Thursday, April 8, 2010

April in Japan is not just about spring...or ...More things I don't understand about Japan

When you think of April (and live in the northern hemisphere) you probably think of spring.... "April showers bring May flowers" and so on. But here, April is the beginning of the fiscal year, the new school year, the new working year and the bizarre (in my opinion) tradition of just transferring people willy-nilly.

I guess I have to explain a little bit about the work culture first . When you apply for a job in Japan, you aren't really applying for a job per se but rather you are applying to a company who will tell you what job you will do. So, they will also decide to change your job from say a scientist to a manger (this actually happened to a friend of mine who worked for the prefectural government). This explains why when you ask someone "what do you do?" they often tell you what company they work for rather than a job title. Ok...back to transfers....let's say you work at a post office and you are happy but you have worked there for 3 years so chances are you will be transferred to another post office. Why are you transferred? Because. Because it is the Japanese way. Because they don't want you to get too comfortable. Apparently, transferring salesmen will prevent corruption and stealing from the company! In some cases, people are transferred to another local branch or store but it also happens that people can be transferred to another prefecture altogether! I remember when my hubby and I discussed what we would do if his company (an electronics store) wanted to move him to another prefecture-our idea was for him to quit since we didn't want to live apart and I have a great job here (thankfully we never have to worry about that again!). Even teachers are transferred about every 5 years.....perhaps so they can learn how other people teach at another school?

Talking about teachers...I have a friend who is a teacher. She has taught 6th grade for about 15 years. Last year, out of the blue, she was told that she was (starting within a month or so) going to be teaching English to her class. She couldn't speak English never mind teach it. So, she started learning English so she could teach her kids. She studied hard and learned enough to teach her kids. Her confidence grew and she enjoyed it so much she decided to really study English and she was looking forward to teaching her new class this year. The school year ended in mid March and she was preparing for her new 6th grade class (which would have started this week) when she was informed on March 26th, that she is now a 2nd grade teacher so she doesn't need to teach English. Not only is her new skill wasted, there is now a new 6th grade teacher that is going to have to teach English that can't even speak English at this point. I just don't get this way of thinking!! How does this help anyone?

April is also the season of "Shin nyu shain" or "enter the new employees". In Japan, 3rd year university students start looking for jobs that would start the April after graduating from university (most do a 4 year program) . Hundreds at a time sit for company tests (this country loves tests!!!), and if they pass that test, they then might get a first interview, then a 2nd interview and hopefully, they will have a job lined up long before they actually graduate. See "freshmen" meaning just graduated students, are most sought after by employers. If you graduate without a job lined up, your chances for a "real" job (IE working for a big company) are slim as the next job hunting season will be filled with these "freshmen" and they will be chosen first in most cases. You will then be left working at an "albaito" or part time job (even if you work 40 or more hours a week, if you are not salaried then it is considered part time work). I know one woman who, after not being able to line up a job, has decided to stay at university for one more year so she can be a part of the next job hunting season while technically still a student. This will cost her parents at least $8000 and that is just for tuition. it is the season of people being transferred it was no surprise to me that when I walked into the local 100yen shop ($1 shop) there was huge area filled with packing tape, bubble wrap, boxes etc. So while moving companies are making a killing this time of year, I can't help but wonder if they are the only ones that benefit from this.


Fernando said...

Its great that I found your blog! You write very fluent and is not only easy to read, your themes and way of narrating is very creative and fun!

f all the things I have read here I have yet understand a bit more about Japanese way of thinking and culture...gambate!

Blue Shoe said...

Yup, every year teachers get arbitrarily transfered around. Lost some good ones this year.

Aries said...

Thanks for sharing. I didn't about the transfer culture. Well at least no one gets bored and get to learn new stuffs from time to time. I love going to the 100 yen shop. We have a few branches here in Malaysia. Every time I enter that shop I would end up buying something. Everything looks so cure, small and useful too. Have a nice week ahead. Smile

Aries said...

Sorry the word cure - suppose to be cute. Typo error.

Don said...

Thanks for the nice post. I admit that I admire Japanese for there discipline. Since this about Japan, I would like a story about the Philippines today.


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