How to Work in Japan as an English Teacher

Japanese Yatai - Japanese Rule of 7

If you 1) want to work in Japan, 2) were born in an English-speaking country, and 3) possess absolutely no other skills or abilities, then English Teacher’s the job for you. Trust me, I’d know.

So recently, a reader asked about a line I’d written before: “Your job is to stand there and look white. Or black or whatever, but at least foreign.”

And her question was,

As an Asian American planning to teach in japan, does this mean I have less of a chance in finding an English teaching job or get hired Japanese schools? Japanese employers are more likely to hire a “white” teacher than an Asian who is non-Japanese?

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Permanent Residency in Japan

Permanent Residency in Japan

The Monday after submitting my application for Permanent Residency in Japan, I started checking the mailbox.

Yeah, I knew it was a bit soon. The woman at the Immigration Office with the mismatched eyes said it’d take months, and I believed her. Still, I couldn’t resist the pull; every evening checking for a postcard from Immigration, walking past my dear friend Kato-san dying of lymphoma and the weird kid who shot me with the pellet gun. Ah, Japanese neighbors, you are my new countrymen. But of course the mailbox was always empty and somehow I was always disappointed. Such is the pitfall of my perpetual optimism.

And then one day out of the blue, I got a phone call. It was almost three months from the day I submitted my application.

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Getting Japanese Permanent Residency

Cute dog. (c) Japanese Rule of 7

After Japan’s lukewarm reception to my halfhearted proposal of becoming a Japanese citizen, I decided to re-think the whole strange project. Would citizenship even change anything? Certainly not as much as a quick trip to Korea for plastic surgery and coming back looking like a Japanese 18 year-old. Would it help to invest another ten years improving my already awesome Japanese? Or should I just scotch the whole thing and hang out with topless ladies on the beach in Polynesia like Paul Gauguin? Wow, so many good options.

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Applying for Japanese Citizenship

Step One of the Japanese citizenship process is apparently sitting on a blue plastic bench in a frigid concrete government building staring at the number in your hand. Mine was 12. This was a semi big deal, not the number but the whole procedure, since it meant renouncing U.S. citizenship and basically scotching my chances of ever living or working again in the greatest country on earth. But since I’d been in Japan this long and it was looking like I’d eventually die here, I figured Hell, might as well go all the way. I mean, people get face tattoos, undergo plastic surgery, get married, have kids…maybe I needed to put an end to this hedonistic Peter Pan existence and start screwing up my life too. Can’t just keep on having fun forever, right?

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A Week in Tokyo

Tokyo festival

I was flat on my back in the dark grass, pressing my eyes shut while bombs exploded overhead. “Are you watching?” Mizuki asked.

“Intently,” I lied.

After five years away, I’d come back for a week in Tokyo, to visit old friends, old neighborhoods, and apparently endure a fireworks festival on the banks of the Arakawa river, crowded in with a million Japanese people.

Our small group finally found an unlevel spot in the weeds of the riverbank, where we laid on blue plastic sheets and drank cans of chu-hi while colorful shapes exploded overhead and the crowd went oooo, then ahhh. Then oooo again. Only in Japanese. Continue reading “A Week in Tokyo”