Sunday, 31 January 2016

Marching orders

Some Japanese companies like to transfer or post their staff to different sections and departments every now and again. For one very large car manufacturer in Japan, I heard the average was every three years which makes my situation slightly above average (a very scientific comparison). Having been employed for 9 years by the current Japanese company I’ve been transferred four times.

2006 June, entered company and started work at the Nara-Ken R&D centre

2008 April, Tokyo R&D centre

2011 April, Nara-Ken R&D centre

2012 May, Sendai, Tohoku University

2015 April, Nara-Ken R&D centre

Traditionally, March, being transfer season, is a very hectic month as those that have to transfer must prepare, in some way, for a new start. Postings can be domestic or overseas but employment in Japan is already considered overseas, at least by me, if not by my employers. By union rules, the company must give me a month’s notice for domestic postings and three months for overseas postings. As always, rules are made to be broken and I rarely get the time to brace myself for the next move.

Some of the things that I must do

Find a new flat within the strict limitations as laid out by human resources
Make arrangements with a removal company to pick up and deliver my furniture and belongings
Inform the local municipality of my intended move
Inform banks, post office, police (driver’s licence) of a change of address
Inform the new municipality of my arrival within two weeks or face some penalisation

It is rather simplified as it omits details such as a time limit for packing, the actual move and unpacking, the time spent on the telephone arranging and co-ordinating the move, the running about to the various offices before and after the move. The most upsetting part is leaving a life and friends that were established during that period. It is very stressful and it takes time to settle in and then re-establish a new life and new friends only to go through the rigmarole again two or three years later.

I belong to a group picked on for postings, but why such frequency. Don’t know the answer to that. Instead, here is a short list of advantages

Get to live in different areas of Japan
Increases opportunities for networking
Amass new experiences within the company
Expand repertoire of marketable skills and experience for the next career move
Makes me physically and mentally stronger

What can one do except to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride or look else where.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The commute

The company has provided me with subsidised accommodation, as with others who also qualify, in my chosen location, Kashiba-Shi. Choosing accommodation with this company is particularly difficult with all the rules and regulations which warrants its own post at a later date.

I used to walk for about 15 min to the Kintetsu Goido station, hop on a train for 5 min and then transfer to the company bus at Yamatotakada. The bus journey would take on average 50 min and it was a time to catch up on sleep, as was the return leg.

Mornings started at 0545 h in order to make sure the train and bus catching ritual could be accomplished. If I missed the train then getting to the office on time would mean a very expensive taxi ride. Now, I commute by car which allows me to lie in until 0700 h and commuting time remains at approximately 50 min. Traffic may add another 10 min.

The accounting department calculates how much petrol money should be paid each month and can vary as fuel prices go up and down like a yo-yo. Surprisingly, it is paid in advance in the previous month's salary. The costs of wear and tear and depreciation of the vehicle through commuting are borne by the owner of course.

This layer of added flexibility, not to mention more quality sleep time, is well worth it.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Welcome back

Though there is a corporate culture of some sort, there is also a regional one. For example, the Tokyo head office is notoriously stressful as one feels that there is always someone keeping an eagle eye on you. The head honchos are also rather too close for comfort. Out in the countryside of Technopark Nara it is relatively slower and more relaxed.

Being the countryside with not much to do or many places to go for a drink after work, chain izakaya's notwithstanding, any excuse to party has become the culture. Call it what you will, a konshinkai (懇親会) or a kangeikai (歓迎会) or a shinbokukai (親睦会), it's a smoky, loud drinking affair with poor quality food that lasts for approximately two and a half to three hours or until the last train home.

My transfer back to the Nara R&D centre, after three years at Tohoku University, meant having to attend three welcome parties. One was organised by the R&D division under the auspices of the union for the four of us who were transferred, the second was organised by the R&D group for the three of us who actually belong to the group and finally, one organised by the team that I belong too. Not being one that bathes in the centre of attention I was happy that the team party didn't go ahead as I had asked the organiser to quietly forget it. He was happy as well as it meant less work even though it was a direct order from the boss.

The beginning of the Viking feast is signalled by a simple opening speech, usually by the appointed organiser, and then towards the end each one of the transferee's has to make a short speech as well. Being Kansai, a humorous speech is the most appreciated. Not long after the last speech the party ends with everybody standing up and closed with an extended gurgle of yoooou! and a synchronised one hand clap called ipponjime (一本締め) . Depending on the occasion or organiser three hand claps might be performed called sanbonjime (三本締め). We slowly empty the establishment and go home while the party animals will carry on to the after-party.

In the beginning I went through the motions of these welcome parties. Over time gaining experience and appreciation of Japanese culture such gatherings now give me a feeling of belonging and being genuinely welcomed even though I am a foreigner. Many still don't know where I am from or have preconceived misconceptions about me.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Ummm... what to write?

This is not writer's block because I can't write. It's about the main theme of this blog. There are so many blogs about, well, so many things that this one would only be a poor imitation. Could do product shots of the toys I've bought myself with a write up or CD reviews played on my low end hi-fi equipment or I could do something useful that is mundane.

For the lucky insomniacs out there my main theme will be driven by, '... the humdrum life of a foreigner employed at a Japanese company in Japan.' Think of it as my contribution to those who are looking for employment with a Japanese employer and wonder what it's like compared to working for a foreign conglomerate in Japan.

It will chronical the main practices and sometimes there might even be commentary thrown in for free. Nothing like a good bargain for those with short arms and sown pockets. Do remember though, it is only about one company and is not representative of others. Having had opportunities to compare notes, my current employer does fall in the middle somewhere.

The posts of my earlier memories and experiences may not necessarily be in chronological order so, I'll leave that up to you to piece the jigsaw together for some real mental gymnastics practice... take that sudoku...

Sunday, 31 May 2015

New life... redux...

... this blog was actually started some years ago but was abandoned after several job transfers (for the same company within Japan) even a stint at Tohoku University as a 'reseacher' believe it or not. Oh, you know, life time employment and all that and still trying to engineer a better life for myself.

During the years of blog wilderness and neglect, the first posts got deleted or lost by Blogger, just as well, as nobody really read them nor will they this either, so why bother? It's a personal release for... still searching for the answer to that one. Learning to be creative? Perhaps. Surprisingly, they kept my profile and registered name. Can they still make money from a dead blog?

As with the first blog, this will get updated when I get time or remember to write something. In other words, don't hold your breath waiting for the next boring instalment.