living covertly in Japan

Like everything I write, this is based on true personal events. Much like this picture of my future father in-law.

I’d like to I say stowed away on a merchant vessel from the West Indies or brought my mongrel horde down from Mongolia or commanded a sperm whale to carry me from the coast of California, but as usual the truth is much more mundane.

Like any great story this one starts with a girl and an attraction stemming from a mutual appreciate for chaos and war.  We met in the Amazon jungle one summer.  She was tracking jaguars that she was taming and shrinking to sell as house pets.  I was barehandedly fishing for full grown tiger fish when I rescued her Tarzan style from a crocodile and a bull shark that had formed an alliance of evil together.  It was magic, we sailed six of the seven seas, ate walrus with the Inuits, hang-glided over eastern Bagdad dropping beanie babies and ketchup packets to give them a taste of what western democracy could do for them.

After a midnight raid of the Louve where we replaced priceless works of art with xeroxed posters of Stephen Colbert, we exchanged Facebook invites and we realized that we were both attending the same school in the middle of Kansas.  How had we missed each other for the previous two years?  Well, my underground fight club kept me fairly occupied most of the school year and she was busy triple majoring in molecular science, alien linguistics, and pole dancing.

The whirlwind romance continued, followed by a tearful goodbye after graduation and a promise to keep in touch.

"all by my self... don't wanna be..."

After I watched her board the plane back to Japan, and not caring that I was crying in public I realized two things.  I loved that little Jap and she still had kept my only copy of Van Wilder.  I had to have them back!

...things could lift the Titanic.

************************************************************************************************

To escape the tornados and Midwesterners who were oddly proud of their vast stretches of nothingness, disbelief in science, and limited vocabulary that made their ridicule of Mexican and Canadian immigrants highly hypocritical, I packed my bags and took to the Oregon Trail.

I never bought any sets of clothes. We all set out butt naked!

The real Oregon Trail is nothing like the game.  If you’ve never traveled across western Kansas and eastern Colorado then imagine a small hill with tall grass.  Then imagine traveling at 60mph for about a day looking at nothing except clones of that little grass hill.  There are no buffaloes to shoot, there’s no squirrels, no rabbits, no bears.  You can pick off a cow easy enough, but in real life carrying back 200lbs of meat is no small feat, so you cut off a few strip steaks and see if you can return nine hundred and ninety-eight bullets at the next WalMart you find or trade them with an Indian for more wagon tongues.

I'm tired of eating buffalo...

None of us died from Typhoid fever, snake bites, or broken arms.  We did take the wrong trail at one point when our GPS got confused by the high altitude around Vail; and I did get projectile diarrhea after eating at a Carlos O’Kelly’s Mexican Café in Hays, but what can you expect from an Irish owned Mexican restaurant… I came out of the TEXACO restroom and my companions all said,

“Matt has dysentery.”

After the Rockies the scenery changes to scrub brush and large wind cut rock structures; again copy and repeat.  It gradually transitions to desert and then there’s Las Vegas like a shiny watering hole in the middle of fucking nowhere.

Vegas has lots of neon lights, crying drunks, loose high school graduate co-eds, guys trying to date-rape loose high school graduate co-eds, and miniaturized world landmarks.  Pizza is expensive, the lobbies are loud, and hookers will haggle as they sit on your bed refusing to move.  Broke and bored at the end of the night we tore pages out of the phone book and sailed paper airplanes from our penthouse window into the glowing neon night.  The hooker called us cheap [homosexuals] and left.

For the last time... I don't care what your 'poker face' looks like... I just wanna know if you take American Express...

************************************************************************************************

California is beautiful as long as you’re at least five miles from the ocean.  You get too far away from the Pacific and you’re living in the goddamn desert.

I bought a used surfboard from a local.  On the water it transformed into some sort of missile that shot me across the waves briefly, before violently tossing me into foam and froth while bronzed bikini girls giggled and watched.  We made bonfires on the beach, drank Corona with lime wedges, and used strange new words, like “bra” and “stoked” and old words in new way like “epic” and “sketch.”

the transition is easy...

Between the red sunsets, pink desert sunrises, and trips to the beach while listening to TV on the Radio I went on four job interviews for teaching positions in Japan, because really I came to Cali for the interviews right?

I'm serious!!! It was all for the interviews!

**************************************************************************************

NOVA:

NOVA was an English language school.

The biggest one Japan has ever seen.

But my timing was shitty here…

real shitty...

I went to my NOVA interview one month before the company declared bankruptcy.

It was by far the easiest interview.  I took an overnight train to San Fran the night before the interview, and slept in an empty row of seats.

After a shot of espresso, I wandered into the interview groggy and incoherent.  A hot thirty-something brunette in a pencil skirt and a turtleneck gave us a little presentation about Japan and gave us a joke of a psychological test.  The whole thing felt more like they were trying to talk us into some sort of pyramid scheme while at the same time screening us for sociopaths.  Afterwards they checked if we had pulses and then offered us teaching positions in Japan.

At the time my goal was to get to Japan by any means necessary.  I had done little research at all on companies and wasn’t aware that current NOVA employees were dressing in pink bunny suites and picketing to get paid.

After securing the NOVA job offer I went off to visit my lady in Japan and reclaim my DVD.

While I was in Japan this happened:

I wasn't kidding about the bunny costume.

And by the time I got back from Japan the company that had offered me a job was gone and dismantled.  I had my DVD, no job, and a sad little girl across the sea.  (I also left my copy of J.D. Salinger short stories in her bathroom.  Damn!)

I redoubled my efforts to find employment in Japan.  In the meantime, I worked at Bloomingdales convincing rich women I could speak French as I sold them $1000 watches and sweaters for their tiny gay dogs.  I also racked myself really hard on a wipeout and traded in my surfboard for a long skateboard, (fuck ocean).

AEON:

My second interview was in LA with AEON, which is fairly similar to NOVA except not bankrupt, but just a douchetastic.

I took a Greyhound bus with a bunch of poor people to LA.  The Greyhound station in LA I recognized from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  In the game it’s the place you go to shoot migrant laborers for fun.  (It’s kind of a fucked up game.)

...and I have trouble pedaling while holding an umbrella!

The interviewers were two men this time.  One was a short thin Japanese man.  The other was a tall chubby blonde man with a bit of a northwestern accent. There were only four of us interviewing.  Derek had gelled hair, wore glasses, and looked stoned.  Drew fidgeted and was so unremarkable I passed over him when I was introducing myself before we started the interview.  And A.J. was black.

Then there was me in a clean suit, Tommy tie, and smile that had earned me my own fan club in high school, but I was asian.

It was painfully obvious that from the start of the interview that we weren’t what they were looking for.  Derek was too stoned.  A.J. wasn’t white enough.  And I was too Asian.  I got the feeling like they were just going through the motions of another day at work without even considering hiring any of us.  Where the NOVA interview had been casual, fun, and flirty, this one was cold, calculated, and dreary.

Oh yeah, Drew was too plebeian or something.  I keep forgetting about him, his name wasn’t even Drew, fyi…  I just can’t remember it now…

They gave us short little simple English tests that a 5th grader could have done while playing Wii Sports.  We each had prepared a mock lesson as a presentation, which we gave using our fellow interviewees as students.  The two interviewers talked about Japan and their company with bored sounding voices and they often stared out the window.  When we raised our hands they’d keep talking until we gave up asking questions.  I should have got up and walked out because they were being douche bags, but I held onto some sliver of hope that it was all an act on their part to see how we’d respond to people who are total tools.

If this were Gears of War things would be a little different...

They sent me a letter the next week saying “Fuck you, try again.”  I called them asking what went wrong with the interview, if there was any particular reason I didn’t get the job.  They told me once again to fornicate with myself and said that the information was confidential.  I pissed on the letter and told the mailman there was a mix up and had it returned to the senders.

ECC:

ECC has a long ass test at the start of the interview.  It’s one hundred questions split into different sections covering grammar, spelling, and three other categories I don’t remember.

Was it difficult?

No.

Was I nervous?

No.

REALLY?

If my sixteen years of public education, English Literature Diploma, and narcissistic personality wasn’t enough to prepare me for a test over basic English comprehension then I probably wasn’t as awesome as I thought.  But even though I rode on an overnight bus for twelve hours before the interview and hadn’t been asked to identify a gerund since middle school, I aced their little test in twenty minutes and then took a nap.

There was a mock lesson for those of us that passed the test afterwards.  The sixteen of the original twenty that was left was divided into two groups and we gave our demo lessons for the group.  My interviewer-observer-person was a silver haired Japanese man.  I volunteered to go first in my group, so I could have the pleasure of watching the other applicants’ faces as they realized how much more talented I was than they.  I launched into my lesson with games and songs and dance, lights, smoke, and enough CGI to make the Phantom Menace look like accidental byproduct of a Q-basic code.  Not five minutes into my lesson the Japanese man smiled and clapped his hands and told me, “That was excellent.  That’ll be enough.”

The mistake the other applicants made, aside from being in the same room as me without planning ahead and ordering some extra awesome for that day, was that they did their little lessons, but stopped when ‘they’ felt they were finished.  Not when they were told to stop.

They would stop talking; look around with hesitant glances like a deer entering a meadow looking for bears.  The Japanese man would ask, “Ummm, are you finished then?”  They’d laugh nervously and nod.

The last part of the ECC interview a one-on-one interview.   By this point I knew I was set.  The interview questions were all pointed to the obvious: “Where in Japan do you want to live?”  “Which is your favorite Sailor Moon character?”  “You’re terrific, why haven’t I heard about you yet?”  “Is there some sort of handsome cream you use or what?”

I use a waterproof handsome cream actually.

On the way home from San Francisico on the 2nd and final time I would ever ride a Greyhound for that long, ECC called me and told me they absolutely had to have me.

I emailed AEON later,

Dear scatological craniums,

Do you like apples…

...and did you ever get my letter?

INTERAC:

The INTERAC interview took place outside of LA.  I rented the crappiest car I could find, which turns out in San Diego is a PT Cruiser.

Comes standard with power windows, AM/FM radio, and vagina...

The INTERAC interview consists of a personality test, a video taped self-introduction followed by a videotaped demo lesson that’s super short, and a one-on-one interview.

I had Yuuki write out my self-introduction in Japanese.  The demo lesson was just to prove I could form English sounding sentences without vomiting on myself.   The interviewer was a plump little twenty-something girl from Pennsylvania.  By the end of short interview we were both laughing obnoxiously and she told me I was a pleasure to meet and she would recommend me for the job.  I may have told her at some point that when she smiled it was like little bits of sunshine were leaking out, which seemed cheesy at the time, but I’m sure no one had ever told her something like that before.  Looking back now someone with sunshine leaking out of their frigging face seems rather terrifying.

It's not that attractive really...

I wound up taking the job with INTERAC because they had better hours.  I still get sad little emails from ECC as they continue to cry about their loss.

Stop that!

I got my book!!!

Comments on: "How What & Why I came to live in Japan." (5)

  1. Well done. I was actually able to read through this whole thing despite my hangover!

  2. I think my favorite was the deer in the meadow part. Also, reading this doesn’t seem to be sobering me up much.

    • hysteriasiberiana said:

      it’ll take more than my brand of humor to do that I think… and I’m pretty sure this stuff is better read intoxicated surrounded by shallow women…

  3. Yeah, that is a pretty decent way to describe scoring a job in Japan from outside of Japan. Doing from within Japan is a little different but the core stuff is the same.

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