Learn Japanese with JapanesePod101.com

View topic - Moving to Japan with a family

Moving to Japan with a family

Post questions and answers about living or visiting Japan or the culture

Moving to Japan with a family

Postby micahcowan » Tue 10.18.2011 2:13 am

My wife and I, who have three children (with ages ranging from 4 to 11), have decided to actively pursue moving to Japan. My best guess as to when this could take place would be mid-to-late 2013.

I work as a software engineer for a US company that also has facilities in Japan, and I spend a lot of my time telecommuting form work, coming in a couple times a week. My current plan is to inquire as to whether it would be possible to have the Japan-side office sponsor a work visa for me, in which I would work the same job in the same group for the same boss, but from Japan.

Notes particular to our situation: No one besides myself has any knowledge of the Japanese language, except that my oldest daughter has learned a handful of hiragana characters. My wife and oldest daughter are diagnosed with severe bipolar disorder (manic depression), though medication is very effective for my wife who can lead a normal life. We are still experimenting with the right medical cocktail for my oldest daughter; my middle child (son) has been diagnosed with ADHD, though there's a decent chance it could be a misdiagnosis for bipolar disorder (which is after all genetic, and includes the classic symptoms for ADHD, plus a few more (which we haven't seen yet really, but they may be dormant, which is why we're fine with ADHD for now)).

There is no way we can afford a typical international private school, which is just prohibitively expensive. We currently homeschool the oldest daughter, whose learning ability is dramatically impacted by her medical condition. In her case, it's as if her mind essentially just "switches off" from time to time, and she is completely incapable of learning. Other times she makes good progress. Combining this with emotional instability and social difficulties, and it's just easier to guide her education ourselves (mostly handled by my wife, but I pitch in as I have time). The middle child does fairly well in the local public school, and is quick to learn. The youngest has not yet begun schooling.

Probably the best bet is to homeschool the middle child in addition to the oldest. The oldest requires a lot of direct hands-on help from a parent for most of her learning, but I expect the son could do quite a bit of his work on his own once he got used to it. We're currently using the curriculum at http://www.k12.com, through a public school program called California Virtual Academies; k12's "telecommute" schooling curriculum is also offered in the form of an international academy; but the tuition ranges from $5-7k/yr, as opposed to the ~$20k/yr of, say, AJIS.

Thoughts on all of this? ...Money is likely to be tight, but shouldn't be _too_ much of a concern; I make a decent living (though I realize it probably won't get me as far in Japan, and even here it gets eaten up quite quickly by the rent and grocery needs of a family of five, etc), and we plan to save up a buffer of between $20-30k before making the attempt (we expect to bring virtually nothing with us, and buy the bare essentials after the move).
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby micahcowan » Tue 10.18.2011 2:36 am

Additional question: it would be our desire to have everyone in the family exposed to Japanese on as continual a basis as we can possibly provide. Ideally, we should have a native speaker live with us. I can obviously speak Japanese to the family, and try to converse with them in it, but they will be learning a non-native-speaker's Japanese, which will only leave them open to difficulties once we're actually in Japan. They can unlearn the mistakes they'll have learned from me, but by then it will be habit, and harder to break.

I had thought about looking into having, say, a Japanese foreign exchange student live with us, but that might not necessarily be the ideal situation for that student - after all, a foreign exchange student typically comes to the US to learn English intensively, and the main part of that must be in actually living a daily life with an English-speaking family. If we, meanwhile, are attempting to speak primarily Japanese in their presence, this may be counterproductive to them. We had similar situations when I was growing up: my family would have Japanese exchange students, and I would be eager for Japanese practice, but in retrospect I think they may potentially have paid the price in their English studies.

Still, perhaps if we can have a balanced approach, where we speak enough English and enough Japanese for both to benefit, then it might be worthwhile for both parties. Otherwise we may have to work something else out, where a Japanese-speaking リーマン or non-exchange student is offered drastically reduced board in exchange for language exposure and help...
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby micahcowan » Tue 10.18.2011 3:08 am

Sorry - one more bit that's probably important: though I work as a software engineer, I do not have a degree in a related field; in fact, I do not have a college degree at all. In fact, I don't technically even have a HS degree (I homeschooled through highschool, and university waived the highschool requirement since by that time I was already getting straight A's at the local community college). I have scads and scads of work experience (and knowledge) in the field, but I get the impression that degrees are more important to this field in Japan, and especially to immigration. Is this likely to make it very difficult for me to get the appropriate SOR when I apply for it?

...I could probably finish a bachelor's without _too_ much hassle, though it would probably change the timeframe. I was actually only around 20 units or so from graduation when I dropped out, actually (~11 years ago); the problem is that I was pursuing a major in music (piano performance), which obviously isn't related to my present career. (I'd have to change form my originally-pursued degree (Bachelor of Music, or BM) to a Bachelor of Arts, I think, since the former has performance requirements that I had not completely met when I dropped out, and would be difficult for me to meet now with a full-time career).
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby Shiroisan » Tue 10.18.2011 8:41 pm

Momentarily sort of off topic:
Spoiler:
I hope I'm not overstepping any boundary here, but I was a little confused about something; I had severe depression from about 16 - 19 (thank the gods- it seemed to miraculously go away) that was somewhat characterized by mood swings similar to the manic form of depression. And although it's true that it majorly affects things, my grades never suffered. Actually it may have been the one thing in my life that was consistent. The only reason I was concerned by this was of the possibility that your daughter might have something else (or in addition to) the original diagnosis. Anyway back to the topic:


Where in Japan would you be? This majorly affects things... Did you know that Shinjuku Tokyo has supposedly the highest cost of living of anywhere on earth? And that tokyo itself is only second to one city in highest cost of living? And then on the flip side there's small villages that cost next to nothing to live at. So yeah that's the first thing to consider.

So you're not planning on homeschooling the youngest, interesting. Will he be brought up with the Japanese language then? Is the only option for English speakers private schools?

------------------

Your emersion situation does indeed sound difficult. Out of curiosity, how does the rest of your family feel about the concept of learning a new language and culture? The amount of interest effects things as I'm sure you're aware.
----------------------

Unless you're on a different visa than the "work" visa, I believe you absolutely have to have a degree. I could be wrong, but this is what I've been told all along. You can work part time on a student visa, or on special permission as an "entertainer" or what not, but for actually work-working I think you have to have the degree.

As for the type of degree, some Universities only offer a "BA" for an umbrella degree over ALL art forms, so I'm sure that could be arranged. If you changed your degree title to "music theory and history" or something instead of something that requires performance, it seems feasible.

------------------------
User avatar
Shiroisan
 
Posts: 351
Joined: Sun 03.06.2011 2:52 am
Native language: Eigo

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby micahcowan » Wed 10.19.2011 5:21 am

Shiroisan wrote:Momentarily sort of off topic:

(my reply in spoiler)

Spoiler:
I hope I'm not overstepping any boundary here, but I was a little confused about something; I had severe depression from about 16 - 19 (thank the gods- it seemed to miraculously go away) that was somewhat characterized by mood swings similar to the manic form of depression. And although it's true that it majorly affects things, my grades never suffered. Actually it may have been the one thing in my life that was consistent. The only reason I was concerned by this was of the possibility that your daughter might have something else (or in addition to) the original diagnosis.


Micah's response: Yeah, there are different degrees. The one my wife has is the severest (Type 1), and while I don't think my daughter's diagnosis included type specificity, it's pretty clear that hers is at least as bad, if anything worse, than what my wife has had to deal with. Her mood goes wildly all over the place, she gets frustrated extremely easily, and all of this affects her productivity. In addition, bipolar disorder often includes ADHD symptoms, and she has them very strongly. Easily distracted to the point where it can be difficult to reign in her focus on one thing long enough to learn something, etc.

Chronic, inheritable medical depression, and manic depression, unfortunately never "go away", except that it is actually possible once you reach about 60 (or if not go away, at least mellow out). (Not saying you weren't depressed, just that you clearly didn't suffer the same variety). Both (but especially manic depression) typically present huge challenges to simply living daily life. ...and I'm throwing Japan into all this :) ...but it seems there may be tradeoffs to our benefit - it looks like it might actually be easiest to provide homeschooling directly and informally ourselves, and AFAICT so far there are no legal issues with this. This lets us focus on the most important subjects without being restricted to someone else's curricular restraints.


Where in Japan would you be? This majorly affects things... Did you know that Shinjuku Tokyo has supposedly the highest cost of living of anywhere on earth? And that tokyo itself is only second to one city in highest cost of living? And then on the flip side there's small villages that cost next to nothing to live at. So yeah that's the first thing to consider.


Unknown at this time. It's still a couple years out, after all. :)

But I'm thinking we'd probably live either in or near the general Tokyo metropolitan area, but not in Tokyo city itself. We'll need to find the right balance of cost and convenience, and we'll probably want to be near enough to areas with a sufficiently high percentage of gaijin as to take advantage of support groups or such, if necessary (Tokyo has support groups for English-speaking parents of "special needs" children, for instance).

So you're not planning on homeschooling the youngest, interesting. Will he be brought up with the Japanese language then? Is the only option for English speakers private schools?


Private schools or homeschool, apparently. Japan of course has no requirements on the education of foreign children living in Japan, but I'm assuming we're still under federal US obligations, as US citizens, though I doubt very much we'll be getting calls about truancy ;)

This may well leave us open to pursue informal training of our children, in whichever subjects and whatever pace seems most appropriate. This could be both less expensive and more effective, if we can pull it off right.

Your emersion situation does indeed sound difficult. Out of curiosity, how does the rest of your family feel about the concept of learning a new language and culture? The amount of interest effects things as I'm sure you're aware.


You're right, of course.

Everyone in the family seems to be excited enough by the prospect of living in Japan to be interested in learning the language. And there was actually interest from most of them in learning before now, but I had trouble finding time and resources to train them, and wasn't really motivated to push them at it when I did find it. The prospect of moving to Japan obviously changes all this, and learning Japanese is one of our highest priorities (right after getting out of debt and saving up for the "buffer" I mentioned previously).

Unless you're on a different visa than the "work" visa, I believe you absolutely have to have a degree. I could be wrong, but this is what I've been told all along. You can work part time on a student visa, or on special permission as an "entertainer" or what not, but for actually work-working I think you have to have the degree.


Yeah, that's been mostly my impression, too. However, my plan has changed a little from my message the other night; it hadn't been entirely clear to me from some of the things I'd read up until now, but I realized that a work-allowed SOR won't actually be necessary if I continue to work for the US branch of the company. This also has the advantage of not having to involve the Japan office in offering me a job I already have, and saving me the degree concerns. I'll probably apply for a "Cultural Activities" SOR instead, at least initially.

I think it's possible the degree might not be strictly necessary given my work history - that is, immigration might approve an Engineer SOR on the basis of my employment history. But even if it's possible, it's likely to be extra work to convince them, and probably depends on who I'm dealing with when. It certainly seems safest to get the degree.

And that's what I'm planning on doing now, even though, as I said, I no longer plan on playing for a work-allowing SOR. I need to protect myself against losing my current employment and other such concerns, and it seems to me that it'd all be much safer with a degree under my belt. So I'll do my best to see what can be done about that in the meantime.

Of course, continuing to work for the US office has distinct disadvantages as well. I'd continue to be paid in US dollars, which, given the dollar's current value with respect to the yen, will amount to a pay cut. Especially when combined with the probable cost-of-living increase (though I already live in a high cost-of-living area of the US).

Also, any health benefits offered by my employer are probably worthless, so I'll probably need to enroll in the national health plan at my own expense.

As for the type of degree, some Universities only offer a "BA" for an umbrella degree over ALL art forms, so I'm sure that could be arranged. If you changed your degree title to "music theory and history" or something instead of something that requires performance, it seems feasible.


"Piano performance" should still work, as I already completed more than enough performance requirements to satisfy the BA (as opposed to the BM). Ideally I should get something at least somewhat related to my field, but I may have to settle for doing what's possible, in the timeframe we have.
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby Shiroisan » Wed 10.19.2011 7:40 pm

Yeah, the yen sort of went crazy after 3/11. I'm crossing my fingers that it loses at least a BIT of it's value by the time I go next year.

As for the diagnosis thing, after 4 years doctors were convinced it was chronic major. But, I suppose there is a defining difference between people born with a different brain chemistry than people who develop the condition later. I'd imagine we're the ones who have the chance of it leaving us, regardless of severity (whether it takes therapy, diet , medication, change of life or even just time).
User avatar
Shiroisan
 
Posts: 351
Joined: Sun 03.06.2011 2:52 am
Native language: Eigo

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby micahcowan » Wed 10.19.2011 8:59 pm

Shiroisan wrote:As for the diagnosis thing, after 4 years doctors were convinced it was chronic major. But, I suppose there is a defining difference between people born with a different brain chemistry than people who develop the condition later. I'd imagine we're the ones who have the chance of it leaving us, regardless of severity (whether it takes therapy, diet , medication, change of life or even just time).


Although bipolar in particular is famous for being "triggered" later in life, even though the seeds were already there. That's the case for my wife, who got hit with it when she was around 12, around the time of her parents' divorce, but not the case in my kids, both of whom seemed to have symptoms practically since birth (but recall that, at least for now, the middle child has ADHD, and not bipolar).

Anyway, thanks for your input, I appreciate as much feedback as I can get (aside from things like "that's a horrible idea, don't even think about doing it" ;) ).
User avatar
micahcowan
 
Posts: 249
Joined: Fri 08.13.2010 2:08 pm
Location: California, USA
Native language: US English/米語

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby Shiroisan » Wed 10.19.2011 9:24 pm

micahcowan wrote:
Shiroisan wrote:Anyway, thanks for your input, I appreciate as much feedback as I can get.


Np- I could imagine. Even if it's a couple years away, that's a pretty massive change of life :shock: .
User avatar
Shiroisan
 
Posts: 351
Joined: Sun 03.06.2011 2:52 am
Native language: Eigo

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby OitaFish » Thu 10.27.2011 10:32 am

Regardless of who you are working for, as long as you are doing it in Japan I think you need a visa that allows you to do it. A cultural activities visa isn't going to allow you to do engineering work, even if you are paid in US dollars.

The MOFA and MOJ have websites in English that explain requirements. I believe for an engineering visa, if you don't have a degree, you need 10 years of relative experience. If you have the 10 years and can document it, I don't think getting a degree is going to help you but I've never heard of anyone doing it that way so I don't know for sure.

Regarding the medical issues, I hope you can research the kind of help that would be available here before you move. I don't think its as advanced as the US. Also, if your family members require seeing counselors, it may be difficult finding one that can speak English good enough to help. I don't know -- just something for you to think about.
User avatar
OitaFish
 
Posts: 94
Joined: Wed 01.30.2008 1:34 am
Location: Oita, Japan

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby Mike Cash » Sun 12.25.2011 4:48 am

This strikes me as a really, really, really bad idea.
Never underestimate my capacity for pettiness.
User avatar
Mike Cash
 
Posts: 2737
Joined: Sun 08.20.2006 3:38 am
Native language: English

Re: Moving to Japan with a family

Postby LordSupafly » Sat 03.10.2012 2:01 am

micahcowan,

Let me know if you find any good resources on working for a US company while in Japan.

I am in a very similar situation, although my family doesn't suffer from any disabilities. We did find some good websites that list English-speaking schools in Japan. Of course my family will eventually have to learn the language, but it might ease the transition to do the first year or two in an English-speaking school.
User avatar
LordSupafly
 
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue 11.09.2010 2:06 pm
Native language: English


Return to Culture and Info about living in Japan

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 6 guests