On to Hon Atsugi and ECC
By Kevin Burns
In late January, I had confided to Craig that I would be leaving for Kanagawa Prefecture and Ikumi.
I wanted to give them a couple of months to find my replacement.I gave them my notice months before however on March 30th, I handed in my official letter of resignation.
In it I told them they should warn all new teachers and students about Craig; and raise the starting salary, a salary that hadn’t been raised in many years, and was one of the lowest in Nagoya at the time.
In my heart, I knew they would never warn students about Craig, and hoped he wouldn’t do the same to a student as he had done to Brenda and I. I suspect Craig could control himself withstudents though; it was friends–people he felt closer to, he would let his temper flare with.
It would be great to be with Ikumi more, and live in a different part of the country. The thought of being ableto go into Tokyo sometimes was also intriguing.
I moved on March 30th and my new home was Hon Atsugi, a city of about 3-400,000 souls, 50 minutes south of Tokyo on the Odakyu train line.
It seemed like a good place to dredge up a private English lesson or two, the people seemed well off and well educated.
My 4 year old apartment was a rokujo or six tatami mat flat. There was one room about 3 and a half metres square. There was a hallway that doubled as a kitchen leading to the room and off thehallway was a tiny unit bath with a toilet.
I was about 15-20 minutes walk from the main ECC school I would work at. There was no air conditioner and I didn’t feel like paying the huge amount of money I would have had to pay to buy one.
In the summer I had the experience of having a sauna right in my apartment. My boss at ECC was very impressed that Icame to work one hour early everyday. I never told him it was because ECC was air conditioned. He didn’t need to know!
I got one private English lesson with a slightly disturbed young woman but it was okay. Then I landed another private English lesson as well. A friend gave me a further private Englishlesson when she moved back to the states. So gradually I picked up more work.
In 1990, Hon Atsugi seemed like a cheap imitation of an American city, without the parks and large trees. It was near many beautiful places though. You could go hiking in the Tanzawa mountains only thirty minutes away by bus.
Chigasaki, a small beach community was nearby. It was home to many famous singers, and artisans, not to mention surf lovingAussies.
Enoshima another nice beach town and interesting island was just up the coast from Chigasaki.
Hon Atsugi boasted a brand new library with free English movies. I was to love those! Oiso too was a nice little beach town andI was within one hour of Tokyo, Yokohama and close to Ikumi as well.
So I managed to land a job with what was then the largest English school chain in Japan. I was paid 276,000 Yen per monthwhich was pretty good for 20 hours of work per week and being 27 years old!
I Picked up a Private English Lesson or Five!
I picked up a private English lesson on myown and in four months, I had more, and I proudly sent home over 10,000 dollars!
In my second year with ECC, my salary wentup to 296,000 Yen and with my private lessons I made around 350,000 Yen per month. My rent was only 45,000/month andI could live very cheaply if I wanted to. I was able to save a lot, but I taught twelve hours of classes on Tuesdays. Itwas absolutely crazy!
In retrospect I realize at that times, that I was lucid dreamingat times as I walked the streets. I was exhausted.
I got up at 4 AM, staggered to the train station, and took the earliest train to Tokyo so I could get a seat and sleep.I taught in the young people`s area, Shibuya from 7-9AM, then took the train back to Hon Atsugi, was picked up by myprivate student and she drove me to my apartment where I taught her for the next hour, I ate lunch, then a Koreancouple came by for their lesson from 1-3PM. From 5:20-9:20 I taught at the ECC in Hon Atsugi and after that I taughta doctor and his wife. It was a 30,000 Yen day. It was a killer day but I enjoyed counting the money.
One reason I chose to work for ECC was the fact that I would have my days free. I have always been into moreand more freedom. ECC offered a good salary and reputation. The fact that I only had to show up for four hours per night, wasalso a major attraction.
The longer you are in Japan, the more opportunities come your way. If you hustle, you can pickup private lessons on your own as I mentioned. When teachers leave for home, they often have students they needtaught. When Mary Ellen left for the States, she mentioned that the Machida YMCA would need to replaceher. She put in a good word for me and I ended up with another two mornings of work per week at good pay.
The manager of the Y was a great guy. Mr. Minamida had lived in Vancouver, and knew Westerners well. He was a greatboss and I learned a lot about how to manage from his laid back style. If only all schools in Japan could be laid back.
Why do we torture ourselves with stress and pressure? Japanese especially seem to do this to themselves and you (if you work for them). Mr. Minamida was cut from different cloththankfully! Many of the elementary, junior high or privateschools in Japan are notoriously rotten places to work. Manyof the people there are bitchy because they are under too muchpressure.
The YMCA had no time clock. You didn’tneed to punch a time card as you did at ECC. They seemed to trust their teachers more and treated them with more respect.
ECC was an interesting place to work at. There were so many different characters there. My constantly sickboss Mr. Yamada was there 6 days a week at lower pay than the foreign teachers. He was a nice enough man, but I never got to know him very well, although I enjoyed working for him.
I really wanted to land a good job near Ikumi, and after striking out in Odawara, the nearest major city to her, I interviewed at other schools.
I figured that it was probably pretty rare for a Westerner to walk in the door all dressed up, and asking about employment,as we were relatively far from Tokyo. By doing so, I hoped to make a bit of a splash. Mr. Yamada was suitablyimpressed when I waltzed in, in my tailored suit from Thailand, with my Japanese friend Yutaka, and my Japanese “fiancé” Ikumi in tow.
The fiancé part really was a lie. We had no firm plans to marry, but we were both thinking of heading in that direction, but needed more time to get to know each other. I figured the Japanese fiancé part, would further my chances for the job, and I really didn’t mind calling Ikumi my fiancé, and she didn’t either.
Mr. Yamada and I had a long talk and he seemed interested in me. He told me to talk with ECC’s head office,and I had the impression that he would too.
A few weeks later I went to Shinjuku in Tokyo for an intense interview at ECC’s head office. I was interviewedby a couple of staff from the Personnel Section, and then given thirty minutes to prepare a private English lesson. I felt goodabout the lesson I taught to my fellow interviewee and I was hired shortly after. I was so happy to get the chance to work for this famous school, and to be near Ikumi!
*Some of the names have been changed for privacy.