日本FLASHBACK: Keepin' It Real - Teaching at an Eikaiwa Part 3

22.2.12 ShaSha LaPerf 8 Comments

Part One: The Interview, the Acceptance, and Getting to Japan
Part Two: A Typical Week, Students, and Parents

The Final Part! This one is going to cover four topics, so it's a bit longer than the other ones.

The Co-Workers

Most Amity schools will have 1-2 foreign teachers, a few Japanese teachers, and a manager. Because of the schedules, you'll rarely interact with each other unless it's the before or after the day starts. Occasionally schedules would happen so that me and my coworkers could eat lunch from time to time. My Japanese coworkers were really cool people. During my second year, our school had earned a trip to Osaka as a reward for doing so well with the students (which was one of the worst trips of my life, but not because of them). Anyway, we went to a Bubba Gump Shrimp place at Universal Studios and I was highly amused when they were trying to get the concept of greasy, sleep-inducing food. It's easy to find American food in Japan through fast food joints like KFC, but not really ribs. The only coworker I had that actually seemed excited about eating at Bubba Gump was the own who had lived in Texas for a while. She was like, "It's not like Texas, but it'll do." The manager of the school was like a second mom to me. She made sure I had a bank account, alien registration card, and cell phone only after my second day there. She took me to the doctor when was sick. And even after I left she would invite me to the office for dinner with the rest of my coworkers.
The Japanese coworkers don't change as much as the English ones do. I'm assuming it's because of contracts and foreigners just not staying in these teacher jobs too long. In my time at Amity, there were three foreign coworkers. These coworkers I found to be more hit or miss because of all the changes. Some people go to Japan because they want to get laid by Japanese people, or are otaku, or are there because they married a Japanese person, etc. Either way, they don't want to work as a teacher. So they can be quite negative about there jobs at times. My first teacher was a cynical bitch who treated me like I was an idiot but would rip off my ideas for lessons. It came back on here when she started losing students to me. The second teacher I worked with was really cool and we got along great. But Japan hated her (the poor girl was sick all the time) so she only stayed a year. The final teacher didn't seem to like Japan at all, but did keep her bitching about the country to herself.

The Goodbye and the New Guy
After two years of working at Amity, I decided I wanted a change of scenery. I was spending almost every weekend in Tokyo, so I wanted to spend the last year of my visa there. I decided not to renew my contract for a second time. My boss was sad to see me go. For the most part there is a good one or two weeks before you contract is up to when a new teacher comes into play (if there's a shorter gap, Amity has emergency teachers that will take over until a new contracted one arrives). In that time, it's part of your job to train the new teacher. Of course they've had their training in Okinawa, but a lot of people are still dealing with the shock of having to deal with real children. I continued a legacy my previous coworkers had started of giving the run down on each student, letting the new person know about the good, the bad, and the you really want to pop them upside their heads but you can't. I also added to a list of games that the other teachers had left for me.

For the first few days, you'd still do most of the teaching while the new teacher watches and eventually assists you. Gradually, they'll take over the entire class. Sometimes it's good to leave the classrooms--either for the full class or just part of the class--to see how the students react to the new teacher. Some kids who have been in eikaiwa are used to the teachers changing, so they go with the flow of it. However some of the younger ones, can get scared of seeing the new face.

My last week of school, I cried like a big ass baby in front of my students. It's funny, I had a lot of students that drove me completely nuts, but I couldn't stop the tears from falling. I'd spent two years there, and despite those brats, I still had some fun. I was surprised to see some of my students crying and pulling out their cameras to take pictures of me. I received a lot of gifts from them like expensive handkerchief, and fans. One student gave me a beautiful tea cup set. I also received origami as well as hand-written cards and pictures the students drew of me. I still have all those items today.

Finding a New Job
Although I'd ended my job with Amity, I wasn't quite ready to leave Japan. I still had another year on my visa, so I decided to apply for another job. Actually I did this while I was still working with Amity. There are tons of eikaiwa jobs and Japan and it's not that hard to get hired by a new one. But you have to be careful though because some of them are pretty crooked. You can find yourself broke and jobless in an instant. Also if your visa has expired, you should make sure the new company will sponsor you; some won't. A lot of eikaiwa are much smaller companies and won't offer as much pay, housing, paid vacation time, or even medical insurance so keep those things in mind as well when you're looking. There are a few websites like GaijinPot has job listings for teachers. But there are other jobs out there and if you feel you have the qualifications for them, then please apply!

I found a job in Tokyo, then immediately when apartment hunting there, using a company that specifically helped foreigners find apartments. Some Japanese people are pretty wary about renting to foreigners and you can shell out $1000-$3000 in "key money" (basically a bribe...often the price of a month's rent plus a security deposit). I started working about two weeks after I left Amity.

The company I worked for was much smaller, maybe only about 10 employees. The main office was in the home of the school's owner. Compared to Amity where I stayed at one location, with the new school I had to travel around Tokyo to work at different schools. The new company was jarring because I was the only female teacher on staff, the rest of the teachers were foreign men. I didn't get paid as much as I did with Amity at this place, but I was still able to live comfortably with the pay I got. I worked six days a week, but less hours a day, maybe 4-5 hours. However that didn't include travel time, which in some case took up to two hours. I still had to wear a suit, which I wasn't a fan of since I was still only teaching children. They did have "fun" days where the staff could dress more casually, and the students would simply play games that day and not spend so much time on lessons. At Amity, I was a spoiled brat; with the new company I had to deal with things I never even thought about before. Like taxes. Amity took care of my taxes for me, however with the new job, I had to do them by myself. My Japanese skills certainly wasn't to the level of doing taxes so I ended up asking my boss for help...and had to pay about $500 in taxes. Because I lived in Tokyo, I also had to pay Ward taxes. Tokyo is a large city divided up into about 23 Wards. Hibarigaoka wasn't too far from the major areas of Tokyo, about 15 min. away from Ikebukuro. So it means I had to pay a hefty ward tax...about $2000. :( I had to get help with understanding ward taxes from my boss as well.

At this school, I had more students that just got on my nerves, and I didn't care much for the staff either. Plus they offered me a contract renewal but not type of raises or bonuses the way Amity did. After three years, I decided I was officially tired of teaching and Japan, and wanted to return home to pursue an art degree and start getting "settled."

Coming Home
I touched on this a bit on the Whoa...I'm in Japan blog because I think what happened to me happens to a lot of people that return, so I figured I would mention it here.

After living in Japan for so long, I knew I couldn't go back to my hometown, Detroit. As much as I loved the city, I also knew it wasn't a place loaded with a lot of opportunities. And I figured that if I could live on a whole different continent, I should explore some other places in the country. LOL well in the end I just followed my mom to DC. Compared to Detroit, DC did have quite a few jobs I could apply for, so it didn't seem like a bad idea.

Coming back to the states and finding a job was a much more difficult process than I thought it would be.  For one, teaching experience in Japan is not the same as the US; you don't need to have any type of certification to work there where as you do here. Also because I went to Japan months after graduating from college, I didn't have much "real world" experience in the states, so it made my resume look on the slim side. Furthermore, I also hadn't considered the fact that the people that would have me references lived in Japan and some of them didn't speak the greatest English. Some employers may think it's "cute" that you worked abroad, and that doesn't translate into getting a job. The longer you stay abroad, the more difficult it can be to find a job back in the states, especially if you didn't get any job experience before leaving. Some people work on getting teaching certifications and college degrees while they're abroad as a back up plan. Of course having some connections back in the states can help you out too. I ended getting a job at an educational non-profit, which was an entry level job with a lower pay than what I made in Japan. So it was slightly related to my field and even my college degree, but it was a bit of a jump compared to the salary I made in Japan and I ended up living with my mama for a while. Things got better for me within the year, which I think had a bit to do with location and timing on my part though.

So try to create a plan and even a back up plan for when you return to the states. I'd say give yourself at at least six months. Look at plane tickets prices early as well as selling any thing you don't want to take back to the states. Shipping stuff back to the US is also a pain and pricey so be prepared to pay for that as well.

So that's the end of this series. I had a lot of fun living and working in Japan, but it certainly wasn't all roses all the time. Like I said in the first post there weren't too many people out there discussing eikaiwa as an alternative to JET so I wanted to give a little insight. If you decide to take the eikaiwa route over JET, just remember to do some research on it to make sure it's a reputable company. Of course there will always be criticism, but check the type of criticism it is and who it's coming from. I tried to give a balanced look, but I still encourage to find others to see what they have to say.


  1. I've been thinking about joining the JET program. However, I didn't know anything about the Eikaiwa program, so reading all three parts was very informative for me. Originally, to be truthfully honest, being a teacher in Japan was the furthest thing on my mind. Working in Japan, however, was something that I've always been interested in doing. But I knew trying to find a job in Japan would be difficult.

    After some thought, I've decided that I did want to become a teacher in Japan, just to give me an opportunity to be able to live/and experience the Japanese culture. The only concern I always had about being a teacher there was wondering if I needed to speak in Japanese with the students, teaching rowdy students, how was I going to teach the lessons to the students if it's in Japanese and I couldn't understand it (I have a hard time reading kanji Dx it's my weakness in the language lol). Those were the main things I was worried about.

    I must agree with you about Detroit. There aren't many opportunities here. If I could move to another state I would. Unfortunately, I'm stuck here until I have the money to be able to move out.

    I'll have to look more into Eikaiwa, seeing how I had not heard of it before. But, I have a ways before I can obtain my bachelors degree to teach in Japan, since I started college late T__T; lol

    1. "Eikaiwa" is just a blanket term meaning "English conversation school." It's more of a THEM then an it. What makes them different from JET is that they are companies; parents pay to send their students to them. They're similar to "juku" or cram schools. But it;s easier getting a job at an eikaiwa than JET because there are so many of them! I think Tokyo had about 300 when I was there, but that also included companies like NOVA and GEOS. AEON is probably one of the better companies.

      Having a bachelor's degree is crucial to getting a job in Japan, but you can't get a work visa without one. Some people try to get away with just a tourist visa or holiday visa, but if you get caught, you can get into some trouble. Both AEON and JET would sponsor your visa if you get accepted. Hired some eikaiwa in Japan will expect you to already have a visa and won't sponsor you. When you get into your senior year, you should start looking into some teaching opportunities. And make sure you have your passport, I'm not sure of how long it takes to get one these days.

      Also the Japanese consulate is located in the GM building in downtown Detroit I think. That's where I did my interview for JET. I suggest checking to see if they have some opportunities for going to Japan be it through jobs or even study abroad. They might have scholarship info.

  2. I wonder for French teachers...I rarely hear about them.

    Amity...you meantioned Amity and I actually contacted them to be a French intern teacher in the US. Didn't know I could go to Japan too...? With this agency.

    1. First i have to say...COOL Crystal Kay site!!!

      As for AEON though, I think we may be talking about two different things.

      I worked for AEON Amity. Technically the company's name and branding is under AEON: http://www.aeonet.com/aeon_index.php
      AEON focuses more on teaching adults. Amity is like the kid's version of AEON: http://www.amityteachers.com/

      I think you're talking about the Amity Institute? http://www.amity.org/index.html This by the way sounds like an awesome program and hope you get through.

      I don't think AEON recruits from France, but some other places might. Once you get some teaching experience , you might want to look into becoming a French tutor/teacher there. there's a larger demand for English there, but there are people interested in learning French, Spanish, etc. Unfortunately I don't know of any larges companies like AEON that hires them, and it may be more of a direct apply. This may be a start: http://www.teacher-in-japan.com/

    2. Thanks :)

      Oh OK, I see. Yes, I was talking about Amity Institute (amity.org) I hope everything goes well.

      Thanks for the link (teacher in Japan)! I understand that there's a much lower demand for French/Spanish/etc teachers, I'll just focus on the US for now, I'll see later if I can go to Japan with the program AIESEC (aiesec.org I think). The "problem" is that this agency is for students and I'm having a break now, but I can enroll a uni again if necessary...

      That was a nice article, helpful too, thanks for sharing!

  3. I had Somali friend who went to Japan. She loved and she wants to return to it again. I've come across a lot of people who love Japan.Their culture is one that has always interested me.

    I'm a little surprised that the job experience you gained in Japan did not equate to a open job market in the states. It just seems that what you do out of the country don't count here. Even with college degrees depending where you get it from,like England or Canada, your education will not always count if you're in the states.

    1. Pack a bag and go! I know it's much easier said then done though. :( Definitely take the chance when you get it. It's more interesting to see the things up close that you only hear about through media. That being said, I did have a lot of crazy drama when I was there and I will probably never live there again. Visit, sure, but never live there again.

      When I came back to the states, I wasn't really sure of what I COULD do and what I was qualified for. I have to take blame for a fair amount of it. In college, I didn't really do much outside of go to class and work in an office. So no internships or clubs. And my first degree is in English which seems to get looked down on pretty much everywhere. I applied for entry level jobs and was getting nowhere. For the job I did get, my teaching experience translated into "experience with young people" and it just so happened that the NPO I worked for was a scholarship program for high school kids. Plus I did have editing skills and basic graphic design skills, both of which were needed for the job. I think it was just REALLY GOOD timing on my part for that one.

  4. Thank you for posting this blog, I really enjoyed reading it. I am preparing to go to Japan to teach and I would like to ask you about the things i should be aware of before I go. What are some things that AEON takes advantage of with foreign teachers? I have heard that they do not treat foreign teachers (especially women) that well. I hope that's wrong, but maybe you can shed some light on the issue and reply with some things I should watch out for or be prepared for. Thank you again and gambatte!