Books / Reviews

'Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan': 10 women share stories from the front lines

by Louise George Kittaka

Special To The Japan Times

Diane Hawley Nagatomo, an associate professor at Ochanomizu University, combines meticulous research with rich narratives in her new work, “Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan.” At its heart are the stories of 10 non-Japanese women working in the English education industry in Japan, ranging from relative newcomers to veterans who have worked for more than 40 years. The women share common bonds as spouses (or former spouses) of Japanese men and include university lecturers, schoolteachers and those running their own businesses — plus everything in between.

Identity, Gender and Teaching English in Japan, by Diane Hawley Nagatomo
237 pages
Multilingual Matters, Nonfiction.

As a university professor with a Japanese husband, Nagatomo has a vested interest in her research topic but maintains a neutral stance. She wisely lets her subjects’ voices take center stage in the chapters delving into their individual stories, where we learn about the factors that have affected them in Japan. Nagatomo calls the participants’ status as non-Japanese native English speakers a “double-edged identity sword,” noting that the very traits that brought them to Japan to teach English may both facilitate and hinder their professional development here. The book includes a detailed discussion of the historical and social issues and theories characterizing English teaching in Japan, as well as an examination of the impact of gender.

This multifaceted publication is a welcome addition for anyone interested in the teaching industry, the foreign experience in Japan, intercultural relationships or gender and employment practices.