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 […]

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. […]

Ode to the Salaryman

Recently I received some correspondence asking for my insights into Japanese culture, in particular the concept of “salaryman” (サラリーマン). Although my response may seem harsh, possibly exaggerated, the grain of truth runs deep. I’ve had to slightly edit my original response, but much of it remains intact. I may have been in a slightly jaded […]

Japanese School Lunch

The one and only thing Japan does well in regards to their school system is school lunch (給食, kyushoku). Each day, for a very reduced fee, elementary and most junior high schools, provide a highly balance Japanese style lunch. Each calorie and nutrient is carefully considered. Sugar and processed foods are kept to a minimum. […]

Snowbugs Ain’t No Fun

Autumn has really settled in here in Sapporo. I’ve been eyeing up my snowshoes. First snows could be only a few weeks away. More likely around Christmas time, but one can always hope. In the meantime, we are stuck with consistent rain and temperatures hovering around 5 Celsius. In the early morning. If we do […]

Japanese Pancake Scams

Quick…What is the first things you think of when I say “Hawaii”? If you are from most of the Western world, images of pristine beaches, blue ocean waters, and maybe a nice margarita will shoot through your mind very quickly. But if you are Japanese, you think of pancakes. Yes, pancakes. Because somehow, through years […]

The Robotic “Ohayou!” Bell

I often joke about how the Japanese people are basically automatons, who mindlessly shuffle through their days, responding to stimuli much like one of Pavlov’s dogs, predictably and without spontaneity. Well, this actually isn’t a joke in most circumstances. Each morning I arrive at my desk around 7:45. I do this primarily so the vice […]

5 Reasons I Don’t Say Hello

I don’t respond to Japanese children (or adults) who say “hello” to me on the street. My reasons are varied: #1 By responding, you are reinforcing the widely held view that all foreigners of Western distinction speak English decently. Japanese children need to become more aware that this is not the case. #2 I don’t […]

5 Apps for Meditative Commutes

In recent months I have really streamlined my phone, but there are some apps that I use regularly that make the humid summer days of no-aircon Sapporo pass a little more smoothly. First, the phone: the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. I know it’s not the latest model, but until NTT docomo or a competitor offers […]