A BIT MORE PERSONAL BACKGROUND
ON ARUDOU DEBITO / DAVE ALDWINCKLE
FYI for those who would say:
"What are your biases? And why should you comment on Japan at all?"
Born in California 1965, educated in Upstate New York, USA. Went to Cornell University for undergraduate, with Junior year studying in University of Bristol, England. Lived for a total of two years in England, and have a British-born dad--which I believe has given me insights on two distinct island societies, Britain and Japan. First came to Japan as a tourist, on invitation from my Sapporo pen pal (and future wife), for a few weeks in 1986. Went back to finish my final year at Cornell, changed all my coursework to Japan studies, and got my first infusion of "Chysanthemum-Club" ideology at Cornell's Asian Studies. Intensive Japanese language training from Eleanor Jorden's new JSL course, affiliated with Cornell's FALCON. Graduated Cornell with a BA in Government in 1987.
This is where the Japan experience started for me. Coming to Sapporo cold with only one year of memorized dialogs, plus hiragana, katakana, and ten kanji, spent the next year (not as a government-sponsored JET--a private-sector English-language school accepted me sight-unseen, apparently because of the Cornell credentials) getting to know Sapporo and my pen-pal better. One year of "gaijin circles" later, I swore against ever being a language teacher again, plunging instead into business.
Entered the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at UC San Diego in 1988. One year later, took a year off to get married and to do a pretty miserable IRPS internship in the Japan Management Academy, Nagaoka (Niigata-ken), working doing mind-numbing and pretty humiliating stuff all in the name of the company's kokusaika. This was an ordeal but it got me pera pera. Then went back to the US, graduated IRPS in 1991 with a Masters of Pacific International Affairs, specializing in US-Japan trade relations, and got a job through a friend in a Sapporo trading company.
From bad to worse. This "trading company fiasco" job is still like a bad dream. Daily humiliations (oh, but I have stories!--see publications), practically daily osekkyou from Shachou, the breaking of every promise that they ever made (including salary!), and a concerted effort to maruku suru--to Japanize me by shaving off every last piece of American culture--for the sake of preparing me "for the rigors of working in the Japanese construction industry".
This was a watershed in my life, and it polarized my views about how I should live it. Although working here made my Japanese really good--answering phones and talking to nasty, racist, and bloody-minded construction workers from nine to six--there was hell to pay every single day. The company tolerated absolutely no mistakes in my Japanese--penalties involving being screamed at for hours on end (the record being five hours straight. Twice), denial of toilet privileges, and accusations that slow days were my fault because customers were being put off by my flawed Japanese. Absolutely NO English was allowed on or off work premises (I'm not kidding--they forbade me to watch non-Japanese videos at home, and told me to cancel my subscription to The Economist). Pre-war Japan (in terms of superior-subordinate interpersonal relationships) revisited.
After I nearly got sick and they started doing things that no Japanese superiors would ever do to their subordinates (like threatening to fire me for any minor infraction--even for coming to work in sneakers!-- kicking me in public, and calling my wife and asking her out!), my wife gave me permission to leave the company. So after a total of 15 months of tanren, I quit (technically, I got them to fire me so I could receive shitsugyou hoken) on Christmas Day 1992. There's even a Hokkaido Shinbun article on this experience here in Japanese.
Providence was around the corner. Four months later I got a full-time job at a private university in Sapporo. These days, I'm teaching business English and debate to around 2000 students per year, in person and via satellite, annually. Instruction is in Japanese. I am my own tantou of my classes and have my own office with this computer. I love my job here, and have tenure in the form of a jirei. Without it, I'd have left Japan for good. Instead, I'm probably here for good.
Oh yes, I have children, land, a house, and, even after all that rubbish in the Japanese trading company, Japanese citizenship, granted October 2000.
So as you can see, the route I have taken is an unusual one; likewise my views are probably equally unusual. Take them with as much salt as you please.
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