Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Intercultural has moved!

I have moved my site to Wordpress.  Please join me at:

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sexual Harrassment Space

Now that 'sekuhara' is no longer a male right and is increasingly being considered a crime, weirdos have to pay for it at places like these.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

5 Challenges of Working for a Major English Conversation School in Japan

There are few foreigners in my neighbourhood but when I do see them it is usually in Geos, the DVD rental store.  I sometimes stop by in the evening on my way home to return a DVD that I may have shown an excerpt of in class.  Jamie Oliver is quite popular here, and the modern BBC version of Sherlock has just come out.fl

There are two kinds of foreigners in Geos.  The first is the 7-foot blonde Russian girls who drop off their DVD's on their way to work at the local hostess bars.  The second are the language school teachers.  They also work evenings.  I have never been a language school teacher although I have known a few.  They are generally recent graduates who have come to Japan for a year or two to pay off student loans.  They are generally treated appallingly badly by their employers and so return the favour by showing less than professional attitudes to their jobs.  Language schools tend to recruit young people who look more attractive to students, but they usually have no language training whatsoever except being native speakers of English.   If they recruited qualified teachers they would have to pay a living wage and benefits (many language schools don't even provide any health insurance options), and that would cut into their profits.  And English after all is a business in this country, one that it losing more and more money in the recession.

I am sometimes asked about such jobs and I found this article in, '5 Challenges of working for a major english conversation school',  which may be useful.

Some are the comments are interesting too.  Here are couple of excerpts:

"Taught English at Shane for 6 years. Back in the UK did Pgce and now in 2nd year of teaching. Will be back in Japan next summer with spouse to live permanently. I will be glad to teach in Japan again after the nightmare that is the British school system. Yes, school finishes at 3.30, however most evenings preperation and marking keep me at my desk until 9/10 pm. Point being that I find the "dullness" of eikaiwa quite relaxing in comparison. I feel the rewards outweigh the negatives. Frienfly keen students, reasonable salary No need to take work home. If you think management at your typical eikaiwa is overbearing and petty, try tge average UK school."

"Most of the small English schools are treating the teachers are lower than office furniture. They make contract signed that if you are dismissed the job or you resigned then you have to pay the money for a new person`s recruitment which include advertising and other expenses. And all ways make pressure or bully by so called manager.. The reality of the teaching and the advertisement or the welcome at the interview are different.. beware of it before you come to Japan. Need website to share the difficulties of each schools which people want to share..."

"teaching english" in Japan for 98% involved shud be something that is done for 1yr............2MAX!
Then get the hell out! It is seriously deadend stuff, by all means come to Japan for a bit & "teach" but unless you have the nads to open your own small school & TRULY ENJOY teaching, its best to only do for a short period so it doesnt hurt your career path or do something else in Japan!"

I think a website for foreign teachers to share information is a good idea however, the majority of foreigners who come to Japan stay for around two years and then go back to 'real' jobs.  Therefore there may not be enough people with an interest in such a site.

People sometimes ask me about teaching and life in Japan so I have interviewed a few friends and colleagues about it and I will put those interviews online soon.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

On the Road ...

I'm on the road at the moment, doing what academics do in the summer:  taking a holiday, staying in cheap hotels which don't break the research budget and going to conferences.  Mind you, I do like the Richmond chain of hotels in Japan and I applaud their efforts to save paper.  But what's with the quotes?

I'll be back soon...

Monday, 30 July 2012

High Calorie Hell!

I have been interviewing students prior to their departure to study abroad. They are going to the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. When I ask them if they have any worries about going abroad they always say 'food'. Foreign food is 'high calorie' and they don't want to 'gain their weight', they say.

"But there is plenty of healthy food abroad", I say, "You can find fruit and vegetables easily". But they disagree with me. 'Foreign food is bad for health and full of fat and too much meat and foreign people don't eat enough vegetables. Japanese food is the healthiest in the world'.

Actually, the mediterranean dieat is supposed to be the best in the world but I don't contradict them.

So over the 3 days that I interviewed them when I went to the combini to buy my lunch I stood behind the students and chose the same meals that they chose. Here they are.

The first is a typical obento lunch box.  It contains a portion of rice with a pickled plum and some sesame seeds on top, half a chipolata, a mini-hamburger, a slice of salmon, a fried shrimp, a potato croquette, a square of fried egg and some seaweed.  There are also some slices of sukemono (pickles) but I didn't eat them.

The second is Chinese noodles with beansprouts, spinach and half a boiled egg.  The brown sauce was soy, I think.  (It didn't taste like meat).

On the third day I cheated and bought a pumpkin salad from the deli at my local station.

All the meals were less than 500 calories.  The first two were 360 Yen.  The salad was 700 Yen.

There are very few vegetables in the first two meals and a lot of starch.  However there was also very little actual fat. 

But I think the real reason that students 'gain their weight' when they go abroad is that the portion sizes are much larger.  That, and when I ask them where they ate they always say 'MacDo'.

When one student returned recently having gained her weight, 5kg, she said that she was looking forward to eating Japanese food again.  Since she had been away during the earthquake and Fukushima incident I asked her if she had any worries about Japanese food.  She replied, "I don't care about it because if I care about it, I can't eat anything".  Which I think is the attitude of most people here now.

Me, I am getting out of this burning summer heat and flying to England where I am looking forward to rain, beer and fish and chips.  I may gain my weight ....

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Sick and tired ...

Another semester draws to a close. I haven't blogged much this semester because I have been too busy, and now I am too tired. I think Japan is tired too. Sick and tired of TEPCO for a start. One of my colleagues joins the regular Friday evening protests against the restarting of the nuclear reactors. These are rarely reported in the Japanese news and even when they are, she says, police and newspapers are under-reporting the number of protestors. Last Friday she was headed over to PM Noda's district. I later heard that 170,000 protesters turned out for that one. The problem is that the government is supported - some say run - by big business so it will ignore the wishes of the people. Big business also runs the newspapers.

I am also tired because I spent five hours at the Immigration Centre yesterday trying to get my working visa renewed. This meant that I also had to get the new Resident's card which has replaced the Foreigner's gaijin card. I arrived at 10am, got to the front of the queue at 11am where I submitted my passport and old gaijin card and then waited a further 5 hours for something to happen. So did about 800 other people. There were 100 seats. I sat for 3 hours and stood for 2. The screen said the estimated waiting time was 1,876 minutes. It also said, "The direction of the following numbers comes Counter of No. 4".

I enjoyed watching the other foreigners acting according to their cultural traits. The Chinese attempted to queue-jump, the Filipinos constantly shouted to each other across the room, shouted down their phones to their friends and possibly shouted to their relatives back home in the Philippines, the Indians sat quietly playing with their children, and a German woman loudly harangued her Japanese husband who put his earphones in and refused to answer back.  The Brazilians sat in couples with their arms around each other.  Several of the foreigners were obviously working girls with their Japanese pimps (flashy suits and sunglasses indoors).  The Brits read books.

One person, apparently a man, wore a hat with a large towel hanging down underneath, a face mask, sunglasses, a neck cover, a track suit and white gloves.  You couldn't see an inch of his skin. It was very suspicious (and rather worrying in light of the recent Dark Knight shooting) but none of the officials took any notice.  How he got his Resident's card when he could not be seen, I don't know.  But I come from a suspicious culture.  Here, I often see motorcyclists withdrawing money from banks without taking their helmets off and no-one bothers.

The Immigration Centre is a bus ride away from Shinagawa station. It's right on the docks so that anyone who isn't granted a visa, can be put on the next boat out. Allegedly.   At the bus stop back to Shinagawa, Falun Gong were trying to recruit the Chinese.

Anyway, 5 hours of waiting gave me time to catch up on my reading. I have been enjoying the TEPCO report because it is so true. It is true not just for the Fukushima disaster but for the entire Japanese nation.  Anyone who wants to understand the Japanese people should read this document.

The report was written by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, professor emeritius at Tokyo University.  He says that the disaster was the result of a "multitude of errors and wilful negligence" by the government, safety officials and TEPCO.  (TEPCO who are going to put our electricity bills up by 8% from the autumn).

He writes,

"Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the programme'; our groupism; and our insularity.  What must be admitted  - very painfully - is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan'."

"We believe that the root causes were the organisational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.  ... Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organisation that deals with nuclear power.  We found disregard for global trends and a disregard for public safety".

You can apply all that to pretty much any Japanese organisation.  However, I would like to point out that it is those same cultural traits that got major roads repaired within the week. Whatever occurs, Japanese keep doing what they always do. They keep on getting up and going to work and staying late to get sometimes pointless jobs done because they have been told to do it from further up the chain of command. Which reminds me, I must write about the "Paperless Inkai".  Until tomorrow ...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

NEET Home Security

Nice to see that the students have a sense of humour regarding their poor future job prospects in this recession.

Thanks for this, Tsubasa.