The big news in Japan this weekend was that NOVA, the Typhoid Mary of language schools, has finally gone tits-up. The vile, sleazy owner disappeared with his siphoned millions, leaving his vile, sleazy board of directors holding the bag. In absentia, they “fired” him, and declared bankruptcy, throwing themselves at the mercy of the Government to help bail them out. The Government, occupied with enough vile sleaziness of its own, will probably not give a rat’s ass. And so dies one of the last dubious success stories of the long-gone Bubble Economy. Good riddance.
But of course, as is usually the case, those responsible will not be the ones who suffer . Thousands of Japanese staff of the 900 now-closed branches of the school have not been paid since July, and the foreign teachers (hired by unscrupulous teacher-pimps, who work on commission in Australia, Britain, Canada, the States) were still getting off the plane three weeks ago, expecting a job and have now been left stranded. Yesterday afternoon, a newbie at my company (for the record, ECC) said he arrived here with a friend who’d been hired by NOVA. The friend did some quick checking online and got himself hired in Korea in a matter of days. He’s probably not the only one – Korea might now be the New Frontier for English-chat teachers.
Yesterday, before work, I stopped into the Starbucks near Kintetsu Station in Namba. Something in the neighbourhood wasn’t quite the same. As I paid for my coffee, I noticed how empty it was in the easy chair section of the shop, and how much Japanese I could hear over the slightly-too-loud Joni Mitchell album the staff were flogging for the Starbucks label. It finally dawned on me: there were no NOVA teachers. Their nearby Web-lesson factory, which employed hundreds of pasty, blinking gaijin, 24/7, would also be closed.
I found a comfy chair, sat by the window, munched on my scone, and consoled myself with the cold comfort that the upper management in my company is merely incompetent – hardly a crime in Japan – so we’ll probably survive for at least a few more years.