Ah Japan, sushi, crazy gameshows…..and manga. That was the full extent of my knowledge of the Land of the Rising Sun…and yet here I now live.
Like all life changing decisions, it started with a girl. Way back when, I was a reluctant cog in the clockwork machinery of London, get up, go to work, pub, go home, repeat…and then I met her, my wife to be. She was funny, in a misanthropic kind of way, liked good music and revelled in weirdness….and she was Japanese. She seemed to be impressed by my sky-rocketing career in publishing and my mate’s cooking (scrambled eggs, words cannot describe…) so I was fairly confident this relationship was going somewhere (as long as I continued sharing a house with THOSE scrambled eggs). But no longer had we met, it seemed it was time for her to return to the Motherland. After one quick visit to her native Kansai, my mind was made up and one inconspicuous wedding later, we found ourselves in the insanity of Tokyo, and jobless to boot.
After scouring every Japanese job site imaginable, I surrendered to the grim prospect of…teaching English. Without a word of Japanese, my almost superhuman publishing powers were useless, so a career teaching my native lingo was before me. Who knows, teaching the denizens of Tokyo ‘Northern English’ could revolutionise language study in Japan. But then I saw it, like a shining beacon…. “Manga Editor wanted, must have publishing experience, native English speaker, with conversational Japanese and enjoy a drink”… “conversational Japanese”? Pfffft, I’ll wing it.
I have to say, the interview was both surreal and nerd heaven. Growing up in the wind swept North of England, I idled many a dark hour away ensconced in a duvet and glued to VHS viewings of anime, chiefly ‘Fist of the North Star’ and ‘Akira’. Of course I’d researched Coamix before the big day, but to be confronted with a life size bust of Jagi, in all his maniacal glory took my breath away. And, it was under the intense glare of Kenshiro’s unhinged brother that the interview commenced…
The fourth member of the interview panel.
My distinct lack of Nihongo quickly became apparent after my heroically delivered ‘yoroshiku onegaishimasu’, and with that, the slim and fragile hope of gainful employment. As my hopes and dreams evaporated quicker than an Otaku’s kawaii laden ice-cream sundae in an Akihabara maid cafe, I casually mused to myself, “Why cruel fate?!”, “Why dangle the carrot of job perfection, and then viciously snatch it away?!”
Well, the die was cast, not a chance of bagging this job so I may as well make myself comfortable. Just when I was about to whip off my tie, rest my weary feet on the table and wait out the end of the interview perusing a crumpled up ‘Don Quijote’ leaflet of “Outstanding Offers!!” I found in my jacket pocket (hmmm, 3 for 2 shampoo…), the interview turned into an enjoyable discussion about publishing (“endless work for a pittance, yup, ’tis our lot in life)”, movies (“what’s your favourite movie?”, “One?? Here’s five!” BOOOOM), manga (where to start…) and the virtues of the Great British Cuppa.
“So…”, said Taiyo, Deputy Chief Editor and English speaking extraordinaire, braking the silence after a heated discussion in Japanese between my ‘Executioners’, “Milk before, or after the hot water is poured?”
“After, are you insane!?” I responded with incredulity, “Milk is the FINAL component when making a cuppa tea!”
“That will be all, thank you for coming in” Taiyo responded with a knowing, yet slightly evil smile.
After many, many bows as I waited for the elevator to arrive (“When will this *$#+¥ elevator arrive?! I’m on my nineteenth bow here!!”), I nonchalantly exited the building and assessed the previous 45 minutes. I was suave, sophisticated, witty…and still convinced I’d failed miserably. It was later at home, as I was preparing myself for a crash course in English grammar, idioms and phrasal verbs, that the call came…
“You’ve got the job!”…I had no doubt.
So here I am, in Japan, and Tokyo no less, the land of sushi, crazy gameshows and manga. The land of the insanely long working week, huddled down with a bunch of lovable miscreants (who you’ll meet in my next thrilling article, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll reach for the bucket!). Long working weeks, burgeoning with endless editorial duties and loooong discussions about what makes a good story, about how a good story is constructed, and the enduring characters needed to make sure the story is, well…good. Days filled with explosive arguments, tear inducing laughter, and the ever present threat of anime karaoke.
Yup, I think I’ll be happy here in Japan. Well, until by beloved learns of my catastrophic attempts at recreating THOSE scrambled eggs at least…
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