This time, Toaster gave me a big ol' list of questions, and if you make it to the end there's a surprise!
Toaster: What exactly happened after you declined to renew your contract? Did they cancel your visa too or did you find another sponsor? Sorry, I'm not too familiar with all the visa and paperwork stuff since I'm quite young but it gets rather fuzzy after you declined to renew your contract! And how did you find work after the declination?
Jimi: After I declined to renew, all I had to do was move out of my apartment and sign some papers with the board of education. They didn’t cancel my visa, but as I understood it when I talked to immigration people I had a few months of leeway to find a new job/sponsor. This ended up being a good thing because I changed my visa to the much more versatile Humanities visa from merely Education. I’m still not sure precisely how it all works; I just talked to immigration people and my employers on both sides. I did need to get a certification of completion from my BOE.
After I quit, my first order of business was finding a new place. Once I settled in, I started the job search via various sites and the power of googlin’. :)
Toaster: Would you advise foreigners to do freelance translating if they cannot do English teaching for some bizarre reason? Or find some other job?
Jimi: I don’t see what would prevent someone from finding a relatively decent job teaching English, but let’s say that was the case: I would recommend doing freelance translating if you can find the work that pays, and good luck with that. I have no interest in translating anime or video games, nor do I have the patience to handle the more technical stuff. Maybe when I settle down. In any case, you’ll still need a documented job to get a visa, I imagine. I have a non-English teaching job, and while it does require lots of translation and interpreting, it isn’t freelance.
Toaster: What do you think of the idea of a Korean teaching English to Japanese kids and being in
Jimi: There were lots of Asians in the program. I think the only tense relationships would be among a tiny handful of middle- or old-aged jerkbutt loserfaces. The younger generation is, thankfully, largely ignorant of history and really chill with each other. I know a few Japanese people who speak Korean because they wanted to learn it, or are dating Koreans, or are Zainichi Koreans. It’s all pretty chill, honestly.
Jimi: Given my current schedule, I don’t have a lot of time to do any cooking, nor do I really have the energy. I eat lunch with my babies and in the evening I usually grab something with co-workers. When I did cook though I relied on simple Japanese dishes, as the ingredients were far cheaper and at the time I lived alone so I didn’t mind experimenting with ingredients I was unfamiliar with and following recipes to the letter of the law.
Every time I think maybe I’m hittin’ the combinis a little hard, I remember that I know Japanese people who rely on them far more than
Toaster: Was teaching kids English really hard/stressful? I enjoy kids 90% of the time, and I'm sure you do too, but they must've given you some hard times, right?
Jimi: Every situation is going to be completely different, depending on the school, the board of education, the main teachers, the students, and even you. My kids were always awesome. The kids that gave me a hard time were the kids that gave everyone a hard time, and in a few instances once I got to know them it was easier to influence their behavior. Really, teaching kids at the age that I do now just means that I get to play with them all morning AND be the boss. :D
Toaster: What exactly do you do for work now? Is it a part-time job? I know that you've said some odd jobs, but may I ask exactly what? And how did you find such a flexible job that allows you to play in a band and what jobs would you recommend for a person who wants to be in a band and work at the same time?
Jimi: Band dudes don’t usually reveal what kind of work they’re in, but I will say that I work two part-time jobs. In the morning I play with babies, and in the afternoon and evening I am a manager at a modeling/talent agency for foreigners. Occasionally, as you’ve probably read on the blog, I actually get to do some modeling/talent jobs myself. I am not very useful apparently, though, as I am not really the “type” of foreigner that gets cast in many things.
As for a job I'd recommend, some places will give you flexible hours, so if you're really serious about doing some other activity too then make that a priority. Just be prepared to not be a salaried worker, probably.
Toaster: How much kanji do you know? How many would you recommend to know for surviving in
Jimi: I know, um… there comes a point when you stop being able to quantify it. I think maybe I know 1500 comfortably, if not more, and that’s not counting a bunch of obscure junk I learned through my studies of classical Japanese, incidentally through Chinese, or from music. (In particularly VK, where ridiculous kanji is par for the course.)
Toaster:Ok, now let's go into the VK scene. Are there lots of bands looking for members or is it an incredibly hard feat to find an open band?
Jimi: I just plugged search terms into google. There are plenty of bands looking for members at any given time. I had this devious idea that I’d ride the coattails of some established band, but in the end I’m glad I started out at the bottom all over again. Besides, the established bands looking for members are typically going to look from among their peers at a relatively similar level.
My worry was that it would be hard to find someone willing to take a non-Japanese, but actually very few people seemed to care or even notice.
Toaster: Do bands really have high expectations for new members? Do they want another Sugizo or are ok with the average player? I'm guessing it depends but any info would help!
Jimi: I feel like this question is leaving out the middle; there are plenty of talented musicians around me, and while they’re not Sugizo or anything, I’m more than proud to play alongside them. In a genre like this I think bands are generally looking for a little oomph to make up for it if you’re maybe not a great musician. Charisma, looks, character, stage presence… Being a nice guy counts a lot; the Tora Sky Walkers crew told me some stories and gave me some great advice on the level of tolerance you should have for a good musician who isn’t a very nice dude, and that is very little.
Toaster: About how much money is needed to invest into a VK band? It'll be more expensive with all the hair and make-up and costumes but if I ever wanted to try out for the scene it's better to know how much money I'll need to scrape up!
Jimi: Actually, hair and makeup costs were the least of my worries. Costumes will run you pretty high. I paid about $100 for the basic materials for our costumes, had an acquaintance make them for us for free, and to be frank I wasn’t 100% pleased. But getting them made with a degree of competence and flair of design would have been exorbitant. The photo set was up there too. There’s practice studio fees, equipment maintenance (like, I have to buy a lot of 9-volt batteries, for instance, and then 5-string packs are significantly more expensive than a pack of 4-strings), and finally there’s the pesky matter of being able to get enough people to come see you so that you’re not operating at too much of a loss. Which I did, up until Yue’s last show when we finally made money. Same with the session night.
Bands with a little bit more momentum save up to buy an equipment van, and then of course if you want to make an actual studio recording, just sell an organ.
Just as long as you have a relatively steady income you should be fine. :) Or an inheritance!
Toaster: Do you think that the 99% male VK bands would accept a female member? There's of course cool all-girl bands like Exist Trace and Danger Gang and that female guitarist Koro, but the what do you think are the chances of a foreigner Korean girl with not 200% knowledge of Japanese getting into a band? I know you did it, but I don't know about me!
Jimi: I still don’t know how I did it, but then again, I haven’t “made” it like the bands you’ve mentioned have. There are far more women in the scene than most Japanese coverage of VK would lead you to believe. (At Juka’s live, one of the bands had a really talented female drummer and she was so ridiculously darling and pretty and I fell in love for a little bit.)
I know Miyavi’s part Korean and Intetsu (Ayabie)’s family is Taiwanese, but both of them had the advantage of being born and raised in
That said, just focus on your ability to communicate and don’t for a minute let your ethnicity or citizenship be anything but an interesting bit of trivia.
Toaster: What bass do you play? I know you have a 5-string Ibanez but which model? And Ibanez rocks, by the way.
Jimi: I play a 5-string Ibanez Soundgear 305. I can mess around a lot with the tone, and I’m in love with Narciss’s Ampeg cabinet so I get a pretty good sound. Ryota complimented me on my sound when I played with TSW. :D
Toaster: If a person knows how to play their instrument decently but has never performed live, do you think that this will greatly lower their chances of getting into a band? It probably will, but who knows?
Jimi: I don’t think it really will; if I were putting together a band I’d take the guy who could play over the guy who sucks no matter what their stage presence. With someone who can play, that can be developed/encouraged later. The other guy will rarely be motivated to improve.
Toaster: If you don't know how to use Pro Tools or recording inside out, do you think this will affect you greatly too? I'm just a newbie, so hopefully in the future I'll be 100 times better than right now!
Jimi: I have a secret; I know absolutely nothing about MTRs, DTMs, Garage Band, Pro Tools, Fruity Loops, anything. Even though I used to be a keyboardist I have a very weak understanding of how
Toaster: Do you actually know your band members' real names? Do you know Ryota's real name or Yue's? Or you just call 'em Ryota-kun and Yue-san?
Jimi: Of course! It’s on our membership cards at the studio, and on the morning of a live we have to file paperwork with both our real and stage names on them. We call each other [stagename]-kun all the time though. (Although I get “Jimi-kun”, “Jimimi”, and in Masaki’s case “Jimiiiiiii jitsu wa James”. He says this every time we meet up.)
If you think about it, most dudes’ stage names are just some alteration of their real first or last name though. Ryota’s real first name is Ryota, obviously, but in a case like Yue’s, his stage name comes from his hometown and has nothing to do with his name. In my case, I just slapped some kanji on a variation of my first name that I hadn’t gone by until I got to Japan.
Toaster: How many rehearsals does LAVERITE usually do in a month, or week, or etc.?
Jimi: Laverite as a whole tries to get into the studio once a week. This gives us a couple of rehearsals per show, and we go in for about 2, usually 3 hours at a time. For us it was almost more time than we needed, but better safe than sorry.
It’s standard practice for session bands to only go in once or twice before their show. This is because 1) the session is usually decided fairly last-minute, and 2) the set is most usually all cover songs that everyone knows or can easily be given a CD-R, or sent through email.
Thanks for the interesting questions! If any of you have any others, send 'em my way!
And I promised a surprise so here it is,