To Clara – Gaijinhan

To Clara

So, I asked a question on what kinds of services I can offer and got a number of questions from some readers through mail and the comments section. I had been thinking about offering an actual service but while some the responses I received weren’t exactly what I was thinking, I was glad to get questions that gave me things to write about, and hopefully are useful not just to the people who asked the questions but also to other readers.

Clara was among the first to respond to my call (thank you, Clara!), and so it is only polite to respond to her first. The questions are as follows:

1) How did you get a job in Japan besides teaching English? Can you register with job agencies like Pasona and they will help you find a job hopefully? What if you are in Singapore and not in Japan?
I got my first non-teaching job at a translation agency in Tokyo simply by searching job sites online and sending my resumes out pretty much indiscriminately. Location and benefits weren’t major factors for me as my main purpose was to first, get out of teaching and then move on from there. To be honest, I would’ve preferred to move to Fukuoka, the place that made me decide to move to Japan in the first place, but the Tokyo company responded first and I ended up there. I think it is important to be clear about your purpose. Money never was a real factor in all the decisions I make to this date. Otherwise, moving to Japan would be the last thing I would do considering all the unnecessary rent, utilities and the amount of tax I have to pay, and without CPF contribution from employers. I love the life in Japan and I enjoy freedom over money. Give me a job that pays 10 million yen a year with never-ending overtime work vs a 3-million-yen-a-year job with zero overtime work, I’d take the latter anytime. This is also why I chose to work only 3 days a week at my current job even though that means I have to be tight with my expenses. I’ve never registered with Pasona but yes, you can register with as many job agencies as you can find. There are companies who are open to hiring people who don’t already reside in Japan, and there are probably more agencies that do so, especially the ones specializing in hiring multilinguals. Some of these businesses may allow for Skype interviews, although for the translation company, I actually made the trip to Tokyo for the interview. But I was living in Nagoya, so that’s less of a big deal than if you were to fly over from outside Japan.

2) I’m studying in Yamasa right now (recommended from your blog- it’s a great school! V intensive course, worth the money) and I bought a futon. How can I carry/lug it back to Singapore? Do I have to throw it away after using it for less than a year?
I’m glad you find Yamasa useful. It’s funny because I’ve actually had a number of readers tell me they study at Yamasa, so maybe you guys know each other. As for the futon, if you don’t want it already, you can sell or even give to other Yamasa students, or post it on Craig’s list. If you prefer to bring it back home, the best option would be to courier it back since I find it one of the most difficult things to carry around. I do know of some people who couriered their futon back to Singapore.

3) Any recommendations on how to spend your time travelling around Japan after studies are over? Cheap, free and easy please.
As I was busy looking for a job after my studies, I didn’t get to travel around then, but if cost is more important to you over time and speed, then you can try using the Seishun 18 ticket that allows you to travel on JR local and rapid trains. Another option would be to take night buses. A shinkansen ticket from Nagoya to Tokyo costs around 11,000 yen, but a night bus ticket can be less than 5,000 yen depending on the type of bus you take. Accommodation is the easiest because guesthouses are usually only around 3,000 yen a night. I’ve put up at some guesthouses for as cheap as 800 yen a night. Alternatively, I sometimes stay overnight at what the Japanese call Super Sento or Super Bathhouse. They usually cost a little under 3,000 yen for 10 hours’ stay and include a bathing area (duh?), sauna, cafe, massage services, TV area, gaming area, and a sleeping area. Also, men and women are typically on separate floors so you don’t have to worry about running into naked men. If you’re looking for free places to stay, I would suggest you ask friends living in Japan to let you put up at their place, try couchsurfing or WWOOF. The thing about WWOOF is that you’ll have to first pay an annual fee of around $80 and work certain hours at the place in exchange for free food and accommodation. Last, if you don’t have any place in mind and don’t mind anywhere, I suppose the Kansai area is the most cost effective to visit since you can get around those places from Aichi pretty easily. And while you’re still in Aichi, perhaps you might want to visit Shirakawa-go, a World Heritage Site in Gifu. The place is beautiful all seasons although you might die from the heat during summer. I haven’t been there myself but it’s definitely on my list of to-visit places.

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