There are a bunch of things that i’ve wanted to write down, but events are conspiring to sap me of all clarity of thought. The only way forward is to try and blurt it all out!
On getting by.
Several recent conversations have led me to conclude that in the current environment the best that a foreigner in Japan can hope to do is ‘get by’. There are opportunities for people, but everything looks like a dead-end, a cul de sac, one might say. The prospect of working in Japanese environment, where promotion is based on tenure, where connections are everything, where creativity can be a liability, just really doesn’t appeal. As a cultural experiment it has some charms, but they wear pretty thin when thoughts turn to the future. If i was reliant on a job at a japanese company, it would have to be in a truly remarkable environment to keep me here…
[Last week, in a drunken haze, i nearly got into a fight with an english teacher. Nobody seemed to want to tell me what i said that was so offensive, but given the lubrication, it was likely not particularly charming. The job of ‘english teacher in japan’ is the one that i most closely associate with the malaise described above. What exactly is the career path for an english teacher on a temporary contract? I’m not sure what the answer is to that question. The implication isn’t that teaching isn’t a meaningful profession, just that with japanese turning increasingly inwards, where exactly is it going?]
And there’s the rub, without that pressure, i’m still pretty happy here. That may well be that M and i are pretty happy to live / play in our bubble. Society is, of course, always out there, but we’re as isolated / insulated as we need to be.
On getting out.
Several of my friends have wandered off, out of the sunset that is japanese society. And, as much as i’d like to churlishly sulk about it, i can almost always see their points of view. None of them have been the type to whine, and no one would say they haven’t attempted to make the best of it. They’ve got stuck in, learned the language, hustled for work, given a mile, taken an inch… but in the end there just isn’t enough to keep people here once the novelty of newness wears off.
Maybe it’s just that wanderers wander… although that feels like a trite answer to a much deeper question. What is there to keep people here, if they can never really become integrated into society?
The above is full of generalities. There are of course counter-examples, people who have happily integrated themselves into companies / society. Perhaps they are the role models, and, despite protestations to the contrary, my expectations of how a company / society should deal with outsiders in it’s midsts are not suitable for japan. I’m not really cut out to blend in, to conform, do as expected. I’m watching (sniping?) from the borders of society, not prepared reshape myself to fit the mold. How could i possibly judge those who don’t have the easy out of hunkering down in the suburbs?