Every newbie teacher had to stay in a training apartment near the head office in order to complete two weeks' worth of education bootcamp. This bootcamp was notoriously strict, and almost every comment and blog post I read while researching the company had designated the bootcamp "...two weeks of unbelievable hell and torture."
"The training apartment will be kept pristine at all times," the manager told me sternly. He was sweating in a business shirt and tie as he heaved my broken suitcase up the three flights of steps. "It is your responsibility to maintain and clean all of the rooms. Any damages will come out of your first paycheck. Don't even think about having a party."
My head bobbled with nods as I followed.
Keep the room clean. Don't break stuff. No parties. Paycheck at stake. Got it.
He dumped my bag in front of a door which was sorely in need of a new coat of green paint. Pulling a pair of keys from a pocket in his black pants, he struggled with the lock for a few moments.
As the door creaked open and a few flecks of peeling paint sprinkled the entrance-way, a stench similar to a glob of mold which had been left to breed in a rotting orange peel wafted over us.
The training apartment was trashed.
Glass and plastic bottles had been left in a heap beside what must have been the trash can, squiggly hairs and brown dust stuck to the sticky remnants of juice. White powder covered the sparse furniture, floors, and doorknobs as if a flour packet had shared its love in an explosion. Smears of cooked rice dotted the walls around the kitchen like 3D grafitti, and someone had lovingly stuck the freshness seals from juice bottles over the cupboard walls using the thin layer of almost-dry juice sludge as glue.
The floor was sticky from spilled grease and fry pan oil as we walked from room to room. It didn't take long to check the layout - they were all connected with only a flimsy sliding door as privacy. A makeshift bathroom had been wedged into the corner of the kitchen with a plastic screen shielding a shower and bath. The porcelain was sprouting green and black mold.
The manager's jaw was slack as he ran a hand through his hair, muttering things under his breath as he glanced from room to room. "Unacceptable... This is... Should have been checked... Definitely Jeff's fault..."
His fingers fidgeted with his tie as he stopped to compose himself. "Well, now you see what a problem it is when things aren't left in a clean state. I expect this apartment to be sparkling clean before training starts. I hope you weren't planning on doing anything else today."
A plastic bottle clattered to the floor with a hollow rattle as he quickly backtracked to the entrance. Drips of leftover juice splashed my socks from where a gulp had been left to mellow at the base. The room suddenly shook as a train sped past on tracks situated a jump outside the window.
"Oh, I almost forgot." He tossed the apartment keys onto the counter in the entrance way. It was the only surface which wasn't cluttered with wrappings, bottles, and grease. "Your room mate will be here tomorrow afternoon. Think of... uhh..." He squinted, sweat dripping in his eyes. "Stephanie! Yes, of course. Think of Stephanie as your support partner."
And with that, he left the apartment with a slam of the entrance door and a confetti shower of emerald paint flecks.
Hiding from Japanese Ghosts
Ghost stories are the least frightening thing about Japan when facing culture clashes, mystery food, language barriers, and - scariest of all - marriage.