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Live and Work in Japan as an English Teacher!

Hey all,

Next post comin' at you from the illustrious Come On Out-Japan blogosphere. This one's all about opportunities to live and work in Japan as an English teacher. Opportunities for such a position are actually quite abundant, and increasing in demand as Japan nears the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. In anticipation of the nation hosting so many foreigners, many Japanese institutions are seeking to make significant improvements in terms of proficiency and prevalence of English language skills.

Among students of Japanese and Japanophiles at large, there are a few organizations providing English-teaching jobs to westerners which are quite well-known with positions that are highly sought after! If this is something that may appeal to any of our readers, we certainly encourage that you inquire. Don't forget, we plan to continue our annual English Camp program as well (comeonoutjapan.com/program-info/toshin)! However, if you're looking for something more long-term, and you're pretty sure that you'd like to live in Japan and could do a good job teaching English as a second language, you may want to consider one of the various organizations offering jobs as ALTs (assistant language teachers) and CIRs (coordinators of international relations). Before you go filling out any applications, you may have a few general questions, and it is probably worth noting that each of the organizations mentioned in this post require a bachelor's degree of all participants.

1. Japanese Language Proficiency- How Important Is It?

- Not at all. 

 Well, let me be more clear. As far as I have researched and in my personal experience, these companies do not tend to require Japanese language ability. I think they certainly encourage Japanese language ability and it is probably safe to say that candidates demonstrating familiarity with Japanese language and culture may be considered more seriously as recipients of available positions, but at least on paper I have not seen that such ability is absolutely necessary.

2. What are the finer details? What sort of contract will I be signing?

- Of course, each organization has different stipulations and modes of operation, so the nature of your work agreement will vary depending on which one you potentially gain employment through. Below, we cover some of the criteria you may want to consider most heavily.

a) Working hours: The four main organizations offering English-teaching jobs to westerners which we cover in this post all require what is essentially a 35 hour work week apart from breaks and lunch, etc. These organizations do all offer some degree of vacation time, however, which varies.

b) Salary: The amount of pay, like virtually all aspects surrounding this type of employment, will vary between each independent organization and contracting company; but to give you an idea of what the pay can be like, below is an excerpt from the JET Program website. JET is probably the most well-endowed and most prestigious organization offering gainful employment to westerners hoping to teach English in Japan. However, as mentioned, there are definitely other legitimate organizations which pay comparable if lesser salaries. 

"The JET participant’s salary is determined by the number of years of participation on the JET Program. As employment through the JET Program as an ALT or CIR is a full-time paid position, JET participants receive a monthly salary from their contracting organizations. Yearly salary before tax is:
• ¥3,360,000 a year for first year JET participants
• ¥3,600,000 a year for second year JET participants
• ¥3,900,000 a year for third year JET participants
• ¥3,960,000 a year for fourth and fifth year JET participants"

And to give you a better idea for what these amounts equal in dollars, that starting salary of 3,360,000 yen is currently worth just over 30,000 USD.

c) Travel and Transportation Reimbursement: Each organization offers different accommodations regarding travel to and from Japan as well as travel to and from work. For example, JET offers to pay for participants' two flights at the beginning and end of their contracts, but does not reimburse weekly travel to and from work assignments. Another company, Interac, does the opposite- reimbursing weekly travel but leaving travel to and from Japan completely up to the participant.

With so many things to consider in deciding upon which organization or organizations to apply for and ultimately work, I personally recommend that any interested persons create a sort of criteria or preferences sheet and try to discern what specific factors are most important to them. This will make sifting through all of the available opportunities much easier as there's definitely quite a bit of variation between each.

3. How long are the contracts / How long can I stay?

- JET offers one-year contracts with the opportunity to renew the contract up to four times for a total of five years as a JET participant, providing the participant performs suitably! Even after their time as a JET participant, individuals may be able to remain in Japan by providing proof of employment to the Immigration Bureau of Japan and by satisfying other pertinent requirements. Interac offers positions which last from early April or late August until March of the following year and seems to offer the chance to renew the work agreement indefinitely to interested and capable participants. A third company, Aeon, deals in six-month contracts and also continues to offer renewal as long as participants maintain good performance. Finally, ECC offers start dates year round with the chance for renewal, but like JET asks for a one year commitment.

Aside from the comparative factors that we've already outlined here, there are some more facts to consider about each program that's been discussed. To finish up this post, we'll provide the links for the three organizations that have been mentioned as well as a short write-up explaining the nature of the opportunities they offer. 

The JET program has been around since 1987 and has sent more than 60,000 participants to Japan to work not just in schools but on boards of educations and in government offices. JET is actually the only such program that operates in direct cooperation with the Japanese government. With participants from over 40 countries, the JET community is a global one. Visit http://jetprogramme.org/en/ for more information. 

Interac does not operate directly through the Japanese government, but it does assign participants actual Japanese public schools and claims to be the largest provider of ALTs to the Japanese public school system. Actually older than JET, but obviously a private company, Interac was founded in 1972 is also a "significant player" in providing employees from abroad to Japanese  commercial and government organizations. More information at http://www.interacnetwork.com/recruit/global.html .

Almost as old as Interac with a founding date in 1973, Aeon is a company which operates completely separately from the Japanese school system, but appears to be quite successful and relevant all the same. I've personally seen their advertisements and buildings during my time in Tokyo, and their website reveals them to currently have over 80,000 enrolled students across 250+ branch schools in every prefecture of Japan (prefectures are like states and there are 47). Students range from children to fully grown adults and even senior citizens and classes are taught as group or private classes. Their website (http://www.aeonet.com) even states that they offer furnished apartments, paid vacations, and flight allowances!

Technically even older than Interac or Aeon, ECC began over 50 years ago in 1962 as an English conversation club in Osaka! It now employs over 400 native English speakers across 180 schools. Like Aeon, ECC caters to a wide range of students from school children to retirees with its variety of offered programs. Explore their site at https://eccteachinjapan.com .

 

We really hope this blog post has been helpful to anyone interested in the prospect of teaching and living abroad in Japan! The accounts I've heard from current and former such workers in Japan paint the experience as one which is largely dependent upon the individual's true desire to live in and experience Japan as a nation. Often, participants of the aforementioned organizations find themselves in all different kinds of locations ranging from small rural villages to sprawling cities and everything in between. What seems important for the success and happiness of foreign English teachers in Japan is genuine interest in Japanese life and willingness to adapt to a new culture and language. 

Stay posted for further posts on our "Additional Opportunities" blog as well as our culturally themed "We Love Japan" blog ( http://www.comeonoutjapan.com/english-camp/ ), and please follow us elsewhere for updates and information regarding further opportunities from Come On Out- Japan!

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-Jordan

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Want to go to Japan?

Below is our first post regarding "additional opportunities" in Japan! Our goal is to provide students and recent graduates with information on how they can come to Japan and work, intern, study or enjoy other special opportunities and programs!  We hope you enjoy this blog and we look forward to adding more soon! 

 

HOW IT MIGHT HAPPEN

On exchange in Japan, during the summer between sophomore and junior year of college, I was able to make a crucial decision about how I would focus my studies and thus what opportunities I could hope for post-grad. I wouldn't have been able to have such a valuable experience abroad if it hadn't been for my school's Center for Japanese Studies or Center for Global and Intercultural Studies.

 

So, I happen to be a post-grad student currently living in Tokyo and getting my Master's in International Security at Waseda University. The great luck of my life right now is that I was somehow able to acquire a scholarship which pays for my expenses while I finish my program. Rent, food, travel- it's all covered by my monthly stipend. You may think that I was some sort of prodigal student who specialized super heavily in some aspect of Japanese history or literature, or that I became a virtually fluent speaker of Japanese over the course of four years of college-level language study. Neither are true. I started out as a confused freshman like most of us do and eventually managed to find a more narrow focus of study within the International Studies department at my university. That focus became, in a word, Japan. 

Halfway through my sophomore year, I became aware of a class offered by one of the more prominent Asian Studies professors at my university, Professor Jon Zwicker, who is now at UC Berkeley. The class was about contemporary Japanese literature ( link to Zwicker's book about 19th century Japanese literature ---> http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674022737). I became obsessed. Actually, at first, I was hardly even showing up to the class... because I was an idiot. Zwicker's first-class-of-the-semester game was weak. He came off as a really bland dude, mostly because he was just so laid back; little did I know that he would come to be one of the most interesting, insightful, and helpful educators I ever had. Once I finally sat down and decided to take the class seriously, I realized that the authors Zwicker was assigning and the way he presented them was actually fascinating to me. I became academically preoccupied with Japan as a nation. After that semester, I made it a personal mission to study Japan as much as possible and in a multidisciplinary fashion until my graduation while still fulfilling all my other credit requirements. 

In my senior year, I had exactly zero awesome job offers from any impressive companies lined up, but Zwicker had helped nominate me for a scholarship with a Japanese organization called the ITO Foundation (http://www2.itofound.or.jp ). Somehow I managed to receive the scholarship, and now I am in Tokyo as a sponsored graduate student until at least August 2018. I officially started my residency in September, and I couldn't have been luckier. 

I guess that's sort of what I'm trying to get at here though- that you don't need luck. You don't even need to be some sort of prodigal student if you want to seize opportunities to study or work abroad in Japan or wherever it may be that you hope to go. I definitely wasn't one, at least. I just had a genuine interest in the country I was studying, and made use of the resources at my disposable- often, the internet, in terms of just doing raw research about all of the opportunities that may have been available to me. However, more importantly, I also made use of the Japanese Studies department at my school and tried to build somewhat of a personal relationship with those who had more knowledge of work, internship and scholarship positions and whose job it was to help students like me.

Though this blog will aim to be another tool for you to stay updated on this kind of information regarding Japan, the biggest piece of advice I can offer someone who wants to study or work abroad after college is to do what I did. Get in close with those at your universities who are most able and most informed in terms of being able to help you. Try to form personal relationships with professors who may have personal experience or connections relative to the field or area of the world which you are hoping to immerse yourself within or become an authority on. It may sound like kissing ass, but it's not. If you are genuinely interested in and driven towards achieving these types of opportunities, these are the kinds of things you should be naturally inclined to do. There will always be less options and even less sympathy for those who don't get out and actively pursue what they want. Additionally, your professors and departmental advisors could be crucial in helping you find and achieve opportunities even if said opportunities are not offered directly through your home institution. For example, the illustrious "Monbukagakusho" scholarships which we will discuss a bit in this post.

 

JAPANESE GOVERNMENT "MONBUKAGAKUSHO" SCHOLARSHIPS

The "Monbukagakusho," or "MEXT" scholarship, as it is often referred to, is probably the most commonly received scholarship to study and live abroad in Japan for foreigners. MEXT scholarships are provided directly through the Japanese government and are available to a wide range of students with a wide range of interests and goals- research students, undergrads, graduates, students of Japanese language, students who know zero Japanese, "special training students," and so forth.

In order to officially apply for a MEXT scholarship, you must be either recommended by a Japanese embassy or consulate general or recommended by a Japanese university directly. This doesn't mean that you have to be some standout who somehow gains the attention of their local embassy or consulate or of an overseas university. In many cases, this type of recommendation comes as a result of simply getting in touch with relevant officials and making your desire known. Portray yourself as a determined individual with a plan concerning what your time in Japan would consist of. If you've built an academic record or resume which reflects well, then it will speak for you once contact is made. 

The details regarding inner workings and later stages of the application processes for a scholarship opportunity like MEXT are quite vast and are best handled chronologically in step-by-step fashion. It can be confusing to know where to start, but for MEXT in particular, it should be the website of the actual consulate, embassy, or university that you'd hope to apply through. For example, the consulate in Detroit provides the actual application forms on the MEXT webpage part of their website ( http://www.detroit.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/culture/mext.htm ). Similarly, Japanese universities, like Waseda University for example, which are able to be studied at as a MEXT student should have parts of their own websites which instruct readers on how to apply via the MEXT scholarship. Check this page out for specifics ( https://www.waseda.jp/inst/cie/en/to-waseda/short ).

In the meantime, if you are interested in MEXT or other opportunities like it, my advice is to, again, do your homework electronically and also get in touch with those at your home university's  relevant departments- for Asian Studies, Japanese Studies, study abroad initiatives, and so forth. If you're already graduated, then perhaps it would be best to directly consult your local embassy. However, here is a webpage which will be most helpful in discerning more general information about MEXT ( http://www.studyjapan.go.jp/en/ ).

Look forward to future posts from us and rest assured that we are here to help answer your questions should you have any, even if your plans don't necessarily include an internship with us here at Come On Out! Though we'd love to have you.

 

-Jordan Roth

 

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