Sayonara: Six Posts on Leaving

It’s been about a year since I left Japan, and I know many friends and readers (those in the JET Program) are coming up on saying goodbye to a country or to their friends who are headed home. Here’s a few posts from the archives about leaving:

On Disconnecting in Japan (link)
It costs $200 to remove an air conditioner in Japan. 

On Meeting a Strawberry in Japan (link)
What seemed to happen, in my last weeks in Japan, is that rather than feeling a sense of attachment and a longing to stay, I have left already. Some students gave me flowers. They’re plastic so I don’t have to water them. It’s a nice gesture, but lately I feel like those plastic flowers, being there and looking the part but not really living.

41 Things I Like About Japan (link)
Useful in drawing up your Japanese bucket list.

7 Lessons Learned (link)
The ideas that have kept me sane – or have been learned after losing and finding my sanity – while practicing to become the person I am today. I’ve tossed a lot of ideas out in Japan, these are the ones I’ll be taking home.

On Life After Japan (link)
I panicked in an airplane-hangar-sized grocery store. My favorite restaurants at home had closed, or didn’t taste the same. I had to drive everywhere, and I felt stagnant from not walking. I instinctively tried to book a train to see my friends, but there are no real trains, nothing I could afford.

On Falling Out of London (link)
I came to Japan to write uncertainty out of my dictionary, to invent a new language to define myself, one that didn’t rely on anything outside of itself. That was a stupid idea.

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On Falling Out of London


Words are social creatures, with every word defined by other words, and dictionaries are a party. Interactions define things: words can’t write themselves. Meaning emerges in connections and gaps. Take some scissors to a Webster’s and cut out your favorite word, tack it to a whiteboard, and show it to someone who can’t speak the language. The entire system falls apart. Human beings are no different.

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On Sexual Harassment in Japan (Part 3): A Modest Proposal



I have been overwhelmed by the support from readers of my posts, On Sexual Harassment in Japan (Part 1) and (Part 2). I’m also stunned at how many of you had stories of your own, shared here or in the many posts on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook I’ve seen or been copied on.

This post was not really part of the original plan, but I’ve been asked what, exactly, would an ideal sexual harassment policy look like, one that accepted both cultural nuance and misunderstandings and the unreserved right to expect a safe work environment. Well, here’s my attempt at it. By all means, suggest your own ideas.

The following is drawn up based on a very simple fusion of the sexual harassment sections of the Tufts University guidelines (selected at random), those which already existed in the JET General Information Handbook, and a simple explanation of Japanese law. In case word economy was a concern of the JET Program, the original clocks in at 412 words; this revised edition is 470, but moves support phone numbers out of a diagram of the JET bureaucracy buried in an appendix in the back of the handbook.

I’ve cut out the victim-blaming language and statements of the obvious, gone is the suggestion that the ALT makes a close friend at an office (which is not always possible); gone are the suggestions that drinking and dressing comfortably invite sexual harassment. I have done my best to establish that a victim will be supported and has many options within the system. Of course, now the system has to actually support those options. Start the clocks. Continue reading

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On Sexual Harassment in Japan (Part 2): For ALTs


In my previous post (part 1) I discussed the history of sexual harassment law in Japan, and the struggles women continue to face today. But in truth, this series was inspired by a report in The Japan Times about foreign workers in English-language schools.

The article collects information from women who work in private lessons for the Japanese English-education firm GABA. Teachers reported incidents of clients exposing themselves, making lewd remarks, spending 40 minutes staring at a teacher’s breasts during a lesson, and stalking. One client “leant over and looked me straight in the eyes and said, ‘I want to drink your breast milk.’”

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On Sexual Harassment in Japan (Part 1)


Last week, Ayaka Shiomura, a 35-year-old lawmaker in Tokyo, was raising questions about the role of working mothers in Japan when someone started jeering.

“Why don’t you get married?” one voice shouted out. Then another: “Can’t you have a baby?” Continue reading

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On Not Being Offended by Avril Lavigne in Japan


If nobody in Japan thinks a racist video about the Japanese is racist, can anyone be offended?

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