☆ i heart japan,  ☆ life

Living Tall in Japan, part 11

☆ To see all of the parts in this series, click here

I’m sure that these people exist, but I don’t know any.

I’m talking about people that come to Japan because they want specifically to teach English.

Most people who want to teach English choose to teach in their home country. I’m not talking about the people who want to teach English in Japan, because that’s not their main reason for coming. Those people, like me, want to live in Japan (or just in another country). We come for all sorts of reasons: some people because they are interested in some aspect of Japanese culture. Some people come because they just want to get away from where they are, and anywhere is alright. Some people come to just travel in general (Japan is close to China, Korea, Thailand, and the salary will likely be better). And then within those groups, you can narrow it down further. Did you come to party? Travel? Make money? Get away? As a stepping stone to just working in Japan?

I came because I liked anime and living in Japan seemed like a dream come true. I’d be closer than ever to the thing that I loved most in this world. I also partly came because I didn’t want to pursue a career in the field that my degree was in (animation), so I needed a year to think over my options. In the end, I used Nova as a stepping stone, and obviously went on to working in other careers (manga, writing, and tv ftw!), but my point is that I definitely did not come because I wanted to or was at all interested in teaching English.

Teaching English will allow me to live in Japan for a year, was my mindset. Hey, I’d worked at Toys R Us as a teenager (including the holiday season), so I figured that I could handle any sort of job. English teaching paid better, too. I found out quickly, though, that teaching English made me miserable. So, so miserable that I nearly headed home.

Let’s get started..

My OJT (on-the-job-training) was scheduled for this building in Shibuya. Can you see the huge “NOVA” in bright blue letters? Nova was by far the largest company teaching English to Japanese people, and they had branches all over the country. You could find them near any large train station, and many smaller ones, too.

They were a kind of school called an eikaiwa, which basically meant “teaching through conversation.” Also known as a conversation school. I am not going to talk about the merits, or lack of, here today, but I’ll just say that students came there with a variety of expectations and goals. There were (and still are) a lot of these types of eikaiwa in Japan, but Nova itself went through a huge scandal and collapse in 2007, with a lot of teachers who never got paid for the work that they were doing. I didn’t last that long, however. In fact, I didn’t even make it one year before I got out of there.

I didn’t have any trouble finding the building for orientation this time, and it was nice because there were a few other newbies who were going to be going through OJT with me. My first day wasn’t too bad. They taught us the teaching system, which wasn’t as much a teaching system as a “make up random stuff and bs your way through the lesson.” My roommates told me that it gets really repetitive after a while, and at the time, I was thinking that it sounded pretty much just perfect: do the same thing every day, time after time, something that doesn’t require much thought. That way, you get money to live with, and you can save your brain power for your off-time, using it to explore Japan and learn! Whee!

It seemed to work too, at first. I was nervous to teach a lesson, but after learning the basics, we just had to sit and watch the teacher, and sort of minimally participate. It wasn’t too bad. I experienced my very first sweaty, smelly, packed-like-a-sardine train ride on the way home, but I don’t think that it was that that had me waking on my second day of OJT wondering if maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t going to like doing this job after all.

It’s a means to an end, I told myself. It was only my second day, and I had to stick with it. Everything is hard in the beginning. And, indeed, after teaching a few classes, teaching started to feel a little bit less scary.

As I wrote in my livejournal back then:

It’s been a busy day, and I’ve learned more and more things about Japan as I go. Now that the shock is wearing off, and I’ve actually taught my own classes at NOVA, I’m feeling a lot better about the country. This morning I was rather undecided, and the job seemed so overwhelming that I was feeling discouraged. That’s probably normal for everyone in a new job, me being no exception, but there were moments where it briefly crossed my mind that I’d rather be back home. Buuuut… now that the day’s over, there’s almost nowhere I’d rather be. I love it here, love the society as I feel more at home in it, and love my roommates, my location. Of course I have complaints here and there, but they’re nothing big. The job is pretty easy so far, so in all honesty, I really think that I’m going to enjoy it here. ^_^

The fact that I just cooked those lovely fried bananas has nooooooothing to do with it. XDD Plus I actually bought a switch for the internet today so I now have intenet full time ^^, and I found a tower records in Shibuya. XD That was nice! <3 Plus, there’s this GIGANTIC billboard with Hilary Duff’s face on it right across the intersection from my training branch. XDXD I’m greatly amused. ^^ Ooooooh, and today as I walked by that billboard (this part of Shibuya is a big shopping area with tons of skyscrapers… think NYC), underneath they were blasting the Star Wars theme music and there was a girl with a table that had big displays and tons of the newly released Star Wars box sets. <3 I’d love to have them if they were region 1. ^^ (though my roomie has a region-free DVD player) BTW, the store that has the gigantic Hillary Duff is a lot like a multi-story Hastings, with books, music, and videos. ^_^ Oh, and a starbucks. XDD It kicks my ass, all seven levels. ^_^

I am sad though, that I figured out how to use my camera phone, but I didn’t realize that you had to manually save the pictures. T_T So the picture of the cute schoolgirls in uniforms that I took got erased. T_T Que sera sera. ^^;; BTW, I think the Japanese are the cutest people ever, as a society! Soooo small and so petite! Kawaii!! XD Oh, and I bought something for Lauren out of a vending machine on the way home from work today. XDXD It just reminded me of her soooo much!! Well, I must go since I have to be back for my last day of training at 9:30 am tomorrow!! O_O Gah… I have to leave by like… 8 at the very latest to get there on time.

Oh, I forgot to write that I couldn’t have asked for a better student in my last lesson. ^_^ He was nearly fluent, and sooo easy to work with!! ^^

Bad side to work, though… I reek of smoke because smoking is allowed in certain areas of the building and the ventilation is poor, so there’s a stale odor of smoke everywhere, even in the classrooms… >.>;;;

Despite the smoking, I was still in the honeymoon period, though. Oh, was I ever. The smoking didn’t even bother me too much, which says a lot, really.

See you tomorrow for a bit more! ;D I’ve got to keep you coming back, right?? And now to get back to editing! *cracks knuckles*

(285 geeks have read this)

Hi! This is Jamie Lynn Lano! I am a Washington State (USA) native who: ☆ Holds a Bachelors of the Arts in Media Arts & Animation from AiPx. ☆ Worked as an assistant mangaka in Japan for Konomi Takeshi on The Prince of Tennis. ☆ Was an essay columnist for Asahi Weekly from 2008-2013. ☆ Was the star of Asahi Pop'n Press on Asahi TV (Japan) from 2009-2013 ☆ Was a write for Metropolis magazine in 2010. ☆ Has kept a blog foreeeeeeeeever! First and Current blogs.


  • zoomingjapan

    What you say is true. I’m sure that about 98% of people don’t come to teach English, but because they want an adventure, want to travel, a Japanese girlfriend or whatever.

    As you know, I was also a huge anime / manga fan and after finally visiting Japan I decided that my short visit was short indeed and so I decided to move there.
    As a German citizen I was able to get the working holiday visa, so I didn’t have to be an English teacher. But I applied for a few jobs while still back home and got an English teaching job.
    I studied to become a teacher / educator anyways, so I didn’t mind at all. I was worried that my English skills wouldn’t be good enough, though. XD

    And I was super worried that I couldn’t handle the kids. I hated kids. I was sure I would hate teaching them. But as you know, I totally fell in love with it and now, 6 years later, I’m still doing it and still loving it. 😉

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      I think that the working holiday program is key to finding a job if you’re not American. Most employers are loathe to sponsor anyone, especially a person new to Japan or who hasn’t even come yet, so having a working holiday visa will definitely increase your chances of getting a job in Japan! I must remember to recommend it to anyone from countries that participate. I usually forget about it, since the US is stubborn and doesn’t participate. I wish that they would. It is so stingy not to. I think it’s because there are so many people still who think that non-US citizens will take all of the jobs and are bad people, and forget that their own ancestors all came from other countries in the first place. 🙁 Rawr. It’s so horrible that borders exist at all, really.

      I’m sort of the opposite of you with kids! I started out loving them (not babies, though. I’ve never liked babies), but I ended up really hating kids because they were just so unruly, and so many parents in Japan let their kids run all over in stores without even looking after them.

  • Audrey

    That’s too bad that teaching wasn’t for you, but it’s good that you got out of that environment because the students really do deserve teachers that at least minimally enjoy what they’re doing. I absolutely love teaching English in Japan! I’m sad that I have to leave it soon 🙁

    • Jamie Lynn Lano

      For me, Nova was so, so boring! I ended up teaching kids in Elementary schools after that, which was fun when they listened to me. I left that job too, though, and was very happy to. I agree that students deserve teachers that love what they’re doing, but for me, teaching English was just not my calling. Even so, I think that I was a better teacher than most there, because I always do the best job that I can, even if I hate the job. I suppose it’s a matter of pride!

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