With a little less than a month left in Kobe, I’ve decided to think back at what I have conquered during my experience in Japan. One of the greatest highlights of my time in Japan in actually being able to work part-time at a Japanese style izakaya, which are drinking/dining establishments typical in Japan. I have worked at restaurants as a server in Seattle, but I was shocked to experience that working in Japan is completely different. First of all, there are the numerous routine greetings that each worker must memorize, and must use when encountering customers. Starting from the normal “welcome”, irrashaimase, to “thank you”, arigatou gozaimasu, there are numerous others such as restaurant specific “one moment please”, “I will be there shortly”, and so on. In America, I am used to my own serving style, sometimes even casually communicating with customers, so getting used to the Japanese system was shocking at first.
Another different aspect of Japanese dining institutions is that servers must go outside of the restaurant, literally outside into the city, to promote the restaurant and try to get customers to come in. Being a short-term worker, I had to go outside to promote the restaurant numerous times, and this was sometimes easier than actually serving inside, but right now it is the middle of winter and standing outside for 3-4 hours is physically difficult. Nevertheless, the experience was new to me, and I tried to enjoy every aspect of it by actively communicating with customers. One last thing that surprised me is that since the izakaya that I worked at is owned by a larger corporation that manages various other establishments, servers are forced to rotate around and help other locations, even if the other establishments serve a different menu. This may be easier in Japan, since the cities are so close to each other and these establishments are located fairly close. However, first I was super confused at this system, and had a hard time getting used to it. Everything is different, except for the greetings of course, so we have to adapt to the place right away and just try our best I guess. Very unique system, but I guess it is better for flexibly acquiring workers at any time.
I am glad that I was actually able to find a part-time job during my stay in Japan, because you would be surprised how money flies during your time here. The room and board is fairly cheap since we are all staying at the university’s international residence, but everything else costs A LOT of money. Starting from commuting expenses, food costs, super high cell-phone bills, insurance, and of course eating out and shopping, my bank balance is constantly at the limit until payday. But I guess managing daily life is one of the highlights of my experience in Japan also.
It is sad that I have to leave Kobe now that I have actually got used to life here, but I’ve been a little homesick recently, so I can’t wait to go back to Seattle and get to share my experiences with my friends and family once I return home.