外国人の日本体験 Experiences in Japan
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by Louise Richardson
In 1997, I left Australia for one of the greatest adventures of my life:
I went to Tokyo, Japan, lived in a gaijin house and worked as an English
Living in a gaijin house had its moments. I had my own small but cosy
room, which is just as well because I am a person who values my privacy.
My room had tatami mats on the floor, a futon for a bed, an air-conditioner
(very necessary in summer) and a small heater (very necessary in winter).
I liked the tatami mats ? they seemed to be well-suited to all seasons,
they were soft to walk on, and with regular vacuuming, they were easy
to keep clean.
I also liked sleeping on a futon on the floor. It was very comfortable.
As for the bathroom, kitchen and laundry I had to share those facilities
with the fellow-residents of the gaijin house.
Most of the fellow-residents were nice enough people, although a few of
them had cohabiting skills that left a lot to be desired. Enough said!
The gaijin house was affordable and convenient and I lived there for over
One lasting legacy is that even to this day, some 4 years later, I really, really appreciate having my own place ? an apartment in Northern Italy with my husband.
The job I had in Tokyo was that of an English conversation teacher at
a school called Nova. It was the kind of job that one can do for about
a year before going completely batty. In many ways, it was a shock to
I hadn’t expected that holding conversation classes would be like working
in a factory: clock in, go to assembly line (designated table), have robotic
conversation with very cute students for 40 minutes, repeat 6 times, clock
off, go home.
“It’s an easy job!” a very beautiful Japanese member of staff told me.
“You speak your native tongue all day. How difficult is that?” Admittedly,
at times, it was an easy job and most of the students were a pleasure
to teach. They were funny, intelligent, hard-working and kind. And cute.
Very, very cute.
I should add that it was great to witness so many students making progress with their English. But, like I said before, I often felt that I was working in a factory and after a certain period of time, I may as well have been checking widgets as they passed along an assembly line.
I enjoyed much more, the jobs that I had outside of Nova. I taught English
in 2 big engineering companies. There, I was free to run my classes as
I liked. One of the things I liked most about working for these companies,
besides the relative freedom, was that going there was like visiting another
planet! (Actually, I often felt that I was on another planet when I was
living in Tokyo.)
When I arrived at one of the companies in particular, I had to go through various checkpoints until I got to the 8th floor. There was nothing so unusual about that. However, when I arrived on the 8th floor there was a huge, open space with hundreds of neatly-arranged desks and even though it was an office, all of the employees were wearing a uniform, a kind of pale, lilac jacket. They were also wearing slippers. To me, it was a strange sight to see these office workers in their lilac uniforms and slippers.
The other thing that struck me about Japanese office life was the proportion
of men to women. The number of men overwhelmed the number of women and
most of the women seemed to be young.
In Australia I had worked in an office where there were equal proportions of men and women and there were middle-aged women as well as young women. (It should be noted that Australia is very far behind the USA and most European countries when it comes to equality for women in the workplace. However I think the situation is worse for women in Japan.)
Another thing I noticed about Japanese office life was the industriousness
of the employees. They really looked like they were working hard.
In Australian offices, the atmosphere is different; it’s more relaxed and casual. Sometimes it’s too relaxed and casual! I’m afraid that if Australian office workers started wearing slippers they would be too comfortable and relaxed and they wouldn’t get any work done at all.
Anyway, I really enjoyed experiencing and observing the Japanese lifestyle. It was fascinating. It's four years since I left Japan and a lot has happened in my life since then: I am married and I live in Italy. Nevertheless,
my experiences in Japan are something that I will never, ever forget.