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Finding work with a tourist visa/age bias

rilot

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I have a couple topics I'd like some feedback on. I'm committed to moving to Japan on a possibly permanent basis and want to move soon (have a friend living in the country who's positive I would love living there) as all I'm doing right now in my current area is spinning my wheels. I think trying to find work and establish myself will be somewhat similar (language barrier aside) to how it was when I graduated from college-- start off taking whatever you can get and then establish connections and get to where you want to be. I've made overtures into the field where my degree and most of my work experience lie (TV/film), but I didn't get much response apart from a few initial inquiries and some names to contact whenever I do make the move. However I'm in my early 40's and am obviously doing a bit of an overhaul with my life by wanting to move to a new country and start over. I've known about the age bias in Japan in regards to hiring and have read the accompanying article about it on this site. But to me it seems more geared towards native Japanese than a foreigner coming into the country. Would the perception of an older foreigner from a country with a different set of ideals regarding employment (i.e. not staying with one company most of your life) be any different than a Japanese native at my age? My friend said that there could be a novelty factor if there was a somewhat-older American working at, say, a ramen-ya. Mind you I'm not expecting to gain a work visa and enter the country through a ramen-ya even though my preferences for a job remain wide open. But after obtaining an intial work visa, would there be certain fields where being an older American might be an advantage or even simply a novelty or kitschy thing for me to get work elsewhere? I don't really care if I'm looked at as a novelty of sorts. I can deal with it.

As it is, I'll have to get a work visa through teaching at an eikaiwa. I have no prior teaching experience and beginner Japanese language skills at this point. I've sent my applications into a few of the places that don't make you fly to a city for a recruitment session but unfortunately didn't hear back from them. I have an aversion to the ones where you have to fly to a city to interview with them, but the aversion is more financial and convenience-based than anything else (can't we all just Skype an interview and demo in this day and age?) I do wonder if my age is a factor despite emphasizing that I'm committed to being in the country for the long term if not permanently (which I think would be an advantage over applicants in their 20's looking to stay for a year or two and have some fun). I've been in touch with a headmaster for a small immersion school, and he said that my age would be a mild red flag although it's more of an issue of wondering if I'd be able to physically keep up with the demands of the work week.

So for now, I'm torn between A) continue to look for work while in the U.S., and now likely have to apply to schools that require a fair amount of money to visit for recruitment despite no guarantee of getting a job, or B) fly to Tokyo on a tourist visa in March, stay with my friend, and hope that I can find something when the school semester starts in April. The face-to-face feedback I've received has been for the latter. The headmaster in question came in on a tourist visa and found eikaiwa work within a couple of weeks during March when the teacher contracts expire. While he did admit the unknowing of whether he'd find a job or not was nervewracking, he also summed it up by telling me "Tokyo has 9 million people and a ton of eikaiwas-- you should be able to find SOMETHING." The people who have been the most vocal for the latter are the local Japanese, who are telling me that physically being in Japan and establishing face-to-face connections with eikaiwa reps are far more important than just emailing an application and show a greater passion for wanting to work there. My primary fear is that I scour sites like O-hayo Sensei and see that soooo many of these schools are not amenable to giving work visas to people in the country on tourist visas.

Sorry for the length, but I tend to be thorough with my writing. Comments/advice/criticism/help will be appreciated. Would any hiring agencies even touch a guy like me with my age and skillset? Can anyone supply me a list of eikaiwas that have been known to give work visas while being in Japan? And would the eikaiwas that passed me over and seem to be amenable to giving work visas there possibly change their opinion if I resubmitted an application in person?
 

Morphling

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Well what is your experience with TV/Film? Is it editing/directing/camera? Basically, if you don't want to be stuck in a minimum wage eikaiwa job in Japan, you need to:

A) Be semi fluent in Japanese and can read write with minimum fuss
B) Have a skill set that local Japanese can't offer

It is illegal to work or even to look for work under tourist visa so that could explain why nobody does it.

Being white is not going to help. In fact it's a hinderance. Japanese in the business scenario have many intricacies and they rather not deal with a gaijin that is completely oblivious to Japanese sensitivities.

Especially in bigger cities like Tokyo Osaka, you can't rely on being white to get you a job. People won't look at you twice in the street as foreigners are dime a dozen or nisoku sanmon in Japanese lingo.

If you want to stay in Japan and bum around for a year, eikaiwa is good way to get the cash and interact with locals. They will take anybody really. If you want to make an actual living, not knowing Japanese makes you the equivalent of a fresh Mexican migrant who speaks no English in the US. You can have a PHD in brain surgery but still be sweeping the toilets.

And no, Japanese employers expects you to speak Japanese RIGHT NOW. Not in 3 years time while they take you under their wings.

Just what part of Japan makes you think you want to live there permanently. It is not a immigration friendly country I tell you that much. I often see in TV kids that grew up in Japan speaking only Japanese but still got deported after 12 years in Japan due to visa technicalities with their parents.
 

Glenski

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I have a couple topics I'd like some feedback on. I'm committed to moving to Japan on a possibly permanent basis and want to move soon (have a friend living in the country who's positive I would love living there)
That's a big step. Why do you think you want to be here the rest of your life? Have you ever been here before? How long? In what capacity? If your experience here is nil to scant, then reexamine this notion. What your friend thinks is not necessarily true. (Is your friend a fellow foreigner or a Japanese?)

as all I'm doing right now in my current area is spinning my wheels. I think trying to find work and establish myself will be somewhat similar (language barrier aside) to how it was when I graduated from college-- start off taking whatever you can get and then establish connections and get to where you want to be.
It's not exactly as smooth as that. If you don't look for a teaching job, you're going to face the very strong likelihood that an employer, even a foreign one, will require fairly high level of Japanese (written, spoken). Look at the ads online to confirm that. As morphling mentioned, teaching may be one way (perhaps the easiest) to get your foot in the door ( = "take whatever you can get"), but not everyone is suited to that, and eikaiwas DON'T take just anyone nowadays. The teaching market is flooded, so they DO discriminate.

I've made overtures into the field where my degree and most of my work experience lie (TV/film), but I didn't get much response apart from a few initial inquiries and some names to contact whenever I do make the move.
What are "overtures" exactly? If you don't speak, read, or write the language very well, don't expect to be hired.

However I'm in my early 40's and am obviously doing a bit of an overhaul with my life by wanting to move to a new country and start over. I've known about the age bias in Japan in regards to hiring and have read the accompanying article about it on this site. But to me it seems more geared towards native Japanese than a foreigner coming into the country.
I don't know the article you mentioned, but hiring foreigners vs. Japanese is a bit different. There is a growing trend now for Japanese to be hired in mid-career (about your age), but as for foreigners, it depends on the company's need, your work experience (here and abroad), your command of the language (a biggie), and your chemistry. Basically, what can you do that a local can't, and can you communicate in the office?
Would the perception of an older foreigner from a country with a different set of ideals regarding employment (i.e. not staying with one company most of your life) be any different than a Japanese native at my age?
If you make that clear in an interview, and the job is intended to be long-term, yes. IMO, yes.
My friend said that there could be a novelty factor if there was a somewhat-older American working at, say, a ramen-ya. Mind you I'm not expecting to gain a work visa and enter the country through a ramen-ya even though my preferences for a job remain wide open. But after obtaining an intial work visa, would there be certain fields where being an older American might be an advantage or even simply a novelty or kitschy thing for me to get work elsewhere? I don't really care if I'm looked at as a novelty of sorts. I can deal with it.
Not sure if you realize it with the way you wrote the second half of that, but you don't just get a work visa and come here. You must get hired first. How is any company going to look upon you as a novelty if you don't communicate in the language (an obvious disadvantage)? ALT and eikaiwa jobs aside, that's what you will face. If you look at an employer where you actually have some background, that's different, but to just hire you because you're American, British, Aussie, or whatever, I don't think that's likely. Not in today's economy.

As it is, I'll have to get a work visa through teaching at an eikaiwa. I have no prior teaching experience and beginner Japanese language skills at this point. I've sent my applications into a few of the places that don't make you fly to a city for a recruitment session but unfortunately didn't hear back from them.
Were they hiring at the time? How long did you wait? Not even hearing back during hiring season after 2-3 weeks is a red flag against YOU, not them. That is, what image did you show that cause them to silently reject you?

I have an aversion to the ones where you have to fly to a city to interview with them, but the aversion is more financial and convenience-based than anything else (can't we all just Skype an interview and demo in this day and age?)
No, we can't. Most Japanese companies don't Skype their interviews. For one, they don't know how, plain and simple, or it's not part of their policy. For another, eikaiwas get hundreds of applicants, so it's not practical. That's why they have those reruitment sessions. You get weeded out the first day (or not), and further screening then takes place. Just showing up may be costly and inconvenient, but it shows a sense of commitment, something a 40-year-old ought to realize. No offense.

I do wonder if my age is a factor despite emphasizing that I'm committed to being in the country for the long term if not permanently (which I think would be an advantage over applicants in their 20's looking to stay for a year or two and have some fun). I've been in touch with a headmaster for a small immersion school, and he said that my age would be a mild red flag although it's more of an issue of wondering if I'd be able to physically keep up with the demands of the work week.
I got hired in my early 40s as a change in career. It's not an age thing, necessarily. Some eikaiwas want people younger, whether to show to clients who are too stupid to know that any age is capable of teaching eikaiwa, or to portray some sort of youthful image of the company, or because they think they can buffalo the younger set with certain policies that an older person like yourself wouldn't stand for (or understand).

Telling people you are committed to being here "long term" is pretty blatant. I don't care what your age is. If you've never been here and said that, I'd say you are fooling yourself and showing a sign of desperation. I would need to know more about your reasons, especially to show some experience (even back home) with Japanese culture, business, etc.

So for now, I'm torn between A) continue to look for work while in the U.S., and now likely have to apply to schools that require a fair amount of money to visit for recruitment despite no guarantee of getting a job, or B) fly to Tokyo on a tourist visa in March, stay with my friend, and hope that I can find something when the school semester starts in April.
Those are pretty much the options. I would say if you choose B, come a little earlier, since the visa process takes 2-8 weeks, and spring is one of the busiest times of year for that.

The face-to-face feedback I've received has been for the latter. The headmaster in question came in on a tourist visa and found eikaiwa work within a couple of weeks during March when the teacher contracts expire. While he did admit the unknowing of whether he'd find a job or not was nervewracking, he also summed it up by telling me "Tokyo has 9 million people and a ton of eikaiwas-- you should be able to find SOMETHING."
"Should" and "will" are not equivalent. Heed that! His experience may be totally different from yours, simply because you are different people with (presumably) different backgrounds. Apples and oranges. Not everyone succeeds even in Tokyo. I'd say he was darned lucky to land something in 2 weeks.

The people who have been the most vocal for the latter are the local Japanese, who are telling me that physically being in Japan and establishing face-to-face connections with eikaiwa reps are far more important than just emailing an application and show a greater passion for wanting to work there.
What Japanese people told you that? Not that it's wrong, but are they eikaiwa staff/managers, or just an old girlfriend? The hiring of foreigners is something that most Japanese have no experience with, so what they "feel" is irrelevant. Please keep that in mind!
My primary fear is that I scour sites like O-hayo Sensei and see that soooo many of these schools are not amenable to giving work visas to people in the country on tourist visas.
I looked at OhayoSensei for that very fact a few months ago. I found that only about 1/3 of the employers for FT work said so. About 10-15 percent said nothing either way. That left over half who said they would actually be willing to take on people and provide visa sponsorship (whether they were tourists or in some other situation).

Would any hiring agencies even touch a guy like me with my age and skillset?
If you're referring to an eikaiwa, don't go through an agency, and you are qualified by having a college degree. If you meant work in your field, then you have to describe your skill set, but I don't think many will consider you unless you have more Japanese language ability. Look at Career Cross or daijob.com web sites.

Can anyone supply me a list of eikaiwas that have been known to give work visas while being in Japan?
No need, because most will. Besides, the web sites that have such ads are all over the internet.

And would the eikaiwas that passed me over and seem to be amenable to giving work visas there possibly change their opinion if I resubmitted an application in person?
Who can say? Just physically being here has an advantage, but that's about all. A lot also depends on your personality and how you portray yourself in the resume and cover letter. I've proofed quite a few in my time and noticed that every one of them needed a lot of fixing up.
 

rilot

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Well what is your experience with TV/Film? Is it editing/directing/camera? Basically, if you don't want to be stuck in a minimum wage eikaiwa job in Japan, you need to:
A) Be semi fluent in Japanese and can read write with minimum fuss
B) Have a skill set that local Japanese can't offer
I did production in and coming out of college (a mishmash of things-- lighting, sound mixer, general assistant) and then after that post-production, albeit a part of it that while fun and enjoyable is unfortunately quite specialized. It doesn't help my cause that I've been away from that kind of work for 6.5 years as I moved from a media haven to a city with no scene at all. I'm trying to balance that by saying that I've worked on high-profile films and TV shows, so the professional experience is there. I intimated in my correspondence that I will start with the most menial job. I don't care as long as someone gives me a shot. It's not like I contacted every production/post-production company I could find in Tokyo. I stuck with the companies with websites that had expats running the place or where you can tell that communication in English was an important element. Some of these places did request bilingual workers on their site, so I steered clear of those. I've been curious about NHK World but finding someone to get a hold of has been a futile endeavor. I assume they'd want bilingual people anyway, but it would be nice for someone there to verify that.

But I should add that while it would be great to get back into the scene, and that IS where my education and most of my work experience lies, it's not the be-all or end-all for me to be content. Maybe I end up teaching and realize that I can see myself doing that for an extended amount of time. Maybe I DO end up at a ramen-ya, or wash dishes all day. I don't know. It's WIDE open for me, and I'm not going to limit myself to say "I won't do that." I have no right to be picky anyway. My friend has told me "beggars can't be choosers," and that sunk in quite rapidly. One of the eikaiwas called me up yesterday. And while I put in my application that I preferred suburban Kanto region, they already made mention that if hired I'd likely be put in a rural area. Oh well! Take what you can get and go from there.
It is illegal to work or even to look for work under tourist visa so that could explain why nobody does it.
I didn't insinuate I was trying to actually work with a tourist visa. But as far as the "look for work" part: how did that headmaster get his job? He didn't know anybody from or have connections with that eikaiwa (which is one of the larger ones BTW). Why would they stick their neck out for him if it's illegal? Whatever the reasoning, people do find jobs there while on tourist visas. I'm here to assess the risk factor involved with doing it and whether or not physically showing up to drop off a resume and talking to someone makes me stand out and show a higher sense of commitment and drive with these schools than filling out an online application. Especially since I'm afraid being an older applicant might hurt my chances.
If you want to stay in Japan and bum around for a year, eikaiwa is good way to get the cash and interact with locals. They will take anybody really. If you want to make an actual living, not knowing Japanese makes you the equivalent of a fresh Mexican migrant who speaks no English in the US. You can have a PHD in brain surgery but still be sweeping the toilets.
That's how I'm looking at it. Get a job at an eikaiwa for a year, develop connections wherever I can, and go from there. If I realize I love to teach, go with that angle. Keep my eye out for anything else if things aren't going great. Though I'm at a beginner level, I've been working hard on my Japanese and hope to at least have simple conversational skills whenever I do end up over there (especially if I hope to be self-sufficient if I'm placed out in the boondocks). I might want to stick around for a good while, so of course I'm going to have to learn the language. I abhor the thought of teachers going over there and not bothering to learn more than a phrase here and there.

I appreciate your reply.
 

Glenski

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Eikaiwa is a very dead end job as far as career prospects go. Hardly any chance for advancement, too. And since the new law was enacted that says an employer must make you permanent after 5 years, watch very carefully for employers to take advantage of that by letting teachers go after 4.

You can self sponsor after a year, which only means you can amass a load of PT work instead of take one main FT employer, but you still have zero advancement prospects and are constantly searching for work to fill your schedule. A bachelor's degree in something other than teaching (or related subject) is very weak bargaining power here. Keep that in mind when you consider the long haul.

You may not even like it here for various reasons! Why think permanent life at this point, if I may ask (for the second time)?
 

rilot

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Thank you very much for your thorough answer. I've seen your correspondence on this site and GaijinPot and was hoping you would respond. When you posted your second response, I was still typing up my response to your first one.
That's a big step. Why do you think you want to be here the rest of your life? Have you ever been here before? How long? In what capacity? If your experience here is nil to scant, then reexamine this notion. What your friend thinks is not necessarily true. (Is your friend a fellow foreigner or a Japanese?)
It's a huge step, but life has stopped being an adventure for me where I currently am, and I have no responsibilities holding me back from doing this. I had been considering it for years but wanted to see how things went where I currently am. My friend is an American who worked at an eikaiwa, got married, and now has a regular job (he's been unable to help out with employment as he works in IT and that's not a real skillset of mine). He knows me very well, and there's a strong level of trust with what he tells me about Japan and living in Japan. It would be a huge regret if I never tried. I don't have some romantic notion about living there. I don't care about things like anime or manga like Americans with a Japanese fixation may have. I don't even have a specific preference towards Asian women! However I've had an interest in East Asian culture since most of my life has been spent in a big melting pot, and any passion I've had has been an outgrowth of that. It's not focused squarely on Japan. Don't get me wrong-- I do have a passion for Japanese culture. But it also helps that it happens to be the country where I already have a support group set up. If my friend was in Seoul or Taipei, I'd be just as focused trying to find something there instead of them being backup plans. If Japan doesn't work out, I'm going to try Korea. Then I'll try Taiwan, or possibly China (which has actually been my best shot so far with the connections I already have). Whatever happens, the one thing I can tell you is that I don't want to grow old in the U.S.

No, I haven't been there. Of course I know it's best that I visit first. But as stated, I trust my friend. He's clearly spelled out what I might not like about living there and what could go wrong (he's had his issues as well). I'm OK with that and am willing to risk it. It's financially driven. While I'm financially healthy and have the means to survive with no job for a good while, I don't have some massive nest egg either. One fear I've had about visiting is loving it but then thinking to myself I could've saved some decent coin that could've been used as a couple months of survival money instead. Whether you think that's foolish or not, it's not something I'm going to budge on. I won't be breaking the bank with an eikaiwa job, so I'd rather use my savings in "living mode" rather than "tourist mode."
It's not exactly as smooth as that. If you don't look for a teaching job, you're going to face the very strong likelihood that an employer, even a foreign one, will require fairly high level of Japanese (written, spoken). Look at the ads online to confirm that. As morphling mentioned, teaching may be one way (perhaps the easiest) to get your foot in the door ( = "take whatever you can get"), but not everyone is suited to that, and eikaiwas DON'T take just anyone nowadays. The teaching market is flooded, so they DO discriminate.
Morphling implied they'll take just about anyone, so I don't know what to think there. I wouldn't have the trepidation I currently have if I was in my 20's. But I'm solely focused on teaching now. I tried other avenues, but it was time to move on and do what most foreigners do to get over there. Whether or not I'm suited to it will require experience that I haven't had yet.
What are "overtures" exactly? If you don't speak, read, or write the language very well, don't expect to be hired.
As I mentioned in my reply to Morphling, these are companies employed with expats or natives with seemingly some degree of background in English. My overture was e-mailing these companies, briefly describing my background, and asking them if it was possible to eventually get a work visa sponsored despite having (currently) limited Japanese skills. I was straight up with them. I received a few replies and got some resumes out. I wasn't expecting much more than that. But I have some people to contact now when I enter the country, and I have to hope that they can possibly lead to something down the road.
I don't know the article you mentioned, but hiring foreigners vs. Japanese is a bit different. There is a growing trend now for Japanese to be hired in mid-career (about your age), but as for foreigners, it depends on the company's need, your work experience (here and abroad), your command of the language (a biggie), and your chemistry. Basically, what can you do that a local can't, and can you communicate in the office?
I'm well aware of having to prove what I can offer that a native can't. Hence my mention in my emails of working at a major post-production facility in Hollywood that dealt with network TV shows and major motion pictures. Even though it's been some years since I was doing that, the facts should speak for themselves. At least I hope! That wasn't exactly an easy scene to break into either. Apart from that.....that's why I mentioned if there would be a novelty marketing factor in hiring an American, even if it was just flipping burgers ("Hey, look at that gaijin flipping burgers.").
Not sure if you realize it with the way you wrote the second half of that, but you don't just get a work visa and come here. You must get hired first. How is any company going to look upon you as a novelty if you don't communicate in the language (an obvious disadvantage)? ALT and eikaiwa jobs aside, that's what you will face. If you look at an employer where you actually have some background, that's different, but to just hire you because you're American, British, Aussie, or whatever, I don't think that's likely. Not in today's economy.
I was emphasizing what else I might be able to do once I had an initial job and work visa secured. If I ended up hating teaching, what kind of job (no matter how low and desperate) could I secure to keep income flowing and stay in the country?
Were they hiring at the time? How long did you wait? Not even hearing back during hiring season after 2-3 weeks is a red flag against YOU, not them. That is, what image did you show that cause them to silently reject you?
This was last month in an attempt to gain work for April. I just heard from one but it won't be for April. I haven't exhausted all resources yet. I mentioned my trepidation to the expenses incurred for the recruitment sessions with certain eikaiwas, but I'm coming around to that now and am ready to suck it up.

I'm not blaming anyone but myself for not being contacted. Maybe my cover letter isn't up to snuff, or I'm emphasizing the wrong things? I thought I covered all of my bases regarding my life until now and how I got to have passion for the culture. If there was a place or people where I could post my resume/cover letter for review, I'd do it.
No, we can't. Most Japanese companies don't Skype their interviews. For one, they don't know how, plain and simple, or it's not part of their policy. For another, eikaiwas get hundreds of applicants, so it's not practical. That's why they have those reruitment sessions. You get weeded out the first day (or not), and further screening then takes place. Just showing up may be costly and inconvenient, but it shows a sense of commitment, something a 40-year-old ought to realize. No offense.
Heh, none taken. That was more of a rhetorical whine. But perhaps you can see where I'm coming from when there is temptation (and local advice around me) to just spend the money to fly to Japan and try to find something there than fly to various cities for recruitment sessions when neither situation is a guaranteed success.
I got hired in my early 40s as a change in career. It's not an age thing, necessarily. Some eikaiwas want people younger, whether to show to clients who are too stupid to know that any age is capable of teaching eikaiwa, or to portray some sort of youthful image of the company, or because they think they can buffalo the younger set with certain policies that an older person like yourself wouldn't stand for (or understand).
Yes, that last part of your quote in particular is something I've thought about. Perhaps the ones that don't contact me aren't the ones I'd want to be involved with anyway?
Telling people you are committed to being here "long term" is pretty blatant. I don't care what your age is. If you've never been here and said that, I'd say you are fooling yourself and showing a sign of desperation. I would need to know more about your reasons, especially to show some experience (even back home) with Japanese culture, business, etc.
This is a situation where feedback is helpful because I wouldn't have thought that this would be viewed as a negative.

So "looking for a place to settle down" won't suffice? I'd figure that WOULD be an advantage at my age. Regaining the adventure aspect of life that has gone by the wayside where I currently am? I don't want it so sound like some version of a midlife crisis, because I don't think it is one. It IS going to be a very different chapter of my life obviously. I'd hate it to be construed as an act of desperation. It's been in the back of my mind for years. I actually received more encouragement to move to Japan than where I am now, including my parents.

As stated, I lived in a melting pot with various Asian cultures and it had an effect on me. Ate a lot of the food, went to cultural exhibits, hung out with native Japanese in and after college. I'm a member of my state's Japanese association and attend events. I go on ramen crawls when I go back to my hometown. I like how the elderly are more respected. I mean, what else can I say to prove my passion? I do have a native to use as a reference but he isn't one of my featured ones. Perhaps I should bump him up to my top reference?
Those are pretty much the options. I would say if you choose B, come a little earlier, since the visa process takes 2-8 weeks, and spring is one of the busiest times of year for that.
And the school won't let me do anything until the process is done, right? I assume they'll want nothing to do with me (for the time being anyway) if the process is ongoing and my tourist visa expires. Would there even be much recruitment going on in January or early February if I wanted to cover my butt and give myself 8+ weeks?
"Should" and "will" are not equivalent. Heed that! His experience may be totally different from yours, simply because you are different people with (presumably) different backgrounds. Apples and oranges. Not everyone succeeds even in Tokyo. I'd say he was darned lucky to land something in 2 weeks.
Once again, good to know. 2 weeks seemed like it was lucky, but I had no way of really knowing. Not just finding a job but getting the work visa processed in time too. Unless there's something I don't know about being able to stay employed there while the visa is being processed.
What Japanese people told you that? Not that it's wrong, but are they eikaiwa staff/managers, or just an old girlfriend? The hiring of foreigners is something that most Japanese have no experience with, so what they "feel" is irrelevant. Please keep that in mind!
I myself had the same feeling: "What would they know about this scenario?" But I can't overlook what they've said about face-to-face connections and the importance of it. These are people I've met through our local Japanese association.
If you're referring to an eikaiwa, don't go through an agency, and you are qualified by having a college degree. If you meant work in your field, then you have to describe your skill set, but I don't think many will consider you unless you have more Japanese language ability. Look at Career Cross or daijob.com web sites.
My friend mentioned Career Cross and how it helped him to some degree. Have things changed with that site though? He made it sound like some person-to-person advisory sort of site as well as a place to post your resume. I haven't had a conversation with him since I dealt with it, but to me it's just like a site like Linkedin-- post your resume and hope that people see it. Any advice comes via linked blogs and no person-to-person communication.
Who can say? Just physically being here has an advantage, but that's about all. A lot also depends on your personality and how you portray yourself in the resume and cover letter. I've proofed quite a few in my time and noticed that every one of them needed a lot of fixing up.
Is there anything in particular that stands out in that regard?

And I'll put you on the spot: what would you do in my shoes?
 

Glenski

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When I came here in my early 40s, I changed careers. It wasn't intended to happen, but it did. I called it a mid-life course correction, not crisis, because I knew what I was doing and kept as much control over it as possible. (You sound similarly mature.) I ran into some lucky situations, but I also believe(d) that you make your own luck much of the time.

You've never been here, but you have some J friends back home and an American friend here. My first piece of advice is what you've already been doing (use them!), but temper that with practicality.
1. You and your friend are different people. Understand what the differences are (beyond your careers), so that you don't try doing something he did, if it doesn't apply to your situation. I don't know enough about him to say more.

2. I also don't know what your J friends are like. Are they very westernized? Do they know what you will be facing here (probably not)? Or are they just trying to be helpful and friendly despite not really knowing how to help you? A few things they can tell you about their own lives might apply to you when you come, but I suspect that most won't, simply because you are not a Japanese.

life has stopped being an adventure for me where I currently am, and I have no responsibilities holding me back from doing this. I had been considering it for years but wanted to see how things went where I currently am. My friend is an American who worked at an eikaiwa, got married, and now has a regular job (he's been unable to help out with employment as he works in IT and that's not a real skillset of mine). He knows me very well, and there's a strong level of trust with what he tells me about Japan and living in Japan. It would be a huge regret if I never tried.
It's also good that you don't have that rosy-false anime-filled notion of what it's like here, but you really should come and visit before saying you intend to live here forever. A lot of what you wrote is sensible and good, but it's just like someone saying they've always wanted to live in California without ever having visited! The difference is huge, of course (language barrier, lack of support system close at hand, totally different culture at work, etc.).

Unfortunately, a mere visit can't show you what it's like to work here. It barely shows you what living here can be like. Barely! But just think of what you can learn with a visit. How to get around via subway or train. What it feels like to look at stores and not know what is inside because you can't read. Faltering with language at every step, even when the occasional local tries to speak in broken English. Being confused in grocery stores because you don't know what the labels say. Realizing that buildings are not numbered sequentially along a block. Getting used to a ticket machine at the train or subway station. And, more.

So, if you come for just a visit, have some sense of what you want to learn as a tourist, directed at what you need to know as a resident.

If I ended up hating teaching, what kind of job (no matter how low and desperate) could I secure to keep income flowing and stay in the country?
Practically nothing IMO if you can't speak/read/write very well. If someone says "bartending", you will still need a work visa for that! Nobody is going to hire you for the "novelty" of being a foreigner if you don't know what office memos say, or what the boss explained on the construction site, or if you can't answer a telephone from customers.

This is a situation where feedback is helpful because I wouldn't have thought that this would be viewed as a negative.

So "looking for a place to settle down" won't suffice? I'd figure that WOULD be an advantage at my age. Regaining the adventure aspect of life that has gone by the wayside where I currently am? I
A lot depends on how you spin your perspective to an employer. I gave you the negative end of it. Who can say that someone won't see it as positively as you want it to sound? Please keep in mind that Japan doesn't look abroad very much for a workforce, even though it sorely needs to. And, there is often (not always) a negative image attached to foreign workers. Lots of bad apples spoil the basket here, especially in language teaching. Not just the anime freaks, but those who come only to earn money to fund their partying and such. I'm not saying this will apply to their image of you, but plan to give a different impression from the word go, without sounding unrealistic. How would you react as an HR person if a guy from another country who barely could speak/read/write English said he wanted to come and settle down in the U.S. yet had no experience there, little background in the job, and just an attitude of wanting to leave his country forever?

Perhaps the ones that don't contact me aren't the ones I'd want to be involved with anyway?
Maybe. If they weren't hiring when you wrote to them, that could be another reason. A follow-up would not be out of order. Of course, I have not seen how you wrote to them.

Maybe my cover letter isn't up to snuff, or I'm emphasizing the wrong things? I thought I covered all of my bases regarding my life until now and how I got to have passion for the culture.
Hard to say, because like I wrote above, I have not seen your correspondence. Have your friend read it and ask if he thinks it's overkill in certain parts. Also, keep in mind that companies want to know what you can do for them, not what Japan can do to accommodate your desires to find yourself. Nobody does, whether here or in the U.S.

As stated, I lived in a melting pot with various Asian cultures and it had an effect on me. Ate a lot of the food, went to cultural exhibits, hung out with native Japanese in and after college. I'm a member of my state's Japanese association and attend events. I go on ramen crawls when I go back to my hometown. I like how the elderly are more respected. I mean, what else can I say to prove my passion?
Save some of this, perhaps most, for the job interview, where you can actually show your feelings with tone of voice, body language, facial appearance, etc.

I do have a native to use as a reference but he isn't one of my featured ones. Perhaps I should bump him up to my top reference?
Don't know who your references are, let alone who the Japanese one is, or what any of them can tell a prospective employer. Hard to tell you more.

My friend mentioned Career Cross and how it helped him to some degree. Have things changed with that site though?
Sorry, I don't know.

And the school won't let me do anything until the process is done, right? I assume they'll want nothing to do with me (for the time being anyway) if the process is ongoing and my tourist visa expires. Would there even be much recruitment going on in January or early February if I wanted to cover my butt and give myself 8+ weeks?
An employer shouldn't ask you to actually perform work duties until you have the visa in your passport. Some do, and they should be avoided. It's illegal.

If they think you're good material, they could do almost anything -- from merely helping process your visa paperwork, to showing you where they put up other teachers, to keeping you in the dark until a few days before the job starts. It varies a lot.

ALTs get recruited late in the calendar year and early, too. However, the start date is April, when the academic year begins, so you'd have long enough time to process the work visa, but you wouldn't start working until then. Eikaiwas have the same academic schedule but tend to be more flexible about hiring times because they run a business. Some teachers bail out over Xmas break, leaving the employer short-handed in January. I'd say February is a good time. Plan ahead, though, and see who is advertising before you hop a plane. Contact them in advance and tell them when you will arrive, then contact them at that time so they know you were sincere and can plan ahead for an interview. Even in Tokyo, I think you will have to hustle. The market is flooded, and that means with people already here with the lay of the land and experience under their belts.

Keep in mind another thing. Your eikaiwa boss may be a Japanese businessman who knows nothing about teaching (and who has a weak command of English himself), but needs to satisfy the company's requirements to stay afloat. So, he may dictate what you have to teach as the school's prescribed way, or he may leave you to your own fumblings, perhaps hand you a textbook and say, to get 'em. Or, your boss may be a 20-something foreigner who has worked for the company for 2 years and has nothing more than retail experience at The Gap or TGI Fridays back home. Neither one is a stellar person to take orders from at your age (or any other), but this is the sort of environment you have to be aware of.

* My advice is to ask around lots more to learn what the actual teaching conditions are here. Go to the ESL Cafe and ask. It's the best site around.

*Go to daijob.com and read what Terrie Lloyd has written in his column (not just on teaching). You can learn a lot from him. Contact him if you like, too. He's very approachable and knows my online nickname from various forums, so you can say I sent you.

* Ask your friend what his daily routine is like. Even though he's married, ask. Get as much info as you can about what you can expect not just in supermarkets, banks, trains, etc., but on the job. His may be different than yours, but it's still a job with a Japanese business culture. You'll find that is different than an American one. Minimize your surprises.

* If your Japanese friends have work experience here, too, ask them as well, and if they know foreigners who they have worked with here, see if they have any stories to relate.

* As far as your specific field goes (film industry), it's too far-removed from mine to give exact advice. However, you should evaluate what skills you have beyond what you wrote earlier ("I did production in and coming out of college (a mishmash of things-- lighting, sound mixer, general assistant) and then after that post-production"). Exactly what do these functions entail, for example? Be prepared to tell people, because they probably have no idea what a "general assistant" does, for one.

* Have someone here look at your resume. Paragraphs describing what each job required are too forbidding for a Japanese manager to plow through, so tighten them up with simple bullets. Also have someone look at your cover letters to be sure you don't look over-eager or desperate or unrealistic. Ask for honest blunt opinions.

* Try to make contacts in your industry here. I don't know how, but start with people you already know that live here (or used to). Network, network, network. Some broadcasters speak English, especially if they do work overseas, so maybe they could be contacted. I honestly don't know.

Best of luck.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I'd really focus in on what Glenski said about reading, writing, and understanding what's going on around you.

It's quite stressful to be functionally illiterate with no built in contextual understanding of your surroundings.

I'm lucky in that I have a TON of built in support due to my employment and location, but shopping is damned frustrating if I'm just trying to get some things and don't have time to try to puzzle everything out. A lot of wasted time and money.

Also, have you ever tried to explain that you have an ear infection in Japanese? It's the everyday things which are often toughest here.

Visit. I like it here, but I'm glad I came over temporarily to start out.
 

Glenski

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Ear infections or any other ailments are easy after you look up the 1-2 necessary words. It's filling out the damned clinic registration form every time you go in with a new problem, or trying to give the admissions nurse or doc any further info that wreaks havoc.

Same thing when dealing with many/most clerks, office staff, etc. and the reason is very simple. They use keigo, so you can be as prepared as possible to do the masu and desu forms, but your ears are not accustomed to keigo. Well, that and the vocabulary, new expressions, and rapid-fire delivery.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Ear infections or any other ailments are easy after you look up the 1-2 necessary words. It's filling out the damned clinic registration form every time you go in with a new problem, or trying to give the admissions nurse or doc any further info that wreaks havoc.

Same thing when dealing with many/most clerks, office staff, etc. and the reason is very simple. They use keigo, so you can be as prepared as possible to do the masu and desu forms, but your ears are not accustomed to keigo. Well, that and the vocabulary, new expressions, and rapid-fire delivery.

My point was that there are thousands of tiny details people take for granted. If halfway through the day one realizes they're coming down with an ear infection it can be hard to communicate that fact to the relevant people one immediately needs to tell.

Granted, other things are harder, but I think most people just don't realize how the little things can be so important in the course of a day, and that it's virtually impossible to be prepared for all of them.

At work we ran out of coffee grounds and I needed to run out to get some from Family Mart. When I got there I couldn't find them and I had to go through a bunch if linguistic hoops involving what I was trying to do since I didn't know the word for grounds.

The gestalt point is that functional illiteracy and minimal language skills are something to take seriously when moving somewhere.
 

nahadef

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I can say that there's a sort of bias toward young workers, including foreign, but if you're genuinely professional in your attitude you'll do alright. I moved to Japan in my twenties, but moved to an entirely new place in my late 30's. I'm 38 now, and surprised at the amount of work I could take if I accepted it all. The hourly rate may be frustrating, but triple America's minimum wage is certainly more liveable than America's minimum wage is for most illegals in that country.

Just as some members of forums feel compelled to tell you to live here before deciding to live here, I have to tell you I hadn't set foot in the country before arriving 10 years back. I was somewhat accustomed to the culture beforehand, but only through media and art. Glenski infinitely asks people why they want to live here, and I've never seen him explain why he moved here and settled down as a late bloomer. Perhaps he's explained it, but I haven't seen it.

While reality checks inevitably set in wherever you go, I think if you have your heart set on living somewhere, it's well and good to move there. Likely, some dreams will be dispelled, but you may just find what you were looking for.
 

Glenski

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Wonko, I think we both have the same feelings about that topic, just worded a little differently.

Just as some members of forums feel compelled to tell you to live here before deciding to live here, I have to tell you I hadn't set foot in the country before arriving 10 years back. I was somewhat accustomed to the culture beforehand, but only through media and art. Glenski infinitely asks people why they want to live here, and I've never seen him explain why he moved here and settled down as a late bloomer. Perhaps he's explained it, but I haven't seen it.
I wish you'd stop harping on certain things, like the manner in which I reply to people. Can people survive well if they just up roots and move to a foreign land where just sight-reading the language is impossible? Yes, but as I would hope you and others have gleaned from what I've written over the past 15 years is that it is far better to get some experience there first. To say "live here before deciding to live here" is stretching my words, and I don't appreciate it. Moreover, when people say it's possible, and especially when they say they did it, they often don't include the problems they encountered (necessary to the OP) or their solutions to such problems (also needed if the OP is going to compare themselves in such situations).

As for my own reasons and experience in coming, I'm surprised that you haven't seen or dug up what I indeed have written many times. I post it only when I feel it's relevant, but it has been posted! Again, I don't take kindly to your tone in indirectly asking, when a direct question would suffice. In this particular thread, what does it matter? I haven't written it because I felt it didn't. Part of it is actually written in the first paragraph of my previous post!

While reality checks inevitably set in wherever you go, I think if you have your heart set on living somewhere, it's well and good to move there. Likely, some dreams will be dispelled, but you may just find what you were looking for.
This is precisely the overly rosy attitude that I want to forewarn people about. Good intentions and hopes don't always make for a success. And that's all I try to say.
 

WonkoTheSane

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I think we are on the same page, I'm just earlier in where more simple things are still significant stumbling blocks.

To the OP, I'm only a few months in, but I think it will take a year or so to decide if here or somewhere else is where I want to be long term. I'm about your age too, so some of the same things are important to me.

I came here because I was offered a contract and I wanted to try something new. It could have been any international location, with obvious exceptions.
 

rilot

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Apologies for not getting back to this sooner as I had a pretty loopy week. Even right now I don't have much time, but I did want to offer my sincere thanks for all of the feedback. As of right now, I think just flying over and trying to find something is too great a financial risk. Mentally I'm more than ready to move on and have no reason to stay where I currently am apart from picking up a paycheck. What I failed to mention before is that I moved to where I currently am with no job lined up and was arrogant enough to think I could find something closely related to my field fairly quickly. That was a major reality check. The recession was starting up at the time, and the primary employer in this area laid off thousands of people right after I moved. I gave up looking for something in my field (I was either overqualified or unable to get the more skilled jobs because no one ever left their positions due to the scarcity of them). Unfortunately there was major competition to get even basic retail work because of all of the local layoffs. I lost a good chunk of savings as a result. Once bitten, twice shy. To go through the same thing again but in a foreign land with a small time window to work with and with about a third of my non-retirement savings compared to the last move would put some serious stress on my mind and body. I doubt I could even enjoy Tokyo all that much since I would only be focused on getting work and not spending too much money.

So yeah, I'll have to have something lined up in advance. If I strike out with all of the Japanese eikaiwas, I'll move on to the Korean schools and then Taiwan or China barring my Chinese connections offering a can't-miss opportunity to move there instead. I'd still want to end up in Japan but don't mind living elsewhere for a little while to gain experience. I just hope I can leave relatively soon because I'm no spring chicken and I want to get the ball rolling on this.
 

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Jobs in eikaiwa are advertised year round, but from December to late Jan/early Feb it's pretty dead. Get your head together with some finances, plan ahead by contacting various places before you come, and you'll minimize financial and temporal losses. No guarantees, but better than coming at a random time cold. Very few places accept applications online even nowadays, and the teaching market in Japan is in a glut of teachers, so you have lots of competition. Even fewer places do interviews via Skype; they just aren't that comfortable doing it or they don't know the technology well enough. Best of luck.
 

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It's been a while (6-8 yrs+?) but I had a colleague who gave up a tenured english teaching job at my uni. He thought he was going to go do something else--better, more interesting, more worthwhile, etc.
He had a bit of film background and interest in that, so he went to England and did an MA there, in that. At first the news seemed positive--he did some very interesting student projects. But then the world of work hit.
He was a stringer for NHK for a while, projects that they wanted done in europe. Travel here, travel there, always on a budget. And always lots of others (apparently) wanting to do that job that he was doing, and willing to spend more hours on it.
Altho he had some Japanese ability, on the new scale, I'd guess he was about an N3 on oral interaction, and N4 on reading and writing. He's long since given up on NHK, and he's never been able to work in Japan in film/media. Just bits of work here and there, never permanent, always elsewhere.
And since he's kind of past the sweet spot age-wise, tho he did for a while solicit letters of recommendation to come back for teaching jobs in Japan, I haven't heard from him for a while. Teaching anywhere but the most basic eikaiwa is horribly competitive--my wife's school recently hired someone, and they had their pick of PhDs.
 

rilot

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It's been a while (6-8 yrs+?) but I had a colleague who gave up a tenured english teaching job at my uni. He thought he was going to go do something else--better, more interesting, more worthwhile, etc.
He had a bit of film background and interest in that, so he went to England and did an MA there, in that. At first the news seemed positive--he did some very interesting student projects. But then the world of work hit.
He was a stringer for NHK for a while, projects that they wanted done in europe. Travel here, travel there, always on a budget. And always lots of others (apparently) wanting to do that job that he was doing, and willing to spend more hours on it.
Altho he had some Japanese ability, on the new scale, I'd guess he was about an N3 on oral interaction, and N4 on reading and writing. He's long since given up on NHK, and he's never been able to work in Japan in film/media. Just bits of work here and there, never permanent, always elsewhere.
And since he's kind of past the sweet spot age-wise, tho he did for a while solicit letters of recommendation to come back for teaching jobs in Japan, I haven't heard from him for a while. Teaching anywhere but the most basic eikaiwa is horribly competitive--my wife's school recently hired someone, and they had their pick of PhDs.
Thanks for the info. The basic eikaiwas are all I'm shooting for, and I'll go from there. If no one gives me a shot, I'll move on to Korea or see what my connections with China can bring me. I can always try to reapply if I end up in one of the other countries, though I do wonder how much of a headache it would be.
As for what your colleague went through-- I'm afraid that's the nature of the beast a lot of times. Work in that field can be quite sporadic. After I got my BA I started off as a freelancer, sometimes for no pay just to get the experience. I figured that was the kind of life I was heading towards. Then I got a stable job in the industry with a regular work week, health care, 401K, etc., and I rode it until I got tired of living where I was living. It would be ideal to regain that stability in Japan but I know that I'll just take what I can get (including being an unpaid intern of sorts again) to make a name for myself as well as to simply survive. But it's good to hear about a story regarding NHK. I've found it absolutely impossible to make an inquiry to anyone there.
 

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If you want to reapply for eikaiwa jobs while you are in Korea, good luck! You won't have the luxury of being able to interview there, unlike your current situation. You'll still have to scrape for the few employers that use Skype for interviews, or fly here to interview.

Stability in eikaiwa is tenuous. I wouldn't use that word, and for someone at your age to just get into eikaiwa (like I did), you should have a follow-up plan well in hand before coming. With the new law, you might only be able to stay 4-5 years max and then not get renewed. It's how a lot of mainstream school teachers are looking at their situation. The new law states that if you stay longer than 5 years, the employer must make you permanent (if you ask). They don't like that, hence the tendency to let people go early.

Best of luck.
 

rilot

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THREAD BUMP!

Hi, I'm the OP of this thread and decided, after a couple of prior false starts, I would give an update by bumping this thread instead of creating a new one (bear in mind the dates of prior posts). I appreciate the insights of all who responded here, nearly all of whom are still apparently active on this board. I only ended up teaching in Japan for nearly a year, but overall it was an awesome experience. I didn't get homesick, and any culture shock was minimal and not a real surprise. Maybe an older applicant who wants to teach in Japan (I was 42 when the whole process started) or possibly someone with a film/TV background can use what happened with me as food for thought.

One place gave me a shot: Interac. I know, I know.....but they showed interest right off the bat and noticed my eagerness. I had no prior teaching experience, I wasn't hearing from anyone else, and time wasn't exactly on my side given my age. Their North American headquarters didn't require an excessive amount of travel to visit either, though seeing the actual headquarters was kind of eye-opening (i.e. tiny). I got placed in my desired environment (urban) in a decent-sized city in my desired region, and I'm super thankful because the people who were placed in an urban area in my backup region got placed in what I found out later was a very rough area. I was one of I think only two people in my orientation group who focused solely on elementary school students. That to me was a big plus; starting out, I preferred sticking with the crowd I knew I worked best with. I was also placed in a team-teaching situation as opposed to a situation with me coming up with the entire lesson plan and teaching on my own. The ones in my orientation group that were placed in the latter situation were placed out in more rural areas and had stronger Japanese written/verbal skills. That was the ultimate irony: my weaker Japanese skills likely helped me get a more coveted placement. In all, I think I was very fortunate to land where I did.

I could, of course, quibble about various things with Interac. But overall, it was generally a positive experience. This is also considering reading online claims that my branch was considered by some to be the worst in the country. I cringed a bit because I didn't read that until I was already in Japan. The only thing that truly irked me was their unwillingness to help out when it came to some translating even though one school would continuously provide me lesson plans solely in Japanese (none of my teachers in that school spoke English well enough to go over lesson plans with me in advance, and my Japanese skills were very basic). My branch said they would translate the first lesson only but then just ended up re-sending me the untranslated plan I had sent them originally. Basically I'd be able to translate the kana parts myself and leave the kanji to my first-period teacher to try and explain it a bit just before school started. It was my school with the least amount of preparation, yet it was the one that was most sorry to see me go and the one that told me that it really wanted me to come back. As a result, it was also my most emotional farewell. Go figure. I guess I did a better teaching job than I thought. Otherwise I knew what I was getting into regarding Interac based on info here and elsewhere, so I rolled with the punches. I lost money when all was said and done, but that didn't surprise me. I wanted to make sure to travel and create experiences too since I wasn't sure if I'd ever be back in the country. I know I could've survived if I knew I would be staying on a long-term basis, but accruing savings just by working at Interac might have been somewhat difficult. I would've definitely tried to find side work as a tutor. I had two offers to tutor, but I rejected both for reasons I'm not going to go into here other than to say I felt uncomfortable about it.

I never encountered any real awkwardness as far as being one of the older teachers. At the beginning our orientation group stayed close-knit and banded together because we were off in a faraway land and wanted some support. Over time, people separated and went off into groups. A fair amount of them liked doing the weekend bar/club thing, among those the ones where it was painfully obvious that the primary focus of becoming a teacher was to hit on Japanese women. The bar-hopping would get so expensive though. I pulled myself away from that for fear of going broke, but socially that was a bad move as I started getting more isolated. And it didn't help that I never developed a real strong bond with those in my orientation group that were closer to my age. Of course the isolation would have its mental drawbacks at times, but it wasn't like some major detriment to my time in the country. If anything, it pushed me harder to strike out on my own and force myself into situations and conversations where I could say to myself "Hey, I think I can survive living here without being stuck in some comfort zone."

I had mentioned prior the possibility of trying to stay there permanently as a teacher. While it ended up being the most fulfilling job I've ever had, and I would return as a full-time one for a certain amount of time, it's now not something I could see doing full-time for the rest of my life. I interacted with some of the older expat teachers in the city, all of whom married a Japanese woman and were settled in the area. And the overall demeanor surprised me. They appeared weary, like life had been drained from them. I got the vibe that they had grown tired of teaching long ago but had no other recourse. Moving didn't seem like an option because the wives' families lived in the area. They were stuck in our city and fated to teach for another 10-20 years until they had retired because they had nothing else to fall back on. I never brought up the topic with them. But the mannerisms, conversations, and general attitude conveyed plenty. It was eye-opening to say the least. And no matter how much I wanted to stay in the country, I couldn't envision going down that road if I met a woman in my city and got married. I would definitely need a side career to fall back on, hopefully in a larger city where expats might have at least a slight opportunity to do something else other than teach. I know that there are other mitigating factors and that I'm generalizing to a degree as far as their intentions and desires, but this felt like one collective weary mindset passed down to all of these men.

Although it wasn't the area I was living in and wasn't the career I was doing prior to moving to Japan, most of my career was based on film/TV post-production work in Los Angeles. When I moved to Japan, I had been away from the industry for a good while, long enough to where technology had changed quite a bit and starting over at the bottom would be necessary for me to re-integrate myself. Around the time I was doing the courtship process with Interac, I attempted communication with any expat production or post-production company in Tokyo. Given my prior experience, some production companies showed a willingness to help if I ever ended up in the area. But they could only offer freelance work when available. Primarily surviving in one of the most expensive cities in the world on freelance work wasn't a chance I was willing to take. Before I let my teaching contract expire, I reached out again but was told the same thing. As much as I didn't want to leave the country, I knew it was the right thing to do. I ended up back in Los Angeles and, as I stated, had to start at the bottom again to learn the new workflow.

The best of both worlds for me would be to continue a production or post-production line of work in Japan (with ideally a steady job) while tutoring on the side. I'm realistic about my chances, both short-term and long-term. Current connections are slim, and some are teaching-based anyway. I'll reach out to those expat companies again as it's been a few years now and things are different as I'm back in the industry and can provide an updated resume, as well as go through the typical networking routes like Linkedin. Various companies have offices in both L.A. and Tokyo. That may likely be my best best, but who knows? I plan to visit 3-4 months down the road, visit my schools, and hopefully arrange a meet-and-greet with some of these media companies just so they know my face and voice. China (whose film industry is coming along quite well), Korea, and Taiwan could also be options if I hit a dead-end with Japan and I decide that I don't want to keep waiting (I'd have to do some intense language lessons though). I'd just rather not be in L.A. anymore. I've lived here most of my life. I'm single with no responsibility other than having partial ownership of a house that I don't really want. Japan seemed like a good fit for me, and I think my experience there showed me that I could survive there both socially and emotionally. I want to keep exploring, and I'm squarely focused on East Asia and Japan in particular. Many of my peers, like most people in our age group, are squarely set in their ways and were envious that I had and continue to have the freedom to do something like this. That admittedly sticks with me, and I don't want to waste the opportunity when I think it's still available to me.

If I really wanted to get back in the country and think that I've exhausted my abilities to find a media job there while living in the U.S., I think I could make it back as a teacher. Be it with Interac or some other place. Obviously the focus would be different for me, and I'd be in the country to explicitly nurture another line of work. Through my current side job in L.A., I met a man whose passion is Japanese whisky and who set up and conducted tours to visit various bars and distilleries in Japan. He ended up leaving L.A. and got a teaching job just to be in Japan, and he's expanding his tour business and his connections while he's living there. He told me "Where there's a will, there's a way." And he's kind of like my guiding light in case things are leading nowhere.

Thanks for reading!
 

Mike Cash

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Bless you for taking the time to come back and give us the rest of the story. Practically nobody ever does.

Also bless you for being the first person I can recall in the whole time I've been on this forum who has ever actually ended living/working up in Japan after coming to us for help or information.

I interacted with some of the older expat teachers in the city, all of whom married a Japanese woman and were settled in the area. And the overall demeanor surprised me. They appeared weary, like life had been drained from them. I got the vibe that they had grown tired of teaching long ago but had no other recourse. Moving didn't seem like an option because the wives' families lived in the area. They were stuck in our city and fated to teach for another 10-20 years until they had retired because they had nothing else to fall back on.

Shhhhh! They like to pretend the phenomenon doesn't exist. It upsets them when people notice they've painted themselves into a corner.

Here's a young lady who shows us that English teachers who are stuck teaching English have only themselves to blame:

神戸新聞NEXT|総合|米国人講談師が本格デビュー 伝統芸能継承へ決意

She does a good job showing us what hogwash statements that begin with "No matter how much Japanese you learn...." are. She also shows that it isn't the Japanese who keep gaijins in stereotypical employment; it is the gaijins themselves.
 
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rilot

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Bless you for taking the time to come back and give us the rest of the story. Practically nobody ever does.

Also bless you for being the first person I can recall in the whole time I've been on this forum who has ever actually ended living/working up in Japan after coming to us for help or information.

Wow, I don't know what to think about that! I appreciated the blunt advice given by Glenski and others and felt almost a sense of duty to share the rest of my story. I know people come in here with lofty and often times unattainable aspirations given their background, and I was worried that maybe I was fated to that same path. I don't know or think that the age situation was incredibly unique or anything. But it's most likely uncommon and that maybe, at the bare minimum, prospective ALT's in their 40's and beyond could glean a small bit of perspective out of what I typed. The age factor had its disadvantages, but it didn't deter much from my overall experience. Maybe the rough part might be convincing the ALT agencies why you'd be good fit at that age. Age didn't seem to be an issue with my recruiter. I made sure to explain the passion for going over there. For me, I had already been somewhat integrated into the Japanese scene in L.A. but wanted to have the full immersive experience in Japan. And I don't know if this actually helped or not, but I made sure to tell them that I had no otaku traits. I wonder if that's looked down on by recruiters, like those people would have some sort of unrealistic expectations about living there based on what they read and watch. Plus my friend moved to Tokyo some years ago and thought the country would suit me well. It did.

It was REALLY tough to leave. I had a work visa. I had my "in." People, and especially my Japanese peers, were confused why I wouldn't try to find other work there when it can be tough to get that "in" and I was so passionate about being in the country. I was worried that my savings would eventually dry up by trying to scrape by in Tokyo, and that having no film/TV experience for the prior 7 or 8 years would hinder me from developing anything in Japan on that career end. The last time I had been in the industry, I was working on film-based projects placed on videotape. Now there are still tapes involved, but it's more about shooting footage on hard drives, file transferring, and data inputting/outputting. Unless I found the ultimate contact who would employ me and take me under his/her wing, I don't think I could be re-integrating myself in the industry in Japan. I had to come back to L.A. to do it. Hopefully this will pay off for me, and hopefully Japan will be the final stop. I'm going to try to make it work. If not, then I'll try Plan B with China/Korea/Taiwan, and beyond that I would perhaps settle with a big city on the west coast like Portland or Seattle. But as I said-- if I give up on trying to get a job while living in L.A. and ultimately decide to try to get my "in" through teaching again, I think it could be possible. Either with Interac again or my contact who does the whisky tours. It's just a matter of how long I would wait before I decide to go down that route. I'm in my mid-40's and pushing my late 40's. I'm enjoying my freedom, but I need to settle down here at some point.

Shhhhh! They like to pretend the phenomenon doesn't exist. It upsets them when people notice they've painted themselves into a corner.

Here's a young lady who shows us that English teachers who are stuck teaching English have only themselves to blame:

神戸新聞NEXT|総合|米国人講談師が本格デビュー 伝統芸能継承へ決意

She does a good job showing us what hogwash statements that begin with "No matter how much Japanese you learn...." are. She also shows that it isn't the Japanese who keep gaijins in stereotypical employment; it is the gaijins themselves.

I really wanted to delve into the mindsets of these men that I spoke with, but I wasn't comfortable with bringing up what might be a painful topic. Maybe it would've been cathartic for them to purge their feelings, but I wasn't going to risk it.

Even if I stay gainfully employed in the film/TV scene for the long-term there, at some point I would likely want to branch off doing something else, at least on the side. Try not to roll your eyes, but I'm fairly passionate about ramen. Despite no experience, my first job lined up when I returned to L.A. was going to be at a ramen-ya (it took a little over a year for me to break back into post-production). But then full-time work that was substantially closer and paid better came literally the day after I discussed things with the owner, and that was that. When I was about to leave my schooling city, the elderly owners of one of my favorite ramen-yas there intimated that they would've taken me under their wing in order for me to stay in the city. I had the mindset (created via this forum and elsewhere) that something like that would never happen. Like with the ALT recruiter, I conveyed my passion about ramen, and that passion could've opened doors. But I was already committed to flying home. The point is that while I'd still have concern about being married and going down a similar path there, I do feel better about the chances of finding something different to latch onto down the road should that situation ever come up. So in a sense I don't and can't understand the mindset of these men (yet I fear becoming one of them), and I only lived there a year with no prior connections in the city. Surely their wives or wives' friends or in-laws could open doors somewhere else for them? It's been a point that I've pondered.
 

WonkoTheSane

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Everyone I met there who had a career because their wife or family opened doors also had useful skills and real language ability.
 

Glenski

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I appreciated the blunt advice given by Glenski and others
I hope that dispels someone else's remark about me (and Mike) being merely grumpy old farts.

Hopefully this will pay off for me, and hopefully Japan will be the final stop. I'm going to try to make it work. If not, then I'll try Plan B with China/Korea/Taiwan, and beyond that I would perhaps settle with a big city on the west coast like Portland or Seattle.
Kudos for having more than just a plan A. :emoji_thumbsup:
 

mdchachi

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Also bless you just in case you sneeze.

Really great to hear, in Paul Harvey's words, "the rest of the story." (You may be old enough to know who he was.)
 

Mike Cash

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So in a sense I don't and can't understand the mindset of these men

They're the victims of believing myths.

"No matter how much Japanese you learn you can never xxxx"
"No matter how much Japanese you learn they won't let you xxxx"

Which are essentially nothing more than convenient ways to excuse themselves from learning much Japanese or making any effort to do anything they have anyway decided Japan won't let them do anyway. So they end up being self-fulfilling prophecies.

Japan will "let" foreigners do all sorts of things....but linguistic competency and literacy are the price of admission. Their whole ability to remain here at all is so wrapped up in being a foreigner for other people that they can't fathom the fact that it is possible to have one's foreign origin be entirely irrelevant to one's activities. So they just keep on wearing the dancing bear suit no matter how badly it chafes them, and blaming Japan for making them wear it.

Surely their wives or wives' friends or in-laws could open doors somewhere else for them?

Even thinking that's necessary indicates you got tainted with the myth yourself. No connections are necessary; just some degree of linguistic competence beyond what passes for good among English teachers and a modicum of gumption.

Every guy you met with PR who was "stuck" teaching English despite hating it has only himself to blame.
 
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