Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Facebook Suspended My Account for Unknown Reasons

I was hoping the preparations for my trip home would be uneventful, but, no. 

On Thursday night, I shut off my computer and decided to check facebook on my phone one more time before heading to bed. I wasn't too surprised when I was asked to log in again, I'd just cleared my cache.

However, instead of seeing my page after logging in, I was told that I needed to submit proof of my identity. I typed in my name and birthday and sent the info off, and fell asleep...assuming that things would be back to normal in the morning. 

Nope. I was asked to submit a photo ID. I was fucking pissed. I pulled out my Costco card and business card, snapped a picture and sent it to them, later getting a reply that I needed something with my birthday on it.

This was getting annoying. When I got home, I pulled out my gaijin card, my Japanese insurance card and my state ID...along with my business card and snapped a picture of them. 

A little aside, when I signed up for facebook in 2005, I used an alternative name and three years later my account was suspended. I sent them a picture of my gaijin card and the reply I got from facebook was, "I've changed your name to [first name] [first initial of last name]."

Fine. Bitch.

That's the name I've been using for the past seven or eight years. And suddenly, I'm asked to confirm my ID.

So, I spend some time cutting slips of paper to cover my address, card numbers, middle name, last name (aside from the last initial), etc. And I send the whole of it to facebook. 
Over the past four days, I've only gotten copy-paste replies about my information not matching something. So, I sent them a picture of the original gaijin card with the information covered. 

I check my "special account" and it says "case closed." What? Nothing is closed, you people need to fix this shit. 

So, I've been sitting here trying to figure out what's up...

- Facebook has decided to go back on it's initial decision of my name as [first name] [first initial of last name] and they want my last name

- Facebook doesn't like my name in Japanese ([Japanese name given to me by my coworkers, written in hiragana] [first name written in katakana])

- Some fucking bitch decided she didn't like something I posted and smugly reported it

- Some dick decided they either didn't like me or wanted to fool around and say my name in Japanese was fake

- ????

I'm pissed because I've gotten emails from "Tanaka" and "Watanabe" that all say the same thing. The emails are all form emails copy-pasted from the English site, but the names are signed in kanji and English.

I guess my next move is to write in Japanese too? This is bullshit.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Getting Your Japanese Credit Card

Before she left in 2008, a friend of mine swore that she would have stayed if Japan would have given her a credit card. I'm certain she was only about 20% joking. The issue she brought up, however, is a real one for a number of foreigners.

I never had a real credit card in the US, only debit cards that could be used as credit cards. Cards issued through my local credit union and came with a ridiculously low credit limit. As in, "You may charge up to, but not over $200 in a given day. If you'd like to buy that $1200 plane ticket to Korea for study abroad, call up the credit union and we will graciously raise your credit limit for a 24 hour window."

Since I didn't know much about credit cards, aside from hearing about all the debt people racked up on them, so I put off applying for a card. When I finally got around to asking my local bank here in Japan about a card, I was told I needed permanent residence to get one. Which was strange, because my JET pred had gotten a credit card with the same bank days after arriving in Japan.

That's when I knew something was up. (Scroll down for the TL;DR)

Fast forward a year or so, and I decided to sign up for a card with my cell phone carrier. I was told I'd hear back in 2 weeks and went on my merry way. Three or four weeks later, I still hadn't heard back. And while doing some shopping, I signed up for a card on a whim. It was that card that gave a swift response: NO.

Well, it was a letter in keigo.

I think that many foreigners (?) drop the issue here. "Oh, rejected again." 

However, I made the decision to call up the credit card company. They already said no, so, what's the harm?

The first representative I talked with said that she was not authorized to discuss my application with me. (Huh?) Being the smartass I am, I asked if there were someone above her who could talk to me. I was told to expect a call.

I think that foreigners who do decide to call have gotten stopped at this step...if the internet people are anything to go by. The person says they are not authorized to talk about the application and, "Oh...ok...not card for me."

Thirty minutes to an hour later, I got a call back from a supervisor (?) who explained that my application was rejected due to a lack of credit history in Japan. That word is shinyou, by the way. My gut reaction was, "OMFG! Did this bitch just say that as a foreigner I couldn't be trusted with a card, but they'll give them to unemployed housewives?!"

After some back and forth regarding my job and pay and the card I applied for, but still hadn't heard back from, I was told to expect my new credit card in the mail in two weeks.

Just as promised, I got my card and I've had really no major problems. 

There are more loops that you have to jump through, and if you can't speak Japanese it's very difficult to navigate. So, to sum up:

1. Call the credit card company to ask why your application was rejected
2. Ask to speak with someone who is authorized to talk about your account
3. (I didn't mention this one) Have evidence of a steady job, especially one with a good wage
4. Profit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Passing the JLPT Additional

The other book I used to study for JLPT N1 was Point Seiri Nihongo Bunpou [ポイント整理 日本語文法]. It was about 1,000 yen. I found it on Amazon Japan for a little less. 

Be warned: there are NO English explanations in this book. Each grammar point has a short, two line Japanese explanation and two to four examples underneath.

I am lazy and found it really annoying to have to read everything in Japanese, though that probably did me some good. The grammar points usually give a similar and easier grammar meaning. For example, 「~に・して」was given ①だけ ②さえ as the meaning. When I couldn't picture how to use a particular grammar point, it was helpful to switch it out with one I was familiar with.

There are 16 chapters with grammar points grouped by similarity. Chapter 1, for example, covers time (along with "in the case of..." and "conditions"). Six grammar points are introduced at and the end of the chapter there's a practice quiz.

At 78 pages, the book is quite thin compared to the average study guide. It might be better to buy another one if you want, I guess. There are two short practice tests at the back of the book which I never got around to taking, but just like the JLPT practice tests, I tried to use the "take it over and over until it sticks" method. Er...I actually ran out of time before the actual test to get through the whole book. I don't know what I was doing. 

I hope they are still publishing this book or an updated version, since this was actually not for the New JLPTs!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Passing the JLPT

The JLPT is held twice a year, and every year I read about the frustrations of people prepping for the test.

I took the New JLPT a number of years ago, and I've decided to write about the (somewhat) simple method I used to pass both tests in one go.

The best test advice I got was from my boyfriend. He told me that Japanese people prepared for tests by finding past tests, making multiple copies of them and taking them over and over until getting their target score, then moving on to the next practice test.

I bought the white book on the right long after passing N1.

For N2, since this was when the N2 had just come out, I used old versions of the JLPT 2-kyuu and borrowed some grammar books from a friend. Taking the old version of the JLPT over and over became my main method of study.

I took N2 in July? of that year and turned my sights to N1 soon after.

For N1, I was gifted an N1 study guide and I went out and bought a thin book of level 1 and 2 grammar (all written in Japanese). Again, I made multiple copies of the two or three tests in that book and took them over and over again. I used the other book to check unfamiliar grammar. At one point I was trying to write down each unknown word and memorize it, but as study time wore down, I put that aside.

In fact, it was my boyfriend (if I remember correctly), who told me to forget about memorizing all of the kanji and grammar. Basically, there was just not enough time to memorize everything and it's better to practice with old tests since sentences and types of questions are often reused. 

I am going to guess that most Americans probably study the way I started to: by diligently going through each grammar pattern, thinking of different ways to use it and trying to make sentences...writing down each kanji and trying to make flashcards for each single kanji and other words that kanji used. The idea of copying old tests and focusing mainly on that was totally unheard of to me.

Maybe that's why I bombed the SAT? Perhaps everyone else already had this "knowledge"?

Anyways. If you are like me, and you want to pass the JLPT, I recommend making old tests the bulk of your study. Take them over and over. Yes, you will memorize the answers. Yes, you will feel like you are cheating. But, isn't that really what it's about?
The JLPT isn't a true test of your knowledge. It's a test of how well you can test. And if you are looking to work in Japan in something other than an ALT position, N2 is usually listed as a minimum requirement.

By memorizing bits of the old test, your subconscious should start to point you in the direction of the correct answers on the real test.

Don't believe me? That's fine. I'm the one that passed N2 in July of one year and N1 in December of the same year. First time ever taking either test. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Rage Thoughts 1211

If I may be a little pissed. 

It's incredibly annoying to ride the elevator to my floor every morning. It's annoying to ride it up again in the afternoon during lunch.

People have obviously never learned how to ride an elevator because when the doors open, they slowly walk through them, usually stopping right after they step in...causing a backup of people who are also trying to board. Once they've kindly moved to the side, they carefully pick their floor out of the myriad of choices...usually it's one or two floors above the one they've gotten on from.

If the person riding is female, the forget that they are working in some random office and seem to think they are the fucking Sogo department store elevator girl: "Oh, I'm so prim and proper. Look at me lightly and carefully pressing the close and open buttons. Look at how my hands are carefully folded in front of me. I am a god. The god of the elevator. Tee hee."

I want to choke slam these chicks into the floor.

And finally, when they've reached their destination, the men and women take their slow ass time getting off the elevator. I assume they are picturing themselves in some sort of exotic location. Perhaps somewhere where life is slower and people literally stop to smell the flowers.

All I know is I do not have time for this shit!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Random Thoughts 1207

Sometimes, when I have a translation in front of me that's been "checked" by a co-worker and they are looking at me, I want to just throw it down and say, "I really don't care."

This sentiment is probably shared by millions of working people, so I know I'm not alone. 

I feel frustrated with my inability to explain written and spoken English grammar. I also am frustrated with my writing. It wasn't until after I graduated university and moved to Japan that my mom told me she thought I wrote well. Throughout school I remember hearing, "What is this? This is something a retarded kindergartner would write, not a seventh grader." Or something in a similar vein. Similarly, grammar wasn't exactly a subject in school. We learned of verbs and adjectives...conjunction junctions and their functions, but anything more than that makes my eyes gloss over.

However working in translation with Japanese people means I must...need to learn how to explain grammatical concepts to them in the way that they understand. Usually I turn to a writing manual I bought in my first year of university; I search for the grammar point and kind of shove it in their faces.

Sometimes that works.

Many times I'm told that my understanding of the Japanese is wrong and that X is the subject, not Y. In these cases, I find myself up against something I often encountered in elementary school. You know when you turn in your first draft paper and the teacher rewrites some of your sentences? Your teacher keeps your ideas, but uses more sophisticated writing to make everything cleaner. 

Well...it's like the opposite of that. I would write, "In response, the minister spoke about the importance of the project." I then get a rewrite back that goes, "The minister said, 'This project is important,' in response to the CEO." My coworker would say something about how "the minister" is the subject, so that should come first, the quote is a direct quote in the original Japanese, so we must keep it the same in English and finally something about how my English was "off."

So, I change it. I prefer what I wrote 9 times out of 10. However, if that's what they want, and it makes sense, I'll keep it. But, I really want to tell them "fuck it." A lot of what I translate will never been seen by anyone other than Google's bots. 

What annoys me, what really rubs me the wrong way, is how often I have to hear, "This English doesn't make sense." I do not have time to comb through hundreds of years of English-language evolution and grammar to explain why, "We would be really happy if you can come to our humble event," may be grammatically "correct" but "wrong" for everything. Trust me when I say it sounds weird. Trust me even more if you have never lived in an English-speaking country.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Oh, to be free...

Don't we all wish to be free? 

Free from responsibilities like bills or work.

Free from the pressures of life.

Free from a society that pushes women to be more masculine...

...wait. What???

Apparently a writer at RocketNews thinks that Japanese women have a great freedom that western women don't have, and she wrote about it in an article titled "Three reasons why it's ok to be a girly girl in Japan." The writer, who seems to be from the UK, lists reasons why Japan is so great for allowing the womenfolk to be the petite, delicate flowers that we all know they should be. Unburdened by the pressures of western society that push masculine behaviors on females.

After acknowledging that maybe it might be difficult for some women to make careers, she jumps into her list:

Her first point is that women are "celebrated for their feminine characteristics." 
These include being called "cute" without the burden of "gendering." So true. Before coming to Japan I remember that parents feared to call their daughters "cute" lest they grow up to be perverted serial killers. But, here in Japan...the Land of the True Free, as I call it...parents can do as nature and god meant and call boys strong and girls cute. 

"You are not kawaii."
And that's fine because in Glorious Nippon, as I am often known to call Japan, many households still subsist on one income, that of the male. This leaves his feminine wife to care for the children since she doesn't have to adopt pesky masculine behaviors like "assertiveness" to get ahead in a job she doesn't need. 
There is the issue of women who aren't interested in those things, but fuck those bitches. We were born to wear frilly clothing and be cute, HELLO!!!11 Or should I say, "moshi-moshi???!!"

The second point raised is that Japanese women have the "freedom to dress up without being catcalled." 
Yes. In Glorious Nippon, all of the women are uniformly dressed well. In fact, well-dressed women are so normal that no one notices them. Slovenly western females discover their inner beauties and all is right with the world.
Well, except when guys hit on you (ew) or grope you (uncomfortable)...or flash you (mildly interested...). However, all of these pale in comparison to being catcalled in a western country, which would roughly be equivalent to being sold as a sex slave. Unfashionable Japanese women are shot. Or spirited away...

"Do you like my frills? As long as you call me 'cute' that's all that matters."

And finally, her third point is that "Japan loves cuteness un-ironically."
I'm not really sure what this point has to do with her argument that the women of Glorious Nippon are free to be frilly, but whatever. Odd numbered points generate more clicks. So, here we are. And she's right. Japanese people love cute things. We're talking about a country that gave us Hello Kitty and Pikachu. Yes, grown men will have some sort of cute thing on them, and you can bet it's NOT a picture of a girlfriend of wife. Probably some miniature version of Hatsune Miku. But that's besides the point! 

The take away...

RocketNews posted a shit article. That article was shit. The writer placed wearing frilly clothing and foregoing the business world above truly equal opportunities for both sexes. Japanese women AND men face tremendous pressure to fit into their prescribed roles. If you love the soft, girly "save me!" look and way of life, Japan can be a pretty interesting place. But, if you are a girl who loves sports, who wants a career and who dresses in clothing that's not "cute," you will have a damn hard time in life. 
When women hit their late-40s, suddenly being "cute" is a right that's taken away from them. They are now "oba-san" who wear dowdy clothing. Their once long hair is cut short and permed. They bitch at everyone and everything. For Japan, the time allotted to women who want to be cute is cut off around 24. Wouldn't it be better to allow wider roles for both genders that aren't so heavily policed?

And, because I find this annoying, this kind of bullshit article is exactly what a certain type of western man eats up. They want some evidence that they are "right" about how "masculine" western women have become. They love Japanese women because they think that Japanese women are soft and delicate...everything that western women are not. The write just went along with this stereotyping of Japanese women and reducing gender issues to "cuteness." 

In conclusion: Fuck this shit.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

That Happened 1202

It started raining early this afternoon and it's continued into the night. I'm certain I'll be taking the bus to work in the morning because I can still hear the rain outside.

When I have a bit of free time after work, I like to walk around the downtown area and just let my mind wander. These walks usually take two or three hours. It's just nice not to think about translation and it's nice to let my mind turn to static. I stopped in Yamada Denki as my last stop before heading home to check out their cell phones and see if I could find a deal.

I talked to one AU representative who later disappeared and was quickly approached by someone with WiMax. WiMax is a kind of pocket WiFi that many people here use as it's cheaper than getting your home wired. It's great for your more basic internet browsing, watching some YouTube videos and such.

This guy starts asking me about internet, providers, etc. and eventually asks me to take a seat so he can check out my area. I figured I'd let him do his thing because whenever I'm at Yamada Denki it seems like there's 50 staff to every customer. I ended talking with him for maybe 15 or 20 minutes and he tried to show me how much money I'd be saving by switching to his WiMax. 

Now...I've used WiMax. In fact, it was my main internet until this May when I switched to OCN. My mental calculations told me that while I could get WiMax at my place, they have some monthly data limits and other things that I just wasn't interested in dealing with. I didn't go into all of that detail, but I said that I'd think about it and yeah.

I get it. This is a commission job. You get me to sign up, you get a cut. You show me some cheaper numbers and wow me and I should jump. At the end, the guy started to pull out his business card, paused, looked at the card and said, "Nah, forget it. You probably don't understand anyway."

No. I am pretty sure I do understand. I got 40,000 yen cash back when I signed up for OCN. If I cancel my contract early, I have to pay about 20 - 30,000 yen back. The guy calculated my bill as coming in at 78,000 yen over the next 12 months. He suggested I switch to WiMax and my estimated one-year bill would be 55,000 yen, but...BUT!! I could get 15,000 or so yen cash back. So, I switch to WiMax at 55,000 a year, take away the 15,000 yen for the cash back and that's 40,000 yen a year. Great. But then I have at least 20,000 yen I have to worry about in cancellation fees. So that jumps to 60,000 yen. Then, the two bills will probably overlap, so that'll be another 10,000 yen or so.

So, it didn't really seem like it was going to be a "win" for me to go through the trouble of switching. Who knows. Perhaps my math was off. Either way, he didn't have to get so pissy about it :(