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Red flags and exit strategies: advice for English teachers in Japan

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It’s an easy scenario to imagine. A fresh-faced individual from the West, determined to move to Japan, browses English-teaching job listings on a site such as GaijinPot or O-Hayo Sensei. They apply to a few, and get a response from a promising private school. The job is basically locked down, and our hypothetical instructor-to-be is geeked — so geeked they don’t really look around online to see what has been written about the place.

They come to Japan and everything seems golden at first. The company sets them up with housing and practically takes care of everything. The country is so new, the teacher doesn’t ever stop to think if the company might be taking advantage of them in some way. Do they really need to work all those unpaid hours, and why doesn’t the company help pay for health insurance? Although some teachers find they have few complaints, for others, things can turn sour fast.

“They treat me like family, which is nice until Dad takes his belt off,” says Dennis Tesolat, chair of the General Union, a Japan-based trade union that works closely with those employed in the private English education industry.

The Internet is full of horror stories from non-Japanese workers employed by English dispatch companies and conversation schools (eikaiwa). A report compiled between May 2014 and May 2015 by the General Union features a litany of broken rules at larger schools and dispatch companies.

With the autumn school term well underway — and with the Japanese government pushing for more English-language learning ahead of the 2020 Olympic Games, meaning a higher demand for native teachers — it’s important for new instructors in Japan to know when they are being exploited, and, if so, how to improve their lot or extricate themselves from the situation as painlessly as possible.

“It’s the eikaiwa industry. There will be problems,” says Tesolat. “Once bad things happen, it’s very hard to deal with them. It’s better to get the information beforehand.”

A potentially bad situation can be spotted as early as the interview process. One example Tesolat says he has heard about is a company urging new employees to come into the country on tourist visas, and promising them the proper credentials later on. This should be a massive red flag.

“You don’t want to get caught without a visa. I mean, you will get in more trouble than the company. The only thing to do is leave. Get back on the airplane, go away!” Tesolat says, urging teachers to only accept positions that guarantee a proper visa from the outset. Kosuke Oie, an immigration lawyer at the Tokyo Public Law Office, Foreign Nationals and International Service Section, says both the employee and employer can be punished with a fine or imprisonment if an employee doesn’t have the appropriate visa, but the former can also be deported.

Some companies try to skirt this by having the teacher initially work as a “volunteer” while the proper visa is being processed. Oie stresses that teachers should be aware that this still leaves them vulnerable. “You can only do what your visa — or more precisely, your status of residence — allows you to do,” he says.

Yet there are other topics that might be ignored in the interview that Tesolat says are worth keeping in mind, such as health insurance and paid holidays.

“Chances are, if they don’t mention these things, it’s because they don’t exist,” he warns.

Still, Tesolat acknowledges that asking about these issues in the first meeting can set off alarm bells on the company side, possibly resulting in an applicant not getting a job. In desperate situations where you need employment, he admits it’s best to not ask too many questions of this nature, at least when dealing with larger companies such as Aeon or Interac. “Big places are better, they’ve dealt with us for longer and abide by labor rules,” Tesolat says.

“Small schools — just ask directly, otherwise it will end in tears,” he adds. “I don’t want to slag off small companies, but those are the places you need to ask the hard questions. They are harder to deal with, because they overreact.” Tesolat says that if you notice everyone working at a smaller, private company is part-time, or that teachers quit frequently, it’s best to give them a wide berth.

Eikaiwa — both big and small outfits — tend to try to get the most out of teachers. Overtime work can be a particularly thorny issue.

“The principle is that the company must pay overtime for additional hours, more than eight hours a day, 40 hours a week,” Oie says. He notes, though, that teachers should pay attention to what’s written in their contracts, as companies can include special frameworks that change the requirements for overtime pay (to hours worked monthly, for example).

Anybody working at a company with five or more full-time employees logging over 30 hours or more a week should be enrolled in shakai hoken, a government health care and pension program wherein half of all monthly payments are covered by the company. Many English teaching businesses, big or small, commonly avoid doing this.

“The big 29.5-hour scam,” Tesolat says. “Basically you are working all day, at school, and what most of the places do is they give you a bunch of split shifts over the course of the day. You are stuck the whole day, but they are keeping you off of insurance.”

When faced with any infraction, Tesolat says employees shouldn’t bring up these issues with the company, as it could result in the teacher not being brought back come the new semester.

“Give the union a call first,” he says. “There are some companies we’ve dealt with for a long time, and it is just a matter of us writing a letter. That’s what happens at most of the bigger companies.”

Yet sometimes getting out of a bad situation is the only option. In such cases, Tesolat recommends looking for new jobs quietly (and trying to save up as much money as you can while you do so). He adds that, if possible, you should try to leave on amicable terms.

“You can quit your job — the law says that. They can’t force you to stay,” he says. “I would give as much notice as you can. I would follow what the contract says unless it is a situation where it doesn’t say, or if violence is involved — in those situations you just have to get out.”

Technically, an employer can’t fire an employee without 30 days’ notice or a month’s pay in lieu, except in extreme circumstances. But Tesolat mentions that, in some cases, when an instructor goes to quit, the company will just cut them right there. In these situations, the teacher should remember that a company must pay the just-terminated employee any owed wages within seven days if the employee requests this.

Some schools might threaten to evict a teacher from the residence they are living in. “It depends on the condition of the lease — who pays the rent, etc. — but generally speaking, forcing an eviction without court procedure is not acceptable if the employee still lives there,” Oie says.

Getting help from those who can speak Japanese and/or know how the law works is also vital, a point Tesolat echoes when dealing with local labor standards offices.

“That’s a really good place to go with someone from the union, because they are afraid when someone with a lot of knowledge comes in.” That said, Tesolat adds, “The labor standards office is probably the least helpful place you can go,” as they don’t tend to put in much effort.

Tesolat says those coming to the country should safeguard against problems early on by joining a union before even arriving in the country.

“You will have information other people don’t, you can learn to deal with problems at work before they become problems,” he says. “If something happens, you are in the front of the line to get help.”

Yet maybe the most important piece of advice for anyone considering coming to Japan to work in the private English teaching industry is to do their homework beforehand and, in the case of small companies, ask the important questions. The best way to avoid problems in this business is sniff them out as early as possible.

Learning Curve covers issues related to education in Japan. Your comments and story ideas: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    In my last job (a small international pre-school) things got to the point where I decided I had to leave, even without another job to go to yet. My physical and mental health were both being ground down on a constant basis. After I left I had diarrhea for 4 days due to the stress. I gave 2 months notice, but the next day I was told I was finished from that day as I was no longer under contract and they didn’t have to abide by any Labour laws. I was out of contract because, as usual, the new contract was late. There was no severance pay, or month in lieu. When I said that was illegal, the manager threatened to harass my sick girlfriend who, unbeknownst to me, had signed a contract making her guarantor for me as an employee. I was unable to go to Hello Work as they would’ve questioned the details and paperwork, which wouldn’t gel. I was out of work, and living on my savings, and money from my family back home for 4 months. I came within a whisker of being bankrupt and homeless and there was nothing I could do about it. Students and parents think foreigners teaching language in Japan are living off the fat of the land, picking up sacks full of yen before leaving for the good life back home. Things MAY have been that way during the bubble, but these days it’s very far from the truth.

    • tisho

      Why were you stressed, and what do you do now? Just curious.

      • Paul Johnny Lynn

        The work was never-ending and I was “tut-tutted” when I took a break in my break-time. It reached the stage were “events” were scheduled for every month of the year, sometimes more than one, and they all required planning and preparation by the teachers. Unpaid overtime was an unstated expectation. Now I’m in eikaiwa again and it’s much less stressful.

  • Charles

    Being an English teacher here gets worse pretty much every year. The pay is exploitive. The average Japanese man (degree or not) gets 4.32 million yen per year (not sure what the figure is for women, so if someone could provide that, I would be interested to know). The average eikaiwa teacher gets 3 million yen per year. If you’re over 30 and making a standard eikaiwa salary, you’re getting screwed.

    My suggestions to new eikaiwa teachers that aren’t covered in this article are:

    – Remember that the union guys have their own agendas. They’re long-term English teachers. Helping new teachers get into the country and teach is against their interests. Of course they’re going to say “If a company expects you to come to the country on a tourist visa, just say NO!” Because most companies require this of new teachers. That’ll save more jobs for guess who–the entrenched teachers. Like the union guys.

    – Same thing with Shakai Hoken. These union guys are often supporting families, for which Shakai Hoken is the best option. But it might not be the best thing if you’re young and healthy and unlikely to be able to draw a pension. Opting out of Shakai Hoken might be a better choice for a young person.

    – DO NOT teach English for free. That man who replies to you in English at th train station? Put him in his place. No free English lessons. Reply to him in Japanese. If he wants to practice English, he can pay you. Keep business cards handy. Your girlfriend always speaks English with you? You realize, that’s hurting your Japanese and limiting your options in this country, right? Do you eat lunch with your students on your unpaid lunch break and speak English with them? As long as English teachers are paid only 72% of what a similarly-aged Japanese person is paid, we owe NOBODY ANYTHING for free.

    • Mike B

      – You’re wrong. The union guys make money off the number of union members (union dues) so it is in their best interest to get more teachers. Your theory only works if they change jobs every year.

      – You do realize that health insurance and pension are required by law right?

      – Aside from sounding bitter, getting paid under the table is still illegal. As for eating lunch with students, that’s more of an ALT thing and is part of your job description.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        I’m fairly sure pension isn’t – required by law, that is. Health insurance, however, if you end up in a situation where you don’t have it and you’re found out, they will tally that up and present it to you right quick.

      • Charles

        Pension (Kokumin Nenkin) _is_ required by law, but there are no real penalties for not paying in until you get to the point where you’re applying for permanent residency. Once you get to that point, it is possible to get turned down for not having paid in. I don’t pay Shakai Hoken, but I _do_ pay Kokumin Nenkin because that’s the law, and besides, my country and Japan have a reciprocal agreement, so I can transfer credits in Japan to my home country.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        I pay Kokumin, but I will be in Japan until I die (wife, child, house). I didn’t know Pension was outright required, I know plenty of Japanese people who don’t pay into it, but I suspect that’s like NHK. Theoretically everyone with a TV should pay it, but very few do.

      • Charles

        You’re correct, plenty of Japanese people don’t pay into it, and nothing happens to them. Many foreigners also get away with it–for now. Very rarely, this can result in denial of a visa extension, but this is rare enough to make dodging payments a rational choice for many English teachers.

        I’m not sure yet how much longer I want to stay in Japan–that largely hinges on my career over the next 1~2 years. However, if I do stay, I don’t want to do _anything_ to jeopardize my possibility of getting permanent residency–that is really the light at the end of the tunnel for me.

        As for NHK, I scored a great deal–a big TV for just over 10,000 yen. “Unfortunately,” it has one major flaw–it can’t get broadcasts. Including NHK. Boohoo! :-)

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        I’m waiting on my postcard for the permanent resident visa as we speak. As I think I mentioned before, we’re in the inaka, so not paying NHK is even easier. The guy couldn’t speak English if his life depended on it.

      • keratomileusis

        No, you are wrong. In Japan, unlike in the U.S. and other countries, statutory dues are required of all workers in a “shop.” Recently the Supreme Court has ruled against such policies, thereby weaking unions financially. In Japan only a minute portion of teachers are members, mostly “lifers.” Health and social insurance are required by law, but big companies avoid this somehow. Now that Japan has implemented the “My Number” system, companies will find it difficult to avoid non compliance. This begs the question, what about all the past abuse?

    • Li Xuepeng

      Almost anyone can teach English, don’t take offense. What’s fair for eikaiwa, hundred man? Who’ll pay that? More sectors in more countries are taking hits than gaining. I just like to accept those drunken moments of bliss when I’m walking down a street I don’t know late at night, that’s what made my journey worth it tbh fam, idgaf about anything else (but I don’t teach either)

      • Charles

        “Almost anyone can teach English, don’t take offense.”

        In general, to teach English, you need to A) speak English, B) have a bachelor’s degree, and C) fly from another country to Japan and start from the beginning (buy a plane ticket, find a new place to live, learn a new language, etc.). Even then, no job is guaranteed. In order to have a decent shot at finding a job here, a TEFL certificate completed on-site and a few years of prior experience are generally required. This isn’t 1990, it’s 2015, and competition is much higher now. These requirements, or guidelines, at least, for getting an average job here hardly describe “anybody.”

        “tbh fam, idgaf about anything else (but I don’t teach either)”

        I can see why you aren’t teaching English.

      • James

        What is missing in the list of requirements is teaching credentials. Then only genuine teachers would teach, be remunerated appropriately and have favorable working conditions.

      • Charles

        Teaching credentials (at least a 120-hour cert) should be on that list, yes, but currently aren’t–immigration’s rules, not mine. I agree with you, they should be on the list, though.

        It’s amazing how Japanese put so much quality into their cars, their semiconductors, their art, etc. but so little quality into their English education system.

        Could you picture a Honda employee saying “I think Honda can save 1,000 yen on the production costs of each car by using cheap, rusty metal?”

        Could you picture Fujitsu saying “Maybe we can do better if we start selling the microchips that failed their tests and just hope no one notices?”

        Of course not.

        So why that attitude with English? I have never understood it.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        The trick is, if they changed the credentials, there would be a horrible period where people who had the credentials wouldn’t come here – as other places pay better – and people who didn’t couldn’t come here.

        And the government doesn’t want to put that kind of money into it’s ALT system that it would need to (to get the people who are qualified to teach as opposed to the ones who want to come to Japan and sit around on weekdays). Ironically, many BoEs already do, by paying dispatch companies twice the amount they would need to hire a foreigner directly. But this is because certainly most foreigners couldn’t possibly understand Japanese, so you must have the company to make understanding possible. :P

      • Charles

        “The trick is, if they changed the credentials, there would be a
        horrible period where people who had the credentials wouldn’t come here –
        as other places pay better – and people who didn’t couldn’t come here.”

        True. South Korea did this a few years ago–it started suddenly requiring criminal background checks and consular interviews in addition to the bachelor’s degree that was already required. And at the same time, the won tanked from ~1,000 won to the dollar to ~1,500 won to the dollar, rendering the once-good salaries comparable to a McDonald’s shift runner. Schools had trouble finding teachers and illegal work was easy to find, even just with a tourist visa. My Swedish friend entered Korea twice for 90 days each on a tourist visa and really cleaned up–she was banking about 4 million won per month teaching illegally.

        I’d like to think it can be done without government intervention–for example, if the J-government starts requiring a TEFL, and one teacher has no TEFL but has ten years of experience, what then? More inflexible red tape is the last thing this immigration system needs.

        But when the capitalist market fails, that’s when the government needs to step in. Here, it has failed.

        Essentially, the situation with English teachers is communist. Are you a good teacher with a ton of credentials, experience, and great ability? Here, have 3 million yen. Are you a bad teacher, fresh off the plane, who just barely stays employed? Here, have 3 million yen. The capitalist market has, for some reason, failed in the English teaching sector. Perhaps it needs “Perestroika.” Perhaps it needs some “shock therapy.”

      • James

        What is missing in the list of requirements is teaching credentials. Then only genuine teachers would teach, be remunerated appropriately and have favorable working conditions.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        “Almost anyone can teach English.”

        That really depends on what you mean by “teach English”. Coming here and filling a pair of shoes doesn’t take much, but actually doing a good job of teaching the language can not be (or simply is not) done by many.

      • Jay

        You have no idea what you are talking about. Speaking English and teaching it are opposite sides of the coin. having taught here for 30 years, I have seen horrible teachers, and also some great ones. The sad thing about Japanese is that they don’t properly recognize, and reward or punish, the difference.

      • Charles

        With a name like that, Li Xuepeng is probably from either China or Taiwan. I have lived in both, and can tell you, Chinese/Taiwanese people have an image of English teachers as extremely overpaid and totally uneducated. This is based half on reality (English teachers are paid well in China, and until recently one could teach there with only a high school diploma–though Taiwan has been much more competitive than that for years), but it is also half nationalist xenophobia–English teachers in China are firmly middle-class, but definitely not rich, and certainly aren’t stealing as much money as China’s capitalist ultra-elite.

        One of the things I love about Japan is that people don’t automatically assume that I’m rich and leading a totally charmed life in a solid gold house when I’m not. They don’t constantly talk about how lucky I am. That’s one of the many reasons I continue teaching in Japan instead of going to (more lucrative) China or Korea.

      • Jake Ashton

        good points. jus gotta chime in that korea is not all that lucrative. might even be worse than japan in some aspects.

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      Even if you’re not here for the long run, as long as you’re not here past three years, it doesn’t hurt to be on shakai hoken, you can get back up to 3 years of it when you go back.

      As for random people speaking English with me? I don’t speak Japanese with them, but I keep it short and sweet. I’m unlikely to have a conversation with someone I don’t know at any rate, so what is said doesn’t hurt anyone by saying it in English.

      I agree English teachers need to be paid more, but if it’s all about the money, even with the Olympics coming up, there are much better places to be teaching.

      • Charles

        Okay, mostly agree with what you wrote, except that I’ve been here almost five years and at this point, I’d just be throwing away money if I were paying Shakai Hoken. However, it is something to keep in mind for a first-year, second-year, or third-year teacher. I wasn’t offered Shakai Hoken until my third year (my first company had less than five employees, so no Shakai Hoken).

        Usually, when someone tries to get free English from me, I just do as you said–“keep it short and sweet.” But I think it’s important that English teachers realize (because they often don’t), that people getting English practice with you outside of work is their privilege, not their right.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        Well, if you’ve been here almost 5 years, and only been putting in for less than 2 years (from your indication that you were only offered Shakai Hoken from your third year), then you’d still have a year to put in before you’d be “losing out”. However, if you plan on being here past year 8, I get where you’re going, but if you’re planning on being here past year 8 already, you might want to think whether you will be here long enough to collect a pension, at any rate.

        I guess I’m happy enough to live in the inaka. Free English for me for the most part means when I meet young children in a public place, they’re completely bewildered because whyishisskinwhite, I say hello, they may say hello or may not, we move on. There is an older gent I meet sometimes during morning walks, but early in the morning, Japanese is my go to language, so we usually end up speaking that anyhow. But strange people who I meet in a mall or something? Yeah, short and sweet. Hi, nice to meet you, gone. I don’t even bother with cards, just post on websites where customers are looking for customers, as I don’t feel the person I met by chance is likely to pay more than 3,000 yen an hour, so it’s not really worth my time.

      • Charles

        You’re correct, if I had taken Shakai Hoken and then decided to leave, say, next year, I wouldn’t lose anything. I would get a refund on all the three years that I paid in. I am not sure yet how long I want to stay in Japan.

        I don’t think we’ll ever receive pensions from the J-government. Note how last year, they declared that foreigners who have lived here for decades and paid taxes for decades aren’t entitled to welfare. I wouldn’t be surprised if, once the debt hits 300% of GDP, all social services to gaijin are cut–pension, maybe even health insurance. Japanese wouldn’t bat an eye–they don’t think of us as having many (if any) human rights. The UN might have some harsh words if Japan did this, but it wouldn’t have much of an effect.

        I’d rather just keep as much of the money and put it into the bank or investments. I trust myself much more than the J-government, which especially over the last few years, has gotten worse and worse about foreigners’ human rights.

        As for whether I’ll stay…

        Sure, teaching English here is bad and getting worse. I refuse to stay and teach full-time past next year. Absolutely refuse. BUT there are lots of great opportunities here outside teaching English.

        Take exports. They’re just getting better and better recently with the extremely weak yen. I know an Aussie in my town who has made $50,000 in just eight months of running his antiques export business from here.

        IT pays better than EFL. There are plenty of jobs paying 4+ million yen, and even a few paying 5+ million yen.

        Japan has plenty of things going for it:
        – An interesting culture
        – An interesting language, and a better opportunity to learn it than anywhere else on the planet (as long as you’re not spending 40~50 hours a week teaching English)
        – A large number of climatic zones: you can choose snowy Hokkaido or the tropical beaches of the southernmost Ogasawara Islands, or the desert-like sand dunes of Tottori
        – Close proximity to Korea, Taiwan, China, Russia, Saipan, Guam, Hawaii, etc.
        – Relative safety compared to many (but not all) countries
        – People who are generally polite and well-behaved in public (not always, but better than Korea or China, certainly)
        – Attractive, well-dressed, not-too-fat people
        – Half-price bentō at supermarkets after 7:00 PM and cheap nattō

        Lots of great things to do here–but EFL ain’t one of them.

      • Clickonthewhatnow

        What has gotten exceptionally worse over the past few years about foreigner’s human rights? Other than the overstayer who passed away in jail, which granted, is horrible, but nothing else beyond that. Enlighten me? I just don’t see Japan doing that to foreigners, especially ones here long-term enough to retire here. The foreigner(hadn’t heard of plural people, just one out in a prefecture where I thankfully am not) who was not applicable for welfare, I’ve heard of, but it’s not an issue here.

        I do some exports on the side, and translating, which gets better as your experience does. IT is not as available where I am, but I’m enjoying my position in EFL, the challenge is as much as I want to make it. I’ll swap over to full time translating when I get closer to 60, if it’s still viable.

    • Todd Strickland

      Not to argue with your basic points, but your data on average salaries in Japan is very off.

      Gender-based income discrepancy is notoriously bad in Japan, so it’s more or less meaningless to say what a “MAN” makes and use that as your average. Furthermore, your numbers are probably based on a “salaryman,” which indicates a “regular full time worker,” and as everyone knows, a huge portion of the working men and women have been shifted to lower paying “contract” work.

      Anyways, here are the basic numbers you should be using.

      According to the OECD, the MEDIAN salary in Japan (the total amount of earnings divided by the total number of workers) is 3.8 million yen per year. But of course, that number includes the salaries of the super-wealthy, which skews upward what we think of the “average” salary.

      The MEAN salary in Japan (the number at which half of all workers make more, half of all workers make less) is only around 2.3 million yen. This number is more realistic as to what the “average” person makes.

      So, an eikaiwa salary of 3 million yen is actually 23% HIGHER than what half of all working Japanese make. I know not all teachers are making that salary these days, but if you are, that’s a good salary for a service sector job.

      • Harmony over Melody

        Just a note – you’ve got the words “median” and “mean” round the wrong way. Median is the middle worker, mean is all the salaries divided by the population of salary earners.

        It doesn’t harm your point about Eikaiwa teachers being better off than at least 50% of wage earners, providing your numbers are right. Do you have a link? (The OECD stat site says Japan’s mean average wages are 3.999 million yen per year)

      • Charles

        I agree, I’d like to see his source. I’m betting it’s very outdated. 2.3 million yen per year median salary doesn’t sound correct. You can earn that much just by working the night shift at Sukiya (many Sukiya locations, especially in the Kantō Region, pay over 1,000 yen per hour for the night shift). However, if his data is correct, then it will make me feel a lot less depressed about my wage. I’d like for him to share his source.

        And Todd Strickland, I’m not trying to be a sexist here (society already does enough of that as it is), but yeah, I compare myself to the average Japanese man, not the average Japanese woman. Why? Because I’m a man. I make apples-to-apples comparisons, not apples-to-oranges.

        If female eikaiwa teachers or Japanese women have a problem with the wage gap, I encourage them to fight it. However, I don’t have enough time to go out and champion everyone’s cause for issues that don’t really affect me, especially when I’m dealing with plenty of my own problems. And that’s only natural. Notice how Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, etc. were all black, and how Susan B. Anthony was a woman. People represent their own issues.

        As a man, I concentrate on men’s wages–as a man, I’m judged as a man (judged as a breadwinner). If I’m making 72 cents on the dollar what a Japanese man makes, it makes me, as a man, more harshly-judged. It makes it harder for me to get married and have children. It makes it harder for me to retire (a woman could marry up and tap her husband’s pension, but a low-earning man in this society would have a difficult time doing the reverse). It doesn’t matter whether I approve of this innate sexism or not (I don’t)–that’s just the way it is, and I’m not going to single-handedly change a nation of 120-something million people very much. Though as I stated previously, I would welcome someone posting the income numbers for women, as well.

        The 28% wage gap between me and a similarly-aged Japanese man has much more than a 28% impact. A young, healthy, single English teacher budgeting very carefully can save about 1,000,000 yen per year. An average Japanese man making 4.32 million yen per year can save twice that, easily. It’s a much bigger gap when you look a savings potential.

        What I’m trying to tell people is this: first of all wages, need to go up for English teachers. Paying an English teacher these wages is insulting by both Japanese and American standards.

        Now, I already hear the peanut gallery saying “But English teachers aren’t real teachers.”

        Well, at my school, we have three western English teachers: Me, a New Zealander, and a British guy.

        I have a CELTA and also another cert for teaching young learners. I’ve been teaching for over six years, and speak advanced Korean and intermediate Japanese with Kanji Kentei 4-kyuu to show for it. Am I not a “real language teacher?”

        The New Zealander speaks Japanese better than I do. He has five years’ experience with JET and one year of experience with eikaiwa (total: six years). Is he not an a “real language teacher?”

        The Brit has 30+ years’ teaching experience including the British Council in Indonesia and Portugal. As if it matters at all after a career like that, he also has an accredited TEFL cert. And he speaks Japanese quite well, as well as several other languages. Is he not a “real teacher?”

        So yeah, when real teachers are getting paid 3 million yen a year even after a degree, certifications, and many years of experience, when Japanese people are generally making about 4 million yen each, then yes, that is insulting.

        And my second point here is this: watch out for yourself. Don’t let the Japanese, who view you as an English-teaching object, use you more than necessary. When they use you, make sure you’re paid for it. And don’t let the unions use you, either–they are an “old boys network” (though maybe with some “old girls,” too) who have their own agenda. They want to protect their jobs, which sometimes means saying things to discourage new teachers from coming here or getting employment. If new teachers demand a work visa right off the plane, and demand Shakai Hoken, they’re going to lose out nine times out of ten to the “old boys” during a job interview, and that’s what the old boys want.

        So…look out for your own interests. And realize that eikaiwa/ALT gigs are declining with no end in sight. Get a skill! Raise capital! Do what successful immigrants in any country do!

        Me? I’m working on a degree in Computer & Information Science. I’m just four courses away from finishing, now. I’m also working on my Japanese. Next year, hopefully I can kiss the bleak, 3 million yen a year world of EFL goodbye, and say hello to the 3.55 million yen per year world of IT!

      • Thomas Dawe

        A night shift job is hardly the best example, is it? The vast majority of people don’t want to work a night shift, and who can blame them? It’s associated with a slew of health risks on top of isolating you socially. As such, employers typically offer far higher pay to incentivise the position.

      • Charles

        I worked full-time in two night shift jobs when I was a teenager. One was at 7-Eleven, and one was at Kohl’s. I loved working the night shift. The pay at both places was only $1 per hour higher, but I’ll tell you, I would’ve done it for the same pay as day shift. Why? Fewer people bothering you. More downtime. Relative peace and quiet, especially from 3-5 AM. I’m also a night owl, so there’s that.

        I actually got moved off the night shift because someone else wanted it. The woman who wanted it was a mom with kids who wanted it so she could work while her kids were asleep, sleep while they were at school, then be awake when they got home from school. Then I transferred to another 7-Eleven, where, you guessed it, the night shift was fully-booked and I had to work mornings, afternoons, and evenings instead. I stuck around there for the better part of a year, but the night shift only opened when I was getting ready to leave for Korea. :-(

        I would love to work the night shift again. Sure, some studies say there are health risks from “disrupting your natural circadian rhythms,” but look at it this way, the health risks from standing at a cash register for hours on end with a constant stream of customers being rude to you isn’t exactly “healthy” either, which is what you get on the day shifts. I always slept just fine–except when the boss would mix up my night shifts with day shifts.

      • Thomas Dawe

        Interesting that you made that job work for you, but nonetheless I suspect most tend to avoid the night shift. I’ll admit I’m not too familiar with how night shift work in Japan is treated, but in the UK the standard is 1.5x pay for unsociable hours.

      • Charles

        I’m not saying that everyone should work it. But it is a valid work option, and someone making less than the so-called “median” income of 2.3 million yen per year should definitely consider it.

        Every job has its drawbacks. I certainly understand avoiding a job because it involves sex work, for example, or avoiding a job because it requires you to work 72 hours per week for minimum wage. Those are reasonable reasons to avoid a job. However, simply being “night shift” isn’t that bad. That drawback falls within the realm of “normal drawbacks that you’ll find in any job,” in my opinion.

        I have some friends from high school with college degrees. One even has a master’s degree. They claim that there are “no jobs” in Fairfax, and that they’re “looking for a job, but no one’s hiring, everyone just wants unpaid interns.” So I offered some of these friends my job at an eikaiwa–including one guy who had lived in Japan before for ten years and “loved it.” Every single friend declined the job offer (3.1 million yen per year, a roughly 40-hour workweek, ten-minute commute each way, apartment for 55K yen 40 minutes outside of Nagoya). I now have considerably less pity and respect for those friends.

        To go back to my original point, I seriously doubt the median Japanese worker makes 2.3 million yen per year. And to any Japanese worker making that little, I think it is really his/her choice. We are experiencing record levels of worker shortages here in Japan. The unemployment rate is down to 3%, now. Jobs paying 2.3 million yen or more per year are a dime a dozen. With just a high school diploma, you can get that much working at Sukiya.

      • Charles

        I’m not saying that everyone should work it. But it is a valid work option, and someone making less than the so-called “median” income of 2.3 million yen per year should definitely consider it.

        Every job has its drawbacks. I certainly understand avoiding a job because it involves sex work, for example, or avoiding a job because it requires you to work 72 hours per week for minimum wage. Those are reasonable reasons to avoid a job. However, simply being “night shift” isn’t that bad. That drawback falls within the realm of “normal drawbacks that you’ll find in any job,” in my opinion.

        I have some friends from high school with college degrees. One even has a master’s degree. They claim that there are “no jobs” in Fairfax, and that they’re “looking for a job, but no one’s hiring, everyone just wants unpaid interns.” So I offered some of these friends my job at an eikaiwa–including one guy who had lived in Japan before for ten years and “loved it.” Every single friend declined the job offer (3.1 million yen per year, a roughly 40-hour workweek, ten-minute commute each way, apartment for 55K yen 40 minutes outside of Nagoya). I now have considerably less pity and respect for those friends.

        To go back to my original point, I seriously doubt the median Japanese worker makes 2.3 million yen per year. And to any Japanese worker making that little, I think it is really his/her choice. We are experiencing record levels of worker shortages here in Japan. The unemployment rate is down to 3%, now. Jobs paying 2.3 million yen or more per year are a dime a dozen. With just a high school diploma, you can get that much working at Sukiya.

      • Thomas Dawe

        Sure, I’ve actually worked jobs like that myself, and in fact I’m about to start eikaiwa work soon (to digress).

        My only point is that night shift work isn’t generally going to be a good indicator of what the average person earns.

      • Charles

        I agree, I’d like to see his source. I’m betting it’s very outdated. 2.3 million yen per year median salary doesn’t sound correct. You can earn that much just by working the night shift at Sukiya (many Sukiya locations, especially in the Kantō Region, pay over 1,000 yen per hour for the night shift). However, if his data is correct, then it will make me feel a lot less depressed about my wage. I’d like for him to share his source.

        And Todd Strickland, I’m not trying to be a sexist here (society already does enough of that as it is), but yeah, I compare myself to the average Japanese man, not the average Japanese woman. Why? Because I’m a man. I make apples-to-apples comparisons, not apples-to-oranges.

        If female eikaiwa teachers or Japanese women have a problem with the wage gap, I encourage them to fight it. However, I don’t have enough time to go out and champion everyone’s cause for issues that don’t really affect me, especially when I’m dealing with plenty of my own problems. And that’s only natural. Notice how Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, etc. were all black, and how Susan B. Anthony was a woman. People represent their own issues.

        As a man, I concentrate on men’s wages–as a man, I’m judged as a man (judged as a breadwinner). If I’m making 72 cents on the dollar what a Japanese man makes, it makes me, as a man, more harshly-judged. It makes it harder for me to get married and have children. It makes it harder for me to retire (a woman could marry up and tap her husband’s pension, but a low-earning man in this society would have a difficult time doing the reverse). It doesn’t matter whether I approve of this innate sexism or not (I don’t)–that’s just the way it is, and I’m not going to single-handedly change a nation of 120-something million people very much. Though as I stated previously, I would welcome someone posting the income numbers for women, as well.

        The 28% wage gap between me and a similarly-aged Japanese man has much more than a 28% impact. A young, healthy, single English teacher budgeting very carefully can save about 1,000,000 yen per year. An average Japanese man making 4.32 million yen per year can save twice that, easily. It’s a much bigger gap when you look a savings potential.

        What I’m trying to tell people is this: first of all wages, need to go up for English teachers. Paying an English teacher these wages is insulting by both Japanese and American standards.

        Now, I already hear the peanut gallery saying “But English teachers aren’t real teachers.”

        Well, at my school, we have three western English teachers: Me, a New Zealander, and a British guy.

        I have a CELTA and also another cert for teaching young learners. I’ve been teaching for over six years, and speak advanced Korean and intermediate Japanese with Kanji Kentei 4-kyuu to show for it. Am I not a “real language teacher?”

        The New Zealander speaks Japanese better than I do. He has five years’ experience with JET and one year of experience with eikaiwa (total: six years). Is he not an a “real language teacher?”

        The Brit has 30+ years’ teaching experience including the British Council in Indonesia and Portugal. As if it matters at all after a career like that, he also has an accredited TEFL cert. And he speaks Japanese quite well, as well as several other languages. Is he not a “real teacher?”

        So yeah, when real teachers are getting paid 3 million yen a year even after a degree, certifications, and many years of experience, when Japanese people are generally making about 4 million yen each, then yes, that is insulting.

        And my second point here is this: watch out for yourself. Don’t let the Japanese, who view you as an English-teaching object, use you more than necessary. When they use you, make sure you’re paid for it. And don’t let the unions use you, either–they are an “old boys network” (though maybe with some “old girls,” too) who have their own agenda. They want to protect their jobs, which sometimes means saying things to discourage new teachers from coming here or getting employment. If new teachers demand a work visa right off the plane, and demand Shakai Hoken, they’re going to lose out nine times out of ten to the “old boys” during a job interview, and that’s what the old boys want.

        So…look out for your own interests. And realize that eikaiwa/ALT gigs are declining with no end in sight. Get a skill! Raise capital! Do what successful immigrants in any country do!

        Me? I’m working on a degree in Computer & Information Science. I’m just four courses away from finishing, now. I’m also working on my Japanese. Next year, hopefully I can kiss the bleak, 3 million yen a year world of EFL goodbye, and say hello to the 3.55 million yen per year world of IT!

    • keratomileusis

      “a 50-year-old with permanent residency, JLPT N2-level, beautiful Japanese, and 20 years’ experience in Japan teaching English” Is it possible that he actually ENJOYS what he does? It sounds like you didn’t. Sorry, but capitalism is by nature exploitive, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

      Winston Churchill

      • Charles

        “Is it possible that he actually ENJOYS what he does?”

        Nope.

        Because I kept in touch with my boss, who told me how he just sat there and gave lessons with the bare minimum amount of energy, just had students do their workbooks and worksheets, and then quit a couple weeks shy of his contract end date. The guy was a wreck, which is honestly what I’d expect from a reasonably intelligent man (with a degree in genetics) who had been doing the same low-rung job for the same pay for 20 straight years.

    • MacTire

      On the whole, a most insightful comment…Among other things, it shows how times have changed…Eikaiwa is, for the most part, a kind of mizushoubai. It’s like working in a bar, except that the average teacher knows less about English linguistics than a hostess knows about drinks–or such is the contempt that is shown. 2015 isn’t 1970, when adventurous semi-hippies “Discovered Japan” and decided to stay for a while. Japan is becoming an immigrant country, so, yes, learn Japanese, assimilate, get a real job–or leave…But one question: Do Japanese still hit on foreigners for “English conversation”?

  • Charles

    Being an English teacher here gets worse pretty much every year. The pay is exploitive. The average Japanese man (degree or not) gets 4.32 million yen per year (not sure what the figure is for women, so if someone could provide that, I would be interested to know). The average eikaiwa teacher gets 3 million yen per year. If you’re over 30 and making a standard eikaiwa salary, you’re getting screwed.

    My suggestions to new eikaiwa teachers that aren’t covered in this article are:

    – Remember that the union guys have their own agendas. They’re long-term English teachers. Helping new teachers get into the country and teach is against their interests. Of course they’re going to say “If a company expects you to come to the country on a tourist visa, just say NO!” Because most companies require this of new teachers. That’ll save more jobs for guess who–the entrenched teachers. Like the union guys.

    – Same thing with Shakai Hoken. These union guys are often supporting families, for which Shakai Hoken is the best option. But it might not be the best thing if you’re young and healthy and unlikely to be able to draw a pension. Opting out of Shakai Hoken might be a better choice for a young person.

    – DO NOT teach English for free. That man who replies to you in English at th train station? Put him in his place. No free English lessons. Reply to him in Japanese. If he wants to practice English, he can pay you. Keep business cards handy. Your girlfriend always speaks English with you? You realize, that’s hurting your Japanese and limiting your options in this country, right? Do you eat lunch with your students on your unpaid lunch break and speak English with them? As long as English teachers are paid only 72% of what a similarly-aged Japanese person is paid, we owe NOBODY ANYTHING for free.

  • Clickonthewhatnow

    I would say everything above where it advises what to be wary of is true. It’s the “join a union because we can help with this and this and this” bit that’s a bit much. If you’re unlucky/don’t do your homework, you’ll end up with a bad employer. Bring enough over so that isn’t an issue to begin with.

    • J.P. Bunny

      The doing your homework comment is spot on. Most of the dispatch companies and smaller eikaiwas prefer hiring those from overseas as the new hires don’t know what is illegal in Japan. Local hires are far less trouble as they don’t need any help getting situated, just plug them in and go. Unfortunately, those that have been here for some time tend to cause trouble when their employers start getting all sleazy. As Mr. Clickonthewhatnow said, check carefully before coming.

  • COYP

    You’re doing a job that isn’t difficult and only requires being raised in a country where English is widely spoken! Why on earth would you be surprised that salaries are low and going lower? You are not doctors saving lives or engineers making massive profits for companies! You walk into a classroom scream “THIS IS A PEN” a few times a day, then go back to your 1DK apartment to drink chu hai and write racist anti Japan rants on the internet.

    In many ways it’s a shame, Japan actually needs quality foreign language teachers, with a shrinking population getting a job that deals with the international economy is a safer bet than a job that is only for the domestic market and as a result the demand for foreign languages is growing and growing. Don’t believe me? Next time you are on the train in a city check how many of the poster ads are for eikaiwas it’s at least 20%! If English “teachers” in Japan were qualified, decent social skills and had decent personal hygiene they would clean up financially. But as it is most choose to shower once a month, never go beyond the “THIS IS A PEN” stage of professional development, don’t bother to learn the language or view the Japanese as people and blame their poor working conditions on the Japanese rather than choose any self reflection.

    If they are unhappy they only have themselves to blame.

    • James

      Exactly. People becoming teachers without any teaching credentials is one issue that is often left un- discussed.

      • keratomileusis

        Not true. Big companies actually want you to conform to their particulars. Experience and credentials help on a case by case basis, in that you are better prepared to handle situations. Any true “teacher” tries to move a student from point A to point B. A true “teacher” tries to help. If money is your primary motivation you should try something else like becoming a bankster.

    • KietaZou

      What a pig of a person you make yourself out to be, COYP! Please brag about this comment in public, where a face can be attached to it. I’d really like to get to meet you.

      I’d love to know how many friends you have. Friends that wouldn’t smother you in your sleep for the change in you pocket, that is. One? Not really possible.

      Still, do enjoy being the smartest rat in the ugly, petty little race you’ve entered unto death, whoever you are.

    • Clickonthewhatnow

      The job can be easy, if you want to do the bare minimum. If you do, though, there are places in the world – or even in your home country, I’d wager, where you can do the bare minimum and get paid better. This may change in the time leading up to 2020, but seriously, if you’re not here to actually teach English, you might want to consider moving on or back. There’s so much people can do here, but so many just coast, and it’s the children that suffer for it.

    • keratomileusis

      “If English “teachers” in Japan were qualified, decent social skills and had decent personal hygiene…” You must be describing yourself. I do not know and have never met anyone like this.

      • COYP

        You’ve never met anyone with decent personal hygiene? That must suck. I assume you are Canadian?

    • Charles

      Maybe you should go out and meet some English teachers instead of just making assumptions about them. Most of them are college-educated, have a few years of experience, and can speak Japanese at at least a conversational level. Many also have TEFL certificates.

      Seriously, where are all these English teachers who stay for only a year
      or two, never learn even basic Japanese, and have serious hygiene issues?

      I’ve taught in three prefectures: Mie, Tochigi, and Fukushima. The vast majority of English teachers I’ve met have are well-behaved, college educated, have several years’ experience, and can speak Japanese.

      Sure, criticisms can be leveled against them about being somewhat nerdy, or having poor kanji skills, and those criticisms are generally valid. But if we’re going to stereotype, then the stereotype should at least reflect modern reality, not Roppongi circa 1997!

    • Paul Johnny Lynn

      Generalise much?

    • Toolonggone

      You just sound like one of those pathetic bystanders who just crashed into education blog to cheer lead private education deformers, only to get sandbagged by educators who know much better than you about their profession. Pity.

      • COYP

        You might want to take a few English lessons before deciding to teach it.

      • Toolonggone

        Who are organizing schools? TFA??

    • J.P. Bunny

      “Tis a sad and unknowing comment.

  • John

    I was an English teacher in Nagoya, Japan for about five years in the early 90s. I know, probably before most of you teaching English now were born. But my story is still a good read and a dose of caution. My first company, Interac, hired me while they had a rep making the usual big city tour in the States. Interac is a larger Eikaiwa school focusing on providing lessons at companies and I was given three days of “instruction” in Tokyo and shipped off to Nagoya. Teaching at Interac was mainly leaving early in the mornings to travel by train/subway/taxi to get to a location (sometimes 2 hours each way) to teach salarymen in a morning class from 730 to 830. Then the daytime was generally free and then teaching one or two late afternoon classes — again at another company location. But a lot of teachers there were never happy with management and, even to this day, they have valid arguments with them about how they’re treated. I left Interac as I was enticed by a private school in Gifu, north of Nagoya.
    I was lured there as she promised that I would get to get paid to chaperone a group of students on a trip to LA, NYC, and DC each year. Cool! I get paid to fly back home (I’m from DC) and shepherd high school students to see the sights. Well, then she changed the deal on me and said she would only pay half of all the costs and that she found someone to chaperone them in LA so I only had to take them to NYC and DC. Then she began to complain that I smelled of “beef” (in truth, I did stop and get a hamburger now and then but evidently she was very sensitive to the smell). She used to treat a Canadian part-time teacher better than me (I was her only fulltime teacher) as she would only give rides to a train station when he was working nights. If it was just me, I was left to wait for the local train and transfer.
    When I eventually left there to teach at big commercial school called ECC, she initially refused to sign a paper allowing me to leave her employ and be employed by ECC. Without it, I had no choice but to either leave Japan or continue working for her. Thankfully, ECC managed to convince her that they would complain to the visa office and she would have trouble sponsoring another teacher and she signed off on it. ECC was fun to teach at as the students came to the classrooms scattered around Nagoya but it dulls the brain as you’re teaching very simple English most of the time and repeating it over and over.
    In my time, these full time jobs were basically paying about 250,000 yen a month plus transportation costs and had a week off for Golden Week and Obon. Most banked their fulltime job pay as much as possible and taught private classes to pay the bills. In my day, it was usual to get anywhere from 3000 to 5000 yen per hour for teaching one on one. My best paying class was that of some housewives that spoke very well and we would have a conversation as a group for an hour on one topic each week and they paid 7000. I had a friend who had someone paying him 10,000 per hour but that was unusual. My most unusual student was a guy who insisted on talking and showing me his beetle collection — dead and mounted beetles — and how he traveled around Asia trading these things with other collectors.
    Nagoya was a good city to teach — it was heavily bombed during WWII and, afterwards, rebuilt with the help of the U.S. and so the downtown is set up on a grid pattern which makes it easy to find where you need to go. It’s not as big as Tokyo or Osaka and is centrally-located between the two. I was able, after getting a moped/scooter, to scoot from an outlying suburb all the way downtown in a half an hour. It was relatively safe although lousy on rainy and icy days. Apartments are generally larger and less costly as, at the time, I had a 1DK apartment with separate bath and toilet for 50,000 yen a month and only had to put down 1 month key money and one month deposit (I eventually got all the deposit money back too!).
    Three unusual things happened while I was there — in 1994, I came home one evening to find my entire apartment building blocked off with yellow police tape. The mama-san that had run an izakaya on the first floor had been murdered. As a resident of the building, I had the pleasure the next morning of having an on-air reporter come to my door and try to interview me while on live TV. A day later, I had to sit down with two Japanese detectives for about an hour while they tried their best, with their English, to ask me if I knew anything. Eventually, they caught the guy — a lover’s triangle. In early 1995, there as the Great Hanshin Quake — also known as the Kobe Quake — and even in Nagoya we felt it — thought my three-story concrete building was going to collapse but it held its own. Then, a little later in 1995, we had the cult, Aum Shinrikyo, put sarin gas on the Tokyo subways. After that, even in Nagoya, you had military guys patrolling the subways for awhile. Yet, having gone through all that, I can say that I truly felt safe in Japan most of the time. No fear of being mugged while out on a dark street or that my domicile would be burglarized. That’s not to say that Japan is crime-free but just that I think the odds of me being accosted in Japan were far less than in here in the USA. If I go somewhere where I’m going to be around a lot of people, I’m going to put my wallet in my front pocket here in the States but in Japan, I lost a wallet and had a Japanese woman turn it into the local police who called me and I had it back within an hour. That can and does happen here in the USA too but it’s not the norm. In fact, if it does happen in the USA, there ends up being a “feel-good” news article about it as a good human interest story.
    I recommend teaching English abroad if only to get the experience of living in another culture and learning to see the world differently from another’s perspective. Japan is one such place but you can choose a lot of countries to teach — Japan just was one of the better-paying ones. I recommend getting hired before going there. Get the working visa. Don’t go to a small town where you’ll be the only foreigner as then it can get lonely and can be life in a “fishbowl” as people will notice your comings and goings. Don’t do the JET program unless you’re okay with the idea that you won’t have much control over where you teach and that few students will enjoy talking English with you. Save up at least four to five thousand (ideally) to help get settled there initially — it’s better not to have a school that provides an apartment (sounds great) but then if you hate the school, you can’t just leave the job as you would have to leave the apartment too. You don’t need a TESOL degree to teach English unless you want to get a job at a university. Those pay more and are much harder to get. Unfortunately, it was harder (but not impossible) for those who are of Asian descent (and sometimes African American) to find teaching jobs back in my day — perhaps that’s changed — I hope so. In my day, if you were white, you had no difficulty as that was what the schools wanted to present to the students as it was believed that a white teacher was more clearly understood (a fallacy of course) and that students preferred that. I think it’s great for someone to do it for a year or two but longer than that is probably not the best thing unless you really love the country and/or you’re in a relationship with someone. You’re better off taking your experience and getting back to your home country and having that international experience under your belt and on your resume/CV. Live long and prosper…

  • Tim Johnston

    insightful and correct

  • Clickonthewhatnow

    I don’t disagree with the three month limit, to be honest – you’re here to work, you should have a job. I wouldn’t disagree even if it were me. This would suck if you were in something specialized that doesn’t have that many positions or something where there is a lot of competition, but it can’t be helped, seriously, you could be on a 3 year visa, not working, and they’re not supposed to put pressure on you to get a job as an immigrant?

    I understand it could change, but I’ve never heard of anyone not getting welfare around here. Of course, both the prefecture where I am and the neighbouring prefectures have a lot of foreigners, who basically help run the manufacturing industry, and things would self-destruct if they tried to screw them out of unemployment if they were out of work due to less work, etc. Not that it makes things better for the 82 permanent resident, but… it just means she should move to another prefecture, if she can.

    The third bit would suck if it actually goes through, but I can’t see it doing so. Again, doesn’t mean it won’t, but they need to not screw around with foreigners since they keep one of their industries alive in many prefectures. Not many Japanese want to work those jobs.

    • Charles

      I don’t necessarily disagree with the three-month limit, either (I can’t think of any country that gives more than three months–Korea and Taiwan certainly don’t). And there’s a very easy loophole–just work a side part-time job. The regulations say “if you stop engaging in your status of residence,” not “if you stop engaging in your status of residence full-time.”

      The welfare ruling isn’t worrying in and of itself. It’s the precedent it sets–“We don’t care that you pay us 600,000~700,000 yen per year in various taxes–you are not entitled to government services.” Very worrisome. Since I’m not eligible to receive benefits, can I stop paying taxes, then?

      I can live with both of the above changes (not happily, but I can grit my teeth and do it). I can always keep a part-time job going to keep my foot in the door, and I currently have enough money to survive for a year or two unemployed–no need for welfare. However, two things:
      – The trends are worrisome. Several things have gotten stricter, or are in the works for maybe getting stricter. What has gotten easier? Only one relevant thing, that I can think of–Specialist in Humanities/International Services has been merged with Engineer–great for me, seeing as how I want to work as a programmer starting next year, but in the big picture (not just myself, but two million foreigners), it doesn’t outweigh the three negative things that I mentioned above. I think that Japan is joining in the worldwide trend of swinging to the far right, much like lots of Europe. Look at the LDP’s landslide victory EVEN WHEN JAPAN WAS IN A RECESSION AS A RESULT OF LDP POLICIES. Japanese people claim there are “no alternatives,” but I think the reality, deep down inside, is that the LDP is extremely popular, people love it, and they just don’t want to say it out loud–otherwise they wouldn’t win again, again, and again. No alternatives, my ass! This country has a rich political landscape–everything from moderate (DPJ) to far-left (Communist Party of Japan) to far-right (LDP) to extreme right (Jisedai no Tou). No alternatives? Seriously?
      – The second thing is that the last article I linked to–that should worry you. I won’t speculate too much about the specifics (the article is very vague) but it sounds like it might make it nearly impossible to job hunt and change jobs–in other words, unless you are willing to stick with the same employer for ten continuous years, good luck getting PR

      It’s true that Japan’s economy relies on foreigners. Look at all the convenience stores in Tokyo that use Chinese labors, the farms that use Chinese labor, and the English schools that use native English speakers.

      Japan needs them, but doesn’t need to treat them well. Japan can still treat them like subhuman scum and still fill its convenience store industry, its agriculture industry, its manufacturing industry, etc. with warm bodies. Why? Because Chinese, Filipinos, Brazilians etc. will do ANYTHING to escape their corrupt, developing countries. They already do. Therefore, I don’t agree with the logic of “Japan needs foreigners to sustain its economy, so the laws on foreigners probably won’t get much worse.” Prime Minister Abe talks about having 300,000 guest workers who will work for short periods of time and go home, never being eligible to immigrate. I’d love to believe that Abe-san is wrong, but…he isn’t. If that scheme is implemented, 300,000 people per year WILL come.

  • genkijanai

    Its now 15 years since I got my first teaching job in Japan.
    Checked Gaijin Pot the other day.
    Wages are lower now than back then (companies paying 25-28man back then pay 18-23man now).

    Demand and supply I guess.

  • genkijanai

    Its now 15 years since I got my first teaching job in Japan.
    Checked Gaijin Pot the other day.
    Wages are lower now than back then (companies paying 25-28man back then pay 18-23man now).

    Demand and supply I guess.

  • Emi Rowan

    I’d found it! Main Problem is not English language education itself. I am Japanese. I would rather be a hammer than the nail? I have lost a lot of friends.

    • David Joiny

      Lol’s at your comment Emi. I can certainly relate… We talk about this all the time on my website- englipedia. It’s always a difficult balance to strike, between the hammer and the nail.

  • Jinx15

    Jinx thinks stinks have links to minks in rinks wearing pinks.

    An oft forgotten educational device in Japan is rhyming. It’s a shame really as that’s mainly how native Engrish speakers, as child, learn the landwhich.