Thursday, April 29, 2010

Do Hosts Make Good Boyfriends?

I think many of us can agree that Hosts are mighty mighty pretty! They are fashionable, amusing, and probably spend more time on their hair than any self-respecting girl does! And they work in a business of producing either pretend romance, or at least flattering amusement.

But do they make for good real boyfriends? I personally know - or know of - 7 couples which are made up of Western Woman/Asian Host Male.

My first point of interest is that one does not see many Western woman/Asian male couples. Probably due to a variety of reasons: 1. Asian men are more shy and reticent to use their poor English skills in approaching a foreign woman, 2. Western women often are not attracted to Asian guys, 3. Even if attracted, woman often do not come to Asia with the idea of it being a long term situation - they are here for a year or so for the experience, 4. Perhaps even if man is willing to approach woman, possible societal stigma of dating/marrying non-Asian?

So, why, in a pairing rather unusual, is the male often a Host? My idea is perhaps: 1. Hosts tend to be more adventurous and outgoing than a regular salary-man, so they are willing to approach Western woman, 2. Their lifestyle is also non-conformist so social ideas of marrying only Asian are not so important to them, 3. And their ever so fashionable selves make them more attractive to us Western women.

(note: this is just my pondering...feel free to suggest other reasons...)

So, this gets to the question of, do Hosts make good boyfriends? Of the 7 couples I previously mentioned, 4 are happy and together. 2 have broken up. 1 is shaky.

Now, the 2 broken up couples. These couples met at/in the respective Host club employment spot of the man. Both girls then continued to go to same Host club, and requested the "future" boyfriend, and spent their money on him/with him on-site. At some point, they started actually dating outside the club, and one couple decided to live together.

Why the break-ups? Hm...well, both girls told me that the guys tended to be untrustworthy and unfaithful. Always needing money. Sleeping with other girls. Claiming they just HAD to sleep with other women to keep their ranking up at the club!

As for the "shaky" couple...similar situation. He works a lot, sleeps with clients. She is trying to see if it is worth salvaging.

As for the 4 couples who are happy and together. Only 1 met at/in the club. The others happened to meet out and about in Tokyo. Coffee shop, shopping, or introduced by mutual friends. The one couple who met in the club - while she did return to the club for a night of fun, she did not request him or spend money on him.

These woman find their Host boyfriends to be great - charming, oh so fashionable, fun, and quite trustworthy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Tale of the Kimochi-warui, Part II

I initially chalked the odd email off to difference in language. KW (note: I'll call him by initials KW so as to have an identity - even though I did not realize he was a KW/creepy guy until later on.) did live in London for four years and spoke English reasonably well, but there can always be cultural nuances and difficulties.

I did not hear from KW for about a week. Then a short email "miss you. want you. XOXO"

I emailed back "that's kind. do you want to have dinner together friday?"
No response back for three days.

Then - knock, knock - on the door. Huh? I only know a few people in Tokyo. Who is at the door?'s KW!

I let him in. He wants to go to dinner. At McDonalds. I am accepting of this as my daughter is fine with McDonalds and I am broke! He gives me an odd look when I tell him I have little money, and we'd need to bring my daughter. Was I supposed to leave my 11 year old alone, at night, when he had just randomly shown up?

We go to Mickey D's. When the cashier rings up the total, he looks at me - and asks if I can pay for part with the little money I do have. I give him 500 yen.

After we eat, we walk back to my apartment. He asks if he can talk to me alone for a minute. I ask my daughter to go on upstairs - I'll be up soon. She leaves....he wants to make out in the darkness of the entrance way.

I'm actually okay with this. He seems sort of nice. He seems sort of reasonably employed. Somewhat fun. But then....he wants me to provide oral gratification in the public entrance way!!!

Whoa! This is a public area! It is dark, but not so late that no one would come this way! And is this some sort of required payback for McDonalds?

I try to politely say no. He gets a bit angry. Tells me I am rude and mean to him. And don't I like him?

I to get out of this...I calculate my skill level at requested activity...and factor that I could just do it and have this scene over with in 3 minutes...

2.5 minutes later - I said good night and went upstairs.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Tale of the Kimochi-warui, Part I

Previously I mentioned the idea of getting "picked up" in Japan. We usually think of Japanese men as being shy, reticent to approach strangers.

I had only been in Japan about 4 weeks, when a man approached me in my local train station. I had just gone through the turnstile when he walked up.

He: "Hi."
Me: "Uhm, hi." I kept walking. He's probably just being polite since I stepped in to his line of vision.
He: "How are you?"
Me: "Fine, thank you. You?" My grandparents taught me my manners!
He: "Good. You from America?"
Me: "Yes." Ah hah! He must want to learn English. I'm being approached for English lessons! How will I get it across that I don't teach for free - no English bandits, please! Did I bring my business cards? I'm on my way to an do I end this conversation without being rude. I tromp up the stairs - he is still in close proximity.
He: "Look. I think you are cute and I want to have a coffee with you."
Me: Stunned silence.
He: "You give me your keitai number?"

At the time, I did not have a cell phone. (In fact, I did not get a cell phone until I had been in Japan almost 6 months. I used email, skype, and pay phones.) We exchanged email addresses instead. Then before I got on the train, he leaned in for a little hug. I thought...that is sweet but also a little odd. Only in Mexico have I noticed people doing a little hug or close greeting to people just met.

I went on to my appointment and returned home about three hours later. Logging in to my email, there was already a message from him. My daughter, ever hovering over my shoulder, demanded to know who the email was from. Who is he? How did I meet him? Does he look like a girl?

His email was short and to the point. "Like you. Want see u. Coffee Saturday?"
Well, I guess short emails are okay. I reply that Saturday at 6pm would be fine.
He replies "See u then. XOXO"
Hm...XOXO? I don't know....that's a little...well, maybe he just thinks it's cute.

Saturday rolls around. I get dressed, my daughter insists on doing my make-up. She wants to try this new "smokey eye" technique she saw Carmindy do. I am to meet the guy at 6 at my local train station. I leave my house at 5:57 as the station is just a couple blocks away. My daughter escorts me there - she will go home after "dropping me off." We arrive at 6:04pm.

The guy is there. I introduce him to my daughter, she leaves. He says "I sent you an email when you weren't here at 6. Just ignore it." Uh, okay.

We start to walk to Doutor for coffee. He grabs my hand to hold it. Is it me? This seems creepy...I don't know this guy and he wants to hold hands...we get to the coffee place...he wants to sit right beside me...IN MY PERSONAL BUBBLE! I feel weird, he is to close. I tell him that I am shy and am uncomfortable with public affection...could he scoot over?

Then while we drink coffee, he continually wants to hold hands and sit closer - and take millions of cell phone pics of us smiling and making faces at the camera.

He walks me back to my apartment building. We say good-bye - he will email soon.

I go upstairs. Greet daughter, make dinner - check email. At 6:01 he had sent an email...
He: "It is 6. Where are u? Are you rude and not show up? What is wrong with you?"

I think, is this already creepy? Or just the language difference?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Twilight - without Vampires

A perfect twilight! Tonight, I met a friend at Doutor Cafe in Ginza. I had to take a picture of my view.

Tokyo has these small moments of perfect beauty. Like a girl getting ready for a date - she starts out plain, but the excitement of the night ahead brings out her blush!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Can't Get Me No (Job) Satisfaction...

Working! A Job! Argh....really, if only I could get paid to sleep! Where is that job?

Actually, I do like teaching. It took me years of different careers and employment fields to realize that the only thing I like to do is go to school - and since it is difficult to make money being a student, being a teacher is the next best thing!

Recently I was on the job hunt again - my teaching contract was over for the 2009-2010 term, and it was time to find a new contract. My previous contract had me placed at a school that took almost a two hour commute - door to door. So, short commute was high on my list of priorities.

Also, I really hate to strapped for money. Tokyo has high living expenses anyway, so I wanted more extra spending money as well.

Initially, I was offered several high school teaching jobs. Unfortunately the money was less than the previous contract AND the commute was just as long. I declined these.

What seemed a perfect job came to me. A small International preschool nearby! Only 20 minute commute, great pay, paid vacations. Sure, the age group was younger...the kids would be 2 and 3...and my specialty is high school age...but no biggie!

I took this exciting new job. I loved the short commute, I adored my pay per hour, the staff was great. The kids were....2. And 3. And some need diaper change. And runny noses wiped. And to be feed at lunch.

I tried to convince myself that due to short commute, better pay - I could do this! Man-up! Bite the bullet!

But...I just could not...I had to realize that money and commute time, at least in my case, will not give me any satisfaction. I was miserable and frustrated. I had to force myself to go in to work. I lasted two weeks before I gave up.

This situation reminded me that job satisfaction comes from the job you do - are you making a difference? are you doing what you enjoy? do you want to get up and go to work?

Fortunately, immediately upon leaving, I received an email with another job offer - same pay as previous high school job, but commute of only 45 minutes (rather than 2 hours!), and back with high school students.

Parent Guilt

As my daughter is currently staying with her father, I try to call about every 8-9 days. The time difference between Tokyo and Dallas makes it a bit difficult to plan - when I'm awake, she is asleep or at school and vice versa. Often I call at about 7:30am (her time) - she is awake and dressed, and soon to leave for school - so we can do a brief catch-up and I wish her a good day.

My parenting style and personality is VERY different from my ex-husbands. He is a very strict parent, and has some old-fashioned ideas of what is proper for a "young miss." He will not let her, or her step-sister attend sleep-overs at friends homes because there might be boys around. The girls can not use tampons, as that means they are no longer virgins. And they must wear dresses or skirts, not pants or jeans, when they go out to eat or to a party.

Interestingly, his step-son, who is only 13, can sleep at friends, date, wear what he wants, etc. But he is a future MAN!

Apparently he is also boring. According to my daughter. She has been there for about two months - and she says they have gone to see two movies, and eaten out three times. They do not go to the park, festivals, school functions, amusement parks, shopping malls, or outdoor activities. The kids go to school, go to one school extra-curricular activity, and home. No music lessons, scouts, etc.

I reminded her that she always tells me that I am boring, but she replied "You aren't as boring as him, if only for the fact you are crazy!"

She cries when I call her. Says she is bored, she has a hard time getting along with her step-siblings. I remind her that she did not life living in Tokyo any better - she refused to go to school, she would not do her chores. Her reply is that if I would just return to living in Bellingham Washington, all would be fine. She would live with me, go to school, and do what she is supposed to.

Unfortunately, that just isn't an option. And I feel bad that she is sad.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Covert PDA!

Many of you may know that the US seems to be the home of gratuitous and often inappropriate PDA (Public displays of affection). I am not talking about holding hands - I'm talking about full-on make out sessions in restaurants, full body groping in the grocery store isle, extreme foreplay on the beach.

Most of the intense PDA makes me uncomfortable. Either it's just wrong place/wrong time or the people are not ANYONE I want to see involved in such activity. If I want to see that much groping, I have a variety of AV sites bookmarked on my inter-webs, thank you very much!

Japan is known for restraint in public emotion AND physical displays. Certainly I see many girls holding hands and walking jauntily down the street. It is great to see these friends / sisters / mom-daughter combos so pleased. And I see young men with arms linked to share umbrellas in the rain. But I have yet to see a public kiss or grope!

What I do find adorable is the covert or "cute" PDA I see here. I see couple on the train side by side on the seat - fingertips barely touching, and her head on his shoulder. Supposedly she has fallen asleep? Hm, if it were me, I'd be faking sleep to to lean my head over too!

The other fun way is the train stance. People are often pressed together in the crowded train cars - we expect a level of closeness then. But when the train car clears, and Happy Couple stay bunched up - total cute PDA!

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Tokyo Pick-Up

I am always surprised, and somewhat confused, when a strange man approaches me in Tokyo. I often assume they just want English practice...and then I figure out that is not the case.

First, it happens more often here than it EVER did in the United States. Not to say that men come up to me ALL the time here - I am sure that an adorable Western girl of age 22 gets more play than I. I'm old and overweight, so....if I had to average the experiences...I would say that a man approaches me on the street or train platform about once every 9 days. So...3 times a month?

I have been approached while shopping for shampoo, waiting for the crosswalk to change to green, entering a train car, checking train route signs, accepting tissues, returning to my work, or just walking on the sidewalk.

A variety of men speak to me. The first few months were usually men from African countries - apparently liking the fact that I am larger than girls here. Also a man from India, an American, and two Japanese. Now, the numbers of African men have dwindled, and the numbers of Asian men increase. (This is fine by me - after all, I am on the proverbial look-out for an acceptable "Japanese beau" to "shack up with.")(Second note - quotations due to profile description of another blogger and her living sitch: Green-eyed Geisha) (Third note: I say Japanese, but Korean and Chinese are equally as charming and adorable!)

The second reason I am always so surprised is that I have read/heard that Japanese men are extremely shy or closed. Based on that, when a stranger talks to me - I am taken back.

Generally I hear a "Hello miss" and the conversation begins - or at least staggers on. I do not speak Japanese - for which I apologize. I am polite - after all, it is flattering to be approached. And I often, although not always, agree to one coffee meet - it takes courage to approach a random stranger. Plus, then I can suss out their purpose. Is it because they want a "language exchange" friend or something else? (I would hate to miss out on a potential paying private language student!)

BUT the purpose of this post is not to give a count-down of attempted pick-ups. It is only to give the lead in to a story I want to share in the near future - "The Tale of the Kimochi-warui!!"

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Elementary School in Japan

For anyone moving to Japan with children, the question arises of enrolling the children in Japanese public school or paying top dollar for private "International" schools. I feel that the choice is not just one to based on money, but also the age and/or attitude of the child.

A public elementary school is - just like in North America - free! The only cost is school supplies, lunches, milk. Pretty standard fees. Convenience is also high as there are schools every few blocks - so the walk to elementary school is bound to be 7 minutes or less. Children are pretty open to new experience, so they also make new friends quickly and pick up Japanese culture pointers naturally.

Of course, the language of instruction is Japanese. Your child, as mine did, may just sit in class utterly confused while science, math, and social studies classes go on around him/her in an unknown language. Some wards of Tokyo do provide free language instruction to foreign children - my ward actually sent a special teacher to the school two days a week to teach my daughter Japanese. (This service is also free for the first 10 weeks of instruction.) Most schools also teach English as a once or twice a week class - so your child will have one class they understand everything in! Plus, the English teacher may be willing to help your child by translating assignments on non-English class days.

Another difference is the rigidity of classroom routine. Each day has the same basic routine, and all students do the same thing at the same time. Everyone stands up, everyone sits, everyone stands in the line, everyone has bathroom break, everyone cleans, everyone eats. There is no splitting of the class into groups with each group doing different things.

For my daughter, this was the deal breaker. She was willing to wear the hat that all elementary school kids wear while walking to/from school, she liked having special shoes for in-school, she found the required P.E. cap amusing, she wrote notes to and read notes from her classmates who could write English but were too shy to speak it - but she could not handle the group actions.

As for private International schools, they use English as their language of instruction, so this makes matters easier immediately. Some schools maintain the group actions of the standard Japanese school, others adapt a more Westernized approach. The killer on these is that most schools charge tuition near a USD equivalent of $20,000 per school year. For me, price made this option impossible for me.

My daughter lasted in Japanese elementary school for about 2 1/2 months. At that point, she gave up and refused to go! I ended up trying to do some homeschooling work with her when I would get home from work.

It made for a hard life. Work for 8-9 hours while my daughter was home alone (safe for sure, enjoying hours of movies and Internet games! But somewhat starved for human contact.), then return home to do a couple hours of home teaching, then to do general household tasks.

I had to ponder the decisions of: continue to home school? force her to attend public school? move back to the US?

In the end of the thinking, I made the most difficult decision - I chose to change custodial assignments with my ex-husband. We decided that my daughter would reside with him (in the US) for school terms, and with me for summer breaks and alternate winter breaks. So, in February, she flew to Dallas TX and began attending middle school there.

Regardless of how this arrangement works, I feel I have failed somehow in my parenting.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Spring Arrives in Tokyo

It is obvious that spring has arrived here in Tokyo. Most people will eagerly anticipate the return of the lovely cherry blossom. There are festivals, picnics, specially themed drinks and cakes - all for the celebration of the cherry blossom arrival.

Certainly, as for new beginnings, it is also the start of the new school year here, as well as the usual time for batches of new entry-level employees to begin their new life of employment.

As much as I appreciate and enjoy the cherry blossoms - their delicate leaves high above me, or scattered on the ground like a pink carpet leading me on a path of joy - I also enjoy another spring ritual...

The return of outdoor grooming rituals of the city peacock...

Grooming Habits of Birds

With warmer weather, these City Peacocks can now come outside for their social interactions and community grooming habits. (Cold weather usually keeps them closer to their protective aviary habitats known as the Host Clubs.)

Note how they perch on available branches in groups. Rarely are they seen alone. Also note the group activity of preening. Not only do they groom themselves, but they assist fellow flock members.

As the weather becomes more pleasant with each passing day, I anticipate even more small groupings of these adorable creatures - each displaying their feathered head proudly, adorned with various colorful accessories and colorful appendages - all in effort to attract the female of the species.

I must admit, I do have some branches of cherry blossoms in my apartment - I wonder if I should also get one of these as well....I DO like pets!

The Early Months of Childhood Discontent

Early months in Tokyo were difficult at best!

My job (note: to be called JFH or Job from Hell henceforth) had no set salary - but was based per lesson. Being new to the location, and working day hours rather than night, made me lessons booked rather sketchy. There were days I went in to work at 10am and stayed until 6:30pm - to have only 2 lessons. Needless to say, my paycheck was not adequate to pay living expenses.

To compensate, I started picking up some private students. Personally I love private students. I a paid more than when working for someone else, I set my own schedule, there is more freedom in lesson plans, and I like to feel my students are similar to friends. They are fun, energetic, and intelligent.

With my paycheck, I would pay for my commuter pass and part of my rent. With private student fees, I paid for groceries and household items.

AND I spent a lot of time apologizing to my landlord, begging forgiveness from the landlord. I would have to go to the rental office and apologize and apologize...
It's embarrassing enough to be late with rent in ones native country - imagine doing it in a new place with a language barrier. And in a place with high importance on image and correct behavior. I immediately failed in correct behavior!!

This leads to my daughters discontent...

With no extra money, we were not able to view the city, visit museums, go to Disney Sea or Sanrio Puroland. No Ueno Zoo or Takeshita Dori shopping.

Meals were hauntingly similar. Rice and gyoza. Ramen and gyoza. Rice and ramen. (note: interestingly, packs of ramen can be purchased at 10/$1.00 in the USA, but they are 1/125yen here. It seems that since they are MADE here, they would be cheaper. I considered having my ramen packs imported from the States! Friends could jam about 30 in an overseas envelope and send them bulk mail.)

My daughter was bored also. Fortunately a Japanese native friend helped me enroll her in elementary school. The process was very different than I am used to. Here, I had to go to the city office - for questions and document review. Then to the actual school for an interview meeting. Then back to the city office to turn in documents from the meeting. Then back to the school with the stamped confirmation from the city office. (note: why can't things be faxed? and why are the meetings so long? In a way, the length and extra time was amusing and quaint. In other ways, it was confusing and perhaps needless?)

But at last, school attendance could begin.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Eikawa: or The Hellish Nightmare of English Conversation School

I'm not going to focus much on the job I had for my first 5 months in Tokyo. Because I dislike languishing in negativity and complaints.

That being said, let me express my opinion...ARRGGGHHHH!

I was hired by a large Eikawa in Japan. (They shall remain nameless for now.) I thank them for their recruitment, and the legitimate Japanese work visa.

What are my issues with the job? Well...

I told them that my experience was mainly in teaching Business English, so they said I would be placed at a location with LOTS of Business Clients.
-I was placed in a location with almost no business clients. Mostly hobby learners, and children.

I told them that I would live in Shin-Okubo. They said I would be placed at a location in Shinjuku or Ikebukuro - as it was close and LOTS of business clients.
-I was placed in a rather far away residential center.

They said that training was paid.
-No, it was not.

They said that I would be paid for a minimum amount of lessons (160) per month, and could make more money if I taught more than that.
-No. Just paid by lesson, and they ENCOURAGE teachers to teach at least 160 - but no promised salary.

They said that after three months, teachers get a pay raise if they have attended some various workshops (unpaid) and have good scores from students.
-Only get a pay raise if the company feels they can "afford" to have higher ranked teachers. You might qualify for the raise, but have to wait 2,4, or more months. And it is not retroactive. experience with Eikawa was not great. Personally, I think that for a single person or a person with no children - it might be okay. Most general learners book lessons after 6pm. A person with no family could work late every night and get maximum lessons. They could work at two centers - go to one in the day for business clients, another at night for hobby learners.

Although, even as a single person/non-parent - it seems so much time would be spent at work, there would be minimal chance to see and enjoy Japan.

But I got some "teach English IN Japan" experience to go with my "teaching English in the US" experience. I made a great friend from one of my students. So...for all the hardships, it worked out.

The Tokyo Diet

As previously mentioned, when I moved to Tokyo - my small amount of savings was further downsized by a nasty downturn in the exchange rate. After the exchange - I had enough for the 3 days in the hotel, first months rent and deposit, and a couple of days of transportation.

And I would no get paid for at least a month!

Now, there was some anticipation of money; after all I would be fool to move across the ocean with no income, right? Prior to the move, I finalized my divorce documents including child support. Based on my child's fathers income, it seemed I would receive an adequate sum for each week (note: he refused to pay child support once a month - preferring once a week - in his attempt to keep me from using the money for my "personal upkeep.").

Surprisingly...when I called him three days after moving, to give him my new bank information and also wiring instructions - he decided to tell me he would NOT pay the support amount. After all, I am an evil woman who would likely use it for my "nastiness" (note: WTF?) and he has "beeznises" (note: yes, accent correct. My ex is a Mexican national.) to tend.

At this point, picture me falling to the floor and throwing a tantrum. Hands beating the floor in the living area - feet pounding in the kitchen - due to tiny apartment size.

On that day, I had 1600yen, 6 packs of microwaveable rice, 2 energy bars (left over in suitcase from the plane), and a box of green tea bags.

And payday was a month away.

Thank heaven for 7-11! (This being the American 7-11 slogan.) Apparently the 7-11 in Japan has it's own house brand of cheap and decent food!

So, for 9 days - we ate 7-11 Gyoza (only 100 yen for a pack of 5), 7-11 Ramen (only 210 yen for a pack of 3), our microwaveable rice, green tea.

In the interest of honesty and full disclosure, I have to admit that I also "borrowed" some items from the 100yen shop. 2 packs of spaghetti, 2 packs of pasta sauce, a bag of mixed nuts, and 3 coke zeros.

(I promise to return the items someday...I will probably just casually leave some yen near the cash register...)

And we walked! We walked everywhere! Shin-Okubo to Shinjuku. Shin-Okubo to Shibuya. I even walked from Shin-Okubo to Ebisu for my work training (2 days - unpaid! The bastards!)

My fatigue and confusion must have been obvious when walking home from Ebisu that first day. A man approached me and asked if I was lost. I told him I needed to make sure I was on Meiji Dori as I needed to get to Shin-Okubo. He asked why I didn't just take the train. I told him I had no money - so he gave me 500 yen.

I bought the CHILD ticket home. Must conserve the yen!

After 9 days, I mustered up the courage to borrow 5000yen from a friend AND the Dark Overlord (note: baby daddy, ex-husband) sent $200 (or about 16800yen).

This covered my work transportation and groceries.

Of course, now I had to worry about next months rent. Payday was coming - BUT, oh yeah - seems the job I accepted paid by lesson (itaku) rather than salary. And new people don't have that many lessons. And my open lessons were in the daytime, but more people take lessons at night...I see a teeny tiny check in my future...

At least it will keep us on the Tokyo Diet. Perhaps weighing 50 kg is achievable?