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Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

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Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby StrandedInATreetop » Tue 10.30.2007 12:07 am

I'm graduating from college in May with a Psychology major and a Japanese minor. I want to live in Japan, for at least a year or two, possible longer, but as cool as Osaka or Kyoto are, I'm in love with Tokyo and have my heart set on it. Chiba or Saitama would not be too bad but any further than that and I'd just assume moving to Europe. The point is, I need to be able to spend most of my free time in Tokyo without trainfares in/out of the city costing me all of my money after rent and food. So 2 questions:

1As far as JET and GEOS, both seem to insist on having you sign a contract without knowing your placement in Japan and I hear they aren't too helpful with placement. Are there any companies that are really good with placement requests or that are exclusively in Tokyo that I could apply to?

2 Everyone says teaching English is the most common job for an American but is there anything else for a 22 year old with a psychology major and budding conversational skills in Japanese? I don't think I have enough of a hold on the language to be a translator, I've been studying 2 years but I'm in a 4th year class (using "from intermediate to advance" books), but I'm far from clueless when people around me are speaking Japanese. More than teaching English, I'd like a job where I am forced to speak some Japanese so I can improve quickly, but obviously one that I could manage at my level, and once again, in or around Tokyo.

Any information at all would be extremely appreciated. Thank you!
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Igirisu_gaz » Tue 10.30.2007 1:00 am

Unfortunately your timing is hardly ideal in the wake of the Nova collapse. But that cannot be helped sadly.

As you are probably aware the best overall deal for the average Joe is JET. But with JET you have zero chances of being placed in Tokyo. Tokyo has an abundance of foreigners and needs no more. Saitama has a vast quantity of ALT`s however, rumoured to be the largest. But as you say, your chances of getting your prefered placement are not optimum. I can't really comment on GEOS as I am none too sure of their placement policy.

You are right, you don't have enough skills to be a translator, granted I haven't met you but tranlsators and interpreters need to have had a great deal of experience handling the language as well as relevant academic experience (or possesion of similar qualifications such as 日本語迫ヘ試験1級 or the JETRO equivalent).

As far as other things go, I am unsure what can be offered to a Psychology major in Japan, there are certainly no obvious oppurtunities that jump to mind. There are various other positions, my friend received a job doing PR work for a mobile phone company proofreading and editing the English versions of their promotional material - But I stress, he was already in Japan AND had a no-holds barred working visa. This will be your biggest issue, without sponsorship (or a spouse) you will get no visa, the only organisation likely to sponsor you for a visa before you come to Japan is an Eikaiwa firm. (Also: you visa will be as an instructor, meaning you will only be elgiable to work as such)

In all honesty, if Tokyo is truly where you desire to be then opportunities will come up in the future. These opportunities are easier to take advantage of once you are here however, as such I would suggest making getting here with a job a priority to begin with. The Eikawia market may have settled down by May, my advice is to get over here on the most appropriate job and then if it happens to not be in Tokyo then begin the hunt. If you are graduating in May then gambling with JET and aiming at Saitama, Chiba, Gunma etc. may be your best bet.

To be honest, why not try elsewhere? If you've not been everywhere how do you know Tokyo is your best bet?
Last edited by Igirisu_gaz on Tue 10.30.2007 1:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 10.30.2007 8:59 am

As Igirisu_gaz indicates, your biggest problem is getting a visa. Japan, in general, is unwilling to just let foreigners in the country to look around for any job they can find. Generally you need to have a job set up before you go, and it's not the easiest thing in the world to get hired out-of-country for something other than English teaching. I doubt your Japanese is good enough to work a job where constant use of Japanese is an essential part of the job, and they're not going to hire you so you can improve your language ability.

If you don't have some connection to someone already in Japan, your best bet is to get there as an English teacher (or study abroad) and then look for other opportunities once you get there.

If you go on JET and get placed in a less urban area, it's very likely that few people will speak English, so you'll have a lot of chances to improve your Japanese. If you request a place like Ibaraki or Tochigi you might be within a couple of hours of Tokyo so you can go there for day trips on the weekends.
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Tue 10.30.2007 9:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby two_heads_talking » Tue 10.30.2007 9:51 am

don't be afraid to work or look for work with companies that have ties to or have offices in Japan. Or on that same line for japanese companies that have offices in the US. you might be able to piggyback on a program that allows you to learn your trade and language as an intern.

anyways, good luck.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Dehitay » Tue 10.30.2007 1:35 pm

Out of curiosity, is there any way to figure out which prefectures are more likely to hire JET ALTs? I didn't realize that the popular cities would be less likely cause of the high amount of gaijin. I thought the high amount of nihonjin would cancel out the ratio, but I can see where they only need so many gaijin to display foreign culture. I'm filling out the application this year and I haven't sent it in yet so I can still change my location requests (currently Osaka, Hokkaido, and Nara). If I know which prefectures I'm more likely to get hired at, it would be in my advantage to use my 3 preferences in those to fill out my requests.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Igirisu_gaz » Tue 10.30.2007 6:36 pm

To be honest, where you choose doesn't really matter, as long as you have decent reasons to back up those choices when asked. Although putting "Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto" tends to display a lack of knowledge about Japan. It depends on how bothered you are about getting your choice. The more obscure location you put down the more likely you are to get it. Places like Wakayama, Tokushima, Miyazaki don't get the mother load of requests (if any), it also shows some detailed knowledge of Japan if you do select these off the beaten track places - the interviewer will certainly ask why you took them.

As far as your choices go:

Osaka - Gets a lot of requests, unlike Tokyo it does take ALTs, althoug recently there has been a trend towards getting them from private companies

Hokkaido - Also highly requested, but does take a number of ALTs, although not so many around Sapporo.

Nara - Takes ALTs, would be surprised if it got many applicants.

But as I said. As long as you truly don't care where you go, these selections do not really matter. At my time of application I put down Wakayama (where I ended up), Miyazaki and Kagawa.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Noob » Tue 10.30.2007 7:00 pm

Is English instructor ones only hope to get a foot in the door? I ask this, because i am a pressman. I would love to stay in japan for a couple of years, and my proffesion is one that is worldwide. I even work on a japanese built press lol.
Is the printing industry clogged up in Japan, or would i stand a chance if i made that decision?
Not trying to hijack this thread, but if i can't get a job as a printer, my options fall relatively quickly.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 10.30.2007 7:42 pm

What would you be able to offer a Japanese company that they can't get from a native Japanese? That's the question to ask yourself. Remember that companies are not looking to give foreigners study abroad opportunities; they would prefer a native speaker of Japanese who has the skills and the cultural knowledge necessary to function.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 10.30.2007 8:02 pm

LIke Yudan Taiteki said, when you're in Japan, you're no longer a guy who can also speak Japanese, you're a barely literate guy who can speak english really well. Unless you have a skill or something that transcends the need for language (programmer, factory worker), then you are going to have a hard time finding a job that does not directly involve your ability to use English.

Think about it in terms of your own country: would you hire someone for a job who could barely communicate in English, but was really good at swahili? Would you hire them even if their job didn't involve swahili?
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Noob » Tue 10.30.2007 10:17 pm

Well, where i live, it happens alot actually. With all the Mexican immigrants flowing into my state, they tend to work cheaper, just to get a job. So, they get hired alot. I don't like the fact that people have to resort to such things, but you gotta do what you gotta do to support your family right?
I don't want to live poor, just to get a job. thanks for the insight.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Tue 10.30.2007 10:36 pm

The immigrant situation in the US is completely different than in Japan -- Japan runs a very tightly controlled immigration procedure; you can't really just wander in looking for work. Japan does not depend on immigrant labor to the extent that the US does.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Harisenbon » Tue 10.30.2007 10:56 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
Japan does not depend on immigrant labor to the extent that the US does.


Probably not to the same scale that america does, but Japanese immigrant labor is thriving. It's just that most immigrant labor is of the 3K variety, and usually comes from places like Brazil and China. There are immigrant labor companies and 派遣会社 like things for factory workers, and in a lot of cases it is very similar to JET for factories, as in a lot of people come in for 3-5 years, do their stint and then go home much wealthier than they came in. Of course the working conditions are much worse than JET. ;)
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby StrandedInATreetop » Wed 10.31.2007 4:30 pm

What? There are no ALT positions at all in Tokyo? I do have reason for picking Tokyo. I spent two months in Japan, about 3/4 of it in Tokyo and I know my way around it very well but I don't suppose that will help my case if they are looking for knowledge of Japan as a whole, it looks like it could actually hurt it. It's not like that's all I saw, I spent time in Kyoto, Chiba, Yokohama, Nikko, Makuhari and another small town in Chiba prefecture.

It's not that I don't like other parts of Japan, it's just that I love Tokyo, I have people that are important to me there, I have favorite resteraunts and concert venues and places to relax. I get happy to see people stand on the opposite side of the escalator as America after seeing that in Osaka its the same as America. I require a diet of Monjayaki once a week. I'd enjoy finding all that in another city alot, but I'd really like to spend some more time absorbing Tokyo first since theres so much to absorb and I've already started. I already have a life in Tokyo, I just need a job that will let me be there to enjoy it.


I put Chiba and Saitama cities as 2nd and 3rd requests after Tokyo. How likely or unlikely is it that I'll be placed there? That would be ok with me, obviously not ideal but totally acceptable.

Igirisu_gaz - I thought your not allowed to look for a job in Japan if you already have a job? How does it work with visa sponsorship and limits if your already in Japan, say with a language school and a 1 year contract? Are you or are you not allowed to look for a job for once the contract is over (or a side job while you have the contract) and how does it work with teacher/student/working/whatever visas? Is it like you work as an ALT with a Teaching visa, you find a place willing to hire you in a few months when you finish that contract and you get sponsorship to change your teaching visa for a working visa?

Also Two_Heads_Talking, do you have any companies in mind when you say that?

I'm also not particular on JET, I know it's supposedly the best all around deal but It's not like I have my heart set on JET, just Tokyo.

Thanks a whole lot for the info everyone.
Last edited by StrandedInATreetop on Wed 10.31.2007 4:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 10.31.2007 5:49 pm

The year I entered JET there was 1 placement in Tokyo, out of some 1000+ new people. Tokyo has plenty of private ALT companies and they don't need ALTs from JET.
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RE: Working/teaching-specifically in Tokyo

Postby Igirisu_gaz » Wed 10.31.2007 6:39 pm

StrandedInATreetop wrote:
What? There are no ALT positions at all in Tokyo?


Nope. There are a large variety of reasons for this, one being the governer not being a fan of the employment of foreigners in public schools (certainly not via the JET scheme). As Yudan mentioned there is indeed 1 (or maybe a couple more). But these positions are not IN Tokyo. They are on an Island off Japan that falls under the governership of Tokyo, thus meaning surrounding prefectures are closer.

I put Chiba and Saitama cities as 2nd and 3rd requests after Tokyo. How likely or unlikely is it that I'll be placed there? That would be ok with me, obviously not ideal but totally acceptable.


Can't say. It's a shot in the dark.

Igirisu_gaz - I thought your not allowed to look for a job in Japan if you already have a job?


The Visa is your visa. Nobody elses. If you have been given 1 year, you can work for as long or short a period as you like and switch to another job. ALTHOUGH: If you leave the JET scheme earlier than scheduled there is a chance you will be liable for all the costs up until that point (flight,hotel fees etc.), not to mention it's very poor form considering it's an "exchange scheme". Eikaiwa firms are businesses and as such will not pay for you to get over here.

Is it like you work as an ALT with a Teaching visa, you find a place willing to hire you in a few months when you finish that contract and you get sponsorship to change your teaching visa for a working visa?


Your initial visa will be as an instructor. Meaning you will only be able to work as such. If you wish to change occupations entirely you will have to get your visa changed. To do that you will need a job first and a company to sponsor you to do so, In something of a catch 22ish situation, in most situations the company in question willl require you to be eligiable to work in the country prior to application. This is obviously not always the case, but unless you can offer the company something a Japanese person can't (other than English ability) then there's not a lot of incentive for them to go through all the paper work to emply you.

If it simply has to be Tokyo then your best bet is an Eikaiwa firm. There are a lot in Tokyo, but right now the job market is swamped with flotsam from the Nova explosion. If they find a sponsor however, there will be a surge in demand (again). And you stand a good chance of picking up a job in the Kanto area.


However, 2 months in Japan doesn't seem like a whole lot to get a really good feel for the place. Especially if you spent it all in Tokyo. But it's your application, you should do whatever makes you happy.

Although I would advise against mentioning the escalator reasoning in the interview.

EDIT: Also remember there is a big difference between going on holiday somewhere and working for a living there. Going on homestay or holiday in Tokyo may well be fabulous, but working there is no doubt an entirely different kettle of Koi. For working conditions the country will be more relaxed (note: I have only ever worked in cities in the UK and the country in Japan, but I assume there are similarities)
Last edited by Igirisu_gaz on Wed 10.31.2007 8:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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