Tag Archives: hanko

Sensible workplace procedures

On my desk there has been placed an attendance sheet on which I need to put a stamp indicating my “okayness” with the fact that I took a sick day at the beginning of last month, as though I somehow had no choice whether or not to be sick and as though I actually have some choice about whether or not to stamp it. This is essentially the punch clock if you will, that I stamp every week when I come to work at my night school. I am to use my personal inkan to put the little kanji for my name right there.
But I am not paying attention enough, and I stamp it in the wrong box. I am in Japan, so I already know that by putting it in the wrong box I have ruined the entire form, which has already arcanely needed and received stamps from people situated all over the goddamned building. So in an effort to please the secretary, to make her comfortable, to say “no look, I just made a mistake, it’s no big deal, you absolutely don’t need to throw away the entire sheet” I put a little whiteout over the place where I wasn’t supposed to have stamped. Naturally, it is the first thing she notices when she comes back to get the sheet, which I expected. “This is no good, she says,” and I tell her “I made a mistake, right there,” and she says “is that so,” and I say “yep that’s so,” and with a sigh she says “well maybe we’ll just have to do this whole sheet over one more time” and as she walks away I say “is that so” and she says “yep that’s so,” and then she leaves.

When she brings the new sheet back, the act of stamping which is obviously too complex for my foreign brain, despite the fact that I have carried out this exact process with no problems the last eighteen months I’ve done it and was able to communicate with her in her native language, she circles the squares I need to stamp with enormous, exaggerated pencil marks, and tells me kindly to stamp in the circles. The sad reality of the situation is that because of the vagaries of the Japanese language, even when I proceed to tell her “I understand (what to do)” she can interpret it merely as “I understand (your directions)” and so my being talked down to is without possible retort. My stamps are of course the first things that are to be put on the paper–even before the simple numerical date at the top–and surely this way if I just screw it up again well then at least she hasn’t bothered everyone else first.

This is one example of the nonsensical bureaucratic bullshit and of course, in my case, passive-aggressive belittlement that brings many types of formal business to a screeching halt in Japan and drives people so fucking insane that they leap from buildings a thousand a day. Sometimes it makes me wonder how they could have ever been allowed to be creative enough to invent gyoza, video games, ramen, animation, and comic books. Oh wait they didn’t invent any of that stuff.

What could possibly be the reason that instead of just saying “oh there was a mistake no big deal” they must re-fill the entire form? Are there trust issues with the higher-ups, and their higher-ups, and theirs? This is, after all, the country that has hired and pays a man to stand in front of my train station escalator which is being repaired and will be walled off for a month. His job is just to stand there, every morning, making it insultingly clear that yes, if the barriers didn’t tip you off, the escalator is closed. A scenario echoes through my head about what life must be like in buildings unlike mine, those technologically advanced enough to include hot water at the bathroom sink: a small speaker system echoes, forever, “remember, hot water is hot, and is not cold water, honorable person who is using the hot water, and remember to scrub your hands please.”

Are they afraid I somehow grossly, sloppily applied whiteout to the sheet and that by doing so I may have somehow scribbled in some sort of inaccurate information, despite there obviously being none? (The field I “corrected” was a field that I could in no way alter to my benefit.) Are they afraid that by whiting out my mistake I have somehow HIDDEN THE TRUTH and ruined the accuracy of the sheet, which contains no time verifications, dates, or other sorts of markings, and instead of my signature bears merely an ink image from a wooden stamp any fucker can buy at the dollar store?

The real forgery is about to come, as she wastes ten minutes preparing a replacement sheet that will be a beautiful lie and look identical to the first one, except the number 7 will be written on plain paper instead of on top of white out. Why even issue white out pens? Sometimes I really just don’t know about this place. But then I have a delicious plate of tempura and beat my Japanese wife for not cutting my sausages into the shape of an octopus for my lunch box and all is well again. No but really I like living here

– Bought a CD
– Got a couple books in the mail
– Left work two hours early yesterday

I’ve been playing a game on my PSP called Xenogears and in like four days I have managed to put about three hours on it. Back in the day I was so fanatic about games I’d have put three hours on it before I even opened the package. Do you know what this means? Me either but it cannot be good.

Classes are over for the semester which means I’ve got about six weeks to regain my workplace sanity and buck up for the new class of incomers in mid-April. A year-end party with my co-workers on the eleventh might be a good start, because there will be lots to drink. Yet, try as I might, I am beginning to feel more and more like I cannot fill my happiness-holes with nostalgic Japanese toys and games and will instead need to look into myself for the seeds of mental comfort ooh look it is a Final Fantasy VIII sticker book.

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A wounded deer leaps the highest

Quite unwittingly, my name is Mr. Ooshika. That’s because my last name just vaguely happens to be composed of syllables that are represented in the Japanese language. Due to the flexible (read: hapless) organization of my contractors, when I arrived in Japan I found myself without an inkan–a little wooden stick about the size of a pack of Smarties–that every Japanese citizen is required to have. On the end of this stick sits your name, in stamp form, which is how you “sign” your name for business matters, in red ink. Since I didn’t have one, my helpful buddy at work decided to take on the task of helping me get one, and fast–without it, I would be unable to get a bank account, telephone, Internet service, and all that other crap.

So we begun placing a custom order for the katakana version of my name, Daiker, which would likely transcribe to “da i ka-” (ダイカー), with a nebulous construction time of up to a week. Perhaps hurried on by duress and the fear of authoritative retribution, my helper realized that da and i and ka could be arranged as dai ka, two actual words with representative, pre-made inkans at the inkan shop that we could just pick up off the shelf. The teachers had a good laugh at seeing my kanji inkan, an exceptional rarity for a foreigner in Japan, reading dai ka, which they told me meant “big deer.” This is true, but not really, because the first kanji (大) is usually read “oo” and not “dai,” and the second one (鹿) is somewhat nonsensically read “ka” instead of “shika” which is what it actually says, all of it a stretch in the name of expedited service. My literal Japanese last name according to my inkan is then not Daika at all, but Ooshika, (大鹿) meaning big deer. The actual name Daika would more likely be something like big mosquito, a joke that perhaps I have gotten a year too late.


Anyway this leads to entertaining incidents when I order from Amazon.jp and the Japanese Club Nintendo store and have delivery men coming to the house for Brandon Ooshika. Behind this name I have invented another identity, one with the grace and cunning of massive deer, my new family by association. Ooshika-san, Mr. Big Deer. I feel sort of like I am committing some sort of identity fraud, but not really. It is a freeing change of pace to become someone and then slowly realize you are a different man.

To crib from Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, the only gateway I have into what is happening in the world of American football and who could be telling all lies and I wouldn’t know and without whom I would feel disconnected from the only non-hockey sport I ever really loved, CURIOUS JAPANESE THINGS OF THE WEEK will this week become


1. There is no better toy for a cat than a shoelace or piece of string and anyone who tries to tell you differently or sell you something else is a confused and horrible person/cat product government lobbyist.
2. Japan, you had better not sell out of the new Kirby game tomorrow before I get out of work or else I am going to be just really frustrated in a way that mid-to-late twenties males should not get upset about games starring cute pink mascots made out of string.
3. The something that is refreshing about an after work beer on Friday becomes confusing when you realize you are enjoying a leisurely before-work beer on Wednesday morning.
4. Under the right circumstances, it is possible to draw a salary by screening the first half of The Princess Bride for a room full of seventeen-year-olds.
5. If you have any sort of interest in old Famicom games, you would make it a point to click here and read my newest pithy article dealing with them.
6. There is only one episode of Mad Men left in the season, and I feel like suddenly I understand the pain that regular television watchers feel annually.
7. Slices of melted mozzarella cheese on a cajun-seasoned chicken breast sandwich never taste so delicious as they do when they are the most expensive and difficult-to-obtain ingredient except for the pickles.
8. If the electronic version of a book I really wanted cost fifteen bucks and the paper one was free, I would pay for the electronic one.
9. Sometimes I remember the time in my life when packets of ramen were ten for a dollar or twenty cents a piece and I laugh at myself and realize that could not have possibly been true, except it was.
10. I almost spent ten dollars on a package of muscat grapes last night, which is nowhere near the most money I could spend on a single piece of fruit at the supermarket.



My most recent mental crisis has been related to my own personal analysis of whether or not I am actually a happy person, or whether I feel like I am accomplishing anything in my life, or whether accomplishment brings happiness and what actual accomplishment is. It has gotten so pathetic that I try to convince myself that even consuming media is accomplishment, but then I decide that merely enjoyment isn’t enough and I should somehow leech some other benefit outside of just indulgence, and then I decide that something more isn’t doing it, and then I don’t even consume media I just sit around or sleep. Even though I’m writing fifteen hundred words of Nomaday every Wednesday and writing for N-Sider when I can and working five days a week and attending Japanese class twice a week I still feel strangely empty. When I got here the money and the new surroundings and the constant wonderment made me happy because I had nothing to complain about, and now I still have nothing to complain about but I have sabotaged it by convincing myself that nothing to complain about does not mean something to be happy about.

The reasonable thing, of course, would be to focus less on “doing things” and more on just being happy, though I wonder at what point one becomes “as happy as possible” and it isn’t enough to just be happy anymore. It is like the cup that you fill up maybe? Once you’re full of happiness, you can’t just add more happiness, the cup starts to overflow. You can’t get more happy than your cup will let you be. A few options: one, I need to figure out somehow if it is possible to get a bigger cup, or two: I need to fill the cup with things other than just happiness? maybe it is not a cup but like one of those TV trays with different sections for each thing. It’s been almost a year and a half since I was allowed to feel the high of knowing I got the job in Japan, and I built this up to be so ultimate for me at the time that I don’t feel like I’m pushing toward anything anymore, just floundering. Blah blah blah it’s my goddamned blog I can complain if I want!

At any rate, though it may be an error in judgment, my most recent thinking is that the only way to feel true achievement is to truly achieve and so I’ve decided that instead of pouring my fifteen hundred words into the comfortable Nomaday each Wednesday night, I’m going to pour them into Edmund and do the best I can to get my novel more completed than it has been since I finished school. These Internet-less evenings are now so often consumed by my own personal outpouring of daily Nominutia that I rarely have the energy to switch projects once I finish them, and I usually just opt to read instead. I don’t know if I really can make the mental switch the way I will need to in order to get back into it, but I’m sure going to try.

So if you do not see a new Nomaday next week it will be because I am working on something that I think ultimately will make me feel invigorated to be working on and satisfied to have finished, even if only so I can say “it’s done” and never look at it again. As it is I feel like I tied a huge amount of my own self-perception into that story and then to not have it finished has left both the story and I at the same stagnant place of hiatus. So it’s time to move them on into the new year and into the future!

Or whatever, maybe I will just try to start it next week and say “oh fuck it” and write more Nomaday garbage. If you look forward to these things every week and this makes you sad, you are probably my mother, and so I say to you “chin-up moms I gotsta do it!” If this makes you happy, you are either a wise and wondrous person who has my best interests in mind and who would do well to not remove me from your Google Reader because I will be back before long, or you are a mean and shitty person.


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