Author: Julia Kühn
- Pop Culture
- Time in Japan
- Tokyo Things To Do
Henry K. (18) from Germany lived the ultimate Japan experience: residing on the rural island Sado surrounded by locals and working in a small restaurant/bar that specializes in Yakitori, grilled chicken skewers. Three months after his job ended, we interviewed him about his tasks, his activities aside from work and the ups and downs of living in the countryside. Henry, when had you started the job and what were your general working hours? I started in early December 2019. At the beginning I was planning on working there for 2 months, which I thought was a bit too short, as I heard that most Japanese employers prefer their staff to work for a minimum of three months. But luckily I was hired anyway. In the end I stayed for two more weeks than originally planned though, because I was in charge of training the new employee that came after me. Generally I worked five hours per day, five days per week, Tuesday through Saturday, having Sunday and Monday off. My shifts started at 17:00 and ended, depending on how busy the bar was, around 22:00. Sometimes I stayed longer, if guests were still there to be catered for. What did a typical shift look like? What were your tasks? My boss, the owner and cook of the Yakitori bar, met me in front of my apartment and together we went and picked up the chicken skewers from a restaurant that prepared them for our bar and that was conveniently located in the same building as my apartment. Then we drove to the bar and started our preparations in order to open at 17:00. Preparing meant for example to check the reservations of the day and arrange the spaces for the guests. Once the guests arrived, my tasks were to offer them a seat, take orders, serve drinks and food. The breaks, when all guests were served, I used to wash dishes or to talk to the guests. It was only me and my boss working in the small bar. He was the main cook, but I helped out in the kitchen, too, as much as I could. The evenings ended when all guests were gone, which sometimes could be long after official closing time, for example when a nomikai (drinking party) was too good to leave, and we cleaned and tidied up the bar, kitchen, stored the dishes where they belonged and took down the noren (a kind of curtain that is hanging above the door of traditional Japanese restaurants or shops). What did you do in your free time? Sado can be quite cold in winter, and when I was there it was raining often, so aside from the most famous must-see spots I haven’t been traveling too far around the island. I rather concentrated on exploring the area I was living in. Sometimes there were concerts to visit. And I also joined the local karate club. I tried to make the most of my free time, even if I was often alone, at least at the beginning. How did your Japanese skills improve while living and working in Sado? Extremely! I could already understand quite an amount of Japanese before I went to Sado. Otherwise I wouldn’t have landed the job in the first place. But during my time I improved immensely, because I was surrounded by Japanese locals non-stop and was “forced” to understand and speak the language. Non-English speaking Japanese guests were gathering in the bar every night, having me already socially interact in Japanese language almost daily. And aside from that my boss opened so many doors into the local community. He often invited me, in a very Japanese manner, for after-work drinks in other restaurants or to a karaoke joint, which became next to karate a beloved leisure activity of mine. Having exercised martial arts before. I felt grateful to be integrated into the local karate club. Being only the two of us and being in almost daily contact with my boss, we got very close and he even invited me to spend Christmas and New Year’s Eve with his family. It was such a wonderful experience and one of my Sado-Highlights. I am grateful for everything my boss did to me. All that helped and shaped my Japanese skills more than I had ever hoped. How did you like the job? The work itself was really enjoyable. As mentioned, I got along with my boss and I never had any negative experiences with the guests. It was always positive and funny. Even in shifts that were harder than others I still could manage to work dedicated. Although I have to admit that the working hours need time to get used to. Starting your work day at 17:00 and ending it only shortly before midnight, followed by a couple hours of socializing, might be hard on some people. But I did it with pleasure, especially because it expanded and maintained my contacts with the locals. The only real negative point was that smoking was allowed in the bar, which I don’t like. That couldn’t be helped though, as until recently that was the norm in most Japanese bars. How did you originally find the job? It was always my goal to discover various sides of Japan instead of staying in one place for too long, so moving to the countryside at some point during my Working Holiday was a must. I saw an advertisement poster of the Sado Island Tourism association hanging in the hallway of the Tokyo share house that I lived in during my first few months in Japan. I found out that World Unite!, who is running the share house, is partnered with Sado and inquired about possible jobs on the island with one of the staff members. After a job interview by phone with the bar owner I was hired. The interview was in Japanese, but the World Unite! staff member was luckily in Sado at the time and could sit next to the owner in order to help us communicate in case it was needed. May I ask what you earned during your time in Sado? The hourly wage was 830 JPY. That doesn’t sound much compared to wages in Tokyo, but first of all rural Sado of course has, understandably, a lower minimum wage. And second of all the rent of my apartment was 10,000 JPY only, therefore very reasonable. And in a town as small as the one I was living in there is not a lot of money to spend, so it was more than enough to live. I was lucky to get such a good deal on the 2 rooms apartment, as it belonged to my boss. The hours I worked I was allowed to write down at the end of each shift independently. Thanks for the interview, Henry! Could you give possible future Working Holidayers some advice? Of course! There are some basic things that you should prepare for when coming to Japan and especially if you are planning to work on the Japanese countryside. The most important thing to work out are some basic Japanese skills. I was lucky that my boss could understand and speak some English as he spent some time overseas. But if I hadn’t studied a little of Japanese before starting the job, I think I would have had a hard time. Also because most guests only spoke Japanese. If you want to be part of the local community, I recommend to reach at least N4 level [on the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test scale], meaning you have the ability to understand basic Japanese. Even though I had that level once I first came to Sado and started working, I felt a little left out at the beginning. I was not yet integrated, did not have a proper routine, and I only had real social interaction during my 5 hours shifts at the bar. This can be a little frightening, but you need to get over it and take the initiative and courage to make the most out of your stay by putting yourself out there. Even if it feels like you were the only foreigner on the island. Being open minded and in for every opportunity that people you get to know want to give you is so important. My last recommendation would be to not spend your Working Holiday in only one place. I’m doing a Working Holiday here to get to know Japanese people, culture and different parts of the country. As ensuring it might have been spending the first few months of my stay in a sharehouse in Tokyo with fellow English and German speaking Working Holidayers, the repetitive it was. Travel to rather unknown places and emerge yourself in the culture if you want to turn your Working Holiday into something valuable for your life.
We met with Felix M. (19) just a few days after his last shift at a Tokyo located logistic company for educational books. The German worked there for a little over 3 months and was so nice to give us an insight into his Working Holiday job. Felix, how did a typical work day look like for you? The company I worked for receives, depending on the season, huge amounts of deliveries from printing groups every day. The packages contain mainly educational books that I needed to unpack and sort into their respective space in the shelves of the storage room, first thing in the morning. Throughout the day my main task was to put our clients’ orders together, meaning, searching for the books they ordered, putting them into packages and making them ready for pickup from the delivery service. I had to be fit in order to lift the boxes, but that was not a problem, as I had done more physically challenging work back in Germany. How did you like the experience? The work itself was easy and almost monotonous I have to admit. But the work environment was all the better! The people who worked there were all friendly and we got along well, which made the job really enjoyable. The general company language was English. That made things easier because I barely speak Japanese. All in all it was pleasant to work there. Did you need any Japanese skills for the job? No, it was completely doable in English. The only times Japanese skills would have been helpful was when I had to accept the deliveries from the Japanese post service at the beginning of each day. Or when I wanted to know the meaning or reading of a Kanji. But my boss just quickly taught me if needed, although that rarely happened. Consequently my little existing Japanese didn’t improve at all during work. That was honestly the only downside of the job. How did you find the job in the first place? One of the World Unite! staff members who is acquainted with my boss posted an advertisement for the job in one of the organization's chat groups. I just had to send my application documents, in either English or German, because my boss was German actually, to her. She forwarded it to my future employer then. He found interest in me and invited me to a job interview. I was hired and a job training followed during the first couple of weeks. What were your general working hours? I started every day at 10:00 and most days I worked around 4-7 hours, depending on how busy we were. The months I worked there (beginning of February to mid May 2020) were rather busy, one of the reasons I was hired in the first place. That’s because school starts here in Japan and other places in April and educational books need to be distributed. So in average I think I worked around 4-5 hours a day, 7 hours on busy days, from Monday to Friday. One single time I also came in on the weekend because there was just a lot to do. 7 hours a day, 5 times a week, that sounds almost like a full time job. I assume you earned enough to make a living? And did that leave you with enough time for private activities? Definitely! On the weekend or even after work I had enough time to either meet friends or go to the gym. I earned 1,200 JPY per hour, minus tax, which was enough to live. And my working hours left me with plenty of free time. It was pleasant and suited my lifestyle. And there was a big plus coming with the job. Most employers in Japan pay for their employees' commuting fee. So did mine. As I worked there 5 days a week, I received a commuter pass. With that I could travel between the train station I live close to and the station close to my work place for free, whenever I wanted. Even on the weekend. Meaning, I saved a lot of money when going to Shibuya, Shinjuku and so on during my free time, as the commuter pass covered those spots. What are you planning on doing now that your job is over? Last Friday I had my very last shift. It was a nice experience to get to know my colleagues. But now I’m looking forward to traveling around, because I have spent most of my Working Holiday in Tokyo so far. I have to be back in Germany by the end of August to attend an interview with a university to get into my chosen major computer science. So I want to use the time I have left in Japan the best I can. Any advice for people who are thinking about doing a Working Holiday in Japan? Just do it! Come to Tokyo. It’s a massive city, there are always jobs waiting for us Working Holidayers. I wouldn’t worry about that.
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 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.
A working holiday should not only be about work but also about discovering the country. There is so much to see and experience in Japan that you should not miss out on while you are here! We wanted to get out of Tokyo city life for a long weekend and it wasn't difficult to decide on Nikko. Only a 2-hour train ride away from Tokyo, this town in the hills makes for a perfect weekend getaway if you want to sniff some culture and be surrounded by nature. We booked the Turtle Inn Nikko Annex Hotel which is not too far from the train station with its own onsen (Japanese style hot spring), and after dropping off our luggage in the lobby and getting some good advice from the receptionist for our stay we headed out for our first lunch in Nikko. Of course we wanted to try yuba, a by-product of tofu production that is ubiquitous in Nikko, being a center of Buddhist activity since its foundation. We found this cute little udon noodle restaurant called Kanman Teahouse that served yuba as a side dish, perfect for our lunch. The yuba was very smooth and flavorful, and we loved the cold udon and tea with Japanese sweets that we got afterward. A good start of our weekend Our First Day: History and Beauty Then it was time to immerse ourselves in Japanese history. After passing through a foresty road with old jizo statues we headed to the Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park. Here you can walk around the huge Japanese style villa that used to be the vacation home of the imperial family. It's not just the house that breathes a quiet atmosphere, the garden also makes for a peaceful little stroll in a typical Japanese garden. If you come at the right time you can also see a very old Sakura tree bloom. This was the green oasis we were hoping to find when we left Tokyo! As a visit to Nikko is not complete without visiting its main shrine, the Toshogu, it was next on our list. As expected there were many tourists, foreign as well as Japanese, but we could also easily tell why this shrine complex is so popular. Its wood carvings are exquisite, there are so many beautiful little details that the buildings are like pieces of art. At several locations within the complex priests carried out Shinto rituals in order to bring fortune to the people, and stones on the ground were arranged to look like turtles to bring good luck. What most people don`t know is that it is worth it to walk the extra 1.5 kilometer up the hill on the east side of the temple. Here you can find the rarely visited Takio shrine in the middle of the woods, surrounded by small water streams. We enjoyed being away from the crowds and savored the silence. By the time we left the Takio shrine it was getting dark, meaning it was time to look for a place to eat because restaurants and even bars close early in Nikko (and other places outside the big cities in Japan for that matter). We decided on Bar de Nikko because of its good reviews on TripAdvisor, and we did not regret it. The food was delicious and nicely presented, and there was a large assortment of drinks available. It was open until 21.00, which is quite unique in this small town. In the evening we soaked in the hotel onsen with a nice view of the fast streaming river outside through a large window and went to bed early. The Second Day: Hiking and Nature One of the purposes of the trip was to get out there and take a long walk in a beautiful, natural area. We wanted to breathe some nice, fresh air in the spring sun! We took the bus to the Chuzenji lake, an area that used to be a popular place to vacation for foreigners as well as well-to-do Japanese people. As we were there late March it was still off-season and very quiet. We first stopped by the Kegon falls, we didn't pay the few hundred yen to go downstairs and see the waterfalls up close, but I would recommend doing it anyway because I later heard from others who have gone down there that it was worth the money. We then walked almost all the way along the northern shore of the lake, which was great as we barely saw anyone else as soon as we left the little town. It was peaceful and quiet, and we walked around 4 kilometers before we got to the boathouse where we were surprised to find the restaurant open. Of course we were the only customers, but the noodles (yes, again as they are so good here in Nikko) were tasty and we were ready to go again. As we went more inland the road went up, and after 2 kilometers or so we hit a trail up Mt. Takayama. Feeling adventurous we went in even though the sign warned us of bears and deers, the former scaring us a bit more than the latter. But the trail was snowy, and after taking a selfie of the 'courageous us' and the snow we decided to turn around and go find the Ryuzu Falls which we came here to find. We soon found fast streaming clear water and went down the trail to see a cute tea house overlooking the falls which are named after the dragon it resembles. They served delicious ice-cream with the flavor of, you guessed it, yuba. It might be a surprising flavor, but it was actually surprisingly good! We then took the bus back to the hotel and ended up having the most thrilling part of our trip, a ride down the Iroha slope. I'm sure the driver knows this road like the back of his hand, but sitting right behind him and seeing the bus steer dangerously close to the slope's edge with a drop of a few hundred meters deep behind it about 20 times, made for a blood-curdling ride. I think Julia was very happy when we were back at 600 meters above sea level again instead of the over 1000 meters that we were above sea level before. After all this excitement we first went for a long soak in the hotel onsen again before we went out for dinner again. This time we went to a Chinese restaurant near the hotel that was almost completely full, a good sign. The food was indeed delicious, I would just stay away from the hot sake as I could tell why it was sold as hot sake instead of chilled or at room temperature. We then headed back to the hotel for some card games and our futons. The Last Day: A Temple and an Old Hotel After having a perfect brunch in the Kanaya Hotel Bakery (very much recommended) we first visited the museum right next door. Kanaya hotel was once the first hotel where Westerners could stay during the period in Japanese history when foreigners were still very rare in Japan and couldn't always stay in a regular Japanese hotel. The people who work there conduct short tours, most of them don't really speak English but it is still nice to hear a bit of simple explanation of what you see. Some parts of the hotel are original which is quite rare to see in Japan, especially in Tokyo as most buildings don't last this long here. We then went to our last stop on this trip, the Taiyu-in temple. What we loved here was that it was so much quieter than at the Toshogu, and it was a lot easier to relax and enjoy our surroundings. There was another mass blessing ceremony, and there were 4 beautifully colored statues near the main hall. For those who like wood sculptures, there was also a lot to see, as almost every animal was represented somewhere in the decorations on the walls. Some parts of this temple reminded me a bit of Persian or oriental art with the many colors and wood carvings. Also, we were not sure if we were supposed to go here, but a bit east of this temple up a hill there seems to be an abandoned temple with a vshery big statue in a closed off hall. There was almost no one there and it looked like no one was taking care of it, so it was a bit spooky over there. It was unfortunately already time to go home by the time we came back to the main road, but we didn't leave before a last bowl of noodles, ramen this time, and a Harajuku style desert near the station. If you are on a working holiday (or regular holiday for that matter) in the Tokyo area, you should definitely not skip Nikko. As they say in this locale: don't say 'kekkou' (I'm good) until you have been to Nikko! " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"] About the Author Stefanie has lived in Japan for 5 years, and is working as a coordinator for World Unite! since 2017. Together with her colleague Julia she decided to get out of Tokyo city life for a long weekend.
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!
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.
We’ve met Michaela Z. (26), a German currently living in Shinjuku, Tokyo. She is in Japan for a Working Holiday and a little more than half a year ago she had the opportunity to job for a scuba diving school in a city in eastern Shizuoka prefecture. Michaela was working as the diving teacher's assistant for almost two months before coming back to Tokyo. She told us about her time in Shizuoka. Michaela, how did you land this job? I have been planning for quite a long time to travel to Japan. As I wanted to really immerse myself in the Japanese culture, I decided to come for a long Working Holiday, because working naturally gives you a deeper insight into a foreign culture than, for instance, a short trip. Due to the fact that I wanted to start my adventure on a short notice, I felt safer being supported and therefore decided to use the service of World Unite!. They also helped me to find the job in the scuba diving school in Shizuoka. I simply informed them about my wishes: with a university degree in Hotel and Tourism Management I wanted to find a job related to this area, prior to my departure to Japan. I was introduced to the scuba diving school and got hired for the summer. From when to when have you been working for the diving school? And what were your general working hours? I came to Japan in summer 2016 and after a few days of living in a share house in Tokyo and getting used to the new thermal environment I took the train to Shizuoka to start my work. My new Japanese boss, the diving school's owner and teacher, welcomed me warmly. Originally I was asked to work there for one month, but as I liked the job and my boss was pleased with how I was supporting him and felt that I was a reliable worker, I could stay a few more weeks. After that I went back to Tokyo. There were no fixed daily working hours. But usually the working day started at around 7 am and ended at around 3 pm. Before, during and after the diving lessons the customers had to be taken care of. As long as that was assured, everything was fine. Once a week I could take a day off. But also on working days I had quite an amount of free time, too. When my boss had time, he took me on short trips into the hinterland of Shizuokas. One time a neighbor, the owner of a hotel, took me with him for a hike in the Japanese alps. What kind of demands came with the job? Special skills or previous knowledge about diving or anything weren't required. I was taught everything I needed to know within the first few days of working. During these days I have been assistant and student at the same time. I even made my diver's licence after three days. Although, I also have to admit that it was a plus to already have made experiences in the hotel and restaurant business back in my days as a student. My boss didn't need to explain everything to me twice, as I kind of knew what needed to be done. Not only during the diving courses, but also when it came to care for the customers who stayed at the school owner's guest house. The house is located right next to the ocean. It was such an amazing view! How much did you earn? Was it enough to cover your living expenses? Instead of a salary I received free accommodation at my boss's house and free catering during my whole stay. Also entry fees for several locations such as museums and hot springs were covered. But I had to pay for my first diver's licence. Therefore I had to come to Japan with a little bit of savings. Luckily I could do my second diver's licence for free, though. In late summer, when the diving season came to an end slowly but surely and the diving school became less busy, I started to help out at the neighbor's Hotel for a few days. I received 10,000 JPY a day for that. What were your duties at the diving school? I was basically assisting the owner of the school with his daily work. For instance I needed to prepare the equipment for the diving lessons, explain essential rules to the students and look out for them during the diving. My boss isn't only running the school, but is also lending his boat to his customers for day trips including BBQ and water sports. My task was to welcome the customers and accompany them during their boat trip. While the diving teacher has been snorkeling with some of his students, I needed to watch out for the safety of the on the boat remaining customers. Besides the main business of diving lessons and boat trips, the school's teacher is also running a guest house. My tasks were to prepare the breakfast, do the laundry, clean the house or make the beds. As it was a traditional Japanese house with wooden floors, a lot of windows and tatami mat floors in the guest rooms, the maintenance asked for a careful treatment. Sometimes I did some gardening, too. Did you enjoy the job? And what didn't you like about it? I was enjoying my time in Shizuoka to the fullest. Supporting my boss with his work was a lot of fun and I loved the location. The only disadvantage I saw was that I didn't have a driver's license or a car. In the area the school is located, you really need a car to get somewhere. But well, I had a bicycle, so I often used it for rides along the promenade. Day or night, I could always use my free time to relax at the sea side behind the house. Doing so I had the rare chance to see the blue marine phosphorescence at night. Do you think Working for the diving school helped you improving your Japanese? My boss spoke English fluently, therefore it wasn't difficult to communicate with him. When we both had spare time he taught me some Japanese. During the breakfast with the guests he even asked them to practice their English on me. And the other way around, I was asked to try to speak in Japanese to them. Most of the guests were girls of my age, so we spent our free time together, too. They enjoyed teaching me new words. That helped me to improve my Japanese a little bit. We used to speak in a mix of Japanese and English. In addition, my boss's girlfriend, a Japanese language teacher, visited us quite often on the weekends. She used to live in Austria some years ago and knows some German, so she helped me understanding Japanese grammar and words. Besides the language aspect, what did you learn doing the job? I was working and learning at the same time, because I had never used any kind of diving gear before. I had the chance to complete two diver's licences and also a first aid course. Preparing the breakfast, sometimes alone, sometimes together with he guests, I learned a lot of traditional Japanese recipes, which I'm planning to use even after going back to Germany in a few months. Besides that I had the opportunity to attend Japanese traditional tea ceremonies several times, as my boss is a trained tea ceremony master. I got to know a lot about not only the famous Japanese green tea, but also about Moroccan tea making we even presented the country Morocco on a tea festival in Hakone, where we were handing out mint tea to the visitors in traditional clothing. As I was in charge of arranging our booth, I could live out my passion for decorating. What brought you to Japan to in the first place? What are you doing now back in Tokyo? I've been interested in Japan's culture and tradition since I've been a teenager. I guess most people start being fascinated by Japan in the first place through anime and manga, Japanese cartoons and comics, but for me it has been Japanese rock, pop and also traditional music that is captivating me since then. Listening to all kinds of Japanese music also made me fall in love with the Japanese language. I'm hoping to improve my language skills by doing this Working Holiday. I've actually been in Japan before once in 2009 for a short term cultural exchange program. During this time and also during the time in Germany when I was studying Japanese on my own, I got to know some Japanese people who became close friends of mine. Therefore I'm also using this Working Holiday as an opportunity to meet those people again. Right now I am living here in Shinjuku, Tokyo. While working as a part-timer, I'm trying to meet new people and old friends, as well as attending concerts of musicians that I most likely can never see live back in Germany. On the weekends I usually make short trips to cities nearby. " order_by="sortorder" order_direction="ASC" returns="included" maximum_entity_count="500"]
Have you ever thought “Why is the Munich Oktoberfest called “Oktoberfest” when it actually starts mid September?”. Well, then you have obviously never visited one in Japan, because you would be even more surprised by the fact that many of the uncountable Oktoberfests here are not even close to the 10th month. They are being held throughout the whole year. One exception is the one in Yokohama, Japan’s second largest city, which is celebrating the festival since October 2002 and is famous for its authenticity. Here we had the chance to interview Alex S. (24), who was working as a promoter for two German beer brands. Alex, working at an Oktoberfest in Japan might sound fun, but is it actually? Yes, it really is! I’m having a blast. But you have to be a certain type of person to be able to enjoy it. I love talking, approaching people who I’ve never met before and start a conversation with them. If you can’t do that, you won’t have pleasure doing this kind of job. You know, my team’s main task is to hand out flyers to the Oktoberfest’s visitors and call out stuff like “Welcome to the Yokohama Oktoberfest! Please try our delicious beer!” to promote our beer booth, which sells Spaten and Hofbräu. We have to advise visitors about where to go, be in a good mood and jolly everyone along. You just have to be an open person and have the right attitude to do that properly. It’s also fun to dress up everyday. Our male staff is actually wearing the typical Oktoberfest lederhosen with a hat and the female staff is wearing the dirndl dress to create a German atmosphere. Spending the day with my Japanese and German colleagues is just a great way to earn some money. Would you let us know how much money you are making during this festival? Well, at the beginning we were told we'd get 1,000 JPY an hour, but after we were hired, the coordinator raised the hourly wage to 1,800 JPY which is of course fantastic. Especially if you are planning to do some traveling after the work is done, like I am. The festival lasts for three weeks. I’m working 6 days a week, 5 hours on weekdays and 7 hours on the weekend. So, you can see that I’ll receive quite an amount at the end of the festival. Have you done other jobs during your Working Holiday, too? Various! I came to Japan in January and didn’t work for a while, as I had saved some money back in Germany. As a rather sociable person I wanted to discover Tokyo and Japan first, before starting work. Therefore I lived very economically to be able to live here without having to work for a while. I even made a 4-week road trip with two German share mates which didn’t cost us that much. At the beginning of March we came back to Tokyo and I started my first job at a kindergarten, which I landed through Hello Work (a job agency). During the job interview the director of the institution was very skeptical because I don’t have any pedagogical qualifications, but I still received the job in the end. Once a week for one hour I was playing the role of the “English entertainer” for the Japanese children. I had to teach them something in a playful way. I chose the topics myself so I had to be creative, which was not as easy as it sounds. Another job I’ve been doing was coordinating a group of Japanese elderly people with an interest in Germany and German language. I’ve been handed over this group by a Japanese acquaintance that unfortunately couldn’t do the job anymore. Leading the group was very amusing and entertaining. In addition to that I was also teaching English as a private teacher. For example, there was this 12-year old Japanese boy from a rather wealthy family I’ve visited at their home. They even have an elevator in their single family detached house! Anyway, I didn’t really like that job because the boy has just become a teenager and he wasn’t really into doing his homework. In general, he was just super unmotivated and I never really knew to which extend I could scold him about that without the parents reacting negatively. I mainly did private teaching jobs for German or English learners. Whether you are going to like these jobs or not always depends on the outcome you will get. For example, if you can leave a good impression on a student’s parents, or the student actually improves hisor her language skills due to your lessons, it can be a pleasant job. But I also have heard from some share mates that they made bad experiences in this area. Maybe they didn’t have an open attitude towards their younger students. How did you land the job at the Oktoberfest in the first place? Again, thanks to a Japanese acquaintance. I met her first at an event of the Japanisch-Deutsche Gesellschaft [Japanese German Society] and we became friends and kept in touch. She then introduced me to a Japanese man called Shota via email. He was in charge of the booths for the Yokohama Oktoberfest and searched for promoters. Shota is a tall guy, over two meters, married to a German woman, used to professionally play soccer in Germany and is now working for a beer importer. After meeting him once he wanted to hire me and also some more Germans, so I asked my share mates. Only few were interested, which I find kind of strange. After all, the salary is not bad and the job description sounded pretty great. Maybe they weren't sure, if the job suited them? Anyway, the ones who were interested, I think around seven people, met the boss of Shota’s company once for an interview and were hired. That was in July, I think. What kind of demands came with the job? You have to be at least 20 years old and also have a valid working license. It’s also a plus to speak and understand English, as we are having a lot of foreign visitors. Oh and of course you should be German-speaking! Except from this, I dare to say that almost everyone could do this job. Even without speaking a lot of Japanese. You just need to memorise some lines in order to approach the visitors and advertise the beer brand. But I’m also realising that, as I said before, you need to be a bright person. Otherwise the memorised phrases come out monotonously. Some of my colleagues don’t seem to be really into the job, judging by their cold attitude from time to time. Do you think working at the Yokohama Oktoberfest helped you improving your Japanese? To be honest, I came to Japan with zero Japanese skills. I was thinking, hey, I can speak English, so why invest much effort into learning Japanese? But in reality it was harder than I thought not understanding the language. So after my road trip I studied very intensely. I wanted to be able to make friends and communicate with them in Japanese. And well, also with the ladies… I’m happy I’ve done that, because I could not only make some good friends, but it also led me to my girlfriend. The job at the Oktoberfest helped me a lot actually. I learned words that you rather wouldn’t learn in the first phase of your studies, such as "import" and "export". I kind of forced myself to memorise new words and phrases to be capable of doing my job properly. Talking to the visitors and my Japanese colleagues was fun and helped me to improve my language skills at the same time. Please give us a resume about your impressions about the jobs you were doing during your Working Holiday. I have to admit that that being a private language teacher won’t help you to get to know the real Japanese working environment. And you don’t even need to have any pedagogical qualifications to land jobs in the educational field in Japan. I would venture to say that you just have to act naturally and in a charismatic manner to succeed here. The same applies for the Oktoberfest. You are chosen to do this job for being the gaijin [foreigner], not for having a special qualification. But still I have to say that this job delivers more insights into the Japanese working environment than the job as private teacher. In addition to that it’s a good opportunity to make friends, because being the gaijin makes you kind of special and interesting to the Japanese. You are the one who has to approach the shy Japanese, although the fact that there are coming a lot of young and tipsy people makes this task a lot easier. After Alex S. finished his Working Holiday he went back to Germany and is currently searching for a dual course of study, which combines earning money with a traineeship and at best involves the topic Japan. After meeting his girlfriend he stopped studying Japanese, which he is regretting at the moment. He says that they are still together and he wants to start learning her mother language again. One of the nicest experiences Alex had while working at the Yokohama Oktoberfest has been the last evening at work, when he and his colleagues went out to have one last drink together.
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.