Hi guys! Recently, I’ve been quite busy with school stuff and I’ve been out of ideas to write too, but with the remaining energy and brain juice I have left, here’s a post written out of the ideas and insights I have gained from being more involved in school life.
What I’ll be writing today will probably be a teeeeeny bit sensitive, so please bear in mind that I have asked for consent from my Japanese friends to write these thoughts out in a public post. If you feel that this is offensive (if you’re a Japanese), then please tell me personally so I can correct myself or take this down 😊
Before coming to Japan to study, I’ve always had this impression on how they’re so kind and hardworking, and I’m very sure that all of you might be thinking the same too. It is no doubt, a good thing for them to share this mindset, unconsciously being nice to everyone not because they’re taught to, but because they have been growing up with it their whole lives. After talking to more people and listening to their stories, it might not be rainbows and unicorns like what we see on the surface all the time for them.
So lately, I’ve been involved in helping out a few of my friends in Presentation Contest 「プレコン」 (it’s a competition among students of Technical Colleges here in Japan to encourage the use of English by giving presentations) and my friend who was in-charge of his team, insisted that they stuck to the topic “Share your worries with your friends” with a strong urge to push out the message out to other Japanese students out there. (our teacher was initially against the idea because it isn’t an easy flowing topic) At first, when I had come to know of the topic, I was quite shocked tbh. To me, it’s normal to just rant to my friends and family about my day, or about whatever annoyed me (while sounding like a total bish) or just literally about anything in the world when things don’t go my way. But on the other hand, from their point of view (when I asked them about it), they said that it’s not normal to share their worries to their friends because it makes them look like they can’t handle things like these on their own, and that it would make them look like they’re flimsy and not ‘manly’ enough. This doesn’t represent the whole community though, because they were only a group of 3 (+another 5 or more friends I’ve asked), but this is what I’ve learnt from asking them personally.
I’ve also been involved in a project in my ‘Incubation Work’ group for the past month (to keep myself busy). ‘Incubation Work’ is one of the compulsory subjects in my school where we get to pick whatever theme we’re interested in, and create and execute projects to achieve a certain goal. I’m in the ‘Science Supporter’ group, where we aim to encourage kids to gain interest in science at a young age by opening up booths at festivals etc. Our working space was in the teacher’s research (lab?)/room. (ps: Technical colleges in Japan aren’t like typical schools, it’s a school where most of the teachers are PhD holders and their main job is to do their personal research, while they teach us on the sidelines. When the students here are in their 4th/5th year, they can join in with research, or, if they choose to, they can do their own personal research with the guidance of a teacher from the department) And so, I’ve been squeezing every single bit of my personal time to come here to work on the project. (we hacked a toy Tamiya forklift with an Arduino and some sensors)
was super off topic but let me get back to it now)) I got to know and make friends with almost all the students in the research lab and while spending my time here, there happened to be a conflict among the students of the research lab. As of human nature, it is hard to confront the people we’re having a conflict with, and we’d tend to ask other people for advice. And so, I was sort of the wallpaper in the background throughout the whole thing. Talking to one of my friends from the research lab, he told me that, we, as foreigners/non-Japanese people, usually see them all as nice and kind people no matter the situation. That is definitely a good trait they all may have. But then, he told me that it sometimes isn’t a good thing as well, because it turns into a stigma where they’re obliged to be nice, and thus lose the courage/ability to act otherwise. Well, telling people off is sometimes not a bad thing as well, if you use the right words and say the right things. When I asked him, “So how do Japanese people usually resolve their problems?”, he told me that they’ll either tell the person of conflict through another person (as a bridge), or just keep it in until it fades away. The last resort is to just tell the person directly, but it isn’t common to do so because of the ‘nice’ stigma. I feel that now after hearing what he said, I can understand why they don’t really express their feelings when it comes to things like conflicts and stuff, and why it puts them in a hard situation if they do as they like.
During the busy period, I’d stay up till quite late in school to finish up as much as I can. One of the rules of the research lab is that at least one research student must be in the lab if a non-research student (me) was in it. And so, they’d babysit me while I feel guilty continuing my work in the lab whenever I’m not done with my work. 😅😂 One of the nights, when I went back late at about 1 am with one of my friend, I was shocked to see a few other lit up rooms in the school blocks. As we walked past, he pointed them out and named the teachers one by one as if it’s a normal routine. (and it was a school day the next day!!) For me, it’s definitely not normal to see people working till this ungodly hour, isn’t it??? I can still recall the days working as a part-time-cashier after SPM and boy, I’d clean up as much as I could 5-10 minutes before closing time.
Yes, the working culture in Japan is different (and I’m in no place to criticize because I’d be a hypocrite if I did too –I was staying up late as well so yea) but here, it shows how serious and dedicated they are with their job/research. I only went full-speed with the project for about a month and I feel like I’ve had enough, but for them as teachers and research students, it lasts waaaay longer. It is a very compliment-able point they have to be efficient in their work but, it’s definitely unhealthy to continue this sort of lifestyle in the long run. As you all may know or have came across the term ‘over-working’, it is real and there is yet a solution to be found.
Being one of the very few international students here, I was given a mini ‘interview’ on my scholarship by one of the teachers here. With that opportunity, I managed to casually ask him to elaborate a bit on the working situation here in Japan. (he’s one of the teachers who disagrees with the over-time policy btw) He told me how the system works and why they do it. Again, this point of view is based on one person only, so please take note that it doesn’t represent the whole community. He said that as for teachers, they’d prefer to work waaay after hours because ① they are able to fully concentrate on their work as students won’t be coming to their room to ask questions/ go for meetings etc, ② they have too much to work on that they’re forced to stay back so that they can meet the deadline. Also, I asked if they’re paid accordingly. Yes, and no.
He drew this out for me:
and told me that it’s a problem that has been going on ever since and it’s almost impossible to solve this problem even by the government. The last section in red (in the makeshift timeline I’ve drawn up there) is called Zan-gyou service「残業サービス」, literally means leftover work service. This term makes it sound like it’s an obligatory thing to do due to your lack of efficiency, and therefore, you serve your company by taking away some of the the deserved pay you rightfully earned. From what I’ve learnt from the teacher, he said that in legal terms, overtime pay in Japan has to be at least 25% more than the original pay. Logically, it would be cost saving and the net profit would be raised if companies paid less to their employees. What more to say, when the employees themselves offer to be paid less? There’s nothing to lose.
These are the few things that have caught my attention and has been lingering in my mind for the past few weeks. If you made it till here, thanks so much for reading and I hope you found it interesting!