background

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

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.

You may also be interested in ...

Image
Story

Road Tripping to Japan’s Mouthwatering Ramen Capital

Road Tripping to Japan’s Mouthwatering Ramen Capital | Kitakata, Fukushima I won’t lie, once you’ve seen a dozen temples and shrines you’ve more or less seen them all. That doesn’t mean you can...

Image
Story

Wandering the Bustling Streets of Japanese Venice

Wandering the Bustling Streets of Japanese Venice | Kurashiki, Okayama When somebody told me Japan had its very own answer to Venice, the cynic in me called bullshit. Having visited Venice and been blown...

Image
Story

Tasting the Finest Wagyu in Japan with Natsuki

Tasting the Finest Wagyu in Japan with Natsuki | Morioka, Iwate A few years ago I won a competition called “Tohoku 365” whereby I received funding to travel around all of north Japan and document the ...

Image
Story

Japan’s Most Underrated City

Japan’s Most Underrated City | Matsuyama, Ehime Ask me what my favourite spot in Japan is and the one that comes racing to my mind first and foremost is the view from Matsuyama Castle, nestled in the he...

Image
Story

Discovering Sapporo for the First time with Natsuki

Discovering Sapporo for the First time with Natsuki | Sapporo, Hokkaido You can’t beat exploring a city for the first time with a good friend. One August after both Natsuki and I found ou...

Image
Story

Cycling the Islands of Japan’s Stunning Inland Sea

Cycling the Islands of Japan’s Stunning Inland Sea | Onomichi, Hiroshima If I had to give one place as being the most jaw-dropping, “instagramable” location in Japan, that award would go the Setouch...

Image
Story

Getting Lost with a Madman in Osaka

Getting Lost with a Madman in Osaka | Osaka City As a lover of cyberpunk, retro wave and Blade Runner, Osaka is effectively my holy city. "What about Tokyo’s Shibuya and Shinjuku districts?” you might...

Image
Story

Escaping to a Secluded Mountain Temple

Escaping to a Secluded Mountain Temple | Mount Haguro, Yamagata In a world where switching off is all but impossible, sometimes we need to retreat to a secluded mountain temple and pretend like we’re in...

Image
Story

Wasting the Day Away at Sake Vending Machines

Wasting the Day Away at Sake Vending Machines | Niigata City, Niigata “Sake vending machines.”- Say it out loud. It’s f*cking magical isn’t it? Co...

Image
Story

Road Tripping Hokkaido in the Winter

Road Tripping Hokkaido in the Winter | Noboribetsu, Hokkaido You can’t quite beat the sensation of relaxing in a hot spring in winter, soaking beneath the steam with the icy breeze blowing against your ...

Image
Story

Staying in a Traditional Japanese Inn

Staying in a Traditional Japanese Inn | Yonezawa, Yamagata I’d known my cheeky Japanese friend Ryotaro six months when he invited me to travel with him on a visit to see his friend Satou-san, the owner ...

Image
Story

Devouring a Bowl of Monster Ramen

Devouring a Bowl of Monster Ramen | Akihabara, Tokyo If you’ve always wondered if there’s a place that sells a bowl of ramen so large and ridiculous in scale that you could potentially overdose ...