Showing posts with label teaching english in japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label teaching english in japan. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Ginger Tree

"…I am not a full-blown teacher shaping the destinies of young Japanese boys and girls; far from it, just a sort of special tutor for the backward ones who are too stupid to be affected in moral matters, or really anything else, by their instructor. I discovered after I had taken it [English teaching] on that I am doing a job for which no one else could be found, and one of the many things that is odd about it are the hours, later afternoon and up to nine p.m."

The Ginger Tree, Oswald Wynd

Although it's not particularly inspiring, I found it quite funny that a book based in pre-war Japan would consider English teaching by foreigners in much the same light as it is present day.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I Want to Teach English in South Korea

My own contribution to the xtranormal universe (prompted by this one on being a travel writer). I didn't make one on Japan because I honestly couldn't think of as many harsh things to say about the ESL system - if anyone comes up with a good one, send it my way.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jaded With The System

If you're considering teaching English abroad, or are already there and have fallen into a nice routine, I'd recommend my latest Vagabondish article:

...the first selling points are travel and “no experience required”. Well, guess what, Asia? You get what you ask for. Travelers. I doubt more than 5% of the native speakers who go abroad are committed to teaching, in that they have a reasonable amount of experience, and they actually try to get the kids to learn. A rarity. Instead, they (we, rather) focus efforts on the next weekend trip, the next vacation, the walk around their Beijing neighborhood, the exciting chance to learn a language in the country of origin. That’s all well and good for the teachers, but what of the students? If men and women’s passions aren’t in educating these kids, progress will be slow, to say the least.

Back from my trip to Japan, and will have tales of adventure and daring in the next few days.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Another One Bites the Dust: GEOS Goes Under

When I came to Japan, there were quite a few options: teach with a private language school like AEON, NOVA, GEOS, or ECC, become an assistant language teacher (ALT) with the Jet Programme, or be employed directly by the school via a dispatch company...

Now NOVA is out for the count, and GEOS will be soon to follow; the language school giant recently declared bankruptcy, and many foreign instructors once again find themselves out of work. Salary payments are sketchy at best, and it's anyone's guess as to when the company will begin shutting down schools to limit expenses.

Based on the currency market, the cost of living, and the absence of a plethora of jobs, I would say it's not really a good time to teach English in Japan. Granted, there were plenty of warning signs with NOVA and GEOS, and we're not really seeing them with AEON or ECC, but when half of the big four are gone, I think it's time to consider other options. Not dispatch companies, that's for sure, but consider coming in on a tourist visa and arranging private students.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must sleep.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Better Know a Language School: Gaba

I'm stateside for a few months after spending the last of my money in New Zealand. Therefore, what else should I try to do but return to a country with a high cost of living (but probably more jobs, too)?

Back to Japan and Gaijinpot job searches. Ideally, I'd like to be placed in Hokkaido or Tohoku, but something in me wants to try life in Tokyo. Maybe it wouldn't help my Japanese skills, being in a big city clearly so used to dealing with foreigners, but in terms of employment, I'd have more flexibility with freelance jobs, and a better chance at staying connected with my other interests: international travel, acting, and writing.

There still remained the problem of a working visa.

I had given up my Japanese residency in June 2008, when I disembarked at Osaka International Ferry Terminal (how many working visa holders have left by ferry, I wonder?) for Shanghai. No chance of simply picking up where I left off. I'd have to find a new company, interview over Skype, and begin the ritual paperwork process. And where, one might ask, is my attention focused?

Gaba One-to-One English looked appealing at first; they seem to be one of the only language schools that let teachers set their own schedules and still offer visas (as sponsorship requires 250,000 Yen/month salary and a minimum number of working hours). I did a preliminary interview via Skype this evening after sending in my resume and came up with the following:

1. The school is more of a tutoring company. You post your profile with your interests and specialties, and students sign up for one-on-one "classes" of their choosing. This is an advantage to students: they get exactly what they pay for.

2. Gaba is not for those who enjoy playing by the rules. They place teachers as independent contractors (itaru gyomu) and thus "circumvent" certain areas expected by those wanting to work in Japan.

- Transportation is NOT paid
- They do not provide Employee Health Insurance and Pension; of course, you need to sign up for the National Health Insurance and Pension as a matter of law
- No paid training
- No paid holidays
- Housing is your responsibility (in other words, key money)
- If a student cancels within 24 hours, you are still paid for the class, but you must wait in the designated area rather than leaving or working in the office. In other words, they want you to waste your time for money.

Check out this table on the Gaba Union page for comparisons with eikaiwa.

3. Despite what you see on other forums, Gaba does offer visa sponsorship. They usually have working holiday visa holders come in on 6-month contracts, but when an American comes in, they can offer consecutive contracts to fulfill the government requirement. Still a little sketchy.

4. I'll probably still opt to work there. Gaba is the only place I know that will offer both flexibility and visa sponsorship. Since I'll be listed as an independent contractor on my work visa, I can legally work anywhere else (though I heard the company asks you sign a contract stating they are your primary source of income... would probably be true in any case). I can completely understand job seekers not wanting to apply here, though (one man's interview). Are there any Gaba teachers reading this who took the company up on their offer, ditched, and applied to a more stable eikaiwa? Just curious. I'd love to hear from some Gaba teachers currently in the Kanto region.

Gaba General Union

Read this blog and thought the school had a good point on taboo topics in an ESL class: War, Religion, Age, Politics, Sex, Culture.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Leaving AEON

I remember my last few days at AEON quite clearly. I was already having issues getting my boxes shipped to Shin Nippon Biomedical Laboratories in Kagoshima, the luggage service still relatively unknown to me. On top of that, AEON usually has the incoming teacher occupy the outgoing teacher's apartment, meaning I had to vacate two days prior to my leaving Hiroshima. No worries, though, as they usually put you up in a nearby hotel (I actually got shifted between two; how can a hotel in Saijo ever be booked solid??).

My last few days, as you might imagine, were rather hectic:

- Getting my boxes transferred to Kagoshima
- Keeping just enough supplies for those last few days
- Training the new teacher
- Disconnecting my internet service, settling final bills
- Planning my farewell speech and gifts to teachers

It should be noted that my branch of AEON was a pretty tense working environment since I had disrupted the group harmony by posting my teaching experiences on this blog. I couldn't really read anyone's expressions in the end; I didn't even know if I had a single friend at that branch (really liked the part-time teachers, strangely enough). Whereas another outgoing teacher had been treated to a nice dinner party with gifts from most of the staff, I would have been relieved to receive a handshake and "thank you".

That's more or less what happened. My dinner party went through without a hitch (a few days before my last teaching day), though I did pay 4000 yen for everything there. After my last class was finished, the teachers and staff gathered at a nearby restaurant for one final dinner, where I received a chopstick holder and cover... something they probably got at a 100-yen store. I didn't think much of it at the time, but it occurs to me now that gift really was as close to a slap in the face as the staff could manage. Think about it... a chopstick holder... yeah... that's exciting. Still, I just thanked them for their gift, offered my own - a Texas T-shirt for the assistant manager - and walked outside for the final farewells. My last paycheck, end of contract bonus, and airfare stipend added up to about 400,000 yen, which I had in hand as I bowed to each teacher in turn, bade each of them farewell, and set out to walk down the street as I had done so many nights: leave the glowing sign of AEON behind, pass the hair salon, duck slightly under the hanging vines, cross the river, maybe pick up a snack at Lawson convenience store, cross the street at the all-night diner, pass the Ford dealership and the Hiroshima Bank, then take a left turn to face my apartment building.

That last walk still sticks out in my mind. A huge relief, a sense of a job well done, satisfaction having stuck out the year, more satisfaction with the money in my pocket, and a bit of sadness over leaving Hiroshima. Less than twelve hours later, I took the shinkansen heading west.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Questions About AEON Interviews and Training

How should I dress?

I place this at the top for a reason; Japanese business standards are almost always very strict when it comes to professional dress. White and black are the standards. Full black or charcoal suit with white shirt for men, the equivalent for women. More important than knowing what you're doing is looking the part.

What can I expect for the information session?

Not much. Your usual witty banter with fellow candidates, a brief history of AEON, a video covering a day in the life of an AEON teacher (probably still showing the same one), some Q&A, and a preview of what is to come should you be chosen for private interviews, and eventual employment.

What can I expect during the group interview?

90% of it is you just keeping your mouth shut and acting like a typical ESL student. When it comes time for your turn to present your prepared 5-minute demo lesson (for which you should have written a 15-minute lesson plan), just relax, and focus more on your presentation than the material; the recruiters will be more interested in teaching mannerisms and classroom English - how simply you speak; do you use complicated words - rather than your explanation of the future perfect tense.

After the group interviews finish up, there will be a brief recess while all the recruiters decide whom to cut and whom to schedule for private interviews. Stick around, and everyone will be given an envelope sealed with your fate: an interview time, or a note stating "sorry, try again."

What can I expect during the private interview?

If you are selected for a private interview, it may be scheduled later that evening, or sometime in the next two days. If you have traveled far for the AEON interview and have already made plans to leave, let the recruiters know and they will try to work around that.

What happens next?

Not much, at least for a few weeks. If you're lucky you'll get a phone call offering you a position; they will have the location and start time. If these are impossible, you may defer employment for some months, but I encourage you to get into the country as soon as you can. Should you accept, the recruiter will add you to the AEON mailing list and forward you cultural tips, paperwork, and any problems that might occur.

The first step in your paperwork will be to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) from the Japanese government. AEON will do this on your behalf, provided you forward them everything they need. After that, you need to send the COE with your passport and the appropriate forms to the nearest Japanese consulate or embassy for the working visa. You will be entering Japan with a 1-year "Specialist in Humanities/International Services" visa.

Once you have your passport with the visa sticker, it's simply a matter of purchasing a flight, packing your bags, and saying goodbye to turkey sandwiches.

What can I expect during training in Japan?

This varies significantly by location. I believe they hold training classes in Sapporo, Tokyo, Fukuoka, Omiya, and Okayama. AEON asks that you schedule a flight landing within a given window of time (a few hours, so as to not keep the representative waiting; chances are you'll see another teacher on the same flight). You'll land, forward one or two bags to the school branch where you will be spending the year, then catch the train to the training center, as the representative has purchased the tickets in advance and will be "holding your hand" most of the way.

Housing at training, in Okayama at least, is dorm-style, two to a room. You may be the only person in your training class, which would suck, but will leave you a little freedom when it comes to settling in at night. Many people have asked me about free time during training. Let me stress: working at AEON is not summer camp. You do not have to ask your trainer's permission to leave the dorm or go anywhere (provided you're at training when they request you to be). This is a job, and you are an adult. Don't forget it.

Training itself also varies. If you're teaching at an A school (adults only), it will last one week. B school - kids and adults - about ten days. Generally they'll have you start around 10, 11 AM and finish up around 6, 7 PM, with an hour for lunch. There aren't any "official" outings during training, but I encourage you to go out with your trainer and fellow trainees on the town. Go to dinner. Sing karaoke. Check out the nightlife. See the local castle. It's alright if you're too jet-lagged and need some time to chill in the dorm, but don't be anti-social. During my ten days of training I believe we went out to karaoke three times, dinner almost every night, and played poker over pizza at my trainer's apartment one time.

And after that?

Say your goodbye to your fellow Japan newbies, take the train to the station closest to your school, and prepare for your welcome dinner, greeting a few students, and settling into your apartment. Congratulations.

Any other questions?

Monday, May 25, 2009

JET Eligibility

Applicants to the position of ALT must:

1. Be interested in Japan, and be willing to deepen their knowledge and appreciation of that interest after arrival.

2. Be both mentally and physically healthy.

3. Have the ability to adapt to living and office conditions in Japan.

4. Obey all Japanese laws.

5. Applicants with a suspended jail term must have finished their period of probation by the time they submit their application form.

6. Be a citizen (not just a permanent resident) of the country where the recruitment and selection procedures take place. (Those who possess dual citizenship with Japan must renounce their Japanese citizenship before the date for submission of the Jet Programme Reply Form). Applicants who have dual citizenship may only apply in ONE country.

7. In principle, be less than forty (40) years of age (as of April 1st, 2009). One of the main purposes of the Programme is to foster exchange between Japanese youth and young professionals from the countries participating in the Programme.

8. Have excellent pronunciation, rhythm, intonation and voice projection skills in the designated language, in addition to other standard language skills. Have good writing skills and grammar usage.

9. Have not participated in the JET Programme since 1999.

10. Not have declined a position on the JET Programme after receiving notification of placement in the last JET Programme year. However, exceptions to this rule may be made in cases where it is determined that the participant had a valid, unavoidable reason for withdrawing.

11. Not have lived in Japan for three or more years in total since 2001.

12. In the case of entry into Japan for participation on the JET Programme, agree to reside in Japan under the status of residence stipulated in Article 2-2 of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.

13. Be interested in the Japanese educational system and particularly in the Japanese way of teaching foreign languages.

14. Be interested in actively working with students.

15. Hold at least a Bachelor's degree or obtain one by the departure date of Group A participants; or hold a qualification of 3 years or more in a training course in teaching at elementary or secondary schools or be able to obtain such qualifications by the departure date of Group A participants.

16. Be qualified as a language teacher or be strongly motivated to take part in the teaching of foreign languages.

Successful applicants are expected to study or continue studying the Japanese language prior to and after arriving in Japan.

I managed to obtain a copy of the JET Programme's most recent pamphlet at the Satsuki Matsuri and gave it a once over, curious to see how Japan was selling itself to the rest of the world these days. Actually, I thought the ALT job requirements were rather straight to the point and admirable (with the possible exception of 5 and 6 - renounce Japanese citizenship???). Unlike AEON, where the sales are brushed over to make "teachers" believe their work resides in the classroom, JET pretty much lays it all out:

- You have three options to work with the Programme, as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher), CIR (Coordinator for International Relations), or SEA (Sports Exchange Advisor)
- You will be spending lots of long, boring hours at your desk during the vacation months. At least they're honest.

Moreover, they do emphasize the importance of being a part of Japanese culture and learning the language (I imagine this is especially true for JET candidates, as they can be stationed in some pretty remote parts of Japan, e.g. Nemuro).

I personally think the JET Programme is the most progressive way to go for English education in Japan - introducing students to a native speaker as early as possible. The only problem is recruitment is pretty much up to the same standards as other eikaiwa and smaller schools in Japan; teachers do have Bachelor's degrees, but often little to no experience and no intention of making work their focus while in an overwhelming foreign environment. As a traveler, I appreciate this. As someone concerned with Japan's education... it's really not the best way to go.

From the gaikokujin side, JET has its pluses and minuses. You get to be pretty much the only foreigner in a Japanese school office, teach in a fully Japanese class, and, depending on your principal and teachers, design your classes and club sessions with that special western flair. On the other hand, JET teachers are a tightly-knit group, getting together to drink, for outings, etc. While this is fine in moderation, most of the instructors I knew were basically a part of just another "gaijin circle". Be mindful.

Oh, and in case you were curious, the majority of ALTs come from the US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Ireland, followed with a steep drop-off by Singapore, Jamaica, India, South Africa, France, China, and Germany. That's right - China trumps Germany. Strength in the statistical probability of having more decent English speakers, I guess.

Anyone signed up, heading out to Japan for the first time?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sketchy Hiring Practices

UPDATE 6/12/2009
WinBe has been ignoring my emails, and they just keep being vague when I call them. I rescinded my interest via email, and will look for other opportunities.

As many of you are aware, I've been looking for employment in northern Honshu and Hokkaido for a few months now. After extensive online searches, I came across an opportunity to teach at the WinBe English School in Nemuro, Hokkaido. Here's what happened:

1. Sent in my resume through Gaijinpot and received an offer for a telephone interview.

2. Telephone interview successful. Offered a position at WinBe.

Here's where it gets sketchy. WinBe offered me a position without telling me where and when I would be stationed. No offense, but that's a pretty big deal. They attribute this to the time required to apply for a visa and receive my certificate of eligibility, but again, the maximum amount of time all of that could take amounts to four months or so, a fact which they confirmed...

"[Confirming the start date] won't be possible until we actually receive your certificate of eligibility. The timing of the arrival of the certificate of eligibility is extremely unpredictable. We have had it arrive in as short a time as two weeks and as long a time as 4 months. This is the unfortunate reality of dealing with a bureaucracy."

That's true, it can fluctuate... but why not just go with a start date around four months from the time of application? I need something to work around.

In addition to that, the company rep informed me all of their instructors are given a starting salary of 250,000 yen/month, despite the fact the ad on Gaijinpot stated a salary of 250,000-280,000 yen/month. When I asked for clarification on this, he got a little belligerent:

The starting salary is the same for all instructors, 250,000 yen per month with a 100,000 yen end of contract completion bonus.

If you are not satisfied with the conditions then it may be best for you to explore other options. There is not much more we can decide at this point and it would be in both of our interests if you were fully satisfied with both the salary provided as well as your location and the process by which you will be placed.

It is extremely important for us to recruit instructors who finish their contracts, and, in our experience, instructors who are satisfied with placement and salary are not only more likely to finish their contracts, but go on to extend their terms for 2 or 3 years.

For now, we will put your application on hold so that you can re-think whether this is really what you would like to do.

So essentially, I must the unstable one by asking why the company is offering a different salary than that posted. Not only that, but I called my first contact with WinBe today and she was under the impression I hadn't sent any emails since the offer of employment was accepted. Either the people at this company aren't talking to each other, or I'm just being really obtuse.

What do you think? I'm considering just dropping the whole thing and holding out for another option.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Now This is Just Plain Funny

Apparently my Truth About AEON posts have gotten so much attention they've been the subject of forums discussing AEON policy on 2 Channel. Check it out:

October discussion

November discussion

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Helping You Get To Japan

After a successful attempt with this in Austin, Texas, I would like to offer my services to the international (ergo, online) community.

The AEON Corporation will soon be conducting a series of interviews across the United States, recruiting young Americans to come to Japan and teach English. Although I do highly recommend you do your own research on this from start to finish, I would be willing to assist you through the interview process in exchange for some kind of compensation, entirely dependent on the results - you don't get the job, you don't pay a cent.

Feel free to browse my Truth About AEON blogs as a testament to my experience. Granted, some of the information is dated (insurance, for one), but the contracts and the working environment are still basically the same and a mystery to those starting out in their abroad experience.

Need help deciding if you should apply to AEON? What should you do for the group interview? How will you prepare for the 1-on-1 interview? Email me and we'll discuss it. Cheers.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Health Insurance and Pensions in Japan

Every person regardless of nationality over twenty years old residing in Japan is required to be enrolled in a:

1. Health insurance program
2. Pension fund program

Employee's Health Insurance (健康保険)
kenkou hoken

Back to basics: the insurance system in Japan, depending on the size of the company in which you're currently employed, falls into two categories. If you're with a company that employs more than five people, you must pay under the Social Insurance system (shakai hoken, 社会保険).

Under the Social Insurance system, we have:

1. Employee health insurance (kenkou hoken, 健康保険)
2. Employee pension (kousei nenkin, 厚生年金)

Social Insurance, health insurance
Social Insurance, pension

Eikaiwa employees and those teaching English in Japan

Be careful what you sign up for. I know if you're first coming to Japan, you're busy settling things at home, getting the visa paperwork taken care of, and learning about the job and country, but pay attention to the fine print.

Last year, AEON gave its employees an option: continue working 29.5 hours/week and accept the fact you have minimal emergency insurance, or convert your contract to a 36-hour working week and pay into the shakai hoken health insurance and pension system.

I came into AEON and Japan in complete ignorance about the health care system. Complete - unknowing, uncaring. After all, I'm immortal, aren't I?

For some years, AEON had its employees working 29.5 hours a week. Why not round up to thirty? Because they didn't want the extra charges of paying into the employee insurance system:

"According to the Health Insurance Law and Employees' Pension Law, companies must enroll all workers who work more than 30 hours a week and who have been in Japan for over two months in both the health insurance and pension systems. No exceptions."

Under the shakai hoken, you pay 50% of all premium costs monthly, and the company pays the other half. By keeping employees on a reduced workweek, AEON was sneakily avoiding its responsibilities to both the government, and the working foreign "teachers". As I mentioned in my "The Truth About AEON" posts, management was willfully ignorant of just how corporate headquarters chose to circumvent the law:

...working hours. 29.5. Why? Because, according to Japanese law, if you work over 30 hours you are a full-time worker, and entitled to full-time benefits (and on the reverse, different taxes, of course). Still, management just stared me in the face when I explained this to them.

"According to Japanese law, I am a part-time worker."
"No, you are not. You are full time teacher."
"No, not according to the law."
"Why are you saying this?"

Because it's important for all parties to understand that. No amount of insistence or stubbornness will change that fact. And if I am a part time worker, I should not be coerced into working extra hours unless you want to face the consequences of employing me as a full-time worker.

Other part-time workers in Japan have had it much worse; everyone knows unpaid overtime is as natural as having black hair in Japan. Some were working 40-50 hour/weeks while still under a part-time contract. No health insurance. Part-time wages. No assistance for childcare. There have been some attempts to improve this, but I believe it's still rather rampant.

Let's discussion of this issue

What does the kenkou hoken cover?

- 70% of all medical costs
- 60% of salary from lost days (beginning from the third day absent from work due to injury or sickness)
- High-cost medical expenses cannot exceed about 80,100 yen/month
- 0% interest loans are available

Social Pension (kousei nenkin, 厚生年金)

If you're not planning to stay in Japan long-term:
dattai ichijikin, 大体一時金

You can choose to withdrawal a portion of the pension you have paid into, proportional to the amount of time you have spent in Japan (see details here, under "Lump-sum Withdrawal Payments"). To qualify, you must have lived in Japan and paid into the pension for at least six months; the return must be filed within two years of your departure from Japan. The application form (only applicable for foreign residents of Japan) is here.

"You can file for a refund of up to 90% of your contributions provided you've been contributing for over 6 months but stay in Japan for less than 3 years."

The refund is calculated by taking your average monthly remuneration over the time you paid into the pension and multiplying it by the benefit rate:

Benefit = Average standard remuneration (monthly salary bracket) x Benefit multiplier

If your final month paid in the employee pension fund is between September 2007 and August 2008, and you have lived in Japan for (benefit multipliers):

6-11 months - multiply by 0.4
12-17 months - multiply by 0.9
18-23 months - multiply by 1.3
24-29 months - multiply by 1.8
30-35 months - multiply by 2.2
36+ months - multiply by 2.6

A refundable 20% withholding tax will be deducted from this total. The tax can be recovered however, minus a fee, by signing up with a tax agent before you leave Japan.

Health and Pension in Japan
City of Tochigi Guide to Social Insurance

National Health Insurance (国民健康保険)
kokumin kenkou hoken

If you are self-employed, in a company that employs fewer than five people, or in a different situation entirely (unemployed, student, retired, long-term traveler, etc) you might consider signing up for the National Health Insurance system of Japan; there are alternatives - see "Insurance through Private Companies" below.

Under the National Insurance system, we have:

1. National health insurance (kokumin kenkou hoken, 国民健康保険)
2. National pension (kokumin nenkin, 国民年金)

National health insurance
National pension

What does the kokumin kenkou hoken cover?

Practically the same benefits as the shakai hoken system, with the exception of:

- Not being paid for lost time at work (if employed at a company)
- A smaller cut-off for high monthly medical expenses (i.e. you pay more)


Unlike the shakai hoken, the National Insurance System premiums (monthly payments) are based on your previous year's salary.

Thus, if you are new to Japan, the government does not consider your employment status from the previous year, and you pay the monthly minimum. If you choose to stay a second year, you may notice your paychecks will be substantial smaller, due to the national system now having some data on your salary.

If you stay in Japan without paying into any insurance system, and then try to register with the kokumin kenkou hoken, you will have to pay retroactive from the moment you entered the country. It is illegal to be a resident of Japan without having some kind of health insurance and a pension.

If you're not planning to stay in Japan long-term

The same procedure can be used to get a lump-sum withdrawal of the money you've paid into the pension (dattai ichijikin, 大体一時金). However, it's calculated differently:

Time in Japan
6 - 12 months, ¥41,580
12 - 18 months, ¥83,160
18 - 24 months, ¥124,740
24 - 30 months, ¥166,320
30 - 36 months, ¥207,900
36 months or more, ¥249,480

No withholding tax is taken from the national pension withdrawal.

"The National Health Insurance is managed by ward offices in big cities and by small town government offices. Although it is a "national" insurance, each municipality is receiving funds and paying the claims. They are like a group of small insurance companies. They are all in the red. Some are just redder than others. As a result, insurance rates vary from one city to another. Even Japanese feel cheated by this disparity."

This website goes on to point out how easy it is to be trapped in the National Insurance system; if you're leaving the country, it's generally not a problem, but once you're signed up, it can be difficult to switch to a private company. Some have tried moving without forwarding their address to the insurance, leaving Japan on paper, or just presenting the proper paperwork and taking their chances:

Labor Insurnace (Worker's Comp, 労災保険)
rousai hoken

This is a compulsory insurance that employers are required to provide. It covers injury, sickness, disability, and death related to work, whether at the company or while commuting.

What does the rousai hoken cover?

- 70% of most medical costs (and 100% of some)
- 60% salary paid for lost days (beginning from the third day absent from work due to injury or illness)
- Disability, graded according to the injury

Labor Insurance Information (English)
Labor Insurance Information (日本語)

Insurance through Private Companies

Although employees are required to register with the shakai hoken as per their working contracts, those working freelance or at smaller companies do not necessarily have to pay into the National Health Insurance plan (kokumin kenkou hoken).

- If you are currently paying into the shakai hoken, you can choose to supplement this (and avoiding paying the 30% in the event of injury) by signing with a private company

- If you aren't signed up for the National Health Insurance plan yet (supposed to do it as soon as you receive your gaijin card), it is possible to sign on to a private company, present proof of insurance to the government, and they should stop hounding you to enroll in their plan. However, once you are in the national insurance system, I've been told it can be rather difficult to escape; read some of the controversy at National Health Insurance Watch.

One of the private insurance companies serving Japan is AFLAC

Particular Companies

- AEON employees are all now on the Social Insurance system (shakai hoken, 社会保険)
- Teachers with the JET Programme are on the Social Insurance system

Useful Japanese

ryouyouhi shikyuu shinseisho
Application for Medical Expenses

shobyou teatekin shikyuu shinseisho
Application for Sickness and Injury Allowance

Name of injury or sickness

Was the injury the result of someone else's actions?

Describe the circumstances that led to the injury or disease (when, where, why)

Name and address of treating physician

Period of receiving medical care

Period of hospitalization and medical care

Commuting to hospital


During your time in the hospital, how much did you pay for medical care?

Useful Websites

Social Insurance Agency
- The official website, listing all details of employee insurance and national insurance, and links to some of the paperwork (日本語で)

National Health Insurance Watch
- Controversy surrounding the National Health Insurance system of Japan; some good examples

The General Union Interac Branch
- A review of your rights in Japan concerning health insurance and pensions

City of Yokohama Services
- Detailed information about the National Health Insurance Plan

Living Guide
- Very useful guide for all situations, including medical and insurance issues, in all languages

Income Tax Guide for Foreigners
- The official website of the National Tax Agency. Includes information for foreigners in Japan, foreigners working in Japan, and those leaving Japan.

Legal Counseling for Foreigners
- List of legal counseling services for foreigners in Japan; on the phone and in person, pro-bono and charged

AMDA International Medical Information Center
- A good page covering the general procedures for medical care; there are links to insurance information, but the regulations are a little dated

Health Forum on Gaijinpot

In Case of an Emergency
Call 119 for an ambulance. Don't forget to take your Health Insurance Certificate with you.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Listen, dad, if you are are going to say naughty things in front of these American girls then at least speak English-English.

Alright my son, I could've had it away with this crackin' Julie my old China.

Are you telling a bunch pork-pies and a bag of trout? Because if you are feeling quigly why not just have a J. Arthur?

What, billy no mates?

Too right, youth.

Don't you remember the crimbo din-din we had with the grotty Scottmen?

Oh, the one that was all sixes and sevens!

Yeah, yeah, she was the traveling strife of the Morish dancer what lived up the apples and pears!

She was the barrister what become a bobby in a lorry and...

Austin Powers

If you've lived in Japan long enough, or spent enough time searching Japanese job websites, you might have noticed certain employers will specify the type of teacher they want in the classroom.

- Do you look Japanese?
- Oh... sorry, you must have blonde hair and blue eyes, not green.
- Are you British, Australian?
- What state are you from?

When I was first being interviewed over the phone by an AEON rep from Chicago, one of his first questions was my point of origin. Although he might have just been making casual conversation, my mind was tuned to an "ESL mode", and I considered the basis of such an inquiry. Texas, Texas... let me think. We've got the BBQ, we've got the Mexican food, we've got the insane pride, we've got Lance, and, oh yes, we are one of the few states to acknowledge these with anything other than a "huh?":

"Get 'er done!"

"Dumber'n a sack'a potatoes"

"If a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his butt when he flew"

"I reckon"

"Fixin' to..."



...I've even been known to say "you're real purdy" on the few occasions when I feel my southern boy charm will hit home.

The point being, English is not necessarily what we perceive it to be. Who are the word police, the "wordanistas" if you will, to tell a Japanese person that his shop sign stating "Let's Happy CHRISTMAS!" is wrong? If he wants to call it English, that's his right! And may he gain foreign customers by charging them to take pictures!

Courtesy of

No one can tell you your style of speaking or your dialect is wrong for any position, because English reaches as far in variation and style as any other language on Earth. Did you know everyone in the world originally spoke English? Look it up. Now, somebody's gonna say "I did look that up and it's not true." Well, that's because you looked it up on an English website with recognizable text. Next time, try making up a word to prove your case:

Oldspeak -noun The English language as originally spoken by the gods, passed down to men to be eliminated by attrition.

My interpretation of English tells me that's how the language works.

The Englishiness of the matter is... anyone can teach English to you, I promise to communicate English as if it doesn't concern you.


- Stephen Colbert
- 1984, George Orwell

Let your friends have a butchers at this, so they can have the wood on others and share a sixty-sixer to feel right as rain.

NOVA Schools Still Reopening

In the wake of the dissolution of NOVA on October 26th, G. Communication Co has been doing their best to clean up the mess of Nozomu Sahashi. On November 12th, NOVA schools in Nagoya began reopening (link). The next day, G. Communication Co announced they would be hiring back former teachers, or those who felt compelled to stay (link).

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a few former NOVA teachers in the Kagoshima area. Although the majority of schools remain closed, the branch in Kagoshima is set to reopen very soon; the employees who stayed in Japan included those with families, those receiving financial support from home, and some who just decided to risk everything and work private lessons in the interim.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Helping Hands


Notice to all NOVA teachers, if you are currently unemployed:

To anyone who would like to offer help, in the form of yen, temporary housing, food, or even frequent flier miles (you can transfer them, you know), post a comment to this post or email me asap. I will move your offers to the top of the blog as they are made. This is for everyone, from the shores of Hokkaido to my neighborhood (Kagoshima).

Notice Board

Kagoshima City, Yoshino Town (鹿児島市吉野町), 11/2
Temporary housing, food, and a little spending money offered.

Kagoshima City (鹿児島市), 10/29
Temporary housing offered to teachers in need of a place to sleep. Bring a futon. Can support 1-2 people. Contact me for details.


In addition to other assistance as needed, the Australian government has negotiated with Quantas airlines to provide discounts airfares home (possibly with deferred payment as well).

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Picking up the Slack

With some 4,000-odd foreigners currently looking for ways out and around the mess NOVA has created, the jackals are starting to swarm...

EF English First, also on Tokyo Craigslist

An Open Letter to Nova Teachers:

We at EF English First have been following the Nova situation closely. For those of you who want to continue teaching and would like to stay in Asia, we would like to present you a potential alternative by coming to work in China.

EF English First is the world's largest private language educational company. Founded in 1965, we specialize in English education and operate in fifty countries around the world. Over the last several years, we have been growing very quickly in the Chinese market. Today, we have close to 100 schools and are opening a new school every week. Last year, we were named the official language school of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

We are looking for up to 1000 qualified teachers and academic leaders to help China talk to the world in preparation for the Olympic Games. It is an exciting time to be in the world's fastest growing economy, and in this global age having both Japan and China experience will set you apart from the crowd.

Understanding your situation, we have put together the following special Nova teacher package:

Prepaid international flights
EF will book and pay for your international flight to China, as well as an international ticket home at the end of your contract.

Free temporary accommodation
You will be put up for up to two weeks – free of cost to you—in an international standard hotel upon your arrival to China. During your transition period, EF and our network of real estate agents will help you find appropriate accommodation.

Loan for start-up expenses
We have prepared a sufficient loan to help relieve you of any upfront expenses during your first few weeks in China.

Induction program
Our comprehensive two-week induction program includes a welcome package, airport pick-up, city orientation and specialized training courses.

In addition, we have a full and competitive salary and benefits package.

This week, we will hold informational seminars at our EF Tokyo Center. This will be an opportunity to learn about our organization and the next steps to apply. Feel free to call contact us at or call +86 21 6133 6045 to learn more.

Best Wishes,
EF English First Recruitment Team

At first glance, this seems like nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to draw in desperate jobseekers looking for a way out of a less-than-desirable situation in a foreign country by offering a "grand" experience in another ESL education environment; ambulance-chasing mentality, if you will. On second glance, that's exactly what it is.

In additional to the cockroaches, there are also rumors than AEON and GEOS teachers are being fired mid-contract to bring unemployed NOVA employees on board at reduced salaries. Any firsthand knowledge of this?


For more results, be sure to visit the Facebook group NOVA Group of Japan for job opportunities, discount airfares, and offers of assistance from teachers in slightly better situations.

We received the following information from HIS, the travel agents, for British instructors or those returning home to Britain.

HIS is doing a special flight for NOVA instructors wishing to return home. The flight costs 440.00 GBR (inc tax) and is an Asiana flight via Seoul. They depart Osaka and Tokyo 4 times a week on Tues, Thurs, Sat, and Sun. There is an excess luggage allowance of an extra 15 kilos, which can be made at the time of booking.

The flight can NOT be booked as normal through HIS offices in Japan. They are being offered exclusively through the London office of HIS. They must be booked and paid for in the UK. Instructors can book from Japan via email to or by phone on +44 20-7484-3328. Japanese offices of HIS will not be aware of the offer.

If instructors are short of money HIS will accept payment from parents or family members on their behalf in the UK. Tell HIS at time of booking and parents can call either Ian or Ed in London on +44 20-7484-3310 to arrange payment. Payment by Debit or Switch cards is at no extra cost, paying by credit card will incur an extra 2% charge.

If instructors have any questions they can talk to Ian or Ed at the number above or to Angie Lockwood in the London office at +44 20-7734-2727.

East Asia Personnel Quality Control Group
NOVA Corporation

Let's is continuing to monitor the situation with teachers and Nozomu Sahashi, Japan Probe probably remains the foremost authority with up to date information, and Trans-Pacific Radio's Ken Worsley is keeping good track of the numbers over at Japan Economy News & Blog.

Friday, October 26, 2007

NOVA: How it had to End

Let's keep this simple, shall we?

1. NOVA was broke and expected to file for bankruptcy
2. NOVA was broke and filed for bankruptcy
3. NOVA President Nozomu Sahashi is in the wind, following his unexplained absence at an emergency board meeting
4. There are approximately 4,000 unemployed foreign teachers in Japan, low on funds and with limited time for housing
5. The company's debt totals 43.9 billion yen

Nova Corp., Japan’s largest language school chain, filed for bankruptcy Friday with estimated debts of about ¥43.9 billion as it failed to recover from a crippling penalty for false advertising.

Osaka-based Nova said it applied for protection from creditors under the Corporate Rehabilitation Law with the Osaka District Court, and pledged to find a sponsor for rehabilitation under the supervision of a court-appointed administrator. The court accepted the application.

The Jasdaq Securities Exchange said Nova’s stock has been suspended from trading and will be delisted on Nov. 27.

The company, offering mainly English conversation classes to an estimated 420,000 students nationwide, said it has shut down all its schools, and Nova President Nozomu Sahashi, who has a 16 percent stake in the company, is nowhere to be found.


For Unemployed NOVA Teachers

- For those in the Tokyo area, there will be a meeting to discuss options at 7 PM on October 28th at the National Union of General Worker's headquarters in Shimbashi


Email for more info.

- For Australian citizens, be sure to look at this official notice issued by the Australian Government in response to NOVA's recent annoucement

- For those in semi-stable positions who still want to stay in Japan, be sure to check out Gaijinpot

- For those in the Kagoshima or Miyazaki area, feel free to email me if you need emergency housing

To get your mind off things...

Submit to me your own graphic version of just how the NOVA bunny should commit suicide:

Courtesy of NOVA teacher James Rolton

Courtesy of Japan Probe

Courtesy of News on Japan

Other links:'s-largest.htm

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Last Straw

Pay for NOVA teachers has now been pushed back from the 15th to the 19th, to the 25th, to the 31st. This has lead many to stop coming to work entirely, awaiting funds that will probably never come.

Monday, October 15, 2007


今から! The General Union is calling on Nova teachers to participate in a strike today, October 16th.

Situation at Nova

As many of you know, Nova is on the verge of bankruptcy and is likely already insolvent, burdened with massive liabilities from terminated and ongoing student contracts, and little assets since most properties are rented. Administrative staff were not paid on their most recent payday of Sept. 27 and have yet to be paid. Management has already said that teachers’ salaries will not be paid on Oct. 15 (tomorrow) and may be paid by Friday, Oct. 19. The situation for thousands of foreign and Japanese employees around the country is serious. In addition to unpaid wages, some are being kicked out of their housing, others are having visa problems.

Meanwhile, President Nozomu Sahashi is nowhere to be found and refuses to file to the court for bankruptcy protection. Such a filing would aid all employees to retrieve 80% of their unpaid waves through government subsidies and to start to receive unemployment benefits (’for those who have been employed long enough). The company is falling apart without Sahashi filing properly, the worst possible of situations, making it far more difficult and time-consuming to get our wages paid and onto the dole, etc.

Union’s Plan of Action

Only public pressure (or shame) will push Sahashi to do the right thing and file properly. We plan

1) to hold a massive strike ON TUESDAY of all members. (Initially we planned it for tomorrow but CHANGED TO TUESDAY to co-ordinate with General Union in Osaka)

2) to file a petition at the Shinjuku Labor Standards Office to prosecute Sahashi for criminal failure to pay wages as is stipulated in Labor Standards Law

3) to protest outside the LSO in front of the media to demand such a prosecution

4) to hold a press conference to explain the union’s position on the current situation

These actions are being coordinated with out sister union, General Union, in Osaka. It is crucial that all members go on strike on Tuesday and meet at the following times and places:

Schedule of Events

Monday Oct 15: We will fax document to Nova management notifying them that all members will strike for the entire day Tuesday.

Tuesday 11 am: Meet at South Exit of Okubo Station on the Sohbu Line

We will then walk to the Shinjuku LSO at 11:15pm

11:30pm We will say a few words to the press and then enter the LSO with our petition to prosecute Pres. Sahashi.

12:00pm-12:30pm We will demonstrate outside LSO in front of press

12:30-13:00pm We will hold a brief press conference

13:15pm to 14:00pm We will hold a union meeting back at the union office to decide our next collective move.

Again, remember all members must strike on Tuesday since we will be notifying management that way. Since we have many new members, we can decide tomorrow what future actions to take. But it is crucial that we act as a union tomorrow, particularly when there will be press attention.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Voices of NOVA

Trans-Pacific Radio has done a really thorough job researching and discussing the situation with NOVA. Ken Worsley was enough of an authority to have Radio New Zealand contact him for an interview, and now TPR has just posted phone interviews with NOVA employees, among them instructors who recently arrived in Japan expecting steady paychecks and housing...

What to do if you are threatened with eviction