“Wow! Cara you completely blend in with the students. I can’t tell that you’re a foreigner at all!”
As a small Asian girl (5′2″ or about 157 centimeters) with tanned skin and (previously) straight, black hair, I’ve reluctantly gotten used to being mistaken as Japanese in the past year that I have lived in rural Japan. Besides the East Asian facial features that I inherit from my Chinese parents, nothing about me is “Japanese.” I was born in Australia, grew up in Hong Kong, then spent eight years living in Australia and the U.S. prior to coming to Japan to work as an assistant language teacher in the JET Programme. While I might look as if I am from Asia, a lot of my ways of thinking are Westernized.
According to a 2016 article in the Japan Times, 30 percent of foreigners living in Japan come from China alone. Yet, the fact that being Asian doesn’t necessarily mean being Japanese still seems like breaking news to many locals.
Ignorance at school
There is a Canadian ALT at my school who is half Japanese, but I never really thought I was that different from him, until one of my coworkers tapped my shoulder and told me I look exactly the same as the students.
Not knowing how to respond, I tried not to feel weird about my foreign identity being unrecognized. What I secretly hoped, though, was that as an Asian foreigner, I wouldn’t be considered a lesser foreigner than the half-Asian Canadian ALT.
But incidents like that have come back to me time and again.
From what I’ve observed at my schools, students with parents of non-Japanese descent try to mask their mixed ethnicities. The environment — one that by nature aims for homogeneity — …continue reading
After working as an ALT (assistant language teacher) for your first contracted job in Japan, you may be tempted to change jobs and work for an eikaiwa (private conversation school), instead. The eikaiwa schools come in countless varieties, with large companies like ECC, Coco Juku and AEON dominating the field, while there are also plenty of smaller chains and individual “boutique” schools to choose from, as well. Regardless of the size of the school, there are some important questions you need to ask your potential future employer before making the leap from an assistant language teacher in public schools to English instructor at an eikaiwa. Here are five things to consider to be prepared, but keep yourself legally working in Japan.
Knowing the answers to these five points can make the transition from ALT to eikaiwa much smoother and more stress-free in the long term.
1. Employment status
While this might seem like a no-brainer, you must learn what your employment status is at your company. Are you a jyugyoin (part-time employee), gyoumuitaku (subcontracted worker), a kikanshain (fixed-term contract worker), a hakenshain (temp worker), a hiseishain (non-permanent employee) or a seishain (permanent, full-time employee)?
If you are going to be employed part-time, subcontracted or a fixed term worker, you may not be able to take on the job if you do not have adequate means to pay for your living expenses unless you intend to take on extra work (which can affect your visa status). If you are going to be a non-permanent or permanent employee, then you’ll be able to take on the job, however there are three major services you’ll need to enroll in (and pay the monthly premiums for), while permanent employees are enrolled by their company, who deduct these payments from your paycheck for you.
This also impacts your income …continue reading
Source: Temple University Japan
This past weekend, I made the decision to get out of my comfort zone. One could argue that I had done that by leaving for a country where I don’t even know the language. I would say that it’s not enough. The problem was that living at one of the school’s dorms became a crutch. Being at the dorms allowed for me to have a bit of America, even in Japan. I made friends with other American students studying abroad and we could flock together. Safety in numbers and all that jazz. We moved in groups because doing things on our own in a foreign country was scary. This kind of group comfort was fine for the first few days, when I was still trying to gain my footing. Two weeks in though and I decided enough was enough. I didn’t want to continue to be dependent on my friends. I wanted to spread out my wings and fly on my own.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying my friends are weak for staying in groups or anything like that. Nor am I saying that I was tired of my friends. My thoughts were more along the lines that I came to Japan in hopes of gaining more confidence in myself. However, I have not really done anything that forced me to be uncomfortable or lost. In order to fix that I decided that Sunday I was going to go to Asakusa on my own. I planned to take a look at the Drum Museum and the Sensō-ji Temple. Also, I hoped to gain more confidence in navigating the train system.
Rather than going through a timeline of my trip, I’m going to state a few things I did learn:
The best way to learn a train system is to navigate it …continue reading
When you move into a home in the Japanese countryside, you will soon realize that your house doesn’t belong to you. Although you may be paying the rent and filling it with furniture, the true masters of the domain are the bugs and vermin that have been living there for years. Lurking in your tatami, creeping around the skirting board and scuttling under your fridge, it’s enough to drive you crazy. When you see the umpteenth cockroach creeping its way across your floor, it may be time to declare war on bugs with the latest weaponry you can find!
The first weapon in any bug-busting arsenal should be ホイホイ. This is a kind of gooey trap that kills the pest by sticking it hard to the floor. As most bugs have limited lifespans, they will soon turn to mulch — attracting more bugs into your trap. Cue sadistic laughter — mwahahaha… !
The most common one is called a ゴキブリホイホイ (for cockroaches), but there are also コバエホイホイ (for those annoying little flies) and ノミホイホイ (flea traps). If your target is flying, you may want to try a similar product called ハエ取り紙（かみ） (fly paper) instead.
There is also a ネズミホイホイ (a mouse glue trap), but honestly, the thought of killing a mouse slowly in a swamp of goo seems kind of monstrous. Instead, you might want to try live trapping these wee beasties with a ねずみ捕獲（ほかく）カゴ. These wire boxes are left over the little critter’s hole and snap shut as soon as the animal enters it. There is even a black version so you don’t have to worry about even seeing the animal as you take it to somewhere as far away from your house as possible to release it.
For the fans of alliterative revenge, there is also pest poison. …continue reading