Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Wrap up

As of today I've been back in the States one full week. I should point out that being unemployed in Japan and in America are both equally boring. The days continue to slip by in uncounted numbers. I think the root of this particular issue lies in not having a set schedule to work with. Back in Japan I would be called a NEET (Not in Employment, Education, or Training.)

Anyways, this will be the last post for this blog before I archive it. The following are things that I wanted to cover but A.) didn't fit with other posts B.) I didn't have time to write up properly. So, in no particular order...

Bowls full of yen: The one yen coin has the monetary value of about penny and is about as useful. Instead of carrying around pockets full it's not uncommon to have a yen jar/cup/bowl (like a penny jar.) I adopted the practice of saving my yen. Unfortunately there are no "coin-star" machines to be found and banks were oddly reluctant to give me bills when I went to change my 1 yen coins in. I ended up leaving maybe 500 yen behind when I left.

Mopeds in Japan: Through talking with one of my students I found out that you can't actually buy mopeds in Japan! Because mopeds use 2-stroke engines. While being good on gas, they don't burn fuel very cleanly. So, due to strict emissions standards, there are next-to-no mopeds to be found in Japan. Instead you see a bike called the "Honda Cub" or "Super Cub" EVERYWHERE. After a little research, it seems that the Cub is the best selling motor bike in all Asia. It's a scooter that runs on a 4-stroke, 150cc engine. In Japan, the police and the post office both use Cubs as their bike of choice.

Shopping or eating out: Department stores and most shops don't open 'til 10am and close by 9pm. Most sit-down restaurants don't open until late afternoon and are only open 'til 11pm. It took a while to get used to not getting things done early in the morning or late in the evening. Planning needed to revolve around going out mid-day if any shopping was to be done (even the grocery store didn't open 'til 9am.) Also, EVERY TIME you enter a shop or restaurant in Japan you are greeted. Without fail at least one, if not all, of the staff will say "welcome" (in Japanese of course.) 90% of the time when you leave a shop staff will say "thank you", even if you didn't buy anything. This custom seems to transcend the occasional cold shoulder you get as a foreigner (even if they ignore you afterwards, they will at least say "welcome".)

Adventures not yet had: There are some things that I have yet to do in Japan. I know one day I will return to Japan, even if it's just on vacation (heck, my last two trips were like long vacations anyways.) When I return I'd like to climb Mt. Fuji, go to a comic-book convention at Tokyo Big Site, ski in Hokkaido, and surf the Shonan coast (the beaches near Fujisawa.) ...and since skiing and surfing require different seasons more than one trip will be needed!

That's it for this adventure. Hope you found it interesting. Until next time main blog can be found, as always, at http://dockett.blogspot.com

Jaa Mata Ne.

Monday, November 12, 2007

One more for the road.

Well I did end up heading into Tokyo Sunday. I took the train to a spot just outside Shinjuku called Nakano. Nakano has been heralded elsewhere as a "second Akihabara". Of couse I had to go check it out before I left. Unfortunately comparing Nakano to Akihabara is like saying a moped is like a Ferrari because they're both awesome and both have wheels. I suppose Nakano has it's points, but I was less than impressed. After touring around for a bit I decided to walk back to Shinjuku instead of taking the train (I seem to do that a lot...) Long story short, when I got to Shinjuku station I found a sign again which I had thought to be lost. I've told some of you about this sign, for the rest of you... This is a typo on a billboard style map in Shinjuku station:

After I got off in Fujisawa, walking past the KFC towards the apartment I saw this:

And that's it from Japan. I'll most likely add one or two more posts when I get back to the States. After that I'll be archiving this blog as I did with my last one. I'll be doing a redesign of the layout of this site. The web address will stay the same but with a new look and assumedly new content.

For now I leave you with this. Taken today showing the awesome weather on my last full day in Japan:

Jaa Mata Ne.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Whitty post title goes here.

Wow, another week has gone by already. Well, I guess this one seems to have passed much quicker than the last. Perhaps it was helped by my making a decision. I was feeling really anxious about my situation. It was down to "fish or cut bait". Although I don't want to head home, making that decision is better than staying here and the uncertainty that entails.

Again the days blurred by until the week was gone. As expected the party last Saturday night was lots of fun. There were a good mix of Japanese, foreigners, ex-teachers, ex-students, and random other people. As with any good party, as it heated up the neighbors called the police. The cops arrived and asked everyone to quite down (which we did.) I wonder if a "noise violation" ticket even exists here. I can't see it as being a big enough problem to make it a fine-able offense (as it is in the States... not that I would know...)

Sunday I got up and went to Akihabara again. As I expected they opened the main street to pedestrian traffic. I walked around for quite a while before heading home. Sunday night I made "the call" home. Monday morning I awoke to an airline ticket reservation in my e-mail in-box. To those involved in orchestrating my return, know that you have my utmost thanks.

Most of the rest of the week was spend in a bland combination of moping around and unsuccessfully looking for jobs online (both in Japan and back in the States.)

Yesterday I went with my roommate to Yokohama to get our re-entry permits. This permit allows me to theoretically return to Japan on the visa I already have. That means I could return and work in Japan without having to apply for another visa (a rather lengthy process.) I may not use it. However, just incase, it keeps at least one bridge from burning. Woah, and the immigration office... talk about a trans-cultural experience! After we got our permits my roommate went home and I walked around Yokohama for a while. I eventually found my way to the shop where I bought my cell phone and went in to cancel my contract. Luckily all I had to do was pay my last bill to cancel my service (WHY can't cell companies in the States make things this easy!?) Late in the evening I got together with a number of people and we all went out for drinks.

Today was once again more-or-less wasted sitting around the house recovering from yesterday's adventures. I think tomorrow I'll head into Tokyo one more time. Monday is slated as the day to wrap up my affairs here and pack. Finally I fly on Tuesday.

Looking back this ... trip ... this adventure... has been long yet short, exciting yet soul-crushing. I'd like to thank you, my readers, for your continued support. I know this blog probably didn't turn out to be what you were expecting. (It certainly didn't end up like I was expecting!) Here's to looking forward to more blog-able adventures in the future. I'll try to update again before I leave Japan. Until then:

Jaa Mata Ne.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Adventure's End?

Just a quick post to commemorate my being in Japan for two months. Also, sadly, to note that I now have a plane ticket home. It seems I leave in a week's time.

Jaa Mata Ne.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

A long and winding road

So, a week ago yesterday I woke up with the dizzying combination of being employed, insured, and having an apartment. In the past eight days I have seen all three of those things slip away. The first to go was my job. Although my company isn't actually completely out of business yet, all operations have been halted in Japan and abroad. Next to go was my insurance. We were notified over the weekend that anyone with insurance through the company would stop receiving benefits as of November 1st. Luckily, if I am to stay here, I can easily sign up for the national insurance policy (yay, socialism!) Lastly we were informally "evicted" from our apartment on Wednesday. We haven't been served papers yet, but were kindly asked to leave by the end of the month (of November.) Theoretically we actually have 30 days from whenever they serve us a court mandated eviction notice... but no one here wants to be "that guy" who's living in an apartment while the landlord is perusing legal channels to get him removed.

Even though I didn't seem to get a lot accomplished, this last week seemed really long. I think my roommate summed it up best when he described it as "like that movie, Groundhog Day." The days really flowed together each seemingly the same as the last.

Last Friday it was announced that all of my company's operations would be halted while the company went into bankruptcy protection (which I accidentally called bankruptcy.) Two court appointed administrators have been looking over the company since then while at the same time trying to find a sponsor who could help rebuild the company; a tall order when the company is in the hole over $400,000,000(US).

Again, Friday, I just had to get out of the house so I decided to see what was North of the apartment. After getting a little turned around I found myself in the middle of the mountains with generally no idea where I was. It took me quite a while to get myself reoriented and back to town. Later looking at Google maps (what a wonderful thing!) I could see where I made a wrong turn and almost ended up back in Kamakura again (Kamakura being 10km east of Fujisawa.)
Having a "where the heck am I" moment.

Last Saturday was also mostly used filling out applications various places and resting from Friday's adventure.

Sunday saw the first perfectly clear day of my stay here. After nearly two months of waiting and watching I finally got to see Mt. Fuji in all it's glory. The weather was warm so I decided to walk down to Enoshima. I spent most of the day taking pictures of Fuji from various locations. On my way back home I stopped and watched a magic show on the street. As a change of pace I took the Odakyu line train home instead of the usual Enoden.
This picture doesn't really do justice to how big Fuji looks from our building.
Fujisawa City as seen from our building.
Enoshima was quite busy.
More Fuji!!

Monday and Tuesday are sort of blurred together, but mostly I filled out applications.

Wednesday I decided to see what was really North of the apartment and took a nice long walk. In the evening I met my roommates and over a few beers discovered that while I was out we'd been "evicted." Late in the evening some friends came over and we ended up partying until the early morning... a benefit of being unemployed I guess?

Thursday I woke up early, took Odakyu line train, and went to Shimotakaido. I had learned on Sunday that the Odakyu line that runs through Fujisawa is the same one that ran just south of my old apartment. It also turns out to be a fairly cheap way of getting into Shinjuku from Fujisawa. Much to my happiness my old neighborhood from two years ago hasn't changed much at all. After looking around I hopped the Keio line (the one I used to take to school) into Shinjuku. I visited the Tokyo Metro Gov't Building (best FREE sight in all of Tokyo) before heading home.
Anyone who's read my blog for long enough will recognize this place.
Who cares if it was cloudy, this view was free!

Yesterday was once again spent filling out applications. In the evening I went to an izakaya with a guy from work who is leaving next week to teach in Korea. As we were getting up to leave the table next to us asked where we were from. We got to talking and when they head which company we worked for they to pity on us and bought us a round of sake. We chatted in a mix of Japanese and English for quite a while. I think it was the first time in the last two months that I said more than two back-to-back sentences in Japanese.

Tonight there is a combination "bankruptcy protection"/"eviction"/"farewell" party in my building. A good time should be had by all.

Tomorrow I think I might head to Akihabara, now that I know I can get here cheaply by taking the Odakyu line. I still can't afford to buy anything, but window shopping is always fun. Also, if I remember correctly, they open that main street to pedestrian traffic on Sundays and there's a festival atmosphere.

Hmmm, for having the feeling of not getting anything done last week, this sure turned into a long post... oh, well until next time:

Jaa Mata Ne!

Friday, October 26, 2007

B to the ANK to the RUTPCY

I think this news story in the Japan Times sums up the situation here just as well I I could. Needless to say I didn't go into work yesterday, I won't be going in today, and I have no need to go in tomorrow... More time to look for a job I guess... I can't say I didn't see it coming, it's still kinda devastating when it arrives though. Would have been nice if they'd paid me... This has been your update from the back of the un-employment line.

Jaa Mata Ne.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A New Adventure!

As much as I REALLY wanted this blog to be about my non-job-related adventures, I find that my job has become the main part of my adventure. For those reading along at home here's the real skinny on what's been happening behind the scenes:

I arrived a month and a half ago with the knowledge that "My Company" was under sanctions from the government for false advertising. These sanctions stopped the company from accepting new long-term contracts (the company's bread-and-butter.) However, short-term contracts were still available, and the company was doing okay. Last month's pay (which was for July's work) to normal teachers (like myself) was on time, but the pay to our immediate bosses (managers) was late, also the Japanese staff didn't get paid. Later, the managers got paid, and, well the Japanese staff still came into work (they've working without pay.) This whole time wild rumors of takeovers and shutdowns have been running amok. There was almost no word from the top management as to the future of the company. Internet forums and news websites became the lead source of information (in-case you're wondering, NO, YOU SHOULD NOT TRUST WHAT YOU READ ON THE INTERNET!! *cough* Wikipedia, Googling for information, and reading forum posts *cough* there are a lot of people out there who hate "My Company" and wish for nothing but it's demise, these people will NOT feed you accurate information.) As there were only rumors floating around with no facts to back them up I continued to come into work and do my job as I was hired to. Two weeks ago we (at the schools) received a fax saying that our (my first) payday on Monday would be moved to Friday. At this point I was down to the last of my start-up funds, but managed to ride it out 'til Friday. As of Saturday morning we were still not paid. I made it into work one more time, Saturday, before my money ran completely out. I called in "sick" on Sunday because I couldn't afford a train ticket. Late Sunday my roommate pointed out that the ATM section of the Post Office was open on Sundays and I went to get some money from my savings back home. While in my time off Monday and Tuesday I updated my resume and sent in a few applications I still went into work. At some point, I figure, even if I have to sue for it, they will pay me for time worked. Monday we got a fax saying we would be payed "on an approximate target date of Oct. 25." Today, Wednesday, is my day off, as is tomorrow. If I do not receive any pay before Friday I will call in "sick" until the company goes down (which should be shortly after, if that comes to pass.) Why not quit you ask? Easy, "My Company", for the time being, puts a roof over my head. As much fun as living under an underpass with the Japanese homeless would be (hey, I'd get to use my Japanese!) I think living in a heated apartment with running water, a refrigerator, and a shower wins out... for now.

I started looking/applying for jobs on Monday. Hopefully I'll find something reasonable soon. Luckily I have a slight advantage over most of the other 3,999 teachers from "My Comapany" who are all looking for jobs in that I can speak Japanese.

And so, with that, I guess my adventure enters phase two: the job hunt. I will, of course, update as things progress. If all goes well I'll be back to posting about non-job-related Japan adventures soon. Until next time:

Jaa Mata Ne!