Smash

Less Money More Problems

Posted in Blog by gaijinsmashnet on September 15, 2008

I was going through my inbox when I found an email that stood out to me. I didn’t flag it at the time and I can’t find it/too lazy to look for it now, so I can’t quote it verbatim. To paraphrase what was said,
“You always complain about being broke, but JET teachers make pretty good money for the work they do, don’t they? Why don’t you just suck it up and go back to English teaching, then you can quit whining about being poor.”
I do occasionally mention my money problems, and have even groveled to you all from time to time, so I figure a basic explanation is the least I can do.
I was a JET for 3 years, and yes, JET’s do get paid decently. Many people will say that JET’s are overpaid, and if you look at the work only, it’s very easy to think that. However, when taking into account everything; the fact that the foreign teacher has come halfway across the world to live in a culture radically different from their own, in a place that fundamentally doesn’t accept them, and that since most JET’s end up on rural postings, they will have a giant spotlight on their lives for the duration of their stay…well, I think the salary is appropriate.
At any rate, what little I’d managed to save during my time on JET, I had to use when I moved into my current apartment. Moving costs in Japan are very expensive, to say the least.

Since the JET salary is so good, for the JET who fails to go home and searches for employment in Japan, almost any entry-level job you take on will pay less than JET. While the other English teaching options do pay decently enough, the problem there is that there’s really no room for advancement. Not to mention that for those of us, like me, who don’t want to be teachers for the rest of our lives, continuing to work as a teacher really gives us no marketable skills for when we do want to pursue some other line of work.
I started my now former job in January 2007, about 6 months after my time on JET ended. For the first three months I was on something called a “Trial Period”, where my salary was hourly based and I was basically on part-time wages despite working full-time. The Trial Period is not at all uncommon, as many companies feature it. My wages during this time were less than half of what I made on JET. Factor in that I was now living with my wife (girlfriend at the time) in the heart of the city, and with that salary things were really very tight. The Trial Period only lasted 3 months, but the things I had to do to make ends meet would have a lasting influence past that 3 months.
When I renewed my contract in January of this year, I got a pay increase which helped. My take home pay was still not what it was on JET, and I probably could have gotten more teaching English, but at least it was getting closer. Besides, I was getting a lot of great job experience that would help me in the future, and at this time, I still actually liked my job. As you all know, in December I proposed to the girlfriend, and with the wedding date set for September I started to save up from this time.
Money-wise, things were okay for awhile. Saving up for the wedding meant I had little money for anything else, but as long as I kept things going at the current rate, I should have been able to save enough for the wedding in September. …Should have been.
In July, I was informed that my pay would be cut by $350 for the months of July, August, and September*. Why? Because I wasn’t working hard enough. Was I not working hard enough? Absolutely not! By this time, I was the “English Division Director” (cool title, but really I had little to no power); our English division got everything done in time, we were continually improving our error rate, and I personally adjusted the workload between myself and my two subordinates to make sure that neither of us were too overburdened. I’d been called out for “not working” back around March or April. I tried to argue my case, but my boss was convinced I wasn’t working and despite offering to show him proof otherwise, I could see he wasn’t going to change his mind. Rather than get into a “did so!/did not!” child’s argument, I just took the L and said I’d work harder. I’d thought that was going to be the end of it, but then in July here came the pay reduction thing. Also, at this time, a $150 chunk started to come out of my paycheck for local resident tax, so from July my paycheck became a whole $500 lighter.
Yes, impeccable timing. And yes, my boss did know that I had a wedding coming up in July I could already barely afford.
*Is the pay cut the reason I quit? It does factor in, but its not the only reason, not by a long shot.
Needless to say, losing $500 from my salary threw off my calculations for the wedding. Again, I’m having to pull strings to make things work, and what I’m doing now is going to have a negative effect on the very near future. To make matters worse, I might not actually even get my last (reduced still!) paycheck. About a week after I’d submitted my notice of resignation, the boss handed out some documents – a proof of identity and a written vow to the company or something like that. These were handed out to everyone – its not unusual for a company to ask this of new employees, but none of us had been asked to do it when we first started working and now suddenly we were being asked to hand these documents in. I assumed that, on my way out, I wouldn’t need to submit them, but before my last day my boss reminded me to hand them in, and threatened that I might not get my pay if I didn’t. For the proof of identity, two Japanese co-signers are needed. If you may remember way back when, I said that you will have an easier time getting a Japanese person to take a bullet for you than to co-sign for you. At any rate, I took the documents to my mother-in-law, who looked them over and said that if I handed it in, it would basically give the company the power to blame me for accidents and mishaps for the next 5 years. If I were working there, that’d be one thing, but as a former employee there was no need for me to turn it in. She refused to sign it. I went to workplace counseling and they also advised me that I did not need to submit these documents at all. So I haven’t, but then I got an email reminder from the company to turn these papers in, or else I won’t get paid. Aside from not having anyone to co-sign for me, I don’t want to give this company the power to hold me responsible for things for the next 5 years, so I won’t turn the documents in. I’ve been to the Labor Laws Bureau who told me that withholding my paycheck is illegal. I’ve passed that message along to my former company, but knowing my boss I’d bet my bottom dollar that he will withhold my paycheck anyway, which means that I will probably have to take this fight to the Labor Laws Bureau, again.
Even if I do get my (still reduced!) paycheck, most of it will probably go towards fixing what I’m having to do to pay for the wedding. And now I’m unemployed. Again, not the best timing in the world, but working that job was taking its toll on my physically and spiritually. Even if it paid in gold bullion, it wouldn’t have been worth the price I paid in my personal life.
So…there you have it. That’s why I’m poor. I wish I could say I blew all my cash on booze and high-class whores as I always joke about…but the simple truth is that I don’t get that much to begin with. Right now, my best plan for financial security is looking like Az’s Get Rich Scheme #17: produce a cute little mixed child, and then send him or her off to the entertainment business when old enough, and collect a 35% commission fee. If I get started on the baby making now, I can start seeing the profits in about 14 years or so. Hey, if it worked for Beyonce’s daddy…


36 Responses

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  1. Me said, on September 15, 2008 at 4:15 am

    Hope you a blessed life

  2. Festival6667 said, on September 15, 2008 at 4:18 am

    35% commission fee? In Japan?? If you really can manage that you’re way beyond super-heroes. Hell, it would already be tough in the US but we’re talking from a different business model here… well, you do have guts if you want to storm things in the Japanese entertainment though, and no doubt lots of artists (and not-so-artists too) will pray for your success… not that I think they’ll actually take the risk to officially side with you though.
    Well, good luck for everything anyway. And well done for not giving in to your boss’ blackmail, it would have ended up costing you waaaaaaaaaay more than a month’s worth. Sad to read that you had that kind of move tried on you.

  3. Wakka said, on September 15, 2008 at 4:36 am

    As “the IT guy”, I know what it’s like to work yourself to death and still get a “you’re not working hard enough” comment or two. Still, a boss (and personal friend) of mine once said that it’s not enough to do your job, you must give the impression you’re doing it. One way is to occasionally go to your superiors and ask for advice, even if you don’t need it, for instance. Working has a very political component to it… start working on that.

  4. feitclub said, on September 15, 2008 at 5:03 am

    You are painting a scary picture of my post-JET life. It sounds like my best bet is to stick at this job until they remove me by force. I definitely get paid more than my workload demands, although I hear you on the halfway-around-the-world thing. The only thing I’ve got going for me is that I got married last year and my wife and I already paid for that ridiculously expensive wedding. How expensive was it? Let’s just say when we had a party in New York to celebrate our marriage with everyone who couldn’t make it to Kobe, we had twice the guests but paid half as much.

  5. Sean said, on September 15, 2008 at 5:37 am

    I’m sorry to hear that man. I had seriously considered applying for JET, but to my dismay/surprise/luck I found out about the current year’s deadline the night before. So instead I moved to China almost three months ago (currently teaching there). It’s so freaking inexpensive to live here (I live in the center of the country) that I can easily live like a king on $400 a month (and I still have at least that much saved per month).
    As much as I know you love Japan, have you considered leaving due to your current situation (being unable to continue living the lifestyle?)

  6. code monkey said, on September 15, 2008 at 6:06 am

    Yes, some Japanese employers can be that big of jerks…funny thing is, I’m supposed to be working for a Filipino company but the mother company’s influence from Japan is much too strong.
    I wish you all the luck you need. I’m sure you can sort these things out.

  7. Liv said, on September 15, 2008 at 6:14 am

    I’m sorry to hear about the nonsense at your last job, Az – and also that it’s been so difficult finding a new one. I’d have imagined it’d be easier for someone who can actually speak conversational Japanese. Such a pain in the neck – I wish you the best of luck. And what about becoming a celebrity yourself?! Could you be the new Roots coffee model?

  8. Michael said, on September 15, 2008 at 6:23 am

    The “you’re not working hard enough” is a common reason for not paying staff. Another trick is the “We only pay for overtime that we sign off”, and then overwork you while refusing to pay for your overtime – which is highly frustrating because if you dont put in the overtime, the work doesn’t get done and then they bring this “work not getting done” “problem” up in your annual performance review…

  9. Freerefill said, on September 15, 2008 at 6:30 am

    Ugh, you know Wakka, you’re sickly right. In almost every job, it’s not what you do, it’s what your bosses think you do. People can play that system like a harp, and for the rest of us who actually produce, it makes us look lazy. It’s a horrible system, but you know what, it’s real.
    Sorry to hear about your lack of monies, Az. I’d help out if I wasn’t 60k in the hole with my college loans (plus 15k with my car) and making $20 an hour less than all the other people who graduated with a Bachelors in Engineering… >.>

  10. celebrexcelebrate said, on September 15, 2008 at 6:37 am

    Do you have a Paypal account all of us loyal readers can each send $5 to?
    Seriously people….$5 a head to help the man out!

  11. Anonymous said, on September 15, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Yeah. I’m really not looking forward to getting out of college. I’m already bad at dealing with morons; those morons being in a position of direct authority over me compounds the issue quite a bit.

  12. Anonymous said, on September 15, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Yeah. I’m really not looking forward to getting out of college. I’m already bad at dealing with morons; those morons being in a position of direct authority over me compounds the issue quite a bit.

  13. Anonymous of /jp/ said, on September 15, 2008 at 7:06 am

    Holy gonnies, are bosses in Japan generally like that or is he just an asshole? I knew about the “a good salaryman must work till early morning” thing, but I never thought they’d [i]friggin cut your paycheque[/i] if you don’t.

  14. Jeeves said, on September 15, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Long time reader, first time poster (I think. Don’t remember really.) It’s been great to see the progression, though I’m mildly concerned about when your children hit middle school. Will it be a return to “My kids are perverted. No, really, my biological offspring are perverted!” =P
    I know that in sports, a sign of greatness is making it look easy. The pass to the open man, chasing down a fly ball in center field, and so on. From what you’ve said about Japan, though (‘Please, please can we get a hurricane to hit so we can get the day off’ comes to mind) they don’t want it to look easy. Thing is, nobody in their right mind *actually* wants to work that hard.
    The solution (maybe, your mileage may vary): train under Obi-Wan Kenobi and learn the ways of the Jedi BS-Master.
    “I’m working really hard.”
    “Can you help me, I’ve been working a lot and could us a hand.” –use sparingly.
    I dunno. You’ll know better than I will, but can’t you Gaijin Smash a bluff about working through? Or are you like that 80s song, turning Japanese?

  15. HKPolice said, on September 15, 2008 at 8:11 am

    Lies!!! I bet you spent it all on KFC and Watermelon!

  16. Will J said, on September 15, 2008 at 8:12 am

    I’m not particularly well-off (I’m a college student in Nagoya…and things aint cheap here) but I’d like to donate a bit. But I can’t find the donation link? Usually I think that what I can afford to give away isn’t really helpful, but it sounds like every bit might count for you right now.

  17. Ivan the Terrible said, on September 15, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Huh. Sounds like your ex-boss is a real winner.
    Is he any worse than your previous bosses in Japan? I’ve always gotten the impression it’s a culture where the people higher up on the ladder tend to revel in that fact by treating their employees like shit.

  18. Nakamura Yoshiro said, on September 15, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I realize that things may be difficult now (and it may not get much better for awhile), but you can’t give up. There are too many people out there saying that you can’t pull it off. You have to prove them wrong! You’ve worked too hard and too long to get where you are now to give in! Just remember that though, financially, you may be working on your own, you still have your wife, family and all your fans here at GS here to support you in any way we can.
    Just to point out a possible option: You may have to try construction for a little while, at least to have “some” income coming in until you a)find a job you kinda like, or b) start teaching again (I know, worst case scenario).
    Side Note: Your preserverance has renewed my efforts to travel (and possibly live) in Japan. Without you as an example, I probably would have given up on the idea (after 6 years of thought). So, if you won’t give up, neither will I!

  19. Hilary said, on September 15, 2008 at 9:22 am

    Wow that is F’ed up!! They cut your salary for “not working”! No unions in Japan?

  20. Kaze said, on September 15, 2008 at 9:54 am

    I’m the network administrator for a 13-school district stretching over an area of more than 1,300 square miles, plus do the day to day tech work of a school IT person, and I’m still being told that myself and my coworkers don’t work enough. I’ve gotten to the point where I know that I’m doing my best, and quit caring about the rest. I’m a social, friendly person, but if I had wanted to be a politician, I would have entered politics. I keep my nose clean and do well above what I’m asked. In the end, the critic that matters the most is yourself.

  21. Polaryzed said, on September 15, 2008 at 10:35 am

    Az: Do NOT start the baby making now! If you thought you had no money now, then just wait til the little f’er pops out. Do yourself a huge favor and wait a little bit. No one is ever really financially ready I guess, but in the situation you’re describing, a kid will not help.

  22. Ree said, on September 15, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Hey, if you guys want to donate, on the Outpost Nine main page, you can still see the “Donate Now” button.

  23. Chase said, on September 15, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    You did the right thing in not handing in those papers. It really pisses me off that companies here in Japan don’t get called in for some of the crap they try to do, which basically amount to some kind of labor abuse. I feel your pain. I’m finishing up my third year of JET in Osaka, and debating on whether or not to extend to a fourth year (because I too have a wedding coming up and could use a stable income) or try for a pay cut and a job more suited to my skills at the end of the contract year.
    One suggestion I have, if you haven’t tried it already, is to go to the Foreign Employment Center (sponsored by Hello Work) in Osaka, about a five minute walk from the US Consulate. They don’t have many jobs available at any one time, but the jobs there are specifically meant for foreigners living in Japan and looking for work. Another (probably better option) is to just go to the nearest Hello Work office, register, and look for jobs meant for Japanese people. That database has a LOT more jobs available, and with your Japanese level you shouldn’t have a problem.
    Good luck!

  24. Anonymous said, on September 16, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Do you get any revenue for the visits this page gets?
    You might wanna consider google AdSense. This information is not accurate but it gives you an idea.

  25. Anonymous said, on September 16, 2008 at 1:14 am

    Do you get any revenue for the visits this page gets?
    You might wanna consider google AdSense. This information is not accurate but it gives you an idea.

  26. Anonymous said, on September 16, 2008 at 2:15 am

    wow, is your former boss a douche just to you or everybody else? My boss is known for being a hard-ass, which I could tolerate, but lately he’s taking it to psychotic levels and I was about to crack. But then he got move to a different department so now I’m happy and free 😀 Sorry the same couldn’t be done for you man.
    And are you sure about Get Rich Quick Scheme #17? Better think about it long and hard before you mention it to the wife or else she’ll take off with any excuse to have a baby.
    Best of luck man, I totally understand what you’re going through.

  27. Anonymous said, on September 16, 2008 at 2:15 am

    wow, is your former boss a douche just to you or everybody else? My boss is known for being a hard-ass, which I could tolerate, but lately he’s taking it to psychotic levels and I was about to crack. But then he got move to a different department so now I’m happy and free 😀 Sorry the same couldn’t be done for you man.
    And are you sure about Get Rich Quick Scheme #17? Better think about it long and hard before you mention it to the wife or else she’ll take off with any excuse to have a baby.
    Best of luck man, I totally understand what you’re going through.

  28. kev said, on September 16, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Hey Az, my girlfriend from Nagano who is a Journalist says you can try taking your story to KyotoShinbun and they might publish your story! Not only might you get some extra cash, but also possibly some media attention for your cause. Or maybe you can even become a journalist for them or something. I don’t know hope everything works out for you. I love reading and laughing to your entries. And it makes me sad your having some downtime.

  29. Andreas said, on September 16, 2008 at 3:54 am

    Hey Az,
    I am a loyal reader and like your stories a lot. Till now I did not leave a comment due to my lacking english-skills (I am from Germany) and because other comments pretty much covered what I like to say. But now it’s different and I like to give you my 2 Cents:
    Thinking about your situation reminds me of what I have been through the past three years. I was employed as a software developer but I didn’t like it at all.
    It took me quite some time to realize that it was not the co-workers, nor the boss who made my life a living hell. It was me who had a desperate yearning to do something important, to move something.
    So I quit and startet my own small business. Now I sell tea. I have a decent online-shop where you can mix your own blends of tea (allmytea. de <- don’t want to promote my shop here).
    I am much happier now. I have no routine whatsoever. Everyday is full of new interesting opportunities.
    Perhaps you should think about your own situation. Is this REALLY what you want to do? There’s allways a couldda whouldda shoudda to NOT live your dreams. Get over it and start a carreer as a professional writer. As far as I see it – that’s what you’re supposed to do.

  30. Yangsan Dave said, on September 16, 2008 at 4:23 am

    The job market for English in Korea is like it was in Japan about 10 or 15 years ago (free housing, good pay, easy job, etc). But, no there’s no real future in it. I’ve compared Japanese wages for English to Korean wages and Korea pays more. However, I imagine uprooting your life again and dragging your wife to a country that will hate her and blame her for all the world’s evils isn’t the best thing to do.
    Hang in there, man. Hopefully, you’ll find a job. Perhaps you should move to the States like your wife once suggested. As for the baby thing, I’m not surprised. If Japan is even REMOTELY like Korea (despite their mutual protestations of uniqueness), then Japanese girls probably want to be married by the time they’re 26 and have their first kid within 10 months.
    There are no single women above the age of 26 here in Korea. Not unless something is REALLY WRONG.

  31. Dagbert said, on September 16, 2008 at 11:19 am

    Gaijin paying the local residence tax?
    For sooth!

  32. Diana said, on September 16, 2008 at 11:22 am

    Dude! That’s total BULL! But as it IS Japan, that doesn’t surprise me one bit. They need one serious kick-ass union over there to overhaul the work system. I can’t believe they took that much out of your check. Too bad no one will vouch for you because they’d probably have the same thing happen to them.

  33. Beoulve_Black said, on September 16, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Yo Az,
    i definitely agree w/ Andreas. i had a situation somewhat like yours. When i was in college at UF, i began to feel VERY discontent. i stayed for a while longer (up until my 3rd year), but quit; i wanted to go into healthcare (or so i thought), and there was another route where i could do more of what i wanted: nursing. little did i know the real reason for my dis-contentedness was something the nursing field would not free me of.
    i stuck around in Gainesville – knowing why, but never admitting it to anyone – for some time, but His will brought me back; it wasn’t until i was brought back that i traveled a bit and finally realized that i simply wasn’t meant to work under someone – and especially not under some bureaucratic BS.
    i’d been running from the truth for so long: i needed to inherit my father’s company and become a contractor myself. i knew so much about the business (and i liked it too), and everything i needed was right before my face.
    the important thing to take from all of this, is that although you complain about your hard luck and how He hates you, you’ve been brought through all of this and perhaps it is time to take your leave. you have a soon-to-be wife, and so many EXPERIENCES TO WRITE ABOUT. not to sound like some holy roller, but it’s difficult to understand His plan at first, even after so much, but at the end, you’ll laugh at how everything in your life has been orchestrated to just ‘fit.’
    best wishes (i’ll pay-pal you somethin soon, ok?)

  34. Kokubyaku said, on September 16, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Az, you’re an awesome guy who is getting metaphorically ass-fucked by life and you don’t deserve it one bit. Ive been reading your stuff for close to 4 years now and you’ve unknowingly influenced me to write for my career. I may be only 17, but I do know what it’s like to be royally screwed over in life and I just want you to know that you’re gonna pull through. Just don’t give up hope. You have a lot of support on this end and we will help you through whatever you need. You helped us by making us laugh our asses off and forget the bullshit that we have to go through. Now it’s our turn.

  35. Justin said, on September 18, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    Maybe you should really reconsider the Bob Sapp route.

  36. Jay said, on October 3, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    Go back to US and take your wife there. Choose the evil that you know.

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