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Halloween spirit?

Tokyo Travel Blog

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the tall one on the left is my building. we share the building with ECC, another English conversation school (now that's tough competition)
Up until now, I haven't mentioned a whole lot in my posts about my current work situation here in Tokyo. And perhaps that's for the best. I've heard of people getting reprimanded (not specifically at my company, but at other companies like mine) for posting on their blog about their work environment. For those of you who are truly interested in the details of my work, please email me and I'll be happy to share with you. Otherwise, I'll spend most of this post talking about my overall experience and the most recent event, our Halloween party.

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.
kaeru-sama!
The range in their levels and age is somewhat diverse. I enjoy meeting all of my clients because they are usually very fun to talk to. I think for them, English conversation lesson is a nice break in their otherwise grueling day. Because my clients work mostly during the day, our busiest times are in the evenings and on Saturday. My day usually starts around 1p and ends around 10:30p. Lucky for me, I can sleep in! It's only a 25 minute commute and because I work slightly odd hours, I am fortunate to not have to worry about rush hour.

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.
one of my favorite clients
However, the biggest hurdle for me has been filling up my schedule with lessons. I knew this would be a problem going in, but everyone has reassured me that it takes a couple months to get settled in before your schedule starts to book up. After one month, I've already started having a few repeats which makes me happy.

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.
the lobby, nice right?
One of my friends joked to me, "Kiel, it's like you're a host working at a host club! The clients get to pick you based on your ranking!" *A host/ess club is a high-end bar where clients pay for the company of a host/ess to talk with them, pour them drinks, laugh at their jokes, etc. Apparently, it's a normal part of Japanese business culture. Some of the host clubs can be very expensive (try $1000 just to sit down at a table), and most of them are run by the mafia. Needless to say, I was not too thrilled at the thought of comparing myself to a host, especially since I'm probably not making nearly as much as the hosts in those high-end joints.

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.
this is where the magic happens
etc. While I like to consider myself a fairly informed person, I find that I learn something new every day.

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.
the frog and my coworkers
And then, the poor Japanese kids who have never been able to experience the fun of trick-or-treating, don't get to experience the fun of trick-or-treating. A shame, and yet again, I digress.

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).
kind of like any other office
Being that I was scheduled to work before our party, I would not just be any frog, but a working-class frog, or business frog if you will.

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.
this guy was so cool! a little shy, but i understood him. he got ichiro in the game.
Leave it to Japanese parties to always include a game in the festivities. It was only to be played by our guests, the clients. Each person would get a famous person's name attached to their back so they can't see it, but everyone else can. Then, they would be required to ask 'yes' or 'no' questions (in English of course) to the people around them. I'm pretty sure I heard some Japanese and not everyone was asking 'yes or no' questions, but again, that is the beauty of the Japanese games mixed with English conversation. The roster included such famous names as Michael Jackson, Brad Pitt, Madonna, and my favorite, Ichiro. The boy that I met got Ichiro, so I naturally tried to give him a lot of hints so he could win. There were prizes for those who finished first, second, and third.
more of our guests


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.
the frog made multiple appearances

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the tall one on the left is my bui…
the tall one on the left is my bu…
kaeru-sama!
kaeru-sama!
one of my favorite clients
one of my favorite clients
the lobby, nice right?
the lobby, nice right?
this is where the magic happens
this is where the magic happens
the frog and my coworkers
the frog and my coworkers
kind of like any other office
kind of like any other office
this guy was so cool! a little shy…
this guy was so cool! a little sh…
more of our guests
more of our guests
the frog made multiple appearances
the frog made multiple appearances
one of the staff who will, sadly, …
one of the staff who will, sadly,…
halloween parade in harajuku/omote…
halloween parade in harajuku/omot…
lots of kids dressed up!
lots of kids dressed up!
these people were dressed up too, …
these people were dressed up too,…
a big parade of animal rights acti…
a big parade of animal rights act…
i like the guy hanging out the win…
i like the guy hanging out the wi…
Tokyo
photo by: maka77