Work

Me: You seem to enjoy working.

Japan: Working? Yeah, working is good. Very satisfying.

Me: Really?

Japan: Yep.

Me: What do you do if you don’t like your job? Or you don’t like your boss? Or if you’re told that you’ll be transferred to a different department? Or a different city? Or a different country?

Japan: Well, you just do what you’re told.

Me: So, you can’t quit and find a new-

Japan: Quit! How do you quit your job?

Me: Well, it depends how much you don’t like it. You could give two months notice or you could start a small fire in the corner of the office on a Monday afternoon. It’s up to you.

Japan: But then you can’t find a new job. It’s impossible to quit.

Me: Is it?

Japan: Yeah, you have to find a job straight out of university.

Me: Why?

Japan: Because employers only want to employ graduates.

Me: Why?

Japan: Because they’re better.

Me: At what?

Japan: At doing what they’re told.

Me: Then what?

Japan: They do what they’re told.

Me: For how long?

Japan: Until they’ve been at the company long enough to be able to tell other people what to do.

Me: But what if that person isn’t any good at their job?

Japan: That doesn’t matter. If somebody’s been at the company long enough, they get to tell other people what to do.

Me: Even if they’re incompetent?

Japan: Erm, well, yeah.

Me: So, you have to find a job straight after university because employers like graduates. And you can’t quit if the job is shitty or you’re not happy, because being re-employed at a different company is nearly impossible. That would be career suicide. So everybody is waiting until they’re old enough to tell other people what to do.

Japan: Yeah.

Me: Doesn’t that make it ridiculously difficult to find a job you like?

Japan: Yep.

Me: And what are the benefits of this? Shorter working hours?

Japan: Erm, normally twelve hours a day, at least five days a week, sometimes six.

Me: Holidays?

Japan: Who?

Me: Holidays?

Japan: Oh, yeah, those. Right, your company will give you some paid personal holidays each year but you can’t really take all of them.

Me: What?

Japan: No, that would be poor form. It would look as if you didn’t want to be at work.

Me: I don’t. Nobody does.

Japan: Yeah, but you don’t want your boss to know that and you don’t want to look lazy, so even if you have, say, twelve days holiday to take in a year it might be a good idea not to take all of them.

Me: That’s slightly evil.

Japan: It’s not that bad. I’ve got plenty of national holidays.

Me: How many?

Japan: Fifteen.

Me: But aren’t national holidays notoriously busy?

Japan: Yeah, you won’t be able to move for people. Everybody will be having a day off.

Me: So what do you do for fun?

Japan: Sleep and call everything “cute”. You know this already.

Me: But what about the rest of your life?

Japan: Work is your life.

Me: No it’s not.

Japan: Yes it is. Get back to it you lazy, whingeing, holiday-taking, work-shy foreign boy.

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March 22, 2012. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Foreigners

Japan: Are you alright?

Me: Yeah. Why?

Japan: Well, you don’t look it.

Me: What? What’s wrong?

Japan: Nothing it’s just that you western people can be a bit bizarre sometimes.

Me: Really?

Japan: Yeah. You think i’m strange? You’ve got hairy faces and too much waistline and you always seem to stumble about clumsily, cluttering up my trains, waving your arms about when you talk and getting in everybody’s way. And that’s just the women.

Me: That’s a bit harsh.

Japan: Is it? Is it more harsh than spending twelve hours in an office everyday and then having to stand next to couple of fat, hairy, ugly men on a squashed train who don’t really talk but seem to prefer to vomit words at each other, trapped in some kind of social bubble unaware that other people may be within hearing distance of them? Do those guys have volume control?

Me: Ah, yeah, those guys.

Japan: And who are those lost, unhappy people? The silent ones who never say a word to anyone. Not even other lost foreigners. Who are they? Where do they go? And why do they always look so incredibly lost?

Me: They probably look like that all the time. Don’t take it personally. Either that or they’re on holiday.

Japan: Why have some of you Japanafied yourselves? Some of you haven’t so much immersed yourselves in my culture, more purposefully drowned yourselves in it. These people have been to places and know things about me that even my people don’t know about. They happily inhale anything about me as much as possible even to the point where they look a bit weird walking around not being fat in bright clothes and green shoes, reading manga and talking perfectly in my language.

Me: But you never stop and tell them they look a bit odd, do you?

Japan: I don’t stop and say anything to anybody. That’s one of the reasons you guys like me so much. I don’t even say anything to the foreigners who obviously think that it’s compulsory to have some kind of alcoholic beverage in their hand no matter what time of day or geographical location. For them life is one big drinkathon. Do they have an extra kidney and a spare liver or something? I bet some of you probably have a beer while you’re vacuuming or during sex or whilst hang-gliding.

Me: You’d be surprised.

Japan: No. No i wouldn’t.

Me: I can never understand the people that talk about a place where they can buy great doughnuts or coffee or pizza or some other food “just like back home” and eat cheese burgers everyday and gawk and baulk at anything that doesn’t contain bread. Why are they experiencing you at all if they’re not even prepared to try a bit of sushi?

Japan: Yeah, they’re pretty bad. But they’re not the worst.

Me: Who are the worst?

Japan: The know-it-alls. The old hands or the people who think they’re old hands because they’ve done a bit of travelling and been to Shikoku. They sit and listen to other conversations making sarcastic comments and snide remarks, have a beer and then they go home and write a shitty blog about it, trying to appear superior to everybody else and instead just sound like a stereotyping machine with a broken record playing on it. I hate those idiots.

Me: Idiots? Really? I, er, i quite like those people actually.

Japan: I could go on. There are all sorts of strange looking foreign people hanging around me. You really are a weird bunch sometimes.

Me: Well, it’s good to know the feeling is mutual. See you later.

Japan: I hope not.

March 15, 2012. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Smoking

 Me: Hi again.

Japan: Hey.

Me: You’ve got some interesting smoking laws, you know.

Japan: Really? Interesting? You’re interested in smoking laws? Have you got a hobby?

Me: Yeah, it’s just that a few years ago smoking laws were a big thing where i’m from. It’s basically been outlawed.

Japan: England has banned cigarettes?

Me: No, no, they’ve just banned people from smoking them in certain places.

Japan: So have i.

Me: Yeah, but it’s all back to front and inside out. England banned smoking inside pretty much any building where people might potentially exist. You’ve done the opposite and banned smoking outside.

Japan: So you can’t smoke in a bar or restaurant in England?

Me: No, never.

Japan: Doesn’t that limit the ambience a little?

Me: Yes, it does limit the “ambience” or, to give it its proper name, “cancer”.

Japan: Hmm, it’s okay. I’ve got smoking areas in most of my cafes.

Me: Yeah, they look a little weird. Sometimes, it’s less a smoking area and more just a large sealed zone, boxed off from the rest of the cafe containing toxic amounts of carbon monoxide, carcinogenic air and people looking a little forlorn as they sit there drinking a coffee, sucking on a cigarette and struggling to breathe.

Japan: Poor bastards.

Me: And it’s only your cafes that have these smoking areas. Restaurants and bars don’t really have them.

Japan: Hell no, that would play havoc with the ambience.

Me: Or to give it its proper name…

Japan: Don’t be a smart arse twice in one page.

Me: Okay. But why ban smoking on the street where there’s oceans of air and wind and car fumes and smells and lots of other stuff floating about?

Japan: I’m busy. Really busy. My cities are packed. You can’t just have people wandering around with sticks of fire at the end of their arms when there are millions of bodies rushing and scrambling for train exits and bus stops. People could get burnt. Kids might get hurt.

Me: I don’t know. Seems a bit far-fetched. How many people have been hurt, injured or killed from such an event?

Japan: Erm…well…Fire!

Me: What?

Japan: They cause fire.

Me: They are fire.

Japan: No, i mean when people throw away their evil ambience-creating sticks of heat they cause a fire if the owner of the cigarette isn’t careful. I don’t have bins. I just chuck stuff in plastic bags and every morning throw the rubbish out on the street. It’s a tinder box.

Me: Well, a tinder bag.

Japan: Exactly. I’ve had plenty of fires in my history that killed people. I’ve got lots of buildings made out of wood. You can’t just have little fire sticks roaming around the streets under managed.

Me: Right. So, the fact that we can light up in a bar or cafe smoking area but not on the street is because you don’t like the idea of lots of people potentially burning each other and setting their streets alight, even though passive smoking actually harms health on a far greater scale every day?

Japan: Right.

Me: And these half-arsed, back to front, anti-smoking measures have got nothing to do with the fact that until 1985, your tobacco industry was government owned and is still involved in tobacco advertising today, whilst your Ministry of Finance controls 50 percent of Japan Tobacco which makes about $3 billion a year. That wouldn’t be a factor in making useless smoking laws, would it?

Japan: Erm, yeah….well….interesting…

Me: Really?

Japan: Yeah, i guess…so, do you want a smoke?

Me: Not much. But i do want to look at more of your quirky, chuckle inducing smoking etiquette posters.

Japan: Here you are http://www.jti.co.jp/sstyle/manners/ad/gallery/index.html

Me: Lovely. See you.

March 6, 2012. Uncategorized. 1 comment.