- Pop Culture
- Time in Japan
- Tokyo Things To Do
Alexander S. (19) from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern tells us about his Working Holiday experience in a dojo in Tokyo. He has already a lot of experience as a judoka and has been working as a judo instructor in Germany. Now he got the terrific chance to work in the country where judo originated and learn the trade from actual Japanese instructors. He now works as one of the trainers of a kids' class. Alexander, how did you find this job? It's an interesting story. I was actually interviewing for a restaurant job, and it so happened that a few sport companies were also having a meeting in the restaurant at the same time. Since I wrote on my CV that I have practiced judo for many years, I was invited by one of the organizers to join the meeting and I got offered this job afterwards. I was indeed very lucky. When do you work? I work at the dojo twice a week, usually Wednesdays and Fridays. The kids' training program is from 4.30pm to 6pm, and then I join the adult training hours. Sometimes one of the children receives a private training, during which I assist as a second trainer. What do you find challenging about this job? My Japanese level is very low. All my knowledge comes from a 2-week crash course I took in Germany. I am lucky that the other trainers speak a bit of English, and I even teach in English on Fridays. The school offers this special program where we try to teach the children some English while they train, so they gain more than just the physical abilities. I actually already knew quite a few judo terms in Japanese as I learned them while I was training in Germany. If there is something I can't explain using language, I just show them what I mean. So it turns out the skill that is actually most important for this job is my judo ability, and not my (Japanese) language ability. Does this job help you improve your Japanese? Yes, absolutely. I even come a little early to talk to the children sometimes. Sometimes I also study Japanese between trainings. I just bring my study books to the dojo and if I have questions there is always someone to help and advice me. What did you learn doing this job? Besides my Japanese, my English has improved as well. I have to communicate a lot in both languages so I slowly get better. Other than this I learned a lot in the adults training and improved my judo skills. This will be very useful for when I go back to work as a judo instructor in Germany again. Do you enjoy the job and are there things you don’t like? To be honest, there is nothing I don't like about this job. I like every aspect about it. It combines well with my other job at the former mentioned restaurant. It helps me balancing my weekly schedule and I stay physically fit. We have a lot of fun during the training and I gain experience. It's just the perfect combination of jobs. How much do you earn? Is it enough to cover your living expenses? I earn 1000 yen per hour and work only 2 days a week. This is fine, but of course not enough to cover my expenses. I really need the other job in the restaurant where I work 8 hours a day, 3 days a week. With these 2 jobs together I make enough to live in Tokyo and I still have enough time for private activities and trips. What brought you to Japan in the first place? I'm sure my answer will not be a surprise to many, but I have to admit it has to do with anime. Watching anime and reading manga made me curious about Japan and now I can experience the culture first hand. Would you recommend Japan for a Working Holiday? Yes, I would recommend it. Most people choose Australia and New Zealand for a Working Holiday, but I think Japan is still special and relatively unknown. There's a whole new culture to explore and I have learned so many interesting things already. It's absolutely great to spend some time in Japan in this way, working here gives me a new perspective. The language barrier might be higher than in other countries, but it wasn't as hard as I first expected. A lot of people in Tokyo can actually speak some English, and even if they don't, many people try hard to help you using just gestures and the few English words they know. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
We visited Marcel S. (19) at the Butler Café in Tokyo where he has been working for a few weeks now. We had a great time and enjoyed being entertained by three charming butlers! It wasn't just the service that made it worth going, we were also surprised by the delicious dishes they served us. Afterwards we interviewed our Working Holiday butler from Germany about his experience working for the Butler Café. Marcel, how did you find this job? I found it on the internet. Someone of my share house mates told me that there is a great website for foreigners to find jobs like this in Japan. This job was actually the first one I applied for, and it worked out well. Since when have you been working at the Butler Café and what are your general working hours? I've been working here for almost 4 weeks now and I hope I can stay here for a few more months. The working hours depend on the day, for weekdays I'd say the average working time is about 3,5 hours per shift, but in the weekend I'm working up to 7 or 8 hours. We arrange the work schedule according to the number of reservations we receive online. What requirements came with the job? Obviously you have to be kind if good-looking in the employers eyes. The first thing they check when you apply is your photo, then they want to know whether your English conversation skills are strong enough. Since you only speak English during the job, it is mandatory to speak an advanced level of English. Another condition I heard of is 'looking foreign', as they prefer western butlers in order to create a 'European butler atmosphere'. So most of the employees are from Europe. It's also an advantage to be a good actor as the way you're expected to behave as a butler is quite different from what you would normally behave like. And then probably the most important requirement is that you should actually enjoy doing this job. You should not just do this job for the money. How much do you earn? Is it enough to cover your living expenses? I earned 1,000 Yen per hour until now, because that is what everyone gets in the first month. After you complete your training you can earn up to 1,500 Yen per hour, depending on your skills and popularity with the customers. What are your duties at the Butler Café? My first and most important duty is to entertain the princesses, this is how we call our customers. If they feel good and enjoy the time they spend here, we are doing a good job. I have to serve food and tea, have a little chat with them and if they want to we offer the extra service of taking a picture together. I adopted a stage name by the way, my butler name is Alfred because that is seen as one of the typical European butler's names. Do you enjoy this job? Are there things you don’t you like about it? Of course I'm enjoying this job. I have always been into acting and now I get even paid for it. I feel very lucky that I can actually do something for a living in Japan that I also enjoy. The only unfortunate thing about this job is that I can never get in touch with the customers after they leave our café. This is a strict rule, as it helps keeping the fantasy alive. Do you think working for the Butler Café improves your Japanese? What else did you learn? We communicate in English with the customers as well as with the owner, so if someone want to improve their Japanese this might be the wrong job. My Japanese level hasn't really improved since starting work here. What has improved are my intercultural communication skills. Trying to understand people who barely speak your language is hard in the beginning. I have been able to communicate using English, gestures and a little bit of Japanese, and it has surprised me how much I am actually able to get across without having a language in common. What brought you to Japan in the first place? Japan is a country with a unique culture that has always fascinated me. Besides Japanese culture being very different from German culture, I actually see things we have in common as well when it comes to the way we think. The cultural aspect was actually the main reason I decided to go to Japan. I wanted to visit hot springs, eat sushi and learn the language using it in real life. Japan is a country that has so much to offer that I would gladly stay here longer. If there wasn't any language barrier I could imagine living here for several years. Would you recommend a Working Holiday in Japan? Very much so, Japan is a country where everyone should have been at least once in their life. I would recommend coming here either for a Working Holiday or just to travel. The people are friendly, it's extremely safe because of the low crime rate, and with a little bit of luck you can find a job you like! " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Sebastian H. (20), who graduated high school in Germany 1 year ago, tells us about his Working Holiday experience in Tokyo. He was working as a waiter in an Italian restaurant for 5 months together with Japanese locals and other foreigners from all over the world. Sebastian, how did you find this job? I found this job on the internet after looking for many kinds of different jobs here. I contacted many people and places, I also got many replies but in the end this job fit me the best. Because I had previous experience as a waiter it wasn't too difficult to get used to the job, even though Japanese customer service is quite different from what I was used to at home. What were your general working hours and what kind of customers visited the restaurant? I worked at the restaurant 4 or 5 days a week. My working hours were between noon and 3.30pm; then I had two hours of free time, and after that I continued working from 5.30pm to midnight. Most of the customers were middle class, there were many salarymen or families with children. I think they came to enjoy good Italian food. Sometimes we also served tourists, and one time we even had a celebrity customer: the creator of the game 'Final Fantasy'. Some of my co-workers were quite star-struck! What was demanding about the job? It was a big advantage that I already had a lot of experience as a waiter in Berlin and Australia. I didn't really need to speak Japanese to understand what to do. I just had to learn a bit of Japanese, as some of the customers didn't speak English, however, our usual customers don't expect us to speak the language fluently. They would come here for an Italian atmosphere, which is why we greet them with the words "Buon giorno", and then ask for their orders in English or Japanese, depending on their level of English. How much did you earn? Was it enough to cover your living expenses? Yes, my salary was definitely enough to cover my living expenses. This was one reason why I wanted this job in the first place. I earned 1,100 JPY an hour here, had my transportation paid, and I could eat two staff meals for free every day. This made it possible to have enough money to enjoy my life in Tokyo. However, it was exhausting at times to work five long days a week. What were your duties at the restaurant? My duties at the restaurant were the regular duties of a waiter like taking customers' orders, serving them, sometimes washing dishes, setting the tables and so on. Sometimes we had people celebrate their wedding at our restaurant, then I assisted and served the wedding guests during the party. Did you enjoy the job? And were there things you didn't like? What I really enjoyed about this job was the wonderful cozy atmosphere at the restaurant, which reminded me of my time in Berlin. It actually didn't feel very Japanese; it was more like a multicultural place with English as everybody's common language making it easy to work here. We were not just doing our job, we were all friends at the restaurant. We spent a lot of time together so it's important to have fun while working with each other. Of course it doesn't mean that I didn't take the job serious. What I didn't like so much about this job was that I had to wear a 'mask' all the time. It was not possible to be myself, I always needed to represent the restaurant, smile and be friendly, even on days when I didn't feel good. The one thing I am thankful for is how my co-workers tried to cheer me up and motivate me to do a good job on those days. One other thing I didn't really like is that newbies have to wash a lot more dishes than the other staff. That was very exhausting in the beginning. Do you think working for the restaurant helped you improve your Japanese? Absolutely! There were some Japanese co-workers I could talk to in Japanese if there was time. After I became more confident I also tried speaking to customers in Japanese. The other waitstaff helped me a lot when I had questions about specific vocabulary, so I had a good chance to improve there. They were really helpful. Besides the language, what else did you learn doing this job? I learned a lot about myself. An important thing that I learned is that I really never want to work as a waiter for a prolonged time in the future. This is not the right job for me. It's exhausting and I also don't think it would fit my personality. My actual goal is to study medicine in Germany or Austria, and this experience made me even more motivated to do well in my future studies. I have also developed a strong sense of responsibility because for this job we all had to rely on one another. One time I was sick on a really busy day and could not go to work, so the others had to cover for me. I felt deeply sorry and responsible that time. What brought you to Japan in the first place? After I finished high school in Germany and got my Abitur (high school diploma), I wanted to go abroad for a year. My original plan was to travel to either Australia, New Zealand or Canada, but my friend convinced me to visit Japan as well. He told me some fascinating things about this country, so I became interested in the Japanese culture beyond anime and manga. We started our journey together in Australia where we did a working holiday for around 3 months. Afterwards we went to Japan together, where we planned to stay a whole year. As my friend wanted to stay in Tokyo while I was eager to travel around we went our separate ways. I spent the first 5 months in Japan traveling from Tokyo to Naso in Tochigi, then back to Tokyo and I headed west to Hiroshima and Osaka. Finally I reached Kyushu, where I traveled through cities and villages and saw a lot of a less famous parts of Japan. I managed to travel on the cheap by hitchhiking and couch surfing. I had a sleeping bag with me and a few times some nice Japanese people even offered me a meal. I always felt safe in Japan. There is not much crime and the people are helpful, which are the best conditions for backpackers. Today is actually my last day at work here, from tomorrow I will take 2 weeks to enjoy Tokyo, then I will travel through to Ise to learn about the pearl divers and when I leave Japan after that I'm going to have a holiday in Thailand. I'm going to make the most of my last few weeks here in the East! Would you recommend Japan for a working holiday? I would absolutely recommend doing a working holiday in Japan to other people. I do think however that you need at least a basic interest in Japanese culture to be able to adjust well. My suggestion would be to not stick to only Tokyo or other big cities, but to also travel to smaller places and getting to know the people there. It can be a wonderful experience for anyone. Japanese people are extremely polite, much more than in Germany I feel. I gained a lot just by talking to them. I think traveling in Europe would have been much harder and the people might not have been as helpful as here in Japan. Is there something you will always remember when you think back about your time here? Every day was a little bit special in itself, and it was the people who made the job the way it was. What I enjoyed a lot was when the work was finished, and we could just sit there and talk about our private lives like friends do. I made some real friends here, and will definitely stay in touch with them after I leave Japan. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Ramen is one of Japan's most popular dishes. Many salary men have a bowl of ramen after work in one of Tokyo’s many ramen joints. It's quick, cheap and tasty! So when you are on a Working Holiday in Japan, working in a ramen shop is a great way to really dive into the Japanese experience. We spoke with Ahmed I. (20, from Hamburg in Germany) about his job at a ramen restaurant. Ahmed, could you tell us what a typical work day at a ramen restaurant is like? My work starts in the morning at 9.00am, and because it takes over half an hour to get there by metro I have to wake up quite early. Every morning I start with cleaning. After that I prepare everything in the kitchen before the first guests come, like refilling the green tea cans, putting them on the counter and setting the tables. When the guests come to the restaurant I welcome them with the words "irasshaimase"(be welcome). I then take their orders and serve them their dishes with the words “omatase shimashita" (sorry that you had to wait). It is especially important to speak in a very polite way to the customers. What is demanding about the job? The whole staff consists of only Japanese co-workers, so the communication is not always easy for me. Another thing I had some difficulties with was "to speak loudly”. Every time I got in contact with our customers, I was anxious to speak with a clear and strong voice. This was a very big problem for me in the beginning. Coming out of your shell is not always easy. Which language requirements come with the job? It is very important that you can speak basic Japanese and of course some English as well. All the people who are working here are Japanese, so this is why it is essential to speak at least a little bit of their language so you can communicate. Of course, you must be willing to improve your language skills fast and try to understand things quickly. Do you enjoy working at the ramen restaurant and is there something you don't like about it? I have to say that it is a really nice job. The other staff members are very friendly and I get a small bowl of ramen for free at lunchtime every day, which I enjoy a lot. On the other hand it is sometimes a bit difficult to communicate with people because they speak Japanese fast, which is still hard for me to understand. Another negative aspect would be the short breaks. They sort of expect you to continue to work after only around a 10-minute break. How much money are you earning and is it enough to cover your living expenses? I earn 1,000 Yen per hour, which is around €8. I had to adjust my lifestyle (I'm living in a share house) and save some money in order to let that be enough to live in Tokyo. I'm working here for 4 months now and got used to it. How did you find this job? I talked to a friend at the share house who was already working there and he strongly recommended me to apply. He was quite satisfied with the job, so I thought it would be a good idea for me as well. Did you make any special memories which you will never forget? Yes, I had a great moment when my boss came to me one day and told me that I could design the menu. I really love digital photography, so it was a very gratifying task to take pictures of all the dishes and create the menu. Do you think working at the ramen restaurant improved your Japanese? Well, of course it improved my Japanese because I had to learn new words to speak properly to the customers and communicate with my co-workers. But I have to say that I could not improve as much as I would have liked to because people are very busy at their workplace and didn't have time to explain everything. This can't be helped and I hope I will keep on improving. What are you doing besides working? I like non-touristy places very much. Often I would visit some nice spots in Tokyo, meet friends and go with them on hiking tours and day trips. I also like the bars in Japan, which I sometimes visit on the weekend. Why did you choose Japan? I have always felt a deep connection with Japan. The pop culture, traditional culture and the everyday life caught my interest so I decided to go there and experience it for myself. Would you recommend doing a Working Holiday in Japan to others? Oh yes! People should go out and do something exciting with their life. Traveling to different countries, meeting new people and discovering new places are all amazing opportunities to gain new experiences! Japan is beautiful and I would strongly recommend people to go there. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Comic Market or Comiket as I will call it from here on out, to the west usually is merely a mystical event. A place you've heard stories about, seen referenced in Anime and Manga, seen pictures of and fanart from. It's something that the majority of people in the western world have relatively little chance of experiencing, after all, it is on the other side of the world and there really is no comparable event anywhere in the world. During my one-year stay in Japan, I had the chance to visit Winter-Comiket and it made it for an absolutely fascinating experience I'm unlikely to forget all too soon. For starters, let me explain what Comiket in itself is about for those who aren't familiar with it. As aforementioned, the name "Comiket" stands for "Comic Market". It's a bi-annual event focusing on what the west generally dubs "Otaku-culture". This includes pretty much anything from Anime and Manga, Doujinshi, over music up to things like fanfiction or self-published web novels. The possibilities are near endless. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]The difference to your average foreign con is the actual focus of the event. Although a huge amount of companies are represented at Comiket and depending on their popularity can attract absolutely massive crowds, the event itself is mainly about fan created content. This manifests itself in several gigantic halls, packed to the brim with booths of different artists trying to sell their work over the course of the day that rotates each day in order for as many people as possible to be able to put their work on display. Being generally handled as the biggest convention in the world, it should be no surprise that Comiket is not friendly to those who dislike large crowds. The 91st iteration, the one I visited recently, listed over 550.000 visitors over the 3 days in its after report, more than any other convention in the world. A crowd this insane of course also brings with it quite a few negatives. It's incredibly hard to get your hands on a lot of the popular doujinshi and company merchandise due to the sheer amount of people streaming into the halls, making it absolutely necessary to get into Tokyo Big Sight as early as possible. These circumstances have sparked people to start lining up at absolutely impossible hours to get their hands on the things they want the most. So guess what I did. On the first day of Comiket, I woke up at 3 am (Seeing as the Shiohama Sharehouse is relatively close to Tokyo Big Sight, this would mean that if I walked I'd arrive before the first train and with that a big majority of the people attending Comiket). There was a particular, relatively popular company selling a lot of things I wanted to get my hands on, so I did the thing a lot of Comiket attendees will do for their favorite merchandise and woke up around the time I would usually go to bed. Packed with entertainment to pass the time, Food to feast on once I'd eventually get hungry and a good amount of caffeine to keep me awake throughout the day I made my way to Tokyo Big Sight, trying to mentally prepare for the more than five-hour wait I had ahead of me. I'm sure this must sound like absolute hell to most people and that was absolutely what I was thinking it would the evening beforehand, but as it turned out the waiting time was much better than expected. This was partially thanks to my luck of finding someone I would end up being friends with shortly after arriving but also thanks to the general organization of the lines. Although incredibly full from the start the lines don't feel nearly as cramped as one would think, you can leave the line at any point in order to get food or drinks at nearby vending machines and stands and even bring your own blanket or chair to sit on as you wait. In the end, the hour-long wait outside of Tokyo Big Sight in the morning may not be comfortable, but it's certainly not something that will make the entire con experience any less worth it. To me in fact, it only made it all the more memorable. The incredibly long waiting time only ended up building up my anticipation for the event even more and made getting to the booths I wanted to get to and buying the things I was planning to get all the more satisfying. If I were to go to Comiket again I would undoubtedly do it the same way again. Of course, if you don't have any specific, popular things you want to buy there's little reason to go through anything like this. Comiket's organization is absolutely impeccable and makes for one of the smoothest line experiences I've ever had. Of course, it helps that the convention in itself is 100% free meaning no ticket-checking is required, but around an hour after the convention opens there's already close to no need to wait in line anymore. Sadly, that means with all of the people that were originally waiting outside inside already the halls are absolutely cramped and, even worse, the lines for popular artists can be endless. Lines often have to be either led to the outside to continue lining there or have to be cut into several smaller parts so people can continue walking through the already relatively small corridors in between booths. 50 years of experience in holding Comiket, however, make all of this a surprisingly smooth ride as both the people working on site, as well as a lot of the visitors already know the general drill. The event feels chaotic, but it still at all times seems to be under people's control. It's an overwhelmingly odd experience, but for something as gigantic as this to work at least just as well as every smaller foreign con is fascinating to me. So would I actually recommend you to go to Comiket? Absolutely. Even if you aren't hugely into Anime and Manga, I do believe that at the very least the experience of the event is something that'll stay with you for quite a while. I do urge you, however, to think beforehand about how you would like to enjoy the event. Having done both the Hunting after things I wanted to have and the casual strolling around the artist's alley to find things to spend my leftover money on, I can say that both of them are incredibly fun in very different ways, but the former does have a lot of effort put into it beforehand. Doing research via the guidebook available in Akihabara the weeks beforehand, looking up your favorite artists, planning out the best routes for buying your stuff, getting up extremely early etc, is quite exhausting but extremely worth it. On the other hand simply strolling around the convention does, of course, have its own merits. The experience can be extremely calming and is a lot easier especially in its preparation. Instead of the constant running around it allows for a lot more actual looking through things and surprise artists you might not have found otherwise. Regardless of what you chose to do, Comiket is an absolutely insane experience and if you ever get the chance, I highly recommend you go through it!
In Tokyo, you can join a 1-3 months course combining MANGA DRAWING and JAPANESE LANGUAGE LESSONS! " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"] The course is an exclusive cooperation between Mangajuku, the number one Manga School of Japan, located at Jimbocho in central Tokyo, which has brought fourth many professional manga artists, and a well-established Japanese language school. For this course, a professional manga artist joins force with a bilingual (Japanese + English) coordinator, so you can join this course without having any Japanese language skills. While studying Japanese language in the mornings (20 hours per week), you learn how to draw manga characters, to develop storylines, draw backgrounds, from analog to digital. The manga drawing classes are in the afternoons (the 4 weeks course includes a total of 5 manga lessons; 8 weeks 10 manga lessons; 12 weeks 16 manga lessons x 120 minutes). The course is available for everyone from the age of 15, both for complete beginners in drawing, as for those who are experts at drawing but would like to broaden their expertise in Japan. Also, the language lessons exist for different levels, from beginner to upper intermediate. The rates for the course (Japanese + Manga) are: 4 weeks: 148,000 Yen 8 weeks: 256,000 Yen 12 weeks: 374,000 Yen Start dates are: April 3; July 10 and October 2, 2017 NOW BOOK THIS COURSE! Details about the course: 1. Orientation to the course and outlook of Japanese Manga Self-introduction of the participants and orientation to the course. Exercises. Drawing with a dip pen, filling in procedure, whitening out with liquid and screentones. 2. Character faces How to draw the face. Deformation theory and expressive techniques to show human feeling such as joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure. 3. Drawing the character as a whole Positioning technique of the whole character. Head and body and their proportions. Deformation and attractive poses. 4. Character design 1 Methodology of characterization through fashion, body shape and hair style. 5. Character design 2 Drawing the character in different thema of Japanese Manga. The 4 weeks course finishes here. If you continue, you will learn the following contents: 6. Character motion Practice in drawing running characters. Practice in creating the side composition, or composing from a previous composition. 7. Professional Character Design Actual hands-on experience with a professional manga artist. Lecture about the typical work of a professional manga artist. 8. How to draw the background The basic methodology of background art （clouds and skies trees and leaves, seas and waves. Shaving technique using screentone. 9. Scene allotment Basic description of the panel layout. Trial production of 1 page scene allotment based on an existing story. 10. Digital production （monochrome） Drawing Manga using "CLIP STUDIO PAINT", a piece of computer software. The 8 weeks course finishes here. If you continue, you will learn the following contents: 11. Graduation project 1- monochrome (Draft) Making a cover page of the manga in your debut as a professional manga artist. Drafting with a pencil. 12. Graduation project 2 （Pen lining） Making a cover page of the manga in your debut as a professional manga artist. Pen lining, putting in title (in case of handwritten) 13. Graduation project 3（Digital color） Coloring of the project work by a computer. Coloring of the cover page. Completion of the digitally colored graduation project. 15. Field trip Observation trip regarding manga history and viewing of videos for drawing manga. 16. Final comment and graduation ceremony Review and comment on each graduation project. Presentation of the completion certificate for the course. Do you want to join this Manga Course? Contact us now!
Isabel (19) from Germany: "What I find so great about karaoke is that you don't have to be a great singer to have fun with it. You always go with friends as a group and it is particularly fun if you cannot sing, because everyone will join singing and bawling out, especially in case of songs everyone knows such as famous anime openings. It's always super fun. My favourite songs are the songs of Nishino Kana. The Karaoke shops always have some of her songs. Sometimes they also have some Western songs that you can sing in English. I also enjoy to sing Anime openings. There are plenty of Karaoke shops all over Tokyo. Just around the corner of our share house in Kiba there is a Karaoke place. In Shinjuku and Shibuya you find at least one Karaoke shop at every corner. Many of them belong to a chain of Karaoke shops. Choosing them you'll be on the safe side to have a fun time. However, there might also be cheaper non-chained places that are also good. Often you will find karaoke + a drink, or "All you can drink + karaoke", which is always the option that is most fun!" " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Most people connect Ebisu, the major district of Tokyo’s rather famous ward Shibuya, with its restaurant and bar scene. After all it was developed around a beer brewery in the late 1920’s. But you can find several quiet and homey spots in Ebisu, too, making it a popular residential area nowadays. There we’ve met Jessica A. (27) for an interview. She is working at Sesame International Preschool, founded in 2000 and located right in the heart of beautiful Ebisu. Jessica, can you tell us how a typical work day at Sesame looks like? Well, we are having various programs, based on the seasons, on the age of the kids etc. But in general it can be said that there is a structured daily plan. As the kids are coming from 9am, all staff members have to be here at latest 8:30. We are changing into our school staff uniform first and then welcome the arriving kids. After this, two times a week I’m cooking lunch for the kids and the other three times a colleague is doing it. We are actually serving fresh lunch with vegetables and rice for the most kids. There are some who bring their own lunch, too. At the moment I'm assistant teacher which means I’m responsible for the group of 3-6 year olds at the first floor. The group of the younger ones (1-2 years old) is located at the second floor. As an assistant I’m learning how to lead the group on my own so that my colleagues can take their holidays. Daily activities of my group are: 9:45am: morning circle time, where we sing a morning song and explain what will be done on that day; 10am: the kids take a snack and have play time; 11am: we visit a local park; noon: we have lunch; 1pm: math; 1:30pm: we do a big activity, which includes stationary at most times; 2pm: the kids take a snack and have play time again; 2:45pm: we sing a good bye song, talk about what we have learned today. Around 3pm the kids will get picked up. In the afternoon, I have different duties. There is an other special program, called extended care, for kids that stay longer than 3pm or come later. The staff then will be divided into the late shift who has to take care of the extended care kids, and the rest, who is in charge of making preparations. For example documents, seasonal decoration and of course the activity calendar have to be prepared. The activity calendar shows which daily big activity will be done in the current month. These activities are all educational, but are still supposed to be fun. For instance we are learning letters, numbers, seasons or read from a book and then do some handicrafts with the newly learned information. All activities should stimulate the kids thinking skills while also exercise their motoric capabilities. The goal is for the kids to be able to do minor maths, read and write the ABC and maybe even short sentences before attending elementary school. And at the same time we want them to have a enjoyable time at Sesame. Of course, where 1-6 year olds are around there is always a lot to clean and tidy up. That’s also each staff member’s duty, especially in the evening after 6pm, when all the kids have been picked up. What are your general working times? I’m working Monday to Friday. Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays are generally off, with some rare exceptions such as the yearly Christmas party on a Saturday. All staff members are having New Year holidays and summer holidays, plus 10 freely choosable days off. I’m starting my shifts in the morning at latest 8:30 and can leave shortly after 6pm. My shifts during myWorking Holiday were shorter. At that time I could leave around 4pm. So this right now is not your Working Holiday? Correct. I’m here with an actual working visa, valid for three years. Originally I started this job at Sesame in March 2014, when I came here for a Working Holiday. I didn’t search for a job right after arriving, because I wanted to enjoy some free time and get used to the country before starting a hard work life. But in April it was about time to find a job. Although I studied Japanese Studies in Germany, I didn’t have much confidence in my Japanese. I was thinking “What job can I do without knowing a lot of Japanese?“. An acquaintance of mine then told me that international schools are always searching for foreign staff. I started researching about international kindergartens and preschools on the internet. The website of Sesame International Preschool looked the most appealing to me, so I sent them an unsolicited application via email. They invited me for a job interview, which I had in May. I didn’t even expect that, but the school director asked me to start my ten days of test work on the same day. Of course they need to test you for some days before really hiring you, as they want to find out, if you will fit into the team and can deal with the children. I passed the test! After ten days I got hired as a part time worker, being paid hourly. I worked there until the end of my Working Holiday, so round about nine months. I went back to Germany and graduated university, aiming to go back to Sesame afterwards. And they also wanted me to come again. I went back to Japan, and now here I am in my eighth month as a full time employee in a permanent position. Which language requirements came with the job? You have to speak English fluently. I sent my resume and application in English, too, because the job was advertised in English at Sesame’s homepage. Also, it’s the rule of our school to speak English with the children. Of course you can make an exception, when a kid is new in school, or you can’t calm down one of them and need to try it in his or her mother language. Most of them are Japanese, but we have some foreign kids, too. After all it’s an international school. It’s not necessarily needed to be able to speak Japanese, but it’s definitely a plus if you can understand and speak at least a little bit, because some parents, which you have to communicate with, aren’t fluent in English. And of course the kids aren't neither. Most of them can’t express themselves in English, yet. Do you think working at Sesame helped you improving your Japanese? To be honest, there are jobs out there that are better for learning Japanese, because our school is leaded to around 95% in English. That’s just the school's concept. BUT, in some parts, yes, the job helped me to improved my Japanese. Especially because most of the kids are still speaking more Japanese then English. Although we remind them of talking in English, them speaking Japanese is something that can’t be avoided, after all they are living in Japan. But still, because of them speaking Japanese, I learned a lot that I haven’t learned during my Japanese studies. I’m still interested in learning more. And when asking my Japanese colleagues about what a kid just said, they are happy to help me understand. Would you let us know some more requirements? You definitely need to prove that you have worked with children before. I personally have worked three years in Germany as a homework assistance for immigrants elementary school kids. And also as a private tutor. In addition to this, Sesame told me that I would need to do an internship in a kindergarten or elementary school after my Working Holiday. Back in Germany I did a three months internship in a elementary school and provided a certificate about it to become a full time employee at Sesame. It also can be said that the time I worked here during my Working Holiday has been kind of a training for what I am doing now. Without having done that training, I’m sure they would have never sponsored the working visa for me. There are some high hurdles. Sesame makes pretty sure you are actually able to work with children and are a good teacher. The school takes very good care of their kids and searches for staff members that they can trust and that they can place responsibility on. One more requirement is to be a punctual person. Coming to late for work is not an option, because everything has to be prepared as soon as the first kids are arriving. I commute to work around 60 minutes from door to door, which means I have to leave the house at 7:15am latest to ensure not coming too late. In case there is a problem with the train, for example it is delayed because of an accident, you can receive this practical evidence paper at the station you get off the train. If you hand this to the school director, coming to late will be excused of course. But you need to think about the weather, too. You always should check the next day’s weather, because it might be windy or even snowy. Then you should take an earlier train. That’s just out of question. In case of a typhoon the whole school will be closed of course, for everyones safety. This will be announced the day before. Are you enjoying the job? And what don’t you like about it? I love my job! Every day is different. Although you have to follow a certain plan everyday and have repeating duties, it’s never the same. Thanks to the kids. Their behaviour changes everything. That’s what makes the job diversified and exciting. Also, I love children. And my colleagues. I know that I can always rely on them when I have a problem. There is a very familiar atmosphere here at Sesame. That makes it easy to come to work with a smile of your face every day. Looking back, the only thing that I see as a small disadvantage of a Working Holiday in general is that you have a very tight working plan. In the evening I used to come home exhausted. It was hard to follow the main part of “Working Holiday“: the holidays. It was hard to discover Japan, because I worked 5 times a week. When being paid hourly, you have no chance to take a day off without losing money at the same time. Now as an employee in a permanent position that’s luckily a bit different. Have you done other jobs during your Working Holiday, too? No. At the beginning of my Working Holiday I applied for a job in a German restaurant, too, because I felt that I needed more money. But in the end I didn’t take that job and instead Sesame’s director offered me to work longer shifts. That helped me a lot. Actually, my Working Holiday helped me learning to live with the amount I’m receiving, while still having a small amount left at the end of the month. I try to spend my money more responsibly, but still enjoying my time in Japan doing the things I like to do, such as attending concerts and meeting my friends. Can you give us a resume about your impressions and feelings about your job? My current job taught me that I definitely need a job in my life that keeps me moving. Where every day is different. I couldn’t sit in front of a computer all day long. I’ve learned for my life that a job needs to make you happy. It makes everything in life easier, if you love your job. In case I should go back to Germany some day and search for a new job, I know it must fill my heart more than my wallet. I really think that I could do this job forever. If it only was located closer to my loved ones in Germany, I wouldn’t have to think twice about that. Would you recommend doing a Working Holiday in Japan to others? Yes! I can recommend it to EVERYONE who is interested in Japan and also into getting to know the real Japan. With all it’s ups and downs. You have the chance to try out living in an other country, but are not forced to stay forever. In the end that one year of Working Holiday turned out to be one of the best years of my life. And it led me to my current life and job in Sesame. I learned a lot about myself, about being more independent and an adult. BUT it’s also important for you to know that you need to be open to a new society, to new things. You have to be eager to work very hard. And if you do so, your Working Holiday will be fantastic.