Personal Post: On Teaching English in Japan

Despite my best efforts, it’s been almost 3 months since I last wrote a post on Tokyo Trendy. In that time, I’ve been amazingly busy- including visiting family and friends across the US, starting my last semester, applying for jobs, dealing with some personal lows, and switching this blog over from its old location. I just wanted to thank everyone for sticking around despite my lengthy absence.

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A few of my favorite moments from Japan.

As a second semester senior in college, I’ve become to realize that the choices I make now are the ones that will affect my path in Real Life, that pesky thing I’ve been preparing 16+ years in the American education system for. In the last few months I’ve been struggling to figure out exactly which first steps to take, as if I’m a small child learning how to walk on my own for the first time.

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Do I want the “work in a cubicle for 50 years, get married, have kids, and go to Disney World” career path? Do I want to take time to see the world, since I may not have other opportunities later? Do I move immediately into a full time career, rather than taking time off like most college students my age? Do I move to a brand new city and leave everything I know behind? Do I do what’s comfortable and easy, or step outside my comfort zone?

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If you can’t tell from this blog, I love Japan. My love of Japanese culture and society extends back into the first grade, when my teacher let us dress up in kimonos and pick up goldfish crackers using chopsticks. I’ve immersed myself in Japanese popular culture and entertainment, taken Japanese language and literature courses, and even worked at a sushi restaurant. My time studying abroad in Tokyo made me fall in love with the country, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I belonged. Although my time there was not without its difficulties, I knew I wanted to return and begin a life there.

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For the first time in my life, I truly have the freedom and opportunity to choose my own path. And with graduation looming on the horizon, I’ve begun to look at opportunities that will lead me back to the land of the rising sun.

For many college graduates like me, with only a diploma and non-fluent language skills, teaching English is a viable career path. It’s not the best paying salary, nor is there a lot of opportunity for growth, but it’s a way to live in Japan. For a year or more, you have the opportunity to not only expose children to your own culture and traditions, but also completely immerse yourself in a new society. You get to live in a Japanese town or city, eat Japanese food, and live a Japanese way of life. For someone looking to travel after university- and with a bleak job market waiting back home in the US- teaching English can be an amazing way to spend a few years abroad. Japan is my passion, and teaching English would be a way to return the country that inspired me throughout so much of my life.

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The only problem is, I’m not sure this is the right path for me.

As Confucius said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” For me, this means indulging in another one of my passions: reading. Over the past few months, I’ve begun to dive into career opportunities in the publishing industry, and I feel a thrill of excitement at the prospects of spending my life surrounded by books. I get this same thrill thinking about living in Japan, but not about teaching English.

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And as much as I want to return to Japan, I don’t think going for a job I don’t love is the best decision.

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This doesn’t mean that I’m stopping to dream of Japan. On the contrary, I’m motivated now more than ever to find a way to cultivate my passion. Despite what the future may bring, I still want to see Japan again, and if possible, live there once more.

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In a perfect world, I would be able to find a career that combines all of my passions into one. Know of any English-speaking publishing jobs in Tokyo? Let me know. Until then, I’m going to keep dreaming, learning the language, and exploring Japan as much as I can.

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Japan is still there, waiting for me. But until then, it’s time to start living my life.

Thanks for reading,

Marina

マリナ

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An Introduction to Tokyo Trendy

marinaAlthough it’s been over 15 years, I still remember the exact day that I fell in love with Japanese culture.

I was in first grade, six years old, and learning about different cultures of the world. My teacher’s daughter had just returned from a trip to Tokyo and had brought back a variety of different clothes and souvenirs for us to play with. We spent a week wearing kid-sized kimono, using chopsticks to eat goldfish, and crafting daruma (Japanese goal dolls).

I was completely entranced. From then on, I developed a passion for Japanese culture that has remained with me to this day.

Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to visit Japan. But as my life got more complicated and I picked up more hobbies during school, this idea became more of a passing thought rather than a reality. I resigned myself to reading about Japan and eating sushi on the weekends, and later took a semester of Japanese once I entered college.

In the fall of 2012, however, I finally lived out my dream. By a combination of luck and chance, I spent four months living and studying in Tokyo. And although I barely knew the language and I had never been abroad before, I fell head over heels in love. Japan was everything I had dreamed of and more. The months flew by, and once I returned to America, I had a new dream: to live in Tokyo again.

I suppose that’s the reason for this blog. Over the past year, I’ve found that many of my friends know little about Japan, or only of the eccentric culture of anime that has wrongly colored their perspectives. I want to share my experiences, and explore the culture that has left such a deep impression on me.

I’ve been to Japan. I’ve spent months living in the suburbs, commuting on Japan’s expansive public transportation system, eating in neighborhood noodle shops, and traveling throughout the country. I’ve shopped in Harajuku, petted deer in Nara, visited the famous temples in Asakusa, and experienced the vivid nightlife of Shibuya. And although I’m not an expert on any of these topics, I’d like to share my own impressions with those who are interested in visiting or living in Japan.

I know I’m a visual learner, so I want to share some of the most poignant photos I took overseas and let you see exactly what I experienced. It’s a photoblog with a little extra, a little insight on the country and culture that few people know. I hope this blog helps you understand more about Japan, and why it’s left such a huge impression on me.

And maybe, just maybe, it’ll help me realize my dream of returning to the country I fell in love with.

Thanks for reading, and welcome to Tokyo Trendy!

マリナ

Marina