Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Checking Out Tokyo

Monday, September 23 was a holiday, and that means 3-day weekend!
My boyfriend accepted a job in Tokyo, and moved in with his mom and step-dad last month. Even when he was living in my area we rarely met up on the weekends, and only sometimes on 3-day weekends. But, I took a chance that he'd be free and even if he wasn't I planned on meeting my high school friend first. 

He did end up being free and I spent the long weekend with him in Tokyo. Tokyo's an interesting place. Like most big cities, people usually fall into two groups; "Love it!," or "Hate it." Being the capital city, and the largest in Japan means that there is always things to do, but travel is a bitch. I arrived at Tokyo Station and immediately remembered why I hated Tokyo Station; it's a clusterfuck of bodies. 

Have you ever seen those videos of ants just crawling all over each other not giving a shit? Tokyo Station is like that. But the ants have luggage and huge backpacks. Everyone is focused on their own path. Tokyo Station peeps don't give a fuck. Tokyo Station peeps gonna do Tokyo Station peeps. This long weekend brought out all of the people. A bunch of them headed to Makuhari for the Tokyo Games Show.

There's one train that goes to Makuhari, which is actually in Chiba, not Tokyo. To get to that train from the Shinkansen area of the station takes about 15 minutes if you're walking briskly. Your brisk walk is slowed to a crawl because a few stops before Makuhari is Tokyo Disneyland. So now you're trying to catch the express train on time while dodging slow families and their slow kids. The non-express train takes about an hour? hour and a half vs. 45 min for the express train.

I only went to the Game Show for about 30minutes. The plan was to go there and walk around for an hour then go back to Tokyo in time to catch a movie with my friend. What happened was that everyone and their mom was there and the lines were crazy. The tickets were 1,200 yen and after lining up to get tickets, we were put into sections outside. Each section was then let into the venue one at a time. One section was also something like 1,000? 2,000? people. It took about 45 minutes to get inside. 

I'm wondering HOW Tokyo is going to deal with the Olympics. The city is huge and overcrowded right now, but with a few extra million people for the Olympics, it's going to be crazy. The subways are not the easiest to navigate, and on the maps the transfers look easier than they are. Case in point, Tokyo station. I can transfer to a shitload of lines, but nothing NOTHING warns you that it'll take 15 minutes of running through an un-air conditioned station filled with sweaty people to make your transfer. I fear for 2020...

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Watch your BACK, son!

First, w00t! I've finished the user manual translation I've been working on!! All I can do is hope that it reads smoothly and that I get paid. I spent the past month going home, firing up the computer, and slowly translating an almost 30 page manual. That time also includes making the file "pretty."

However, I want to talk a bit about WHY working in a Japanese office can be so frustrating. 

Let's say that you start working at a Japanese office for the first time ever. There's no cubicles. The office seems relaxed, and no one seems to be interested in what you do. When you look around, you see people who seem to be goofing off, texting on their cell phones, looking at whatever on their computers and you think, "Well, it must be OK." 

Yeah, everyone at work knows what you eat, who you eat with, how many times you pee/day, when you're on your period and the color of your mom's underwear by the end of the week. They know all of this without seeming like they know it. That example, not exactly an example...that's my newest coworker from America. She doesn't speak Japanese well. And she apparently seems to find the job boring as fuck (which may be true).

Another coworker apparently gave her a heads up soon after she got there. I say "apparently" because it's not like I was there when they talked. But, nah, she's gonna do her, and haters are gonna hate. Then it got to the point where a bucho, who doesn't even sit anywhere near us, emails the CEO and a bunch of other people about her. 
"What's she doing in the bathroom for so long?"
"Why is she taking her phone with her to the bathroom?"
"Why is she eating ice cream at her desk??"

All truths. 

Just because it seems like Japanese people are ignoring you, rest assured that they aren't. In the U.S., as long as you are somewhat friendly, do your work and don't go batshit crazy, people generally will leave you be (at least that's my impression). I highly doubt that the average American office worker knows, let alone cares whether or not the person sitting across from them drinks Starbucks coffee or not. 

If you know that people are going to talk, then you can use that to your advantage. Any crumb of information that you drop will spread like wildfire. That's also why Japanese people are sooo secretive about their private lives at work. That hot guy who's easy to talk with and seems interested in you? He's married, and has a kid(s). (True story) He just doesn't talk about it at work, because that aspect of his life has nothing to do with work. 

What else can you do? The big thing is to be friendly, smile, offer to help, and even if you find the first week that you hate your new job, at least keeping the appearance of working diligently for the first month or two goes a long way. Who you talk with can be political, too. More so for your Japanese colleagues than you, foreigner. 
Other things that would help:
Not taking your cell phone with you into the bathroom.
Not taking your notebook, coffee and cell phone into the bathroom.
Not taking the above with you to the bathroom for 20 minutes.
Not taking the above with you to what everyone thinks is the bathroom, but is actually the stairwell.
Not opening a bottle of pop at your desk immediately after lunch.
Not eating onigiri at your desk after lunch.

Hope that helps. It doesn't matter how nice you are...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Japanese Start-Nots

I stumbled upon this interesting article titled, "Hey Japan, what's up with your start-up culture?" moments ago on reddit.

The company I work at would be considered a start-up...I guess. If the meaning of start-up is "newish company," then my workplace fits the bill. The points that really stood out to me (because I've heard about them from my boyfriend or thought of them firsthand) were:

  • "Bosses don't take risks. Japanese workers can't challenge the boss. If you give opinions, they don't listen. Bosses don't give young people opportunities: Only old men get to do interesting work."

This. At my place, which really, really wants to become a kind of Japanese Google, if it hasn't been done before, we probably won't do it. The company only wants to do something new if it is guaranteed to succeed. A number of our products are altered versions of products that other companies have put out with success. That's fine, there's always new ways to remake old things. However, when I or my other coworkers come up with new ideas, they are shot down. Usually under the guise of "We don't have someone that can do that," "The customers wouldn't like it," or "I'll think about it" (in other words: no). I am expected to generate new ideas, that will succeed, but I am not allowed to try something myself.

This is what my boyfriend has been saying to me when he talks about himself. Going abroad should be a pretty big thing in the US, and it is if you are from a small town. But, it's a rarity for even Japanese from large cities. I wouldn't blink an eye if a New Yorker told me that they had spent significant time abroad, but even amongst Tokyoites it seems that significant time abroad is enough to "out-group" someone. 
The problem for Japanese who do go abroad for a significant time is that they come back to Japan with a new/different mindset. That different way of thinking doesn't mesh with Japanese business culture. No one wants to hear your ideas. No one wants to brainstorm. No one wants to try to learn a new programming language or anything aside from the task at hand. 

I think that there are a lot of Japanese people, young and old, who want...long to do something. But the risk is too high. The typical path for a university student here is to start job hunting in their third year of university, secure a job in their fourth year, start their job immediately upon graduation and stay with that company until retirement. Job hopping, like what is popular in the US, is frowned upon. Getting an advanced degree is somewhat frowned upon.
When starting at a new company, douki, or people who entered the same year as you, are very important. Your douki should be about the same age as you, and your sempai will be a year or so older. If you get a masters, if you go abroad to work, if you take a year off to work, you mess up the system. You have only a few precious years after graduating university to find a company to work at. As I've been job searching, I've come across so many places that place age restrictions (usually up to 30) on new hires! 
So, if you're 26 and decide to quit your company and start your own, if it fails, you're SOL. Is it any wonder that people decide not to go the startup route?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Clothing Thoughts

I love Japanese and Korean fashion. But, my body type just doesn't look good with Japanese clothing. When I go outside, I see girls who are shorter than me or taller than me rocking some kick ass fashion. When I dare to try what they've been doing, I tend to end up looking busted. Or like a hooker.

You just can't win...*sigh*

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A New Sailor Moon Musical!

Many Sailor Moon fans may know that in Japan there were Sailor Moon musicals! There haven't been any musicals for the past few years, but Japanese media has announced that a new Sailor Moon musical, "Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon -La Reconquista-," will be performed from September 13 to September 23 (no performance on the 17th).

Tickets cost 6,800 yen and the performance will be held at the AiiA Theater Tokyo.
What's equally great is that musical related items like booklets and light pens will also be sold. I'm planning on being in Tokyo at that time, but I doubt that I'd be able to get tickets. However, if I can get a pamphlet book I'll be happy!

erhmegerd! fangurl mode!