The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
It is true that Japanese are very kind and indulgent, especially of my strange ways and bad Japanese. And, despite myriad and chronic economic, political, educational, demographic and environmental problems Japan remains a great place to live and work. No place is perfect, but Japan is clean and orderly. Things work, and on time, too. The transportation infrastructure is incredible. People care for one another. Or, they pretend to anyway, which might be just as good. Then there are the rich history and culture to entertain us and the admirable countryside to distract us. If readers like myself occasionally pen critical letters to the media about some points that occupy our thoughts we can easily come across as unwelcome and ungrateful complainers. Mostly we learn to live here through various necessary amendments to our expectations and standards. Sometimes our personalities are completely reborn, but usually we just knuckle under, keep our mouths shut and go with the flow.
For many long-term foreign residents like myself - people who have set roots here, have families, own property, etc. - the kinds of misadventures of young JET teachers like what are described in “Teacher outfoxes board, exposes bid to fleece JETS” (February 28, 2012) are quite familiar and, in fact, old news. It’s always a bit of entertainment, really, to read about the miscommunications and problems of these young newbies as they discover what Japan is really like. Many young and short-term foreign workers here work and then leave without realizing that the whole time they have only been shown the masks that Japanese wear in front of them. They affect surprise if they discover the existence of the masks and the dark things that lie behind them. Old timers like us might actually deter the youngs’ enthusiasm for the JET vocation if we talked too much, so better let them discover for themselves.