Well, yesterday, I spent my time reading Baye Mcneil’s second book Loco In Yokohama, and what a pleasant day it was! This book, I had heard, was about teaching in Japan and, as someone who has spent the best part of two decades doing just that, I was looking forward to seeing how our experiences compared. The characters and situations are familiar to anybody who has spent time working in Japanese schools – there are English teachers who can’t speak English, staff with breath to make a badger wince, and overreactions to the slightest of misfortunes as happened to Loco when he foolishly mentioned that he had misplaced a memory stick – but the book isn’t just about teaching in Japan. No, for me it is much more a book about human relationships and it is an excellent and absorbing one at that. It is the interplay between the individuals that draws you in – the back-stabbing between the staff, the handling of unruly or unhinged students, the everyday frustrations of dealing with other human beings, and the friendship the author finds with one or two special individuals.
That last part is vital. You see, on occasion I have read some of Loco’s blog pieces and wondered why on earth he has stayed in Japan so long. He has not been shy about voicing his misgivings about the country, the people who won’t sit next to him on trains, the looks of fear in those nearby, the assumptions, and the blindness or deafness to what should be readily apparent. But what you also get from this book is the flip-side. You get the warmth he feels for some people, the kindness that has brought him to the brink of tears, and the answer, in part at least, to why he is still here.
This is not a quirky book with ‘hilarious’ tales about going to class in toilet slippers or having to eat fish sperm for lunch. Rather it is a book that reveals to us the highs and lows, the frustrations and pleasures, the joy and sadness that come from interacting with other people. Anybody who has lived and taught in Japan will recognise many of the characters and relate to the situations. Anyone who has lived at all will relate to the emotions. Definitely worth setting aside some time for. You can get it here