Low Productivity, Japan’s Dirty Little Secret

“The streets are so clean!” “Such excellent service.” “Public Transportation is quiet, clean and efficient.” “Gift wrapping is included with any purchase?!” “Japanese students clean their own classrooms!” “The streets are safe.” These are the common refrains you hear everywhere about Japan, and I left out quite a few for brevity sake. All these statements […]

Social Media Cleanse Complete

Well, it’s been a while. A three week trip back to the US put a monkey wrench in my writing. But I have stayed clear of nearly all social media in that span, which has been a welcome addition to my lifestyle. Basically my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts have been completely canceled after the […]

The Trans-Siberian Railway Dining Car

When I set off on my Russian trip in the spring of 2003 I had zero expectations, and was totally unprepared. I knew more about some tiny ancestral village in the Ukraine, my final destination, than the thousands of miles of railway journey between there and Vladivostok. I did zero research on the language, people, […]

Geriatric Japan

Everyone knows Japan has a demographic problem. It’s society is aging rapidly, and this is constantly referenced in economic projections for the coming decades. But what does that mean on the ground, away from the statistics? I’m no spring chicken. I’m approaching forty at the time of this post. But on my daily commute and […]

Japan’s English Problem

It’s the elephant in the room. Observers of Japan will complain about the school system, the testing, the monolithic nature of it all. Sometimes they talk about the textbooks. All of these are valid issues, and all hinder students’ ability to learn the language well. My favorite is when they scapegoat the ALT (Assistant Language […]

Memory Lane: Snow Monkeys, Tulips, Babushkas, Oh My!

February 2003 – After a year of teaching English in South Korea I embark on a two week jaunt through Japan, then a full Trans-Siberia Railway journey from Vladivostok, Russia to Kiev, Ukraine. From there I planned to visit my paternal great grandmother’s hometown outside Lviv near the Polish border. This wasn’t the most comfortable […]

Presence Over Production

The Japanese workplace is a funny thing. I’ve railed for years about my utter dislike for the サラリーマン (salaryman) and Japan’s work/life imbalance. These cultural deficiencies have led to one of least productive work forces in the OECD. That’s right, the nation that averages some of the longest working hours per week, produces the least. […]