Saturday, December 31, 2005

Yokohama Bay

Near Sakuragicho/Minato-mirai. Just behind Landmark Tower and the mall---probably one of the nicest areas in Yokohama. Nice place to relax. Lots of decent shops in the mall. Tokyo is in the background behind the bridge. You can take a nice 1-2 hour cruise on the bay on the cruise ship (Royal Wing) in the middle picture at a decent price. We did so 2 years ago on 30 December and it was very enjoyable.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas in Tokyo

It's about the same as in the States. The spirit of Christmas is buy, buy, and buy. The non-religious aspect does not bother me at all, as I am agnostic, but I hate going anywhere near a department store. It certainly reminds me of all I disliked about Christmas in the U.S.

I am nostalgic for an American Christmas, though. I would at least like the chance of a white Christmas, and the opportunity to see my family. I miss Christmas music. Even though I can get CDs here, and hear it in department stores, I miss the more traditional stuff. The Beach Boys singing a Christmas carol on a CD at Starbucks, makes me want to run out the door. (Well, the Beach Boys singing anything has that effect on me. Of course, if I get REALLY desperate, I could turn on the military station---810 AM which used to be called FEN, but is now PIGEON or something to do with birds. It has some of the worst music one could listen to, but it is actually stuff popular in some parts of the U.S. Especially bad are the new country music versions of Christmas songs.

Basically, Christmas here consists of buying a Christmas cake. Most taste like they were made by the millions of chemicals with flavor spray added.
A lot of young people use it as more or less a lover's holiday and spend Christmas Eve in a hotel.

The real holiday season starts next Wednesday. The New Years holidays last until about January 3-4. Tokyo is almost deserted as people return to their home towns. It is nice then as the air is clean and one can actually ride a train safely and comfortably.

Blog Time Zone

Apparently, blogspot has its own time zones. My setting are for Japan standard time, but recently, blog sets some other time. For example, the post below was posted on Christmas morning, but the time on this blog is Christmas Eve.

Well, it's a free blog. No customer support, but beggars can't be choosers, I guess. If I paid, maybe I'd have one that works correctly.

Even the spellcheck tool does not recognize "blog."

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Monday, December 19, 2005

So You Want to Teach in A Japanese University or Public School?

You are seriously interested in teaching as a profession. This interests you as much as, or more than, the "mysterious Orient" where you can go on a semi-sober backpacking expedition through Japan doing the "easiest job you've ever had" (an old NOVA recruitment tagline).

If so, perhaps you would like to come to Japan to teach in the JET program, or use your masters degree to teach at what passes for a university in Japan. First, I would suggest that you read this very good, spot on article; Discussion Paper: Language Teaching (English) – Japan
‘Perspectives from inside the school system’
Michael J. Matuschka MACE at and then read the book The Myth of Japanese Higher Education by Brian McVeigh : .

Afterwards, if you still are interested in coming, you will understand the problems and challenges to some degree, and you will also understand why you will not be taken seriously as a non-Japanese.

Nihonjinron--the Myth of Japanese Uniqueness

Here is a link to an interesting article on this nonsense. (See Nihonjinron: Identity, Misconception and Controversy
by Brent Poole.)

Especially interesting is what happened to the author to stimulate his interest in the subject which he discusses at the end of the article. Good for him that he did not prostitute himself to play henna gaijin (weirdo outsider) on TV for a few bucks like many do here. (I have to admit guilt, because to some extent, that is what an English teacher does in Japan. Most especially the eikaiwa entertainers.)

Granted, most foreigners are aware of this myth. Unfortunately, many believe them to be true. Look at the success of the absurdly nonsensical Last Samurai movie. Whenever a Japanese (or baka gaijin) starts a sentence with, "Japan is the only country..." or "The Japanese are the only people who...," you can usually consider what follows to be pure horse manure.

For a good example of nihonronjin and its absurdity (with rebuttal) look at : On Language and Japanese Rational Thought Processes Guest Forum: Where there's no 'will' there's no way By Shin-ichi Terashima, University of the Ryukyus at :

Sunday, December 18, 2005

But as always, the food is delicious

Our tempura lunch at a restaurant in the Futakotamagawa Takashimaya

December Autumn/Winter in Tokyo

Well, actually near Miyazakidai station on the Denentoshi line. Notice that the leaves are still on the trees.


This morning there is a beautiful, fresh, cold wind blowing with the smell of snow. It takes me back to West Virginia, or Montana, or Washington state after a fresh snowfall.

It is nice and clear in Tokyo today and as usual there is little or no chance of snow, although it has been heavily snowing in other parts of Japan for the last week or so. Too bad!

Tokyoites cannot stand real cold weather. When I visited Kyoto---hardly the coldest place on earth---a taxi driver told us to come in the winter because there were very few visitors then. When I mention this to people in Tokyo, they say "eeewww! Cold Kyoto!!!"

Anything below about 60 degrees is cold in Tokyo. They are like Texans and start putting on jackets at 75-80 degrees. The worst thing is that when it does get cold out, people tend to turn up the heat in offices and department stores to the extent that you sweat. While shopping, you have to take off your coat and carry it or give to the bag holding people who will keep it in storage while you shop (for a small fee).

Friday, December 16, 2005

The End of My Biggest Mistake

Nearly 3 years ago, I accepted a job with Berlitz. The economy had been bad and my hours at my old company had declined. I was looking for a full-time job. Berlitz was recruiting specifically saying that qualified/certified instructors were preferred. Later, when I complained that a trained TESOL instructor would not be happy at Berlitz because he/she could not utilize much of their training, I was told that Berlitz HR did not know that they were advertising for certified instructor until I told them!!! (They did remove it from later recruitment ads in Japan.)

I had declined Berlitz two or three times in the past. I wasn't really interested in using the old, obsolete, disproved Direct method. (When I say disproved, I mean that modern science and research has shown that it was not the most effective way to teach a foreign language. Actually, I believe that it is not bad in Japan where most students want to be told how and what to think and say and expect a strict focus on accuracy and strict correction. It also seems good for those who won't study, i.e., many Japanese. Of course I am not really talking about the real Direct/Berlitz method, but the quasi-audiolinguistic approach Berlitz was using until 2004. Berlitz now uses its peculiar derivative of the communicative approach although I doubt more than 2-3 teachers have a clue what that is.) However, I decided to try it and was also curious about trying the direct method since actually trying a communicative approach was often frustrating.

I again rejected the first offer due to the poor pay and lack of a full-time contract. HR called and reassured me, so I decided to give it a try. I met my first supervisor who was pursuing a master's in linguistics and who seemed to know what he was talking about. Darn, I thought Berlitz was real. Even training was a very quick, bare bones, basic TEFL course--nothing in depth but enough to get someone started. so I thought they must really be serious.

Well, unfortunately, outside of the training section, actual knowledge is scarce. It isn't required anyway, and in fact, if you do have any knowledge it is detrimental. Most supervisors know some of the jargon, but dig about 1mm below the surface and it becomes apparent that they have little clue. In fact, I was told by two different supervisors that it makes no difference what one does in a class "as long as the students enjoy it and think that they have learned something." And that is true. That is the bottom line. That is a quality Berlitz lesson.

This is fine, because only an damned fool would think that he was really teaching in an eikaiwa chain school anyway. It would be like a hamburger flipper at McDonald's claiming to be a chef. (Not offense to McDonald's, they may not be working as a chef there, but they still have to cook something edible. Unlike an eikaiwa teacher, they can't get away with pulling some garbage out of the trash and calling it a "quality" product.)

Many eikaiwa kyoshi's try to do a good job most of the time. They get little or no real training unless they get it at their own expense. They don't really bother to try to research more effective ways to teach. An example is Berlitz pronunciation. Teaching pronunciation is not intuitive. You have to have had some training or at least made an effort to learn. A very few have. Most don't and just fake it with the Berlitz book. Why not? Berlitz won't reward any efforts in this area. Since they don't have the same students each class, it won't help the student either. Most of the teachers are decent people. Unfortunately, they really don't know of much outside of Berlitz/NOVA/GABA so they tend to believe all schools/companies in Japan are the same.

On Christmas Eve, I will go to "work" at Berlitz for the very last time. It has been only a part-time job for me for the last year, but a full-time worry. I never know where I will teach, who I will teach, or what I will teach until the night before at best. I never have any preparation time, am almost never able to use non-Berlitz materials, almost never able to use anything I learned in college about TESOL (in fact, I am required to do things I know to be detrimental).

I have had my contract hours moved so that Berlitz wouldn't have to pay for having me work outside of contract hours. (For example, my contract stated my hours as 445pm to 915. Outside of that I should have been paid an extra 1920 yen per class minimum. My supervisor, often under instruction of the director, would switch my contract to cover lessons outside of contract so they could save paying me for the extra classes. It would have been ok occasionally if they had asked first like they are required to do.)

When I informed HR, it took over a month to get partial backpay because the IS whined so much about having to check all the pay records. In the end, I gave up on some of it. For example, they would switch our lunch time (break time by our contract) and not pay us for working that time. The excuse was "well, the idea is 11 units, 5 before lunch and 6 after, or visa versa. It is all ok as long as it is 11 units." The problem was, this is not what was in the contract or on the schedule. This is not what Berlitz work rules say. And it is certainly not what I agreed to. Extend that logic---a part-time worker is required to work 20 units. Could I come to work at 4 am and wait until 6pm and claim that I was available for 20 units and take the rest of the week off with full pay? After all, the idea is 20 units per week. When the units are is not relevant. Prior notice and agreement of a schedule change is not relevant.

Oh well, I am done anyway. Before joining Berlitz, I was warned never to work in an eikaiwa chain. Now I know why.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

International Child Custody Disputes in Wonderful Japan

I suppose that this is not news and most people with more than a passing acquaintance with Japan are aware of it, but Japan is a haven for Japanese spouses of an international marriage who kidnap children.

Many non-Japanese have found out the hard way that the Japanese government and court system will ignore international arrest warrants, international child custody decisions, international kidnapping, visitation rights, and more. As in most things, your rights as a foreigner are very weak if they exist at all. You certainly will be in serious trouble if your dispute is with a Japanese. Decisions seem to be based on the whim of the judge in the case more than law.

You can read some of the personal stories of non-Japanese custodial parents and how Japanese "courts" have served them here:

Naturally, of the hundreds of cases, there must be some cases where the parent has regained legal custody, visitation rights, or had other legal victories. After all, Japan does have a firm, non-discriminative legal system right? Those are listed here: . All 0 of them as of this date.

But don't be too critical, after all, this is a traditional Japanese custom which, as a baka gaijin, you can never understand. (Understand in the Japanese sense, meaning agree with.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Rush Limbaugh and Torture

Was just listening to Rush Limbaugh once again excuse and explain away what some limited parts of the U.S. military has done against prisoners (such as stripping people naked and putting a leash around their neck and walking them like a dog to excite and stimulate the perverts among the troops) as humiliation, not torture. I remember when this first came out, Rushy was asking "Who died? Did anyone die?" as a way to excuse what was done. I guess then as long as you killed no one anything was acceptable. Well, it turned out that some people were killed---or at least physically beaten. I never heard how Limbaugh excused that. Imagine what that hypocrite would be saying were it Americans or our allies who were stripped naked and paraded like a dog for the entertainment of perverts.

This is the same clown who, during the first Gulf War, pretended it was a movie by assigning actors who would play the roles of major players in that war. Himself as Scwartzkoff (sp) as I recall.

I remember when he first started in about 1989. His show was fun and entertaining and took a much needed right of center view of events as opposed to the normal left-wing stance of the major media. God, only the talk show hosts Phyllis Donahue and Larry King were around before him. (Larry does not believe in reading books before interviewing the author. A real intellectual.)

Since 1992 when Bush #1 had finished invading Panama (why did we do that again?)and was running for reelection, Limbaugh has simply gone to the nutter crowd. GW 1 invited Rush to the White House because Rush was critical of Bush and showed some signs of leaning toward Pat Buchanon. After that visit, he was never the same. In fact, he now seems to be the official voice of the Republican party, because all he does is parrot the Republican line. Anyone who disagrees with him is a not a "real" conservative. Only Rush is. And while it used to be funny to hear him brag that he was always right, now I think he is deluded enough to believe it.

I only hope that the people who call in and agree with him are only a small number of worshippers. I can't run around defending Americans if many are as ignorant as he has become. Anyone in Japan and probably other countries can pick that up and listen to it. How utterly embarrassing.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Thanks to the Japanese Government...

we are gonna be safe. Last week a 7 year old Japanese girl in Hiroshima was murdered. A Peruvian with a history of child molestation has been charged with her murder.

Initially, the focus was on the murder of such a young girl and the search for the sleaze who killed her. After the Peruvian was arrested, suddenly the focus seemed to change to the fact that he was not a pure Japanese, but a foreigner. (He was 1/4 Japanese. I guess his evil non-Japanese genes overpowered his pure, innocent Japanese genes.) One Japanese female TV reporter was so upset that she even slipped and used the word gaijin. She immediately corrected herself and said gaikokujin. Good thing or else someone might of thought her to be a rude bigot which does not exist among the pure Japanese people.

In various newspapers today, there are reports of a new government commission set up yesterday to help stop these crimes by the evil filthy, AIDS infested untrustworthy non-Japanese foreigners. You see, a crime is more a crime if committed by foreigners. Thank God (or the Emperor?) that this bunch has been formed.

Unfortunately, there was another 7 years old girl who was found murdered yesterday. These murders are NOT uncommon in Japan. I wonder why. I remember about 18 years ago in a so-called love hotel that there was a film of naked 7-10 year old girls swimming. I guess this was to help some of the Japanese clientele to get it up. Strangely, it tended to have the opposite effect on me. But, then again, I am just an evil gaijin who could never understand the wonderful Japanese. Thank goodness that 2-3 years ago the Japanese government decided to finally take action on the child porn being produced in Japan. At the time, it was one of the leading sources in the world for child porn. See this for more details , also here to see why the child porn problem in Japan continues

Anyway, if the other young girl was murdered by a Japanese, I wonder if the government will set up a committee to address crimes committed by Japanese perverts? Here are some examples of crimes committed by Japanese that they could look into:

January 1, 2006 update on the Japanese child porn law. According to today's Asahi Shimbun, the Child Porn law was just amended in July 2004. As originally passed 6 years ago, it only made the sale of child pornography illegal, but the 2004 revision made photographing or exchanging it illegal. In the first 11 months of 2005, there were 441 arrests under this law, 274 more than in 2004.