The archipelago of Japan consists of some 6,582 islands. The four main islands are: Honshu, Hokkaido, Shikoku and Kyushu. 80% of the population lives on Honshu Island. Most foreigners who come to Japan congregate in the big cities. Who can blame them? It’s convenient, there are better services for foreigners, and you can meet others in the same boat as you and travel together with them till you arrive at you destination.
I’m a total newbie at this point. The train system confuses the hell out of me with its local and express trains. The DemiGods of Nagoya also haven’t provided us with a telephone number or internet access. We’re doing everything the old school way even though we don’t have to in this day and age. Paper maps. Asking the station master for train schedules.
They’re aware that many of us don’t speak Japanese at this point, but from what I can gather – the self-proclaimed DemiGods of the Head Office don’t care. They’re cruel, unyielding and repressive.
Between my painful period, the crazy commutes, my aching body, my lack of experience and my nonsensical colleagues – I wasn’t prepared for my first official day at work. It wasn’t laziness, a lack of ability or a lack of intelligence. My trainer had his favourites and I wasn’t one of them.
The plot continued to thicken. There was a terrible typhoon the day I had to travel from Nagoya to Kyushu. The government had issued a travel advisory NOT to travel, but the DemiGods of Head Office didn’t care. I quickly decide that the DemiGods of Nagoya’s Head Office must be devils who masquerade as DemiGods in disguise.
Many trains were cancelled or were terribly late. It was pouring buckets of fish and other things and there was terrible wind – but we were told to pack our bags, check out and make it to our respective destinations on our own.
I was all too familiar with the whole business first thing, but this was just ridiculous. It was my first taste of how cold their hearts were and how little they cared for our safety and well-being. I also didn’t have a mobile phone to call anyone in the event of an emergency.
I would hate being the middle person between the DemiGods at Head Office and the plebeians at the bottom. I’ve never heard good things about the Japanese hierarchy. But it’s one thing to read about it and another thing to experience it. If there’s one thing worse than being a DemiGod, it’s being one of their minions.
With my bento in my hand, I make my way to my business hotel which is right next to the station. When I get to the hotel, I hand the gentleman my residence card and fill in a form. He tells me that my company hasn’t paid for breakfast.
The demi-glazed devils of Nagoya are such cheapos. I take my key and check into my room. It looks clean and sterile. The bedsheets are bright and white. The carpets are grey and brown. A bathrobe and pyjamas are laid out on the bed. The room looks cold and devoid of warmth even though it has all the practical amenities. I put my bento down on the table on the table and start eating. A large mirror is directly across the table so I have no choice but to watch myself as I eat. It’s a strange experience.
Next to the telephone, there is an advertisement for porn. I turn the flyer around. That’s the last thing I want to see after a long day at work. After I’m done eating, I wonder what I should do.
The hotel and its amenities are designed for the lonely salary man, not the working woman. I’m two hours away from my apartment and in the middle of nowhere. I hadn’t brought my laptop so I couldn’t connect to the internet. I long for the company of another human being.
I wake up the next morning at 8am. I have to check out by 10am even though work doesn’t start till 5pm. The demi-glazed devils of Nagoya are both cheap, cruel and inconsiderate. I open my window. I’m surrounded by mist-covered mountains. There’s a magical quality to the clean and crisp morning air. There’s something mystical about seeing the mountains, rivers and ocean all collide in one spot.
I would later learn that in Japan there are ‘black’ companies and ‘white’ companies. Yeah I know, talk about seeing things in black and white. There are employers out there that are renowned for being jerks. I had no idea that my employer was one of them. I was new to Japan and didn’t have a clue. Besides, according to the reviews of many former employees – my employer was great to work for. And I’m sure it was, like 20 years ago or during the feudal era. The world had moved on, but my employer had insisted on staying the same. They had ceased to be Gods… and had instead morphed into demi-glazed devils.
There are things called emails, but they insisted on using the fax machine. There are things called Google Maps, but they insisted on using paper maps. Instead of calling the regional office in Kyushu whenever I had a problem, I would have to call the demi-glazed devils in Nagoya who wouldn’t be able to locate where I was. As if those idiots up there know what’s going on down here.
At some point, I get a little tired and decide to take a break from my life. I park my bike and sit by the riverbank. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. I can feel the energy of the river – slowly shifting, flowing and ebbing. I close my eyes and let the sweet softness of the breeze brush through my hair. The sun’s warmth shines down on me like an old friend. I am at one with nature.
And that’s when I hear that soft voice again. The voice that’s so soft that it’s almost a whisper.
You won’t be here this time next year.
“Well – if I’m not going to be here, then just where am I going?”
It’s a surprise.