Friday, December 19, 2008

Shopping for a X-Mas Gift in Tokyo 2008

So, it is that time of year when people start singing silly X-mas songs and stringing enough lights to be seen from the moon. Many people will be taking time out to remember the birth of our lord Jesus...wait a second this is Tokyo X-mas is not about Jesus!

That`s right, in Japan J.C. does not get any birthday wishes with people worshiping at his feet. In fact, most Japanese have very little idea as to why X-mas is celebrated in the first place. What they do know is that the gaijin seem to love the holiday and there is plenty of money to be made. Here in Tokyo X-mas is all about getting gifts and spending large sums of money to impress our loved ones. It would seem that the more money you spend the more love you can express. Store owners know this and usually go all out in a bid to attract customers. With that said I too jumped head first into the holiday shopping madness looking to buy the perfect gift for my honey.

I must admit that I have never bought her anything really expensive before. Now that I do have a little money to burn I thought this year I will buy her something really nice while I have the chance. Now just not any place in Tokyo will cut it when looking to get a kick-ass X-mas gift. The only place in Tokyo where I guy can get that perfect X-mas gift for a special gal is Ginza. This part of Tokyo is famous for its up scale shopping and great restaurants. All the big international high end shops are located in Ginza. As you can imagine I do not venture to Ginza very often. Yet, in my quest to buy something really nice I hopped on the Ginza line of the Tokyo Metro to buy that perfect holiday gift.

I was keen on only one shop for my purchase. Tiffany`s is the only store I could think which can impress even the highest maintenance gal in all of Japan. While my wife is not an extreme example of a high maintenance gal she is expecting something nice. She said that she would be happy with something around 20,00 yen but I know that amount of money will not buy something so good. I decided to go all out and buy something in the 80,000 yen plus range. I have the money right now to spend a little extra so I pulled no punches. I walked right into Tiffany`s looking for something great. Now, Tiffany`s is an expensive place usually reserved for people making some serious cash. As soon as I walked into the place I stuck out like a sore thumb. It is not everyday you see a guy wearing leather biker jacket, tight blue jeans, and black military boots shopping at Tiffany`s. I few of the store attendants looked at me with glaring eyes but I paid them no mind. I had enough money in my wallet to shop there and got to the business of picking out something nice.

They have a lot of really nice things at Tiffany`s. Some of the necklaces look like the kind of stuff royalty would be seen sporting. I felt a little guilty that I could not buy the gal one of those high end platinum necklaces. It would have been really cool to hand her something which cost several thousand US dollars. None the less they did have many things which I could afford. After looking around for a while I finally zeroed in on some nice gold necklaces with diamond charms. They were not extremely high priced but still rather expensive compared to what I am used to buying. The lady behind the counter was quick to start making the sales pitch. She was nice enough but it was obvious that she wanted me to buy something and get the hell out of there. I paid her attitude no mind and asked a few questions before shelling out the cash.

Walking out of Tiffany`s I felt good about what I bought. This is the best gift I have even gotten for my gal. I gave to her this evening and she loved it. When I told her how much it cost she almost cried. It made me feel so good to see her so happy. She stared at it for a long time and showered me with praise. This X-mas is turning out to be one of the best for us. We got a trip to Tokyo Disney Land planned on X-mas day and a trip to Beijing for new years. It`s X-mas in Japan!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Freelance Teaching in Tokyo--How in the hell am I gonna pull this one off?

Just like our flying sumo friend doing freelance in any profession takes some guts. Unlike working for a company, a freelancer never knows exactly how much money they will make each month. The big advantage to freelance is the freedom to create your own schedule and set your own prices. Although, there may be more leg work involved a freelancer can actually end up making more money than someone who is slaving away for a company day in and day out.

So, as I look at the job options in front of me freelancing seems to provide me with a way to bring home extra money, get a hell of a lot of teaching experience, and open up new doors of opportunity. The extra money is the biggest thing for me right now. The company I am currently working for has already cut almost everyone`s salary and future contracts looks to be even worse. If I can bring home a good amount of money from freelancing I will be able to ride out the current contract I am trapped in. Getting more teaching experience is a huge plus for me. I came to Japan with a degree in English but not teaching. I was able to score a job with my English degree but I have been learning the in an outs of teaching as a go along. Currently I am studying to get my TESOL which will be an advantage for me as I tread the rough waters of the Tokyo job market. The more experience I gain the better a teacher I will be and my resume will get an extra boost. I imagine that doing freelancing in the Tokyo area will open up doors for me which I never thought possible. If I get enough private students I may be able to avoid working for any company again and make all my money from freelancing alone. There is also the fact that I never know which student I am going to impress so much that they might offer me a job making some big money. Hell, with enough students I might be able to open up my own damn school.

With all the possible advantages of doing freelance work I still have the problem of having very little experience with the whole process. I did a little freelance journalist work back in the states but that was in a rural area with a much different daily pace. Tokyo is a huge fast paced city with a lot of people competing against me for work. I am not the only teacher out there looking to score money in the freelance game. I cannot just give standard lessons and expect to have students who come back time and time again. I have to have my own special method of teaching in order to set myself part from the pack. I am confident I can develop my own lessons plans. From what I have seen in the job market being able to develop, design, and plan your own lessons is a skill that a lot of employers love to see from a teacher. I have seen a few good paying jobs in which the employer required that the teacher be able to design and plan their own lessons.

I have been looking at some resources for teaching on the internet and there are some really good ones out there. Each student has a different speaking level which requires me to approach each lesson a little different. Beginners cannot be working on complex sentence structures and an advanced student does not need to be learning basic phrases and vocab. While it may be challenging to try and develop a basic lesson structure which can be modified to fit most students needs I feel that I am up to the task. The more I teach private students the more lessons I will have developed. Over time I will have a deep array of varied lessons to offer students.

While I write about my plans for doing freelance there is still the issue of actually attaining students. I have had a few fellow teachers give me some advice but they have been doing it for years. I on the other hand am entering the freelance game as a very new broom. One guy told me to put up ads at English book stores and wait for the offers to come rolling in. Another teacher said that craiglist is a good source to get the word out that you are offering private lessons. While I will give craiglist a shot I don`t think that putting up ads at book stores is going to be a big advantage for me. What I have done is sign up at a couple of teacher/student websites which connect teachers and students directly. The great thing about these sites is that are free to join and create a profile. The first one I signed up on is called They offer a very detailed profile set up and look to be a good source for attracting students. The other site I made a profile on is called They have a system which is a little different but it also seems to be effective in helping me gain some students. Although these sites have the ability to get me a good base of students to work with there is still nothing better than good old fashion word of mouth. This is were things set a little tricky. My current company has a policy which forbids teachers from using lessons to conduct business for personal gain. I do not want to get fired for such a thing, not because of the effect this may have on the company, but how it would effect my rep. in the teaching field. I think that the closer I come to the end of my contract or simply quitting to accept a position with another company, which ever comes first, I will quietly pass along my services to the students. I feel that I would get at least a few students from the place I am working now to start taking private lessons with me instead of dealing with the shit the company offers them as far as prices go. I could give them much better lessons outside of class with a fixed, stable, no non-sense pricing system.

So, this is what I am trying to do for the time being. I am going to give this whole freelancing teaching thing the old college try and see where is takes me. I still got a contract with my currently company until march 2009 so I will at least have a little base income coming in every month. The hardest part of this will be convincing my wife that this plan will work. She is a person who avoids risk at all cost. She likes the idea of me working for a company in which I get a salary each month. I will have to show her that I can do this and bring home a decent amount of money. Any advice on teaching freelance in Tokyo would help out a lot so suggestions would be appreciated. Also any advice on what to say to my wife would also help.

I am will swimming up stream in the this wild job market so as always wish me luck.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Hunt is On

Yes, the hunt is on. I am currently in the process of looking to change my job. The company I am currently working for is not, and will not, offer me what I want as far as money and career. There is also the fact that they really are not stable at all. I love the students but I have developed very little love for the company. At times it feels like I work for a sunken ship of a company whose only goal is to squeeze the last few drops of cash out of the whole mess. I really hate to feel that way but the writing on the wall is hard not to read.

So yeah, I am out there in the job market looking for something a little better and a whole hell of a lot more stable. At first, things looked pretty lean. I mean, a person has to check the job postings everyday to make sure nothing good passes by without submitting a resume. One day there is not much being offered but the next day companies come out of the woodwork offering some pretty decent positions. So far I am not seeing too much of a hiring freeze in the teaching field in Japan. Still, I am a little worried about the job market as the title wave of global financial meltdown hangs over Japan.

Speaking of financial matters I am sure I am going to be ok with money for at least the next several months. Things might get a little tight and my marriage is gonna get a little more stressful but I am pretty sure I can survive. I do not want my wife to get too mad and upset concerning money. I already know that some extra stress on the home front is already coming but I do not want it to get out of hand. I gotta be really nice and understanding of my wife in the coming months. It is gonna take some master skills of manhood to handle things. I have known her for a long time so I think I understand what makes her tick. As long as I am able to show and explain to her that everything is gonna be ok she will be fine in the end. A damn good X-mas present is going to help as well.

It is in times like these that I call on a deep resolve that was ingrained in me from a young child. When you grow up poor you learn how to pull yourself up by your boot straps and keep striving. I guess I have picked-up some kind of Capricorn luck. My star sign is the house of logic and of earth. A very determined sign torn between logic and emotions. What this translates into is a person who is over obsessed with their self worth and sometimes spends way too much time second guessing themselves. I have to admit that I can stress myself out about things when I think about stuff too much. Anyway, sometimes luck comes my way at the last possible second. Just when I think all is lost something will happen that saves my ass. If I just keep pushing full steam ahead my effort is usually rewarded.

I have applied to several companies and already had one interview. I am waiting for a response from the company which interviewed me too so will know if I get a call back. Some of the jobs I applied for I am not expecting a response at all. Although, there are a few I am hopeful will contact me for sure. It is all about the waiting game at this point. I have been applying to companies and waiting for responses. This is the part of job hunting I hate the most. Although, it is all a part of the process in landing a new job. Once I start getting more interviews that whole ordeal will go by much faster.

Anyway, wish me luck out there in the fierce job market in Tokyo.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Why Love Tokyo?

Why love a city which can entice a star struck soul and transform them into a pure bastard? This is the million dollar question when pondering any good reason to love Tokyo. The jewel city of the far east can take from a person just as much as it gives. I have met people, not only in the flesh, but also on the net who have developed a right proper nasty attitude due to Tokyo`s overwhelming influence. Maybe they were a bastard of a person all along but I doubt this is the case in most situations. This city of ours does something to people which defies the laws of the `great escape` which many seek in the land of the raising sun. It does not transform everyone into a rotten bastard but it cannot be denied that many who come to Tokyo leave as a asshole action figure with hate-fu grip.

My transformation has went in the complete opposite direction of asshole ally. I came to Tokyo a proper bastard and now find myself mellowing out and becoming a slightly better human than when I arrived. I can be honest enough to admit that I came to Tokyo a hard drinking, fighting, swearing, stubborn, son of a bitch. Too many years of living in the bare bone coal fields of West Virginia had made a brutal keen greaser out of me. I was most likely the last person you wanted to deal with in a social situation. My bad behavior had become a thing of legend in the circles which I ran. Even though I had been making semi-regular trips to Tokyo for several years to spend time with my main love interest I kept becoming worse rather than better.

Yeah, I was becoming pretty bad at times. By the time I finally made the decision to make Tokyo my home I was ready for a change. If I had not made a change of scene and lifestyle I was gonna end up just as my grandmother predicted; either dead or in jail. I did manage to get myself a college degree somehow and I was, and still am, madly in love with my main gal. So, I moved to Tokyo and got myself hitched up with a Japanese gal I have known since I was nineteen. This change of scene and lifestyle has transformed me into a half-way decent person. Yet, this little extra history lesson still does not answer the question of why love Tokyo.

While I cannot answer the question at hand for everyone I know exactly why I love Tokyo. In fact there are many reasons why I love Tokyo. So many reasons that I cannot list them all. Although I can offer up a short list of some of the best reasons that I personally love this city.

1) Harajuku

One of the first places in Tokyo which I started hanging out on a regular basis is Harajuku. I quickly found that I can be exactly who I am without any worries of being judged for being a little different. It is in Harajuku that I made my first friend in this city. Tommy is his name and he took to me like white on rice as soon as we met. He accepted me from day one and I always have a good time with my friend from Vietnam.
Harajuku also caters to my personal taste in fashion. Yeah, I know I can dress a little campy sometimes but I have pretty much dressed the way I do for the majority of my life. I can find the best hair grease, music, jackets, or what ever I desire with ease. It is also very easy to just hang on the street and have a good time doing much of nothing.

2) Shibuya

A lot of people like Shibuya but for me it is a place I can always find a good bar to throw back a few cold brews. While I do not drink near as often as I used to, when I do get a taste for fine liquid poison Shibuya is usually where I head. There is also the fact that Shibuya has some of the best love hotels in the city which is fun to sneak off with my gal from time to time. I can wonder around Shibuya for hours on end and still find something new and interesting to get into.

3) Great Food

While growing up dirt poor a great meal was hard to come by sometimes. Many times I was happy just to have a warm belly full of food. Well, those days are long gone now that I live in Tokyo. I have found that I can enjoy any kind of food from all parts of the world in Tokyo. It is fun for me to explore all the different restaurants in Tokyo. I have found some really great places to stuff my face.

4) Live Music

This has proved to be a big plus for me. I have seen some great punk and Rock A` Billy bands in Tokyo. Hell, the all night Rock A` Billy parties are a real devil of a good time. I have seen some great bands I would have other wise never have even known about if I was not living in Tokyo. I don`t think I could see a band dressed in full clock work orange attire, including the long noise masks, anywhere else in the world.

5) The pure adventure of daily life

I have always said that if you turn over enough rocks you can find just about anything to match you desire in Tokyo. The stuff I have experience in just under a year in this city it a whole books worth of adventures. I have not even wrote about 1/10 of my adventures in Tokyo on this blog. Oh, the stories I could tell!
There is also the fact that everyday I see or experience something which keeps me on my toes. Around every corner a new surprise or off beat experience might be waiting for me. Each day when I leave my apartment is an adventure.

So, this is the best answer I can give with respect to `Why Love Tokyo.` This place is one hell of a city man! I mean some serious shit would have to go down for me to hate this place. If you have been transformed into a bitter bastard by Tokyo just know that while you are puking out hate I am out there having one hell of a good time.