It can be tough teaching English in Japan. The chain school grind of late hours, noisy kids and boring middle-aged office workers takes its toll. Uppity teachers at public schools treat ALTs with contempt and all English instructors feel the humiliation of being looked down upon by their foreigner brethren who don't teach.

The money isn't there anymore either; the gravy train has derailed. The days when backpackers and graduates fresh off the plane could step right into well-paying jobs are long gone. Wages everywhere, from mom-and-pop schools to universities, are in steady decline as speed-learning CDs, Skype lessons from teachers in developing countries and outsourcing spread.

But no matter how bad things get, English teachers can take heart in the little-known fact that they have a de facto patron saint watching over them. John Manjiro, also known as John Mung and Manjiro Nakahama, one of the coolest figures from Japan's past, paved the way for English teachers in Japan today, and they can hold their heads high and take pride in their profession knowing they are following in the footsteps of this pioneer.