Teaching in Japan: Don’t Overthink it, Just Go

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Will I be able to live in Japan without knowing Japanese at first? Will I be discriminated against for being foreign? Can I make friends? Maybe even just one friend? Does Japan have Burger King?

Every week I’m smothered in emails, messages and comments from people around the world looking to teach in Japan.

Yet, the tone is often quite similar; the messages open with phrases such as “always wanted to go,” and “it’s been my dream,” before descending into words like “worried”, “terrified” and “assume”.

It makes me sad to think that so many people throw their dreams of coming to Japan away due to fear – fears born out of a series of inaccurate preconceived notions and imaginations run wild.

Of course, it would be foolish for me to overgeneralise; some people do have serious obstacles to overcome first which may take some time to resolve.

However, after 18 months of responding to these messages, it honestly seems to me the overwhelming obstacle remains fear and uncertainty. It’s the number 1 factor holding people back.

Will I be able to live without knowing Japanese at first? Will people discriminate against me for being foreign? Can I make friends? Does Japan have Burger King?

Yes. No. Yes. And in most cities yes.

My advice to everyone in that situation is to look long and hard in the mirror, pause for a moment and say aloud, “Fuck it. Let’s go.”

(To Japan, not Burger King).

Because regardless of whether or not you choose to go, every moment wasted is a moment somebody else is sitting on a plane, flying over the Pacific or Siberia, on their way to a life of adventure, excitement and chopsticks.

If you do go and it’s awful (which I doubt it will be), you can always fly back home with a suitcase full of saké and wisdom and regale tales around a fireplace of flashing neon lights, random encounters, exceptional food and burnt out vocal chords, in a far and distant land, to friends and family who really don’t care.

But if you don’t go, you’ll never know.

Screw living a life of regret.

Ultimately, when you realise how brilliant your decision to go was, when you’re sat beside some colleagues having the time of your life, stuffing your face with yakitori (fried, skewered meat) and pouring beer for everyone – you’ll know you’ve done something you won’t regret.

And then you can buy me a beer at some point.

If the only real obstacle you have is fear, don’t let it stand in the way.

Don’t over think it.

Decide to go. Then just do it. Go.

  • And don’t forget about my beer.

Thanks for your comment!

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