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Why did you leave Japan (or why will you?)
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HLJHLJ



Joined: 06 Oct 2009
Posts: 1160
Location: Ecuador

PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2016 5:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I love it. When we were in Japan I was homesick for Ecuador in a way I've never been for the UK. Honestly, the money only comes into it in comparison with Japan. I'd still be here if we were only scraping by. It's not for everyone though, but if you want to chat about it, feel free to PM me.
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Sudz



Joined: 09 Aug 2004
Posts: 431

PostPosted: Sun Nov 20, 2016 5:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very interesting to hear your take, and much appreciated! I may very well bother you with a PM in the near future, as I'm very curious to hear more.
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Vince



Joined: 05 May 2003
Posts: 537
Location: U.S.

PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2016 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When my wife became pregnant, I immediately saw that bouncing between insecure part-time gigs, as well as not being nearly as fluent and literate as a parent should be, was untenable.
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twowheel



Joined: 03 Jul 2015
Posts: 543
Location: Beijing

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Why did I leave Japan?

I was a JET ALT and PA (Prefectural Advisor) from 2007 to 2012 in Shizuoka prefecture. I was an unusual JET as I came in with an M.A. in TESOL and substantial teaching experience under my belt as well as a New York State teaching license for K-12 TESOL in hand.

My initial plan was to use JET to get into Japan, get to know the lay of the land, and then jump into substantial work when my JET days (daze?) came to an end. In the beginning I was very interested in staying in Japan indefinitely. For four of my five years in Japan and with JET, that was my game plan.

However, in my fifth year (when I served as PA for 96 JETs in Shizuoka prefecture), I decided that going for the "holy grail" (Rolling Eyes) of positions in Japan--university positions (glorified Oral English teachers? wait, that's what I did as an ALT)--wasn't really in my interest. In other words, I didn't want to put myself through that revolving door spin of three years in and then out, and then look for the next position.

I also started to listen more (un/wisely?) to my JALT colleagues at universities complain about some of the conditions and realized that the conditions and benefits that a JET gig afforded could actually be as good as some of those from college teaching positions.

Moreover, I went to five consecutive JALT national conferences (2007~2011) and was wildly excited in the beginning about it all. I even got to make my very first presentation at a high profile conference ever (at the 2009 national conference in Shizuoka). That was a nice experience.

By my fifth conference though in 2011, I very much had a "meh" feeling about it all.

In 2012 I left Japan for China as a U.S. Department of State English Language Fellow; that opportunity allowed me to focus more on becoming a competent teacher trainer. That was a good move and I am glad that I departed Japan to take up that position--it gave me many more professional opportunities than remaining in Japan would ever have given me.

I look back fondly on my five years in Japan and I do keep in touch with a number of friends there. Japan is an excellent place for me to visit, but I came to the conclusion that for long-term professional aspirations, Japan was not the most suitable place for me. I stand by that assertion.

twowheel
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Sudz



Joined: 09 Aug 2004
Posts: 431

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting to hear all of your stories. I guess I was expecting to hear more about how Japan itself (xenophobia, the difficulty of forming deep relationships with the locals etc) swayed your decision to leave, rather than the job conditions (though not at all surprising given the limited teaching opportunities for many).

I see you're now in Beijing twowheel. I'd be curious to know how that is going for you! I'm surprised how many expats I've met living in Japan who seem to have zero desire to visit there. I personally found it to be a very interesting and friendly place when I visited (granted I know this is through the eyes of a traveler). [/quote]
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twowheel



Joined: 03 Jul 2015
Posts: 543
Location: Beijing

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 10:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sudz wrote:
Interesting to hear all of your stories. I guess I was expecting to hear more about how Japan itself (xenophobia, the difficulty of forming deep relationships with the locals etc) swayed your decision to leave, rather than the job conditions (though not at all surprising given the limited teaching opportunities for many).

I see you're now in Beijing twowheel. I'd be curious to know how that is going for you! I'm surprised how many expats I've met living in Japan who seem to have zero desire to visit there. I personally found it to be a very interesting and friendly place when I visited (granted I know this is through the eyes of a traveler).


Actually, in my personal experiences, I didn't find the Japanese to be xenophobic. My personal and professional relationships with the Japanese were actually one of THE highlights of my five years in Japan. That definitely was one of the factors that really made me strongly consider staying in Japan, my highly rewarding personal and professional relationships with the Japanese.

Ultimately, there were just some other things outside of Japan that I wanted to go for.

I really appreciate being in China and in Beijing. Admittedly, the pollution can be dastardly and it is indeed as bad as people say it is. There are good days (again, my tired old joke...daze?) as well.

I'm currently taking a year off and studying Chinese full time; it is going well for me. I want to get my Chinese up to speed (whatever that means) and hopefully put myself into a position where I can use it in professional capacities in the future.

I do find that China can be a great place for traveling, both for five-star jetsetters and also for roughin' it backpacker types.

twowheel
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Sudz



Joined: 09 Aug 2004
Posts: 431

PostPosted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 12:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Glad to hear you left on a positive note.

I remember enjoying Beijing, though the air during the summer was rough (I first experiencing it after leaving the airport....man). After a bit of time though, I felt used to it.

Sounds as though you might be in it for the long haul!
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twowheel



Joined: 03 Jul 2015
Posts: 543
Location: Beijing

PostPosted: Fri Dec 09, 2016 10:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sudz wrote:
Glad to hear you left on a positive note.


I am glad about that too. Overall, Japan was very good to me.

Sudz wrote:
I remember enjoying Beijing, though the air during the summer was rough (I first experiencing it after leaving the airport....man). After a bit of time though, I felt used to it.


It is rough. I remain cautiously optimistic that eventually the pollution problem will get better...hopefully...maybe...possibly.

Sudz wrote:
Sounds as though you might be in it for the long haul!


Wink I think so too.

twowheel
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RustyShackleford



Joined: 13 May 2013
Posts: 439

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 2016 4:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sudz wrote:
Interesting to hear all of your stories. I guess I was expecting to hear more about how Japan itself (xenophobia, the difficulty of forming deep relationships with the locals etc)


These things are real. However, they surprisingly don't factor much into someone staying or going in my observation. Some stray ignorant comment or stereotypical treatment by an old man is going to be far outweighed by the late night drinking sessions with a colleague or friend or the date with that girl winding up in the best wrong part of Shinjuku.

The fact of the matter is that, xenophobia or not, the day to day life in Japan is very, very comfortable and it's easy to get complacent. Coming to Vietnam, I came to really appreciate the things I loved about Japan (and America for that matter). Ultimately though, the job is the better part of one's life and I'd rather rough it outside the workplace and love what I'm doing than feeling like I was just going through the motions day in and day out.
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thomthom



Joined: 20 May 2011
Posts: 123

PostPosted: Sun Jan 01, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My perspective is that I still love Japan, but I'm not "in-love" with it anymore. The lost-in-translation romance has faded. And after it fades you realise the main thing about Tokyo is it's convenience, safety, predictability... I miss the international cuisine, live music, theatre, sports, etc etc, in London.

I would describe the Japanese as insular and a little too proud, rather than simply xenophobic. Their attitude towards the outside world was probably solidified in the 70s & 80s -- when the economy was great, the population was growing, and there was a feeling like it was Japan vs. The USA. That's really not the case any more. Indeed, over the next 30-40 years, even the UK economy and population will close the gap on Japan (let alone other major developing economies.)

I do still find it infuriating that Japan is the only major country in Asia where you go to McDonald's or Starbucks or even a British themed pub and find that the staff cannot take an order in English (or even understand English words without katakana pronunciation!!) That's not the case in Seoul, for example. Compared to other Asian cities, the overall life-quality is very good in Tokyo, but I think if I lived in Hong Kong or Singapore, my social life and my typical Saturday night would probably be better.

Put simply, I have this feeling that Japan's insularity -- which served it well over the last 50 years -- might come up to bite it on the arse over the following 50. I can imagine being forced to leave due to the economic situation. Finding an amazing job and/or an amazing wife in the next couple of years is the main thing that could persuade me to stay put! I'm going to treat the 2020 Olympics as an ultimatum.
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baki



Joined: 29 Dec 2010
Posts: 72

PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 2:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for this thread. Many of these experiences reflect my own.

I went from looking forward to making Japan my home and making a difference, to needing to drink everyday to get over it, and I'm not a drinker.

Right now I'm contemplating a job in China because,

- I'm not teaching elementary/secondary school English
- I don't have to speak or know Chinese to teach, whereas in Japan I have to use Japanese
- I don't have to be an assistant to the main teacher with poor communication and class-management skills
- I don't get paid less than the main teacher for doing all the work plus classroom management while they sit at the back

The problem I'm facing is the unknown for the long term that is China, and leaving all the things that I liked in Japan behind, for example:

- My house and car, it was a challenge getting these things and I am so glad that I had the money to buy these things to improve my lifestyle and wellbeing (the problem is that they have incredibly terrible re-sale value so I'll lose a lot of money leaving them behind).
- Hamazushi, cheap sushi (90yen) and convenient
- Discounted shopping, they really cut costs on food and goods after 7pm
- Use of a car and reasonably civil driving and traffic (but crappy resale values, taxes, shaken, terrible roads and overpriced)
- Cleaner air (but crappy empty parks that hardly anyone uses except old people)
- Due to my lonely lifestyle the internet has been great (heard China is a nightmare though)
- Getting a mobile phone, internet, visa card etc. which used to be incredibly difficult in the past (not sure if it's the same or worst in China)
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creeper1



Joined: 24 Aug 2010
Posts: 448
Location: New Taipei City, Taiwan

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Am I hallucinating or did you say that you bought a house in Japan?

Yeah. I get how a car would depreciate but not a house. I guess Japan is the land of depreciation though lol.

Surely you can sell your house.
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Sudz



Joined: 09 Aug 2004
Posts: 431

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Baki, I suggest you give China a shot. If it doesn't work out, you can always come back. In some ways, it would be easier to set up shop there (in terms of renting an apartment/house, getting a sim card, and getting internet access - though the latter will have some minor complications in terms of some access, it shouldn't be anywhere near a deal breaker). Trust me, apartments/SIM cards would be far easier than here (Japan is one of the tougher countries in Asia to sort this stuff out, granted I think SIM cards have become a bit easier over time).

With regards to discount shopping/cheap food......dude, it's China : ) You might be out of luck in terms of good/cheap sushi (granted I used to live in Saigon, and there were a couple of surprisingly good options).

With regards to living in Japan overall, at this moment I am more positive than negative (a couple of years ago I was definitely more on the negative side, though my job/location have improved significantly since then). If I had one issue with this place it would be that it just feels a little too sterile/rule oriented for my tastes. I often miss the street life of an area like SE Asia. All personal preference of course.

Personally, one of the keys to staying positive here is to leave at least once a year - whether visiting back home, or even better, traveling to other countries (ideally ones much different to Japan). I find this serves as a bit of a pallet cleanser, and allows one to appreciate the positive aspects of living here.
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Jmbf



Joined: 29 Jun 2014
Posts: 560

PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sudz wrote:
Personally, one of the keys to staying positive here is to leave at least once a year - whether visiting back home, or even better, traveling to other countries (ideally ones much different to Japan). I find this serves as a bit of a pallet cleanser, and allows one to appreciate the positive aspects of living here.


+1. Completely agree and I think this applies to wherever you live / work.
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marley'sghost



Joined: 04 Oct 2010
Posts: 236

PostPosted: Thu Jan 19, 2017 12:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

baki wrote:
Thank you for this thread. Many of these experiences reflect my own.

I went from looking forward to making Japan my home and making a difference, to needing to drink everyday to get over it, and I'm not a drinker.

Right now I'm contemplating a job in China because,

- I'm not teaching elementary/secondary school English




Sounds to me like maybe changing jobs might be a less drastic solution than changing countries. If you don't like ES/JHS maybe it's time to get out and get an Eikaiwa gig, or do company classes. There are other types of teaching work.

Quote:
- I don't have to speak or know Chinese to teach, whereas in Japan I have to use Japanese


Are you sure of that?
Do you not speak Japanese, or is it that you are opposed to using it in the classroom? Just curious.

Quote:
- I don't have to be an assistant to the main teacher with poor communication and class-management skills


Yeah, frustrating that. I'm an ALT myself. I've found over the years once you demonstrate that you can manage the class, (most) main teachers will let you run it as you see fit. I make my own worksheets, organize the activities, and use the JTE as my assistant. It is possible to use your "outsider" status to your advantage. You dispatch or direct-hire?

Quote:
- I don't get paid less than the main teacher for doing all the work plus classroom management while they sit at the back


I imagine you also get to leave at 4:30, don't have to grade tests, talk to parents, coach clubs Saturday and Sunday, I could go on and on. It's a big job. I don't say this to diminish your effort, I'm sure you work hard. Especially if you have a lot of different schools and classes and ages and a full schedule, just the logistics and prep alone can end up being the entire job. But I don't think we can compare that to the responsibilities of a typical homeroom teacher. But yes, the money sucks. If I did not enjoy the job itself so much, I couldn't do it.
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