Archive for the ‘Argh. Japan.’ Category

Platzproblem (2)

August 6, 2013
Japan vs Deutschland: Kondomi



Was ist größer: Links, Japan, extra groß, oder Deutschland, normal?

Eine Antwort darauf kann ich natürlich leider nicht geben, denn ich weiß davon ja nichts. Habe das Foto nur von ’nem Freund von ’nem Freund von ’nem Freund.

Überhaupt, weiß ich gar nicht wozu diese komischen Luftballons da sind.


Juli 20, 2013

Japan ist ja bekanntlich ein kleines Land. Daher gibt es auch nie genug Platz. Auch nicht in der geräumigen Abflughalle mit den vielen Sitzplätzen des Domestic-Departure Terminals von Haneda. Ich meine gerade mal ca. 80% der Sitzplätze waren zwischen den geräumigen Gängen frei. So lief ich verzweifelt herum und sucht FREIEN PLATZ.

Gottlob fand ich dann DAS SCHILD.


Dies ist freier Platz. Bitte benutzen Sie ihn nach Belieben. 

Ich war wirklich, wirklich froh, daß mir das jemand auch mitteilte. Man stelle sich mal vor, was passiert wäre, wenn das Schild nicht da gewesen wäre! Ich meine, man kann ja nicht einfach irgendwo im Departure-Terminal seine Sachen hinstellen.

Wo kämen wir denn da hin!

Benutzter Freier Platz

Benutzter Freier Platz

Schnell wie ein Windhund sicherte ich mir den freien Platz und nutzte ihn!

Schon war der Tag wieder gerettet.

PS: W. beschwerte sich völlig zu recht, ich habe angekündigt, über japanisches Essen zu berichten und alles zu fotografieren und jetzt sei da gerade mal _ein_ Foto. Ich plante mehrere Postings mit Hilfe meiner zahlreich geschossenen Fotos, aber just nach dem ersten Posting kam ich nicht mehr zum Bloggen. Die Serie geht weiter!


Mai 26, 2013

Zu absolut _keinem_ Zeitpunkt hatte ich vor, die englische Ansagerin aus dem Shinkansen zu heiraten. Auch in Zukunft beabsichtige ich auf _keinen_ Fall eine Heirat mit der englischen Ansagerin des Shinkansens. Mal ganz unabhängig davon, ob sie mich denn überhaupt nehmen würde.

Die Stelle im Text an der ich behauptete, ich habe Interesse, die englische Ansagerin des Shinkansens zu heiraten, war eine glatte Lüge; gleichzeitig aber ein schriftsprachliches Mittel, um die Schönheit ihrer Stimme dem Leser gegenüber zu verdeutlichen. Zudem erzeugte es bei vielen, aber nicht allen meiner Leser ein (müdes) Lächeln.

Für etwaige Missverständnisse bitte ich vielmals um Entschuldigung.

At no point in time I ever had the intention to really marry the voice actor, that spoke the English announcements of the Shinkansen. Also in future I have no plans to do so whatsoever. And that is despite the fact that she quite probably wouldn’t take me anyway.

That part in the text where I did claim to have interest in marrying her was downright lie. At the same time it was stylistic tool in order to illustrate the beauty of her voice to the reader. Moreover there are supposedly some amongst my readers where that part caused a (faint) smile.

I apologize for any misunderstanding I might have caused.

Jobs in Japan – Finding Your Niche

März 13, 2013

Please note the disclaimer.

Now, looking at the previous entries you can probably already guess why getting a position as seishain is quite unlikely for most foreigners. Besides cultural issues, there are formal hurdles to overcome. For example facing assessment centers, the Korean guy had problems to excel at group discussions in Japanese. „Doesn’t play so well with others…“ or something like that was their conclusion. Then there are the math and science questions; and if you have trouble answering them in your mother tongue, try to imagine how it is to read them in Japanese. Again there are exceptions from the rule. To give one example, I know from second hand experience that Google’s recruiting process is not so much different from other countries and will be conducted completely in English, if you prefer. Well at least if you apply for a technical position. But then again, Google is far from being a „typical“ Japanese company.

So what options are there, except something like cleaning up Fukushima?

Academics: That’s where I at least gained some experience. Compared to Germany, my impression is that much more effort and value is put upon research by the government. There’s a lot of money available. How this money is distributed and who’s gonna get it – well that’s another, very complicated story. But at least it’s there. Getting a monbusho- or JSPS-scholarship or getting a post-doc position is certainly possible, I’d say. The most important thing here is to have good connections to a Japanese host, or in general be well-connected within your particular research community. I personally know several scientists who successfully conducted research in Japan for a number of years. And conditions were certainly at least as good as, or in most cases even better, than in Germany.

But: FORGET ABOUT TENURE. I think that’s an important point, especially for long-term planning. At least I do not know a single scientist who made it to tenure. And I am not talking about English teachers, who will almost always be bullied at their universities after some years and forced to quit. I’m talking about the natural sciences and engineering here.

Now you can call out racism here, but actually it’s not that simple. Tenure at universities in Japan is a highly political game; actually very similar to Germany. Quite the opposite to the very transparent process of, say Oxford [1], or several top-notch US-universities [2]. Without the cultural background and good connections within the administration, obviously foreigners will have a difficult time in that regard. And even with the cultural background… one guy who absolutely dominated his field like almost no one else, is married to a Japanese women, has Japanese kids… well actually they are not really Japanese, aren’t they? They are only half! [3] … and all in all spent way more than ten years doing research in Japan, once said to me: At some point, career-wise, it was simply a dead-end. He is now tenured at a very renowned university in the US. His unit is very productive and leading in his area.

Actually, the question when you are (considered to be/treated like a) Japanese is something that puzzles me up until today. And while this might be getting slightly off-track here, it is certainly an issue that vastly affects your career chances. So, are you Japanese by blood? By that definition zainichi, buraku, Okinawan’s and probably Ainu wouldn’t be truly Japanese – their bloodlines are certainly different. But no Japanese person would ever consider someone from Okinawa not Japanese [11]. And even people from Okinawa, who do not agree with a lot of things that are decided in the mainland, would probably consider themselves almost always Japanese. Is it the language, then? Well, I knew a Japanese scientist who was born and raised in Japan, but apparently one of his parents was from India, so he had quite dark skin and curly hair. His native language was Japanese, and while he spoke English fluently, he did so with a thick Japanese accent. Other Japanese who did not know him would always mistake him for a foreigner at first. The truth is, in Japan you are Japanese if you look, act and speak (fluently, without any accent) Japanese. So if my friend, the Korean, does not reveal himself, he is Japanese. His Japanese is fluent enough to be indistinguishable from natives, and his looks are too. In this sense the Korean guy is more Japanese than the Japanese guy.

Oh, if the nettouyo is ever going to read this article, they’ll love it just for that statement, that’s for sure.

Shortly after coming to Japan, I was going to a post-office located near an elementary school once; children saw me, pointed fingers and started shouting „Gaijin! Gaijin!“. Granted, this was deep inaka, and the children certainly not meant it in a harmful way, but … I was just thinking, say I continue to live in Japan and have a child who has western features. Grows up in Japan, speaks Japanese better than German, walks near an elementary school, and … [6].

Back to topic. Jobs outside academia? Well, I’d say they always can be classified into one of the following categories:

  1. Having the function of representing something foreign. Say a company imports American machinery or is the local branch of an American company. Then customers certainly want to see that their products are „genuinely“ American. They want to see an American once in a while. That could be your job. Or a big company decides to become more „international“ (whatever that means). You’d be their „proof of international-ness“ (whatever that means).
  2. Being considered to be an „expert“ or having a talent that is considered to be impossible for a Japanese person to have. This covers ESL teachers, translators, etc., but is not necessarily tied to language skills. If you are a female with low morals, how about becoming Gaijin-tarento? On a more serious note, could be something in engineering. In fact, I’ve met several computer science majors who landed jobs in Japan. If you are an expert in $X-framework, your skills in the real-world language Japanese are less important than in the programming-language $X. In fact, it’s probably easier to land a well-paid job with a good skill set in engineering/sciences than with one in languages.
  3. Being an Expat. International companies however usually dispatch staff from overseas that has a longer experience with that particular company, and rarely hire directly in Japan. And if they do, they usually expect job experience. So, not really something if you’ve just graduated.

And then there are always the exceptions. Marutei Tsurunen, who was an ESL teacher before becoming a member of the upper house.

Oh, the irony…

Well, never say never. But the best chance of succeeding is probably when looking for something in category 2. However I have not met a single person, where I’d say: That guy really made a career here within the Japanese system, where you compete with other Japanese. Successful foreigner always found their niche. [7]

As for me personally, I thought a lot about all these things. Why bother with payment based mostly on seniority, with low initial wages, with the high cost of living, with the perspective of living in Tokyo (the only Japanese city I truly hate), and most importantly the long term prospects of (not) making a career in a Japanese company?

Well, it’s simple: Because Japan is awesome! It truly is. There are so many things that make life in Japan desirable, in a lot of ways life is incredible convenient, ordered, and enjoyable.

Is it worth it? Everyone has to decide for his own. For me, I came to the conclusion: It’s not worth it. Can’t really say anything right now, but even with choosing fun and interest over maximizing monetary return, I’ll probably make one and a half to twice of what I’d make in Japan. And that is without the cheaper cost of living [8]. Simply, the long term prospect of making a career and being able to provide for a family, even in troublesome times, made my decision. After all, Germany doesn’t suck [9].

[1] at least I’ve heard from one guy who was employed there that citation count and quality of research has a very high correspondence to getting tenure there.

[2] see [1]

[3] in case you are unsure about when a Japanese is a real Japanese, you can find a very precise diagram on what level of ancestry, i.e. blood, is required to be truly Japanese. [4] [5]

[4] I’m really sorry. I completely mixed something up here.

[5] Also really sorry about sneaking Godwin in here. ‚Happens sometimes. After all, I’m too near to the source.

[6] Not saying that there aren’t any issues in Germany. But someone with different skin color than white is definitely no sensation anymore. Several kids in my high-school class had different skin color, and at least for me, that was just a normal thing. Nothing you’d think much about. And that was roughly 15 years ago. I really can’t imagine school kids shouting „Foreigner! Foreigner!“ nowadays. Individual kids shouting racial slurs? Possible, though they’d probably get their fair share of „feedback“ from kids with a different standpoint.

[7] Difficult to compare to Germany. You’ll certainly face difficulties if you have black skin color or if your second name is like Ülcük but… all in all I’d say, German mainstream nowadays accepts that if you are willing to assimilate, you don’t need to be blond-haired and blue-eyed to be considered German. Where is Japan’s Philip Rösler? [10]

[8] When everything is finally set and fixed, I’ll probably write up a „what happened afterwards“.

[9] or does it?

[10] That’s a bad example I hear you say, because he is German and not Auslander – so what is my point? Well that’s exactly my point.

[11] actually, after writing up this article, I learned that this might not always be true.

Parallel to Society

März 12, 2013

Please note the disclaimer.

Japan, as a society, is organized much more hierarchical than I am used from (West-)Germany. In every area of life there are superiors and subordinates, there are teachers and students, and there are senpai’s and kouhai’s. This goes so far in that you’d use different words in Japanese for your older and younger sister, for example.

A very essential concept of social life is belonging to groups. The distinction is between uchi (being in the group), soto (a known, but outside person) and tanin (strangers). Another big difference to the west is the concept of a group itself. At least in West-Germany I’d connote with the word group a … more like an … accumulation of persons with the same interest. Which more or less meet on the same level. Contrast that to Japan, where there tends to be a very strict hierarchy even within the group, which very much acts like a mechanism to control access to the group. That is, to join one, both the group leader and the whole group itself have to agree in joint consensus. Again this is visible in all parts of society, from company divisions, sports clubs down to simply, a group of friends.

Of course, all these concepts exist in Germany as well, but certainly not to such an extent. And even then, considering western countries, I’d rate Germany amongst those where hierarchy plays a rather big role. Thus, being a (visibly white) foreigner, quite likely without native fluency in Japanese, you’ll be classified as soto or tanin. And for someone fresh-off-the-boat that might actually be a suitable classification. However even after living in Japan for more than five, ten, or fifteen years it’s quite likely that you’ll live socially rather isolated. Because you are still soto. Or tanin.

Japan is not a nation of immigrants. I am not sure where I heard the next metaphor first, but the concept of cultural exchange in Japan can be expressed kind of like this: Foreigner comes to Japan, sits on one side of the table. I, Japanese, on the other side. And then we’ll throw to each other small bits of culture. I, Japanese, explain to the foreigner about my unique, unique culture (did I point out that it’s really really unique and unmatched anywhere in the world? It might be even a bit superior to yours…). And you’ll tell me how great Japan is and how much you like it and I’ll be so surprised that you can even eat raw fish and use chopsticks – despite the fact that you are a foreigner, and thus have to fight and overcome your inherent disabilities – and then we are finished, and afterwards, PLEASE GO HOME! [1][8]

After all – and this really is not unique to Japan – nobody likes guests that invite themselves to stay indefinitely.

This concept of cultural exchange and the inability to even consider the possibility of immigration is deeply engraved in the Japanese society. So deep that Japan ships thousands of foreign ALTs (Assistant English Teachers) each year to Japan only to send them back after three years – when they finally begin to settle. Without even taking into account that one could use the same money to properly train Japanese teachers of English and send _them_ overseas instead.

I always experienced how tanin I am when visiting the family of the SWMBO. It’s actually not the family itself who, for once is incredibly nice, welcoming and open-minded [2], and moreover simply got to know me better over time. I am experiencing this however whenever I meet not-so-close friends (why is there no word in English to distinguish between Bekannte and Freunde?) or distant relatives. For example, one of the SWMBO’s friends gave birth recently, and we wanted to visit her. Or rather the SWMBO wanted to. I already got a bad feeling when reaching their home and advised the SWMBO on the inherent danger of an involuntary Gaijin-Smash and the associated embarrassment [3]. Such advisories went to deaf ears, and the SWMBO scolded me for being such a pussy.

We enter the enemy ship their home. Whole family’s there, including the mother-in-law. Who wants to put a chair in the tatami room the whole time during that embarrassing visit, so that I throne over ‚em little people. Apparently I am not able to sit in seiza … at all, since I am a foreigner. Living there for only four years… surely one cannot expect! And it’s nothing I can hold against her. She just tried to be really nice. Same thing with the compliments. Stressed several times how good of a catch I am for the SWMBO, as she only recently heard on TV how smart Indians are when it comes to computers [4].

Being soto or tanin isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There is a nice video from a J-vlogger and Jap-vet, Hikosaemon about this called „It ain’t easy being Japanese!„. After all, in such a hierarchical society, it’s not easy for Japanese to gain access to their desired groups, either. That requires a lot of bending and eating dirt, and quite often is far from being a pleasure. Moreover, gaining access to some groups is virtually impossible. Japanese prime ministers and politicians for example tend to recruit themselves from political dynasties that lead back to the Meiji-period to an extent that is simply unthinkable in Germany. Concepts like fairness and equality of opportunities do exist, but they are far different from their western counterparts.

Now, living parallel to this world means not having the same chances, but it also means you are not subject to the same rules and obligations. And since persons who are soto or tanin are usually treated in a courteous and polite way – like a well-regarded guest – that can be quite pleasant. This is what most tourists or newcomers experience, and they usually fail to understand the bitterness often found among „vets“. You can even exploit your status as a foreigner in certain situations. For example when dealing with any kind of government agency, I found it best not to be recognized as too knowledgeable; better come off as a little bit too stupid than too smart. The former will give the person in charge the chance to _once and for all_ _really_ explain it to that naive and simple-minded foreigner. Which in overall, even though it might seem slightly counterintuitive, will usually result in a much faster and more efficient process [5].

Asian foreigners by the way are not subject of this whole scheme, at least not if they have a will to assimilate. Because, they can assimilate optically and thus become virtually indistinguishable. A good friend, Korean and trilingual, is not treated first and foremost as a foreigner, but rather measured with Japanese standards. And that can be a problem as well: While people congratulate me as soon as I say „Konichiwa“ – since apparently my Japanese is awesome; I mastered to say „Hello“ – in his case, people consider him a little bit like a socially rather awkward and linguistically slightly clumsy Japanese (people usually consider him Japanese, and when he reveals to be Korean they think he is zainichi), and scold him for that. Discrimination has a completely different meaning for him – and I am completely skipping here all the extra issues of Japanese-Korean relations.

And is that discrimination? Is there discrimination in Japan? Well yes and no. Certainly not in the sense of Germany or other parts in the western world where, if you have the wrong skin color and are at the wrong place at the wrong time, will have problems to get home in one piece. The whole thing in Japan is more subtle and usually only starts to become apparent when you consider immigrating for real and living the rest of your life there. In contrast, foreigners who just arrived in Japan often won’t notice a lot of things at first. Because you will never come in touch with all that stuff if you come to Japan as an expat or as an exchange student. Housing will be taken care for you, and you won’t even realize that a large amount of apartment owners won’t rent to foreigners [6]. Blocked career paths‘ are not an issue if your position has a specified shelf-life and going back to your home country after some time is fixed in the first place. Or if you work in an area, say as an English-teacher or as a translator, where you simply don’t compete with other Japanese workers in your professional life, since it is an area where Japanese cannot (or are perceived as not being able to) provide the same service.

And to provide some kind of evidence, I am surely not the only one who looks at it that way [7].

But it’s incredible annoying to live like that in the long term – parallel to society.

[1] I have to say, that this kind of attitude is probably found in Germany as well. Nevertheless this article is not about comparing things.

[2] (The SWMBO however simply refuses to acknowledge this fact, and continues to reassure me that „we are like any other family in Japan“)

[3] The whole „losing one’s face thing“ – seriously, I still haven’t worked out its true meaning in Japan, but at least I can say: It’s completely different than being portrayed in western media. For example to my surprise, you’ll apparently never lose face if you scold an inferior in the harshest way possible.

[4] biggest. WTF. evar. And in case you’re wondering: I am as pale as a nerd can be.

[5] btw, that _so_ holds for Germany as well.

[6] on the other hand, probably still easier to get a flat as a foreigner in Germany than as a German in Germany, considering some cities like Munich

[7] and while we are at it: even though not directly related, give this a try as well.

[8] There is one phenomenon that I find quite interesting. When talking in English about things Japanese, most native Japanese speakers will resort to the first person plural. „In Japan, we don’t tip.“ „We use chopsticks.“ „We go to the Shrine on New Year’s Eve.“ Apparently I’m not invited. I am not part of that group you’re referencing. You guys, the Japanese, go. I don’t. Should I? Should I not? May I not? But then again, could just be one of the typical quirks when learning English, and I am interpreting way too much into that.

Jobs and a typical career path in Japan

März 11, 2013

Please note the disclaimer.

Companies in Japan seek new graduates each year in a rather formal process, called shushoku katsudou. Hiring always starts in April – that’s when the university is over, so graduates are able to seamlessly proceed into their new role as full members of society and become shakaijin [1]. Students essentially spend their last university year with job hunting. If successful, life as a seishain awaits them. On the one hand, that means that your ass belongs to the company now, on the other hand that usually means job security until retirement [2]. Besides, switching careers or just going to another company would be quite difficult in Japan anyway.

The education at Japanese universities is subpar, at best [3]. Most Japanese students only go for a bachelor degree, and quite often, that is just… I mean I have seen on what kind of level (what’s a „pointer“?) students were when they came to us to pursue their master’s degree. That’s why big companies usually have their own internal training programs, and you cannot expect to have any kind of responsible work assigned in the first few years – let alone seek that kind of responsibility by yourself. When it comes to your degree, if at all, the brand name of the university counts; what you actually studied or accomplished is not so much of importance. This means that in an extreme case it could be that for example someone with degree in computer science would be set in accounting, if internal demand requires it. In any event, there will usually be some form job-rotation and relocations every few years.

Because of all of that, naturally companies want ‚em young and bendable. New employees on the other hand start at the bottommost position in the company hierarchy, and are expected to bend over and be happy with it. The Japs [4][5] have a word for that, and it’s called gamansuru, which roughly translates to being both ass-raped and cheerful about it at the same time. Grads with a bachelor degree are thus most favored, master’s a little less, and PhD’s… nobody really like PhD’s. Varies from dislike to open hatred, but liking – no. In any event, few Japanese students pursue an advanced degree, unless they plan a career in academics or to go to one of the few research centers of big companies. More on that later on.

Let’s talk money

Since you are starting at the very bottom, your salary is accordingly. Typical – and I really can only speak of my own area of expertise, rocket science (who cares vere zey come down?) that is, but there, it’s about 220000 Yen per month for grads with bachelor degree, and about 250000 to 260000 Yen for those with master’s or a PhD [6]. In fact, larger companies quite openly state this salary on their homepages, or on the job ads that get distributed to the universities. As said, these salaries are kind of non-negotiable, and your previous achievements are of minor importance, it’s more important that you „fit in“. In addition to the base salary there are often bonuses, and subsidies for rent or commuting. This additional salary however is very dependent on which company you join. The large ones, say Hitachi or Toshiba, do pay such bonuses; smaller companies however tend to promise a lot and then there a lots and lots and lots of reasons on why the bonuses at this particular year in this particular situation due to that particular reason unfortunately can’t be paid out. You have to gaman. You have to see the bigger picture here, the long-term goal [7]. Of course, under certain circumstances that can happen at larger companies too *cough* Sharp *cough*.

Your salary will rise with seniority and peaks around the age between 45 and 55. Between 55 and 60 you’ll usually be fired with a generous settlement, the taishokukin. That’s not just generosity of the company, that’s also meant to bridge until you are eligible to receive the national pension (from 65 years onward). Sometimes you are also re-hired at much worse conditions, or hired at a sub-contractor or at an external supplier.

Becoming seishain at a Japanese company is not impossible but very unlikely

Now, that’s a lot of text, but in summary: Becoming seishain at a Japanese company is not impossible but very unlikely if you are a (white) foreigner. I’ll elaborate more on the foreigner-thing in a next posting, but besides all these cultural issues, most western foreigners and students fall into one of these two categories:

  • those that studied something like engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, or one of the natural sciences and found somehow their way to Japan and
  • those who have a degree in oriental or Japanese studies.

In the first case you’ll likely be not fluent in Japanese. Or not fluent enough. I mean going through the hiring process is no different than at a, say American or German company. Acing at an assessment center, passing the group discussion (in Japanese), and solving the logic quizzes… – even if you are fluent enough to survive your everyday life, that simply won’t cut it.

And In the second case you’ll know nothing valuable whatsoever. I mean you’ll probably be able to speak Japanese. But then again, there are approximately 120 million Japanese citizens who are also able to do so. Sure, your Japanese might be even better, your sonkeigo and kenjougo might be better than a lot of young Japanese‘ and you might be able to read the Tales of Genji in the unedited original; something most Japanese won’t be able to. I congratulate you for that. But honestly, no one gives a frack. Yeah, maybe you’ll be able to read the logic quizzes, but likely lack the skill to understand the actual math.

To conclude however I have to state one thing: There are always exceptions. Personally, I do not know a single foreigner who became seishain, but I am quite sure that there is one out there. And I have my highest respect for him or her. You made it! You truly assimilated into a Japanese lifestyle. That’s something not many other foreigners are capable or willing to do – and I will talk in a later posting on whether that’s actually desirable. My whole point is: For the rest of us, the other 99 percent, we simply have to resort to other means.

There are other ways to land a job in Japan. You’ll have to resort to your special Gaijin powers.

Yup, the Japs are still way into the whole rangaku thing.

[1] If you are a student, heck even if you are a grad student on a scholarship, you are essentially just a parasite of the generous society, but obviously not contributing anything worthwhile. After all, you don’t have a job, right?

[2] Times in Japan are changing too, but at least you can be assured to be the last to let go. Unless you really mess up or the company is in severe trouble, you can expect that all the contract workers will be fired won’t have their contracts extended first. Well ok, maybe you’ll be bullied out, but technically, you are employed for lifetime.

[3] This is a broad generalization, no doubt. There is excellent research output from some universities, there is excellence in engineering and the natural sciences. But even if that is the case, it does not necessarily mean that your average undergraduate student will benefit from it. Student attitude towards university life is also a big issue here – the university is probably the only time where young people can really relax and enjoy their life without too much boundaries after the stressful university entrance exams and before going into a life as 60 hours/week company trooper.

[4] In case you feel offended: Boowhooo. Here is a tissue.

[5] Also, feel free to go with Fritz, Jerry, Kraut, and the like in the comments. I don’t give frack. You should’ve realized by now that this is none of those clean pc doubleplusgood Newspeak blogs.

[6] Yes, a frickin eikaiwa teacher makes about the same or even more. Ok, probably won’t get any bonuses. Nothing against English teachers, they are some very respectable folks out there, but … come on!

[7] Like the boss‘ next Porsche.


März 10, 2013

This is a disclaimer intended for the next following entries

This is a German blog intended for a German audience, and thus I originally wrote all the following entries in German. But then I remembered how I, especially when I was forced to decide on leaving or staying (or trying to stay) in Japan, yawned for true experience reports of foreigners that stayed in Japan for a longer period of time. Thus English it is, to broaden the potential audience. And moreover, everyone from kaigai speaks English anyway, right? [1]

Another disclaimer: After writing all this up, I noticed how negative it might sound. It’s not meant to be. It’s just a sum-up of my own personal experiences and impressions. I love Japan. And I hate Japan. My relation to Japan is like with a tragic love; you broke up but with her, since apparently there is no way you can really handle all her frickin‘ issues in everyday life. And yet you continue to be friends, deep down still having feelings, unrequited feelings of true love that is, and in one moment you curse her for all her craziness, only to flip over in the next moment, and, in admiration of her elegance and sheer beauty, descend in self regrets over ever splitting up with her in the first place.

Yup. That pretty much sums it up.

[1] You probably didn’t know, but there are actually only three (kinds of) countries in the world: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

Also known as Japan, China and Korea, and the kaigai.

Neulich in Tokyo

Dezember 5, 2012

Tokyo saugt, ich kann Tokyo nicht ausstehen. Tokyo ist eine tote Stadt, klinisch rein und klinisch tot.

Osaka, den großen Betonklotz, da hat man wenigstens etwas, was man mit Leidenschaft hassen kann, Tokyo nada.

Hanami, also warum nicht Ueno, Frühstück mit Donuts und Mountain Dew auf dem Weg – schließlich ist Frühstück die wichtigste Mahlzeit am Tag – und dann in den Tierpark, außerdem sind da auch drei Caches, und ungewöhnlich für Japan, einer ist ein Multi und könnte eventuell etwas anspruchsvoll sein. Anspruchsvoll in Japan heißt sonst eigentlich nur, daß die Koordinaten Scheisse sind. Mein Lieblingscache ist “Willkommen in K-Stadt”, der mehr oder weniger sagt: Irgendwo am riesigen Platz am Osten des Bahnhofs. Ist mit einer Stahlkonstruktion überdacht, also Koordinaten kann man vergessen. Und so viele Muggels dass, obwohl ich mittlerweile weiß wo der Cache liegt, bis heute nicht dazu gekommen bin, das Ding zu heben.


In Ueno angekommen ist die Schlange innerhalb des Bahnhofs bis zum Ausgang aber schon geschätzt auf ca. zwei Stunden. Donutsladen ca. 20 Minuten. In Tokyo steht man immer. Und man geht auch nicht. Man tippelt, trippelt, nie geht es vorwärts. Das schlaucht mich, auch körperlich, mehr als ein 15 Kilometerlauf. Verdammt, was geht mir Tokyo auf den Sack.

Also ausgewichen, und einfach ein bisschen in Nippori spaziert. Selten da, außer zum Transfer nach Narita, also mal eben am Bahnhof auf den Stadtplan geguckt und dann sehe ich so was.


Stadtplan, uneingenordet


Was ist falsch denkt da der, der der Kanji nicht mächtig ist?

Nun 北 steht für Norden. Und 南 für Süden. Was folgern wir daraus?


Wenn die große Revolution kommt, dann werden japanesische Kartographen die ersten sein, die an die Wand gestellt werden.

Jetzt denkt man vielleicht ok, da ist denen halt mal ein Fehler unterlaufen, das kann doch mal passieren, aber nein. Oder: Naja, manchmal macht es vielleicht Sinn [1], wenn man auf den Plan schauend sich rechts wendet, auch tatsächlich rechts ist. Nur, erstens war das hier nicht so. Ich glaube „oben“ auf dem Stadtplan war in unserem Rücken, wenn man drauf schaute, so ganz sicher bin ich allerdings nicht mehr. Und zweitens bringt es auch nichts, wenn man, um aus dem Bahnhof zu kommen, sowieso noch mehrere Treppen steigen und um zahlreiche Ecken gehen muss.

Ich habe schon unzählige solcher Pläne gesehen.

In K-Stadt ist die zentrale Übersicht am Bahnhof nach Südwesten genordet, was dazu führte, dass ich, als ich das erste Mal zur Einwanderungsbehörde musste, im Japanischen im Wesentlichen nur Guten Tag und meinen Namen sagen konnte, den West- mit dem Ostausgang verwechselte, in den Bus in die falsche Richtung einstieg und dank inniger Hilfe der hzB und Google Maps dann ca. zwei Stunden später endlich wieder dort war, wo meine kleine Odyssee gestartet hatte. Und quasi von vorne anfangen konnte.

Uneingenordete Stadtpläne. Würde mein ehemaliger Erdkundelehrer Herr B. (war einer auf der guten Seite der Macht) das hören, direkt Facepalm. Bzw. mittlerweile wohl Glatzenpalm.

[1] Korinthenkacker, sowie pseudo-informierte, ich-bin-ja-so-geil Spiegel-Online Zwiebelfischleser: Obacht. Sonst gibt’s was auf die Hirse.

Die Sache mit den Südfrüchten

Dezember 1, 2012

Anmerkung: Diesen Entwurf verfasste ich, als das Euro/Yen-Verhältnis unter 1:100 lag. Wie BigAl im letzten Kommentar bemerkte, liegt das Verhältnis mittlerweile wieder bei 1:107, trotzdem stimmt der Grundtenor weiterhin.

Nein nein, Bananen gibt es hier schon zu kaufen im Intershop Supermarkt und dank diverser politischer Interventionen der United Fruit Company Chiquita zählen dieser Früchte sogar zu den günstigsten in Japan.

Ich bin ein ausgesprochener Freund des Orangensaft. Gern zum Frühstück, also Bier und Wurst, da ich ja Deutscher bin.

Und dann geht man also da in den nächsten Saftladen und schaut und sieht so was:


Die Flasche für schlappe 780 Yen, also umgerechnet 6 bis 7 Euro – da kann man doch wirklich nichts sagen? Außerdem wurde der Saft sicherlich von Herrn Dittmeyer chinesischen Erntesklaven Trainees sorgfältigst Orange für Orange von Hand gepresst. Was will man mehr?

Ne im Ernst, wer ist bitte so bescheuert und kauft so was?

Also gut, ich habe den dann letzte Woche mal zur Probe gekauft. War ok.

Aber ich übertreibe mal wieder. Der preiswerteste, ziemlich bittere Orangensaft ist ist viel günstiger zu haben.


Nur 168 Yen für 1 Liter. Also gerade mal doppelt bis dreifach so teuer wie Aldi bei schlechterer Qualität. Fährt man auf den Riesensupermarkt draußen in der grünen Wiese dann habe ich den schon mal ungebrandet für 148 Yen/Liter entdeckt. Aber dafür braucht man einen PKW und ich habe keinen, was mich allerdings immer noch männlicher macht, als einen VW Beetle zu besitzen.

Ein Liter Schipirit kostet übrigens so 170 Yen/Liter. Insofern also immer noch preiswerter, was ich will ich denn?

Nun, ich will POM. Pom kommt aus Ehime, also genug Sonne aber doch mild, so dass der ganze Kram nicht so bitter wird. Niveau fast vergleichbar mit … nennen wir die Marke mal B-Mucke ($lokaler aber bekannter Getränkehersteller), gegen dessen unsympathischen Sohn ich übrigens mal ganz blöd wegen eines dummen Aussetzers im Schach verlor, obwohl meine Stellung bis zu dem Zeitpunkt klar besser war. War mir damals halt sehr unsympathisch, aber das muss man als Fabrikantensohn wahrscheinlich auch sein.


Mit 300 Yen/1,5 Liter, also ca. 2,50 Euro/1,5 Liter absolut vertretbar.


Und zur Not fahre ich halt mal 1,5 Kilometer mit meinem nicht vorhandenen PKW weniger. Und schon habe ich das Geld wieder drinne.

Die russische Landwirtschaft, so sagte man zur Zeiten der guten alten UdSSR, krankt an vier Dingen: Frühling, Sommer, Herbst und Winter.

Die japanische Landwirtschaft krankt gar nicht. Sicherlich ist sie völlig ineffizient, da völlig in winzige Parzellen zerstückelt, da die Lohnkosten hoch sind, obwohl man letzteres Problem ganz gut mit dem Import von chinesischen und südostasiatischen Trainees [1] umgeht… obwohl sich da nervigerweise die UN ab und zu beschwert von wegen Human Trafficking und so…. da das Land zerklüftet ist mit Bergen und, da kaum schweres Gerät eingesetzt werden kann.

Trotzdem habe ich immer das gleiche gute Gefühl wenn ich heimischen Orangensaft kaufe, als wenn ich für Doctors without Borders spende. Oder ausländischen Saft kaufe, und weiß, dass die horrenden Importzölle da ankommen, wo sie gebraucht werden.

[1] Sour Strawberries, sehenswert.


Oktober 9, 2012

im Moment befinde ich mich auf Arbeitssuche. Was könnte jemand mit meinen Qualifikationen wohl tun, so frage ich mich?

Nun, vor nicht allzu langer Zeit befand ich mich im Junkudo, um einige Bücher zu besorgen. Und immer wenn ich da bin, schaue ich auch nach ausländischen Magazinen. Den Spiegel von vor mehreren Wochen gibt’s da zum Beispiel zu einem unschlagbar günstigen Preis von 3000 Yen (so erinnere ich mich, man möge mich ggf. korrigieren). Insbesondere schaue ich auch immer nach Playboy Magazine und Vanity Fair.

Kleiner Einschub.


Playboy Magazine und Vanity Fair sind die, glaube ich, am meisten missverstandenen Zeitschriften überhaupt. Sage ich Frauen, daß ich gern Playboy Magazine lese, halten die mich für ein Schwein. Sage ich Männern, daß ich gern Vanity Fair lese, halten die mich für eine schwule Pussy. [1]

Nichts ist weiter von der Wahrheit entfernt. Beide haben einfach oft gut gemachte Reportagen und Interviews, die sehr genau mein Interesse zwischen Boulevard und Feuilleton treffen.

Dem geneigten Leser empfehle ich, mal kurz gegoogelt, zum Beispiel

– “Adventures in the Ransom Trade” von William Prochnau, auf dem auch der Film “Proof of Life” basiert. [2]

– Michael Lewis Portrait über Barack Obama

– “Betting on the Blind Side”, ein Artikel über einen Investor, der die Subprimekrise kommen sah, ebenfalls von Michael Lewis

– oder “Enemy of the Estate” von Charles Spencer

Kurz: gesellschaftlich durchaus relevante Themen interessant aufbereitet. Trotzdem denken die meisten Personen, insbesondere außerhalb der USA, bei Vanity Fair irgendwie an “Bild der Frau” und “Für Sie”.

Und beim Playboy schau ich natürlich auch gern die Fotos an, aber genauso ist der (amerikanische) auch durchaus interessant zu lesen. Ja echt jetzt. Ist ja hier das Internet. Kann ich ja offen sagen.

Googeln nach Playboy Magazine und Artikeln ist ein wenig challenging, wie man sich vorstellen kann, deswegen sei hier mal exemplarisch auf die Reportage “Irak als Tourist bereisen” verwiesen, oder die zahlreichen Interviews, z.B. mit Steve Jobs, Stephen Hawking usw.


Jetzt stehe ich also da, in der obersten Etage im Junkudo und blättere im amerikanischen Playboy.

Und, da sind – und ich hoffe manch Leser, der sich nicht in so schlimmen Kreisen wie meiner einer bewegt, wird sich jetzt nicht erschrecken – halt auch Frauen ganz nackt drin abgebildet. Also wirklich so ganz ohne Kleidung. Und auch so gewisse Sachen kann man da sehen. Auch weil amerikanische Frauen diese Geschichte mit der Haarentfernung für sich entdeckt haben.

Und das geht natürlich GAR NICHT. Also auch gesetzlich. Das muss natürlich zensiert werden.


Wie man sieht, gibt es also im Junkudo eine Person, dessen Aufgabe es ist, im Playboy Magazine an “gewissen Stellen” mit einem Messer die Farbe abzukratzen.

Geiler Job.

So viel übrigens zu der total offenen, abgefahrenen und übersexualisierten japanischen Gesellschaft, wo ja bekanntlicherweise an jeder Ecke used-Panty-Automaten stehen.

Davon abgesehen denke ich, ist das ein ziemlicher cooler Job. Werde ich mich mal bewerben. Und dann in 5 Jahren in Vorruhestand.

Wegen Carpet Tunnel Syndrom.

[1] Not that there’s anything wrong with that

[2] Langfristige Blogleser erkennen hier ein Muster