A couple of tips on how to get a teaching job in Japan.

If you have yearning to come to Japan and work as a language teacher, then there are a couple of things you need to know in order to be hired. First of all having a university or college diploma is a prerequisite these days. Not so much because the company wants to make sure you went to school, but for – one: visa extension purposes and two: in order to woe students. If you happen to have graduated from a university such as Harvard or Princeton then you’re pretty much guaranteed a job even before the interview.

For those that haven’t graduated university, don’t despair. If you’re good looking with a fantastic smile, you’re in. Visas can be sorted, don’t worry. You see, many schools and language companies in Japan put their emphasis on looks when hiring. Educational background comes second, if you’re beautiful or handsome. It is all about image – beautiful people teaching a language. Your good looks bring in money and money is what it is all about for many firms. It doesn’t matter if you’re the dumbest person on the planet and have horrendous language skills, as long as you look like Tom Cruise or Johnny Depp or Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie, you’re hired. You’ll have hundreds of students lining up to take your lesson, simply because, to many young Japanese, you are that movie star.

 

So, head to your local beauty salon and see if the pros can perform a miracle, Japan awaits.

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Don’t be fooled–conditions promised and conditions given by English schools and companies.

“Starting salaries from 250,000 yen” many ads declare. “Accommodation and visa support” are also “carrots” for the job seeker. These promises of fortune and help are often exaggerated. “Exaggerated?” you may ask. My response is “Yes, exaggerated.” Take, for example, the promise of the aforementioned 250,000 yen starting salary. More often than not what the employee gets deposited in their bank account is a lot less than 250,000 yen; hidden expenses have been deducted. These expenses can be anything from apartment rental to company health insurance fees that were not mentioned during the interview or written into any contract. There are even some companies that will inform the new employee that a percentage of their salary is being kept until he or she completes their contract.

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Teaching Children English is now a booming business.

In the case of accommodation often the employee does not have a choice on where he or she will live – the school or company decides and often has a “special” contract with the apartment owner. The employee may also be forced to share accommodation with another teacher; a stranger no less.

Working hours and days off are also sometimes changed to suit students’ needs, not the teacher’s. Contracts may also state X amount of vacation days per year however, employees soon learn that they are unable to take their promised vacations randomly; the school or company puts their interests ahead of the teacher’s.

Advice:

When applying for a job make sure you read the contract and any work rules thoroughly. Don’t do what many do and give documentation a cursory look then sign – you’ll regret it. Ask questions. If the contract states 250,000 yen per month, ask what the tax rate is and whether there are any other deductions. As for accommodation; if the company tells you that they have apartments available, ask to be shown each apartment. Your living conditions are very important – if you are unhappy in your apartment you will not be happy in your job.

There are quite a few Japanese companies offering English lessons or English services that are not above using nefarious methods to make money. You may consider yourself to be a serious and professional teacher, however, many company owners or upper management see you as a commodity. Remember the student always comes first and is always right – you are easily replaced, students are not.

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Types of teaching jobs found in Japan.

There are three main types of English teaching jobs in Japan and these jobs come with their own working conditions and pay scale. Let’s list the three types.

1. ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) in elementary, junior high and senior high schools throughout Japan.

This job involves team teaching with a Japanese English teacher. The lessons are usually decided by the Japanese teacher and the foreigner is often used as a human tape recorder. That is to say he or she reads a script and the students listen to the pronunciation and repeat. The teaching of grammar is done by the Japanese staff member. ALT jobs do not require the foreigner to spend hours preparing for a lesson; nine times out of ten, the Japanese teacher has prepared everything. There are some schools that allow the foreigner teacher free rein of the lesson and its planning.

2. Company lessons:

This job involves traveling to various Japanese companies and teaching English company classes to groups or individuals. Classes, for the most part, are in the evening between the hours of 5:30pm and 8:00pm. The system works in the following way: Japanese companies make an English lesson contract with a temp company. The temp company then finds the foreign teacher to send to the contracted company. Payment for these jobs differs between temp companies but generally teachers can earn around 3,000 yen per hour.

3. Conversation Schools:

During Japan’s bubble economy of the 1980’s English conversation schools were ubiquitous and jobs were plentiful. Nowadays, however, many schools have disappeared or have been swallowed up  by  the bigger schools.  Most conversation schools now only offer part-time work to foreigner teachers. Remuneration depends on the amount of lessons you teach in a day or night.

 

After working in Japan for a number of months or years, it is possible to live off the money received from private lessons. These lessons are set-up by yourself and can be taught in coffee shops or in your own apartment. The best way to get private students is through word of mouth. Make it known that you’re available to teach privately at a reasonable rate. You can even “steal” students from the conversation schools. Make sure no one in the school knows your are offering their students cheaper lessons – you’ll be fired. Discretion is the name of the game.

In my next blog entry I explain the payment system and the tricks to watch out for.

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Golden Week–Japan’s Vacation Time.

In parks across the city of Osaka, families, couples and friends enjoying the warm weather playing games or relaxing in the sun. In shopping centers clerks and cashiers hurriedly serve the melee of customers. At amusement parks, people line up for hours to ride on roller coasters, Ferris wheels and other attractions. It is Golden Week in Japan a time to wind down. Between April 29th until May 6th the Japanese enjoy an extended vacation period.

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Parks are popular places to relax for Japanese people during Golden Week.

The reason for the name “Golden Week” is because there are a number of national holidays almost back-to-back during this part of the year and that, coupled with the fact that the weather is usually warm and sunny, is the perfect excuse for Japanese people to take time off from their busy, yet mundane, days of work and school.

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A busy food court in an Osaka downtown shopping mall.

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Mister Donut in the food court positioned next to KFC.

It is also said that the name “Golden Week”  was originally what movie theater owners said around 40 or 50 years ago. I’ve been told that movie premieres were usually held during this time and movie theater owners, anticipating a large profit in ticket sales, would say to each other, “It’s going to be a golden week” – “golden” =  money.

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Game centers beguile the young of their pocket money.

An Osaka shopping mall game center.

Children’s Day is held during Golden Week on May 5rd. It is a day when, originally, families celebrated their child’s health and encouraged him or her to be strong and make something of their life. Around two or three hundred years ago, Children’s Day was devoted to male children, fortunately times have changed.

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The Children’s Day flower  – Shoubu. In English Acorus Calamus. It was chosen as the flower of children because its petals resemble that of a Japanese sword or katana. Its smell is also strong and sweet which, according to myth, stops badness from entering a child. The flower is sometimes put into a child’s bath water although this particular custom is not so common any longer.

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Japanese holidays

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Japanese parks

 

Junior High English Education in Japan.

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From the 1st grade of junior high school, Japanese students begin learning English. Each Board of Education in each prefecture or locale chooses from three different textbooks. These books are: the above New Horizon, New Crown and Sunshine. The differences between these textbooks is minable; all three cover the same vocabulary and grammar points.

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The first page in the English textbook is dedicated to educating the young Japanese mind of how people greet one another around the planet.

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This is followed by learning simple greetings in English and the English alphabet.

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Students then begin to learn the basics. In the above case – “This” and “That” This is my desk. That is your desk.

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As the students study there way through the text, each exercise or unit, introduces new vocabulary and new syntax which the students are expected to memorize.

It is important to note here, that English is taught by Japanese teachers who, for the most part, are unable to speak English themselves. Memorization is how Japanese students study all subjects. The focus is on passing tests and high school examinations. This is type of learning is, I feel, the main weakness in Japan’s education system. Memorization in subjects like math and science is find but in English? No. It is because of this method of study that many Japanese lack any kind of creativity. Students are, generally, not taught to think and create but to listen, copy and remember.  Japanese people are experts at copying and improving technology but actually inventing or creating something from nothing is not their forte.

Japanese Vocabulary:

sensei – teacher or someone considered knowledgable.  先生

seito – school or university student.生徒

gakko – school 学校

eigo-English 英語

chugakkou-Junior high school 中学校

kyouiku- education in Japan 教育

kyoukasho -textbooks 教科書

Teaching in Japan.

For those considering coming to Japan to work; unless you’re either bi-lingual or competent in the Japanese language, you’re pretty much going to be stuck in one industry – teaching. English is the main foreign language taught. There are, however, companies that offer courses in: French, German, Spanish, Italian, Chinese and Korean. English is a compulsory language for Japanese to learn from their first year of junior high school. Elementary schools throughout the country are not compelled to have English lessons, however, it is believed that the Japanese Government will soon pass laws making the language compulsory across the board.

In the old days, for me in the 1980’s, finding an English teaching job meant buying a daily English newspaper and winnowing through the classified ads. Nowadays, people search for employment on such websites as  http://www.gaijinpot.com/. or http://www.kansaiscene.com/

The above two websites also offer a wealth of information about Japan. Housing, travel and much more.

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The Internet has replaced newspaper advertising.

Most companies or schools, these days, are looking for people already residing in the country. This means having the correct work visa. If you’re not sure of what criteria is needed for the correct visa call to the Japanese Consulate or Embassy in your home country or pay a visit to a Japanese Immigration office once you’re in the country, to learn what is required. If you arrive in the country on a 90 day tourist visa, you’ll probably find it difficult to get employment.

Some websites tell you that there are more jobs available in the cities and that conditions are much better than working in the “boonies”. This information is a truism and therefore moot. Of course there are more jobs in density populated areas. Work conditions, however, are pretty much the same all over. If you wish to work in a rural area, you may find that you have to have a valid driver’s license. Companies with job offers in the countryside as well as rural Board of Education authorities often offer housing and other compensations or incentives. It is important to remember that employment for language teachers isn’t the same as it was in the 1980’s heydays. Japan’s economic woes have contributed to a fall in full time positions.

The best of luck.

Shopping in Osaka

Without a doubt Japanese are probably the world’s most prolific shoppers. Keeping up with the latest fashion and technology trends is a must for the average Japanese person. Each weekend hordes of people with money to burn descend on some of the more popular shopping zones in the cities around Japan. Osaka City is no exception as a plethora people, hungry for bargains and sales, muscle their way through store doors hoping to purchase the perfect sweater, the prettiest dress, the coolest t-shirt or the latest gadget.

Store after store the people visit; their thirst for spending needing to be quenched, stopping only to grab something to eat in a packed restaurant of fast food shop. Indeed it is during these weekend shopping fests that businesses like McDonald’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken make some serious profits.

 

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