Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Long-Awaited Visit

Hi everyone! This last week, I have barely even touched my computer. Why? Well, my mother and stepfather came to visit, that's why!

Here in Japan, the beginning of May is packed with national holidays, together forming what is known as Golden Week. During this holiday, my mother and stepfather came to visit me, and until they left to go home to Sweden this morning, I have been in full tourist mode. We went to see temples, castles, eat delicious and exotic food, sing karaoke etc. In other words, we were living it up in rural Japan. (Which is pretty much the equivalent of living it up in the most urban parts of Sweden)

It was great seeing them after eight months of being apart, especially since I now have a job and feel secure in my place here. A week goes by quickly, however, and now they've gone home again. It feels kind of sad to say goodbye, but I think I'll be okay. The world is a fairly small place in this day and age, and we can always meet again.

So yeah, I had a nice, relaxing week with my family. Not much else to write about right now. Have a good day!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

My Favourite Customer - First Encounter

During my time working at Softbank, I met quite a few different people. Most were just ordinary folks you wouldn't really remember, but there were some that stuck in my memory. Today, I'd like to introduce one such customer.

It was fairly early on in my time at the store - around the end of September, I believe - when the man I have since dubbed my "favourite customer" (I never learned his name) first spoke to me. He was a middle aged man of average height, wearing a grey coat and a wool hat. (He would always wear this hat every time he showed up in the store, for reasons which will be made clear in due time.)

He asked me: "What can you tell me about the iPhone 5?"

Something that will always ensure this man's place in my memory is the fact that he, despite being Japanese, spoke to me in perfect English, with only the slightest trace of an accent. I imagine he has live abroad for quite some time.

I, having little to no interest in phones and gadgets, and still being quite new at the job, did my best to explain some of the key features of the new model. I mentioned how it was faster, slimmer, had lots of new features compared to the older models, but he didn't seem very impressed. He took out his own phone, an older iPhone model, and asked me what model it was. Since I had no idea, I guessed randomly:
"An iPhone 4?" He shook his head.
"Ah, is it the first one then?"
Again he shook his head, and grinned.
"No. You've got it all wrong!"
By now, I was getting a strange feeling that this man was testing me. For some reason, I thought he may have been sent by Softbank to test new employees on their knowledge of the products we sold. Nonetheless, I instinctively bowed and apologized, to which he said:
"Don't bow to me. We are speaking English, so it is weird to bow."
"Sorry", I said. "It just comes naturally, with this kind of job."
"How long have you worked here?"
"Just a few weeks."
"So, you're going to be here for a long time?"
"I don't know. For a year, at least. Then we'll see."
"But you do not know much about cell phones." It was a statement, not a question.
It was true.
"No. But I'll just have to learn."
He looked at me and said, with a serious voice.
"Learning something that you don't know is a great thing." He nodded a few times, then continued:
"I think you will make a lot of money. Then, you can do whatever you want."
Then he said goodbye and left, just as suddenly as he had appeared.

This was my first meeting with my favourite customer. I was almost sure that he was some sort of instructor from Softbank at the time, but I would soon learn the true nature of this unusual man. And so will you, if you stick around to read it.

Have a good day!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


I have only cried once upon checking my e-mail inbox. This happened on the 6th of February 2013, the day I found out that I had got a new job.

Yes, the patent office I mentioned in my previous post decided to hire me as a translator. When I read that mail, I burst into joyful tears and danced around my apartment. At last, my worries were over. At last my life could begin anew.

From the day I found out I was going to be fired from Softbank until the day I received that mail, it had felt as if my life was on pause. As if I was not really living, but merely existing, trying to find a way to truly live again. And finally, that day had come.

So, I moved from Kyoto to Gifu, got myself settled into my new apartment, and then started on my new job. Life was good once again. And it still is. Since the beginning of March this year, I have been working as a translator at this patent office in Gifu, and I am really enjoying myself.

This concludes the brief sum-up of what's been going on in my life since my last post in May 2012. There are still quite a few interesting episodes to be told, and I think I'll reach into my vault of memories and retell some of them when I get in the mood.

Well, that's all for today. Until next time, have a good day!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Job Hunt 2: Electric Boogaloo

As the clock struck twelve on the 31st of December 2012, I wondered what the new year would hold. With a few job interviews lined up and a half-formed plan to move from Kyoto to Nagoya, things seemed like they might be all right after all.

Winter in Japan is very cold. Sure, it may not differ that much from Sweden in terms of outdoor temperature, but what makes Japanese winter so awful is the fact that the inside of the houses get freezing cold as well. So I basically had to wear several layers of clothes on indoors as well as outdoors. Great.

In any case, my first interview was at a kindergarten which held all its lessons in English. With no experience working with young children (2-6 years old), the head teacher asked me to come and try working there for two days, to see how I handled the kids. It was an interesting experience, to say the least. The kids were really energetic and cheerful, and it was a lot of fun. What really surprised me was how good they were at English. They could speak pretty well for such young children. I guess it's true that the younger you are, the easier it is to learn stuff.

But in the end, working as a kindergarten teacher isn't for me. Not that I don't like kids, I just can't bring myself to be as strict as you need to be to keep them in line sometimes. Oh well...

Next up was a written exam, called SPI, which is yet another workplace aptitude test that the Japanese seem to adore so much. It didn't go well. I am absolutely terrible at maths, and that test was chock full of it.

My next interview was at a paralegal office specializing in patents and trademarks in Gifu, the town I had lived and studied in together with my friends back in 2010. They were looking for a translator, and I got to do a trial translation for them following the interview. On the whole, it felt like it went pretty well.

January drew to a close, and February came along. By now, I had decided to move out of Kyoto. I wanted to relocate to the area around Nagoya, to be closer to my girlfriend. My money was slowly running out, though. The last pay check from Softbank came in the end of January, and after that I was on my own.
I had set up a time limit for myself. If I couldn't find a job by the end of February, I would give up and go back to Sweden. With the pressure rising every day, I kept on applying for jobs, and waited for any mail of phone call from the companies I had been interviewed at.
Time was running short...

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Once more a NEET

So, I left off around the part where I needed to secure my working visa to be able to work full time at Softbank. Let's see how all that went, shall we?

Upon receiving the news that I needed a bunch of additional documents, including papers from my home university which proved I had a degree, I got busy. I mailed my professor and the graduation department and managed to file an application for graduation. Now all I had to do was wait for it to be finished and they would mail it to me by e-mail. So I waited. September gave way to October, I celebrated my birthday despite the anxiety that was starting to build up again, and October eventually turned to November. During this time, my boss frequently asked me about my visa status and when he should expect me to be done with it. I kept telling him "soon" and prayed that I would get my visa quickly.

At this point, I am sure you may have asked yourself: "Did he get the visa or not?" Worry not, dear reader; in the end, I did indeed get it. As it turned out, though, that was only the start of my problems...

Looking back, I suppose it was no surprise that I was fired from Softbank. I had not told them anything about how long it would take to get the working visa, mostly because I myself was not aware of all the facts. My preparations had been insufficient, in other words. But it was still quite a shock that November evening when my boss told me to stay behind after work for a meeting. I was unsure of what the meeting was going to be about, but I did not even imagine what was about to happen. My boss, the store manager and I sat down in a small meeting room, and they told me what was up. "You still haven't gotten your visa, and quite frankly, your performance here has not been good enough to warrant waiting any more. There are plenty of others who are eager to work here, and hiring one of them instead of you would be much more economical for us."

And so, just like that, I was without a job. They didn't kick me out right away, though. I was to keep working until the end of the year, and then quit. After getting over the initial shock of this notice, I concluded that my only option now was to brush up my CV, wait until I got my visa, and then start job hunting again.
A few weeks later, I received a notice in the mail saying that my visa application had been approved, and that I could come pick up my new Residence Card at the immigration office. This news made me leap with joy. At least now I had a fighting chance. With a working visa, there was no reason for companies to hesitate about hiring me. Armed with this new hope, and a do-or-die determination to fight until the end, I greeted the end of the year, and said goodbye to my job at Softbank. My time spent Not in Employment, Education or Training was about to begin.