Generating ideas for work in Japan outside of teaching, or Eikaiwa jobs.
November 25, 2012 11:31 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently looking for work in Japan. I'm scouring the internet, Dave's ESL cafe, ALT (assistant language teacher) listings and am not really looking for help in that respect. If you have any suggestions however, I am happy to hear more. The only exception would be if anyone knows of any Eikaiwa (Private school) jobs or any forums that post job listings.. It is my question that since the work is not always steady and there is the possibility I would go there just to tutor, there is waaay too much flux in my ability to pay for rent. I need help figuring outside work. Outside of selling Japanese items around the world, I'm trying to figure out ways to make money with a general skill set. I'm vocal enough and confident in my speaking ability so I figure I can lead tour groups on my free time and post the listings on craigslist. I'm also looking into working as a waiter or dishwasher, but I was hoping for some help generating ideas. Thanks! PS - I alreadly have information on career cross and gaijin pot. If anyone knows any temp agencies are teacher employment agencies, that would be appreciated as well.
posted by Nighthawk3729 to Work & Money (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Why would you want to work as a waiter or dishwasher? The "jikyuu" is something like $7/hr!

Anyway, you're running into a common problem many foreigners have when living in Japan - it's tough to make a living here if you rely only on working in the eikaiwa industry.

Where are you, anyway? If you're in Tokyo, what part of Tokyo?
posted by KokuRyu at 11:40 PM on November 25, 2012

You know, you can fasttrack moving upward and onward in Japan, and out of the entry-level grind of eikaiwa, by networking. Contact the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (even if you are not American). By contact, I mean attend some of their functions. The ACCJ is really the hub of the foreign expat community in Japan.

The way I made extra cash way back when was by teaching private classes on the side. However, if you are being sent all over hell's half acre by train to teach, you likely won't have much free time, not even to work in a conbini. I've worked construction (for 900/hour as a labourer) and at a pizzeria for a similar wage, just to pay off debts. Later on I became a wedding officiant (15,000 an hour). All of these jobs required Japanese.

My private classes, though, ranged from 4000 to 12000 an hour, depending on the number of students. This was ten years ago.

It would have been convenient to have been located in Tokyo, or perhaps Nagoya, as there is a greater concentration of people (obviously) there, and more affluence. Instead, I lived out in rural Japan, so there were fewer opportunities for moonlighting. But I found them.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:48 PM on November 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

By not steady, what kind of positions are you looking at? This is the hiring period, right now, and there are ads all over the place (also check and Ohayo Sensei), and if you're interested in coming here to teach, start applying to everything you see.

Eikaiwa is a way to get your foot in the door. It's also pretty good at weeding out people who are in love with the idea of living in Japan, it not with working.

You don't, and I mean seriously don't want to come here to work in a conbini, or at a bar. You'll be broke, and it'll be hard. 700 yen an hour isn't worth your time. Aim for a full-time job with a visa sponsor. That, at the least, will give you a year to get your footing. Again, I'm not sure where the idea of jobs being unsteady is coming from. It is very, very hard to lose a job in teaching here once you've signed a contract.

Part-time teaching, however, can be pretty tempish. For business teaching, you get a contract for a set number of weeks, usually 16-20, and there can be any number of reasons for a contract to not be extended, some having nothing to do with how you teach. It's also tricky to get into, with most places only hiring people who've done business teaching before. The salaries have dropped. Eight years ago, I could get 5000 an hour, but now it's more lik 2500-3000 an hour, and there's a good chance you'll have heavy travel time to deal with, which is time your aren't getting paid for. (If you gt a job paying 4000/h for two hours, but you travel an hour each way to get there, you're not making your money's worth).

Private lessons aren't as easy to come by anymore, either. For one thing, they're usually passed from teacher to teacher, which means you need connections, which you won't likely have getting off the plane.

Here's the thing: if you take an eikaiwa job, you're not going to make enough to live in Tokyo. If you're looking for connections and a way out of teaching, you kind of need to be in or around Tokyo. My advice would be go for a ft job and get over here. If you come over trying to string things together piecemeal, you'll always feel under the gun, and you'll have to worry about visa issues as well. It's just not worth it to try to scrape by in a foreign country, especially if you're going to be competing with a Japanese person for a service industry job. Chances are, you won't be the person hired.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:41 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Shit, I misread. If you're here already, you need to be applying for every possible listing you see. Gaijinpot has a ton of listings right now. Apply for everything you see. If your Japanese skills are up for it, go apply for positions where you being an English speaker is an advantage that a Japanese person wouldn't have, like proofreading, although the pay for that is pretty low.
posted by Ghidorah at 5:45 AM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Are you a US citizen? If so, you can work on base. Often the governement will pay for housing and utilities when you are overseas. Benifits out the wazoo.

Check out the jobs available in Japan right now.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:25 AM on November 26, 2012

Response by poster: Ok, from top to bottom:

I’m not in Tokyo and don't have much interest to live there, especially right away. I figure it's expensive and crowded on top of being too excessively touristy. I've heard that Nagoya, Shizuoka and Siatama are all nice, ranging from tiny Tokyos to rural areas, though I'm not sure how rural people mean (like abandoned?).

I never saw eikaiwa work as grinding, I will be attending functions of the ACCJ, thank you for the suggestion. I’m currently thinking about Nagoya, Shizuoka as secondary and Saitama as a third. I am very interested in the Occiciant work you mentioned XD. My girlfriend is coming with me to teach as well and has far superior Japanese speaking skills. I will be improving my own.

Jobs in Japan will be getting another visit, I know Ohayo sensei is good.

As far as the work being unsteady work, the company Gaba-Japan told my girlfriend she would not get steady work for the first few months but she was not to take on another job.

Gajin Pot has been good to me so far, although my Japanese skills are not up to par, thought I am very willing to learn. I am interested in becoming immersed in the culture.

I am a US citizen, I’m not sure where to start looking for work on a base, though I am interested.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 5:47 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: If anyone can post more information on alternate work suggestions, such as the wedding officiant story with background, these are great to hear. My girlfriend is currently checking that out, she skills and interests make her happy at the thought of doing it and we are trying to find more information on the (army?) base work.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 5:49 PM on November 27, 2012

I'm not exactly sure why you want to look for "alternative work" opportunities, since teaching English (eikaiwa) will provide the best salary of *any* part-time work you can think of for someone fresh to Japan, and there is also a lot of part-time eikaiwa work available to supplement your income.

How I got to be a wedding officiant: I spoke professional-level Japanese. I had a friend who introduced me to his company. I was reliable (ie, I wasn't late) and could manage a ceremony.

I cannot recommend rural areas if you are coming to Japan without a job. There is less work.

Saitama is not a rural area. It is a very large suburb. Shizuoka is not rural, but it's not big city either.

Speaking from experience, if you want to have lots of work, Tokyo is your best bet. There is lots and lots and lots of work there. The population is larger, and is more affluent. The rest of Japan is continuing to either struggle or is ageing.

Tokyo will provide you with more opportunities.

Nagoya is the other place to consider, since fewer foreigners decide to locate there, and Nagoya hasn't suffered too badly thanks to its automotive and aerospace industries. Wages for eikaiwa in Nagoya are also higher than in Tokyo.

Fundamentally, though, in the current economic environment, as a new arrival, you are going to come to Japan, you are going to work hard, you are going to take the train, and you are going to break even.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:16 PM on November 27, 2012

Good to know more. So, like KokuRyu, I've got some suggestions:

Stay away from Gaba. Sure, you get flexible hours, but the pay is stupid low (they advertise 2200, but your lesson is only 40 minutes, so they pro-rate it, and you only get 1800 per lesson). The job itself is a cattle call. Students show up and choose a teacher from the ones available. For the most part, this means they either choose the one they think looks like the teacher they want, or the one they have had classes with in the past. It's entirely possible to work an entire shift, but only teach one or two lessons. And you only get paid for those lessons. Gaba is not what you want.

I don't know, honestly about Nagoya, but the truth is, the jobs (plural) are in the big cities. If you are in the Tokyo area (not in Tokyo, but close), there will be a good number of openings. This is how things are in Japan. Young people (your students, in other words) are fleeing the countryside in droves because there aren't any jobs there. If there are no jobs for them, seriously, there aren't many for you.

This is not to say that there aren't any jobs. The thing is, there are jobs in the countryside, but there are precious few, and if there's a vacancy, there's probably a reason behind that. If you set up in the deep country, and your job sucks, the next closest job vacancy could be hours away. This isn't so true when it comes to the bigger areas (Tokyo Metro/Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe). There's more competition for teachers, more schools to apply to.

Officiating weddings has gone the route of teaching in high schools: almost all the jobs are run through a dispatch company. A friend did the wedding thing for a while, made good money. The thing was, the company he was with essentially forced it's 'ministers' to get a license (through the company, naturally) after about a year in order to keep working. It wasn't cheap. The pay has dropped, too. You used to be able to clear 80,000 yen in a weekend, now weddings are paying less than 10,000.

Saitama, bluntly, sucks. The Japanese word for uncool is literally taken from the name of the prefecture. It's crowded, it's unpleasant, and best of all, it's the hottest place in Japan (Kumagaya is like hell in the summer). When I was looking for a high school job years ago, I saw an add for a school in Tokorozawa, which was supposedly the setting for Totoro. I was interested, so I googled the city. The first hit was U.N. report about the dioxins in the soil, and it said that food grown in the city (and a surprising amount of food is actually grown in cities) should be considered unsafe for consumption.

If you're looking at Saitama, don't. Look at Kanagawa (culture, oceans, modernity, cool people) or Chiba (uh... I live here. It's really, really easy to live here. It is, sadly, the suburbs of Tokyo).

Also, meetups happen in Tokyo. They don't ever seem to happen anywhere else.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:57 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

James English in Tohoku might be worth checking out.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:24 PM on November 27, 2012

Response by poster: @ Koko - Eikaiwa work has been refered to as grind work in this thread alone, your response? I'm curious.

I have been focusing on being dispatched through borderlink and Aeon lately. I don't know of any more private dispatchers, I wonder if anyone knows of some, more job oppurtunities.

My girlfriend speaks at a good level and will only be improving. I am handy with an SLR camera and have suggested I shoot the photos, she is happy with the idea. Would you recommend any companies to request work from?

I have been avoiding coming to Japan without a job. I am still hoping to be farther from Tokyo then closer.

Nagoya sounds good. We are fine with breaking even, we just want to be there.

Thanks for the suggestion on James English in Tohoku


Will be staying away from Gaba, thanks for the suggestion.

Officiating still doesn't sound too bad on the side. Heck, even as main work, as long as we have food and lodging, we can make more later.

will also be staying away from Saitama. Never thought of Kanagawa, definately interested now. Will be looking into Chiba. We were pretty set on Nagoya, have been telling the companies there, so I don't know if we will ahve trouble switching... but am tempted to research and question the possibility.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 2:24 PM on November 28, 2012

Response by poster: @Koko, Ghi

We've begun looking into the James English program and begun looking at the different areas to teach. What are your feelings, heck, Ghi's feelings as well on the Niigata region? We figure it is the closest to Tokyo, our fallback in case it is too rural.

Toyko is not nessesarily out, we just don't want to be in the heart of that big city. I live an hour away from manhatten and enjoy not living there. It sounds fun to visit and living there is not out of the question, but Nagoya and the Chiba districts sound better.

We were a bit concerned the Tohuku district would be too rural and underpopulated. It is nice to hear that we can also vists different expat get-togethers if we live near Tokyo.
posted by Nighthawk3729 at 2:50 PM on November 28, 2012

Niigata is actually pretty far out, I think. There is a shinkansen line, but I've only ever been out there once. Aside from Niigata City and Nagaoka (?) most towns were wide spaces around train stations. It's beautiful, and if you can find a job there, that's great. The thing is, Nagoya is actually a pretty huge city in its own right. Think of it as, say, Chicago or Detroit to Tokyo's New York. It's also the home to a lot of manufacturing, too. It's possible to live near (within an hour) and still feel like you're in pretty urban suburbs. If you look at, say, Tokyo, and the greater Tokyo area (which is roughly half of Tokyo-to, Chiba, Saitama, Ibaraki, and Kanagawa), pretty much anywhere an hour from the heart of Tokyo is still going to be city. The corridor I live along (between Chiba City and Tokyo) is pretty much fully developed, and the land is either all in use, or being prepared for new use. About thirty to forty minutes past where I live is where you start to get wide-open spaces, which are usually farms. Wilderness is usually confined to mountainous areas, simply because farming wouldn't work there.

If you're coming to Japan together, you could maybe apply to companies together, which might give you a chance to find something similar (with a schedule that matches, too). A lot of people who come to Japan apply to a company that puts them where they need them. I didn't come here planning to live in Chiba (actually I was told I'd be in Nara, dammit), but here I am, almost 13 years later.

Like I said, apply for everything. If teaching is the job, you'll need to be in a place with students, which means, at the least, suburbanish. Once you start hearing back from potential employers, you can start to narrow down which seems most like a place you'd want to live.

It is good, though, to do what you're doing, and to think carefully about where you want to live. In the time that I've been here, I've only just gotten to Osaka this year (if you don't want city, you don't want Osaka), and I've only been off of Honshu once, and that was to go to Sado for a night. I've still never made it to Hokkaido, Shikoku, or Kysushu. So, by all means, try to find a place that will suit you. Personally, I mentioned Kanagawa simply because it is close to Tokyo (and jobs) but also has both mountains and the ocean. It is, however, pretty sprawly, just like Chiba, just like Saitama.
posted by Ghidorah at 8:46 PM on November 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've spent all of my time in rural Japan, but it's not easy to find a job here. If you can get a job in Niigata, great, but if you are not interested in Tokyo I would recommend trying to get a job in Nagoya if you can. It has more work, better paid, and is closer to mountains, the Kansai region, and is liveable (if you choose the right place to live, like Kanayama).

I'm not so sure about Osaka as a place to look for work. The region has experienced hard times over the past decade, so it's not as affluent as it once was. Also, a lot of foreigners end up near Osaka to try to make ends meet in Kyoto, so there is more competition for work.

Tokyo has infinitely more work.

Is eikaiwa a grind? If you are established, probably not, but the working conditions for new arrivals compared to when I first arrived in Japan in 1994 can be pretty bleak. Lower pay for new arrivals, and lots of train travel. Being in Tokyo, with its expat community that can provide a pipeline to non-eikaiwa jobs, helps you get into something better faster. Nagoya, in the past, has had in-house editor and even translation jobs at the many manufacturers located there. Not sure what the situation is like now.

However, the absolute worst thing (and I experienced it for a couple of years in the mid-90's) is to arrive in Japan full of excitement, and work for a truly horrible company, spending all of your time on the train, or worrying if you are going to get paid. And then you leave Japan disappointed.

My advice anyway is aimed at helping prevent that.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:46 PM on November 30, 2012

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