(This post will be filled out over time.)
Since being effectively recruited back in 2003, Hitomi and I are asked to come back every year. I have a suspicion that it's really just Hitomi who is wanted back but they are forced to include me. But Hitomi feels disappointed she's made staff when she doesn't do panel translation. Again, there's two sides to the job: translation service and travel service (what I wrote as "keeping the guests happy"); I at least can do the latter competently.
This past year, my Japanese has gotten a bit stronger, or at least maintained, by doing fan translation work, reading manga, and playing DS games. I managed to pass Phoenix Wright (逆転裁判) 3 entirely in Japanese, and more than half of 4. But really I have not had conversational practice since 2007…
The weekend before the convention on Easter day, Japanese Relations went over staff assignments for the coming weekend.
There are two kinds of Japanese guests: Musical and anime/manga/gaming related. There is some cross-over between the two. For instance, you have bands that play anime theme songs, but often you have bands that have members that don't even like anime/manga/games. Accompanying the guests are often their agency managers, co-workers or co-performers, or industry people. Sometimes companies bring their own guests, or in some cases try to "borrow" ours.
The most troubling relations problems at the convention have been with guests from major music labels. There's been trouble in the past audio-wise as well as with "special requests" which creates a lot of stress for relation staff. Anyway, we've come to know the hardest job is volunteering to work with musical guests.
Four bands were coming. One from Sony Music, Ali Project; and one (I think) from Pioneer, Scandal. The other groups were of less concern, Ketchup Mania (KM) and The Slants. Two people were assigned to Ali Project. And though Scandal consists of jail-bait and wanted a female to be assigned to them, they ended up with a "dark horse." I ended up with KM.
Thursday (Day 0)
A few people arrive on Wednesday to set up, but Hitomi and I arrived on Day 0. Thursday consists mostly of transporting people from the airport to the hotel, which gets tricky when everyone arrives on different flights throughout the day.
I drove a van and had my Japanese relations duty of greeting and making sure everything was okay. We managed to get the band in the van, but due to lack of space, their luggage was loaded in a separate vehicle, which of course ended up at a separate hotel.
KM was accompanied by George, Dave, and Steve. George was translator and, as I note from my business card actually president. Dave, marketing, made sure everything went smoothly. Steve was there for helping, but mostly seemed to be hanging with the band and eating. KM also had a manager, "Hiramatsu", who also took care of KM Hiro's comfort and makeup.
Since KM's flight was delayed, and band was hungry, we headed to Starbucks for a snack before industry dinner.
We went off to the same place for dinner as last year. I don't think the dinner was quite as nice as last year, but there was a pretty awesome curry dish and KM was happy to be eating rice. It was actually 新米 or new crop rice which really impressed the Japanese. KM was unhappily without rice for too long. (A common theme was "not enough rice" throughout the convention…)
Drinking was involved and, thanks to my metabolism or possibly low weight, I really have no tolerance for alcohol, feeling the effects after only a little drink. As I spill my sake-tini (Martini with sake) on the carpet I try explaining this to the band. KM consists of drinkers and smokers and I have little in common it seems. Still, they seem to like me.
We transport the band back to the hotel. I head out with some Japanese guests involved with a supermarket expedition, at the con-usual time of 11PM. A supermarket expedition with Japanese people consists of looking at weird magazines or videos, まずそうな (not tasty looking) foods, buying and experimentation with odd beverages and snacks, and おみやげ (gifts) for people back in Japan.
Friday (Day 1)
It was (again) Ruth's Chris Steak House for breakfast, where you can get 6 or 12oz steaks with eggs, or any number of other American breakfast things. I can't eat steak for breakfast but most everyone else does. American breakfast is like the same things repeated: eggs, bread, pork with seemly endless choices in preparation style and ingredients. And there's very little overlap with Japanese style: rice, fish, beans, and soup.