English and Work in Japan

I’m guessing because of my FB posting patterns, a page from a Japan-centric blog, Gaijinpot appeared touting its ‘Do you want to work in Japan?’ classified webpage.

Have thought many times about returning back  to Japan to work for a few years before really retiring and out of curiosity, looked around.

At the time I looked, there were 780 postings, quite a lot.  Of those, the overwhelming number of posting were for English teaching jobs.

This says much about how “internationalized” Japan really is, i.e.,  westerners are still only thought good for working as an English teacher. Ok, to be fair,  there were also postings for engineering jobs, sales and software development jobs- provided the applicant has professional level Japanese fluency, but again,  the ratio of English teaching  to these mainstream jobs was way, way in favor of the ‘English teacher wanted’ jobs.

The other takeaway is the futility of teaching English in Japan.  The Japanese have been trying to be English, etc., fluent since maybe Meiji, 1868?  And yet most people cannot carry on a conversation  with an English speaker?

The roots for this  are that first,  English is not taught in Japan with the purpose of learning to speak it. Second, there are very strong social disincentives  for a Japanese in gaining fluency in English, or any other foreign language. My own observations are  that a Japanese who has attained a degree of fluency in any foreign language, often attained by an extended period outside Japan,  are view by Japanese society as a whole as no longer ‘one of us’, that they’ve  lost some intangible part of their ‘Japanese-ness”  This manifests itself in the difficult these people still have in finding mainstream rather than niche employment in Japan.  (a further example of this is a high school outside Nagoya, built expressly for the large number of children of overseas assignees (Toyota Motor mostly), who returned to Japan after their father’s overseas assignment ended.  Instead of trying to change the public school system to accommodate these returnee children and open up and diversify  the school system,  this school (The Nanzan Kokusai Junior/Senior High School) was built, which to me sends a message that there is no desire to open up the Japanese public school system and that these children, rather than be included, need to be in effect, quarantined.)

Also English teaching in Japan is a business, a big business. Having a higher degree of foreign language fluency in Japan would of course mean a drastic shrinking down of this industry and its profits. So why rock the boat so to speak and work to really teach foreign languages with the goal of true fluency.

The last thing that struck me going through these job postings was the offered salaries. Man, talk about low-balling!  To be fair to Gaijinpot, they have no control over this.  But many of the salaries, even for the non-English teacher, main stream jobs were in the 200,000 to 300,000 per month range.  From my own experience, a monthly salary  in that range was just enough to get by even if single, back in my day, and that was awhile ago. So unless things in Japan have changed more than I know/imagine,  I  cannot see how someone working in a job in Tokyo for example, earning 200,000+ yen a month, can make ends meet..

 

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