After months of searching and spending my free time being Japan’s first house husband, I began work at my new, non-English teaching job in January 2007. The position I applied for and originally worked was that of customer service – answering emails from customers about the various products on our site (“no ma’am, even if you tell me how big your breasts are in centimeters I cannot tell you what bra size you should order…”). Eventually, I transitioned from that to translation checking.
We had a fairly large amount of translation to be done. We sent out the majority of it to freelance translators; we’d give them a certain amount and a deadline, they would turn it in, and then someone would have to look over the translations to make sure that they were correct, fix any possible errors, and try to unify these translations we got from several different people into the site’s standard. When I first started working, the site didn’t really have a standard – I don’t know if I was the first native English speaker to work there, but at the time I joined the English Team was composed of two other employees – a Japanese lady (U-san), and a lady from Hong Kong (A-san). I suppose the Japanese lady could speak English…but in the however many months that we worked together, I never heard her speak English, not even once. Even just looking around the site, at products or even informational pages, it was easy to tell that the English hadn’t been written by a native English speaker. Lots of spelling and grammatical errors, and a few things that would have made a worthy addition to Engrish.com.
I went to a shindig in Tokyo last year I think celebrating the 20th anniversary of the JET Programme. There, I met a Japanese guy who said that he was the father of the JET program. According to him, the main goal of the program was simply to get more foreigners in Japan. Back in 1987, I don’t think Japan was as popular among the kids as it is today. I was only 6 years old back in 87, but I seem to remember the big things back then being Optimus Prime having DIED on the big screen, and Crocodile Dundee waving a big knife around. Neither of these things have anything to do with Japan specifically (unless you’re one of those people who insists on calling Prime “Convoy”, and if you are one of those people, just know that I hate you, officially). Japan, then, was simply the land of compact cars and super polite people. Maybe enough to warrant a visit, but there weren’t a whole lot of foreigners beating down the gates to get here.
So this guy and perhaps some other people (I don’t know the detailed history of JET) got to thinking “we need to get more foreigners into this country to live and work…but how?” What they eventually settled on was English teaching. And it wasn’t because of a great Japanese desire to learn English. It was because the main point was to just get people here – regardless of whether they could speak Japanese or knew anything about the country or not. Really, English teaching was the only option.
I promised I’d do one of these every now and then when the situation calls for it.
Hey! Where are the wedding pictures you promised?
I simply don’t have them yet. Its only been a month and a week since the wedding took place. They don’t just hand us a packet of photos – they make a storybook thingy out of it as well. I’m sure the production of that takes time. I plan on asking the chapel about it soon, but at any rate, I can give you no wedding pictures because I have none myself.
I didn’t have a chance to pass my camera to anyone to have them take pictures for me, and while one of my wife’s friends did send us the pictures she took, as it was a night ceremony most of them came out pretty dark. So I’m waiting for the professionally-took pics to come back.
If there’s anything Japan loves, its “gentei”.
“Gentei” basically just means “limited” – so limited time offer, stuff like that. Its not unique to Japan of course, in America we had lots of limited time offers as well. Thing is though, if whatever it was proved to be popular enough, it would transistion from limited time offer into a permanent staple. Anyone remember when the McDonald’s Monopoly Game was limited time only? Or how about the “special” first week run of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?
…But not Japan. If Japan says gentei, they mean it – before you know it, it will disappear just as fast as Macaulay Culkin’s acting career. I remember when I did my study abroad 7 years ago, there was a variation of a drink called Qoo – it was peach flavored. You must trust me when I say that this was the most delicious shit, ever. Ambrosia of the GODS level. As if Zeus himself came down from Olympus and was like “what’s up guys, you gotta drink some of this shit, its the bomb!” I would buy a liter bottle from the nearby supermarket, and it would literally be gone within an hour. Both Americans AND Japanese would raid my fridge for a swig, and then I’d be left with an empty Peach Qoo bottle. Think about that for a sec – the Japanese, so reserved and worried about what other people may think of them, had no problems straight up jacking my peach drank. That’s how ridiculously good it was.
When I quit being an English teacher, I sort of figured I’d never have another occasion to enter a Japanese junior or senior high school again. Yes, kids of my own may be looming on the horizon, but as I’ve said before, I refuse to let any offspring of mine so much as set foot in a Japanese junior high school. …If you’re wondering why, just thumb through the archives for a little while, I’m sure you’ll see why fairly soon. So with me planning to move my own kids back to America before even getting to JHS, I figured that my very last class would be the last time I’d ever be in a Japanese school.
But as life loves to remind one, never say never.
Japanese high schools usually hold a “School Festival” day, where the students make shops, exhibits, put on shows and performances, etc. Sort of in the spirit of the Culture Festival held in junior high school, but a little bit more involved. As I was a JHS teacher, I never got to go to any HS school festivals; my only knowledge of them came from what I’d seen on TV and in anime and what not. However, I went to my first one a few weeks ago. Why? I received an invitation from Moeko to go to her high school’s festival day. I hadn’t seen her in a while, I had nothing else going on that day, and the HS is a 10 minute bike ride from where I live, so there was really no reason not to go.
I showed up on the morning of the festival and Moeko came out to the gate to give me my ticket. I hadn’t seen her in over two, almost three years, but she really hasn’t changed much. Maybe gotten a little taller, that’s about it. As a high school sannensei, her class was going to be working a food booth. As such, she was busy with preparations and couldn’t really hang around with me, so I wandered around the school by myself checking out the various events. As I took off my shoes at the entrance, it occurred to me that for the first time in over two years, Az-sensei was back.