Sunday, March 13, 2011

Post-Sendai Earthquake Japan

A friend recently asked something to the effect of "What does the recent Sendai Earthquake entail?", a good question.

Japan gets better. But I also imagine that the earthquake may unleash whatever latent anxiety, disillusionment, and frustration gripping modern Japanese. Disasters unite people for better or for worse.

The rebuilding process may very well galvanize Japanese. Among other things, rebuilding means new jobs, a reinvigorated spirit of community, and a clearly defined "real" goal to work towards (a better Japan): all of which proves panacea to an existential funk because busy, needed, and involved people do not have time to worry about their life purpose or meaning. In short, the rebuilding process may actually help Japanese recenter themselves and reorient towards what they truly value in life.

But rebuilding may also usher in popular resentment: that this earthquake literally snapped the popular psyche. Latent grumbling issues like political reform, economic downturn, and societal stress all suddenly find voice in swaths of hitherto just mentally/spiritually displaced Japanese. This anticipates one of two scenarios that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. First, final physical disconnect may cause Japanese to rally around their government leaders and scapegoat historical outliers like opposition politicians, social minorities, and foreigners. Second, final physical disconnect may compel Japanese to intensely scrutinize their prevailing political culture and social culture. Gnashing of teeth defines both scenarios.

The aforementioned sounds all gloom, doom, and slippery slope sure; but the possibility palpably remains.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Crunch Time! Number-wise. Also, solving a KNOTTY problem <--Get it?!

I did a bit of number crunching. My tentative expenditures for the first month (not including food) follows:

  • LeoPalace Apartment: 
    • Two Months Rent Upfront: 101530¥ (US$ 1234)
    • Insurance: 20000¥ (US$ 243)
    • Lock Change 3150¥ (US$ 38)
    • Data Entry Fee (Whatever that is, I imagine they simply add my address to a Rolodex in town hall): 2100¥ (US$ 25)
    • Utilities (Electric, Water, Gas): 10000¥ (US$ 121)
    • Furniture and accompanying Accoutrement: 16451¥ (US$ 200)
    • Total: 153085¥ (US$ 1861)
  • Phone
    •  iPhone 4 32g: 51330¥ (US$ 624)
    • Value Plan (Unlimited Data with free* Voice Calling): 6185¥ (US$ 75)
    •  Total: 57499¥ (US$ 699)
  • Car 
    • Car Lease (?) with Insurance: 24677¥ (US$ 300)
    • Novelty Dice (jk)
    • Total: 24677¥ (US$ 300) 
  •  Grand Total: 235263¥ ($US 2860)
In short, best to work and save some money before heading over to Japan land. These expenditures do not even count purchases leading up to Japan like clothes, plane tickets, etc. I suppose everyone already knew that moving is expensive; but for the rest of us still late in the adulthood game, this serves as a reminder. Also, I remember my initial estimates for graduate school and dorm life at Ritsumeikan APU totaled (with granted 50% tuition scholarship) 2478000¥ (US$ 30124) for one year. Upon retrospect, spending a little money now to work and make money feels like the better decision. 

Anyway, the following is one of the more effective videos on Tying a Tie, specifically, a Windsor Knot. For those of us who still find ourselves confounded and wounded against a lank piece of cloth, Godspeed.  


So, I have two weeks left. I really feel restless. Oh, while in Japan I intend to start up a video blog on Youtube not unlike the many expat blogs already established. The late Rodger Swan, TkyoSam, and Meaphe inspired me to record my own impressions and maybe, just maybe, intelligently contribute to the thriving expat community. Or hell, maybe just entertain. For now, just houses some Japanese language video projects from yesteryear.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Packing Preparation and Phone Plans

Leaving in a little more than a couple weeks frequently makes me mull over my packing. Ideally, I'll bring only one checked-in luggage and bring my messenger bag; but the list looks overwhelming. I tentatively plan to pack the following:

  •  T-Shirts
  • Oxford Shirts (x3 blue; x2 white)
  • Pants (x1 brushed khakis; x2 corduroys; x2 jeans)
  • Suit (x1 blue; x1 gray)
  • Ties (x3 gold; x1 blue)
  • Sweaters (x1 heather charcoal gray; x1 plum)
  • Jacket (x1 blue; x1 gray)
  • Socks
  • Belt
  • Watch
  • Pom Pom Hat
  • Jogging Shirt (x1 blue; x1 gray)
  • Jogging Pants (x1 black; x1 gray)
  • Gloves
  • Pajamas
  • Boxers 
  • Swim Trunks
  • Gillette Deodorant (x6)
  • Electric Toothbrush (x1)
  • Sensodyne Toothpaste (x pack)
  • Listerine (x pack)
  • Pepto Bismal(x lol idk)
  • Nail Clipper (x1)
  • Floss Wands (x pack)
  • Poker Chips
  • Bible
  • Batteries
  • Caribiner (x2)
  • Casino Playing Cards
  • Collapsible Pull Up Bar 
  • American Flag
  • USA Map
  • State Map
  • Family Photos 
  • Photos Around Town
  • Batman Plushie
  • Eye glasses x2
Japanese Reference

Anyway, I have been researching iPhone 4 offerings and plans in Japan. I plan on getting an iPhone 4 largely for its camera, GPS, and video conferencing with friends and family. SoftBank solely sells iPhones in Japan. iPhone 4 go for $500 and $624 (16g and 32g respectively). The price more than doubles US offerings of $199 and $299. SoftBank offers a monthly bill discount of 1920¥ ($23) in the 32g unlimited 24month data plan (the value plan) to "defray" the initial phone costs. According to the previously linked article, the money saved over 24 months with the discounted data plan amounts to 46080¥ ($559): the article argues that in a sense, a person effectively pays $125 for the iPhone4 32g. Still, this is a suspect suggestion because over the course of 24 months, a person still must pay the $30 data/calling plan. So, $30x24months=$720 after 24 months. Then, $720+$624 (iPhone 32g)=$1344. Very pricey. Still, compared to the US offering of $299 32g for $114 (AT&T 4g data plan and unlimited calling): $114x24months=$2736. $2736+$229 (iPhone 32g)= $2965. Much pricier.

As an aside, avoid T1/Mcall providers. An ALT friend relayed how many other ALTS found themselves wanting out and hit with a weighty cancellation fee. 

The packing list and the number crunching makes me appreciate just how difficult and expensive immigration is. Much respect and admiration to my parents and the many unsung immigrants past and present.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Captain's Log: 3000.6 (part the 2)

Previously on Dexter


October 16th 2010 (Part the 2). Anyway, the presentations briskly proceeded.  If I correctly recall, the presentation part lasted for an hour or so because our orientation only had eight applicants. After the last person finished, our recruiter convened for break asking every individual applicant to come back later for personal interviews--part three. The recruiter slotted me for 2:45 pm, so a bunch of us hopefuls decided to eat out while waiting. Between sobs and slurps, we vented over our perceived failures: "Oh, I failed the grammar test", "Oh, I didn't smile enough", and the occasional "SHIT".  Oh I forgot to mention that the recruiter gave us Myers-Briggs questionnaires to complete before our personal interviews. So, on top of sobbing and swearing, we  worked on our questionnaires. We played a sort of mind game with the questionnaires, trying to psych out the piece of paper with answers we thought THEY wanted us to answer: eg. one girl purposefully answering affirmative to all the obviously extrovert questions but always marking  a few introvert answers to not appear "too gregarious". Anyway after an hour or so, we headed back to the information session and waited. Eventually my interview came up and we exchanged goodbyes. Now, the personal interview was surprisingly chill. The recruiter asked "why Japan?", "Are you holistically prepared?", and other standard HR questions; but more often than not, she and I found ourselves loudly laughing. */sigh* typing tires me. /cop out. Fast forward ten days and Interac sent me an email congratulating me and wishing to hire me.

Late October 2010-Today, Now, This Moment. After restlessly waiting a good 5 months, I now find myself 19 days away from leaving for Japan. Anxiety often grips me. Still I sometime surprise myself, girding up courage not unlike a salty whaling captain in tumult-tossed sea legless-ly steering into a volcano. The following are the confirmed aspects of my assignment:

Placement: Futtsu-shi elementary schools
Accommodation: neighboring Kimitsu-shi; LeoPalace apartment
Driving: Yes
Start: April 1st

I am very stoked about my placement. I live near the countryside; Tokyo (wary I am to visit it) is a hop, skip, and a jump away; and the beaches! As much as I admire/love the Nevada desert crapshoot climate, I relish the idea of lazily sunbathing or clam digging weekends.

Captain's Log: 3000.6 (part the1)

First-time posting proves especially daunting because for the past year I wrote nothing more than three sentences in any single flourish. And even then, those sentences (if they may be generously identified as such) often amounted to just "LOL". I write this journal largely to: record my impressions leading up to and living/working in Japan; further inundate the interwebz with its already many Japanese expat blogs; and do some much needed cerebral calisthenics.

I'm Jed. Interac Co.,Ltd. recently hired me as an Assistant Language Teacher (alt) in Japan. The hiring/placement process up until now happened something like this:

Late September-ish 2010. completed online application on Among other things, the online application asks prospective applicants to write two 500 word max (or min, I do not remember <---unreliable narrator) essays explaining reasons for wanting to teach in Japan and expectations of the Japanese teaching environment. With winning application in tow, the applicant sets up an appointment for a phone interview with an Interac recruiter. The phone interview apparently screens out most applicants, at least that's what a recruiter mentioned. The phone interviewer confirms with the applicant their personal information and location preferences but more importantly scrutinizes the applicant's demeanor and *excitement* over the phone. My own phone interview concluded with my interviewer highlighting my gusto/genki/joie de vivre as "what they look for". Sometime later, Interac sends an email to the successfully screened applicant asking for documentation like college diploma copies, criminal background checks, etc. and sends another email confirming the information session date/location. I remember my information session dated October 16th at San Francisco (by and by, I HATE SAN FRANCISCO--actually well, as of late, not so much hate but begrudgingly admire).

Early October 2010. Some stuff happened. I remember going to my local police station for a criminal background check. I also remember mailing sensitive documents to Interac. Otherwise, up until October 16th, I have totally forgotten everything.Oh wait, Interac sends a pretty weighty email containing session information, tips about the applicant's personal presentation, and a general primer on alt life.

October 16th 2010. The information session occurred. Yesterday afternoon, ye olde parental unit and I drove down to San Francisco. That morning, when meeting the other applicants, I felt a perverse sort of pride being one of the out-of-towners (I experienced that same perverse pride at an AEON session the year previous). The pride proves perverse because only a special sort of stupid feels smug about upchuck traveling out of state, spending several hundred dollars, and emotionally/mentally wearing themselves out for a *chance* at a job. <---someone like say...THIS GUY. Anyway, the session conveniently divides into three parts. The first part involves an icebreaker and reviews the primer of alt life in Japan.The second and probably more *infamous* part is the personal presentation where applicants playact teaching one of three standard English lessons in front of a camera. The three lesson types were: directions around town, identifying common objects, and someotherthirdthingican'trecallforthelifeofme. I picked the directions lesson and incorporated Harry Belafonte's Day-O, culture heroes Abraham Lincoln and Lady Gaga, and the fires of Mordor into my overall lesson plan.The personal presentation also involves a personal introduction, short-script reading, and warm-up activity. The whole presentation must last for 6 minutes and not more. Oh, the camera does not stop: so applicants strive for fluidity. I remember awkwardly grinning and walking away during my presentation to grab a prop on my seat. OH! I also remember totally forgetting the refrain to the Day-O song and just saying banana, banana, banana, over and over again. I looked at the Interac recruiter then, hitherto clapping along and smiling, looking like she just sucked a lemon. I would like to think I recovered because of my winning charm and indelible impressiveness; but more likely, I imagine prompts like "Mina-san, how can Gaga-san and Lincoln-san get to the Fires of Mordor from the gym?" saved me. Just maybe.