A month in Japan (part the fifth)

After a whole weekend in Tôkyô, I was broke, and feeling like I couldn’t wait to get out of Ôta so I wouldn’t have to spend 4000Â¥ every time I wanted to do something interesting. Also, I’d finally settled in: I had internet access, a mobile phone, I’d finished my training, and I was working a regular schedule. With all that out of the way, I started to realize how little there was to do in Ôta.

Tuesday 20 September

Some time during the week, I think on the Tuesday, I asked where the transfer forms were at work. Brendan, the branch manager, told me where they were, but said that my request to transfer probably wouldn’t be processed until after my probation ended on December 1. The area manager, Tracey, was on the phone to our branch at the time, and Brendan confirmed this with her. What Tracey neglected to mention was that by refusing to consider my application before December, she’d get to keep me in Ôta until February, since NOVA offices are closed on January 1, and transfers can only take place on the first of a month.

Even so, I got the impression that NOVA wouldn’t transfer me out of Ôta in a hurry, so I started to look for jobs in Tôkyô and Ôsaka in earnest.

Saturday 24 September

During the week, I managed to get my MENSA membership transferred to Japan, and the membership secretary invited me to a function they were having on Saturday. I was looking forward to building a social network in Tôkyô, ready for a move there. The secretary had sent me several emails telling me she hoped I could come. But despite several requests for an exact address and time, the woman never gave me anything more specific than “it’s in Daikanyama, at an actor’s house, in the afternoon.”

Having planned nothing else, I decided to go down to Tôkyô anyway, hoping for an SMS with the address. It never arrived. So, I went to Ikebukuro to collect my sunglasses from Jim and Co.’s hotel, where I’d left them the weekend before, then walked south through Bunkyô-ku, Shinjuku, and part of Shibuya-ku to Harajuku, where I got thoroughly lost around Yoyogi park. The walk took 4.5 hours!

I was extremely tired by the time I arrived back in Ôta around 22:00, but there was a big party on to say goodbye to Ken and Georgina, two NOVA instructors in the area who were going back to Ireland. I’d been dreading it a little, expecting more izakaya-style billing problems, but was also excited about meeting some more of the gaijin in the area. Sure enough, there were billing issues: the staff charged our table 73,000Â¥ for the night, and the money we’d put in based on what we ordered wasn’t enough to cover it. When asked to, the staff refused to give us an itemized bill, so there was about 30 minutes of messing around with the money (in which I stood silently and let other people cover it, since I only had 1000Â¥ left for food until Wednesday) before we finally had enough.

On the upside of the night, I met a Samoan-born rugby-player for Sanyo called Afai. He had one of the best attitudes of any of the gaijin I’d met in Ôta, and was super-keen to learn Japanese. Good work Afai! You cheered me up.

Aside from that, though, by the end of the night I was burning with rage. How dare NOVA place me in Ôta: didn’t they know who I was? I had a publications list on my resumé, for crying out loud! How could a MENSA member tell me several times she was looking forward to meeting me, but never tell me where I was supposed to go? And what was the deal with these izakaya? What made them think they could just make up a bill at the end of the night and expect us to pay?

As I said, I was burning with rage, and I was starting to hate Japan.

Hate Japan? Me? Wait a minute… This story’s no good…

Let’s start again…

Author: Ben Hourigan

Ben Hourigan is a novelist from Melbourne, Australia. His books Kiss Me, Genius Boy and My Generation’s Lament are Amazon category bestsellers, and are available wherever good books are sold online. Ben also works as an editor, copywriter, and self-publishing consultant at his own firm, Hourigan & Co. For news and book release updates, sign up to his email newsletter.