For my first 14-years in Japan - 1990-to-2004 - I worked for a single company, contracted to teach English all over Metropolitan Tokyo in a number of private elementary, junior high and senior high schools. It is what is called a dispatch company. It was well-paid work, the Canadian dollar was quite cheap against the Japanese yen in those days, and I made a good living riding at the top of the economic wave. After that everything went to hell. The foreign population of Japan swelled. The yen declined against other currencies. The economy slowed and the demographics of Japanmeant fewer students, leaving schools looking to cut costs. Foreigners are eminently expendable.
Since 2004 I have held about a dozen jobs, none of which has equaled the remuneration I enjoyed in the 1990s. Currently I am juggling five part-time jobs with a total monthly income amounting to half of what I made ten years ago. Recently the yen has once more been gaining against foreign currencies (principally the U.S. dollar which has shrunk considerably lately). But since my income is in yen that situation hardly benefits me.
People in Canadacontinue to assume that I teach English in Japan, without noticing that I have not mentioned anything about my work since 2007. Job changes, disillusionment, shame and frustration motivated me to stop writing on that topic. Neither do I talk about my work when I am in Canada on family visits. These days I only occasionally teach a little English. Very little. It is certainly not my main employment now. Instead, I do a range of things, some on the fringes of legality. I also pay more money to the government than ever before. Contrary to the law, my former employer of 14-years did not pay into the national old age pension plan (“nenkin”) as he ought to have done. Neither did he contribute to the Employees’Health Insurance program (“shakai hokken”, a program which shares the burden of health insurance between employer and employee) as he ought to have done, nor to the unemployment insurance plan (“shitsugyo hokken”), also as he ought to have done. The lack of these deductions from my salary for those expenses contributed to my higher intake of (what I thought was surplus) cash in the old days. But these days I am meeting all of those expenses myself like a law-abiding foreigner. It means less cash available for daily life. It means life has become a money chase. Or, a treadmill running so fast that I can’t get off. The Metropolitan Government and the federal government breathe hard down my neck demanding that I pay! pay! pay! despite my explanations of a poverty and, sometimes, a lack of employment. For Japanese the demand that “You have to do it” blinds them to the boundaries of possibility, and the obligation to Pay! Pay! Pay! supersedes common sense.