So today is the big day?
Apparently I have yet to officially be employed despite having already been told to do things related to said employment (or put more accurately, having things suggested to me that urgently need my doing).
I am reminded of the below video as we are being told to make sure our grid of chairs is perfectly aligned and evenly spaced.
We are told to arrive at 1:30 and that the “ceremony” will last until 5:00. We are told that this will be a “very formal Japanese ceremony” and that some relatively important people will be attending (i.e. people we will never see again and whose attendance is most certainly a cart and pony act for the local papers).
The ceremony begins at 4:00, and at 3:55 we all return to our seats to sit down. We sit and we follow our instructions (because we're robots now).
Said instructions are simple: sit perfectly still, bow when prompted, stand or sit when told, and for the love of everything that is a formal Japanese ceremony, don't relax.
We are repeatedly reminded that we are not members of the audience (which is to be composed of only four people), and that our discomfort is the only thing capable of proving our commitment to the cause (what's this cause again?).
Then, it so many words, we are told to shut up. The ceremony begins at 4:00 being that the time is only 3:55 we sit in silence.
We in complete silence, for five minutes (I am literally biting my tongue to keep from laughing at the ridiculousness of it all). Everyone necessary for the event to proceed is now in the room – no one else is coming and no one will be leaving – but we still sit in silence, waiting for that second hand to tick itself due north.
Why do we sit for five minutes in silence? Why the obsessive insanity of needing to begin precisely on time?
Simple. Because to begin even a moment before the event's designated starting time would send out a shockwave of chaos across the whole of Japan disrupting millions of schedules and lives. This chain reaction will ultimately result in the destruction of millions of schedules (and therefore lives) across the country. Waiting for the designated starting time to be reached goes beyond a simple formality – the country's harmony lies in the balance.
Important Japanese Man One makes his way to the front of the room. Bow, bow, Japanese, bow, Japanese, bow, sit down.
He returns to his original seat as another, less important looking man, now bows his way up onto the stage and places some ritualistic papers atop the podium.
Again arising from the sidelines comes Important Japanese Man One. Not a word has been spoken since he left the stage, and now, repeating the secret combination of bows and paces, he again returns to the podium.
Wait, but why did he…? I don't even care.
The LSD-inspired ritual continues and eventually I think it's over?
But not before some Japanese-style indoctrination by four local high school students in the form of a brief presentation (in English) during which they proclaim their love for a recent English camp they (were likely forced to) attended, and tell us how great the local eyeglass industry is (as we have been told before – in case you haven't noticed, there really isn't much here).
We are permitted to applaud the children (albeit not too enthusiastically), and they return to cowering at the back of the room.
A few more words and a lot more bows and it's all over.
Just twenty-five minutes of unrelaxed sitting plus yet another piece of paper (that will go into my growing stack of “keep these forever even though you will never need them again” papers) and I'm not officially on Japan's payroll.
All it cost was my soul.
I am a robot.