Now that my wife's retired from teaching, she and I are spending a lot of our time travelling, but every now and then my wife says she misses teaching a bit and thinks about becoming a 'supply teacher'. A friend of ours recently suggested another alternative for her to consider. Seems many Asian countries like China, Japan and Thailand regularly hire English-speaking teachers from North America to come to teach the language for a period of four months or more. They even pay for your airfare to their country! This option has set my wife and I thinking about combining our passion for travel with her wish to keepcontact with her teaching profession. As such, we're now looking at possible teaching posts in China and Japan, as we have never been to either country. After seeing the movie 'The Last Samurai' about a year ago, we both fell in love with Japan.We are also both attracted to Tokyo, for as a result of extensive on-line research, we find that it's cheaper than New York or London and very easy to explore. Their public transit system is apparently quite extensive and the city itself seemsgeared to pedestrians (we like to stroll around new places we visit). Seems there's an interestingdistrict called the Shimokitazawa that some people liken to Greenwich Village because of the many cafes, trendy stores, and specialty restaurants (noodles are big...).If anyone's recently been to Tokyo, we'd be very interested in your comments and suggestions about your experiencesinTokyo.
Me again, I just responded to your post asking about Ethiopia (as I've been to Egypt, not Ethiopia) and I have also spent a wonderful few weeks in Japan within the past couple years - Tokyo, Kyoto, Hakone, Nikko, Nara. You are correct, Tokyo is an incredible city - huge, and packed with skyscrapers, like a Manhattan skyline stretched infinitely . The transportation system is excellent countrywide, making Tokyo both an easy place to get around in itself and making it an excellent departure point for multiple day trips - Nikko, Hakone (the mountainous/hot springs area) and even Kyoto are a few great day trips (although I would recommend staying in Kyoto for at least a few days as there is so much to see and do there.) Tokyo has an extensive number of different districts, all easily connected by the train system, including of course the big shopping districts - Ginza and Shinjuku - Harajuku, where the young people like to dress up and hang out, the Akasaka business and fine dining district. Here are some highlights from our trip:
1) Staying at the Park Hyatt Tokyo (rent Lost In Translation - the movie takes place at this fabulous hotel!) A splurge, but well worth the price.
2) Visiting the Tokyo fish market (it opens very early - 5-7AM so this is a great thing to do your first jet-lagged morning in Japan when you can't sleep anyway.) Have the freshest sushi breakfast ever at one of the many little sushi bars within the market.
3) Shopping in high-end Ginza
4) Eating! The food is incredible, not sure if you are a sushi eater which is of course excellent in Japan, but also the little yakitori places, the noodle stores, the tempura stores, the shabu-shabu restaurants are so yummy. You should also try at least once one of the formal kaiseki multi-course meals. We did not find the meal especially tasty at times, but it is a beautiful presentation and quite a lovely experience.
5) Kyoto is a must-see for its beautiful and numerous temples, its history. It is an excellent city for getting lost on tiny little picturesque streets.
6) Nikko (day trip from Tokyo) and Nara (day trip from Kyoto) are both very worthwhile, and so easy to get to on the train system.
7) Staying in a Ryokan, traditional Japanese Inn. We did this in the little hot springs town of Hakone. I'd only be up for this for one night as there is really such a process to the stay that it is an experience in itself, but for more than a night it might cut into your sightseeing. You can visit the traditional baths, be served dinner and breakfast in your room with a traditional kaiseki meal for both, sleep on a futon, etc....quite an experience!
These are just brief highlights off the top of my head. I, personally, could stay in Tokyo for a while, I am a big city person and there are so many different districts to explore and things to see and do. If you're not a big city person, I would suggest a few nights there then moving on to other cities via the train.
Regarding teaching in Japan, it sounds like a fascinating way to be immersed in the lifestyle and culture there! I've had several friends who spent a year teaching there just after college - it is a fairly standard "rite of passage" for many young Americans. The people I know had an amazing time, but they tended to be stationed in tiny out-of-the-way towns, not generally in the bigger cities, not sure if that bothers you or not. It was always an excellent experience for them as they were really embraced as a part of the community. I'm not sure how the English teaching programs are arranged, and I'm assuming they are all different, but I don't think I've heard of anybody being "stationed" for less than a year, so I'll be interested to hear how that works out for you.
Please let me know if you'd like more specifics as you are planning your trip. Also, I've spent some time in China, so if you are considering a trip there do a search for "China" in the message boards as I've posted some basics, and let me know if you have any other questions regarding that fine country.
Message Edited by claassenam on 03-26-200706:50 AM
What a wonderful reply. So full of great information and your personal experiences and suggestions. It'll help us tremendously as we plan for our trip to Japan. Yes, we did see the movie Lost In Translation and liked the look of the hotel that Bill Murray's character was staying in. Also, we're both crazy about sushi! So look forward to visiting the Tokyo fish market in the early morning at one of the little sushi bars you refer to.
Also, though we'd prefer living in Tokyo or one of the other big cities, while my wife teaches English there, we'd not be adverse to a location in a smaller community. As you say, the transportation system by rail is excellent in Japan, so nowhere is really far from anywhere else in terms of time.
Having lived in Tokyo for three years, I can only encourage you to go there, just travelling or working. Tokyo is amazing, not only the famous places like Ginza, Harajuku and so on, but also the less known more Japanese quarters, Shibuya, where the young crowd is entertained (on Yamanote-line), Kijijoji in the west, O-Daiba, the artificial island in the east, Meguro, just to name a few.
It is highly recommendable to try to have contact with Japanese people. This may not be very easy in the beginning, but the effort is worth it. One way to do so is, e.g. a homestay. There are programs in Kyoto. Or, if you like the authentic Japanese experience, to go to language school and stay with a family. I did so, 16 years ago for the first time, in Kanazawa (Eurocentres), stayed with a family in the country side, surrounded by rice paddies, sleeping in a futon on tatami, eating Japanese food every night. Ryokan is nice, but still a bit artificial.
Another possibility is to stay in a minshuku, a cheaper version of a Japanese hotel.
Concerning English teaching, I would suggest to contact your nearest Japanese Embassy or Consulate. They can certainly help you. There is the ALT program, assisted language teaching. English teachers assist Japanese languages teachers teaching English. Japanese teaching methods are still quite old-fashioned, doing a lot of grammar and learning by heart and not doing enough listening comprehension and talking.
Japan is a wonderful country to travel, easy, safe in every aspect and so exotic.
Aregato. Your suggestions and information on Tokyo are very much appreciated, especially concerning 'homestay" and tips regarding teaching English in a language school in Japan. It's particularly useful to hear first-hand experiences from someone who has actuallyworked at a language school there. My wife and I also find your comments on the different quarters of Tokyointriguing as well as your recommendation abouthaving contact with the Japanese people. Since we don't speak the language, we thought it'd be quite difficult to do, but again the notion of "homestay" with a local family sounds like an excellent way of immersing in Japanese culture and family life. Thanx!
Thanks for your reply. I wasn't a teacher myself, but working in Tokyo as a diplomat. However, I met a couple of ALT-teachers.
Homestay programs in Kyoto can probably be arranged by the city authorities. And they are intended to bring together Japanese and foreigners (gaijins) without Japanese knowledge. It often happens that as a foreigner, you are approached by Japanese people speaking English.
When being at the receiving end of a Japanese favour, it is highly appreciated by the other side, if not expected, to get a present. Something from your country, some sweets, some fruit. And better be of good quality. And don't forget to bring your business cards with you, handing them - and presents - over with both hands. Etiquette in Japan is quite rigid. Wouldn't hurt to make yourself knowledgeable beforehand. It would be much appreciated.
The Yokohama Museum of Art (Japan) features a new exhibit of the "World of Kojima Usui". Because of his vast collection of Japanese woodblock ukiyoe prints and Western etchings, he became one of the most important art collectors in Japan: Kojima (1873-1948) took to buying Japanese prints after he realized the interest they generated in the West, and western prints after he moved to California. A selection of these works - the whole collection was onated to the museum - is on display. www.jaf.of.jp
So good to have you back in action on the LL Community. Very interesting to hear about Kojima Usui's new exhibit at the Yokahama Museum of Art in Japan. For some unfortunate reason the weblink you provided to the museum does not respond. Do you know how long the Usui exhibit will be on display there? By the way, how was your extended Italy vacation?
My wife and I would definitely be 'gajins' in Japan, though we try not to act like typical tourists when we visit a foreign country. Really appreciate the good advice about Japanese customs, such as the giving of a present to yourlocal host (something one would otherwise likely never have thought of). Just goes to show how important it is to get to know things in advance about the customs, languages, etiquette, and habits of the people you'll be coming in contact with on a vacation or business trip abroad. I like the fact that, as in many other countries we've been to, people in Japan enjoy approaching foreigners who speak English. Though at first, this may prove a bit awkward, such encounters often turn out to be very enjoyable and mutually satisfying. Thanx.
Had a wonderful 3 weeks in Italy, but now it's catch-up time at LL... I had the same problem with the web site. For me it showed up only in Japanese. From what I understand the Usi special Exhibit lasts till April 14 but the collection is there permanently. It was donated to the Yokohama Museum.