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The International Writers Magazine:Lifestyles

 Japan upon reflection
• M Webb On Teaching English in Japan
A reflection on any country is a personal one. My feelings and experiences will differ wildly from others I’m certain. I just want to try and give you an idea of how it was for me. That’s all it can ever be.
Happy Endings

I spent my time in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher. This involved teaching English to children. And whilst this may sound exciting and interesting I can assure you that it was mind numbingly mundane and soul destroying.

An idea of life in the schools.

Empty Time
The only way to survive most school days is to try and fill your ‘empty time’. This is what the Japanese affectionately call the time you spend in the teachers’ room doing nothing. Lots of teachers keep themselves busy by pretending to be busy, others (Assistant Language Teachers who will remain unnamed) Play on their I-phones... me...I just write. I do this pretty much all day and fill books with the useless information that you are now reading. They never seem to notice, I suppose they are just too busy trying to look busy to notice. Even if the Japanese teachers do spot you doing unrelated things they are very unlikely to say anything. Because you are a foreigner and you don't understand their "ways" or some crap... you are given leniency. One day I will test the limits of this leniency theory by attempting to sing the German national anthem backwards whilst pegging several pairs of boxers to my lower lip. In all seriousness though folks... boxers on the lip aside, if (like me) you are writing some crap or playing on the coolest new farm simulator, what are the teachers really going to say? "Erm, excuse me, I know that the Japanese English teacher has said that she'll/he'll make the lesson plan and all you have to do is show up and say some stuff in English, and I know that you quite literally have nothing to do....but can you please stop doing the only thing that is making this even remotely bearable....? Thanks"

Truth is that they honestly could have bought a CD player to do the job they were hiring me for. I would stand their and say the words aloud in English. In fact one lesson I recall had a C.D player in it. The teacher used it and I sat there for the whole lesson doing absolutely nothing. It was utterly demoralising.

Role Play
A Japanese English Teacher was using an English text book to teach the children some new conversational words. He was informing me which character I was going to be speaking the part of in this fictional conversation.

"Okay Michael Sensei, you do Mike's Father and I'll do his son."

I couldn't help but giggle in front of the class....

Life outside of the school room.
Picture the scene, I`m in my kitchen by myself, putting the finishing touches on my chicken and noodle combo. This involves simply pouring a relatively mildly spiced sauce into the mix. (no feat of cooking genius) So I`m stirring away and I`m stirring away, and it`s getting hotter and hotter when suddenly.... some of the sauce spits up and burns my arm in three places... and I say, out lout, (bearing in mind there`s no one in the apartment but me) "now that`s what I call hot-sauce." And that moment was the moment I knew I needed to get a life.

Tokyo in December with my friend Nick and a random Japanese girl he decided to pick up. Shortly after this I drank a large plastic bottle of whiskey and stumbled half eyed around Tokyo with an air pilot called Jason. It was good to have him around because I had long lost Nick by this point. The night was glowing with neon lights and street lamps despite it being almost 3: am.

Japane girl ‘You want to get some McDonalds?’ Jason asked.
‘Yeah sure I could do with a cheeseburger.’ I said.  Jason walked ahead of me, swaying in the street left to right.

A woman of about 30 years old was looking at me and smiling. She was very attractive and as she was looking me up and down she seemed pleased with what she saw. As I walked by I looked at her and smiled brightly. She gently took my arm.

‘I want to take you to my room.’ She said. I stood in the street trying to take in what she had said, trying to be sure that I had heard her right and trying to remember the last time I had got laid. She smiled at me some more and told me to come with her to her room again. She was still touching my arm. I nodded in disbelief. She looked at me curiously.
‘You talk English?’ She asked. I nodded still finding it hard to believe my luck. She was about my height and she had beautiful skin and long black hair. An oriental beauty.

She walked me a little up the road and then we went down an alleyway and she opened her door. She was holding my hand now and leading me upstairs. She dragged me through a curtained door opening and finally I understood. It wasn’t a flat she had taken me to, it was a massage parlour. And when I say massage parlour I mean whore house. She took me to the bed and asked me to take off my clothes. I didn’t know what to do, I was drunk and confused. I was wondering if I could just leave or if people would be coming for me. Like Japanese pimps or something, I don’t know. Anyway I complied. I took my clothes off and she laid me down and massaged my back and stomach.  After about ten minutes of rubbing oil on my naked body she asked me if I wanted a happy ending. I said that I did.

The next real amount of time I had time off was in January.  I went to see Nick in Gunma. He took me to the local karaoke parlour and introduced me to a Canadian girl called Ingrid and a Japanese girl called Kasumi. Kasumi was small and very cute, Ingrid was big and curvy. We took a cab through Gunma and the night passed my eyes quickly. We stopped at what looked to me like a two story hotel. We went to the reception room and Nick ordered a room for us. I had never seen anything like it. We walked past room after room of people singing in their own personal space. Of course it wasn’t a hotel; it was big enough to be one sure. It had all the dingy and un-kept style of a no class motel and all of the brown walls and un-cleaned windows were in the right places. It may have even used to be a hotel, but it wasn’t anymore my friends. The function of this out of the way two story building was to bring affordable karaoke to the masses of Gunma, private rooms only of course.  

We sang together and had all you can drink for 2 hours thrown in with the deal. We sang Morrissey, well okay I sang Morrissey. There was Madonna, Blink 182, Radiohead, Ray Orbinson, Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John and even the Beatles when we got really drunk. The karaoke room stank of cigarettes and cheap whiskey by the time we were done. And I never wanted to hear Strawberry Fields again.  

Controls weren’t in English.
© M Webb August 2013
michael.p.webb (at)

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