Friday, December 19, 2008

I fucking heart the Kaisha!!!

I apologize to those of you who have Google Reader or some such device and had the unfortunate pleasure of reading my very sloppy post on my section's bonenkai. I was just so elated! Here is a slightly more cleaned up version.

I was so fucking nervous about my section's bonenkai tonight that I did a little overtime and showed up 45 minutes late for it. Last time I attended a section party I literally went home and wept but I figured what the hell, I might as well see how this drinking and forgetting stuff works. And it does!!! I have totally forgotten my ill feelings towards my section peeps, secretaries and Professionals alike, and I am ready to ride off into the sunset with them singing kumbaya. Or some shit.

After I arrived a secretary and two Professionals who I do work for but never talk to showed up and sat next to me and we were chums for the rest of the evening. As I said before this workship is bound to fade away by tomorrow and I will be back to my white gaijin ghetto cubicle, eating raw apples and carrots and generally scaring people away, but tonight was amazing! I wonder if maybe it just has to do with who you end up sitting next to. At the last section party it was so painfully obvious that I was being ignored that over tears later that night, I vowed to the beau never to attend a section function again.

It's a very strange situation. When I first arrived at the Kaisha there was no Welcome Whitie sign in my section and no one even knew I existed until they walked by and saw a crop of blond curls peeking out from behind my cubicle wall. At a welcome party held for new secretaries and Professionals in the section, I wasn't even introduced. It was like I was so white I was see-through and therefore neither seen nor heard. Not speaking unless spoken to. It was as if I was so far on the outside that although I was a necessary presence, people would just pretend I wasn't there so they wouldn't feel uncomfortable talking to me.

When I tell people this, often I get some surprised responses. I think many people assume that one of the many perks of being a foreign female in Japan is being showered with attention. That is only half true. Half the time I am met with adoring fans and the other half I am as good as non-existent. Not even a blip on the radar. I can't speak for foreign men though and I wonder what it's like for them. I've tried mentioning this to a couple Japanese girlfriends to get some perspective on why everyone ignores me at the Kaisha. Their simpleton response was that I am so cute that people are either intimidated or think that pretty=stuck up. I don't think it is that easy. And whether it is a collective reason that can be applied to most people or if everyone in my section has a different reason for ostracizing me. Is it the combination of being female and white? Is it because they can't be bothered cultivating a relationship with someone who might not even be at the Kaisha for more than a short time? Perhaps one day I will find myself in a situation with a Professional so drunk that I can ask him what the fuck is up.

What a bizarre situation. Even if I can't expect (and I certainly don't) to form meaningful relationships with my colleagues I would at least settle for completely meaningless and shallow ones, spent drinking on a tarp under the cherry blossoms or choreographing the cross-dressers together for next year's Christmas party.

The bonenkai gave me hope though, that people do respect me but for whatever reason won't go out of their way to make contact in person. I do acknowledge that I probably seem a little brusque to some, as I've built up a bit of a tough shield after realizing that I am on the outs with everyone and for no attributable reason. As I suspected the next day I ran into one of the Professionals I had been so chatty with at the bonenkai, and while he did say hello, it was like the previous night had never even happened.

5 comments:

Kelley Dawne said...

Awesome!
I'm glad you had a good time! Usually the Japanese staff just talk to each other and I sit there and resent the fact I'm stuck in the goddamned restaurant/izakaya/whatever.
Enjoy the afterglow of loving your coworkers! =D

Reannon said...

Wow, that's depressing. I'm supposed to return to Japan next month...and I'm really not looking forward to it. And I keep trying to convince myself that if I just learn more Japanese, I'll feel more welcomed and people will be friendlier...but then I read about how you have a tough time and you speak Japanese fluently...that's very discouraging. (!!!) How do you put up with it? What's your secret?

Anyways, my friends say that it's an intimidation factor. Foreign women are more threatening than foreign men...I would think it'd be the opposite...

nearlyasian said...

Economics of Western Beauty

Though after reading your story, I suspect much more than my superficial musings. It seems like corporate initiation, sort of. I mean, at my firm there are so called professionals that have been groomed for my particular company beginning at the selection of their grade school.

So, if you lance your way into the company, then what am I, a salaryman from birth, to think? I've been raised to live a life as salaryman, to which your intrusion, especially as a woman and gaijin no less, simply does not compute.

I get your frustration, but being a man, my experience is different. I never have isolating moments, but I do recognize a lot of nitpicking, unnecessary to me, but life and death to others, always from men. So that answers one question, about the whole coddling by female workers.

Yeah, hand-holding is a way of life.

"Red Rover, Red Rover, send..."

Oh, right, it's called 花一匁 and though similar to Red Rover involves negotiation rather than brute force. Yep, we're screwed.

jaredinnakano said...

I am amazed by GEG, Nearly Asian, Mad Tokyo and other bloggers who are working as salary peeps. While I feel very comfortable as a gay-(not legally)-married expat here in Tokyo, your stories about the many language and cultural barriers in corporate Japan astonish me.

I know it's perhaps rude to use GEG's blog for this, but can I please ask Nearly Asian why he does not open his blog to comments? I discovered his blog less than a week ago, and his daily posts of corporate and chikan life are truly provocative, addictive and sometimes alarming.

Was the post about Imperial Day fantasy or real?!? If the latter, how come you haven't been arrested and deported yet?

My apologies to GEG if this was an inappropriate use of her comments area.

Green-Eyed Geisha said...

nearlyasian: I read your posting that you linked to and really wanted to comment on it here but I can't access it anymore! Can you grant me access pretty please?