Sig and Anne: Going to Japan

About two months ago, Anne and I decided our next life goal will be to travel to Japan. We want to take a pretty deep dive into the land and the culture, so we decided to try and effectively live there for at least a year, probably two. I’ve been enamored of Japanese culture for quite a while as has Anne. Our mutual enthusiasm for Anime is part of that, but it goes deeper. For me, it has the perfect balance of the familiar and the unfamiliar. It is at once alien, and comforting.

To stay in Japan for that length of time, you need to get a long-term visa. The main ways of doing that are to get a work visa or to get a spouse visa. Far and away, the easiest job to secure in Japan, for an American, is to teach English in private or public schools. The only hard requirements are that you have a 4-year college degree and that you be a native English speaker. While teaching experience can help, it is not generally required. Any other job tends to require pretty advanced levels of Japanese language proficiency.

So, our plan is…

  • Secure a job teaching English somewhere in Japan.
  • Get a working visa.
  • Move to Japan.
  • Teach English there.
  • Travel around the country in our spare time.

Because Japan is simply not set up for RVs the way the US is, and because the roads are considerably narrower, the Airstream doesn’t get to go to Japan. Once I’ve got a job lined up, and all the wheels are in motion, we will have to sell it. I’m hoping that while we are there, we can get a camper-van like a vehicle to go on trips with, possibly one that we can reasonably transport to other countries in the future. Australia is probably the next destination, but that’s a way in the future yet. One adventure at a time!

Challenges we are facing

  1. Landing a Job
  2. Getting our cats into Japan
  3. Preparing ourselves for the culture change

Getting a job is always challenging as so much of it is beyond your control. I’m told that they like to hire young female American teachers most so I have a couple counts against me. That said, I think I’ve got the right personality and temperament for the job. I suspect it won’t be easy, but that I’ll manage to land a gig by being persistent and thoughtful. I’m preparing by studying the ESL techniques, reading advice on landing such work, and getting the right appearance.

Getting the cats into Japan is a long process that involves a lot of vet visits, money, and time. So long as we follow all the rules, and there are many, we should be good. But it is something of a high stakes game, and depending on the timing of landing a job, it could mean the cats end up in quarantine for a while. It’s definitely not an outcome we want, but there just isn’t a lot of flexibility in the way it all works.

Preparing for the culture is the fun part and its the one place where we can miss the mark to some degree and things will still work out fine. I like to keep life fairly low stress, so being ready to face common challenges is definitely a goal. The longest and hardest process is studying the language. Anne definitely has the head start on this compared to me, but I feel like I’ll get there. Unlike on other occasions, I am pretty excited and motivated to learn. I won’t need it to work in Japan, but without learning Japanese, I doubt I will get nearly as much enjoyment out of the experience.

Things up in the air

There are still a lot of unknowns at this point. Where in Japan we will go is really dependent on what Jobs we can get. We have some early preferences, but I want to keep the possibilities open to maximize our chances. I think we might actually do better in a more rural area, but close enough to a larger city to enjoy cultural events. I’ve got my eye on the western cities as they afford easy travel over to China and Korea for possible excursions.

I’m also not sure when we will go. Again, it all depends on the job hunt.  They tend to hire teachers in the early fall and early spring, but there are some gigs available throughout the year. Once I start job hunting, things could move very slowly, or they could move very quickly. I may have to rush over to start working, with Anne following a little later, or we may have a long time to get our affairs in order before we ship out. Whatever it takes to get this done, that’s what we will do.

How we are feeling

I think we are both very excited by this new adventure. As we wintered over in San-Diego we were definitely at a crossroads as to where to go and what to do next. I think we were both eager for more excitement, but not sure just what to do. Going to Japan is as close to a travel dream as I’ve had, so that got us lined up on the idea. I’d say we are both very happy about the decision.

Anne is somewhat anxious, as ever, especially concerned as to whether or not we will succeed in making the jump. And as ever, I’m relatively confident that we can manage whatever we commit to, especially when many other people have managed to do the same thing without extraordinary effort. What we may lack in brilliance or ambition, we tend to make up for in sheer competence.

I do feel that thrill of uncertainty and doubt that comes with a leap of faith. I fully expect some challenges that are more painful than fun. There are a lot of unknowns that give me some concern. And I do feel like this is going very far afield for me, further disconnecting me from my safety net of friends and family. That’s definitely a downside. I very much miss the good times gaming with my buddies in Seattle and the broader community I moved in. So that part makes it a bittersweet prospect.

But, these days, a wanderer I am. Traveling about, exploring, taking in new ideas and experiences, and getting a handle on this world I live in while I still have the chance.


5 Responses to “Sig and Anne: Going to Japan

  • Shea Aubuchon
    6 years ago

    Hey there, I have listening to all the DDOCast episodes for the second time and was curious what you two were up to. After seeing your Japan plans I wanted to share. I know two folks that went to Japan to teach and my brother in-law did the same in Korea. You two are probably smarter than I am and have thoroughly researched this but here is the advice of my friends and family.
    1, Do not get there almost broke! Arrive with enough money to get around the country AND get home or don’t go. If you have no resources you may well be taken advantage of. Nothing illegal, but you could find your situation “less than ideal” and no options if your low on cash.
    2, Expect to work long hours with almost no time off compared to America. You may be shocked with the work load you are expected to carry and how much of your “time off” it eats up.
    3, You may have an hour or longer commute to and from work on the train. You will be expected to pay for your own transportation.
    4, Be prepared for things to change once you arrive. You may find that the situation you were promised is no longer available and what you going to get is not what you would have traveled for.
    That’s the important stuff, everything else is relatively minor. Have fun!
    Sincerely, Shea Aubuchon

  • Thanks for the tips!

    We should be good on #1. I’m mostly prepared for #2, but I am trying to make sure the place I work has some reasonable limits. It seems like a lot of these schools actually provide you a car or come with transportation stipends now. I was actually a bit surprised by that. #4 is the one that has me worried. I’ve heard this a lot and when you are Visa Dependent, they have some pretty hefty leverage on you so it makes sense that some of them would use it unethically. I’m trying to research each company as I apply to get an idea how trustworthy they are. Still, you never know till you are in the thick of it. The warning is much appreciated. 🙂

    I’m sure I’ll be posting about it a lot once it gets underway, I’m very excited!

  • Grandern
    6 years ago

    Hi Sig and Anne! Long time DDOCast listener and relatively recent contributor. Was just clicking around looking at sending in another submission to Patrick and I came across your blog. How are the Japan plans coming along? I see some accurate and not so accurate information in the post and comments above. I have been living in Japan now for a while and would be happy to help in any way. If interested, how to get in touch? I added an email address to make this post, maybe you can view that? Otherwise I will try sending a message through the DDO forums from Grandern_Marn to sigtrent and we could go from there. Hope all is well!

  • Grandern
    6 years ago

    Follow up message for email notifications.

  • Howdy! Things are going along at a somewhat blistering pace now. I got a contract, got approval from immigration, and am about to apply for my entry permit. So far, so good. Thanks for the offer of help. I’ll send you an email to get in touch. The more folks I know in Japan the better! We’re going to be in the Kanagawa region, landing in November, though no exact date yet.