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Moving to Tokyo after China/Korea, a Few General Questions

 
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zenmeban



Joined: 26 Jan 2013
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 5:51 pm    Post subject: Moving to Tokyo after China/Korea, a Few General Questions Reply with quote

I'm planning on heading to Japan, so I have a few questions that I haven't found the answers to.

My profile:
American, mid 20s


Experience:
3 years teaching ESL part time in America
1 year teaching ESL in Korea
1 year teaching in China

(1) Will my experience help me escape the bottom of the barrel jobs like Nova and Coco Juku? I was hoping that since I have experience and good rec letters, I'll be eligible for the next "tier."

(2) What's the next tier in Japan? In Korea it seemed to be universities, while in China it seems to be international schools or test prep. What's the best position I could reasonably hope to be considered for?

(3) What is the duration of a work visa? Does it need to be renewed every year?

(4) I don't know if it's relevant, but I'm fluent in Chinese. Could that be of any use in looking for employment?

Doumo in advance.


NOTE: Edited for personal information.


Last edited by zenmeban on Wed Jan 15, 2014 7:13 am; edited 1 time in total
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rtm



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
Posts: 397
Location: US

PostPosted: Thu Jan 09, 2014 8:45 pm    Post subject: Re: Moving to Tokyo after China/Korea, a Few General Questio Reply with quote

zenmeban wrote:

(1) Will my experience help me escape the bottom of the barrel jobs like Nova and Coco Juku? I was hoping that since I have experience and good rec letters, I'll be eligible for the next "tier."

Your experience probably won't help you get a job at a higher 'tier', but it might help you be competitive for an entry-level job.

Quote:
(2) What's the next tier in Japan? In Korea it seemed to be universities, while in China it seems to be international schools or test prep. What's the best position I could reasonably hope to be considered for?

For universities in Japan, you'll need a relevant MA, and often Japanese ability and publications. For international schools, you'll need home-country teaching certification and at least 3-5 years' experience in your home country. Not sure about test prep -- in my limited experience, it wasn't a big money maker, and often taught by people with little to no experience or qualifications for doing so.

Jobs for people without higher qualifications are generally limited to eikaiwa work and ALT (assistant language teacher in public schools). Moving 'up', I think generally means getting better eikaiwa and ALT work (e.g., direct-hire ALT rather than dispatch ALT, or 'senior teacher' or some kind of management position at an eikaiwa). There's also work at private high schools (not ALT work -- as a regular teacher); I think those positions are often filled through connections, but it's worth looking into.

Quote:
(3) What is the duration of a work visa? Does it need to be renewed every year?

The most common are 1 year and 3-year. I think they recently also introduced a 5-year one, but I'm not sure if you need to have had a 3-year one before you can get a 5-year. Often the reason for getting a 1-year or a 3-year visa is a mystery.

You probably know this, but unlike some countries, once you have a work visa in Japan, it's yours. So, if you get a job, and the gov decides to give you a 3-year visa, you could quit after your first contract is finished and use the visa for your next job (as long as your next job is the same type of work). Some employers prefer employees who already have a visa because there's no paperwork to do, and the employee can start working right away.

Quote:
(4) I don't know if it's relevant, but I'm fluent in Chinese and hold a degree in it. Could that be of any use in looking for employment?

It probably won't be of any use, but it wouldn't hurt to mention it in cover letters. You mentioned that you have Chinese teaching experience, so that might be a plus at a mom-and-pop eikaiwa that might want you to teach a Chinese class now and then.
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nightsintodreams



Joined: 18 May 2010
Posts: 223

PostPosted: Fri Jan 10, 2014 12:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

As mentioned above, you have little to no chance of getting a job in a Japanese university, but I think you might just have enough experience to be qualified to get a direct hire ALT position with a school or BOE.

The thing is, there aren't many of these jobs going round and they're very competetive. Usually you need conversational Japanese ability too (JLPT N3/N4).
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 893
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Fri Jan 10, 2014 3:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
(1) Will my experience help me escape the bottom of the barrel jobs like Nova and Coco Juku?


No. That just gets your foot in the door.

Quote:
(2) What's the next tier in Japan? In Korea it seemed to be universities, while in China it seems to be international schools or test prep. What's the best position I could reasonably hope to be considered for?


The market is tight at the moment. If you're serious about developing a career in Japan, get an MA TESOL and learn Japanese. Then you can start looking for the very best private high-school jobs, or get on the bottom rung of university teaching.

Quote:
(3) What is the duration of a work visa? Does it need to be renewed every year?


First visa is 1 year. After that, it depends on how much the immigration office likes you. Ideally, your second visa will be a 5 year one, and your third will be permanent, but don't count on it.

Quote:
(4) I don't know if it's relevant, but I'm fluent in Chinese and hold a degree in it. Could that be of any use in looking for employment?


If you can read Chinese, that'll help you learn Japanese more quickly. That's about the only advantage I can think of. Fluent Chinese speakers aren't exactly hard to come by.
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zenmeban



Joined: 26 Jan 2013
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 4:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the information, guys. It's good to be able to manage my expectations before I show up. I hope it's alright if I ask a few more questions.

(5) Someone above mentioned that "conversational Japanese" was a JLPT N3/4. According to cynics and internet tough guys, anything below N1 is useless, though N2 MIGHT come in handy. Is it worth taking the test to get an N3 or N4?

(6) My favorite age level to teach is elementary/middle school, but the only places I can find who are hiring online are Coco and Gaba. Is it REALLY so tight that only these two mediocre schools have ANY open jobs? Do people find jobs by knocking on doors and meeting people after arriving?

(7) Is it really as easy as people say it is to get a visa sponsorship and then quit? What are the risks/drawbacks to doing this?
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rtm



Joined: 13 Apr 2007
Posts: 397
Location: US

PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

zenmeban wrote:
(5) Someone above mentioned that "conversational Japanese" was a JLPT N3/4. According to cynics and internet tough guys, anything below N1 is useless, though N2 MIGHT come in handy. Is it worth taking the test to get an N3 or N4?
N3 or N4 is something, and having something is better than nothing. That said, most eikaiwa won't care if you speak Japanese (and some will prefer someone who doesn't, so that students have to speak English). Not sure about ALT positions -- some dispatch outfits will understand that having Japanese ability will be useful for teaching and interacting with students, but most probably won't care, I don't think. Direct hire will probably require some level of Japanese so that they don't have to babysit you. For private HS, I would guess Japanese ability would be desirable, as you need to be more autonomous as a teacher, and function as a part of the faculty. Most university positions require at least N2-level Japanese (to do admin duties and participate in faculty meetings), though there are some that don't specify that.

Quote:
(6) My favorite age level to teach is elementary/middle school, but the only places I can find who are hiring online are Coco and Gaba. Is it REALLY so tight that only these two mediocre schools have ANY open jobs? Do people find jobs by knocking on doors and meeting people after arriving?
Not sure where you are looking in Japan, but there are many places (eikaiwa) that teach that age range. Knocking on doors (i.e., cold calling) probably isn't productive unless you know that the place is looking. Being in Japan, and ready to interview immediately is beneficial. Being in Japan and having your own work visa already (i.e., able to start working immediately) is even better.

Quote:
(7) Is it really as easy as people say it is to get a visa sponsorship and then quit? What are the risks/drawbacks to doing this?
Easy? Yes, I guess so. Risks are being in breach of contract (and potential, although unlikely, legal issues), as well as being a dick. You'll also have a very short employment on your resume; if you leave that off of your resume, a future employer will still surmise what you did because you will have a visa but no employer in Japan listed on your resume. Those won't make you very appealing to a future employer. However, there is no nationwide blacklist or anything like that.
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zenmeban



Joined: 26 Jan 2013
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, I dunno, maybe I have to readjust my sense of "being a dick" for Japan, but in China and Korea I learned to do what's best for me in the long term, not the company, since 9 times out of 10 the company will look out for its interests instead of catering to yours. That's understandable though, I think--that's business. Or perhaps things are different in Japan...?

I'm living in another Asian country at the moment, so I have no work visa. In summary, it seems like it really doesn't matter if you have any previous experience, speak much of the language, etc. The only real huge resume boosters seem to be:

-Having experience teaching (but only Japanese experience counts)
-Having a Japanese work visa
-Having a good TESOL or CELTA
-Having an MA in ESL or education


That's a shame, since I was hoping I could use some of my prior experience to my advantage--though with the free-for-all state of ESL in some neighboring countries, I can understand why it's not really valued. Oh well, guess it's time to start from the ground up again.

Thanks for the reply, and I hope this info will be useful to others.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 893
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 12:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

zenmeban wrote:
Thanks for the information, guys. It's good to be able to manage my expectations before I show up. I hope it's alright if I ask a few more questions.

(5) Someone above mentioned that "conversational Japanese" was a JLPT N3/4. According to cynics and internet tough guys, anything below N1 is useless, though N2 MIGHT come in handy. Is it worth taking the test to get an N3 or N4?

Yes. It's a lot better than nothing (I once met a teacher who'd lived in Japan for a year but still wasn't sure how to pronounce konnichiwa. It shows commitment to Japan, and somebody with N4 will need less hand-holding than somebody with no Japanese at all.
Quote:
(6) My favorite age level to teach is elementary/middle school, but the only places I can find who are hiring online are Coco and Gaba. Is it REALLY so tight that only these two mediocre schools have ANY open jobs? Do people find jobs by knocking on doors and meeting people after arriving?

Most eikaiwas teach a mixture of pre-school, elementary and adult classes.

If you want to concentrate solely on kids, some of the ALT dispatch agencies (e.g. Interac) might be interested in you.
Quote:
(7) Is it really as easy as people say it is to get a visa sponsorship and then quit? What are the risks/drawbacks to doing this?

I believe so, although I've never tried it myself. I guess the Immigration Bureau takes the constitutional provisions against slave labour pretty seriously.

The important thing is to ensure you can show you've made an adequate income over the year prior renewing your visa. The definition of "adequate" is vague, but standards seem to have slipped over the years. I've seen the figure 180,000 / month used by people who know about these things, which is definitely on the low side.
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Pitarou



Joined: 16 Nov 2009
Posts: 893
Location: Narita, Japan

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

zenmeban wrote:
The only real huge resume boosters seem to be:

-Having experience teaching (but only Japanese experience counts)
-Having a Japanese work visa
-Having a good TESOL or CELTA
-Having an MA in ESL or education

That's pretty much it, although you forgot knowledge of Japanese.

To be honest, I don't think schools really care about CELTA / TESOL very much. They've started asking for it in recent years, mainly because they see other schools asking for it and they already get more resumes than they know what to do with, but I don't think they really understand what it's all about. The communicative methodologies they teach in CELTA / TESOL are rarely practised in Japan.
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RM1983



Joined: 03 Jan 2007
Posts: 44

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 4:16 am    Post subject: Re: Moving to Tokyo after China/Korea, a Few General Questio Reply with quote

zenmeban wrote:
I'm planning on heading to Japan in March, so I have a few questions that I haven't found the answers to.

My profile:
American, mid 20s, male
Employed J-GF in Tokyo with whom I can stay when I arrive

Experience:
2 years teaching Chinese part time at university in America
~1 year teaching English part time to adults in America
1 year teaching elementary students at a reputable hagwon in Korea
7 months teaching adults at an eikaiwa-type school in China

(1) Will my experience help me escape the bottom of the barrel jobs like Nova and Coco Juku? I was hoping that since I have experience and good rec letters, I'll be eligible for the next "tier."

(2) What's the next tier in Japan? In Korea it seemed to be universities, while in China it seems to be international schools or test prep. What's the best position I could reasonably hope to be considered for?

(3) What is the duration of a work visa? Does it need to be renewed every year?

(4) I don't know if it's relevant, but I'm fluent in Chinese and hold a degree in it. Could that be of any use in looking for employment?

Doumo in advance.


- your experience will get you interviews at better places than the major chains. Then you need to look good and give a good all around impression. There are much better places to work although the salary seems a bit stuck/dropping at the moment, so look at the differences in such things as time off and whatnot - if you would have to travel a lot for your job and so on.

- are you planning on having a job before you come or just gonna come on a tourist visa? I ask this because I believe it is much harder to find a job with a tourist visa (although Im sure people do it). A lot of job adverts ask for a current working visaa before they will interview you

On the other hand , it isnt like Korea in the sense of your boss owning your visa.
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zenmeban



Joined: 26 Jan 2013
Posts: 11

PostPosted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 5:45 am    Post subject: Re: Moving to Tokyo after China/Korea, a Few General Questio Reply with quote

Good to know that TESOL isn't that important. I've seen a lot of people ask for it all over Asia, but like you said, the teaching method has almost nothing to do with the ones you learn.

Well, I have abought 2 1/2 months before I come, so I suppose I'll do my best to line up work before coming.
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