Japalentine’s Day

Japalentine’s Day
Semi-based on a true story

“I got you chocolate.”

“Why?  It’s Valentine’s Day.”

“Uhh, because it’s Valentine’s day.”

The girl frowned, brow curling with the starting pangs of sudden confusion. He felt his own “Look at me being all grown up and buying chocolate for people on Valentine’s Day” grin beginning to subside.

“It is Valentine’s Day, right?”

He reached into the breast pocket of his suit to retrieve his cellphone. He liked to keep his phone there, he was an adult now, after all.

The Bossman cleared his throat and nodded towards an empty classroom. Without a word, he let the chocolate sit.

“First year in Japan, right?” the Bossman asked, shutting the door as he followed his bemused subordinate in.

“Yeah.”

“So you don’t know then.”

The Bossman took a swig of coffee from a paper cup. When he pulled it away his mustache was dripping.

“Know what?”

The bossman paused, looked him over through thin barely there glasses.

“Better if you find out for yourself. I’m sure the staff’ll let you know what you need to know. Hell, they’ll enjoy it.”

Of course, explaining Japan’s various customs, rituals, and odd practices started by well-planned retail campaigning to the resident dumb gaijin seemed to be everyone’s favorite pastime here.

“Uh huh.” He always hated being explained to and hated the Bossman more for setting him up for it every time.

“Anyways, I was actually checking your file just the other day and it said you used to play football.”

“A little, I guess.” Small talk. He hated small talk. It was already what he did for a living. Make small talk in English. Make sure there were no horrible errors being made. Give the customer a nice list of new words to be digested, just to make sure they felt they were getting their money’s worth.

“What position?” The Bossman always kept his questions short and concise. Like he was teaching a class and the teachers under his supervision were his students.

“Linebacker.”

“Oh. Linebacker. Right right.” The Bossman nodded in full acknowledgment even though He knew that the Kiwi probably hadn’t the faintest idea of what that position entailed. “Anyways, your next class assessment will probably be next month.”

“Right. Awesome. Is that all?” He got up, ready to show himself the door.

“Yeah. Let’s get a drink next time I come to town.” He had said the same thing the last five times he had made the rounds to this branch school and every time there had been no drinks.

“Can’t wait.” He let the door slam shut behind him.

The receptionist had been eagerly awaiting his return, no doubt anticipating the chance to tell the dumb foreign person more about how Japan worked. His chocolate gift sat unaccepted atop cheap plastic countertop.

He gave a resigned sigh and let her take command.

“Mister Stephen, boys don’t give chocolate until White Day.”

“White Day?”

“Yes. Next month. Today is girls only.” The receptionist handed the unopened box of department store chocolate back to the dejected teacher.

“Oh right. Cool.” It wasn’t.

He ate the chocolate alone in his classroom before going home that night.

Oh hey, I have a blog still.

Howdy do, folks.  Sorry for the complete and utter lack of updates and posts over the past couple of weeks, work’s been busier for reasons that I don’t really want to get into, I’ve gone through a weird bit of soul-searching and all that jazz, and honestly I haven’t really found there to be anything that I really have wanted to write about for a while.

It’s been a cold year.  On Friday, I went down to Tokyo to meet up with some friends (more specifically the founders and operators) from my days working at SCOA and promptly got snowed on.  According to the news, this is a once in thirty year thing since the middle of March is typically spring flower blossom viewing season.  With temperatures that usually go below freezing at night, I’m fairly certain that the Japanese climate just hates me and wants me to leave.  Feh.  Good luck with that, buddy.

Life’s been good here in Japan.  Aside from an unfortunate apartment key incident (something that I will go into in greater detail at a later date), it’s been relatively smooth sailing.  Sure there’s no Mexican food here and my utility bills are astronomical but when those are your biggest issues in life, you really have no room to complain.

Anyways, life’s been good to me so far but that doesn’t ever really stop someone from striving for something more.  I like my job (aside from the hours and the typical stuff that comes up in one of these contract English instructor jobs) but I don’t really want to be doing this forever.  So I’ve been looking at other avenues.  I’m a performer, a storyteller… okay, maybe just an attention whore, at heart.  I love entertaining people.  I also like being weird.  And maybe that’s about as deep into the subject as I’m going to get for now.  Maybe I missed all the deadlines this year but 2015 lies ahead.  There’s no use in never trying.  Things may end up being more uncomfortable for me but weird hours, corporate teaching, and 250,000 yen a month (minus pension, health insurance costs [Thanks Japanese Obama], and company union fees, so really 200,00 yen a month) isn’t my ultimate end goal.

Everything I do from now on is going to be in anticipation of the next year.  I need to improve my Japanese speaking ability (I’m good enough to talk to a locksmith but I want more), I need to stop relying on my dictionary for every other kanji I don’t know how to read.  I need to improve my sleep schedule.  And most of all, I need to starting being a creator once again.

Sorry if this is all sounding a bit cryptic but one never knows who might be reading these things.

Now that I’m all settled into my life in Japan, complacency must be avoided at all costs.  I think I have  a goal now, just gotta start running the race.

Anyways, find me on all the usual avenues: Twitter, Youtube, Japanese Twitter, Japanese Youtube, Instagram, all that jazz.  I’m pretty bored at work most of the time so I’ll probably reverse stalk you in return.

-Stephen

My suits are smelly and so are yours. (Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Japanese fragrant suit spray)

So this job of mine requires me to be in full business attire all day everyday, full business attire being dress shirt, tie, sports coat and all the dressings.  Coming from the laid-back casual business culture of California, this has been probably the biggest adjustment for me in my move to Japan.  Not only have I had to abandon my beloved shorts and sandals (which are impractical during Mito’s cold winters anyways) but I’ve had to come in to work dressed like a big boy everyday.

At first this was a bit of a problem because, let’s face it, I’m anything but a fashionable guy (my idea of being stylish is throwing on the most random colors possible and calling it a day or dressing like Eddie Vedder circa 1995).  I could figure out the whole button-down shirt and slacks part because I’d worn those things before but when it came to ties, I was way out of my league.

Ties

When the day of my first job interview came, I actually had my mom tie my tie for me.  When the day was through, I simply loosened the tie and slipped it over my head and then reapplied it whenever necessary.  Practical and a sign that I’m obviously a genius? Yes.  A major stepping stone on my journery to full-fledged adulthood?  Not in the least bit.

The obvious drawback of my brilliant strategy was that all hell would break loose if my tie, in some horrible accident, happened to come untied.  Unfortunately for me, that happened before I even started packing for my move when, after a job interview, I absentmindedly fiddled with the thing around my neck and doomed myself to a life of tie tying and not being a total slob.

It hasn’t been easy.  It took me a good three hours to tie a tie by myself for the very first time and that came after hours upon hours of watching how-to videos on YouTube (note: Most how-to videos on the internet suck).  And even with that knowledge in hand, it still took me hours upon hours of practice to make my simple rudimentary knot not look like a pile of dog poo.  Even now, I still can only put my tie together in the most rudimentary of ways without it looking like a three year old tried to do it.

In other words, don’t expect me to be tying a foofy Chesterton Quadruple-Windsor knot anytime soon.  That stuff is way out of my league.

One thing that I have been able to do though is chose ridiculous colors for my ties.  Inspired by a binge viewing of Colin Baker-era Doctor Who, I was compelled to start wearing the most brilliantly obnoxious colors I could find.  Since my company is so stringent when it comes to its dress code, my ties are pretty much all I can get away with (and a lot of my students seem to like it, so there.)  Thus far, my bizarre tie collection only consists of a brilliantly puke-lime green tie with orange, blue, and white stripes (my go-to) and a milder tie with a pattern of what appears to be a picture of belts on it.  As time goes on, I certainly want to add to this collection because I am currently declaring war on your eyes.  And, honeslty, I kinda feel naked without a tie on now.  (No comment as to whether or not I wear one to bed.)

20140210-174943.jpg

Watch out (insert famously fashionable celebrity here), I’m coming for you.

Suits

The concept of suits still confuses me.  “Here’s a jacket.  Just don’t wear it when you’re outside too much or you might ruin it.”  What is it about a sports coat or suit jacket that makes so much nicer than any other form of clothing?  Is it the fact that it’s intentionally missing buttons?  Maybe it’s the fact that you can’t throw it in the washing machine lest you want to waste three hundred dollars.

And yet, we have to wear them every single day.  I guess it makes us look professional.  I’m not sure.

What I am sure of though is that whoever these suits were actually designed for does not have the same shaped arms as me.  “The armholes go a half foot under where the shoulders are, right?”

Of course all of my suit problems may just be a result of the cheapness of the wares in question.  When all of your suit jackets have been purchased through clearance or sale, you’re bound to encounter some quality issues.

And since you can’t wash them, your suit jackets wind up smelling like wet dog turds by the second month in and you start having to sit in the corner of the office so as to not inconvenience your co-workers with your rotting stench.

Thankfully, the Japanese are big on clothing spray so your jacket can smell like a field of daffodils with a few swishes of the spray bottle. (As to whether or not spraying your suit makes it smell better, I plead the fifth.)

The Verdict

Overall, I’m enjoying the whole businesswear thing more than I thought I would.  It makes me feel accomplished and dapper and those are modest victories in my book.  Plus my new-found love for awful ties allows me to still be weird without being overly obnoxious (ha!).

In other words, now I’m an adult… but not really.

-Stephen

PS, go ahead and stalk me on the social medias and stuff if you’d like.  Hell, go ahead and dislike every single one of my videos on YouTube for all I care.

PPS, any thoughts, questions, or declarative statements?  Feel free to send them to me via the comments section here OR on twitter (@STEPHEN_TETSU).  I will respond to them.  Believe me.  I have absolutely nothing better to do.  At all.  At.  All.