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Thank You and OK!: an American Zen Failure in Japan
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[DC notes to self and others in brackets]

Chapter 27


February 26, 1989   -    KOBASHI BLOWS IT


When Elin and I were attempting to get culture visas with permission to work, I was looking for some business which would give me a letter saying that they would like me to work for them part time.  The classes at the shipyard had gone well so I asked Kobashi, who had set them up for me, if he could help.  I caught him one Sunday after Zazenkai at Daianji.  I just wanted the permission, I explained to him.  I didn't really need any work.  I could get my own work.  As a matter of fact, after being in Maruyama for almost four months, Elin and I had about twenty hours a week of classes between us and were doing just fine.  Our studies and field trips kept us plenty busy - we weren't looking for real jobs.  I said I just needed a letter from a prospective employer in order to get permission from Immigration to work.

Kobashi was not self-employed as I had thought.  He worked for a company out of Tokyo and the president was afraid I would hold them to it and demand a job using their letter as a weapon.  I could tell over the phone that it stressed-out Kobashi no end that he couldn't help me.  He kept asking what else he could do.  I said not to worry about it, that I had other options.

I called up Bop in Kyoto, and told him that the Tokyo company wouldn't play ball.  He said, "What are they talking about?  Written agreements are no good in Japan anyway - not as far as you're concerned.  They're just formalities that express intentions and are to be forgotten if they don't benefit the employer.  They just don't want to bother with you 'cause they don't owe you anything."

A few days after I talked to Kobashi, our cultural visa requests had been turned down by the regional Immigration office in Hiroshima and Miyake in Ozu had told us not to try to get permission to work for the time being, so we forgot about all that.  But someone didn't.

Maybe his company didn't owe me anything, but Kobashi sure seemed to think he did.  The next Sunday he was speaking very rapidly and nervously after Zazenkai, I couldn't understand him  as well as usual and he was throwing in all sorts of superpolite Japanese jargon.  I knew something was wrong so I took him around the corner to see savvy Ishitaki.  She's at her best when Elin and I are in trouble and she focused right in on Kobashi, starting off by thanking him profusely for all he'd done for us as if she were our mother.  They went at it at a thousand miles an hour and the short of it was that what he'd done was to call his neighbors in Ozu, the good folks at Immigration and say something like: "Do you know David Chadwick?  Good.  Well I'm trying to help get him some work.  He needs to get a letter for you people.  Now he's worked for me and I happen to know that he's an excellent English teacher and..."

At that point the Immigration official who he was talking to (was it Miyake?) said something like, "No he has not worked for you.  He can't.  He's on a tourist visa and if he worked for you he could be deported."

And I could just imagine Kobashi backing out of that one with the Japanese equivalent of: "Did I say work?  Silly me.  What I meant to say was..."

The poor oaf had blown it righteously and was acting terribly upset and contrite.  He did have the foresight to make out new receipts that said all the money I got was for expenses and give me the old incriminating ones to dispose of.  I tried to smile and be gracious but I couldn't hide the fact that my mind was by then a swarming mass of paranoid delirium.

Desperate, I called up Bop.  He just laughed and said not to worry and reminded me that Immigration really likes English teachers and tends to overlook minor infractions.  "Just don't open a school with a large neon sign across from the train station and you'll be okay.  A guy in Osaka on a tourist visa did that and he got kicked out."

Elin and I wanted to believe Bop but we sank into a low state of despair, worse than when we were yenless.  But we did not attack one other.  That cold night we fell asleep exhausted, clinging to each other, staring hollow-eyed into the dark, fearing the future and awaiting what we expected would be the threatening sound of an authoritarian knock on our beloved home's front door.  Except they wouldn't knock.  They'd call out an apology for bothering us and being rude and then they'd take their shoes off in the entryway before stepping up into the house.