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. […]

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 […]