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Sunday, February 22, 2004

Looking over the comments on my February 18th entry, I have so much to say. I need a new entry to elaborate on working in Japan.

When I first got to Japan, Mr. Moriya put me at a desk in city hall and told me to stay put. I read all the books on theories of teaching, then I read all the books on the more practical aspects of teaching. Then I made a few lesson plans. Then I made worksheets. Less than a month into this and still nowhere near a school, I finished all my self-appointed tasks.

I asked Mr. Moriya for my work. He told me to relax. But I couldn't relax when office gossip pinpointed me as the supreme slacker. I mentioned my concerns to Mr. Imai, one of the city councilors. He said it was perfectly within my rights to pull out the complete works of George Eliot and read for the rest of my Japanese career.

"Why people in Japan have careers just based on reading the morning and afternoon editions of the paper," he said. (Direct quote, translated into English.)

The next day I looked around the office. The guy over in the Continuing Education department had his head down on his desk. He snored through his two hour afternoon nap. The city hall gallery director lectured his secretaries for two hours on the importance of pickling their vegetables in a traditional Japanese way. I nodded a lot and promised him I would.

Things progressively got worse.

Lunches stretched into unbearable hours - as long as there was some squishy sea urchin piece of anatomy I didn't mind. Company dinners were a horror of beer-chugging and fresh sushi. And all those presents - cookies, biscuits, crackers, jellies, table cloths, towels, tea towels, bottles of French wine, happi coats, folding fans, hankerchiefs, ear picks, coasters, fine chinaware, hardcover sets of the collected letters of the Brontes and a fully-annotated translation of the Tale of Genji, imported teas, perfumed amulets, porcelain incense holders, a full-sized plastic model of an iguana, tickets to Kabuki ghost spectacles, a $1000 USD kimono. The strain was too much.

So I came back to Canada.

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