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Monday, February 11, 2013


The other day I was at school and the principal gave an award to one of the teachers. He handed the envelope to the teacher and the rest of the faculty applauded. Later, the principal explained that the award was for the teacher building a new house. Lacking the Japanese skills required to ask more about the subject, I nodded and smiled. I mentioned to Erika about what I had observed and she told me that the envelope had money in it. The teacher was being was rewarded for, as Erika delicately put it, “Congratulations for going into debt.” After laughing out loud I asked, “Why would anyone be congratulated for going into debt?” Erika replied, “The teacher can’t divorce or leave her job now. She is showing responsibility and commitment to her family and friends…I guess.” “I see,” I replied. “Then we should have received an envelope full of money when we bought our home in Tsukahara?” I asked. “Nope, the house must be new,” Erika noted. After giving what she said some thought, I remarked, “Well, I guess building a new house is a big deal in Japan. It’s not like the teacher could move in and resale it five years down the road. The teacher is stuck…I mean committed, to that house, community, and career.

It’s not like the U.S. We buy and sell houses and not give it a second thought. Good luck trying to resale your house in Japan. Home buyers want a new house. When a house is purchased in Japan, it’s purchased with the intent of living there until you die. As far as community, in the U.S., were lucky to ever meet our neighbors. Speaking of meeting neighbors…when we moved to Hasama, it was required of us to give each neighbor a welcoming gift. We were also told that a fee was required (kind of like a home association fee) to live there. Erika convinced the community leader that we were only renting and that we were living there for only a few days a week. She also mentioned that she wouldn’t use any of the community services such as receiving the city newsletter (which she can easily pick up at city hall) and using the community garbage bin. I’m not sure how that was received. In Tsukahara, we really don’t have any neighbors. We had to give a gift to the person who built the community garbage bin. So far, no one has approached us to join the community. The volunteer fire department asked for a donation. That’s completely understandable since we are surrounded by dense brush and trees. The interesting thing about the fire department donation is that they post the amount that was donated along with your name. Of course, the people that gave the most were at the top of the list. The list is placed on the community bulletin board so that everyone can see. How’s that for peer pressure?

As far as commitment to career, in the U.S., I was committed to my career for as long as my bank account was happy and my employer was happy. In Japan, especially teachers, once you’re in then it’s for life. I heard one teacher say that it is really hard to get fired from a teaching career. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. It’s nice to know where the next paycheck is coming from, but a complacent teacher is a bad teacher.     George

1 comment:

  1. I hate the fact that so much in Japan is "for life". As you said, it is very hard for a teacher to be fired, when in reality some of them should be! There are lots of old houses around us that are just going to eventually fall to the ground because the older people have died, but they won't rent them out to anyone else or sell them. New seems to be the only way to go, resulting in so much waste.