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Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Air con fury and posting


AH in Hokkaido wonders if I have been in Japan too long.

She is aggrieved by my recommendation to a reader who asked about an employers' duty to provide a safe and clean environment for its workers: "to get off your high horse and vacuum the air con yourself."

AH writes: "What?! I suggest that if staff at the Japan Times were suffering from respiratory problems and complaining of headaches then Angela would be first among the foreign staff to go to management and say: 'Hey -- this is making our working conditions bad, what are you going to do about it!' "

Since it is not the job of teachers, or journalists, to clean the air conditioning systems of their offices, AG hopes I will rethink my advice.

She concludes: "Japan is full of lazy employers who do nothing for their staff, and staff who are too docile to complain. I don't think a column purporting to be advice for foreign residents should support such a situation."

It is not a matter of having been here too long. And in many respects I agree with AH. I was a National Union of Journalists rep in London, and will always on the side of the underdog. But we are talking air cons here.

To the original complainant in Sapporo (even more furious with my reply) may I respectfully suggest that in solidarity you and your colleagues approach management again and ask equally respectfully for them to carry out their obligations to both staff and students.

The school may not care about their teachers (as of course they should) but they will sit up and take action if students -- and the parents that pay the bills -- start complaining and leaving.

In other words, be proactive rather than simply reactive.

Wanted: private teacher

AC needs some help. "I'm trying to find a qualified ESL teacher who can teach a 12-year-old privately.

I've checked various listing magazines, but can't seem to find one. In fact, I don't have the slightest clue where I should start looking. Can you help?"

Dear AC, it would help if you explained where you are exactly. Then suitably qualified teachers in your vicinity can get in touch.

The lesson here? Give us all the facts and then we can try to help.

Good to know

Preparing to leave Japan, Ray is trying to find a cheap way to send home some quite large objects. He says he had heard you can do this through the post office ("yubinkyoku"). Is it true?

Indeed it is. Rather than using a moving company, a friend is right now in the process of sending tansu, mirrors and lamps to the U.K. by seamail at a fraction of the cost of using an international removals company.

The only problems are a lot more hassle, and the leaflet containing all the detailed necessary information being in Nihongo only: "Kokusai Yubin Ryokin no Goannai" (International Guide to Postal Fares). But it is absolutely true: you can send removals by post.

The PO has cardboard boxes that you can buy. But what G is doing is having wooden boxes built by a local carpenter to hold specific-sized objects and shapes, and then infilling with an aerosol foam that hardens to act as a buffer against being thrown around on the high seas.

G will then drive the boxes one by one to his local post office on the Miura Peninsula, where staff are apparently all agog.

Since no customer has ever used the facility before, it's a first for them also.

Check out parcel post ("kozutsumi") on Japan Post's Yubin homepage: www.post.japanpost.jp/english/service/intel_service/index.html

Here the service is summarized only. You really do need the leaflet in Japanese to get the best out of what is on offer.

Send your queries, questions, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp

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