Monday, July 30, 2007

Playing God

I am a true laborer: I earn that I eat, get that I wear, owe no man hate, envy no man's happiness, glad of other men's good, content with my harm.

As You Like It

Since I came to Japan, I've been searching for ways in which I might maintain the same kind of freelance living I had back in the states; the 9-5 (or the 5-9, in Japan) just isn't the lifestyle I was cut out for. I like a variety of jobs with my own flexible schedule – to be able to go out with friends if I want to, to stay up all night and deal poker at a private party, to tutor a girl for $50/hour in physics because she needs the extra help before an exam... this is my vacation, because I work what I want to, when I want to.

My original intention in blogging was in fact to report these kinds of opportunities to you readers intending to come to Japan. I still want to try this... but it's not always practical. I'd be willing to say with some certainty that no foreigner could maintain a freelance living in Japan unless one were living in Tokyo or Osaka (if anyone is, prove me wrong!). In Tokyo, you can find plenty of acting, modeling, tutoring, and promotional gigs, as well as the plethora of jobs already available in a big city – IT, headhunting, teaching, and consulting.

But for those of us in western Japan, these opportunities are few and far between. Fukuoka has presented more than I thought possible, but not so many that I could give two weeks notice and buy an apartment near the beach. However, one did catch my eye, and prompted me to do a little bit of research on this gaikokujin-exclusive profession...

Ministerial Work

A bride's special day... something borrowed, something new, something blue... walking down the aisle where her husband-to-be waits nervously, excitedly...

In America, weddings are not only ceremonial, but a legal institution of marriage; you can obtain your wedding certificate at the church (or temple), and have the bond performed by a legally-recognized priest.

In Japan, this process is sublimated; you must go to a government office to receive the marriage license, and then have a wedding according to your beliefs if you choose (not sure the order matters). Naturally, priests or officiators do not have to be specially trained or recognized by the government; in this case, they are little more than actors playing their parts. Enter the foreigner.

There is a call for foreigners, particularly white, bearded men, to officiate at weddings. Japanese couples who are Christian (though Christians are a huge minority in Japan, 1-2%), or those who merely wish to have a western-style ceremony, want the complete package: a white dress with the long train, a dule of doves being released, and a foreigner standing before them in robes to bind them for life.

Naturally, some religious zealots have a big problem with this: men getting paid to exploit their religion for a farcical ceremony. Ethics aside, it's not a bad job for actors (being nothing more than a performance), and it pays reasonably well: ¥10,000-20,000/ceremony, each lasting about half an hour. Most of the weddings fall on weekends as well, so English teachers looking for part-time work are in a good position. Not to mention... well, it might be some of the most positive work you ever experience.

Keep up to date on Gaijinpot. Check your local classifieds. These opportunities might just crop up. I'll be interviewing for a weekend position at an onsen resort near Kumamoto.

Fake priests in demand in Japan
Good rundown of foreigner employment opportunities


Durf said...

I know a great many freelance translators who work all over Japan, including in some of the most rural locations imaginable. If there's a net connection it can be done.

This doesn't sound exactly like the jack-of-all-trades approach you describe in your other post, but it is a way to control your own work schedule.

Here are a couple of slideshows that introduce the "mobile freelance translator" lifestyle:

ターナー said...

I meant that this is one job of many that I will be discussing that allows you to keep your own schedule.

tornados28 said...

Do you have to speak fluent Japanese in order to be a wedding minister?

ターナー said...

Depends on who's hiring - the guy I talked to just wanted me to memorize the script in Japanese; maybe other clients prefer English.