Category Archives: Avery Fane

20
May

Hunting in Vain, Pt. 2

     The last article was an overview of "shuukatsu" and the story of a job that wasn't right for me offering me a gravy train ticket to lifetime employment… as well as boredom and my humble refusal. Next, let's take a look at an experience much more within my skill-set and realm of believability.

     Prior to university, like most artists, I waited tables, tended bars, and worked with people. This eventually led me into the hospitality industry—hotels, airlines, and tourism.

     Over the years, both in North America and in Japan, I continued to work in this industry throughout school as well as after graduation. Somewhere in the middle, however, I almost signed on forever.

     While attending my company interviews described in Part 1, I had been worried about the prospect of being stuck in the countryside for three years. Not only from an artist's standpoint, but also considering that fate allowed me to have grown up in the big cities of the world, I knew I needed to be where the action was: Tokyo (no disrespect to Osaka, it's an amazing city, and I'd love to spend more time there, but: Tokyo). Since the age of 16, I'd spent so much of my life in Asia's New York, during and between schooling, for work and for play, or simply just because, it just made sense that's where I end up.

     There are specific industries built around "shuukatsu" in Japan, just like job hunting in any other country. Since I was in my strange "I want to work full time for pennies, and zero recognition, in a xenophobic society to prove that all humans are equal" phase, I was naturally signed up for newsletters, seminars, and all sorts of update apps on my phone.

     Somewhere along the way, I saw an add for front desk manager in training at one of Japan's premier international hotels. Everything about it was perfect: the prestige I sought, money (assuming on that one), and most importantly: TOKYO!

     The pattern was much the same: some mildly important questions to suss out my sanity in the beginning, followed by a round of small group interviews that basically served to write off some corporate lunches, as very little about the job was discussed past "do you feel like you can do this?"; however, the third interview, which occurred about a week after I turned down the last naite, was the nail in the coffin for me.

     I was fully prepared to sign the contract of employment, until I found out there was no provided accommodation! I know, I know: "didn't you refuse the last company because of the dormitory commitment?" Yes, I did. However that was in the middle of the sticks, and this was in the heart of Tokyo.
      Sure, if they didn't require me to be within 10 minutes walking distance (in case of emergency shift requirements), I could have found a cheap apartment a little ways away; however, that wasn't the case. The cost of a cheap "1 K" apartment (basically a bachelor, as is known in the West, however, with 6-8tatami mats in size with a tiny Kitchen, a toilet, and a shower if lucky) in the neighborhood would cost between 円90,000-円130,000 ($900-$1300 roughly). Entry level for most Japanese companies is usually under 円200,000,–less if the company provides more. Well, being one of the larger hotel chains in the world, benefits included: full medical/dental, a cheap cafeteria, a gym (with showers), and a lot of other services to please life-long employees. The salary, however, was slightly under 円170,000. Factoring in rent, and then a cellphone and internet (say, 円10,000 if I watched my usage), this left me with literally pennies to survive on.

     "How could a major company pay so little?" You might ask? The salaryman companies I described earlier didn't pay that much more, mind you (円208,000 if I recall correctly). Well, in Japan, despite full time employment, it's customary (either out of love or obligation) for young adults to receive allowance assistance, until they get a raise to an acceptable salary (which is usually three years later, after one's "loyalty has been tested"); or more often than not, for the rest of their lives. That said, I've always been one to earn my way. I have paid for pretty much everything since I "left the nest," and I didn't expect to stop, nor could I expect my family to give me $500 a month.

     Much like the previous companies, I was also asked: "would you be prepared to stay in Japan, even if there was a family emergency or tragedy abroad" (Japanese workers are often unable to attend funerals or similar occasions)? While I questioned myself again and said yes, pledging my loyalty, I knew that for so little I would be refusing before I left the door. I of course thanked them formally, bowed accordingly, and was ready to party on the town. My ticket to Tokyo this time cost 円75,000, and they handed me an envelope with 円600,000.

     I still have the email from HR somewhere: "It gives me great sadness in my heart to learn that you will not be joining us, we wish you good luck in your endeavors."

     Stay tuned for the next article, where my pride gets me in trouble.

12
May

Hunting in Vain, Pt. 1

-by Avery Fane

The most important part of the Japanese school process is finishing. This isn't, however, as simple a thing as graduating. That much is easy, if not guaranteed by virtue of paying admission. The most important part of Japanese schooling is getting a job.

It just so happens that, for some reason, I was dedicated to being a 'salary man', or business man, if you will; which for the most part has been an employment category closed to foreigners. There's never been a shortage of educational or political positions for foreigners, but after growing up on Japanese media programming myself, I found myself idolizing and striving to be a 'salary man' myself.

The procedure is very interesting, in all its quaint iterations; I'll walk you through the steps I took.
Against my better judgment, the first thing I did to receive the golden 'naite', (unofficial, whilst official, promise of employment upon graduation) through the school's recruitment process. As much as I grumbled for years that the program didn't work for me, looking back, it makes sense—considering that I was at a primarily business school, and that many of the corporations I yearned to work for weren't available through the school's network. First there was a seminar. Students crowded into a hall in their 'hiring suits' (carbon copy cheap suits that everyone buys to, as is Japanese custom, not stand out), while hung-over representatives from the company gave a lazy presentation. I attended a number of these, same deal across the board.

15
Apr

Photochemical Sky

Tokyo1

-by Avery Fane

A summer in Gion,
that we never had.
The ferry ride of constant love,
we once were glad.

You waited for me,
or did I wait for you?
Was it that time in Chuukagai,
or our memories in Kouto-Ku?

Shibuya memories,
Shinjuku tears.
To this day, I still ask why.
We promised not to be sad.

Shinkansen through my heart,
days that we had no fears.
I really did, and only asked,
that you'd try.

I feel the tears,
from a photochemical sky.

I feel the tears,
from a photochemical sky.

Looking back at Tokyo though,
I still ask why.

18
Mar

Onani Samurai

-by Avery Fane

     I was honored when Tyler invited me to write for his ambitious and extremely intriguing new project: Ten Colors Japan. Not only because I love the concept, or because he's as close as family to me (despite not seeing each other in five years), but because many moons ago I was a published journalist, and it sounds like fun to get back in the game.
       So I thought long and hard on this. I decided on a casual diary like format, and I decided to try to submit at least bimonthly. Now, the issue is where to start. You see, I met Tyler in 2003. About half way into my 11 years in Japan, and while our friendship, as well as many of our stories cross paths, wavelengths, and even countries, where to start was a real pickle for me.
        Then it hit me. The spring of 1999. I was a young pup, in my third year of Japanese high schooling (technically my second year; however, I was in year three, or grade 12/senior year in the West). Now, I had only been living in Japan for a year or so at that point, and I'd experienced pretty much everything you read about, hear about, see on TV or even see in anime. I didn't think there was any form of culture shock I couldn't weather–except Gundams and used panty vending machines. Neither of those are real.

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