Author: Julia Kühn
- Pop Culture
- Time in Japan
- Tokyo Things To Do
We met Jessica P. (28), a half Italian half German Working Holidayer, who is currently jobbing in an Irish Pub in one of Tokyo's busy business and college districts. Before Jessica's shift on a rainy Friday night started, we were allowed to visit the pub and interview her about her job and her exciting life besides work. Jess, thank you and thank you to your boss for letting us interview you here before opening hours! How did you land this job? My pleasure! Well, a former roommate of the share house I'm living in had been working here before. She told me that she would quit her job, because she needed to go back to her country. She knew that I was searching for a job and offered me to hand my resume to her boss, because they were of course searching for a replacement for her. In the end they didn't even want to have a look at my resume before meeting me. My roommate just set up the interview between me and the boss in the pub and I brought my resume on that very day. It was a casual and rather easy-going interview. I got the job on the spot. Did they expect special skills from you? Meaning, did the job come with certain requirements? During the interview they of course asked me, if I had experience in catering work. I had been helping out on events back home, but had no experience working in a restaurant or bar. Therefore having certain catering experience might have been a plus, but it wasn't mandatory to get the job. Skills that are really needed for the job, such as tapping beer, are taught by the supervisor. I'm still learning a lot at the moment. Nevertheless, during the interview I pointed out that I have experience in working with clients and that I can get on well with people. I think that was one of the main reasons that I scored. Also Japanese skills weren't needed, neither speaking or writing. I speak some basic Japanese, but for example the two other part timers here don't speak it at all and still can manage to work here. Although I think it goes without saying that everyone should do their homework before starting a job. For me it was to learn at least a few phrases such as "What would you like to drink?" and so on. Anyway, a lot of customers can speak English. And I also think that many of them come here especially because they like to speak English and because they want to emerge into a foreign atmosphere. How many times a week are you working here? From the beginning I was searching for a job with 2-3 shifts a week. And luckily my boss wanted exactly someone like that. My shifts start at either 5pm or 6pm and end at 11pm. By the way, the nice thing about Tokyo is that you can easily have more than one part time jobs at once. Many of my friends work one job Monday and Tuesday, another one Thursday and Friday, and maybe a third one on the weekend. Thanks to that you can experience different sides of the city, various types of jobs and of course meet all kinds of people. What are you doing besides working? The pub is the only place I'm working at right now. Which is exactly what I want, because besides that I also want to make time for a project I'm working on with a group of friends. We are trying to establish an international community where Japanese and foreigners have the opportunity to meet one another. We are organising for example girls parties or international picnics. Let's see what can come out of it. This is one of the wonderful things about life here: you arrive as a working holidayer, with no special expectations, and you end up in a great international group of friends that you can explore the city with. How does a typical shift at the pub look like? Usually when I arrive at 5pm I have to start with cleaning tasks, such as wiping the counters, vacuum cleaning and disinfecting the tables. Also cleaning the toilet is a part of it. From 6pm we open and the first customers arrive. From there it's the usual pub work that most people can imagine. Like taking orders, issuing bills, cashing in, serving the drinks and dishes. I have two breaks, both quite short, but I don't mind, because the workflow is generally not too stressful or strict. In between tasks, when everyone is served, I can even check my phone or just chat with other team members and also guests. In the second break I eat my dinner. May I ask about your salary? Here in the pub I earn 1,050 JPY an hour. From 10:30pm it's a little bit more, because it's considered as the late night shift. Plus I'm getting 500 JPY for commuting and one dish a shift. What happened to your job during the state of emergency that Tokyo declared during the Corona crisis? As advised by the government, the pubs opening hours were of course shortened. We have a lot of regular customers, meaning, they come here after work several times per week, and even though we had the crisis, they luckily still came. They work in the close by business districts or even live close. I myself couldn't work during the state of emergency. I have a chronic illness that I need to take medicine for, therefore I belong to the risk group. Both my doctor back home and my Japanese doctor here recommended me not to work with people and to really stay at home. I was a little scared that I'd lose my job. But when I told my boss about it he accepted it without any resistance. During my long absence he even let me know several times that the team was looking forward to me returning back to work, as soon as it's possible. Another one of my co-workers had the same problem as me. I was happy having such an understanding workplace, although I believe that many Japanese bosses have compassion during these hard times. Do you have any last tips about job searching in Tokyo on a Working Holiday visa? Just go for it! I’m usually someone who needs to plan everything ahead and have structure in what I’m doing. But a Working Holiday is THAT chance to NOT have everything written in stone yet. Just make sure of one thing: save up some money before coming. Situations like the current Corona pandemic can’t be planned ahead, and it’s always good to have a financial buffer for cases like that. Generally the life here is not as expensive as I had imagined it. That’s maybe because I live in a share house, which is one of the most money saving styles of residing here as a foreigner in Tokyo. Don’t go into this experience thinking it’s extremely hard to find a job. For example, many of my friends here just walked into a restaurant or cafe and asked if they had an opening. By embracing chances they found their jobs. Just do your homework before applying anywhere, such as what is the minimum wage, so no one screws you over. And connections are important. As I said, I found my job through a roommate. For other people in my shared house it was the same. If you are surrounded by people, you will get offers, if you are open for them. And don't be afraid that you don't find friends. You will be socialized in no time, if you put yourself out there. Jessica is a state-approved educator and was active for 8 years as a social worker in schools in both Germany and Switzerland before coming to Japan. Visiting Japan has always been her dream. Since coming for a vacation in 2019, the thought of working and living in Japan didn’t let her go anymore. A Working Holiday seemed like the perfect opportunity to get to know the culture and language even better. Jessica is planning to switch to another visa after the Working Holiday visa expires and to stay in Japan.
In the 90’s and 00’s car tuning and car collecting hit its peak. The Japanese way of car tuning and customization became a worldwide phenomenon. Most people might remember the movie Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift from 2006, which was made upon the hype. The ones, who remember this movie, can recall how the tuning scene looks like and how the underground environment played out. The history With world-famous brands such as Nissan, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Honda, Lexus, Mazda and Daihatsu, Japan is a car manufacture country. Some of the country’s economy is built up around cars, which have had a huge impact to people of Japan. After the war Japanese men started to tune their cars, which escalated to the huge trend and obsession, that it became. In the late 80’s the trend was about to enter its prime. In 1989 the /Midnight club /was established, which was a very exclusive car club for enthusiasts of car tuning. The club arranges meetups and races, which was the main purpose of car tuning The obsession Japan has a word called otaku, which translates to nerd, geek and enthusiast. Otaku is more of a culture than a word, which applies to these car enthusiasts. The Japanese culture is very much competitive, and kids are taught from a young age about being the best and winning. This cultural dimension also applies to the car environment, where everyone involved want to have the fastest, coolest and most admirable car. There are different aspects of tuning and customization. Some like to buy vintage cars and rebuild them after their taste, while others have the latest Porsche or Lamborghini. Japanese car manufactures have through time created some iconic cars within this environment. If I mention cars like Skyline, Supra and RX-7, you can properly recall, who the manufacture is, and what it looks like. At the same time some Japanese people are not tuning and customizing to show off, but simple for their own amusement. They often collect antique cars, bring them to their garage and just simply make them look nice. Maybe if the cars are beyond nice, they bring it to one of the very popular car exhibits. The supercar-era Street racing and tuning peaking in the 00’s and kind of died out in the start of the 10’s due to improvement of police effort. The police brought more attention to the issue of street racing by bringing more officers on the street and step up their own car collection. For instance, they started using Nissan GTRs as police cars. In that way they could keep up with the racers. For some years there was an empty unfilled space in the car community. At the same time the racers from the 90’s and 00’s had become older and lost their interest in dangerous street racing. Therefore, a natural change happened, where the streets took quiet and the racers as well. As far as I am concerned the streets are still quiet, but the obsession with cars are not. The culture has just changed to a more radical self. With that being said some of the streets of Tokyo are still buzzing with noise from supercars. Rich people are still showing of their million-dollar cars. Take a walk in the wealthier area of Tokyo and the supercars will be driving by you constantly. Especially the areas Roppongi, Omotosando and Daikanyama are filled up due to the residencies of wealthy people. Don’t be surprised if the next three cars passing by you is a Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini. Showing off Showing off properly is a bold way to put it, but Japan have numerous car exhibitions every year. The biggest one is called /Tokyo Motor Show /and is held on Odaiba in Tokyo. Here is a list of exhibitions and locations: Tokyo: * Tokyo Auto Salon, Makuhari Messe, January * Automotive World, Tokyo Big Sight, January * Tokyo Motor Show, Tokyo Big Sight, October * Toyota City Showcase, Mega Web Odaiba, All year Nagoya: * Automotive World, Port Messe Nagoya, September * Nagoya Auto Trend, Port Messe Nagoya, February Osaka: * Osaka Automesse, Intex Osaka, February * Osaka Motor Show, Intex Osaka, December
Amongst those doing a Working Holiday in Japan, there are many common misconceptions and myths about Working Holidays in Japan. These might result from outdated information found on the internet, or from misinterpretation of official texts. The wrong information is then passed from one person doing Working Holidays to another. But don't worry - this article will bust some of these myths! Myth 1: On a Working Holiday Visa it is not allowed to work at bars It is perfectly legal to work at bars, as long as they are "normal bars" that are just selling drinks and not offering any services which are "against the public morals of Japan". Businesses which are "against the public morals" include for instance gambling, the sex industry and hostess clubs. At such places it is totally illegal, if you are on a Working Holiday visa, to do any kind of work, even if it's not directly as a hostess, prostitute or as gambling service provider. E.g. being a cleaner or a dishwasher at any such establishment is illegal and will certainly result in a fine and deportation, should the police or immigration officers find you working at such establishment. "Hostess Clubs" are places where usually no sexual services are offered, but there are hostesses engaging in typically flirtatious conversations and providing other entertainment such as singing karaoke with male customers who are paying high prices for drinks. On a first glance, it is not always very obvious for people unfamiliar with such establishments whether a place is a "normal bar" or a "Hostess Club". If you are invited to a job interview or offered a job at a bar, you should have an in-depth look at the kind of customers and other employees it has, and in doubt reject the job. Also, don't easily trust employers running such places who might tell you that the job is perfectly legal for you, which might not be true, either because they don't know about the restrictions of a Working Holiday Visa, or they don't care. There are also so-called "Host Clubs", which are the equivalent for female customers, employing male hosts. It is of course also illegal to work at such place. Jobs at "Maid Cafés" (and the equivalent for male customers called "Butler Cafés") are generally allowed, as long as they only sell beverages and food and the services offered don't resemble those of a "hostess" or "host" club. Myth 2: On a Working Holiday Visa you are only allowed to do part-time work There is no limitation of the amount of hours you are allowed to work on a Working Holiday Visa. Some employers confuse the Working Holiday Visa with a Student Visa, which has a limitation of 28 hours of work allowed per week. Myth 3: If you want to leave Japan during the validity of your Working Holiday Visa and you wish to return and continue your Working Holiday, you must go to the immigration office and apply for a Re-entry permit This information is outdated. Since 2012, if you want to leave Japan during the validity of your Working Holiday visa and you plan to return, at the immigration counters of the airport, when you are leaving, you just have to fill a white form that you find there called "Embarkation card for reentrant". You should mark the box "I am leaving Japan temporarily and will return". The immigation officer will then staple another card into your passport called "Disembarkation card for reentrant". When you return to Japan during the validity of your Working Holiday Visa, at the immigration counters of the airport you should go to the counter which says "Special Re-Entry Permit Holders" where you show your passport with the filled-out Disembarkation card and your Residence Card, and you are allowed to enter and continue your Working Holiday. Myth 4: You need a person of reference and guarantor in Japan to get a Working Holiday Visa You don't need a reference and guarantor in Japan, but you can leave those fields blank in the visa application form. Myth 5: Everyone who has a Working Holiday Visa for Japan can get free Japanese language lessons This is not true and we don't really know the origin of this myth. There are Community Centres at every city and town in Japan that offer inexpensive (and at some cities even free) Japanese language lessons to foreigners. For some (but not all) cities it is required to be a Resident in Japan to join these lessons. If you hold a Working Holiday Visa, you are a resident, so you can join these lessons, but there are not generally free. Myth 6: During your Working Holiday, you can travel around Japan cheaply using a Japan Rail Pass for discounted train rides The Japan Rail Pass for discounted train tickets can only be purchased by tourists. Tourists are people who have either a Temporary Visitor Status (for those nationals for whom there is an exemption of Visa for short-time stays in Japan) or a Tourist Visa (for those nationals who need to apply for a tourist visa prior to their trip to Japan). If you hold a Working Holiday Visa, you are not a tourist, but a resident and therefore you cannot buy the Japan Rail Pass. Myth 7: Accommodation-wise, it is the cheapest and best option to rent your own apartment in Japan (that you might share with friends you make in Japan who are also on a Working Holiday visa) Particularly in central locations of Tokyo, where there is a very high demand for apartments, landlords can choose between many people willing to rent an apartment. They will most likely not choose a foreigner who will stay for a maximum of one year and doesn't have a permanent employment contract. In addition, almost all rental apartments are offered through real estate agents that usually charge a fee of 3 months of rent to the tennant, and many apartments come unfurnished. The most feasible accommodation option for foreigners who are in Japan on a Working Holiday visa are the so-called "Share Houses". Myth 8: It is the best option to rent a portable wifi device at the airport to have internet access in Japan Renting a portable wifi probably only makes sense if you come to Japan for a few days only. For anyone staying longer than that, the cheapest option is to get a Japanese SIM card for your mobile phone. For stays of up to 90 days the choice would be a pre-paid Travel SIM Card, and for longer stays to make a phone contract with a Japanese mobile phone provider. If you have a support package of World Unite! for your Working Holiday or internship in Japan, they will make arrangements for the best mobile phone/internet access option for you. Myth 9: You can get a tax refund when leaving Japan for the income tax that your employer has paid for you You cannot get back the income tax that your employer has paid for you in Japan when you leave Japan after your Working Holiday. If you have done any pension funds payments in Japan you can get them back when you leave Japan. It is however unlikely that Pension Funds payments were made for you by your employer as this is not a requirement for employees who are on a Working Holiday Visa. -- This article was written by Chris Engler, founder of World Unite Japan KK, a company based in Tokyo, providing Working Holiday support services to currently more than 1000 young travellers per year in Japan. You can learn more about World Unite!'s Working Holiday support services in Tokyo.
The next Olympic summer games will take place in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan. The application process for Olympic volunteers was accomplished in December 2018 for around 80,000 “Game Volunteers”, which are needed for guidance, events, mobility support, personal support, operational support, healthcare, technology, media, and ceremonies, along with around 30,000 “City Volunteers”, providing transportation information to tourists and acting as guides. Also Neha, 26, from the UK, has applied and is currently waiting for an invitation to the 2nd stage of the selection process. Neha had already volunteered at the London 2012 games. We have met her in Tokyo and have asked her about her experiences in London. Why did you want to become an Olympic Volunteer? I wasn't sure initially, but my teacher at the time told me that I should try. And I thought, if I get in, that would be fun. And I got the job and I was so excited. The whole process was so exciting because I was just telling everybody: “I'm going to be a volunteer for the Olympics” - and what are the chances that you can ever say that? Also on the resume it looks very good. If in an interview they ask you what else you've done and you can say: 'Ah yes, I've volunteered at the Olympics', it makes you stand out and it makes you interesting. After having volunteered in London in 2012, I wanted to apply again for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. How did you become an Olympic Volunteer? Basically, in order to volunteer for Olympics, you have to apply two years in advance. You can apply online, on the official website, by downloading some documents that you send them online. Then you wait for them to reply. I think it took like six months for them to reply. Then I had passed the first application stage. Then I had to go to a one-to-one interview. How was the interview? It was fairly casual, they just wanted to know why I applied, what my preferences are and what time I would be available to do the job or if I'm fine working the whole week during the Olympics. What happened after the interview? After that they kept updating me on what was happening with the events. When they confirmed that I got the position as a volunteer, it went quiet until around two months before the Olympics. So they called me back again because I had to let them know what my size is. Why did they want to know your size? For the uniform, jacket, shoes etc. that you have to wear as a volunteer. They give volunteers everything. You get the oyster card as well, I kept it as a souvenir. During the Olympic weeks, you were able to use it wherever you go, it was free of charge. All the trains I took didn't cost me anything, so I could get everywhere on time. They gave me everything, my entire uniform, jacket, shirt, trousers, shoes and caps. Everything I got was free, even the little notebook, it was so fun. Were you able to decide at which venue you were positioned? I had to give my top three preferences at which venue I wanted to work. At that time I loved watching tennis, so my first choice was tennis, second was swimming and third was the race track. I got the tennis one and it was so much fun. How did the preparation process continue? Two weeks before it started there was a welcoming party for all volunteers. It was in the Wimbledon arena. We were all there, it was so crowded. It was all of the volunteers and events welcoming everybody, it was so much fun. What was your actual work at the Olympics? I had to show people the way, where they wanted to go. Whatever questions they had, when people were lost or anything, I showed them the way to events they wanted to see or other venues they wanted to go to. I would let them know which trains they could take to go to all the venues. I had a timetable that I could access online. I think I worked five to six days a week. It's not very complicated. They explained me everything, gave me the map, and a plan for emergency situations. What did you enjoy the most about being a volunteer? I think the best part was, when I was done with the shift, I could go and watch the games for free. That's how I got to watch the tennis men's finals. All the players I've seen on TV I saw in person. I saw Serena Williams and I saw Andy Murray. He even waved at us. The whole experience is so much worth it, you get to meet so many people and they're all so nice, even the spectators. The London games were at an English-speaking country, obviously, so I was thinking here in Japan, they will definitely need a lot of English speakers to help them out. What did you like most about the whole experience? I got to meet so many people from different countries but also the volunteers were really diverse. There were elderly people volunteering, and also young students. Age-wise it was very diverse. There were a lot of people from different cultures and obviously you get to watch the Olympic games for free. I also got free food. Were you paid for any of the work? No, I didn't get paid. But I got all this free stuff, I got the whole uniform. I still have it in my room. I even still have the water bottle, the pens and notebook, even my ID card, but the best was the oyster card. It says Olympic 2012. So I can keep it as a souvenir. What would you say to people who want to apply? Definitely go for it, it's a once in a lifetime chance. It's Olympics, it's the best, so many people watch Olympics, I grew up watching it. Everyone is participating and that is the fun part of it. Working Holiday opportunities during the Tokyo Olympics 2020 While the official application period for Olympic volunteers has already been closed, throughout spring and summer 2020 Tokyo expects a strong increase in foreign tourist numbers. Thus, the Olympic Games prove to be a great opportunity for those coming to Japan on a Working Holiday vsa, as there will be more demand for staff who can communicate in foreign languages, particularly in the tourism, hospitality and service sectors. Many restaurants in Tokyo are not prepared to cater to foreign customers and the language barrier is an issue the industry is well aware of. Thus, restaurants will need a large number of foreign-language staff able to communicate with foreign tourists who have little to no Japanese skills while visiting the country. The same is true to hotels and other accommodation providers. Also the tourism industry will be in need of people with foreign language skills to work as guides, interpreters and translators. More generally, in Tokyo, shops of all kinds might increase staff numbers during the spring and summer of 2020, adding staff with foreign-language skills. Job opportunities related to the Olympics 2020 might arise even from now on when businesses get prepared to market to the foreign visitors for the 2020 season. World Unite! offers Working Holiday support services in Tokyo.
Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which will be held at 20 venues across Japan, from September 20, to November 2, 2019. The Rugby World Cup 2019 Organising Committee is expecting 4.5 million tickets to be sold, making the first Rugby World Cup in Asia also the highest popular attended one of all times. The recruitment of official Rugby World Cup volunteers has already been closed, with 10,000 volunteers chosen out of 38,000 applicants during the official 5 days application period in December 2018. However, if you are a Rugby enthusiast and you want to be close to where the World Cup action is, why not come to Japan on a Working Holiday Visa and get a fully paid position in Tokyo or another city in Japan where matches are carried out? It is estimated that around 25,000 people will be additionally hired during the World Cup, providing services to the around 400,000 foreign visitors that are expected to attend the cup, staying for an average of 14 days. So if you speak English or other foreign languages, there will be excellent employment opportunities in sectors such as hospitality, restaurants, transportation and tourism services. On a Working Holiday Visa you can stay for a maximum of 12 months in Japan (Australians even up to 18 months), so if you enjoy huge sports events, you might still be in Japan during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (July 24 to August 9, 2020), which will offer similar employment opportunities. World Unite! offers Working Holiday support services in Japan. Title Picture: Jolon Penna, Creative Commons License
Markus B. (19) from Germany tells us about his experience working for a sugar cane farm on the small island of Miyakojima, roughly 300 kilometers away from Okinawa main island. He arrived to Miyakojima on May 26th and worked there for a month. With a smile he looks back at his extraordinary experience in the very south of Japan. What was the farm like? (laughs) Funny enough, I actually worked for some sort of Japanese Buddhist cult. I learned that they send the sugar cane harvest to their Buddhist headquarters, which is located near Osaka. Apparently they collect harvest and other goods from all sorts of places all over Japan and then sell it elsewhere. Every morning they'd also have like a morning prayer and at some point I had to join as well. But it sounds stranger than it was, the people were incredibly friendly and nice. I did some research and apparently there are a lot of peaceful Buddhist movements in Japan. Why did you want to do farm work? I wanted to live and work in Okinawa for a month, because I'd heard many good things about the island. So I contacted World Unite! and asked if it was possible to do farm work there. Eventually I got a job offer from a sugar cane plantation on Miyakojima and I thought: “Why not?”. So on May 26th I flew south. How did your typical working day look like? I'd wake up around 4:40am, take a shower and have breakfast. Then I'd talk to my housemates, pack my gear for the day and we'd leave for the fields, so that we could start at 6am. There were two shifts every day, the first was from 6am to 10am, and the second was from 3pm to 7pm. Like this, we would avoid the worst heat during the day. We would get around 40 degrees, which was tough. So every day was eight hours of work. What I did was basically chopping off sugar cane and making it ready for transport. You could roughly break it down into five steps. The first step was to tear off the leaves from the top. The second was to chop off the sugar cane right above the root. Third step was to collect all the sugar cane plants and pile them up on a heap. The fourth step would be to tear the last of the leaves off and the fifth step was to tie them together, so they were easier to transport. What did you earn during your time? I earned 4500 JPY a day (~35 EUR). However, I didn't have to pay for my accommodation nor for food. What would you do in your free time? During my free time I explored the island with my working colleagues, because many of them were there for the first time, too, just like me. Other than that I'd just relax and take it easy. Did your Japanese improve during your stay on the farm? Yes, definitely. Interestingly, my boss was kind of a Germany-fan, and he knew some words. And one co-worker could speak basic English. But aside from that they only used Japanese. My co-workers were all super friendly, also my boss was really cool. I'm still in contact with all of them. In general, all the people on the island were really nice, however it was also kind of funny and weird at the same time to be the only "white" person on the entire island. I was kind of an attraction for the people. Did you experience any low points during the time you worked on the farm? I have to admit, there was one. It was the first day, the day before my actual work started. It was hot in my room, I couldn't sleep and I knew I had to work outside in the heat the next day – that was when I was quite terrified of it all. But after that, it was fine and it all went well. But of course it was hard at first, and I discovered for myself that I don't want to become a sugar cane farmer, at least for the long term. But at the same time I was glad that I'd done it. What would you tell people who are thinking about during farm work in Japan as well? I think people should be aware what they get themselves into. Farm work is hard, physical labour and people should be really sure that they want to do that. It is important to learn how to control or at least filter your thoughts. It sounds generic, but you have to keep thinking positively. If you have a positive mindset, you'll have the most amazing time. In terms of the beautiful island of Miyakojima, I'd say you should be aware that it is difficult to get off the island, especially if you can't drive or you don't have a car. I was glad my co-worker would give me lifts regularly, but aside from that there is hardly anything. You definitely can't rely on the public transport. Did this experience shape you as a person? I would definitely say that this experience taught me new ways of thinking. The people on the island were insanely nice. They lead simple lives, but they are so genuinely happy and content, and I think I kind of absorbed some of that attitude. The people are always in a good mood and happy, and it really rubbed off on me. You learn to appreciate the little things, it all really inspired me. What do you do now? I arrived in Osaka on July 9th. I'm working in a guest house and izakaya, and I also live there. I'm thinking of working here for at least another month and after that, I'm not sure yet. But I'm thinking of staying in Osaka. My visa expires on April 18th, and I want to stay in Japan the entire 12 months that the Working Holiday Visa provides me. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Many people are into second hand clothes shopping: It's cheap, it's original, and it is often something you do not see everyone else wearing! Especially as a Working Holiday participant, you might want to spend money on travelling instead of expensive clothes, so we found a place where this is possible. Hipster of Tokyo If you like affordable clothes, then why not try out second hand shopping? In Tokyo, the neighbourhood Shimokitazawa is known for it's many second hand shops, cafés, and young hipster people. It is also known for live music and theater. So on a sunny Saturday, my roommate and I decided to find this place. The way there is very easy: A walk from the World Unite! share house to Kiba station, then 2 different trains, and we had arrived to Shimokitazawa station. Then we basically just walked out of the station, and were met by several second hand shops, good smells of sweets and coffee shops, and a great deal of people. We chose a random street, and then we started looking around. There was a mix of second hand shops and "normal" shops, cafes, restaurants, convenient stores etc. We went into different shops, and could see the originality of the clothes, and also how different it was to what is usually seen in the streets of - for example Kiba, where most people only wear black, white and grey. So far we could already tell that the place is perfect for people who like fashion! Colours, colours, and more colours We went past so many shops, and found a dress shop that we decided to check out. The amount of different colours were outstanding! I was wondering how people could possibly wear such flowered and coloured dresses, but it actually looks really good on many people here. In the streets we also saw people wearing original outfits, but most of the people walking in the streets did not look specifically hipster. After walking a lot, we decided to take a break at a crepe cafe. Everything was baby pink inside the cafe. A friendly male cashier greeted us when we came in, we ordered our chocolate crepes, and then we realised that all the customers were female. It was like a little girlie spot, with a beautiful lamp, small pretty details, and best of all - the smell of freshly made crepes. The place was so cozy and people looked to enjoy a lot. New York Joe Exchange One "Must-Visit" second hand shop is the New York Joe Exchange. We went there, and the place was packed! People were standing in line to look at all the colourful hipster clothes, and the line to the fitting room was long! Also, there was loud rap music and people seemed so excited to shop there. That is a place that no one who visits Shimokitazawa should miss! Sadly, we did not find anything we wanted to buy, but it will probably be a better idea to visit the shop on a weekday, and not on a busy Sunday. But it was nice to see, and we were happy that we went there. That was the last stop at our little day trip to Shimokitazawa, and we went home with yet another experience. About the Author Christina is 26 years old, originally Kenyan/Danish and she is currently interning for World Unite! in the Japan Tokyo Office. She is helping participants who do a Working Holiday in Japan through World Unite!, and when she is in the office she helps out with administrative work and social media marketing. Title picture: Guwashi99; creative commons.
Japan sure has many things to offer! Everything from manga and anime, to robots and mountains! Have you for example ever heard of a 599,15m high mountain one hour away from Tokyo? I sure had not, but then someone from my World Unite! sharehouse talked about his great hike on Mount Takao. So - that is basically how that idea was planted in my head! Step 1: Find the Mountain! I am staying at the World Unite! sharehouse in Tokyo - now it is my second month here, and every weekend I do my best to plan the most interesting things to do! I do not mind if it is being touristy, as I will only be staying here for 3 months, so I do not see myself as anything else than a tourist! I just want it to be fun and exciting. So, last weekend the menu was: A mountain climb! My World Unite! sharehouse roommate and I wanted to climb Mount Takao, so we packed our bags with water and food, charged phones, good mood, and we were ready to go. From our sharehouse in Shiohama to Takao Station took approximately 2 hours, with a little train confusion on the way - but we made it! The day was hot and humid like many other days during the late Japanese spring, so we were happy and ready to explore a nice and cooler area in Kanto! When we finally arrived, my roommate did not feel very well so we decided to split up. My roommate explored the area around Mount Takao, and I climbed it. Usually, I am not a big fan of doing things all by myself as I actually really enjoy experiencing with friends or family, because then you can share the experience afterwards, and create memories together that way! But that day I was on my own! Of course, I had my very best friend in Japan with me, Google Maps, that (again) did a good job in supporting me. So, let me just admit it: the hardest thing on this little trip was to find the mountain. Where should I start? Google Maps showed me that it would take around 2 hours to get to the top, so I just started to follow the blue dot, and I ended up in a place with music and lots of people - and a path! So it looked like I found the way up. Step 2: Climb it So now you are probably thinking: 599.15 m, that is just a small hill - and now is the time I will advise you to google Mount Takao. It is an actual mountain, and it was an actual climb to the top! As I had finally found the path up, the next step was just to climb it. So I started walking comfortably up, and weirdly enough, most people were walking down. But as I looked behind me I could see that I was not the only one climbing it, so I could not be totally lost! I walked and walked and it was so so steep! I was even sweating and I was very happy that I brought a bottle of water. The place was beautiful though - so much nature! I could hear birds singing, the wind in the trees, and I could look up and see the sky which was totally blue. I was feeling very happy, and I did not have to worry about getting lost, because as long as I was walking up, I would reach the top at some point. So I continued walking, continued sweating, and continued enjoying! After some time, I reached a viewpoint from where I could see all over Tokyo - it was so beautiful! I met a nice American couple and asked them to take a photo of me, and then of course I took one of them. They were so friendly, and told me that they were living in Tokyo and then they wished me a good stay in Japan, and we went our separate ways. I decided to take a little break, eat some lunch, and enjoy the view, and then I continued up. Step 3: Yakuoin Soon enough, I reached this beautiful Buddhist temple called Yakuoin. It was so nice and there were many people there. I walked around, looked at people, and took everything in, as it was probably a once-in-a-life experience to be there (except that I had to pass the place when going down again, minor detail)! I had read that many people visit the temple to pray to the Buddhist mountain gods, and I could also see some people praying when I was there. After exploring the temple I continued further up, and there were lots of stairs to ascend. I did not want to be slow, so I passed many couples enjoying a climb, old people taking a walk, and also other tourists like myself. The funniest thing I saw was a lady who was taking her rabbit for a walk. Yes, you read that correctly, it was a rabbit. And no, it was not a small dog that I thought was a rabbit! It was an actual rabbit, and she had it on a leash and then she was carrying a little basket - probably so the rabbit could be carried if it felt tired. Of course, there were also people walking with their dogs in baby carriages (I guess it should be called dog carriages?), but I got used to seeing those in Tokyo by now! Step 4: All the way up Finally, I saw a sign saying "Top of Mt. Takao", and I knew I was close. Just a few more stairs, and then I was there! I walked to another viewpoint and it was so so amazing. That was one of those views that a photo just cannot catch! It was something you simply have to experience for yourself. I was so happy that I made it there, and I just really needed to share it with someone. So I called my family back home, and I told them how amazing it was, and then I felt even happier after the talk. It was also here that I found a friendly-looking person who took a photo of me at the top. It was so cool! I spent some time there enjoying the feeling until I was ready to go down again. Step 5: Down The way down went so fast! It basically felt like squatting all the way down, because I really had to control my legs so they would not just start to run away from me. It felt funny, and it was actually almost as hard as going up - just in a different way! But I made it down in no time. I walked and walked, back to the station, where I met with my roommate again, and we decided to spend money on discount ice-cream which was 100% worth it. So, all in all that day was just amazing, and it was a very amazing experience! I will definitely recommend everyone coming to Japan to try to climb Mt Takao. Oh, and a little side note; I found out that there are actually much easier ways up that the way I chose! Apparently, the path I used to go up, was a hard one, and my sharehouse-mates told me that there are other paths - a lot less steep. Good to know! About the Author Christina is 26 years old, originally Kenyan/Danish and she is currently interning for World Unite! in the Japan Tokyo Office. She is helping participants who do a Working Holiday in Japan through World Unite!, and when she is in the office she helps out with administrative work and social media marketing.
Most people who come to Tokyo know of the Skytree, the Tokyo Tower and the Shibuya Crossing with loyal Hachiko statue. Those are of course awesome places to visit when you are here, but how about some lesser-known but amazingly Japanese sights in the concrete jungle? Let me introduce to you these 5 quintessential Japanese scenes in the middle of Tokyo! 1. Bonsai Trees in Happo En This is one of the best places to see bonsai trees, as some of the trees that are on display here are already 500 years old! Pruned to perfection using traditional gardening techniques, these trees are more like masterpieces of art than anything else. Imagine all the work that went into a tiny tree that's hundreds of years old and grows exactly the way the bonsai expert wants it to grow. It is not a coincidence that an art that refined originated in partly Buddhist Japan. Besides the bonsai trees, the rest of the garden is also perfectly landscaped. It is no wonder that this is also a very popular place for young couples who can afford it to get married here and have their pictures taken in the garden. If you are lucky you might catch a few weddings and see what a bride and groom look like in their Shinto wedding dresses. They often pose near the pond full of happy and healthy koi fish. While you are there you should also not forget to stop by the tea house in the back of the garden and have a cup of matcha tea with some of the best Japanese sweets available in the city. The lady will serve you using Japanese-style small movements, where not one movement is unnecessary. Add to this the view, and you're all set for a perfect afternoon tea! 2. Godzilla in Shinjuku Ever since Hollywood did a remake of classic Japanese movie 'Godzilla' this legendary beast has been gaining popularity again. This dragon, who is actually a metaphor for nuclear weapons, even has a life-size replica of itself in the middle of entertainment-district Shinjuku in Tokyo. The best part is that it is not just a statue, at set times every day this monstrous movie villain even starts to roar and breathe steam starting at noon, and you shouldn't miss this! Especially at night, it is quite an impressive free show for everyone to see. Go with your fellow Working Holidayers to Shinjuku to watch the spectacle and after that have a yakitori meal in the alleyways of Omoide Yokocho. If you stay in the World Unite! sharehouse you will always be able to find someone who wants to go with you and explore the city. 3. Mario and Luigi in the Streets of Tokyo Even if you have always seen Tokyo as a city that is often featured in video games, you might still be surprised to hear that the streets of Tokyo do actually look like a real-life video game at times! It's only been a few years since the first Mario carters were spotted, and nowadays they became a part of daily Tokyo traffic. If you bring an international driving license to Japan, you will be able to dress up like your favorite Mario Cart character and drive the streets of Tokyo with an actual go-kart. So when you have a driving license and come to Tokyo, make sure to bring your international license and be part of the real-life Mario cart craze! 4. Japanese Idols in Akihabara For those who are not in the know, Japanese idol bands are (usually) large groups of high-school aged girls who mainly appeal to middle-aged men who are looking to relive their good old young days. The music they produce is maybe not the best, but the cuteness of the girls is enough to draw large crowds to their concerts. Akihabara is the birthplace of one of the most iconic Japanese idol bands: AKB48. The group's name stands for Akihabara (AKB) and the number of members (48). The girls are continually replaced as they become too old around age 24. Those who retired or didn't quite make the cut sometimes become waitresses at the AKB48 cafe where above picture was taken. This cafe doesn't only serve cute dishes that are said to be band members' favorites, but they also organize quizzes about the band and small performances on their in-cafe stage. 5. Votive Tablets Adorned with Anime in Kanda Every shrine (Shinto) and every temple (Buddhist) has their own image on the ema (votive tablets) that people use to write their wishes on. Usually this image has a relationship with either the temple or shrine itself or the neighborhood the temple or shrine is located. As the Kanda shrine is located near anime fan paradise Akihabara, the ema here are decorated with anime pictures. Some of them have been drawn by the fans themselves and are quite impressive. It is an interesting combination to see, a traditional solemn shrine coupled with these colorful, modern pictures! About the author Stefanie has lived in Japan since February 2013, and after starting the Japanese adventure in Nagoya she happily settled in Tokyo in 2014. She loves exploring the city, and besides her work as a coordinator for World Unite! she also works as a tour guide in Tokyo. If participants of the World Unite! program in Japan have questions about exploring Tokyo, they can always ask Stefanie which places can't be missed. She also believes that the best Working Holiday experience includes not only work to boost your skills and resume, but also plenty of exploration of Tokyo as well as the rest of Japan.
Those interested in a Working Holiday in Japan are often worried whether or not they might actually find a job in Japan. At least, if you book the assistance of a reputable organisation assisting you with your Working Holiday, chances are absolutely minimal that you will have serious problems with the job hunt. We have just walked into the World Unite! share house in Koto-Ku, Tokyo, on a random day, which is home to many who are on a Working Holiday in Japan, and have asked those we found there about their experiences. Here you can read their feedback... Claas, 20, from Germany Claas has been in Japan for about six months. He is currently working in a food factory that produces smoked meat products such as chicken breasts and sausages. Claas found the job with the help of World Unite! employees and he started working at the food factory one month after his arrival. Klaudia, 26, from Poland Klaudia has been in Japan for about three months. Even though she is not a native English speaker, she found a job as an English teacher in a school as quick as one week after her arrival, with the help of the Japanese employment office. A World Unite! team member had accompanied her to the appointment at the employment office, assisting as an interpretor. Klaudia had also joined the preparation session of World Unite! prior to her appointment at the employment office, during which the questions that the employment office staff typically ask, are practised in Japanese, so Klaudia had time to think about good answers. With such preparation, around 80% of the foreign job hunters can immediately find a job. Even though it has become more difficult now compared to some years ago to land jobs as English teachers, chances are still high to land such jobs, particularly in Tokyo. Klaudia will soon leave for Hokkaido where she already has a pre-arranged job at the "onsen" hot bath of a ryokan. Ryokans are traditional Japanese hotels and World Unite! can pre-arrange jobs at more than 6000 ryokans in all Japanese prefectures for those who have basic conversational Japanese language skills. If you don't have sufficient language skills prior to coming to Japan, you can spend some time in Tokyo first doing some job that doesn't require Japanese language skills and attend language lessons simultaneously, and then start the ryokan job after some month. Just as Klaudia successfully did. Johanna, 23, from Germany Johanna has been in Japan for about three months. She has two part-time jobs, each at a restaurant. One restaurant is a German one. She found the job vacancy directly on the restaurant's website. The second restaurant is a Japanese one. She found it online as well. She landed her two jobs roughly two weeks after her arrival to Japan. Kevin, 23, from Germany Kevin has been in Japan for approximately three months. He works for a company that produces and packages food for convencience shops, which in Japan are called kombinis. He found the job with the help of World Unite! employees three weeks after his arrival. World Unite! browses through online job boards, including those that are only in Japanese, and helps you finding offers that match your skills and interests. World Unite! also provide Japanese text templates of how to address companies that offer jobs, and they translate your CV/resume to Japanese. Also they practise job interviews with you. If you need assistance with finding a job, as a World Unite! working holiday participnt, you can just come to their office, which is open daily for 4 hours from Monday to Friday, and ask for support. Markus, 19, from Germany Markus from Bavaria has been in Japan for one month. He had pre-booked the World Unite! Working Holiday farmwork option. He first joined intensive language lessons for four weeks in Tokyo and has just recently passed the job interview with a sugarcane farmer from the island of Miyakojima near Okinawa. He will travel there next week to start his job as a sugarcane farmer. Ben, 22, from Germany Ben has been in Japan for two months. He is currently working as a kitchen employee at a pancake café. It took him 2.5 weeks to find the job and he found it online. In addition, he works as a chat host in a language café. This job was organised through the Japanese employment office, that a World Unite! team member accompanied him to. Renée, 22, from Germany Renée has been in Japan for roughly two months. After one month she found a job as a German language teacher in a Japanese preschool. She found this job online. World Unite! offers a job councelling session to participants, which gives insights into the Japanese job market. World Unite! also provides a comprehensive resource lists of online job boards and actively pre-selects and suggests listings that match the skill and language level of most participants who are on a Working Holiday. Adrian, 20, from Germany Adrian has been in Japan for about three months. He works at a German restaurant. This job was organised through the Japanese employment office. He started the work three weeks after his arrival to Japan. Thomas, 20, from Germany Thomas has been in Japan for about two weeks and already works part-time at a German restaurant. He found the job via a chat group of World Unite! participants, in which another participant had posted the vacancy. It only took Thomas one week to land the job. Malin, 19, from Germany Malin has been in Japan for about two and a half months. She works at a restaurant which is part of a hotel. The restaurant job was proposed to her through the Japanese employment office, where she went accompanied by and prepared for by World Unite!. Andres, 29, from Chile Andres has been in Japan for about one month. He first came to Japan without an organisation, but didn't manage to find a job on his own. He then decided to book the services of World Unite!. Within two weeks, he then found a job as a waiter in a restaurant that is part of a hotel. The job was organised through the Japanese employment office, that World Unite! accompanied him to. Toni, 28, from Germany Toni has been in Japan for 2 weeks. Immediately after his arrival he signed up at several agencies that specialise in Western models and extras for TV, movie and advertising productions. Only one week after his arrival, he was successfully casted as an extra for an American advertising shooting. Some advice to those who are looking for a Working Holiday job in Japan: Be flexible! Particularly if you speak no or only little Japanese, you should not reject any job that is offered to you. Even if it is not your dream job, it will still help you to get practical work experience in Japan and to improve your language skills. If you join Japanese language lessons simultaneously, even better! In case you don't enjoy this first job, you can still change it after some time and probably get one that you like more, or one that is better paid, if your language skills have improved and you are more familiar with the Japanese labour market. Follow the Japanese norms! There are relatively strict rules in Japan about how you are expected to dress and look like (e.g. hairstyle, jewelry, make-up, perfume etc) on a job interview and how to behave. You should follow these norms if you want to get the job. Expression of individualism is not so much appreciated in Japan from applicants for the kind of jobs that those on a Working Holiday in Japan can realistically get. World Unite! will teach you about all of this during the intercultural training session and the job counselling session, which are part of their Working Holiday support. Use the help of an organisation that supports you. The expertise and experience of an organization that provides support services to foreigners who are on a Working Holiday in Japan will make it so much easier and faster for you to find a job quickly, if you depend on the salary to finance your stay in Japan. Even if you have to pay a program fee, you will avoid being without a job for a longer time, risking to run short of money. If you find a job within the first 2-4 weeks, which is very realistic for the majority of participants, you will typically break even (= your income through the job will exceed the total expenditures including your travel costs to Japan, the organization's program fees and your living expenses such as rent, meals, commuting costs, and health insurance) within the 3rd or 4th month of your stay, depending on how many hours per week you work and your salary.
Have you ever considered traveling to Japan to do farm work? If you are interested in learning, enjoying, experiencing and having fun, this can be a perfect opportunity for you. For many Japanese people, good food quality is of great importance, as well as knowing the origin of the food. With a job on a farm, you will be learning about these aspects. Furthermore, you can have the experience of living with a family at a farm and thereby also learn about the Japanese culture. A job at a farm can be pre-arranged by World Unite!, and it is possible for you to choose if you prefer working on a big farm, or a smaller farm. These jobs do not require previous farm-work knowledge, but it does require a conversational level of the Japanese language. If you do not know a word of Japanese, or if you don't have the confidence to speak Japanese, there is still no need to worry! You will have the chance to join a language course before you start working. During this language course, you will get to know as much Japanese as you wish and have time for, and you can expect to improve your newly acquired language skills even further once you start interacting with the farm workers at your new workplace. So, what kind of work will you be doing? There are different options you can choose from, and your tasks can include: Working with horses, cows, or chickens. Your tasks can be feeding, cleaning, milking, cleaning the stables etc. Growing cut flowers and ornamental plants Seeding, growing and harvesting crops. These could include millet, corn or wheat Planting fruits and vegetables, harvesting, and processing For your work, the average salary ranges between 690-1500 Yen per hour. The farm work jobs are full-time jobs, where you can expect to work 5-6 days per week, with an average working day of 7-9 hours. How, and where will you live? You will be accommodated at the farm where you work, and your meals are offered here too. The costs of accommodation and meals will be deducted from your salary, but since those costs are low you will still have enough salary left to save some money every month. The kinds of accommodation and meal opportunities that you will have differ according to the farm you will be living at, but we will suggest farms according to your preferences: With a farmer family or at a farm staff accommodation In a single room or in a dorm room Your meals may be cooked and ready to eat, or you may get raw food items that you can cook for yourself Do You Want to Know More? Does this sound interesting, and would you like to know more? Then visit our webpage at http://www.world-unite.de/en/working-holiday/japan/farm-work-jobs-in-japan.html
We have visited Katrin H. (20) at her workplace at a hotel in Ginza, Tokyo's posh area. Katrin is doing a Working Holiday in Japan and works at a housekeeping job – so if a bed has to be made with speed - Katrin is the one to come to the rescue! The hotel is very clean and welcoming, and you will meet a helpful and friendly staff. Katrin, what made you decide to travel to Japan to work? It is actually quite a long story because the first time I came in contact with the Japanese culture was all the way back in primary school through my friend. Ever since meeting her, I kept on really appreciating the Japanese culture. Then, after my high school graduation, I didn’t want to start university right away. So I just thought, okay, this would maybe be my last chance to come to Japan for more than just a vacation and experience the culture. So I went, and here I am! How did you find the job at the hotel in Ginza? I got it through the internet because the other job introductions that I got through “HelloWork” (employment agency) didn’t have any available jobs at that moment. So I searched online, and then I found another agency similar to “HelloWork”, only for hotels. I applied, and they immediately wrote me back that they had some hotels that were searching like crazy for people. I went there, got an interview, and then I heard I got the job the next day! For how long are you planning to work at the hotel? I started to work at the hotel in October 2017 and I will quit in May 2018, because I am planning to travel to Kyoto, Osaka and Nara. After that, it is time to go back to Germany. What does a typical workday look like for you? Every single day I go to work during the rush hour – like many other people! Except for Saturday and Sunday because that is my weekend. When I get to the hotel, I change into my uniform and then wait a little bit until everything is prepared by my boss. I then search for my name on the hotel whiteboard in order to see which floor I am going to be working at. After that, I take the paper with my name and the rooms on it, I get my keycard, and go to my floor and make the beds for 6 hours. After that I'm finished, and once my supervisor has approved my work, I change back to my own clothes and go back home. What kind of demands come with your job? You should speak a little bit of Japanese, because there are some guests who want to talk to you, for example, because they don’t know how to turn on the TV, or they ask you other questions. So a little bit of Japanese is really, really helpful. I don’t think there is anything else actually. Just to be able to work normally and to be physically healthy, and speak a little bit Japanese so you can interact with the guests and with the boss. How much do you earn, and is it enough to cover your living expenses? I think, if I work full-time like I would do in Germany, I think I would get 120.000 yen per month plus travel expenses which the hotel covers. I can live off that and still save money for later for my travel, so it is really good. Do you enjoy your job? It is really stressful sometimes, but it is great. It is really great, because you get to know different people. I don’t think we have any Japanese person working in our hotel, besides our boss, but you learn to interact with each other. The others at my job usually know some Japanese and their mother tongue, so it is just like, okay! I don’t know what you say! So you have to speak Japanese to understand your co-workers as well. Also, you really feel great after a guest comes to tell you that they had a good stay, then you feel that you have done a good job. It was really stressful, but it makes you smile. Are there certain aspects of your job that you do not like? Yes, I don’t think there is any job that only has positive aspects. But sometimes I feel like the hotel’s rules for cleanliness can be stressful. Everything has to be very perfectly cleaned, so at times, it feels like they are a bit too strict. Do you think that working at the hotel helps you in improving your Japanese? Yes, a lot. It has really helped because most of the guests are Japanese, and you need to interact with them. You can speak English, and some of the guests try to speak to you in English because they see that you are a foreigner and think that you cannot understand Japanese. But I can actually speak Japanese, so there are no worries there! And every time I say that I can speak Japanese, they feel relieved, because they can interact with me, and that is really great and really helpful for me as well. I learn many new words, and it helps me to use my grammar in the correct way. It is really helpful. I also learned how to make beds really fast! And how to clean toilets and bathrooms in general. I think it is really helpful, but maybe not that helpful in Germany. But it is a great experience and I like my co-workers, so it is great there. My co-workers can be divided into 2 groups: Chinese and Filipinas, and then I am the European in the middle. There are no others – just my boss who is Japanese. So we cannot communicate in English. My Chinese co-workers can’t really speak English and the Filipinas and my boss can speak English, but the only way for all of us to understand each other is to speak Japanese. When we have meetings, for example in order to improve our work, or to handle customer complains, then everything is in Japanese. And because some of the Filipinas cannot speak Japanese that well, the shift manager has to translate it into Tagalog, and then there is another co-worker who is Chinese/Japanese who translates into Chinese to the Chinese employers. So there is a lot of translation going on, and you can hear a few words here and there! For me, if I don’t understand something, then I can just ask my shift manager, and then she can tell me what the meeting was about once more in English. But all in all, I can just say that I think it is a really nice job!
To many people, foreign tourists as well as Japanese locals, Hokkaido's image is one of low temperatures and snowy mountains. It's no wonder most people go to Japan's northernmost island for winter sports. However, this amazing place has so much more to discover than just skiing down a mountain! I already visited the landscape in summer of 2009, and this time I wanted to see it during winter as the weather during summertime is a bit similar to Germany. But unlike Germany, Hokkaido turns into a snowy wonderland during the winter. If you are in Japan for a working holiday, do yourself a favor and make sure to spend a week or so at Japan's prime winter sports destination! Sapporo This year I spent around one month in Hokkaido. I decided to set up my freelance headquarters in Sapporo because the capital city has the best connection to the public transportation. Another aspect is that most of my friends are living in or near Sapporo. During the first weeks I explored Sapporo and its vicinity. As Sapporo is not a sprawling city, you can reach many spots within an hour of walking, so I walked to the Okurayama Ski Jump Stadium when a Ski Jumping event was going on. I never saw this sport before, and it was so amazing to see the competitors flying! If there is no event going on you can watch a training if you are lucky. Next to the stadium, there is a winter sports museum. Unfortunately it turned out to be closed in January, but when I visited Sapporo in 2009 it was open and I recommend you stop by. The best part of the musuem is that you can practice different winter sports with simulators, it's almost like being on the slopes for real! Other interesting spots you shouldn't miss when you are in Sapporo were the Sapporo Clock Tower where you can explore the history of the city, the Susukino nightlife district, and Mount Moiwa. When I went up this mountain using two ropeways, I was stunned by one of the most beautiful views of the city and the ocean from the top. Penguins in Asahikawa In the begin of February I went to visit a friend in Asahikawa. Because I stayed with his family, I got the chance to see from up close how a Japanese family lives in Hokkaido. My friend and I visited popular spots in the city, like the science museum and the zoo. The zoo of Asahikawa is quite a famous place in Hokkaido. It is not big, but the highlights are the nice arranged habitats and the penguin walk, where a group of penguins walks through the public area as seen in the picture. The renowned Asahikawa Yuki Matsuri (Asahikawa Snow Festival) is also a must-see. You will see snow sculptures along the river, ice slides, and be able to try many delicious kinds of food. I also visited the judo club of my friend's sister and watched the class practice. At the gym we met the class teacher of my friend, and he invited me to come to the high school the next day. I was really excited to get the chance to see a Japanese high school from the inside! The students were really amazed to see me, a foreigner, in their school. During English class, I assisted the teacher by helping the students while they prepared a group speech. After class finished, the teacher guided me around the school. This experience was a unique moment I will remember for sure! During my stay, the Sapporo Yuki Matsuri (Sapporo Snow Festival) also happened to be in full swing. I even arrived in time to see how artists built up their ice sculptures. After the event kicked off, the city was full of gigantic snow walls with pictures and ice sculptures lit up in every color. For the last week of my stay I visited several places. First on the list was visited Obihiro. I am a horse lover, so my main reason for visiting this city was the horse racing stadium, which is unique in the world. Here you can see how one of the mightiest horse breeds in the world is running on a special racetrack. Bannei horses are not cantering through the track like they do during a normal race, but they are pulling a heavy sled over 2 hills. It was very special to me to be able to watch this spectacle. Hot Springs, Bears and Drift Ice The next city on my list was Noboribetsu, which is popular for its hot springs, old city with people in ninja costumes, and bear park. In the bear park, you can see brown bears doing funny tricks to get attention and food from visitors. When I took a short walk through the city something that stood out were the many statues of Oni (demons) along the way. There is a place near the city named Jigokudani, also known as 'hell valley', hence the statues. It is a spectacular place with hot steam vents, sulfurous streams and other volcanic activity. It is from this valley where most of the onsen in the vicinity get their hot spring water. At last I went to the eastern part of Hokkaido. My first stop was Kushiro, which is famous for its wild nature and Japanese cranes. In the evening I took the train to Abashiri and stayed here for one night because it would be an early wake-up call the next day for a boat trip to see the drift ice. On an icebreaker, we went for a one-hour tour through the bay and the drifting ice, which I already saw from the train one day before. We were also lucky to see Stellerˋs sea eagles next to the boat. It was a great end to a trip to remember! About the author Michaela has been interested in Japan since she was young, and aged 25 she decided to go on a Working Holiday to the country that has always felt like a second home to her. Feeling safer by going to Japan through an organization, having the back-up of World Unite! turned out to be a good investment. Michaela found some great jobs during her stay on a Working Holiday visa (one job was scuba diving assistant!), and she also took the opportunity to travel around many areas of Japan. In the end, Hokkaido turned out to be my favorite place, as here you can find a great mix of nature and city.
Alexander S. (19) from Germany 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"]
Enoshima, a small island in Kanagawa Prefecture, is a popular resort and sightseeing place. A bridge connects the island with the shore area making it easy for visitors to walk there and enjoy the beautiful coast view. The Road to the Sea Candle Garden When you arrive at the island, you will see many tourist souvenir shops in a narrow street sloping slightly upwards to a post office. It has the special charm of a traditional rural town and a beautiful Shinto gate (torii) at the end of the street. When you walk towards the gate you will pass many small restaurants and street food stands with mostly seafood offerings. On hot days you can indulge in one of the many ice cream shops there. Climbing up the stairs you will find some Shinto shrines where you can pray and buy charms for various purposes, such as luck, health, love and traffic safety. Enoshima is also a very popular place for Japanese visitors. You will see many Japanese families with their small children and couples on a romantic trip. After enjoying the serene atmosphere at the temples you will reach the main attraction of Enoshima Island, the Sea Candle and the Sea Candle Garden. The tropical garden has many small walkways decorated with hundreds of colorful glasses with candles inside. There is a romantic and fascinating atmosphere when you go there by night, but also during the day it's a wonderful place to visit. For a nice view of the harbor area, look for the cafés where you can admire the view while enjoying some good food or drinks. Sea Life During the summer season the beach area around Enoshima is full of people who love water sports such as surfing, swimming or sailing. Another popular activity in this area is fishing. If the weather outside isn't comfortable you can visit the Enoshima Aquarium, which features a great collection of marine animals and even has a dolphin show. Enoshima makes for a great day trip, and not least because of its famously fresh seafood. When the weather is crisp and clear it's even possible to have a great view of Mount Fuji. If you come from Tokyo by train you will most likely visit Kamakura first on the way down to Enoshima. If you're visiting both places buying the Kamakura-Enoshima Pass for 700 yen in Tokyo is a good option. You can also go to Kamakura by local trains and buy a 1-day pass for the Enoshima Electric Railway (Enoden) for 600 yen. This pass allows you to stop at popular temples in Kamakura as well as in Enoshima.
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.
We’ve met Sabrina N. (24), who is currently in the middle of her Working Holiday year in Japan. She is doing a part time job at Deutsche Bäckerei Tanne, a German bakery right in the center of Tokyo. Who knows Tanne, knows that it’s famous for selling one of the best German style pretzels and hand made rye bread all over Tokyo. As one of various German bakeries, which have long been established in Japan by now, Tanne is delivering the German embassy, cultural events and also owns a café and store. We sat down with Sabrina for an interview. Sabrina, how did you land this job? I’ve been to Japan once before as a tourist in 2015. It was in summer and I stayed for three months, as I had some spare time before starting to write my master thesis. I’ve always wanted to go to Japan and a German friend of mine, who is living in Tokyo, sublet a room of her share apartment to me. It was perfect timing! Three months is a long time, so I started to think that I wanted to challenge myself. Even though I wasn’t allowed to receive any salary as a tourist, I felt like working a little bit and make some work experience. The same friend also introduced me to Tanne then, because she has been working there in the past. I’ve had a short talk with the manager of the store. They were searching for someone to help out at their market booth at the German Spring Festival in Yokohama, which I did then for four days. Going back to Germany, I graduated university and came back to Japan in 2016 for a Working Holiday. When searching for a job, I remembered Tanne and applied by email. This time I had a real job interview, it was more formal, I had to talk more Japanese and the actual bakery owner was there, too. But luckily they immediately took me. What kind of demands came with the job? Well, you need to have at least a basic knowledge of Japanese. That’s because you have to be able to communicate with the customers and your Japanese co-workers. You should at least know how to write and read Hiragana and Katakana, because sometimes you have to write down orders by hand or read cards which the names of the products are written on. But in my opinion that’s nothing you can’t learn within a short time. For example, at the time I was helping out at the German Spring Festival in Yokohama, my room mate helped me to prepare myself for the job by making a list of standard phrases that you need to know when working at a booth. Like “Welcome, how about some fresh German bread?“ and so on. I just memorised a lot of words like these and the rest came with learning by doing. How long have you been working at Tanne by now and what are your general working hours? I started at the end of November 2016, so it’s my third month now. I’m working around 5 times a week and my shifts are between 8 and 9 hours long, having a 45 or 60 minutes lunch break in between. The shifts are from 7:30 or 10:30 in the morning. When having the shift that starts at 7:30, I have to get up at 5am... It’s kind of hard sometimes, but that’s just how it is. How much do you earn? Is it enough to cover your living expenses? I receive something between 932 JPY and 1000 JPY an hour. 932 JPY is the minimum hourly wage in Tokyo. I get reimbursed for commuting to work, too. Unfortunately I get deducted 20% taxes off my salary. This is Japanese law, if you are here on a Working Holiday visa. This is not enough to cover all my living costs. That’s why I think it’s essential to save a certain amount of money before coming to Japan for such a long time. Fortunately I did so. Also doing more than one job is an option. Actually, I’m working in a German restaurant, too, but not very often. And I give private English and German lessons two to four times a week. A plus about these private lessons is the rather high hourly wage of 1,500-2,000 JPY. You can negotiate this with your students. But a big minus about this job is that it’s unsteady money. You always have to expect that a student cancels an appointment. I’d rather call it pocket money than proper salary. What are your duties at Tanne? My main tasks are close to those of a bakery sales assistant in Germany, I think. Filling the shelves of the shop with bread and pastries in the morning and empty them in the evening. I’m serving the customers, pack the product they’d like to buy, do the cashier and wipe the coffee tables. On some days I have to prepare the sandwiches we are selling. Answering the phone and advise customers about our products. For example quite many of them want to know the exact percentage of rye flower in our breads. And packaging! There is always to much to wrap up. Especially when we have to prepare for an upcoming event, such as a christmas market. Are you enjoying the job? And what don’t you like about it? In generell, yes, I do like the job a lot. I like to communicate with people. An office job wouldn’t be a thing for me. Also, I’m getting freshly baked bread for lunch time, which gives me a sense of home. The café always smells so good! And I love my co-workers. Although I sometimes would appreciate them to explain things more accurately to me. There are times I don’t understand everything right away and sometimes I don’t get told reasons for things. General said, I feel being a jobber is a bit risky, because in some cases you won’t conclude a contract. You are just been given your shifts as the owners like to. Of course you can hand in requests, but doing arubaito [side job] kind of makes you feel like your life is depending on every single one of your shifts. Do you think working at Tanne helped you improving your Japanese? My God, yes! Back in Germany I learned some Japanese, but only for my self. But it was definitely not on a proper communication level yet. Working in Japan helped me a lot to improve my Japanese skills. It’s still not that good, but compared to before, it’s way better. However, one thing that is still very hard for me to master is keigo [honorific language], which you are supposed to use when talking to a customer. Besides the language aspect, what did you learn doing this job? A lot! For instance I came to the personal conclusion, that German people are working more efficiently. At least that’s how I feel. BUT on the other hand I also feel that German people who are working in service could learn a lot from the Japanese when it comes to politeness. The same applies for the people who are receiving a service. You see, I realised that people working in service are doing their best effort. That should be rewarded with the kindness that I’m currently experiencing in Japan. Also, the fact that I’m able to work under more difficult conditions, such as the language barrier, totally pushed my self-confidence! What brought you to Japan to in the first place? What are you doing besides working? I enjoyed my first stay in Japan, the time I lived at my friends place for three months, so much, that I decided to come back. For longer. I wanted to challenge my self, soaking up the culture more than I could within these three months. Working and living here, I’m now able to do that. And this is very special to me, as I’m interested in Japan for the longest time. I’m actually a cosplayer and love gaming, Anime and also Japanese music. I’m able to enjoy some of these hobbies more extensive, than I could in Germany. For example I’m attending concerts of Japanese bands pretty frequently. What’s really special to me is that a lot of German friends came to visit me here. I’ve been visited around 7 times by now. That’s because I have a lot of Japan enthusiastic friends, who would have traveled to Japan sooner or later anyway. But the timing for them to come when I’m in Japan was just perfect. I’m very grateful fort hat. Although I started feeling like a tourist guide more than once. Can you give our readers a resume about your impressions and feelings about your Working Holiday? Sure. I think people who want to come to Japan for a Working Holiday should definitely do it. It enriched my life. But everyone should be beware of the fact that it’s not easy. Cultural differences can complicate your daily work routine. But if you find a job you can enjoy, with great co-workers, you will be able to bear potential troubles. I’m grateful for having found such a job at Tanne. And I’m happy to have made friends for life during my time here, at work and out of work. However, to be honest, I can’t imagine continuing this job after my Working Holiday is over. Not because I don’t like it, but just because I want to make the best out of my masters degree in art history on a long term.