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general japan questions

 
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spyder



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Posts: 2
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 12:58 am    Post subject: general japan questions Reply with quote

Hi there,

I'm a recent university graduate who (unfortunately) has a lot of student debt. I've always been interested in Japan, and I'm considering teaching ESL there. I have some informal teaching experience and quite enjoy working with young adults and children.

My questions are:

*is the cost of living lower in the country than the cities? i would want to save some money while there and am quite happy to live in a rural or smaller city setting. what would the difference be (approximately - i know every situation is different).

*are there special considerations for a woman in japan?

*from reading the forums, it seems that JET is a good deal. Do you have any recommendations for groups/companies/schools where i can work legally, who may provide accomodation, and return airfare? (i know that's a big question).

*do you have any warnings specific to japan? (laws that would seem unusual to a westerner, private vs public schools, tax levels...)

*how isolated are rural areas? i imagine that larger centers can be reached via train, but i'm not basing this on a lot of knowledge...

I realize those questions are quite general, but I'd be grateful for any information you could give. I'm just trying to get a sense of ESL opportunities in Japan. Thanks
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Celeste



Joined: 17 Jan 2003
Posts: 814
Location: Fukuoka City, Japan

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

*is the cost of living lower in the country than the cities
I would say that the cost of living is certainly lower in rural areas, but that the people I know who live in Rural areas end up blowing a lot of money on train tickets etc. every month because they are bored or lonely and want to go to the big city.

*are there special considerations for a woman in japan?

I am a woman, and I am in Japan. I can't think of too much that I would warn you about. Bring a lot of clothes and shoes because you may have a hard time finding your size here. Bring your favourite brand of tampons if you use them because there is only one brand that I have seen here. Drunken bosses may say things like "You are very beautiful"- I just smile and ignore it. It never goes any further than that. You might want to be careful of drunken strangers on the subways though, I have heard of women being catcalled and grabbed at(though it has never happened to me or anyone I know).

*from reading the forums, it seems that JET is a good deal. Do you have any recommendations for groups/companies/schools where i can work legally, who may provide accomodation, and return airfare? (i know that's a big question).

*do you have any warnings specific to japan?
Beware of red tape. Things here happen very slowly, and all forms must be filled out perfectly. It can be frustrating, and if you are the first person who has ever asked for something, people may simply tell you "it is not possible" rather than "I don't know how to do/arrange that for you". Patience is not waiting for something to happen if you know when it is going to happen. Patience is waiting for something that may or may not happen at some unknown point in the future.

*how isolated are rural areas?
I live in a big city, so I have no first hand experience in the rural areas, but I have met a few people who are stationed in rural communities, and they find it pretty isolating. The factor that determines whether or not it will be bearable for you is whether or not anyone in the town speaks any English (Or if you are fluent in Japanese). If you are your only conversation partner, you will go very stir crazy very quickly.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 1:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Celeste has some excellent advice. Take it!

Let me just add a few remarks:

Quote:
I'm a recent university graduate who (unfortunately) has a lot of student debt. I've always been interested in Japan, and I'm considering teaching ESL there.

What's your degree, and what is it about Japan that interests you? Why consider teaching here instead of getting a job in your own field?

Quote:
*is the cost of living lower in the country than the cities?

That goes without saying. Rent is significantly lower.

Quote:
*are there special considerations for a woman in japan?

Pick up Being a Broad in Japan and read extensively on this subject.

Quote:
*do you have any warnings specific to japan? (laws that would seem unusual to a westerner, private vs public schools, tax levels...)


Drop me an email, and I'll send you a list I compiled on the pluses and minuses of living in Japan. Otherwise, depending on where you live and what your nationlity is, you might see some blatant (and illegal) discrimination. Refusal to allow you in stores, restaurants and hot springs/public baths are not common, but it does happen. Working holiday visa holders pay 20% tax, while those people with working visas pay about 6%. If you opt for national health insurance, you pay 2000 yen/month for the first year, then about 10 times that in subsequent years. If you have delayed getting NHI, expect to be asked to make backpayments when you join.

Quote:
*how isolated are rural areas?

You're kidding, right? Ask this same question about any country in the world. Depends on where you are. I really don't understand this question. I have to disagree with Celeste on her response to this question. How well you survive such a region does not depend on how many English speaking people you can find. It depends on your own character and willingness to learn the Japanese language/culture/customs. Being prepared never had a stronger meaning than for people who travel to rural regions of Japan.

Quote:
*from reading the forums, it seems that JET is a good deal. Do you have any recommendations for groups/companies/schools where i can work legally, who may provide accomodation, and return airfare?

With a bachelor's degree, you can get a work visa and work in most places (excluding universities), but it may depend on the competition. Most employers "provide" accommodation, but that only means they set up a place for you to live, not pay your rent. Extremely few places pay return airfare. Some of the Big Four offer reimbursement but only if you stay the entire length of a 1-year contract.
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spyder



Joined: 03 Mar 2003
Posts: 2
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 8:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

To answer some of your questions:

<snip>
What's your degree, and what is it about Japan that interests you? Why consider teaching here instead of getting a job in your own field?
<snip>

I assume by asking me these questions you're really wanting to make sure I've asked these questions of myself, rather than just deciding to go to Japan for the wrong reasons (only for the money, because I don't think it's a 'real job', to eat a lot of sushi). I have thought about all this. At this stage I'm doing research.

If it's helpful to you to give better advice, I have a bachelor of fine arts in creative writing and anthropology. I took Japanese in high school and have been interested in Japanese culture since I was a young girl. I don't have a more rational reason for 'why Japan'. I'd very much like to learn Japanese again (I only remember some syntax and a very few phrases).

Unfortunately, debt is a motivator for me - I'd like to be able to save up money, and I've been told that Japan, Korea and Taiwan are the best places to do that. I'm not very interested in Korea or Taiwan and I don't think it's wise to go somewhere where I'll be linguistically isolated and where I'm not terribly interested in the culture or language - hence Japan.

I've always enjoyed teaching and have done a fair bit of public education throughout my work/volunteer history. There are currently no jobs in my field for the training I have. In order to get full-time work, I will have to accept some compromises (ie. take something that is perhaps not immediately related) and I think teaching ESL in Japan is an option. It may even turn out to be a blessing in terms of the experience and putting another (my fourth) language under my belt. But as I've said, I'm in the research stage right now.

<snip>
You're kidding, right? Ask this same question about any country in the world. Depends on where you are. I really don't understand this question.
<snip>

I mean in terms of transportation. In my experience, in western Europe a person is never more than an hour's drive from a train station. Heck, an hour's drive could put you in the next country, depending on where you are. Even the rural areas are not terribly isolated. In Canada, however, 'rural' could mean you can access it by horse or boat only and the nearest train station is a ten-hour drive away. Isolated here can mean *very isolated.* It can also mean that food is up to twice as expensive rurally because of transportation costs from larger centres.

How easily can one travel to larger centres, in terms of infrastructure (are the trains there) and cost (is the expense prohibitive)? Japan has a very different population level and density patterns than Canada, so how isolated is isolated?

I definitely expect linguistic and cultural isolation and have lived through it before. I know it can be a great motivator to learn and also quite frustrating (accompanied by the FLH, or foreign language headache).

Thanks for the advice.
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Glenski



Joined: 15 Jan 2003
Posts: 12844
Location: Hokkaido, JAPAN

PostPosted: Mon Mar 03, 2003 9:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

spyder,

Depending on where you live, and what your rent is, and what your lifestyle is, you can expect to save about US$500 or more in Japan. It's all outlined in the files I sent today.

Japan has plenty of trains and buses, so in general, you won't be terribly isolated, but I guess that's a relative thing. You can put yourself quite far back into the "woods", so to speak, but figure on being an hour or so from the nearest large city at most. If you want more details, ask the JETs on www.bigdaikon.com because they are likely to be stuck in the more remote locations.

Quote:
<snip>
What's your degree, and what is it about Japan that interests you? Why consider teaching here instead of getting a job in your own field?
<snip>

I assume by asking me these questions you're really wanting to make sure I've asked these questions of myself, rather than just deciding to go to Japan for the wrong reasons (only for the money, because I don't think it's a 'real job', to eat a lot of sushi). I have thought about all this. At this stage I'm doing research.

That's partially why I asked. The other reason is to know whether you are prepared. Be sure to read the section of my files on pluses and minuses of living in Japan.

And, know in advance that whatever teaching you may have done in your homeland is nothing compared to what it's like in Japan. Especially if you end up in a rural environment!
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G Cthulhu



Joined: 07 Feb 2003
Posts: 1323
Location: Way, way off course.

PostPosted: Tue Mar 04, 2003 11:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What glenski said, and do go ask yr questions over on Big Daikon. :)

You'll get a much better range of answers from a wider set of circumstances and people than you will around here - more chance of yr questions being answered.
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