… In Japan

Continuing on from my ‘Behind classroom doors’ series… Lets knock on Narayan’s door in Japan!

Making 'Okonomiyaki' - a Japanese omelette in Kobe prefecture, Japan.
Making ‘Okonomiyaki’ – a Japanese omelette

Narayan hails from windy Wellington in New Zealand, but is now living it up in Saitama, Japan teaching the young folk English.


What were you doing before you came to Japan to teach English?
Studying commerce at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand!


How long have you been in Japan, and how long do you plan to stay there?
I have been in Japan for 8 months, I plan to be here for many years’ to perfect my Japanese and business capacity.


Was teaching English in Japan easy for you to get into?
Yes. You needed to be a native English speaker, have a university degree and a passion for Japan in general.  I did not have any teaching qualifications.


What age group do you teach?
15 to 17 year olds (grade 3 high school students).


What made you decide to teach English in Japan?
I want  to tap into the commerce side of Japan and in order to understand business, you have to understand the language and culture.  I chose Japan particularly because it’s a country that’s eager to break out of its traditional norms, and once it breaks out – it will be a whole new country and I wish to be able to watch that change.


What kind of arrangement do you have with your classes?
I only teach 5-6 hours per week in total.  I teach at 3 schools with 20 students in each a class over 5 days.  (I also spend a lot of my time studying Japanese).


Can you still manage to save money only working so little hours?
Yes. I’m not much of a spender anyway.


What is your biggest challenge in the classroom?
The disinterested folks in class!


What do you enjoy the most about teaching in Japan, and why?
I respect the Japanese for their deep sense of personal responsibility. Once you teach them something, they really want to perfect it, so they push themselves to the limit and do the best they can.


What kind of resources do you have available at your school?
It is very limited. You make do with what you have! I have an assistant sometimes but most of the time i’m alone. The Japanese teacher’s English is at times limited, so I end up teaching the students in Japanese rather than English.


What do you dislike the most about teaching in Japan?
The concept of failure runs deep in their veins. They have this idealism that failure is considered to be a shun from society! If the students know they cannot master it the first time, their willingness to give up is very prominent! They lose faith very quickly!


What are some cultural differences in the classroom you’ve learnt/noticed when comparing to your home country?
The idea of group centric is highly prominent in Japan, as they are a high context culture. There is a famous expression in Japan “出る釘は打たれる” which in readable romaji says “the nail that sticks out gets hammered down” (dewa kui wa utareru).  This expression means if a person wishes to stand out like we do in the West, they would be noted as a person being selfish by not following the ways of a group centric origin.  This is very common in high schools where no one will reply to a question in class if asked.


Do you need to carry out many tests/exams for your students?


What is something you have learned from teaching abroad in Japan?
Being a teacher in Japan also means taking care of the student outside of the ‘teacher-student zone’. You’re a mentor to them as well.


Do you have a memorable/funny classroom experience you can share?
I made my students do karaoke in class with a proper mic and karaoke box. I also taught them English poetry through rapping. I have succeeded in making them gangster!


What kind of advice would you give to others who are interested in coming to Japan to live and teach English?

1. Have patience
2. Look to what you want to do in the future, do not be stuck in the limbo of teaching in Japan, its gets old and monotonous very quickly
3. Learn the language for better communication
4. Respect the students (they do undergo a strenuous study regime)
5. Learn to share your happiness – they will appreciate it!
6. You may come across some people who will discriminate  you – don’t hold a grudge against them. There are good people around you. Cherish them and you’ll cherish your life in Japan.

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