Monthly Archives: September 2011


Alright, it’s taken me awhile to put this together, but I’m ready to break down a typical day at work.

Up until about two weeks ago, I lived in the Board of Education room. Now I leave 2-4 times per week to teach at my schools, but I have to report in here in the morning and come back after my lessons are over.

Here’s the office. It’s arranged with two sets of six desks each, both headed by a section chief’s desks. I’m in the closer clump of desks, at the one that has a bag on the chair. The main door is directly behind me and the door to the board of ed chief’s office is over my left shoulder. I’ve trimmed out my section chief, who was the only other person in as early as the day I took this. I have yet to beat him to work in the morning, I suspect he sleeps under his desk. I’m fairly sure my clump of desks deals with the actual school education side of our work (dealing with me, organizing the school bus and school lunches, etc), while the other deals with more community outreach and education type things (after school enrichment, computer classes, the library). But don’t quote me on that.

There’s a refrigerator in the back corner, with drinks freely available. Barley tea and iced coffee are always available, sometimes juice and soda as well. The TV on the back wall, on the right, is used to monitor the CCTV footage from the gym or to check and see if the weather’s going to get noticeably worse.

Work starts for everyone officially at around 8:30, but almost everyone is there and working by 8:20. The day officially kicks off when the board of ed chief comes out of his office (anywhere between 8:30 and 8:40) to start the morning meeting. Everyone stands and says good morning, my section chief outlines any special events going on today, notes anyone who is going to be out for the day and why (illness, business trip, occasionally vacation), and then hands it over to the section chief, who adds whatever he needs to, before the board of ed chief says anything he needs to. Then work begins in earnest. It’s not unusual for both section chiefs and the board of ed chief to basically say ‘Nothing special today, meeting’s over’, and have the whole thing done in less than 10 seconds.

Work is pretty serious seeming in the morning. People are running around, dealing with whatever work came in overnight, making phone calls, or driving over to the schools or town office to deliver paperwork and other materials. Visitors come into the building needing to use various classroom spaces or to see the board of ed chief. The office ladies make endless copies, serve tea to the visitors, distribute omiyage, and make sure all the paperwork has been seen, signed, and stamped before going where it needs to.

A note on omiyage, or souvenirs – they’re what you bring back from a trip, usually to thank your coworkers for picking up the slack while you were gone, but there are the more usual ‘my brother went to Tokyo Disneyland and all I got was this stupid t-shirt’ souvenirs as well. They’re easily available at every sort of ‘destination’, often right there in the train station for grabbing as you head back home. For coworkers, food is the norm, and you can easily find individually wrapped nibbles packaged in sets of 12-20. It’s rare that a day goes by without one of the office ladies handing out some sort of regional cookie or snack from someone’s business trip or vacation. (As I write this, a little pile of cookies is forming at my right elbow)

This is my desktop. I am the keeper of the section’s scotch tape, thank you very much. I keep pictures and calendars from the cat comic books at the convenience store. I thought this month’s looked a bit like our cat Mindy. In the upper right corner is a pile of books – library books that I’m battling through, Planet Eigo (a reference for every ESL game ever), and usually whatever Japanese review I’m doing that day.

I spend most of the day studying Japanese, making materials for my next class, and keeping up with the HPKCHC Ravelry. The JET programme offers a distinctly mediocre Japanese correspondence course, but it doesn’t kick off until November. I signed up for the Advanced level, so I’m using my predecessor’s predecessor’s unused Intermediate textbooks to review (told you they were mediocre). I also use Anki to review kanji and a grammar book I brought from the US to go over stuff from first and second years of college.

Lunch is an hour, I eat it with one of the office ladies and her friend from the clinic. We watch Waratte Iitomo! (It’s Okay to Laugh!), a variety show with a host who holds the Guinness World Record for longest continuous hosting of a TV show (it’s been running 5 days a week since 1982). The host and guests pay a lot of games, which is good, because otherwise the content would probably fly right over my head.

After lunch, it’s back to work for another 3.5 hours (for me) or some-undefined-period-of-time-that-I-haven’t-yet-determined (for everyone else). Work seems a lot more relaxed in the afternoon. The section chiefs are more relaxed about personal conversations, internet searches become less business like, etc. An interesting note about cell phones – I never had a real office job in the states, but I would have expected that using them for personal business would be a bit of a no-no. Here, receiving and sending texts (though not excessively) is permissible, as is taking the occasional personal call.

The building we’re in has a lot more than just the Board of Education. As previously mentioned, there’s the library, the museum, the auditorium, the ballroom, plus a number of meeting rooms and classroom spaces. We’re also right next door to the gym and the town pool.

Our building, the Otobe town community center/public hall.

The taxidermied bear I mentioned before.

The other bear (with its cub) in another part of the hall. I eat lunch on the couch just visible on the left.

Speaking of lunch…

A variety of items that made up lunch and part of breakfast that day. From the left, there’s soy sauce hard boiled eggs (which turned out to be a bit gross), a tuna rice ball (carefully wrapped so that the seaweed does not touch the rice ball until you unwrap it), a fruit cup (banana flavored, ick), a chocolate cream roll, a donut (this is my favorite donut from the convenience store – pretty much fried perfection), a coke, and grape Calpis (which turned out to be ‘calorie-off’ and therefore full of nasty artificial sweeteners). You win some, you lose some.

Finally, a picture of my feet wearing my official work shoes:

It is fun to see people shuffling around in business-wear with slippers and sandals.



Filed under japan