Teaching English Japan

Before you come to Japan--What to do?

Teaching English Japan - To do it, the most important facet is preparation. If you ground yourself in knowledge about Japan, how to teach English in Japan, and about living in Japan, it will be much smoother sailing believe me. In my over 20 years here I have seen the unprepared and the well prepared. The well prepared fair far better, and they enjoy their Japan experience more.


Okay I sound like your mother! I can live with that as long as you don`t tell me I look like her too!!!!

Seriously, I want you to repeat to yourself and to me if we ever meet:

"Kevin told me to prepare."

So many people it seems just jump on a plane and go to Japan, with not much preparation beyond being sure to bring their toothbrush. (Hopefully a new toothbrush) not that old "grungy" one they`ve had since first year in the dorm. ...Mmhh...crusty.

Teaching English Japan - Learn about this country

Hopefully this does not describe you. Do all that you can to learn about this great country before you come. Your future boss, colleagues and students will be thankful for it. You don`t want to lose the patience of the new people you will meet after you first arrive, with "Japan newbie," questions that you can easily have answered by spending a few minutes reading about living and working here.

(Teaching English Japan Photo - my daughter in younger years)

Show some courtesy by reading up on what it is like to live here and on other questions that you have. The local library in your town and the internet are both great places to start.

(Teaching English Japan Photo: Enoshima by Richard Baladad)

Teaching English Japan - Culture Shock

Become an expert on this well known phenomenon - culture shock. It can hit you at any time. Even after living in a country it can hit you suddenly yet again. You will even get to experience reverse culture shock after you return to your home country from Japan. It hits all of us at different times and can hit you over and over again. Be able to recognize it in yourself and others.

One of the most common signs is when you or your friends start complaining about all things Japanese, including your employer. You can see many examples of this phenomenon at the internet forums unfortunately. Of course many complaints are legitimate, but culture shock often shows itself this way.

Teaching English Japan - Just Say No! To Culture Shock!

I wish it were that easy!

What to bring to Japan?

(Teaching English Japan Photo: Hakone`s Onishi Park in Kanagawa Prefecture)

Teaching English Japan - This Country Japan

Japan is a shape shifter. She is a deceptive country. On the surface she can seem just like home, only to deceive you once more as you dig a little deeper. Read all that you can before you get on the plane. Then after arriving, read some more.

Teaching English Japan - Get to know these authors:

Edwin Reichsauer, Yuko Kawanishi, and Alan Booth

Reichsauer and Booth both knew Japan well and wrote in a very clear no nonsense style that helps to explain Japan to people new to her.

Yuko Kawanishi has written a fantastic book,("Mental Health Challenges Facing Contemporary Japanese Society, The Lonely People,") that deserves to be widely read. It is a little depressing but goes into the problems of Japan and offers some solutions. As a teacher of English here, to some extent you will be on the front lines. It is beneficial to understand Japanese society and the problems herewith, before you come.

Join the Club!

Before you come, check the internet for clubs and associations you might want to join in Japan. You may want to contact them before you arrive to find out what`s going on in the month you come here.

After arrival, clubs like the Tokyo Gaijins, JIGG-Japan`s International Gamers Guild, or the Tokyo Street Hockey Association may be your lifeline at least for the first few months.

I know I`m with you. Indeed it is scary to think that a bunch of geeks like

Japan`s International Gamers Guild members

could be anyone`s lifeline.(I`m allowed to make fun of them, I co-founded the club witha fellow geek by the name of Steve "Stan!" Brown.) We all know that in the end, geeks may not drive the BIG trucks, but they do inherit the earth!

Japan can be a very lonely place without friends. You can make some friends of similar interests by finding the right association for you. And there are a plethora of associations and clubs throughout Japan.

Teaching English Japan - Where to Find Clubs and Associations?

Become a member of Yahoo Groups, and Facebook these are the most popular groups of forums to do with Japan. There is an English and a Japanese version of Yahoo Groups. Once your Japanese is up to par, you should join the Japanese version too. There are many clubs and associations at Yahoo Groups and they arrange to meet at the group by posting. You can also find people living near you by introducing yourself. Google Groups is another option as is Facebook, which has groups for Japan.

I recommend Facebook over Google Groups. Facebook seems more popular with people living in Japan.

Mixi is a great option for meeting people if your Japanese is up to snuff. That means if your Japanese is good. Not that you are snorting snuff or anything else for that matter. But I digress.

The larger cities have online and print versions of magazines with listings of what is happening in their area. Tokyo`s Metropolis magazine, and Kansai Time Out as well as listing the local entertainment options for the week, has a huge listing of clubs and associations you can join. Their range is too huge to mention here. Most large cities have a similar magazine. In cities that don`t have one, there is often an old-timer, expat like myself with his own local blog that details in English what is happening in the area and clubs you can join or yoga classes you can attend. Don`t you just love the internet!

Teaching English Japan - Make Friends Before you Come!

I recommend Friend Finder.com for that.

Find your special someone

Teaching English Japan - Find a Pen Pal

You may want to find some Japanese pen pals. Having some friends before you arrive will set your mind at ease. Plus they can show you around once you are in Japan. As well as help you to interpret your gas bill, they can help you do extremely important things like set up your cable TV, and internet connection so you can play Halo 15 and other (important things like that!). We all have our priorities eh!?

You may even find your lifetime partner through being a pen pal. Or like I did, by meeting her in my hometown. Japanese can make great spouses.

Being new to Japan, you will tend to rely on your new friends here. Be sure to pay them back somehow. Maybe speak English with them. Or take them out for dinner or to some event to show your appreciation.

Don`t be like me and take your date to the local used TV shop to negotiate the purchase of your first TV in Japan. That was the last date I ever had,

...that was oh....just 20 years ago now. I still remember it vividly--ah Suzuki`s TV Repair Shop...the smell of musty old TVs, mixed with Chieko`s hair conditioner, oh the memories,....the memories....

Certainly, going to Japan should not be a last minute decision or an escape from an undesirable life back home. It should be a place you want to come to after learning as much as you can about her.

The Land of the Rising Sun awaits those who really want to come to this fascinating land.

Oh who am I kidding? No one is really waiting for you! Except maybe the tax man and with out a doubt, the NHK man who will want you to pay for a TV channel you never watch (because it is all in Japanese).

But that is part of the fun! This is Japan baby!

To Travel in Japan

From Teaching English Japan to ESL Teaching

First Steps: more on how to prepare to come and teach English in Japan.

From Teaching English Japan to How to teach English in Japan (home)