Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Burning the Midnight Oil

One of the tough parts of working in Japan is that it is so very easy to rationalize things based on the surrounding work culture. To be honest, I am not even sure it is a Japan-specific issue, it seems like it is similar elsewhere too.

One gets lulled into a sense of complacency.

'At least I only do 1.5~2 hours a day of overtime, other people are in the office until midnight'. (No matter that it adds up to an extra full day of work per week in total hours)

'If I stay a bit longer each evening maybe I can get it done' (No matter that I am in fact holding two positions which should both be full time)

'Oh cool, only 1 extra hour today!' (No matter that my manager looks confused at my departure)

Comparatively speaking, I must admit my situation is much better than many of my friends. Matcha-kun has had weeks in which he came home past 11:00pm every night. 

I hear tales on the train, regaled with a certain inexplicable measure of pride and exhaustion, of working 3 days straight with only naps under a desk to keep going. It is almost like some people are proud of the amount of overtime they do, of the time taken away from their family, outside interests and required REM hours.

My job has many incredibly interesting parts, and I realize that I have a degree of responsibility and free rein that are unusual for someone my age (especially female and especially in Japan), but the culture of overtime just seems so destructive. There are certainly times when you have to cope with emergencies and will need to put in the extra time, but expecting this to go on for months (years!) is not conductive to employee health and well-being. It is a bit of modern machismo I despise and yet have to submit to.

How does one change this? Do we just have to wait for all the 'my-job-is-my-life' dudes to retire? 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Thoughts on a Shinkansen Night Ride

Oh hello... I have been a bad blogger, haven't I? Mea culpa.

But you know how it is.... 50~60 hour weeks, the hot blanket of summer over the city smothering ones' creativity, freelance writing opportunities popping up. It often feels that I am so busy I barely have time to blink. And that is, of course, Not Good.

While work is certainly quite important, busyness for the sake of being busy is destructive. The mind needs time to roam free, to come up with those wonderful little ideas that become something exciting: a piece of art, a book, a new business, a daring mathematical theory.
But enough of my complaining, for Ms.Godzilla (travel writer at large!) is on her way to Niigata, the land of sake. And hopefully there will be many new stories to tell and exciting discoveries to share.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunset Flowers aka あじさいマイラブ

It is the beautiful purples, pinks and blues of hydrangeas that make tsuyu (Japan's rainy season) bearable. The sky may be grey with heavy clouds, but everywhere these hardy charmers provide a pop of color and chance for an impromptu photo shoot.

You can tell that the rains and cool breezes will soon desist by how the hydrangeas are starting to dry and crumple into sepia versions of their former selves. But until they are gone for good, these harbringers of summer continue to be delightful.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

To Boldly Go Where No One Has Gone Before

... well, not quite. Still, if you are looking for inspiration for neat places to check out in Tokyo (or nearby), here are a couple often overlooked favorites.

Land of truly cool painted shutters (a whole street worth), really odd 'Italian-style' takoyaki and more bars than you can shake a stick at.

Streets filled with Edo-era storehouses and homes, delicious sweet potato snacks and visitors dressed up in kimono and fox masks.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Single Interlude

Matcha-kun has flown off to Europe for work (lucky bugger!) leaving me with our whole apartment to myself and a brief return to my single life... and I can't say I hate it. Typical only child, I am quite happy spending time on my own in my quiet private domain. Free to arrange the plates as I wish, eat whatever odd thing I want for lunch (veggie burger with about 3 kilos of salsa), read until 2:00am and dance around like a loon to Vienna Teng.

While we are quite independent people, no matter how flexible living together does change things a bit. You try to respect the other's schedule, make meals for two (so, 2 spoonfuls of peanut butter and a smoothie won't cut it) and make time together.
am probably not the poster child for coupled living. I like to do things by my own schedule, need alone time and require lots of time for my hobbies (koto and long distance running). Matcha-kun is by no means willfully interfering, but sometimes I feel like I am juggling constantly and that in a lot of ways living alone was simpler.

This probably sounds bad, however it don't mean that I intend to give up our coupled lifestyle. There are many benefits to it and lots of laughter, and as David Levithan wrote: 'In truth, I still sleep better when I'm alone. But now I allow that sleep isn't always the most important thing'.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Romance is in the eye of the beholder

I am told that 'Japanese men just aren't romantic'... well, to tell the truth I have no idea, as my demographic samples are quite limited. Still, I think romance is very much in the eye of the beholder. Red roses are nice, but they can be bought. Those little things that don't involve a wallet are often far better.

Here are a few things I find incredibly thoughtful, and even romantic (in an odd, non-media conforming way):

1- 'The bed is yours'
When I'm sick, I mainly just want space, to huddle under covers and wait for my immune system to win its battle against the evil invading germs. Although I have never vocalized this, Matcha-kun will still decamp to our tatami room, and leave me the whole bed to myself, 'So you can sleep deeply and not worry about waking me up'. He provides me with medicine, food and water too, but this particular gesture is so very much appreciated.

2- Dish Washing
I hate washing dishes, getting my hands dirty and poked by cutlery. Eeew. But since moving in together, I can literally count the times I have had to wash dishes on one hand. Okay, so it drives me up the wall when he doesn't overturn the cups and bowls (the water can't run out, aaaah) but not having to do a hated chore is a real gift.

3- 'As you wish'
I am a bit...stubborn. Bossy? Assertive? A combination of the three? Topped with a strong desire to See All The Things, this makes me a bit difficult to travel or walk around a city with. And yet, no matter what weird thing it is I have decided to do (see the extremely difficult-to-find tomb of Ogino Ginko, look for vegan burgers in Shinjuku etc...) he comes along with a smile and a great deal of patience (did I mention that I also have no sense of direction?). This support means the world to me.

Does anyone else have these types of weird gestures they wish to share?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Tokyo Cherry Blossoms 2015: 東京と桜とあたし

Persephone arrived from the underworld and briefly painted Tokyo pale pink, magenta and white to celebrate the end of winter.

From hanami with friends at Yoyogi Park to solo bento lunches under the blossoms at a cute little park near work, I took every possible moment to enjoy the cherry blossom season.

And a special tip for sakura lovers: the cherry blossoms at Shinjuku Gyoen tend to bloom a bit later than others around the city, allowing you to extend your hanami-ing for an extra weekend!