Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Best Job in Japan

The Japanese are famously industrious. They have to be. Everything in this society seems to be somewhat complicated, and there's a right way to do it, and dammit you better do it the right way. The Japanese housewife must strike with mongoose speed if she is to prepare the many compartments of her husband's mid-day bento, hang the futons in the sunshine, and still get everyone out the door smelling like fresh laundry.

The Japanese man, meanwhile, simply has to put in 12+ hour days from birth until death, always on high alert to the shifting office social dynamics so as to display the proper amount of supplication to his boss and superiority to his underlings. After a long day of work he is sometimes required to spend a night at the Izakaya drinking sake and singing Michael Jackson songs. He probably smokes 3 packs of cigarettes a day.

This all adds up to a lot of stress. I have, over the course of the past couple of weeks, discovered the best job in Japan, though. I run past the local fire station every day, and being a Japanese firefighter seems like the coolest job in existence.

Japanese people are far too conscientious to ever inconvenience the department by lighting dangerous fires, so these brave men have nothing to do. Instead, they spend their days turning the fire station into a James Bond villain training camp. During my period of observation, this is what I see them do:

1. Rappelling off of the roof. They have a big wall with three red dots. They scream something in Japanese and rappel down their building at top speed, feet bouncing off the three dots at the top, middle, and bottom.

2. Sprinting through the fake air vent. They have a big mock-up air vent, and they scream something in Japanese and then drop to their belly and squirm through it, with another guy timing.

3. Wind sprints. Sometimes 2 guys will just scream something in Japanese and take off sprinting against each other. First one to the statue of a cartoon character in front of the station wins!

4. Playing with the cherry-picker. Often, they hang out in front of the station messing around with the cherry-picker for hordes of astounded kindergarteners, their neon green hats pointed skyward in awed unison. The firefighters just giggle and make the cherry-picker basket go up and down, seemingly having more fun than the little kids.

5. Hanging out. They seem to hang out and do nothing a lot. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.

So...the votes have been tallied, and this seems way cooler than a slow death in a dark suit over the course of 40 years in a nameless office building, don't you think?


d said...

I particularly want to see a picture of #4. Perhaps you can ask them to run a drill for the edification of your readers.

Anonymous said...

As a friend of your uncle's and a past gaigin at the English center in Aomori, I must say that you have written some of the best foreigner views of Japan that I have read. Gombate and some more japanese, japanese, japanese

Enjoy your blog

Nate said...


Anonymous said...

So, snow festival...where?

Nate said...

The world famous Sapporo snow festival of course!