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Travel, Teach, Live in Japan

Teach English in Japan: the Grand Adventure
By:Tom Aaron

In late 1980s Japan and into the 1990s, some English teachers were earning $50.00 to $100.00 an hour while the basic minimum salary for English teachers was 250,000 yen per month. The government required schools to pay teachers this before giving visas, thus establishing the basic minimum salary. On this wage, teachers could pay their rent, eat out, enjoy themselves a bit, and still save the equivalent of $1000 each month. Most native English speakers could fly into Japan, pick up an English newspaper, find job listings, and have several job offers within a week. Some jobs paid the minimum, but most offered more as the minimum was insufficient for schools to find teachers. Many schools, unable to find applicants in Japan, recruited teachers abroad.

As the 1990s progressed, the economy deteriorated, and fewer teaching jobs were available. Native English speakers arriving in Japan found that a college degree was no longer enough to guarantee finding employement in a few days. With reduced positions available, schools were able to discriminate based on qualifications, ability, appearance, gender, age, and race while offering the basic minimum salary. More closely examining teacher qualifications and ability was a welcome change, but discrimination based on age and cosmetic features was not.

Now, the competition is tougher for jobs; salaries are closer to the 250,000 yen minimum established by the government. Still, a college degree, some dedication, shoe leather, and perseverance coupled with some relevant experience and skills may be enough to find a job. Go to your web browser and search for "teach English in Japan" to find all the information you need to get started.

If you are interested in teaching English in Japan for the money, we recommend you look elsewhere. If you are thinking about Korea, China, or other countries that hire English teachers, go ahead. We are writing of Japan because we know Japan. We have ridden the bullet trains, eaten the sushi, and gotten lost in rural and urban regions. We found our grand adventure here and you may find yours. Here are a few of my memories from Japan:

Omikoshi carrying: Omikoshi are portable shrines resting on two logs or beams. The total weight of one shrine and the two beams or logs that support it can weigh several tons. The omikoshi are carried in parades by groups. The people carrying the omikoshi have an up and down rhythm as they carry the omikoshi for hours. The people in each group will spell each other, so no one drops from exhaustion. I still remember the warm summer night, the beat of the drums, and the weight on my shoulders. Unable to match the rhythm and taller than the other carriers, my shoulder was bruised and my back sore, but I still remember that special night.

Outdoor mountain hotsprings: Emerge yourself in the hot water of a mountain hotspring, surrounded by friends and hills. Sit there and soak as the snow falls down around you.

Speaking Japanese: While many Japanese speak English, many Japanese also speak little or no English. Outside of work, I struggled to learn Japanese, trying to put words together to make sentences and trying to use sentences to communicate. Eventually, I could speak Japanese. I met a woman who was a child in Manchuria in the 1930s and 1940s. Asking what it was like, I waited for an epic tale. She had only one sentence: It was dirty.

Sweet grasshoppers: Sitting at a kotatsu, a table with a heating element under it that warmed my legs, I was offered grasshoppers. Once a major source of calcium, grasshoppers are no longer part of the standard Japanese diet. Looking at the insects head, wings, and legs was not encouraging. Crunchy and a little too sweet.

Carved Buddhas in the rocks: The temples and shrines of Kyoto, Nara, and Nikko are world famous and not to be missed. Still, out for a walk in the country one day, I came upon a series of Buddhas carved in the rock. Standing in the shadows, I thought of who had carved the Buddhas in the stone and why they were there.

These are a few of my memories. Teaching English in Japan was my grand adventure. It could be yours too.

Aaron Language Services ( http://www.aaronlanguage.com/ ) provides translation and proofreading via the Internet to a primarily Japanese client base. We also offer online English coaching to ESL students. All of our coaching is one to one.

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