Saturday, October 06, 2007

Working in Tokyo

Ah yes... Monday is a get-out-of-work free day and my roommate's out riding horses or some such nonsense, so I'm enjoying a nice, relaxing evening at home alone for a change. Except for the wannabe biker gang kiddies that keep buzzing by my window, which reminds me that if anyone would like to purchase me a BB gun for Christmas it would be put to good use. In lieu of that, I would also accept some fine beers such as this or this.

So working in Tokyo isn't exactly for the faint-hearted in my opinion. I figured that since I've been working here for at least a good month or so, it was about time for me to give people the breakdown.

Where do I work? I work at IHI Corporation, which is one of the three heavy industries companies in Japan, as a translator in the construction department. Ok, well technically I'm employed by a dispatch company who sends me to IHI, but tomayto-tomahto. Oh, and technically I'm a "translator", but I do very little actual translation work. I do a bunch of editing though, as well as a whole bunch of random stuff which is teaching me all kinds of useful vocabulary, like butt-welding (*snicker*), and the Japanese word for terms like sphere tank and wiring control panel.

As for attire, now that Cool Biz is over I have to wear a tie to work, but I was told that a jacket's only really necessary for big meetings, which I won't be a part of for a little while.

Interestingly enough, most of the people at work can speak English, or at least understand it enough that they can navigate through all the documentation here, which is primarily in English since most all our business is international. Most all of them have been interesting places, either due to work or otherwise. I've talked to people about experiences in India, China, Taiwan, Qatar, UAE, Algeria, Mexico, Houston, Cali, Oxford, Cambridge, and probably some others I'm forgetting. Most of them are pretty cool people actually. With all the business trips people take (it seems half the people are gone at any given time), there's a new snack from somewhere around the world that someone brought back as a souvenir pretty much every day.

So let's see... how about a walkthrough of a normal day. So first off is the commute. I have to wake up at 6 to set out on a 10-min. bike ride to the station at around 7ish, after which I use my ridiculously expensive monthly train pass to take 1 transfer on a 1-hr. train ride to work. This is by far the least comfortable commute I've ever had to deal with ever... driving an hour in rush hour is one thing, but at least there you have your own space. Now I have these oyaji salarymen that sometimes wreak of b.o. because they don't believe in bathing in the morning (that's reserved for after dinner on the nights they don't stay too late at work or drinking) breathing their halitosis all over me and falling asleep on my shoulder as I struggle to find enough space to get a book in my face to pass the time. Oh, and room to breathe - always important, but sometimes a challenge. Seriously, if you have not experienced this first hand then you have no clue what I'm talking about - it's nuts. I seriously believe that there are sardines in cans that have more shoulder space then you do in one of those trains... it's like those old contests where you see how many people can fit in a phone booth or VW Beetle or something. This is easily the worst part of working in Tokyo thus far as I spend 2.5-3 hours daily in overall commute time... that's about the average too, by the way. Definitely moving closer in next year some time, but that comes with its own headaches... and the area's not exactly cheap.

So after arriving at work around 8:30, I wave hi to the guy whose job it is to bow and say good morning 1,000 times in a row as everyone walks in. You may call him a security guard I guess. So I get in the office and greet everyone on my way to flick on the computer in my nice, cushy leather chair with a great view from the 19th floor of a 25-floor building in a huge and open office room. There's nothing but high rises in this high-rent district of town, and my company owns the entirety of the Toyosu district in which it resides. You don't get your own desk here, you sit at a big long desk with no dividers together with all the people in your section instead. So then this chime rings which sounds JUST like the chime that goes off at the beginning of class in schools here, and they have a little 5-min. morning meeting in which they make announcements and then break into sections where everyone says what they have popping for the day. I found out this past week though that once a month they have a bigger meeting a few floors down which you have to go to, and at the end everyone points their fingers towards the front of the room and chants some bizarre company pledge which I didn't quite catch all of.

My "boss", the guy that hired me, has only actually been in the office half of my time here as he's been all over the place. And by all over the place, I mean that he's now in Algeria after a stop in Paris and Ankara (Turkey), from which he'll be back on the 15th. But then he leaves again on the 16th for another couple weeks and meetings with big important people, and I hear that he's set to spend a few months or possibly a year on the site in Algeria starting next year some time. I also hear (and see... it's my job to read/edit the contracts) that working on-site means 10-hr. days, 6 days a week, which makes road trips sound like more fun than a barrel of drunken monkeys. Oh, and apparently due to civil unrest or something, if you're on the site and would like to leave to go into town, you're only allowed to do so with guard escort.

So anyway, my day goes on until 5:30-6ish with me doing different random stuff pretty much everyday and talking to the girl whose job is apparently to flirt with me. Honestly I have no idea what she does besides make copies for people and turn the lights off at lunch (gotta save every little ounce of energy!!!), but she apparently speaks pretty good Chinese which is cool.

Stuff I've done? Editing/arranging/shipping a subcontractor proposal for a 1-billion dollar job with something like 20 lbs. of documentation, corresponding with said prospective subcontractors, hunting down and delivering all kinds of data and info for said clients, a little sudoku, some translation, watching the guy at the desk in front of me fiddle with cool CAD drawings of plane fuselages and LNG tanks, and figuring out what the hell things like gantt charts and event chain diagrams and BoQs are all about and how to read them. Along the way, I have found new functions in Word and Excel that I never knew existed in an effort to make things look nice and purty, since that's my job. Yey.

So that's it in a nutshell... oh, and I just realized the other day that now between me and my 2 brothers, we're now all doing something related to construction at one level or another. Weird how things work out sometimes.

I could go on, but I have a feeling few will have the mental stamina to trudge on further so I'll save it for another day. I think I talk too much sometimes.

1 comment:

dk said...

Sounds wild. Keep the work stories coming.