Monday, March 07, 2005


by AJ/Skald

Matt emailed me recently and tried to encourage me to stick out the situation in Japan. He reminded me that culture shock is normal.... that I went through a similarly volatile period in Thailand. He is absolutely right. His email helped me to realize that Ive painted a very negative picture in my few recent posts.

To balance the picture I should note that despite my furious hatred of the job, I love Japan. I am
hopelessly enamored with the people. They are, without doubt, the sweetest people I have ever met. I have never seen such poise, such grace, such friendliness, such eagerness to help. I have never met a gentler people. I am in love with them.

The first few days here were shocking... mostly it was the weather, coming from the technicolor summer of Thailand to the drab winter of Hiroshima. It was depressing. But the people quickly won us over. Already I feel comfortable among them. I want to meet them. I want to make friends. I could very easily live here.

But I find myself in a curious situation. It was the same when I lived here before. I was lonely,
depressed, and bored to death at my job. I fled. Yet I left without a single negative thought about
the Japanese people I had met. I still remember them fondly. My Japanese experiences are schizoid-- I love the people and hate working here. I love the country but hate the jobs. I have not met a single disagreeable person in Hiroshima. But I have met countless folks who are beautiful, kind, and friendly. I wish I could live here as I did in Thailand.... as a hobopoet student.

But Japan is expensive and I am broke. If Japan has one flaw, from my perspective, it is its insane work culture. They worship work, I despise it. They obey bosses and respect authority, I loathe both. I want passion, flexibility, and fun if I must work a job.... they value rules, systems, control, security, and the chain of command. I want to teach natural English and promote effortless acquisition. They insist I use drills, error correction, and rote practice.

Im not quite sure why they hired me... as they read my teaching blog during the hiring process. It
should have been obvious that my teaching philosophy was at odds with theirs. I should have probed them more thoroughly. But they wanted the MS TESOL degree and figured Id be an obedient employee once I showed up. Obedience has never been my strong suit.

So here I am among people I love-- in a job I despise.

Unfortunately, shitty jobs ruin everything. I cant live my life in separate compartments called work and free time. I demand joy and ecstasy from my work and I insist that the work I do is indeed MINE. I must own it.

Maybe someday I will return to Japan with a wad of money. Maybe Ill start my own program here. Maybe Ill enjoy this place on my own terms, as a hobopoet.

But for now, the job has ruined everything.

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