Last column : Farewell message from Tom

When I arrived in Japan in 1997, it was my intention to become a “writer.” Specifically, I wanted to write travel articles to sell in what I was sure would be a big market in the lead-up to the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano.

Alas, I was so poor during my first year here that I could barely afford groceries, much less a ticket to Nagano. In fact, I STILL haven’t been there.

However, when my friend Geoff Noyes introduced me to Kota-sensei, I became a writer after all. Kota-sensei was looking for a foreigner to write about what everyday life is like here in Japan for his Web site, and that was a job that I could do right at home in Saitama-ken. I was flattered to be asked, and my writing career was born.

Though it was not a paid job, it provided me with several important benefits: exposure, practice, and — most of all — deadlines. Once I was obliged to write, I began taking more careful note of my surroundings, I asked more questions and did more reading, and I actually WROTE instead of just wishing to write. It increased my ability, my confidence, and my output all at the same time.

Eventually, and thanks to my experience writing about Japan for this site, I sold a Japan travel story to The St. Petersburg Times, a major newspaper in Florida. (Their Sunday circulation is nearly half a million.) Then I sold a book review to the Asahi Evening News, and the momentum began to build. I became a fairly regular AEN contributor, and later became a regular book reviewer for the magazine Kansai Scene as well. I also wrote for Arizona Attorney, The Gay and Lesbian Review, and The NOVA Monitor, a company newsletter. (Teaching English at NOVA, Japan’s largest chain of language schools, was my primary day job.)

All of these things made my resume impressive enough to land me a job at The Daily Yomiuri early this year. The Yomiuri Shimbun, published in Japanese, is the largest newspaper on this planet, with a daily circulation of over 10 million copies. The Daily Yomiuri is its English-language arm, with a more modest — but growing — daily circulation that recently passed the 50,000 mark.

My job at the Yomiuri consists mainly of editing and rewriting the work of others, though I am able to do a little of my own writing as well. I’ve had one book review under my byline already, and I have several other projects in the pipeline. (Subscribe and watch for them!) I learn something new every day, and the job is the most fun I’ve had on a regular basis in at least ten years.

To a large degree, I have Kota-sensei to thank for my current happy situation. The opportunity and encouragement he gave me got me moving toward a goal that I had long dreamed about. I also owe a debt of gratitude to everyone who took the time to comment on Kota-sensei’s bulletin board. To know that other people out there were reading and thinking about what I had written was both a positive thrill and a sobering reminder of the serious responsibilities a writer has when he presents facts to the public.

I thank you all very much.

This leads to an ironic conclusion. One condition of my current employment is that I am not allowed to write for publication by anyone else in Japan — a reasonable restriction. Therefore, this farewell message will be my last contribution to Kota-sensei’s Web site. I owe him a debt of gratitude for helping me to get started. I know that he and his Web site will continue to thrive in my absence, and I am sure that you will all keep checking in to see the latest by the other columnists as well as Kota-sensei’s own valuable Japanese language features.

Kota-sensei, domo arigatou gozaimashita!

Copyright @ Tom Baker. All rights reserved.

Re : Tom san
>>>> Arigatoo Tom san.
Kota Aramaki.

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