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Open Thread: Don't Worry, Be Happy

I had been meaning to write about this earlier, but given the way events are unfolding in the Fukushima nuclear crisis, an article published in May in the Japan Times about an ALT returning to finish his contract isn't so outdated.

On one hand, it's admirable that this guy and the other ALTs decided to stick around and finish their contracts. But on the other hand, I wonder if they are not fools for willfully living so close to a nuclear reactor that has melted down.

"Honestly, it came down to the people," Hauan said when asked why he ultimately decided to return May 10.

Besides, he added, he constantly received updates from his Japanese employers about the situation in Fukushima and was aware that things were safer than they were portrayed by some Western media.

In the early stages of the disaster, the Western media "reporting" was hysterical, but since then, they've calmed down and collected themselves. Now the public is left wondering if they can trust all the downplaying by the government.

Three months after the disaster and the truth is only finally starting to come out--reactors one, two, and three suffered a melt down and probably a "melt-through," too. Cesium has shown up in tea leaves as far away as Shizuoka, the water treatment system TEPCO is using to filter radioactive water had to be stopped after only five hours, and an increasing number of residents in and around Tokyo are asking for more radiation monitoring.

However, back in Tamura, 35km from the Fukushima reactor, life has "more or less returned to normal." In this case, normal means wearing long sleeves and a mask when outside, making sure the kids don't put any dirt or sand in their mouths, and avoiding some of the locally-grown food.

The image that seems to be taking shape now is that the nuclear disaster is far from over and the new normal will likely consist of a permanent exclusion zone. Many of the locals must be wondering if they will ever be able to return home.

Consider this an open thread. Anybody have information on how teaching has been affected in the Tohoku region? Business as usual, or has hiring been difficult?


I'm sure I saw on the Nova instructor website that help shifts of 3 weeks were available at the Fukushima Nova branches, and that Clare Knight was to be contacted by interested instructors. I can't seem to find that announcement anymore (if anyone knows where to look please tell me!) so presumably the notice has been taken down. Since radiation levels are above normal in Fukushima, isn't this like a suicide mission? The announcement encouraged instructors to help to "show the local students we care" or some such nonsense. Really would instructors be willing to jeopardize their health just to appease the company?

You have to wonder what the hell Nova is doing operating schools in the prefecture. It's too dangerous to work there.

You have to wonder what the hell Nova is doing operating schools in the prefecture. It's too dangerous to work there.

They're not, strictly speaking. I think the notice was calling for instructors to work at franchise schools. Otherwise they could just make people go.

I just love the human sentiment of it all. The “do it for the people” raw emotion and sacrifice. If only there were more English teachers who had the same sense of professionalism connection and compassion. This person is putting his life on the line for his students. It’s admirable and beautiful and shows how real teachers will transcend any circumstance and any situation in the name of the love they feel for their students and the communities they come from. I cried when I read about it.

Jes saying!

let people stay on in the place and encouraged alts to send them notes of support. maybe the pones who stay will finally get health insurance. they might need it.

A company that instils work ethic in its employees

An employee that rises to the occasion and puts the common good of his community and career calling above any negative impact on his health

A company that offers encouragement and coaching support to staff who elect by their own free choice to not forfeit their calling and passion to natural disaster

Let’s burn both of these monsters

Happily hijacking the thread to post some some limited good English Language industry news for a change:
In The Australian newspaper yday:

High dollar gives language colleges reprieve
John Ross From: The Australian June 22, 2011

"THE soaring dollar has handed a partial reprieve to the struggling English language college sector, as working holiday-makers decide potential earnings in Australia outweigh learning costs.
But the trend could spell trouble for higher education and vocational education and training, as some language colleges withdraw from pathway programs in favour of the leisure and general English courses that were their bread and butter a decade ago.

English Australia executive director Sue Blundell told a members' briefing in Sydney yesterday the dollar had stimulated enrolment growth from safe traditional markets in East Asia and Europe.

She said the number of short-term visitors to Australia had grown by about 20,000 between March and November last year, with working holiday-makers lured by the prospect of earning valuable Australian dollars.

This had played out into the ELICOS sector, with the number of students on visitor and working holiday visas growing by about 6000. ELICOS numbers grew by about 2500 from Japan, 1000 from Taiwan, 7000 from France, 400 from Switzerland and 300 each from Hong Kong and Italy. But the growth couldn't staunch the haemorrhage of enrolments from people on student visas.

Overall, ELICOS numbers dropped by about 15,000 last year, with the top market of China shedding about 3000 students.

India, which had come from nowhere in 2006 to be the fourth largest market in 2009, plunged to No 15 last year after losing 83 per cent of its students.

Ms Blundell told The Australian the sector needed to offer more programs targeted at tourists and working holiday-makers. "Pathways are a very narrow part of what we do," she said.

She said EA hoped to develop the independent traveller market from China. "[Perhaps] there are opportunities to work collaboratively with the Immigration Department to facilitate the kind of language students we get from Korea and Japan."

Ms Blundell said the big declines in ELICOS had been from markets defined by the Immigration Department as high-risk countries. She said visa arrangements had undercut the sector and the student visa review needed to recommend changes.

"As long as we have a visa regime that limits the level of English at which Chinese students can come into our programs, and limits the length of courses they can undertake, we are not going to have the return on investment," she said. "If we have students doing longer courses it gives the sector greater financial stability."

Ms Blundell said new promotional arrangements for international education had benefited ELICOS because Austrade didn't limit itself to pathway programs."

So, hidey-ho, off we go again on the English for fun cycle...............

Good news for those in the sector in Australia. Also it will give some relief to those who got betrayed and burned when their Canadian and American comrades and counterparts backstabbed their mates in Australia and received Australian generated funds to keep their operations afloat

@13:17 u mite be interested that the EY Administrators have just submitted their final report on the GEOS Aus companies. Want a copy? mail a request to:

Shud make fascinating reading, eh?

You think its the height of humanity to get sick or die for a fucking company? "The common good of his community and career"....over his life.

Wow..I thought I left most of the truly deranged back at Nova.

Cool globe Shawn, yeah..that'd be cool in my room!..better than a lava lamp.

Glad to see youre still alive, as is the site.

I am amazed at the utter lack of concern or comment about the reactors outside of the paint-strippingly dull reporting that passes for journalism on NHK.

None of my students seem the least bit concerned.

The government seems to think this is an opportunity to oust this weeks PM.

Dunno what to think.


Sorry to inject some harsh reality but you honestly think this is about a tear inducing story of self sacrifice? The story is about people who are flagrantly risking their health and not necessarily their long term health, to go to a radiated zone in a country that calls them and considers them 'outside people'. Even worse the ovewhelming majority of these people playing chicken with their health are not married to Japanese spouses and so have little legal status and rights in Japan.

This essentially is buying into the not only absurd but sickening myth of the 'uniqueness' of Japan, from its refusal to consider intelligent, dynamic immigration policies that would not flood it with undesirables but would save it from the lemming like leap it is taking into oblivion to its fingeprinting of any non Japanese who comes to its country for any purpose, reinforcing the gaijin inferior status.

Japanese society basically still holds that no gaijin can understand the Japanese people's unique 'superiority' and are suspect because they are not Japanese. Japan has never had a terror attack that would justify its fingerprinting at the airport of even long term residents and indeed has exported homegrown terror to Europe in the past.

The cruel truth is that no matter how good a time you have in Japan, your students will forget about you. You will become only more irrelevant as time goes on unless they need a favor in your home country. As a gaijin with few rights you have no obligation in Japan to your students apart from in normal times doing your best as an employee and respecting them which sadly does not always come from the Japanese end.

These foreigners working anywhere near the radiated areas might as well go and play chicken on any urban expressway with trucks. It's the same thing. Risking their health and ultimately their lives because supposedly discriminatory and unapologetically so Japan is so 'special' that actions which are irresponsible and abnormal by any other standards become 'proof' of how important it is to do your insecure one year contract with few to no benefits because the Japananese 'need' you.

When they start to get the symptoms of radiation induced illnesses back in their home countries because of course unless you are married to a Japanese spouse you have no guarantee of prolonged time or job security in Japan, are you going to be there and ask them if it was worth it?

It's also completely crap - Sue Blundell was not necessarily misquoted, but a particular spin was put on her words.

These figures are counting number of starters, rather than number of weeks - the usual measure in ELICOS. Basically, long term student visa applicants, who would study for 24 weeks, have been replaced with Tourist and Working Holiday applicants, who study for 4 weeks. So, the number of starters seems robust, when in reality many schools are seeing a 50-70% decline in actual weeks studied.

You'll note that the markets that show huge declines are those where the students are not eligible for non-student visas.

No good news in these figures at all, I'm afraid.

The Japanese apply the philosophical concept of “outside people” to themselves, not just non-natives.

Legal status and rights, finger prints, etc etc etc – its sucks, but it’s all mostly political – rising above that, it has nothing to do with how a person may feel about the people in the community they are working and living in, and the choices they make, based on those feelings.

Inferior – I don’t think the guy feels inferior, hence the decision he has taken.

Students forgetting about you?

Yeah, I would say most do, but not all.

In his case, they certainly will NEVER forget.

It’s coming up to almost 25 years since I last lived full-time in Japan, and I am still in contact with some of my original students, who have never asked any favors of me (and if so, not ones, that they were not fully prepared to return).

I don’t think this guy cares too much about making political statements, doesn’t care too much about the grand scheme of things from a philosophical view point, and simply enjoys were he is at, and is happy to put in.

His actions, probably in a very small way, may assist to one day change the policies we see in Japan today, relative to non-Japanese.

Anyway, each unto their own.

However, if his exposure to Japan was based on doing booth time in the Monkey Cages of some Eikaiwa outlet in downtown Tokyo, doing the monkey dance on the monkey conveyor belt, doubt he would have taken the same step.

What choice is more dignified?

Taking a calculated risk of being exposed to well monitored radiation, in a rural setting, to continue working with the community you have become attached to, or getting out of the radiation zone, and working as a whore in an Eikaiwa brothel, servicing an never ending line of anonymous faces, who simply want to see monkey do monkey dance?

Yeah, I still would not have made the choice he made, based purely on health risks, but good luck to the guy.

Yes, of course, radiation is not good. On the other hand, we are constantly being exposed to it from the sun etc. so you have to take it in perspective. Slightly elevated levels are not likely to make any difference.

Compare that danger to all the filth that is emitted from other types of power plants every day 24/7. We know without a doubt that crap has shorted the lives of many millions around the world.

Then there is the danger caused by rising CO2 levels and climate change.

Makes this mess in Fukushima look like a walk in the park.

To the person who think slightly elevated levels are not likely to make a difference - please inform yourself. This whole thing is marking the possible end of our lives as we know it. Granted we all must die at one point, this will kill off our oceans, and go up the food chain. I think Japan will not be habitable in the future, not Tokyo for sure. Maybe there will be a new nuclear refugee status in our lifetimes, because this doesnt have an end in site, and any news you get from the mass media is all bs, or hiding alot of the truths.

People are losing their hair, having fingernails fall off painlessly, constant flu-like symptoms.

Educate yourself and be careful.

It was my dream to go to Japan and live with my wife there, but that dream was abandoned the day of the tsunami. Actually, it was abandoned as time went on, as the nuclear meltdowns spiraled out of control. Here is one person who has been chronicling the events - they just recently left Japan to go to Europe.

I guess in the end, my point is- live your life full of love cause its all limited.

A new government report actually came clean on the situation. It was released last week. Scary stuff.

What happens to companies like interac which lure people to Japan, do not provide them with health care benefits, then dump them at the end of a year or three? If someone gets sick during the employment period... whilst working here for Geos or interac... is the company responsible for their cancer treatments, for example?

In the unlikely event that staff got sick from radiation poisoning whilst still in Japan, Interac would have no responsibility at all. But as nobody is likely to get sick for a decade or two anyway, by which time Interac if it exists at all will have different owners, they don't even need to worry about adverse publicity either. So come on over why don't you it's all completely safe, legal and profitable (for the company).

It's more likely your dream, of turning up, with job in hand, in any place of your choice, DIED when NOVA sank, you ever lovin' sensei you. Now you can spend more time selling vacuums, or bitching about parking space at your shitty apartment, asshole.

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