Should you Live in Japan Forever?

You’ve been teaching in Japan and your contract is up. You like it but then again, there are other things you want to do. Should you renew your visa and stay longer in Japan or have you had enough and it’s time to go home? This is a tough decision and nobody can make it for you. It’s so case by case that any kind of advice from anyone is pretty much useless. So, here I am offering some advice.

Actually, I just want to offer some things to think about. I’ve been in Japan for ten years and I plan to stay permanently (probably). But I’ve had many friends come and go here and I’ve seen what factors made them decide.

Had Enough?

Most people go through the worst of their culture shock in the second year or so. It’s not all in the beginning, like most people assume. During this time, it’s easy to get frustrated and decide to head home. But if you do that, you could be missing out on lots of great experiences later. I’ve known many people who went home only to miss Japan and hatch plots to return. If you’re on the fence, you may want to give it a bit more time. Remember, culture shock passes.

Your Work History

On the other hand, if you have long-term plans for a lucrative career back home, you should limit your stay in Japan. I’ve heard that employers look at your time in Japan as a black hole in your resume. Even if you were running a successful English school here, it’s not likely to impress recruiters back home. They tend to see your time in Japan as an extended vacation.

Exploring Options

Few expats find full-time English teaching to be a rewarding permanent career. The expats I know who have stayed long-term and enjoyed their life the most in Japan were the ones who found something else they could do for work. There’s not much opportunity in the English teaching industry because teachers are seen as a temporary workforce and not given much in the way of raises, promotions and benefits. But if you have other skills, like IT, translating, running a business, or acting, you can find much more rewarding long-term work.

Time for a Change of Pace

Image by Dominichikaru, licensed through creative commons

If you’re really struggling with whether to go home or not, you may just need a change of pace. Maybe your job is a soul-drainer and you need something new. You might live in a small town in the country and now it’s time to head for the big city lights. I recommend making a change and staying before you pack your bags and head home.

The Human Tape Recorder

The only time I ever considered moving out of Japan was my second year in when I was working as an ALT in a junior high school. The position, which I prefer to call ‘Human Tape Recorder,’ was dull and unrewarding. I was right in the middle of my culture shock and I also suffer from an allergy to any kind of structured schooling (and let’s face it, junior high is the worst). I quit and found a new job, and the desire to head home never hit me again.

Whether to stay or go is a question only you can answer. But for anybody struggling here in Japan, I recommend making Japanese friends and doing what you love here. If you can find ‘your thing,’ you can settle into life and really enjoy it here.

Written by: Greg Scott

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Greg Scott

Living in Japan and taking in everything it has to offer.

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Should you Live in Japan Forever? — 7 Comments

  1. Great advice, I will take this into consideration if I feel that way once I eventually get to Japan to work. I think teaching English there is a great entry point. Do you have any advice or know of any people’s experience in relation to finding other jobs than teaching English in Japan? Or did anyone you know start off with teaching English there and then branch out into a different career path?

  2. I’m also wanting some more answers, I read the two articles about time-part job and did my own research but I still have a lot of doubts so I guess that would be good to have some advice from someone who already walked that patch

  3. I really don’t know if my questions will get answered. So here is the whole story… so I am in High School and I am 14. I have been studying Japanese since I was 13 years old. When I was 13 I was a beginner at it. I bought a ton of books; the basics, beginner, essential, intermediate, advanced and reading and writing. I could read Hiragana and got that down in a sinch. Katakana was harder but I learned 5 a day and conquered it. I got my own private teacher who teached me a lot and constantly gave me things. I studied the workbooks a lot, always spoke in Japanese and wrote in Japanese. I am an intermediate now and I study 10 kanji a day I also watch J-pop. However, my parents and friends hate the idea of me in Japan…. I have A’s & B’s but it is still hard with them constantly yapping about how it is “impossible” to get a job in Japan. When will I be fluent business level? I am studying very hard. I am right now in high school taking a Japanese culture club. In college I plan to take a Japanese minor and take Japans history and advanced language. I plan to take a health major or science major. I want to get a batchelor or masters degree. I learned Japanese manners and health. I want to take a JLPT and pass N2 or N1 and land a high paying job in Japan. A job such as a nurse or docter

    • I think you should relax a little and stop worrying about your future so much. Just worry about your short term goals for now and the rest will follow. I understand you’re only 14 years old and you have a lot of ambition. But your goals and feelings will naturally evolve over the next 4-5 years, so don’t make the big decisions yet. Though never lose your dreams, they’re what drive you. Just don’t set anything in stone, there’s no point and it’ll lead to disappointment if you make your targets too lofty.

      I don’t know what your pocket money looks like or if you’re working. Assuming you have no money (I was dead broke at your age) maybe look into the core 2000 deck on ankishared (google it). Try and add as many cards as you can a day from that ( I recommend between 10-30, but don’t let it affect your schooling). After you’ve finished that deck, you can switch to J-J. If you make it that far I can help you specifically get into it, in a way that won’t be too difficult to comprehend at your age.

      However, I think you should try and complete either the core 2000 anki deck, or the JALUP beginner on this website if you have money. If you can afford to buy the maxed out package, it’s very good and comes with everything you need to get you half way there to fluency (Much past intermediate). If you combine that with speaking and immersion your Japanese level will be quite high.

      Let me know if you need anything else clarified.

      core deck 6000 info

      • Here is the core 6000 deck if you need it, I don’t recommend you complete it all if you ever plan on going pure Japanese (no english definitions). I recommend doing the first 1000-2000 before making that change, if you choose to do so. Otherwise, feel free to finish the entire deck.

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