Tokyo Travel Blog› entry 6 of 6 › view all entries
October 24th, 2009 – by: hellokiel
I work in a very central business district in Tokyo, and as such, most of my clients are a mix of working men and women interested in learning English for their jobs.
So far, everything has gone fairly smoothly. My studio is pretty small and the demographic of our instructors ranges mostly from North America and Europe. Everyone's been really nice to me since I'm the new guy, which has made my adjustment that much easier.
Our clients have the ability to choose who they want to take a lesson with and this is often based on any number of factors: 1. how long you've been there 2. have they had a lesson with you before 3. do they see something in your profile that they like (we have online profiles of ourselves that the clients can access) 4. do they like your teaching style; the list goes on. As you can probably guess, it's kind of a popularity game. But, having worked in the customer service industry before, I understand the time and effort involved in building up a regular clientele-base.
Perhaps the most challenging part of my job is being able to hold a conversation on any range of topics. Since many of my clients like to talk about their work, this can range in everything from inventory control, economics, nuclear energy, tax auditing, finance, world music, etc.
Saturday night was our company-sponsored Halloween party. Held after hours, the event was open to clients, their families, and instructors/staff. There was a nice spread of Japanese snacks, Domino's pizza (slightly different than the real thing, but pretty close), and of course, plenty of booze. Halloween is an interesting holiday here in Japan, it has really only started to become popular in the last five or ten years. However, like most western-adopted holidays in Japan, it is still lacking in the true holiday spirit; they do however, get the decoration part down. Interestingly enough, most people in Japan don't even know when the actual day of Halloween is, so this leads to a month-long celebration: stores put out their displays and costume supplies early, restaurants have Halloween specials every weekend, Disneyland gets all decked out from September to November, there are even weekend parades where everyone gets dressed up and walks up and down the street (in the middle of the day), all happening before the actual day of Halloween itself.
It was encouraged that we dress up to our party. So I ventured out to Tokyu Hands (a type of sell-all department store featuring the latest and greatest from Tokyo) in search of a costume. I wanted to be a pilot again this year (continuing my trend of aviation costumes - last year I was a kamikaze pilot), but the pilot outfit that I found was almost $100. No thanks. So I decided to buy one of their animal masks and go as a frog. I know, how do you go from pilot to frog, but I was pressed for time and funds. Besides, the real charm lies in the fact that my name, pronounced in Japanese, sounds very close to that of the word for 'frog' (Kiel = Kairu = Kaeru or frog).
The party was a success and I had a genuinely enjoyable time. A few people dressed up, mostly as witches (they're very popular over here), but I was the only instructor with a costume. There were about 10-12 clients as well as a handful of instructors and staff. I was encouraged only to speak English, so that's what I did. I met a lot of new clients, as well as a few that I had taught, which was great exposure for me as the new instructor. Plus now they'll always remember my name. There was lots of eating, drinking, and English talking. Some of the clients brought their family so I enjoyed meeting them as well.
We finished the evening with a game.
With plenty of food and drink, some costumes, and a few decorations, I couldn't help but notice one key missing ingredient from the mix. Where was the candy? The Japanese are not really known for their sweet-tooth (sweet teeth?), but there was some chocolate being passed around as well as Japanese 'black sugar' cookies, mmm. I do recall being prompted to say 'trick or treat' after which I promptly received a pepperoni stick. They get an "A" for effort. But I didn't see any candy corn, tootsie rolls, candied apples, or carved pumpkins, so it didn't feel exactly like a true Halloween party. However, in the end, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and I thought it was a really great party. And since it was a week early, we still have time left to try and make it a real Halloween.
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