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Plans to Move to Japan

M01

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Hello,
Brief background for this question.

I am a Canadian citizen married to a Japanese citizen currently living in Canada. We have a 4 year old child. We currently both work for companies as full-time permanent employees. We both have university degrees (Liberal Arts programs) and have been working in Canada on a full-time basis for about 8 - 9 years. I've been with three (3) different companies during this time period and my wife has been with two (2). My wife originally started working for a Japanese company in Japan back in 2006 - 2008, but quit to move to Canada. Our ages are in the early 30's. Her education/work background is in Accounting and my background is in Transportation/Logistics & Supply Chain. I've had experience working in the Customs industry as well as retail transportation management and am currently in a health care purchasing agent position.

So, we've casually talked about moving to Japan, as we'd both like to live there and grow our family there, however, we really don't think it is possible. Sure, my wife would have a better chance of finding a full-time position over there that pays decent, since she is a native. For me, although I have a basic understanding of Japanese and can read hiragana, katakana and have passed the JLPT N3 and attempted (and failed) the JLPT 2, I am far from being able to just jump into Japanese society and start interviewing for Japanese language jobs. Therefore, I'm assuming that my best options would be to take on an English teaching job in the short-term until I can realistically speak Japanese. As a side note, back in 2007, I worked for a dispatch as an English Teacher for the local schools. People generally had bad comments about the dispatch, however, considering I had no work experience then, it was a decent job for the short-term, however, I know I was only making around 250,000 YEN / month plus a certain transportation cost, which is about 3,000,000 YEN per year. All things considered, this is alright for a bachelor life, however, even if my wife is working as well, I'm not sure if this is realistic for raising a family.

Athough I've heard the wages aren't great, I would also be fine for the short-term to work in a factory or warehouse if I do not require to speak much Japanese at all. Again, it would depend upon the salary and what they expect from a gaijin.

So, tell me, what I dreaming too much and should just consider staying where I am for the long-term until I retire or is there potential? Do you think I should focus more on watching more Japanese TV and reading more news online? I've been using Rikaichan to assist in reading articles online to improve my Japanese, but to tell the truth, I've been fairly unfaithful to this practice for a few months now.
 

Glenski

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Beginning English teacher's salary is definitely NOT enough for a family even withOUT kids. Unless your wife can guarantee full-time work, I'd say you will be in bad financial straits. You could always supplement with private side teaching, but that would only take away from time with the family and time for studying Japanese.
Do you have a time frame in which to come here? If not, I'd say make one, and meanwhile make a goal about what Japanese you want to learn in what period of time.
Also, do you have a specific location where you want to live/work?
 

M01

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Yes, you've essentially told me what I was thinking. The best option would be to find time to brush up on Japanese, watch more Japanese TV and read literature/online news so I can get to that point where I at least have a shot at better paying positions. Otherwise, just accept where I am and wait until retirement to do travel or move there.

In terms of a timeline, I can't say since there are a lot of things happening right now. Realistically, at this point, it would be best to make a short-term plan of passing the N2 and N1 and taking more communication courses in Japanese through the local culture centre.

Anyway, thanks for the advise.
 

mdchachi

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I think you should take off the rose-colored glasses, reexamine your motivations and decide if that's really the move you'd like to make. I'm glad I'm no longer working in Japan and am not raising my kids there. Especially when I visit my Japanese colleagues in their salaryman existence working ridiculous hours in dreary conditions and not seeing their family much.
 

Mike Cash

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There are lots of families who live here and raise families on what you could make on your own as well as on that plus what your wife would make. The real question is to what degree you would be willing to adjust your accustomed standard of living in order to make that happen.

If you expect white-collar and highly-paid work here then you're going to need the skills and certifications that requires. Sometimes that involves N1 (or N2), but not always. If you envision working some blue collar job with zero experience, skills, or certifications until you get better Japanese skills that is doable, but since I get the impression you really don't want to come here if it means compromising your standard of living, I can't help but wonder how much you would be willing to put up with in terms of compromise at work when the rubber meets the road.

Not to belittle your accomplishments, but if you're looking at even blue collar work where you end up in a 100% Japanese environment, N3 isn't really going to cut the mustard. Its a good start as far as a basis to build on goes, but in real-world terms N3 is very low-functioning.

You also need to consider that once you get your wife back here and she gets settled you might find you couldn't get her out again with blasting powder. If you come, then come mentally prepared to accept that it might be for the rest of your life, for better or worse. She might not be willing to uproot herself and the wee one(s) at some future date just because it turned out Daddy couldn't hack it.

Coming here is thoroughly possible. It all comes down to what compromises you are willing to make, what hardships you are willing to endure, and what efforts you are willing to put into making some serious progress on the language instead of just half-heartedly farting about with it as though it were a hobby you don't really care that much about.
 

M01

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Thanks for the reply from both of you. Don't get me wrong, I'm not in my teens thinking everything is wonderful and great in Japan, compared to other parts of the world. Of course, there is the lack of family time and the fact that I would most likely be forced to work and study and even having done this, there is no guarantee of finding a decent job. Realistically, I doubt it would work out in the long-term, considering I don't really have any special skills and abilities that a regular Japanese worker wouldn't have. Sure, I could take some logistics/customs/supply chain tests and become certified, but even doing so wouldn't guarantee a thing.

My purpose of the post was to get a reality check and see what those who are living there thought of our situation. My wife and I just causally thought about it, but have come to similar conclusions as has been stated here. It may have been a different story if I had a masters / PhD in education and spoke Japanese fluently, as there are options to work in the universities. But, alas, I did not take education in university and do not have the funds to go back to university to obtain a masters.

Anyway, thanks for the replies and telling it as it is to me, rather than sugar coating it all.
 

Mike Cash

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I only have a high school diploma and a truck driving license and I've somehow managed to slide through life in Japan with a wife and a couple of kids with no more than that and a modicum of determination. Not in any great comfort or style, but we haven't starved either.

You don't have to have advanced degrees to live here; you just have to adjust your lifestyle to fit your circumstances. And your circumstances are open to improvement. I would see nothing wrong with coming over teaching English for a while, so long as you had a plan for transitioning out if English teaching isn't your thing.

If you were to come, where did you envision living?

Have you checked the headhunting/recruiting sites? There may very well be a job just looking for a guy like you to fill it. Don't give up on stuff until you've examined all your options.
 

mdchachi

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It may have been a different story if I had a masters / PhD in education and spoke Japanese fluently, as there are options to work in the universities.
I know a Canadian who speaks Japanese, is CEO of a small tech company in Tokyo and has lived there for over 20 years yet he uprooted his family & school-aged kids and moved back to Toronto about a year ago. His main motivation was his family (not business). My point being, even somebody in that position with resources felt Canada was the family-friendly option and best for his children. (Of course the outcome is still not determined; depends on how his wife settles into Toronto life.)
 
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Glenski

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Anyway, thanks for the replies and telling it as it is to me, rather than sugar coating it all.
Wow! You're the first person in a long time to say that. Virtually everyone else complains that we're jaded old farts trying to keep them out of the country. You're very welcome! Feel free to ask about any more options if they come to mind.
 

M01

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If you were to come, where did you envision living?
Well, my wife is from the Kansai region and she has said she would like to be in the area so she is near her family. With that said, she has also expressed interest in Hokkaido, as she lived there at one time in her life. I would assume Kansai would be the place. That is where we were the first time I was working as an English teacher in Japan on a work visa. BTW, are there any already existing threads that discuss the procedure to apply for a spouse visa?

Have you checked the headhunting/recruiting sites?
To tell you the truth, I haven't done much looking around at this point, as it was more of a casual discussion. I know of a few such as Hays and Robert Walters, which at a quick glance seem to have some decent positions, assuming I can speak business Japanese at least. Any other suggestions or better places to search?

My point being, even somebody in that position with resources felt Canada was the family-friendly option and best for his children.
Of course, this is always something to consider, however, even living/working in Canada, you're family time is mostly limited to Saturday & Sunday for those who work Mon - Fri, however, I used to work Sun - Thurs and essentially only saw my family for one full day and this was in Canada, not Japan. The reality is, our work/life balance is becoming more work at the office and at home in order to maintain the job and pay your bills. I know people who are working two (2) jobs while the partner works one and take care of the children in the evenings. For all I know, they were stupid enough to buy the $400,000 house on a family income of $85,000, so they had to increase their income with another job. Add to this the fact that the CAD is dead in the water, causing pretty much everything we purchase to rise in costs. Cauliflower is now $8.00 for a head, when it was once $2.99 or less. Lettuce is now $6.00 for a small amount when it was $1.99. My point is that one can have wonderful dreams about one place or another being child friendly or enjoying the Nippon life, but the bottom line is, can you afford to support your family, either on minimum wage or multi-million dollar salary.

Wow! You're the first person in a long time to say that.
Well, technically, I'm not new to Japan and I'm already in my 30's, so I don't wear the rose coloured glasses. I know all about my wife working Mon - Fri, getting on the train at 7:15, getting to the office around 9:00 am and getting home around 11:00 pm or later. I know all about working English teaching jobs and how they barely pay anything. Generally, as I stated earlier, I'm just bouncing some ideas off people who are living there or have lived the gaijin experience in Japan. All I ask is that you tell it as it is and point out any fallacies in my comments towards potentially moving to Japan. After this discussion, I think I've understood that I really should have a proper plan laid out in more detail and look around at headhunter/recruiter websites. For example, take all the free time I can to focus on reading, writing and listening to Japanese for a year or less and if possible, take in-class courses. See how things are a year later and revise the strategy from there. Again, I'm not suggesting this is the official plan, just an example.
 

Mike Cash

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I know of a few such as Hays and Robert Walters, which at a quick glance seem to have some decent positions, assuming I can speak business Japanese at least. Any other suggestions or better places to search?
Friend, I'm a truck driver and that sort of thing may as well be on another planet from me. Just not anything I would know the first thing about. The kind of jobs in my world are all found in job magazines at the local convenience store.
 

johnnyG

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While it's a sample of one, and it could easily not apply to Tokyo, I think Japan is very family friendly. We live in a city of about 450,000 on the Sea of Japan side. Since my wife has always worked, each of our daughters started hoikuen at about ten weeks. (I think a lot of their character/outlook is connected to that.) From there they went thru the regular/local school system. Both chose 理系 in high school (wife and I are both lang. teachers!), and both got into national universities here--the older one in chemistry (she's done and working), the younger in some kind of plant biology (one more year, and is considering grad school in the US).

I thank my lucky stars that for having had this family here.
 

KyushuWoozy

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Beginning English teacher's salary is definitely NOT enough
You make a good distinction about "beginning" English teacher's salary. I had three stints teaching in Japan. The first time I just had a backpack and not a hint of a qualification. I earned enough for my rent, food and my considerable booze bill. It was fun but I couldn't have supported a wife and kids that's for sure. The second time I'd bagged myself a TEFL Certificate qualification (takes about a month) which allowed me to get a better paid job. The final time I had a Diploma (you need a couple of years experience behind you and it takes about two months). That allowed me to get a much more highly paid job - as I remember about twice as much as my first job.

You seem a sensible guy who doesn't rush into things, so maybe start to build up your English teaching qualifications and experience over there in Canada before coming to Japan. Just a thought.

By the way, are you sure you want to quit Canada for Japan?! As someone mentioned once your wife is back in The Motherland it'll be hard to budge her I bet (especially once the kids are settled). Japan is a great place to visit and travel and stay a bit. But after 5 years there last time I had to get out before I murdered someone. It's so ...well, how to say it ... so very Japanese. Think well my friend, and take your time.
 

mdchachi

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I know of a few such as Hays and Robert Walters, which at a quick glance seem to have some decent positions, assuming I can speak business Japanese at least. Any other suggestions or better places to search?
I've never heard of those. But then I haven't searched for a Japan-related job in a long time. One place to keep an eye on is careerforum.net. They've been a career site for Japanese-English "bilinguals" for over 20 years. (Don't worry if you're not really bilingual.)

Just not anything I would know the first thing about.
That's never stopped you before. :D
 

Mike Cash

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That's never stopped you before.
Sometimes I have the time and inclination to google answers for other people and sometimes I don't. There are numerous times that I don't post regarding things I know nothing about. You just don't notice the posts I don't post.
 
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