Every new fiscal year in Japan (April-March) most organizations go through jinji-ido or "personnel transfers". For a government organization like mine, this gets even more complicated by elections, which bring about changes in policy that restructure the entire government. So it is not only "who works where" but entire divisions that are collapsed, reorganized, expanded, renamed, and shuffled around.
|The Governor of Hiroshima, Yuzaki, was elected last September. He is a Stanford Graduate and fluent in English!|
Along with the transfers come office parties. By office parties, I mean everyone in the office goes to a restaurant and pays between 30 and 50 dollars for some version of an all-you-can-eat-and-drink dinner. This gives everyone a chance to get to know each other in a slightly structured, but less formal setting, and they can be really fun!
|One such party, a year ago. This photo was taken by our Director, who was promoted to Chief this month.|
The funny thing about these restructures is that they are not application based. They don't even decide based on what subjects you excel in! Basically, no one knows what will happen until the final weeks of March, and since many organizations have buildings in different cities (even different islands, and prefectures!), you can suddenly find yourself with less than three weeks to move to, for example, Tokyo! One of my co-workers announced just a couple weeks ago that he was being transferred to MAZDA to work in their PR department as part of a professional cross-training arrangement, so he won't be back working in the government offices for the next two years! We were all quite surprised.
This year, they also decided to reorganize my Foreign Affairs Division into the Regional Strategy Bureau. That alone didn't affect our office, but it meant adding a fourth, related group to our office, and expanding the physical size. To do this, they moved OUT the neighboring chief of staff, and took out last years wall partition. Since they had also knocked out the old wall behind that the previous year, it meant our office became LARGER than when I first arrived! Here are some pics of that:
One year ago:
And a few more from this year:
The number of people in my office has grown by 7, and luckily for me, two of the new additions were regular members of my weekly English Lunch, so I know them well. My group has two new women, and a former member of another group in the same office last year, and my new group leader last year was promoted to deputy director! Here is a picture from the end of our office party last week, with some new incoming and outgoing members in attendance:
It is unbelievable to me that this happens EVERY YEAR, but another reason for it is to accommodate new hires. The Japanese school year is on the same schedule as the fiscal one, and for many organizations, gaps of even one month in your scholastic and work record can disqualify you from the next higher pay-scale, so Japanese undergraduates spend the majority of their senior (4th) year job hunting, sometimes even starting during their junior (3rd) year! I would not be the first person to hypothesize that this has something to do with why Japanese Universities are considered notoriously easy to graduate from, once enrolled.
It is also noteworthy that while all of this is going on, people are still working on projects, balancing budgets, and undergoing end-of-the-fiscal-year audits. The whole thing is extremely stressful, and I am VERY glad my position is not subject to these transfers.
Did I mention... because I also split my time working at the Hiroshima International Center, I have to go through this twice as much as everyone else! He's a pic of me saying goodbye to our old director, Mr Kawakita, who has been transferred back to the Government offices after three years here. He has also been a good friend to me, and I hope he comes to visit sometime.
|He joked that since it was me (a foreigner), we should hug, and when I actually did, everyone laughed, but then decided that since I did it, they would too. It was a nice way for everyone to say goodbye to those leaving.|
That's all for now! I have an insanely busy schedule stating tomorrow, so i will be taking about a month off from blogging. Please fill your time by leaving me feedback and questions for me to work on new stuff when I get back! Muah!