Where will all the eikaiwa teachers go?

I have decided to cross-post a comment I made on the “Jason’s Random Thoughts” blog. He wrote a post laying out the decidedly grim options for unemployed eikaiwa teachers who want to find a way to stay in the country by working outside the eikaiwa industry.

Comment by Adamu:

You seem ready to blame the decline of eikaiwa on the financial crisis, but while a decline in personal consumption will not help struggling schools, people began writing Nova’s obituary back in mid-2006. Put very broadly, there is an excess supply of eikaiwa teachers here and demand has clearly peaked and is now falling off. The adjustment of supply to meet the real demand is no doubt painful for a lot of the workers, but at the same time the years of easy money produced some very bloated companies, NOVA probably the worst among them. Now only the best schools will survive but in the end consumers will be better off.

For years, those involved in the Eikaiwa industry took it for granted that the Japanese public was a money-well, always willing and eager to sit in front of a white face and pay him to speak in his native tongue. But the industry has changed and teachers can no longer dip into the well. Having eikaiwa as a free ride may have been a good opportunity and life experience for many, but in the end I don’t think it does people or society at large much of a service. You are paid to act as a human tape recorder without much in the way of skills, and the service itself is about as effective as weight-loss clinics (a good tool for the motivated minority but a ripoff for everyone else). Now that you dont have that job anymore you are seeing just how content-free the job was. You mention experience working in a foreign environment, but I saw no clear description of any real practical experience gained.

This was an interesting essay, but maybe you should have been honest with your readers and written “Am I Prepared” instead of “Are YOU Prepared”. It would have given much more focus to the essay since you offer advice willy-nilly to a group of people that probably has a very diverse array of skills and experience, while you are you and actually “know your strengths” and weaknesses. And as someone who’s obviously very candid, your readers probably have a lot to gain by following your experiences.

You make a fairly thorough assessment of the prospects for a former Eikaiwa teacher who wants to stay in Japan at all costs but have little skills or experience to offer. But the prospects sound REALLY grim. Looking at what is out there, it is obvious that there is FAR greater opportunity to be had back home rather than struggle as a gas station attendant in a foreign country. Far from “taking living in Japan to the next level” these options seem singularly unambitious and really pretty sad. I hope you can aim higher.

First I would like to ask — is being in Japan at all times forever an end in itself? And even if you do want to be in Japan for the long term, how could you ever be satisfied working at the functional equivalent of a janitor just because it’s in a country you like? For the short term you may need to make ends meet, but sweet Jesus you have got to think bigger.

It seems like getting sent home might be a blessing in disguise for you just so you won’t have to slave in jobs that are even more dead-end than teaching English. Now might be a good time to stop and think about your real strengths and weaknesses as a person, not just as a “gaijin.” And besides, being away from Japan geographically doesn’t necessarily mean cutting ties altogether. The Japanese Internet is huge and allows you to access basically the full spectrum of culture and discourse. While you are off pursuing self-development you can keep track of the Asahi or even the Family Mart website if that’s your thing.

On his blog, Debito has posted his advice from 2001 and it still basically holds, though the examples could be updated. Ken Worsley from Japan Economy News is an interesting case of someone who turned from English teaching to entrepreneurship, but the clear thing distinguishing him from many is that he’s quite talented. There just is no escaping that.

It is interesting to see that positions like convenience store clerk, gas station attendant, and even electronics salesman are now open to foreigners, even American-looking white guys. That phenomenon was all but non-existent seven years ago.

Nice to see you mentioned translation, which is a much more viable option for the people you are apparently writing for (it also happens to the job I do “in a regular office building”). If your language skills are tight enough you can make decent money as a translator, even if you just do it freelance (though IMO 2-kyu is pretty worthless. You need much better than 1kyu to be successful). Employment agencies like Tempstaff can help you with details of what you need to do to land that kind of work. Of course, the driver of translation demand is somewhat connected to that of eikaiwa — it depends on Japanese people having sub-standard English skills. If somehow the Japanese education system gets it right, the demand for translation might fall as competition among translators rises.

I also have to seriously doubt whether “hundreds of thousands” of people have really been fired from eikaiwa schools and face the decision of whether to stay or go. Government statistics seem to show that the number of teachers at private-sector language schools peaked at 15,000 or so, and the numbers now are somewhere just under 10,000. NOVA only employed 4000 teachers and it once boasted that it was the biggest employer of foreign nationals in the private sector. Add to that number the JET program, which accepts about 5,000 people each year, meaning that at any given time there might be as many as 20,000 on JET contracts (though in reality it is probably far less). Then there are the local school district ALT programs and unregistered English teachers/schools, but I don’t see the number topping 100,000. If you want to talk six figures, maybe it would be more accurate to say the decline of the eikaiwa industry has forced hundreds of thousands worldwide to reconsider even attempting a career teaching English in Japan, not to mention future generations for whom it will be basically out of the question.

50 thoughts on “Where will all the eikaiwa teachers go?”

  1. “If your language skills are tight enough you can make decent money as a translator, even if you just do it freelance (though IMO 2-kyu is pretty worthless. You need much better than 1kyu to be successful).”

    Yes, you can make very decent money indeed – twice what NOVA pays, if not three times. But trying to do it on 2-kyu? Be like trying to win the Tour de France on a tricycle. 1-kyu is just the start. Also, it goes without saying that you need to have a very sound grasp of English as well.

  2. Didn’t we swear off hating on eikaiwa teachers a few months back? Now that the brief moment of civility is over, I can get back to one of my favorite pass times!

    Since Adamu’s post is a textbook example of an asskicking handed down in a blog comment, I don’t actually have that much to add.

    I will say, however, that the current wisdom in North America is that if your job can be outsourced to China or India…. it probably will be. So think about doing something else.

    I would add to that what should be the obvious suggestion – if your job involves a skill set that over 400,000,000 people in the world have based purely on the virtue of having, oh, grown up, you should probably think about diversifying.

    Let’s face it, teaching English in Japan is pretty great. Now that the exchange rate has changed, you make more money after taxes and health are paid up than an Associate Professor of Classical Studies at Duke. People will call you “sensei” instead of asking you to check their tire pressure, which is what you would likely be hearing back home (or “no, I don’t want fries with that.”) You can go back to study Japanese at a university in the US where the person doing the language labs will be a Japanese native speaker who also speaks fluent English, French, and German, has a linguistics PhD, and 17 academic publications on topics rating to metaphor in Soseki to advanced Keigo for native German speakers, but ends up making $12 per student per semester as an adjunct. You can refuse to ride in the same train as other foreigners because they might look at you (we discovered that someone actually does this a few months back). You can fool yourself into thinking that you are at the forefront of the internationalization of one of the last holdouts. You can write a blog that consists of nothing but photos of funny English that you found and some people will not only take you seriously, but think that you are a hero. And best of all, nobody that you meet will suspect that deep down, you fear the neon sign.

    “service itself is about as effective as weight-loss clinics (a good tool for the motivated minority but a ripoff for everyone else).”

    This is a pearl.

    “experience working in a foreign environment”
    = experience talking at foreigners in your native language in a foreign environment

    “You need much better than 1kyu to be successful”

    Word. 2kyu is like having an official certificate that says you should not be trusted to translate.

    “has forced hundreds of thousands worldwide to reconsider even attempting a career teaching English in Japan, not to mention future generations for whom it will be basically out of the question.”

    Lets also keep in mind that the current generation of eikaiwa teachers are helping to spawn bilingual “halfs”.

    On the issue of working in a convenience store so that you can stay in Japan – Japan is fantastic if you have free time and money (ie. eikaiwa teachers). Working a regular Japanese 下流 job that may see you canned for a recent immigrant when you are 41 with no pension, bad ulcers, and no time to engage with anything that made you love Japan in the first place, sounds like 生き地獄 to me. I’m actually shocked that people are considering this. There probably are not too many people that enjoy being in Japan more than I do (I wipe away a tear after going into a Japanese bookshop after having been out of the country for a while, I honestly feel like a 7 year old on Christmas morning) but there are two things that I would never sacrifice to be here – my future and my dignity.

  3. “What does that weird cartoon kiddie porn fairy have to do with contingency plans?”

    I was thinking exactly the same thing!

    Maybe there are people who find things to enjoy about Japan that I don’t….

  4. “Unlike our Japanese counterparts, many foreign workers have been employed with a number of companies and learned a lot of different ways to accomplish the same tasks. On top of this, working in a foreign environment has taught us (hopefully) business communication skills that would be beneficial to any company that deals internationally.”

    What a load of bullshit. Actually, being from North America and having lived in Japan does not suddenly make you a Man, I would really feel sorry for this crowd if so many of them weren’t such a pathetic bunch.

  5. Maybe that pedo cartoon was supposed to send the message that the entire post was a joke (advising eikaiwa teachers to drive delivery trucks – wtf?).

    I’m not really sure why that post got the attention it did, so it’s good to see you tearing it to pieces with your “unnecessarily harsh” comment.

  6. You see,I’m going to Toyohashi tomorrow to make an interview(hopefully) to a homeless guy….

    Being homeless isn’t that special in this country nowadays,but this guy is a Brazillian.And we think the current lay-off from Toyota and Sony factories in Aichi pref,would rapidly increase the number of this paticular demography.I’m also interviewing a relatively successful man in the community,a pizzaria owner to be exact.So all English speakers reading this blog should just be thankful about you being raised in English speaking country and being in a country that somehow overrates that background….

  7. I’m pretty thankful that GOJ decided to give out a large number of scholarships to foreign grad students, which for reasons no one fully understands will even pay for a random bonus year before the actual degree even though no other country does anything like it.

  8. Roy, I missed that one! Do you have any links? I think this is a great idea – I was just bemoaning to someone in an email about Japan attracting talent and this is a (somewhat) outside-the-box idea I’d be interested to hear more about.

  9. “So all English speakers reading this blog should just be thankful about you being raised in English speaking country and being in a country that somehow overrates that background”

    You are going to have to spell that out for me because I don’t see how that follows.

  10. Ken? I’m just talking about the graduate student / research student scholarships that Japan has had for decades now. I don’t recall the numbers, but there’s quite a few foreigners (mostly Asians) studying at all the major universities on Ministry of Education scholarships.

    Mulboyne: I think that was specifically directed at the eikaiwa teachers

  11. Adam – you got unfairly ripped in the comments over there. He put cartoon kiddie porn on his blog as a joke or whatever. There are worse things in the world, but he still deserves an asskicking for doing that. You don’t have anything to apologize for.

    Notice the people trying to take Adam to task for telling the truth, but the complete lack of anyone able to to provide a logical defense of the eikaiwa attitude or the major points of Jason’s essay.

  12. M – I apologized because I don’t really know why he put it up there and it was really just unnecessary and anyway it distracted from my main points. And I don’t like the fact that now Debito thinks I’m nasty. Still, I just clicked the full size photo and did you see that the fairy is *licking* one of the fingers on that hand? Ick.

    I am very ambivalent about going after eikaiwa teachers categorically, because a) I used to be one (albeit in Washington DC), b) some of my very good friends are or have been eikaiwa teachers, and c) they are a diverse bunch that is harder to characterize than you might expect. That’s why I wouldn’t apply the reasoning used in John’s post to other people, just him — just for example, I don’t think most ex-NOVA teachers are scouring the want ads for truck driving work. They are by and large heading home it looks like.

    And I don’t necessarily want to say that truck drivers or convenience store clerks are all losers or whatever — the white-boy conbini clerks appeared to be college students, not people actually trying to make ends meet. And there’s no reason why some people shouldn’t drive trucks. I would just ask John to reconsider devoting his life to truck driving when there are lots of other possibilities out there if only he would think more broadly.

  13. “Still, I just clicked the full size photo and did you see that the fairy is licking one of the fingers on that hand?”

    I didn’t click, but my sympathy for this culture (that of lolicom manga and especially the foreigners interested in it, I used to think that “at least its not as bad as the real thing”) is rapidly declining. Seriously, if we can’t hate on eikaiwa teachers who like cartoon porn, who can we hate on!? I might be forced to become a nice, well-adjusted person!

    On Debito thinking that you are nasty – it crossed my mind yesterday that with your response to Roy, you were probably the last intelligent English J-blogger willing to stick up for Debito. And then there were none. I have sympathy for some (some) of his arguments, but damn if he doesn’t have a way of alienating everybody.

    I agree that we have to be “diverse” in the way that we make fun of eikaiwa teachers – there are people who see the truth, know that it is an easy job with great perks, and use it as the FOUNDATION of something – Japanese study, put away money to go to grad school, etc. … and then there are people who think that their physical presence in Japan makes them super. When I dump on “eikaiwa”, it is group number two.

    Once again, if working at a konbini is the foundation of Japanese study that you want to use to become a professional later, that rules.

    What I think needs to be called out as bullsheet is this idea package that you hit on that seems to be all too common – eikaiwa is a challenging job, our experience puts us at the forefront of Japanese-ness, our 3kyu Japanese is badass, we can explain “the Japanese mind” to our friends when we get home, and for some bizarre reason – we are not complete human beings unless we are in Japan…. In this case, “Japan” becomes an easy substitute for what a nice person would call “personal development”, but could just as easily be called “growing up”.

  14. And I don’t like the fact that now Debito thinks I’m nasty.

    Well, for one thing, Adamu, you’re not nasty, ever, so why worry what Debito thinks? And for another thing, Debito himself can be quite nasty. Not aiming for a total derail here, but I’m thinking specifically of Debito’s use of racist language such as “n*gger” and “Uncle Tom” (I’m thinking of his post about Oh Sadaharu, which was actually pretty interesting, but fundamentally racist).

    I think this post is really, really good. People should aim high. I left Japan four years ago, in my early thirties, after spending 10 years in the country, because I could see my options vanishing before my eyes.

    I had escaped eikawa by taking over a gakushu juku. We employed four staff and had 75 to 100 students, and taught math and entrance exam prep (and no eikaiwa). But it wasn’t something I was ready to do, or was passionate about at that stage in my life, so I realized at the age of 33 that it was time to go back home to North America versus trying to make the transition when I was forty.

    Possessing an 1-kyuu, I had wanted to do more translation work when I lived in Japan, but we were located out in the country, far from Tokyo or any other big city. I would have probably stayed in Japan if I had managed to connect with translation work, but it would have been a bad idea. After returning to North America I eventually landed some interesting and lucrative translation/creative work, but I found that I hated it. Translation is just another commodified service job. Better to build an agency and become your own boss.

    So I would have been miserable. However, like Adamu argues, I aimed high after returning to North America. I now work in government as a manager. I have a budget to commission projects, and can get a lot of stuff done. So while I don’t live in Japan, I’m probably happier than if I was working at a gas station, which I have done in Japan. I’ve also worked in a pizzeria, and as a construction labourer.

    And I can say that working service industry/labouring jobs in Japan truly truly sucks.

  15. “You are going to have to spell that out for me because I don’t see how that follows.”

    Here’s my point.
    People I’m going to meet in three hours are all Portuguese speakers from non-English speaking world.And they are stacked either being a blue-collar in Japan,or blue-collar in Brazil.There’s no way most of them can be able to get any job as white collar in Japanese firm or any other multinationals because not only they can’t speak any Japanese,but also English.And now they are even losing that petty blue collared job partly because they are losing price competition against Chinese “trainee”who only gets paid for 300 yen an hour.

    So any Eikaiwa teachers who think they are in the bottom of the barrel,they still have long way to get there.

    First and foremost,they are here in Japan,not because of economic hardship at home(well,may not be as bad as that of Latin America..)but because they want to spend some time in abroad doing “easy” job.Considering there are many doors open for any decent English native speakers who have the right education(here I meant to say about Japanese ability,ofcourse)There are ways to climb up the social ladder.The man I’m also going to meet today is vice president of local Brazillian society and he operates a pizzaria joint,and that is what success in Japan means to most of Japanese Brazillian.

    Most of English speakers are from Anglosphere and they can always fly back home and recieve welfare money unlike other foreingers from the third world like Peru and Brazil.And considering Eikaiwa teacher isn’t all that bad as a job in the first place,you may understand why I feel some are acting too much like drama queen and blame everything to the society without doing what they are suppose to be doing.

  16. Thanks to Kokuryu for sharing that. What Adam and I are writing here is tough love – the kind of advice that has helped people like Kokuryu get out of a rut in the past.

  17. It can however be hard to leave Japan if you have family in the country – you can be forced to end up working in a konbini just because your wife’s mother is bedridden, for example.

    “damn if he doesn’t have a way of alienating everybody”
    It’s quite the skill.

    And yeah, I hadn’t clicked on the fairy porn pic, but now I have, it can be construed in all manner of ways. A right hand, “going it alone,” but now with a shougakusei in cosplay???

  18. Well, obviously there are some people in extreme circumstances, so we can add a third group – the ones who get it, the ones who don’t, and the people with bad lives who can’t escape. We can respect the first, scorn the second, and pity the third.

  19. The sexualized fairy is indeed disturbing, but I think it’s somehow supposed to be related to The Legend of Zelda–you know, gaining back hearts/life points.

    But what about some of the reader comments? One poster (Mr. goinglocoinyokohama ) says, “reads smooth like a magazine, and just as informative.” Is he serious? Is this sarcasm? I just had to find out so I followed the link to his own blog, where he boldly proclaims, “I’m an American and a writer. I have been living in Japan for 5 years and finally I feel like talking about it.” Well, what sort of nuggets of wisdom has he built up over these five pensive years? Let’s see, his observations on life in Japan include

    –not being sat down next to on a crowded train
    –the difficulty of studying kanji
    –the ubiquitous saber-toothed Japanese woman
    –cultural (pop) psychology [“Our propensity to display emotions, especially anger, disgust, or confusion, went totally against the basics of Japanese communication methods. The smile is an essential communication tool. A Japanese person could be talking about anything from root canal to the recent death of a loved one after a 10 year painful battle with cancer, and smile through the entire story.”]
    –the difficulty of determining the age of highly sexualized Japanese women
    –sex with said women in an internet cafe

    Etc., etc., ad nauseum. Where do these people come from? Please, stop wasting the Internet!

    So, Adamu, I must say I appreciated the blog beat-down you doled out and heartily support you in this effort!

  20. Debito re: my retraction of the “kiddie porn” comment:

    “The fact that you have bile in the first place is part of the problem with commenters and the blogosphere. Adamu, surely you’re capable or a more reasonable demeanor than this. I bet you would if this were a face-to-face. Here we have a guy trying to help people and all you offer back is derision. How sad.”

    I couldn’t say for sure, but actually, this is exactly the sort of thing I would have no problem bringing up in person, unless he came across as particularly sensitive. That’s maybe my problem but I am generally surrounded by pretty thick-skinned people and don’t really agree that polite nodding at whatever one has to say makes for interesting or productive conversation.

    Also, it’s resoundingly clear that my comment is much more than mere derision, just maybe the last part could be interpreted as such though that image is still wildly inappropriate (I found it especially offensive since I opened the post at work and didn’t expect such content). That Debito decided to focus only on defending John from an imaginary enemy says much more about him and his campaign to position himself as Alpha Blogger among Japan human rights issues within the Japan blogosphere than it does about my comment itself.

    For some years, Debito has been reaching out to “newcomer” foreigners, particularly among the eikaiwa community. Before his website entered the 21st century, he began a mailing list that has served as a forum for discussing incidents of discrimination,racism, Debito’s various campaigns, etc. But more recently he has made overtures to the blogging community. Many readers are probably aware of the interviews he has granted to places like Yamato Damacy and Transpacific Radio. But his involvement in the campaign against Gaijin Hanzai File marked his first real achievement in that area. Here is what he had to say after Hanzai File’s demise:

    “…non-Japanese residents in Japan (a disparate group with few things in common–not even a language) successfully pushed for their rights in a case ignored by the Japanese media. Utilizing the power of the Internet to organize a boycott of magazine outlets, “Newcomer” [1] residents and immigrants demonstrated their strength as a consumer bloc for what is probably the first time in Japan’s history.”

    Debito makes a powerful and essentially true argument that these “newcomers” were able to achieve “total victory” in getting Gaijin Hanzai File off the shelves without any input from the domestic mainstream media. Starting with a “blogger named Steve” the J-blogger coverage of the book spread like wildfire, leading Japan Probe to propose a boycott of Family Mart for their role in distribution. One thing led to another, some foreign media picked up the story, and the book was pulled.

    On his role, Debito notes that he made direct inquiries to Family Mart threatening a boycott and to the publishers. He inserted himself into the thick of things early on and used his language and activist skills to escalate the protest. While he did not start this controversy, you could say he helped lead it to a successful conclusion and is quite pleased with the results.

    (note that in this context I am less interested in the particular significance and impact of this controversy than what it tells us about Debito’s strategy)

    He seems to play fast and loose with the term “newcomer” since perhaps he has not yet settled on what it is supposed to mean. The article claims that these newcomers are anyone other than the zainichi Korean/Chinese, “a disparate group with few things in common–not even a language” but there was no real evidence that this controversy expanded beyond the echo-chamber of Japan bloggers, who are by and large of and about the eikaiwa industry and almost all come from the English speaking world. Chinese and Africans were mentioned in the book itself but you don’t see them really caring much about this book.

    People here have noted that Debito has managed to alienate many people who would presumably be on his side. That appears to be true, but in the context of what appears to be his current strategy it makes sense. After becoming a senior executive, Yomiuri Shimbun President Tsuneo Watanabe once famously stated, “In order for me to become president, talented people are only an obstacle. The only excellent employees are those who faithfully obey me.” I think Debito must feel the same way.

    By positioning himself as the friend and patron of those “newcomer” Japan bloggers who respond positively to his views, he will find it easier to recreate the echo-chamber effect when he identifies an issue worth pursuing in the future. Very recent but dedicated “newcomers” are especially valuable to this strategy since they come with fresh Western mindsets and react well to ideas like “gaijin is the Japanese equivalent of the N-word.” People who have already come to their own conclusions are just, well, nasty.

  21. On “tough love” —

    I don’t know about Kokuryu’s case, but in my experience people tend not to take tough love-style advice very well. They have to arrive at the conclusion on their own. This sort of discussion is valuable first and foremost to organize the thoughts of those who seek to analyze the phenomenon, and perhaps for those who are at a receptive stage. I am not all that concerned with offering tough love, but I would like people to realize when they are being ridiculous.

  22. “but I would like people to realize when they are being ridiculous.”

    Yeah, it’s like telling someone that they have BO. It might hurt their feelings, but they may thank you for it later.

    Anyway, I think that saying that shows that deep down, you / we really do care.

    This is really something odd lurking behind the way that you were criticised –

    Yes, this is the internet, and yes, people get hardass in comments. Why is this the case? People who write professionally usually go through strict review and editing before their work is published. Now, anyone can be an expert on anything. The check, however, is “the mass”. You put yourself at the mercy of public opinion (which can include badasses like Aceface and Mulboyne, etc.). Some blogs (like Mutantfrog) take the critiques wonderfully (or defend their positions perfectly) and we all get engaging and mostly very civil debate and discussion. Some, however, seem to think that they are beyond critique or that people who have a contrary opinion are “mean”. If one wants one on one respectful criticism – find an academic journal or a magazine. If one wants to put something out there online – contradictions and kiddie porn and all – they deserve a little slap. As do people who favour “Uncle Tom” and the “N-word” for comparisons.

    I read a few posts on Debito’s site today and I was shocked by some of it. Someone will suggest that a reporter who only interviewed the family of a foreign victim of something or other for information on what happened in court is asked for evidence that the report was biased. Someone who claims that judges who are trying foreigners are actively donating money to uyoku organizations – nothing. How did things get this far? I think that this lends power to Adamu’s assertion that Debito is actively pushing away people who won’t swallow this type of thing.

  23. Adamu wasn’t “ripped” in the comments — one or two people took issue with the second half of his P.S. The point is a great one and hopefully some people will take it to heart.

  24. It’s what happens in any community of like-minded individuals. People who disagree just don’t get it and can’t fit in.

    I am actually a little less than fired up about discussing Debito endlessly. Remember how one of his first comments was “it’s not worth it”? He might as well have meant that as a warning. Debito is a highly energetic and enthusiastic activist who doesn’t shy away from challenges. I respect him for it but at the same time it means you had better be prepared to hear from him if you challenge his views. But then again he did seem to think I was worth ignoring, so there may be hope.

    I can understand the need to keep trolls at bay, but yeah it would be nice to have more blogs that welcomed constructive if somewhat blunt criticism. In his recent comment Jason himself seems not to be that offended by what it said, even implying that it was not “unnecessarily harsh.”

    On a related note, Debito’s most recent column expressed some of the usual hopes that Obama’s presidency will mean a better record on human rights, etc. But perhaps an important first step to such improvement is the end of Bush-style “with us or against us” politics. Issue after issue was reduced to you’re either with us or the terrorists, an attitude that sucked the oxygen out of arguments that I feel spread widely to the point where everyone started framing things from a Manichean perspective. Looking at Obama’s post-election press conferences makes me hopeful that reasoned debate with subtleties allowed and understood will be the new norm. Now that people will be in office who can at least be reasoned with maybe they can be convinced to go for more sensible policies.

  25. Kinda funny neither Jason nor Debito didn’t find this comment “nasty”.

    Kind of vague, doesn’t prioritize, far too simplistic, unrealistic, and a little naive.

    How Much Experience Do I Have? That doesn’t even factor in racism where a job candidate is chosen for his nationality.

    Can I Drive in Japan? That’s probably not even an option since the driving test is extremely difficult.

    The Networking Plan. Again, a foreigner probably won’t have any “networks” to speak with because of their length of stay in the country, nationality, and the Japanese tendency to avoid strangers.

    Am I prepared to take “living in Japan” to the next level if the current job disappears? Yeah get a Japanese wife or girlfriend, don’t bother with this list and live off her or her parents.

    In my opinion,crybabies don’t take no “tough love” from anyone.They just exploit other peoples sympathy and wouldn’t lift a finger for the selfaction.

    The only reason I legitimize fingerprinting at the airport is that may help to drive off this type of westerners from landing on our soil.Kind of vague, doesn’t prioritize, far too simplistic, unrealistic, and a little naive type,that is.

  26. In reference to that link Aceface posted. I can’t help but think that the cartoon is emlematic of foreigners (rich white [Western] foreigners) in Japan. This is the Japan Times, the paper of record (???) for eiji shimbun in Japan, and their cartoonist is either making an obscure reference to fish, or can’t even spell. In other words, the level of amateurism that would never make it back home (hopefully) can suceed here.

    And the article made me roll my eyes as well. As well as those of a few others – her’s one response:

    And: “Paul de Vries is putting the finishing touches to a book about what the world can learn from Japan.”
    I wonder if he actually has anything original to say?

    And something else Aceface picked up: “Can I Drive in Japan? That’s probably not even an option since the driving test is extremely difficult.”

    Bullshit. I got my licence in Japan. Sat the paper and practical tests and all that. Sure it’s not an easy practical, as the moment you make a single mistake the test is over, but it’s certainly an option. And vastly cheaper than driving school.

  27. The more I see of Jason’s reactions and some of his other blog posts, the more I realize he isn’t all that naive or a crybaby as much as he is a colossally sloppy writer, which is kind of par for the course in blog format. He is a former computer programmer who seems to have taken up eikaiwa with the same “any job will do as long as its in Japan” approach that he applied in the original post.

    To his credit, he is quite honest about the realities of eikaiwa (he refuses to call himself an English teacher) and he has promised that the next post on this topic will be “more complete.” Some of his other posts show a little promise, so maybe I wont have to freak out again.

  28. To be perfectly clear, no one told me (or gave me “tough love” advice) that it was time to leave Japan. I figured it out on my own.

  29. “Can’t we just skip Debito talk and move on to bash Alex Kerr instead?”

    Has Kerr done anything bad lately?

  30. Considering his website hasn’t been updated in two years, he probably hasn’t done much of anything lately….

  31. I didn’t say anything to anyone about that letter to the editor, and have still been getting comments on it from all sorts of random folks (including an American guy in our company’s London office), which goes to show that the JT may not be as dead as some would have you believe.

    Anyway, one overlooked potential in this country is *selling stuff,* which is so basic that many people don’t even consider it. There are still so many foreign things which are almost begging to be imported and distributed in Japan, and most Japanese institutions which specialize in that line of business (trading companies, Dentsu, etc.) are so institutionalized that they have no idea how to make anything stand out. (Burger King is a good example of this.) Someone with cross-border communication skills, creativity and a basic knowledge of business can wipe the floor with those guys.

  32. That JT piece Aceface linked to is pretty wretched. OK, so to summarize:
    A) racial profiling is a good idea, you can tell because they do it in America as well
    B) fingerprinting and photographing all foreigners is a good idea, you can tell because they do it in America as well

    I particularly enjoyed this line:
    “It is a major reason why Japan, unlike the U.S., is a nation in which the fear of random violence is relatively low.”
    Today’s headline in JT:
    “Random murders set record in ’08”
    The REALITY of random violence is higher in the US, but I’m not so sure that the FEAR is.

    But Mr. deVries doesn’t seem very strong on common sense anyway. Look at this letter to the editor he wrote in February.
    He’s basically saying that the fuel surcharge for airplanes should be computed based on a weighing of each passenger. Sure, it makes a lot of sense from the perspective of mathematical fairness, but can you imagine the reaction?

    Speaking of selling stuff and Alex Kerr, remember that his real job was rounding up unwanted Japanese art and selling it to the West. What’s he doing lately? My guess: enjoying his retirement in Thailand.

  33. Ever since I started baking here I have dreamed of starting a mail-order pie and cookie business. Don’t tell anyone though.

  34. Back in the days when records of high taxpayers were released, many of the foreigners on the list ran sales networks of one sort or another. Off the top of my head, I recall seeing people who ran health food, carpets, supplements, cosmetics and toy businesses. Just before they stopped releasing the data, foreign financiers had begun to come into the list and pushed them down but I’m sure many are still thriving.

  35. And here I was saying that there is nobody left who will defend Debito…. but that JT article is an exception. If you take that logic to its conclusion, you could suggest that a single shoplifting incident by a foreigner in Japan is grounds to ban all foreigners from all stores.

    While we should always express our annoyance toward “foreigners behaving badly” in Japan, the guys in question in the onsen case were members of a lot of groups – sailors, Russians, foreigners, drunks, a$$holes, people who can’t read Japanese, etc. Why pick “foreigners” out of that list? That’s just lazy.

    Stuff for gaijin to do – I know a guy in Japan who imports and personally leads a Japanese team to assemble “import houses” from North America. Makes 5 times what he would as a builder back home and loves his job. Foreigners who start companies in Japan and do well deserve props.

  36. “Random murders set record in ‘08”

    – Talk about a BS headline – there was just one really big incident (7 dead) and a few others (4).

    The REALITY of random violence is higher in the US, but I’m not so sure that the FEAR is.

    – Very well put.

  37. Back onto Debito talk for just one more.Yeah,Debito is right in principles.but it’s his style that matters.

    What deVries was saying on fingerprinting in Japan was probably because of this article from Canada’s Maclean’s magazine.I can’t say anything about what deVries think on the issue.But I agree on one point.

    If the U.S does it,it is conisidered as a procedure to fight terrorism and any debate on the issue revolve around whether it is acceptable nor overkill.but when Japan does this,this is racism,nothing but.I run into couple argument regarding this issue that since all the terrorism in Japan are homegrown,this finger printing scheme is an example of Japanese xenophobism.I don’t where this argument comes from originally,but Debito’s blog is one source.

    I was expecting any Canadian journalists working on this assignment to know about Air India Flight 301 incident that killed a land crew in Narita back in mid 80’s.The bomb was planted by a Sikh extremist with Canadian nationality instead of reference of Jesus’s grave in Aomori…..

  38. “If the U.S does it,it is conisidered as a procedure to fight terrorism and any debate on the issue revolve around whether it is acceptable nor overkill.but when Japan does this,this is racism,nothing but.”

    But the US fingerprinting policy has been widely criticized by human rights groups, privacy groups, and even by security experts who decrie it as “security theatre” that has little real preventive effect. Maybe the US policy hasn’t specifically been called “racist” but it’s certainly been attacked as xenophobic, of which racism is just one variety anyway.

    Interesting note about the mid 80s bomb, but it’s still only a single incident of foreign terrorists. But could the fingerprinting system have helped find it?

  39. If I remember rightly, that bomb was planted outside of Japan.
    (quick check later…)
    Yes, in Canada. And since the guy didn’t board at Narita, there is no way fingerprinting in Japan would have helped.

  40. Roy:

    My mind exactly.Like I said,I found double standard in the argument on fear factor here since the U.S fingerprint scheme “hasn’t specifically been called racist”,while the same scheme in Japan are called nothing but.As if no terrorist is considering using Japan as neither supply base nor target eventhough Bin Laden himself had repeatedly accuse Japan as the running dog of Ameican infidel.Anyone ever noticed that Japan is a concentration of US forces in the pacific?

    There has been a claim in the 80’s that certain Phillipinos in Japan are fund raising for New People’s Army and same argument on the Sri Lankan for the Liberation Tigers for the Tamil Elam.They are report from vague security sources and there’s no way for me to confirm these allegations.

    I think I’ve wrote this here or some where,but when I was working on assignement on the muslim community in Japan,I’ve run into a plain cloth cop in Asabu’s Islamic estate owned by the embassy of Saudi Arabia.Few years later,I was told from superior of mine that the head of the center was refused to permit diplomatic visas for being persona non grata,because one of his student in Saudi University was Osama Bin Laden.

    There was also a early warning from US embassy in Japan in early September of 2001,that U.S related facility could have been chosen as target by Al Queda,which later turned out be a disinformation.But authority became extremely nervous about the whole idea.

    In 2005,One French muslim got busted in Germany as the suspect to Al Queda ring.This guy was who working in Isezaki,a city in Gunma where I’ve conducted research,as a used car dealer and making money and recruiting personal to build clandestine network within Japan.He kept using fake passport and entered to Japan multiple times.

    I’ve run into a pair of Singaporean muslim who came to Japan to help building new mosque in Gunma around 1998 when I was flying back from Cambodia via Kualalumpur.Nothing wrong about that especially and I didn’t care at that time.But one of the place they were heading was Isezaki and it doesn’t take any imagination that cops would want to know more about their activities.Who’s making these orders,who’s funding,how they recruite these volunteers.

    Considering there’s a network of money,people and information among the muslim community in Japan,I wouldn’t surprise authority is increasingly interested in learning more and restriciting more.In their mind,fingerprinting may not work to prevent everything.but it can be used as deterrence.Especially considering Anti-demolition act law is a paper tiger,for government refused to act based on it during Aum SHinrikyo gus attack in 1995.

  41. Adamu: Ever since I started baking here I have dreamed of starting a mail-order pie and cookie business. Don’t tell anyone though.

    Too late. You announce it here, you have to get some pie or cookies to all of us, y’know, so we can give you advice and help you refine the recipes.

    It’s interesting to search blogs for signs that China is now the place to go have your eikaiwa adventure. Might be a trend that picks up if the language teaching industry continues to dwindle/diversify here. (Utterly anecdotal, but I run into many more people these days who are studying French or Korean or Italian, whereas they all would have been in the English course back in the day. And I’ve been working at a language school for around seven years now and my classes have seen nothing but rising numbers of applications, but this is for translation courses, not conversation.)

  42. If you are lucky I may post pictures.

    Could it be that people are getting more realistic about English learning but continue to have pie in the sky fantasies about other languages? I mean, learning JE translation would seem to require both good English and a specific plan as to what you want to do with it.

  43. “pie in the sky fantasies about other languages”

    That needs to be the theme of your line of commercially available pies. Think of the advertising campaign!

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