Co-sleeping in Japan

I have always been surprised among international couples how often this cultural difference has brought them to the brink of divorce.  You might think it is just a mother kid bonding thing, but many foreign women with Japanese husbands complain about the same thing.  For most Americans, it would be unimaginable to in the heat of passion grab an and arm or leg and find out you have snagged your child instead of your lover.

I believe that this form of attachment parenting has many advantages, especially for parents of newborns who awaken on their own schedules.  However, much to the dismay of many foreigners who marry Japanese, the co-sleeping does not stop when the infants no longer are nursing.  It goes on for years and years and years.  5 year-olds, 12 year-olds and even 15 year-olds.

The family bed or the entire family sleeping in the same room is normal in many cultures of the world.  It is not as common in the United States where I am from though.  It is neither wrong or right.  It is just different.   As for me, my attitude toward co-sleeping is overall very negative.  As much as I hate it, I hate having conflicts with my family members even more.  So, there I am communally snoozing.

Personally, co-sleeping has always been difficult for me  because I  cannot get adequate sleep on my day off due to chronic sleep disorders.  I have a part-time night job from 11PM to 4:30AM.  I am off every week,  on Thursday and Friday nights.  It is ironic that my time off work is most disruptive to my sleep cycle than working around 3 jobs is.   I often wish I could enjoy the two evenings that I can sleep like normal folks do.  I cannot even manage that although I have already been awake for 24 hours.  I end up on the computer at night until my eyelids get heavy enough and usually cannot get to bed before 2AM.   I’m  out of it when I return to work on Saturday nights.  I just does not work well for me.

I usually wake up feeling angry at nothing in particular and say some outrageous things to my family members.  I note this because between my first cup of coffee and the time when I slip between the sheets for sleep, I am a very mild-mannered and calm person around my family.  Normally, I rarely ever raise my voice in my house.

Co-sleeping contributes to more potential problems than just sleep disruption. Communication suffers as well.  Being married means talking to your spouse even if is just lying in bed gossiping about the neighbors.  Since communication no longer becomes natural, I find myself forgetting to speak to my wife during the day also.   I have told my wife I do not mind doing the family bed thing sometimes but I do not want it to be the norm 365 days a year.  It falls on deaf ears.

My wife is concerned about my comfort and she suggested I could sleep in our master bedroom alone and away from distractions.  I have a very nice large bed with a high-grade Sealy mattress.  In the past 10 years, I think I have only slept in the bed 3 times. But even that doesn’t work for me.  It is too unnatural as a married man not to sleep beside my wife. 

Intimacy is not a pressing issue with us as we are in one of those May-December relationships.   I don’t identify with the term “married.”  We are in a co-parenting arrangement.   I am past my prime and I am 10 years older than my wife.  But I think if the clock was rolled back to when I was in my 30s, one of us would have suitcases by the door.  But now that the elephant has entered the room, let me address SEX.  I think anyone who has sex in the same bed or the same room as their kids is a freak. Also, I could never imagine intimacy in the same location that children may have slept the night before.  I am not so naive to think the bed is the only place but the marriage bed should be kept sacred in my opinion.  For this reason, I have always forbidden my children to ever sleep on that nice almost never used bed in our master bedroom.  That bed is only used to fold laundry on though.  Maybe someday, as senior citizens, if someone spikes my oatmeal with something, it might be used for something more traditional.  For now it is just a fancy bedroom decoration.

Surprisingly, I feel like my bonding with my younger children is harmed more by relinquishing my privacy and always having them just an arms length away.  By the time I wake up, I feel like I need a break again.  A rest from a rest.    It’s a very conflicting feeling because wanting to spend as much time with my children is important for me.  Spouses who are solely devoted to each other as husband and wife are better prepared to emotionally support each other and their children. 

Co-sleeping or attachment parenting will still be a work in progress.   Marriages are full of compromises.   I have often read that the family bed works well for many families, but the key point is that both have to be in agreement.  Otherwise, there will be serious problems that can lead to divorce.

My Bio and Thoughts on Social Networking

-By Caoimhín Ó Laoghaire

Social networking and having a blog can help me connect with an audience if a topic comes up.  It also help foster a better relationship with people I already know.   However, social networking can cause problems.  For instance, I have chosen to deactivate my Facebook account for an indefinite period of time.    Well, that did not work.  I have groups on there that I look after and many of my friends like to read the links I send.  It was because I spend far too much time on there and some of my own Facebook friends just do not behave quite the way I want them too.   So, now instead of deactivation, I will just post less and keep my chat function turned off.  I need some time to do some healthier things at the moment.

In the arena of the worldwide web, there is no shortage of sites to add your two cents, put your thoughts, musings and your opinions into writing.  We can all be thankful for this technology, but technology can be misused as we all well know.  Corresponding publicly online is not really for the thin-skinned and if your feelings are hurt easily you might not want to spend too much time in the internet jungle out there.  I do not mind someone pointing out a perceived inconsistency, irony or presenting a dissenting opinion of what I write.  What I do find intolerable is disparaging individual people and looking down on others.  A person who waits tables in a local cafe is performing an honorable occupation and doing what they need to do in our society.  The man who cleans gum off floors after rude people is no less a man than the astrophysicist who really figures out how things work.  My entire family is well-educated and each and every one of us has taken jobs in the entry-level sector as the need arose.  We are a proud people.   For this reason, you will likely not find me jumping on the band wagon to bash Walmart, GNC Health Food Stores, Hooters and library ladies which are areas members of my family can be found serving others.   I was surprised at how much arrogance is shown for people who work in the food industry as line workers.  Last time I checked, 100 percent of the population eats food.  Attempts to disrespect an individual in fact disrespect millions of others and their efforts.

It is intolerable for people to attempt to “out” others regarding deeply personal and private information they are not prepared to share.  If someone has a sensitive topic about themselves they wish to write about, they should have the privilege of the proper timing and the medium to do it.  I am completely comfortable throwing a Bio out there on myself and my immediate family members as I do below.  So people really want to know who I am and where I am coming from, here it is.

My name is Kevin Glenn O’Leary. I am named after my maternal grandfather.  I was born in Freeport, Illinois in 1963.    I joined the United States Navy after high school and served for eight years.  Now I reside in Japan.  I taught English for many years in Japan.  I still teach today, but I have other work also.  I even work in food production facility part-time from 11PM to 4:30AM. I made a successful language school in Japan when I was in my late twenties.  In 2007, my son took over as president of O’Leary Language Systems.

I have two older sisters. Diane was born in 1959 and Susan  was born in 1961. My father was a teacher.  He is from the Savanna area along the Mississippi River.  My father taught school for many years.  Although originally a music major, he chose early in his career to teach science and changed his area of interest to geology.   After leaving teaching mid-career he was engaged in sales and worked at Menards Home Center in Cherry Valley for many years. My mother is from a long line of early settlers to Oregon, Illinois.  Her kin still connected to both sides of Atlantic and are  is descended from Richard Chamberlin of Braintree, Massachusetts and her genealogy is traced back precisely prior to the Norman invasion of the British Isles in the 11th century.  Jon de Tancerville was a chamberlain and the family took the name.

We were raised in a very rural area of just south of the Wisconsin-Illinois border.  Our town only had 450 people, although the school system had an enrollment of nearly 1000 people.  This is because none of the surrounding villages had schools and our school served about 5 towns in the region.  Most of our neighbors were either dairy or grain farmers or somehow engaged in the agriculture business.  My father taught in the same school system and taught all of his own children.  My mother helped with church administration and worked for an insurance company in the nearby city.

I have three fabulous children which impress me every day.  This is what I live for.  I am in no way married to any specific vocation or corporation.  The eldest is my son, Kevin (born 1983) who is married to a beautiful Japanese lady named Manami who really looks after him well.  Next, is my daughter, Kristen Ai (born 2002).  She has just turned 11 years old and is as tall as I am.  Finally, Maria (born 2009) is a bright active child enjoying lots of friends in pre-school.  My wife, Yuko is a nurse-midwife at a local hospital.  Although the family homestead is Fukuoka, she was raised in Nagasaki.

photo

The above, biography is a formative part of what makes me who I am today, for better or worse.  My core values were instilled in me at a very early age and I have those excellent role-models to thank for that.  Over the years, I have learned what truly is of value and what is just a materialistic consumable commodity. I made an insane amount of money in my 30s but where is it now?  I still feel parts of my life represent wealth that is meaningful.  My family, my true friends, my spiritual journey and a rich heritage I can be proud of.

With the medium of social networking, I can found often commenting on issues of the day like politics as I see them.   I had been a conservative GOP supporter for most of my life.   Now my politics are undecided or Independent blurring the lines of the Democratic and Libertarian parties in many areas.  Who can argue with an Independent for just being and Independent, right?

In addition to politics, I write a great deal on life in Japan as I see it.  I came to Japan in 1989 and have been here since minus a one and half year hiatus to the United States.  A reader can certainly disagree with my approach to something, but cannot deny that I really observed something.  As a teacher, I have come up with a lot of ideas over the years and found it was important to archive the most useful information in the best way possible.  Many of these were done on You Tube.  That wasn’t any easy thing to do because I have always been very shy and somewhat sensitive about my appearance.  But, when I heard from other English teachers that it was very helpful to them, I was pleased and motivated to continue.  If it is useful, great.  If not, thanks for checking anyway.

https://www.youtube.com/user/kebunsha/videos

These are things I am comfortable about writing about and will continue to do so.  Dissenting opinions are welcome on my blog even questioning the wisdom of judgement of the author.  I have a very liberal policy.  I do not accept overly vulgar language and will certainly not tolerate anyone disrespecting a member of my family or another person who posts a comment.  I am on a quest to become wiser myself and want to hear from you all.  If you agree with my basic idea, great.  Please visit my blog site often.  If not, there are plenty of other sites on the internet that are dedicated to hate, every sexual perversion you can think of and just downright weird stuff.   Here it is just my ramblings whenever a light bulb appears above my head and I feel compelled to share.

Whether you believe in Christianity  or not, please heed Luke 6:31
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Memories of 20+ years in Japan

Thought I would reblog this. NATSUKASHII. Remember the good old days when offered 5,000 yen an hour for a class and you said, “Well let me think about it.”

The Great Global Divide

classroomtowaThe past couple weeks have been spent moving all my language school material from my home to an office in the center of the city. At one point in time, O’Leary Language Systems had 150 individual students, a dozen client on-site programs and a total gross income of over 13,000 $USD per month. That was is in the crazy rip-roaring 90s.

Looking back and assessing everything, I could without hesitation classify myself as truly poor in the years 2008 though 2011. I simply could not possibly earn enough in the economic climate to pay my most basic obligations. Downsizing and decline is never a painless process. I can remember back in the day, my computer would go a fritz, and I would say, “Oh dammit, now I have blow my whole afternoon at the computer shop buying a new machine.” Imagine the luxury of only worrying about how much free time…

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Working for a Japanese Food Facility: Seen Through Round Eyes

cartoon veggie

I think this piece could be of use for a potential worker in a Japanese organization to get a glimpse into situations they might encounter.  I have been employed part-time at a well-known Japanese company in their Fukuoka Food Processing Facility for more than two years now.  I work from 11PM to 4:30AM.  Firstly, I applaud my employer for being one a few companies who has opened positions for foreigners.  In addition to myself, there are workers from the Philippines and Nepal also there.  I do not work with any of them.  I am the only foreign member of my section known as the Cut department.  I am often asked if I am subjected to racial discrimination and prejudice on the job.  Am I treated differently than other workers in training?  My answer is resounding, YES.  It is an ingrained part of my everyday working experience.  Does this make the company a racist organization?  Certainly not.  This place as a company and employer is excellent.  I am proud to be a very tiny part of this well-known organization.  I plan to continue working hard for them well into the future.

It is important to avoid approaching discrimination in the same way we see it North America.  Racism in our own terms is not so easily defined in Japan.  Japan is for Japanese.  Japanese believe strongly in their exclusivity.    I am not a member of their group and I likely never will be. This is not hate.  This is not blatant racism or even bigotry.  Japan does not fully recognize the norms that my people were raised and indoctrinated with.  As a collectivist society, the ownership of values belong to the group not the individual.   Ayn Rand once described collectivism and racism.

“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.   It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or  political significance to a man’s genetic lineage – the notion that a man’s  intellectual and character traits are produced and transmitted by his  internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged,  not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a  collective of ancestors.”

This is true as I see it in the Japanese workplace today.  Thus, without ever being brought completely into the group, I will always be treated differently than others.  I will be treated as I have a much shallower grasp of understanding the goals and tasks of the group.

Let’s look at some examples in the life of Kevin on the job.  I am subjected to a variety of less than ideal situations on a daily basis.  On my first evening on the job, an older man in a soft voice kept beckoning me, addressing me as  Gaijin-san, Gaijin-san the word for foreigner or literally in written character form “outside person.”  I thought it was kind of strange and made me think, “What the hell did I sign myself up for?”  I was not angry about it at all then.  To one lady’s credit, she tapped him on the arm and gave him a light scolding for using that form of address.  He readily apologized.  Later, I was surprised to find him in the parking lot waiting for me.  He kept bowing and apologizing over and over.  I really felt bad for him, because I did not feel hurt at all by it.  He was very anxious to teach me a lot tricks of the trade with sincerity and just did not have global social skills to know any better.   Afterall, because it was my first couple of nights, I was too busy being overwhelmed by learning all my new tasks than to worry about improper forms of address or even bigotry.

As the months went on, it seemed that several of the other men would call me Ore-ri-, which is my last name as pronounced in Japan.  Like North America, it is exceedingly rude in Japan to ever call someone by their last name only.  Americans customarily use first names and Japanese customarily use last names when addressing others.  But neither culture’s etiquette rules condone last name without a suffix (san) in Japanese or prefix (Mr) in English.  In Japanese, this is known as yobitsute 呼び捨て or literally throwing away one’s name.  I would not mind if they called me my first name even if I was the only one addressed that way, but I do not like my last name used like that.  I do not feel it is hatred for foreigners, but merely ignorance.  I feel a small sense of victory every time I move closer to some sort of successful assimilation or acceptance.

Another small stumbling block with me is their approach to training.  Here the appropriate term is prejudice, as it is to pre-judge.  I have a very difficult time getting the proper instruction and practice to perform the tasks in the workplace with proficiency.  Although I can communicate at an adequate conversational level, the workplace specific vocabulary and names of machines are new terminology for me.  Instead of answering my direct question regarding my job, I am often given very vague unrelated feedback.  For example, I need to ask one time and one time only, “What is the name of this machine?”   This new vocabulary will become part of my daily speech from that day forward.  I need it and I need a direct answer.  Unfortunately, my co-workers being unfamiliar to working with non-Japanese cannot seem to grasp this.  Instead, they pre-judge or make assumptions on what I am able to understand and what I am not able to when they communicate with me.  I receive “advice” that about 75 percent of the time is totally unnecessary, yet receive far too little information to complete a very simple task.  I have had to do my best to self-train myself.  Non-native speakers in workplaces all over the world employ multiple strategies to learn their jobs when spoken or written language fails to convey the information needed.  I am not different.  I listen much harder.   I frequently look at my co-workers as they complete slightly different tasks.  I constantly look at the work environment and the production control boards.  I ask questions even though I know there is only a 50 percent chance I will get the simple answer I want.  Most of all, I am in deeper concentration than my co-workers.  If there was a written training manual in Japanese, I would request or download one from the net and painstakingly study it with my electronic dictionary on my day off.  There is none, so I do my best to survive with what information I can get daily.

What kind of advice do I hear that is a total waste of time 75 percent of the time?  On a daily basis I am being constantly subjected to advice that is more appropriate for a small child than a person in the workforce for more than 30 years.  I have to stop and ensure I am understanding instructions correctly.  Besides not being as good at Japanese, I am also slightly hearing impaired in my right ear.  I frequently stop the machine to listen to something that turns out to be stupid stuff.  Very exasperating.  One lady who I think looks like the most intelligent in the workplace does give me excellent advice and guidance.  I like to listen intently to what she says.  But she often suffixes her great advice with a comment like, “I doubt he understood what I said or I wonder if he got it.”  This is certainly condescending for a North American because we respect people who ask when they don’t understand and the burden is on the trainee to tell the person they got it or did not.

My co-workers and supervisors are very grateful to me that I remove 200 kilograms of vegetable peelings to the outside refuse cage area almost every night.  It’s nice they often thank me and they think I am just a super nice fellow for it.  Truth be known, initially as I was not getting much information to transition from task to task, I would find myself not knowing what to do next.  I noticed my co-workers really hated to do the garbage task, so I thought well at least I know what to do with this.  I have been the garbage man ever since.  I like it.  It is an essential part of keeping a work space organized and sanitary.   I do not have people commenting on it and telling me how to toss garbage.  I can lift 50 kg from a squat position and those clippings can be heavy, so I am happy to do it.  I can now have a smoother transition from task to task now.  I was trained pretty decently the first couple of months to do a variety of tasks and worked on getting better every day.  However, one year ago our  plant had many changes.  A new building, new cutting blades and a lot of new management.  When the procedures changed, all of a sudden there was a clear effort not to train me on anything new.  I was oblivious to it at first.  I had sometimes cut, sometimes operated the slicers, sometimes weighed and dried the vegetables.  With the new changes, I only cut.  There were 16 people in our Cut department.  The manager came down with 15 disposable ball pens attached to a nice neck string.  The even had a label on them with the name of the worker.  I did not get my little pen.  It was only then that I learned I no longer do any weighing or paperwork.  Assuming I had nothing to write, I needed no pen.  Well, Whoop Tee Doo!  Guess they never thought that I use a ballpoint when I sign out my knives or mark the excess vegetables I return to the cooler room.  A big duh, there.  I am pleased that I was part of saving them  some money there.  38 yen for the pen, and about 12 yen for the string holder.     It was after that I opened my eyes and saw that actual efforts were  made to keep me in a remedial station for my entire term with the company.  This is where I remain after 2 years.  I do not blame the management.  I am sure my peers have expressed the idea that most of the tasks would be too difficult.

So, after writing this, many would wonder why I speak so highly of this company.  The truth is, because I have chosen not to complain and go with the flow.  You have to pick when it most beneficial to raise issues and when it is better to wait.   Even if I brought up instances of being marginalized because of my perceived limitations of my race, they would not understand it the way most Westerners do.  I am not being hurt badly by this.  I have a lot of mettle.  I have been through many stormy working environments.  My mind is more in line with a Japanese than an American.  Afterall, I have earned more yen than dollars in my years in the work force.  I am more concerned that this behavior toward foreign people can hurt production potential.  Isn’t it strange that after more than two years, I probably have to ask someone who has only been there two months where something is or how to do something?  Why do my peers view me as being mentally retarded and someone who needs constant looking after?  Why would any production facility want a worker who really is only about 55 percent trained to come to work?   I do not think I am the one who is suffering the disadvantage.  It is this company.  In the future, this company and other companies will need to use foreign-born workers.  Young Japanese people do not want to work nights there.  The older people are too physically small to lift as much.  The people I work with sometimes need to think just for a few seconds why I got the job in the first place.  It was because I had relevant experience.  Experience that my peers are totally unaware of.  For example, I have a Japanese Food Hygiene Certificate 食品衛生 some experience in the USA as an assistant manager of a family restaurant.  Japanese food service as well.    I worked in a Japanese bakery.  Here is a link to some of the fun I had there. http://wp.me/p2eVlP-L   I also could probably grasp a few new tasks because I was smart enough to further my education a bit.   All these do not say I am smart, but it should indicate that if left alone for 5 minutes, I won’t piss on myself.  I’ll be Okay.  I can do it.     They need to get over my foreign birth, and just let me do a better job for them.

As I work part-time with those vegetables at night, what I learn about communication there is relevant to my daytime job.  After a few hours of sleep, I get up and I teach at Japanese companies specifically how to interact in international environments.  Heck, I did not even discover really how to communicate until I got out of my teaching cocoon.  My experience with  gives me a of ideas on how communication fails when people pre-judge the capabilities of their foreign co-workers.  What really happens is my co-workers response is formed often before I utter a word.  All that vocabulary and listening work is not enough.  Global divides in everyday communication still exist even with my Japanese ability.  I am not a speaker on their level, which is clear but I will attempt to get my JPLT First Grade when I muster up a bit more confidence.  Learning other languages is useful, but we cannot forget to make our first language more understandable for practical communication.   Japan needs to recognize and work to change the nation’s image as an exclusive society.  It is my hope that this way of thinking  will someday be passed down to their finest corporations, especially the one I work for.

Why Japan Continues to Survive

-By Caoimhín Ó Laoghaire

This actually ties into what I have been writing about the past few years.  My home country, the United States is so disconnected from anything resembling a comprehensive solution to their ills.  Crime is out of control, skilled workers idled, 70 percent without basic healthcare coverage, working age people lined up for disability payment and a general lack of cohesion among our people.  It will likely take generations for America to recover our place on the world stage again.  It is absolutely terrifying to see my country from abroad.  However, when you are living in the middle of it, you can easily become blind.

Conversely, Japan weathers their storms and seems to hold it together a whole lot better than the United States.  Why is that?  Based on my simple observations, I notice one factor is dependent on the other in Japan.  For example, if a company desires worker loyaty to the company, it is necessary to offer a high likelyhod of secure longtime employment to the worker.  There are many other differences between America and Japan.  Some of these would seem like a horribly cruel disparaging of American society, but they need to be considered if we want to recover again.  Make no mistake about it.  I am an American patriot.  I want the United States of America to succeed again.  Certainly  Japan, by no means is a perfect society.  Being a foreigner in Japan who has earned more yen than dollars has taught me Japan is for the Japanese and only the Japanese.  I am not nor will I ever be looked at as an equal member of their economy and society.  I am not in the Japanese circle and my participation is pretty much at their pleasure.  Discrimination affects me, but I do my best to navigate the system and provide support for my family.

Some areas that Japan approaches differently include:

1.  Employment Security of their Citizens

2.  Worker Loyalty and Productivity

3.  Healthcare for their Citizens

4.  Maintenance of their Infastructure

5.  Crime

6.  Connection to their Community

7.  Seeking Assistance from Family v. Assistance from the Public

Employment Security

Recently, Sensata, an electronic component plant in my hometown of Freeport, Illinois closed dispacing a number of workers.  It is an all too common occurance in Freeport and Rockford.  Workers are told their last day and basically left to fend for themselves.  It really got me thinking about a time when I heard of time a plant in Japanese closed up and the workers made redundant.  I could not.  The next week, I polled some of my business students at Sony, Bridgestone and Daihatsu if this has occurred.  They told me it certainly does happen as technology advances and ecomomical necessity required closure.  However, although the plant changes it is extremely rare that workers are not provided transfers, early retirement packages, retraining or guidance into another job.  Incidentally,   Sensata did not close their operations in Japan although they are tech centers and marketing.  Layoffs are clearly a very last resort in Japan.  It is almost treated as a criminal offense to abandon workers so casually as it is done in the United States.

I have found Japanese workers to be far more loyal to their company than American workers.  That is very clear to me and common sense as the company provides security and the likelyhood of a mutually profitable relationship long term.  Contrary to popular belief, I have not seen Japanese workers any more productive than American workers.  We Americans like to work hard, but we need some assurances in return.

Here are some interesting articles on the Japanese approach to large scale layoffs.

http://www.internationalexperts.com/index.php/research/item/layoffs-in-japanese-employment-law

Worker Loyalty and Productivity

It is my pleasure to smash the myth that Japanese simply work harder than Americans.  It is just plain not true.  So, I would not suggest occupying your mind with little Japanese men running around like worker bees on steriods.  I work with some really lazy bastards.  Shout out to  that guy who barks orders to me using just my last name.   I frequently advise him to work the muscles in his legs and arms more than his mouth.  I am senior to him by 2 days at work.   Most of the slackers are in the education business, but some are in production positions as well like one of my collegues .  I do not mind giving him a little grief.  He is the only openly racist person who practices his ignorance on a daily basis.  He once told me it is peculiar and a bad idea that Watami hires foreign people.    Sometimes, I gently push back with a sense of humor.  However, despite this example, workers will not willfully do anything that would affects the productivity and profits of the company.  My co-worker does jobs he likes to do and I do jobs he doesn’t like to do.  I have no doubt he would step in for the company if I was not there.  Overall I word with pretty good quality folks.

Universal Healthcare

Even though most conservative Americans oppose it, I think we need it in America.  It is a mess.  I had what was considered to be a good plan with Aetna from my employer I had in America except the co-pays.  Very expensive.   Even if you did not have insurance in Japan, the cost of treatment is considerably less than in the United States.  A small ticket item, the MRI.  $1600 dollars in the United States, $160 in Japan.  Let’s ramp up the crisis to an emergency appendectomy.  $20,000 in the United States.  $3,600 in Japan.  I could be way off on the US figures now.  Last week, a guy posted his appendectomy bill online from Sutter General Hospital in Sacramento, California.  His came up to 55,000 dollars.   It’s beyond ridiculous.  Sharks have taken medical care out of reach of almost everyone.  I wrote a few thought in a previous blog I did during the American election season.

http://wp.me/p2eVlP-29

Connection to the Community

I have often said, Americans move in and out of communities.  Japanese become one with their communities.  Instead of moving to a “better” community, Japanese thrive to “better” their community.    We as Americans are very vocally harsh on our elected and appointed officials.  It’s “Obama this and Obama that.”  “The Mayor is incompetent.”  “Morons at the public works department are dragging their asses getting the snowplows and salt trucks out again.”  Geez,  America!  We need grow the Eff up, already!   If I remember correctly, we sent Mayor Morrisey and President Obama back for another term.  Why can’t we learn to take more responsiblity.  For example, last year it took me 2 hours to drive 6 miles to work because the river breached the levees and I was constantly turning back another way.  At each intersection, I would meet a farmer or an 80 year old woman telling people dont go there, try that way.  When disasters hit, big or small, Japanese grab their shovels first and go outside.  Probably, when the tsunami hit in 2011, the locals knew where to look for victims pretty quickly.  That is because they would be showing their faces outside.  Looting?  What is that?  Japanese don’t even comprehend how someone could do that.  Twice a year, I direct school kids on the street with my little PTA flag.   Japan doesn’t waste money on crossing guards.  The parents rotate the responsiblity as well as senior citizens do.  Every couple months, I do neighborhood cleanup and weed the grass around the community center and remove buildup of mud from the street drainage with my neighbors.  For Japanese, its common sense.  In America, I heard public housing was going to ask residents who get FREE housing to contribute a couple hours a month as condition for their residency.  Some actually complained how it was too harsh for disabled people and single moms.

Taking care of Infastructre

In Rockford, I have never made it down 20th Street from O’Leary Acres to Harrison Avenue without either hitting or swerving around a pothole.  Strangley enough, I cannot remember the last time I saw a gaping pothole in Japan.  Nuff said.

Public Safety

Fancy word for crime management here.  Japan is not crime free.  My apartment was burglarized more than 10 years ago.  When I called the police in my poor Japanese speech, 8 of them arrived.  I was kind of embarrassed because although I had a broken window, I scared the burglar away by coming back suddenly and nothing was taken.  In contrast, in Rockford, Illinois my mother had her purse snatched while sitting down eating breakfast at McDonalds.  The police there are too busy to come out for calls like that and she was told to come downtown to public safety building and file a report.  Luckily, the perp was filmed by the McDonalds security camera which my mother informed the police of.  Her card was used to fill two tanks.  Once again security cameras.  Later, she asked the manager of McDonalds if the police followed up to review the tape and he said no.  If that is not incompetence, I do not know what is.  A purse is taken from someone nearly 80.  It has identification with the address of a property and sets of keys inside to everything.  Yet, Rockford Police do not consider that a concern or a big enough priority to look at a tape.  WTF, Rockford.

Another point I observed in Japan is a powerful weapon used by police.  Shame and shame.  A local teen either stole a bicycle at the store or vandalized something.  So, I look outside and there are 3 cop cars in front of my neighbors house.  The teenager is standing in bright light in front of the cruisers headlights talking with his parents and the police.  Its was something minor I picked up on, but the conversation went on for over an hour and the mom was crying.  So the police won’t take your troublemaking kid to the station and call you.  They take him home and have the conference in front of your house for all your nosey neighbors to hear.   The kid will probably not go to court but his parents will immediately pay for the damage and do a lot of bowing to the crime victim.

Turning to Family as Opposed to Public Assistance

Shame works for crime but it also works for keeping many Japanese away from public assistance.  It is considered a great family shame to have someone on public assistance unless they are severely disabled or elderly.   Actually, I read some time ago, that the local government does home visits to ensure people do not have luxuries and are truly needy.  Many Japanese do shun working productive jobs.  The hikkomori for example.  There is an English acronym for it.  Its N.E.E.T  which means not engaged in employment, education or training.  They might be single men in the 30s still living with their Mommies playing video games all day.  That is also a shame but not as much as applying for assistance.  Japanese are expected to rely on assistance within and not task the working taxpayers.  The numbers of people on public assistance in America is staggering.  The number of people on permenant disability grows every year.  I cannot wrap my head around it.  If one can walk erect, drive a vehicle, have reasonable sight and hearing why America cannot place more of these people in productive jobs is beyond me.  Why does the American government find it a better investment to provide cash benefits than to get some retraining programs going?  Truthfully, there are people in our clan who haven’t joined the work force recently.  However, to their credit they are relying on helo within the family and not tasking strangers with the financial burden of supporting them?  Maybe our welfare system is too private and with all stigmas removed, it is easier for people to pursue.  What if we listed applicants in the local paper and then the neighbors said, Aha.. He drives an Escalade and sends his daughter to expensive ballet lessons.  Sounds draconian, but the numbers of people receiving assistance and the abuses are too great.

Pray for our country.  We have a long way to to go.

My Next Firearm: Approved by Joe Biden

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-By Kevin G. O’Leary

Our super peculiar, super spontaneous vice-president recently gave America some good advice which does not happen very often.  Joe Biden appeared on CBS News and told a write-in viewer.

“You don’t need an assault weapon. Get a shotgun.”  “Get yourself a double-barreled shotgun.”

Nice work, Joe!   I could not agree more.  I personally love shotguns and do not care for the assault rifle class of firearms much.  He was specifically addressing the purchase of an AR-15 assault rifle.  Although, the rest of his rambling was nonsense, it was certainly great comic relief.  He mentioned that he advises the second lady, Jill that if she ever feels threatened, take a double-barreled shotgun out on the balcony and give two quick blasts in the air.  Feel free to take a break now from reading this and visit You Tube  and see the Biden Theory tested.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sW2I5LS08H8

Do not drink and watch!  You will spit your Dr. Pepper out all over the keyboard.  It is hilarious.  In truth, we Americans love old Joe.  He is harmless and doesn’t waste his time with silly high-tech things like teleprompters.  Everything we hear from him comes direct from his head.  We respect words spoken from the hip.  It gives us a chance to scratch our heads and let the settled dandruff release a bit.  President Obama tries his best to keep him on a short lease, but like a wiener dog in heat, he keeps getting over the white house fence and into trouble.

Now, up above at the top of this article you will see pictures of my next firearm of choice.  I would very much like to have my first double-barreled shotgun.  The Coach Gun Supreme made by Stoeger Firearms.  Incidentally, the parent company of Stoeger is Beretta.  The US headquarters are located in Accokeek, Maryland near where I used to live in the 1980s.  I think this choice fits my gun-owner profile nicely.

I am not considered an experienced shooter.  I have only owned firearms for about 6 years.  I rarely get a chance to shoot because I live overseas most of the year and cannot get back often to America.  Additionally, when I am home, I have a hard time finding places to practice.  The land I used to practice on in Stephenson County was sold.  Many skeet-shooters join a rifle and pistol club.  But I think they are expensive and you must almost always be a member of the National Rifle Association(NRA).  I am not the biggest fan of the NRA.  I like blowing up jugs of water and plinking cans for fun but am not a live game hunter.  My love for animals is too much and the thought of a novice shooter not taking the animal down on the first shot is morally objectionable to me.

The main purpose, practically speaking for my firearm ownership is home-defense while in Rockford, Illinois or any other area I am staying when I am not at home in the security of my own home in a gated community.  My first defense shotgun I purchased was the Mossberg 500.  A very powerful, dependable yet affordable pump shotgun.  Other than a powerful kick back or recoil, it is easy for me to point and fire.  I can have 6 shells in the gun ready to go.

Below is a pretty good comparison.  I do not own the “Persuader.”   I have the standard wood stock Mossberg 500 12 Gauge Combo which means I have  24″ ported fully rifled slugster barrel and a 26″ or 28″ ported field barrel.   I can’t really remember whether my field barrel is 26 or 28, but it is long enough to  smack things with unintentionally.

What is interesting is if you look at the chart below, you will see that Mossberg pictured with the 18.5″ barrel is considerably longer than the Stoeger Coach Gun with a 20″ barrel.   The first three are Mossberg and the last one is my future Coach Gun.  So, for my home defense needs, I am very happy to lose a few inches off my firearm as I try to negotiate through doorways in my home.   Of course, the other thing you have to worry about in home-defense with a long barrel is the intruder grabbing the end of the gun and taking it away from you.   With my current Mossberg,  I used to be envious of my friends who had a nice manageable 18.5″ barrel instead of the 24″ incher I am stuck with.  But, now I don’t care.  It really does not make much difference because with the standard wood furniture stock, the Mossberg is already a long gun.  I could cut the overall size by replacing with a collapsible  tactical stock or a pistol grip but I don’t really want to learn how to shoot an unfamiliar gun all over again.  Besides, a pistol grip is shot from the hip and not the shoulder.  I am not a 200-pounder so the thing would kick back and smack me in the face if I wasn’t careful.

shotguncompareThe only shotguns I consider are entry-level, affordable ones.  I like diversity and a 1500 dollar Winchester isn’t going to help me much.  So, a pump shotgun and a double-barreled and I am a happy shooter.  For a beginner, I am pretty pleased with my success in selecting my first Mossberg.  Other than an annoying 2 dollar trigger housing pin that falls out sometimes, it has never ever failed or misfired.  For a first shotgun, I would recommend the Mossberg 500.  For home defense, you would have 6 shots to neutralize the threat.  Of course, being a pump shotgun, you would have to chamber each shell between shots.  However, I have seen some really impressive guys on You Tube racking and shooting so fast, the gun looks like an automatic.

When I add the Stoeger Double Barreled shotgun to my collection, I will have two shots without the extra step in between to work with.  It will be a different shooting experience.  The Stoeger would be lighter and shorter, so I expect the recoil to kick a bit more.  If I get really good, a can be one of the elite shooters who can shoot two shells out at once using the double trigger.  That definitely takes practice.  I was wondering though if a 3″ shell produces 50 foot pounds of energy, if somebody managing to get both triggers to fire at the same time, would it be 100 foot pounds?  Well, I will probably never find out but if I do, I will definitely leave one heck of an imprint of my buttocks in the ground behind me.  The Stoeger Coach Gun Supreme is available in blued barrel and polished nickel.  Polished nickel would be so cool.  That is why I am leaning toward that.  I like a nice looking gun.  The walnut is AA satin grade versus the single A, so it will be nice wall piece when I am not shooting.

stoegeronasaddle

Check out this nickel finish in the picture here.  I would be one cool cowboy at the skeet range.  I can keep it clean.   It is great to be a gun owner in America.  I hope we as a society take our responsibilities seriously.   Why did I write this article?  Well to get your input, by golly.  I need some good advice.

O’Leary Language Systems, the 22nd Year

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-Kevin G. O’Leary
EVP, Kebunsha-O’Leary Gaigo Systems

We operate our family business on good old-fashioned black principles. We are not black ourselves but since our founding in 1992, we have never had our business in the red. The company itself has never been in debt of any kind. We owe no one any money.

That said, the past 12 years have been very challenging. In 1999, we had 150 students and were supplemented by numerous outside English training contracts for local institutions and companies. The serious downsizing beginning in 1999 was painful to say the least. Family status changes and personal difficulties caused the school to head for an unclear future.

In 2002, I as the founder of O’Leary Language Systems moved outside the urban area of Kurume City and attempted to re-establish a quality language school in Tanushimaru. The results of many years of effort were dismal to say the least. We maintained a small office in Kurume until 2005 until it was no longer feasiable to do so. During this time, I personally refocused on making myself more employable. I returned to school for my Masters via distance learning through University of Leicester and earned most of my income working at universities and for other people. We kept our kindergarten contracts and a much smaller enrollment and survived by combining income from nearly a dozen sources.

In 2007, I officially gave up my title of president and managing director of O’Leary Language Systems. I stepped aside when my son came of age to let the organization be led by a new generation. Several years prior, I established Kebunsha Educational Institute. It was kind of funny how that turned out. Kebunsha is formed from my son’s Japanese name. I wanted to establish a business name for him that he could lead without my overbearing influence. But as it turned out over the years, I became the face of Kebunsha and he became the face of O’Leary Gaigo. Today, Kebunsha is my project and O’Leary Gaigo is under his control. I wished to become more flexiable and mobile and that was not compatible with being in charge of anything. In April 2007, I returned to the United States to work in the real estate business an also work for the Lowe’s Distribution Center in Rockford. It was a refreshing change from being locked in Japan for many years.

In 2008, I returned. Enrollments were still dismal, so I had to accept work as one of those underpaid, undervalued dispatch assistant language teachers at the local public schools. I really cherished the time I spent with the students and some of the teachers I met. But, as job it was very demeaning to my experience as a skilled teacher to be taking marching orders from unqualified staffing agency workers and very young inexperienced teachers.

In 2010, without the restrictions of being tied to running a company, I quit my job and took an interesting opportunity to be the project director of an English speaking village being created in a theme park. I took exactly one year and moved myself to Nagasaki alone. I wrote in other articles about the ups and downs there. Many years prior, clearly seeing the decline in teaching wages and my increasing age, I told my family the only future was through O’Leary Gaigo. Japanese certainly do respect age, seniority and experience, however those characteristics seem to apply to fellow Japanese. As male foreign teachers age, the likability and the hireability factors really go down. Female teachers get a little more mileage than crusty old fellers as I have learned.

So, since 2007 my personal income has declined significantly. At age 47, I was earning one-sixth of what I was earning when I was 33. If that doesn’t suck, I don’t know what does. We weren’t starving because my wife was working as a nurse-midwife and her income is quite good. In 2011, I returned and decided all focus should be on the family business run by my son. I am the EVP or known as the senmu in Japanese. I like being number two instead of number one. I think the future of O’Leary Gaigo is with the younger generation.

Finally, in 2012, the school recovered. For the first time in over 10 years, the school itself supports itself without us infusing money for operating expenses from out part-time jobs. The school did well enough, that we decided to open an office downtown and compete with the big boys. The Kebunsha-O’Leary Gaigo office is only 3 minutes walk from the major train station, Nishitetu Kurume Station.

The profile of the school has changed a lot from the school of the 1990s. We are a little perplexed by it but have ended up catering to what’s up in English now. We have extensive experience in teaching elementary school age children, but strangely enough, we don’t have good enrollments in that area. We teach mostly adults and business English now. Fortunately for me, I had just left a job which was based on travel and resort English and have a huge inventory of bilingual material which our customers really like. I have been teaching intensive business English courses for many years and now that is what is popular now. My preparation time planning both of these types of courses is minimal. It’s basically already done. One of the most difficult obstacles is my poor Japanese writing ability. But thanks to working in jobs recently that had bilingual Japanese, I have almost all of my concepts already translated ready for presentation to clients with just a little editing.

I found out that one of the best things I did to get the O’Leary Gaigo successful again was to leave for that year in Nagasaki. I was able to test most of my ideas when large groups came. The biggest problem I was having was I had lots of ideas but my enrollments were so low that I could not try anything out so I never knew what was good and what was not. I learned a lot while I was away and now we are earning a whole lot more income using the same activities I saw tested several years ago. We made an attempt when I working in Nagasaki to hold a teaching seminar for elementary school teachers. No one enrolled, but that basic structure was there. This past summer, for the first time ever I had an Empowering English Teaching Seminar sponsored by Kebunsha. Imagine that! People actually willing to listen to my ideas again.

We are back. We are in the black. 2013 is going to be the best year in a decade!