I Want To Live In Japan – The Dream — 23 Comments

  1. I would add a step to do a work holiday visa, for us living in countries that we can do such thing!

    As for me in 5 days I will be doing step 1!

    • Good point about the working holiday visa. That is a great alternate option for those countries that it runs the visa program. For those of you interested, this includes citizens from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Republic of Korea, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, and Norway and for residents of Taiwan and Hong Kong.

      Have an amazing trip!

  2. I would suggest that a study abroad is not optional. If you can’t do that I would highly suggest an 18 month graduate program here. There are a lot of things that you never get to learn or experience if you haven’t spent some time in school here.

    There are lots of people that make it to step 4 the English teaching phase and in my experience they burn out for two major reasons.

    First, they don’t attempt to work towards step 5, a long term career, or they wait far too long to get started on that. I have even seen guys here on work-holiday who don’t take enough steps to solidify their situation here and realize far to late that they want to stay but are unable to. If you’ve been here six months and aren’t ready to leave then you should be putting tons of effort into finding a job that will get you a three year visa. Also, you should be looking at improving your skill set to qualify for one of the highly-skilled foreigner visas.

    Second, they don’t find their place in the culture itself. You need to like Japan enough to enjoy what is readily available here. You really do need to be able to convert your preferences to be in line with what is popular here or have a level of income where you can ignore the cost difference. Food, entertainment, products, and services are all heavily biased towards Japanese taste and if you can’t find pleasure in them the isolation will get overwhelming.

    Ultimately there is a point beyond learning Japanese where you have to start either agreeing with the Japanese mindset or at least agreeing to sympathize with it. Everyone will eventually find something about the culture or society that goes far against their core beliefs and your only choice will be acceptance or relocation.

    (After re-reading this I should probably point out that this really only applies after the five year mark. It’s quite easy to live here for several years and then move on to something else. In those cases the above doesn’t apply.)

    • For the work holiday visa part, it depends on when you actually do it I Would say. I plan to do it *before* going to post-highschool schools (works differently where I live than the rest of the world so I prefer to say it that way :P) so even if I tried, I really wouldn’t be able to get a work visa since it’s almost impossible without some kind of degree.

    • I definitely agree on developing a skill in addition to Japanese. But this can also be done before or while you are there. I’ve seen plenty of people go into consulting, business, sales, etc. all from within the country.

      However, I have to disagree that a study abroad is necessary. It’s great if you can, but some people don’t have the money or the ability to work it in to their college plan (especially if their decision to live there happens in their junior or senior year).

      I’ve also heard that studying abroad in college and working abroad after you graduate are two wildly different experiences.

      The study abroad is very hand holding, everything is decided for you, you are supported the whole way, and you still are living the fun college life. Living abroad is a whole new level of independence, challenge, and adversity. So just because you liked the study abroad doesn’t necessarily mean you will like living there in a normal capacity.

      Yeah, there is burnout, but this could happen regardless, and some people will realize that while they like the country, and enjoyed spending a few years there, they don’t want to live there forever.

      As you mentioned, I think the biggest prevention of burnout is 1) mastering Japanese and 2) accepting and integrating the culture (the good and the bad). And #2 can definitely take time (or may be impossible for some).

  3. I agree with TokyoStyle above, especially the point about improving your skill set.

    Not that I’m an expert on living in Japan, but getting really good at something people are willing to pay for is the key to living anywhere expensive. Also, I think the extent developing those skills can be done in a low-price environment, the better.

    Would just add, given the options for working remotely that are now available, it’s becoming increasingly possible to live in Japan (or anywhere else) while getting a salary from the U.S.

    • Very true, as it will increasingly become an environment where Japanese skills alone won’t be enough. Though remember, there are plenty of places in Japan (even Tokyo), where you can live on a somewhat cheap budget.

      The trend of increasing remote work possibilities is becoming a new creator of location independence, and I hope continues to grow!

  4. The idea of teaching English is a good idea… but since my native language is German, should I better consider German or isn’t there any interest for it?

  5. Kali’s question made me think, in my case, my native language is french, but I’m from canada where the majority of people speak english, im just in a french province… do they pay attention to what your native language is or only what country? And if language, how does it affect your chances?

    • For the English teaching jobs, as long as your English sounds natural, I think you’ll be fine. And there are also French language jobs (though less common), you can look into.

  6. (Disclaimer: All advice given is based on a those who want a long-term 10+ year life in Japan. Short stays do not require nearly as much fore-thought.)

    From a long-term perspective everyone’s first focus should be on jobs that play to all of your strengths. There’s no reason to get sucked into teaching English until you have exhausted all of your other options.

    Out of all of the people I know who have been here longer than I have the ones that are the most successful monetarily have never taught English. Anecdotally it seems very difficult to climb out of teaching and into a career because your peers who skipped the English teaching will have a few years head start on you.

    Doing a study abroad and preparing yourself for a career from the moment you graduate is a much more solid plan than teaching English and hundreds of new graduates are doing it every year. I really can’t stress how much more serious people take you as a college student or graduate student as opposed to being an English teacher wanting out.

    Furthermore, this is specific to Kali and Darkskilling, since you guys speak a third language you should be aware that there are lots of opportunities for people who are fluent in English and a European language and have at least basic Japanese skills. There are international businesses who need to deal with the German and French bureaucracy that have trouble finding bilingual candidates that also know some Japanese.

    Darksklling, the French Chamber of Commerce in Japan is an excellent resource and I highly recommend you get in touch with them even though you are Canadian. I’ve know a few Swiss guys who have gotten jobs through their networking meetings so a specific nationality isn’t a strict requirement.

    Finally anyone who wants to live the pinnacle of the dream should focus on a normal career path and be aware of what level of Japanese you need to work in your chosen field. Get your law degree and gain a high level of Japanese so you can be a valuable asset to a law firm. Get a computer science degree and go work for Microsoft, Google, Rakuten, DMM, or Gung-ho. If you must go the liberal arts route then pay very close attention to what it takes to get a professor position here. Even translators and interpreters should have a niche so know what yours is before you graduate and if it is going to be manga, anime, or video games make sure you are the best of the best.

    Basically do not get sucked into being a Japanese major, or any similar soft studies, if you want to live in Japan long-term. You will have to go back home, get an “proper” degree, and then be years behind your competition.

    Note: A lot of my bias comes from seeing a lot of smart people, people who were good friends, having to go back home because they lost their drive once they got to Japan. Most of them didn’t do this because they were lazy, but because they felt they had achieved their goal by getting here and were completely blind-sided by not being able to stay. The finish line is of the dream, at least my version of it, is 永住権 [permanent residency] so make sure you don’t stop prematurely.

    • Since I believe you’ve gone the computer science route based on some of your previous posts, do you have any specific advice for that field based on personal experience?
      Is a graduate degree really required to get a job worth having there? It’s completely different from people hiring people with competitive wages while still in their undergraduate program where I’m living now.

      • My personal path is unfortunately very useless but there are definitely companies here that want to hire western educated programmers. Often these jobs will require a lower Japanese level than other jobs to the point that even on a “Japanese-only” team you can often get hired with a level between N2 and N1.

        The hard part is finding these companies. There doesn’t seem to be a great system for matching these kinds of candidates with companies in Japan that want them. (At least I hear this complaint a lot from foreigners who own coding shops here …) Another issue is that starting salaries are fairly low here even though it’s a moderately expensive place to live. So you really have to be willing to give up quite a bit to work and live here.

        Maybe we can get Adshap to hook us up via email so we can focus on your exact situation. That may lead to some general advice I can share with everyone.

        • I also intend on taking this pathway as I have for a while now. I am currently in my final year of high school so I still have a lot of time to prepare. But I intend on majoring in Japanese during uni and going on trips/studying abroad if possible. Although I presume that どうして is far ahead of me I hope you don’t mind but I would like to be informed of what advice you have to offer as well. More or less as a bystander as I still have a lot of time to prepare.

        • I’m willing to give up pay to live there; I’ve already noticed the considerable difference.

          Finding one of those teams sounds perfect, really. I’ve looked around just a little so far but have felt a bit overwhelmed at not really knowing where to start.
          If you’re willing to hear my exact situation and give personal advice, I’d greatly appreciate it.

          So Adshap, I’d also like for you to hook us up if you can.

  7. Hmm, I’m currently in a community college here in the US but I’m going to transfer to a university next year. I’m going to try to see if I can study abroad. How much of the language do you actually need to know? I can’t really do much in my current level but I’m getting better.

    I have a Japanese friend that’s going to study abroad in the UK but he doesn’t really know much English. He asked me to translate the directions his host family sent him to get to their house. I wonder how he’s going to get around and communicate. Stuff like that worries me.

    • It’s a bit of a loaded question, but I’ll put it like this. There are plenty of English teachers in Japan that only know basic Japanese and “get by” fine. However, the more you know the more likely you will enjoy Japan, working in Japan, and living in Japan. And that’s a big deal.

      • I agree. I definitely want to be able to communicate easily. I was worried if I did a homestay I wouldn’t be able to talk easily, or if I took a class in Japanese and I didn’t understand it all. It seems like from several Youtube videos I watched of other people’s experience that I don’t need much past the basics just to “get by”. The last thing I want is to go there and have my limited knowledge be a barrier.

  8. Id live in Japan as an English teacher in a High School, even a University, and would enjoy Japanese cuisine, especially Yoshinoya, drive any Japanese car I can afford, since I like all of the companies, play video games, go to a Japanese Christian church, find my love if she is to be there, continue studying my Japanese by taking more language classes, travel and enjoy Japan’s nature despite it’s earthquakes, go to Gundam cafe, look at the castles such as Osaka, Ueda, Odawara and more. What more can there be to enjoy when living in Japan? There is so much to do in that Nation that meets the eye. The love of technology is there also if you love technology. Life can be stressful in Japan in major cities, but theres so much to do after you are done working.

  9. Dreams are good, and getting prepared for your first time going to Japan for a visit first, is good to do, which is what I want to do, and know what I must do if I decide to live in Japan one day.

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