Eric and I first met at an English Teacher Temp company that has since died an honourable death. Its bankruptcy was slow and inevitable, as is the case with most companies in the Tokyo English Teaching Industrial Complex. Even though we worked for the same company we would be stationed throughout the Tokyo Metropolitan Area at different schools, often hours apart, so I would never really see him in a work environment. That all changed when he was called to sub at my school after my usual co-worker blew off work to go surfing.
Tokyo summers are hard. You can’t understand the humidity unless you’ve been here. They are made worse by the heat that gets stored up in the concrete jungle of the world’s biggest city. Surviving the sweaty, steamy, swampy Tokyo summer weather you need a special set of survival skills.
At my school, the bain of my existence was an Open School program where the administration would open the doors to the public, for one miserable day, in hopes of recruiting more students and more profit. To maximize attendance they would do it right in the middle of summer vacation. This always screwed me over as I couldn’t leave on my vacation until the Open School Day had passed.
Now most expat teachers leave Japan to avoid the summer so our Temp agency was always desperate for summer substitute teachers. At the time Eric’s legal problems meant that he couldn’t leave the country so he was drafted in by our company to be my co-worker. Initially, I was pumped as I had never worked with him before and to find a non-crazy colleague in Japan is a difficult task.
I get in pretty early at my school. I like to chill and do some work on the computers. I want at least an hour to relax and shoot the shit in the staff room before I start teaching. Eric was late which was no surprise. He had never been to my school and even though he had lived for years in this country he could never master the trains and would often find himself on the wrong lines or going in the wrong direction.
Finally, he messaged me that he had arrived at the station and had met Nanami the new Japanese teacher who as the youngest, and lowest in seniority, was sent into the searing heat to meet the foreign substitute.
Eric always had his own style. I assume influenced by his time in L.A. and by what I think was his love of Guns and Roses, the man stood out. He did not look like an English teacher, he looked ridiculous but still dangerous. When people would first meet him they always ask who he was and what he did for work in this land of the Rising Sun. Shock was usually the first reaction when they found out he was teaching the ABC song to preschool kids.
That was the expression that Nanami had when she entered the teacher’s room with Eric, an expression of shock and horror.
Since we were trying to recruit new students the teachers were supposed to be wearing suits, at least a tie but Eric had chosen something to match his style.
Not only was he wearing this ridiculous outfit but the man, who due to his size was normally sweaty, was soaked from the intense humidity. The only reason he got away with it was the man’s intense musculature. While little Nanami had recoiled at Eric’s, smell, moisture and outfit the older male teachers were instantly enthralled.
In classic old Japanese boy fashion they wasted no time touching his biceps, posing for pictures asking him about his work out routine. Years later they still talk about him.
He always pulled it off.
Ever since Eric passed away I’ve been wondering what to do with this website. He was the backbone behind this and the reason it has any new content. I don’t want to let it go off the air. So as I recall them I’ll be adding stories about Eric. If you remember an Eric story that you look back fondly or in horror please share it with us.