We have a very special interview from Mike Paxman who is currently working in the mobile games industry here in Tokyo. Mike studied Japanese Language at the University of Sheffield, also helping to run the Japan Society on the side.
He also used to run the extremely popular Japan is doomed blog and has contributed contents to other Japanese culture websites such as Tofugu.
Below is the interview we did together about advice for those who are who are interested in working in Japan and specifically the game industry! Some great contents and hope you enjoy!
I never intended to do an internship after finishing university. I wanted to get back to Japan ASAP and work at a Japanese company. I wanted to taste the real Japanese working culture and take my Japanese above the N1 level, and at the time I thought the only way to do this was by working at a Japanese company full time. If that was not possible, then working at a foreign company in Japan would be the next best thing.
The only thing I didn’t realize was just how crazy hard it would turn out to be to find a full time job in Japan while being in a completely different country. I had this totally unjustified belief that all it would take is a few e-mails here, then some skype interviews there and companies would be falling all over themselves to sign me up. Unsurprisingly, I was completely wrong.
What do avocados, rabbits, and British Rock all have in common? Well, not that much actually, unless you want to take into account the morbid fact that Percin, a fungicidal toxin found in avocados, is in fact deadly poisonous to rabbits, or the fact that Led Zeppelin have a rare live LP from 1969 called ‘Dancing Avocado’.
But who cares? The fact is that USAGI, located halfway between Shibuya and Omotesandō just off Aoyama-Dori, binds these three things together and somehow makes it seem like the most natural thing in the world. Make no mistakes, this place is as about as quirky as they come and that is exactly what I love about it. It even has its own theme song.
Turn off the main road and find its Ivy covered façade, littered with mismatched pots and an assortment of rabbit statues, then walk through it’s the doors and you will find yourself in a parallel, albeit cozy and homely, dimension where British rock and memorabilia from yesteryear blends seamlessly into a love of rabbits and avocado accompanied food.
Hell you have met your match; its name…… Salaryman boot camp.
Welcome to part two of a series of articles looking at what happens after you make the best decision of your life and join a Japanese company. Specifically we are focusing on the training period.
For those that missed it, part 1 of the series looked at the pre-entry training (yep the training will often start BEFORE you even get in the company) . Pre-entry training is kind of like an early Christmas present, a Christmas present that punches you in the face and makes you write an apology letter. Oh yeah.
This article is the first that looks at the initial training you get AFTER entering the company.
Much like the external exams mentioned above, this gasshuku (Remote Training) isn’t in every company, but it is present in many. For those who don’t know any better the concept of business gasshuku sounds almost fun. You get to stay in a hotel for free, get free meals and also get to know the new people that have also joined the company. Plus if you are a foreigner all the Japanese you can handle! Heck most people have to pay for this!
In reality though gasshuku is often one of the toughest things that any shinnyuushain will go through, regardless of nationality. My own experience brought me down to my knees and almost had me leaving the company (and I like to think I don’t throw in the towel easily) I mean I made it through the recruitment process, and that was no walk in the park !
I have many faults. One of them is that I am extremely ignorant towards certain things if I feel that they won’t affect me directly. I know it is not the best quality to have.
As an example in the summer of 2013 I had no idea that Princess Kate was even pregnant let alone that the baby was rumored to be a girl (she was about 6 months pregnant at the time). I generally didn’t keep up with the news between Kate and William because in all honesty I didn’t see how it would affect me at all. In fact I strongly believe that 99% of the stuff the royal family (and most celebrity) will do won’t affect my day to day life at all. It is this kind of attitude that results in me being ignorant towards a LOT of things.
*Funnily enough at the time of writing this article it seems that she is rumored to be pregnant with twins
Just before I came to Japan on my year abroad there were a lot of people who would talk about how Japan was due for a big earthquake at any time and that it would hit Tokyo pretty bad. I generally ignored these people because I thought that they were probably over exaggerating and that it wouldn’t happen when I am over there. I thought it wouldn’t affect me.
If there was ever a god, treacle sponge puddings are surely proof that he in fact exists , and at the same time seems to have a penchant for home baking – for how else could such a delight to the tongue have made its way into the world? The treacle sponge pudding has no qualms about being a simple desert, essentially just a ball of sponge wallowing in syrup. Juxtaposed against the French dacquoise or the mille feuilles, art forms in themselves requiring patience and skill, the sponge pudding epitomizes that very British way of ‘lumping’ separate things together and hoping for the best. Which (as with battered deep-fried mars bars, One Direction and The UK Independence party) can sometimes can go horribly wrong, but at other times (as with Fish and Chips,The Beatles and Monty Python) hits the nail straight on the head.
Welcome to our new corner, a place to wind down and forget all about trains, technology and the toils of a hectic week as I take you to a small corner of Japan, for some coffee, and maybe even a bite to eat.
To me the greatest Cafés can almost be living works of art. The smells, whether it be from the ageing pine of the floorboards, the unmistakable scent of well-aged tatami mats, the aromas of the food piling out of the kitchen and of course, freshly brewed coffee. These buildings, sometimes decrepit and sometimes as if almost frozen in time, spill with character, warmth and history. This is where I like to sit and watch the world go by, and these are the places around Japan that I want to introduce to you too.
So let us begin with the first, ‘Kayaba Coffee’ in Yanaka, Tokyo.
First things first, if you have never been to Yanaka just get off the train and go exploring. It is one of those rare gems in a city like Tokyo, an area steeped in history and endowed with countless historic temples; it never seems to garner the same kind of attention like the ‘old-Japan’ seeking tourist hot spot that is Asakusa. But this is what makes it great. Yanaka is Edo. You don’t even need a map, just take a walk down any side street and you are bound to come across a temple with some kind of historic importance. And one of the best things, there are no tourists in floppy hats and knee high sock/sandal combinations with camera lenses protruding from their chests like a scene from Alien. Well, maybe only the occasional few.
Basically, Yanaka is that wonderful of a topic that it deserves a post all of its own, for another time.
Within the midst of all that history stands the Café, “Kayaba Coffee”.
I can always recall one of my earliest childhood memories of my “awakening” to Japan as a “modern country”, and not just as a land of the rising sun full of ninjas and samurai (TV can be a convincing media).
I was born and raised in the small town of Wednesbury in the UK. A village for most of its existence, when the Industrial revolution picked nearby Birmingham up and propelled it to Industrial “workshop of the world” Wednesbury was swept along in the pandemonium. Soon the banks of canals filled with barges laden fresh with coal for Birmingham’s roaring industries; brimmed to the edge with factories, workshops and steel mills – the modern age had arrived for this small town.
But history was not to be kind to Wednesbury. As fast as Industry had giveth life to the town it took it away. Post-war, as in other areas, British industrial output crumbled under the weight of cheaper foreign imports and factory closures, mass unemployment and mass unenjoyment soon followed. However as soon as the 90s began where once stood steel mills now stood shops, as the old abandoned land which once rang day and night to the sound hammers pounding steel now thronged with the crowds of Middle-England – row upon row of cars filled to impossibility with flat pack furniture and kitchen fittings crawling along the asphalt.
But that’s a story for another time, so let’s return to that 12 year old wide-eyed Wednesbury child – the most exotic thing in his life being an Indian curry. I clearly remember my father telling me about how his friend has been to Japan only to return flabbergasted, astounded by its neon metropolis and futurisms.
“Everything they have is at least 10 years advanced of anything we have over here”
That was it. That was all I needed. Japan from that point on cemented itself into my mind as certain kind of futuristic utopia. Everyday chores need not trouble, as your trusty robot would carry out those tasks. The flow of information is electronically controlled as everyday devices and appliances speak with each other to optimise your daily routines for maximised – Japanese style – efficiency. The age of men was over.
OK so the title has already given it away, this is an article about food. I am sure a lot of people are thinking isn’t this blog supposed to be about working in Japan?! Well yeah it is and we have articles on that stuff too, but let’s be honest, food is important. We can live without work but we sure as hell can’t live without food. So I think that as food is such a key part of our lives it makes sense to be passionate about it. My fellow writers feel the same way at WIJ too. When we meet up, we will often talk about food and especially about the differences in availability, variety, quality of food in Japan compared to what we have experienced elsewhere. Pretty wild night for three young 20 something guys to be doing ey!
A food that I love and briefly touched upon on one of my earlier articles in The Salaryman Diet is curry. Friggin love it. India curry, Japanese curry, Thai curry, it’s all great. I am not prejudice against my curry.
This article is actually going to be about just that, curry. I know what you’re thinking, this guy is friggin crazy, the hell do we care about curry and I am pretty sure you can’t write a full article about it. Well I won’t deny the first claim, but if there is something that I can do, it is write an article allllllllllllllll about curry. In fact during my year abroad in Sophia I did a full 30 minute presentation in Japanese about curry. I like to think the presentation changed lives in that classroom, it was groundbreaking, inspiring and as Steve Jobs would say “insanely great”.
That presentations is actually making the bases for this article (REALLY READ AS I am just reverse translating my Japanese speech into English cause I am a genius…a lazy genius). The whole premises for the presentation is ‘If asked to name the top Japanese foods, how many people would say curry?` I honestly think that the answer would close to zero. I mean even if I was asked this question I would have generally answered sushi, tempura or ramen as they just ‘feel’ Japanese. However when you actually talk to families, watch food commercials and probably most importantly look at the data you find out that curry is one of THE most popular and loved food in Japan. Wow pretty big claims there eh! Well let’s begin with a little bit of background.
When I first met Japan, it was love at first sight. We would spend all day, every day, together. Each day spent with her produced a plethora of experiences – new, and exciting. I looked into Japan’s eyes and I saw the world in a new and exciting light, bursting with possibilities, and 24/7 convenience stores. Together we would try new foods, explore new places, concepts, ideas. Days turned into weeks turned into months, but for me and Japan time seemed to stand still, as gazing into each other’s eyes the hustle and bustle of life passed around us.
I loved Japan and Japan seemed to love me. I would leave my home to be with Japan, throwing everything away I knew to devote my life to her.