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Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Old Feb 5th 2010, 9:03 am
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Default Questions About Immigrating to Japan

My husband has had the chance to go to Japan two times... Both of which he turned down as we had just moved to France and he liked it here. However, he has always wanted to experience life in Asia and does regret his choices at times. Now the second job has been re-advertised and, compared to other available jobs, this is his number one choice. Of course, this also depends on me, but I cannot say where I stand as I have never been to Japan. However, I do know that the alternative options involve me being forbidden from working and sometimes require my learning another language. I would appreciate it if anyone can answer just a few of my questions. It would make it easier to decide where to go!

We would be living near Tokyo in Kanagawa prefecture and it is a temporary position (3-5 years).

1. What kind of visas would we need?

2. As a spouse, will I have permission to work? If yes, does anyone know the average requirements for teaching English either to young children or adults (I am currently studying TESOL, but have no degree)? Am I able to volunteer?

3. I studied Japanese before (in case you haven't read my Beijing post, I was able to learn 2,000 kanji in two years to give an idea of my language abilities), so I am not very worried about picking up my reading/writing skills. I can easily make myself understood while speaking, even if it is not perfect. However, I tend to have trouble with my listening skills no matter what I try (even in school when we listened to cassettes I never did well)! I sometimes panic and the words are nonsense that goes in one ear and out the other, though even if I don't panic I never comprehend everything. How much of a problem will this be and does anyone have any advice?

4. How difficult is it to get by with basic Japanese (I might have been good before, but I’m rusty now)? e.g. Do any products have other languages on them (English, French, Dutch, Spanish, German)? Does anyone there know English? How much English would the average English-speaker know? How willing are they to speak it? How willing are they to aid foreigners? I know my husband didn't have a lot of luck getting help when he went, but he's a 6'4" white man who tends to look rather angry when confused/lost, whereas I'm a 'cute' 5'2" half East Asian half white woman.

5. Are there a lot of activities and places to explore in the area we would be living in (we know there will be in Tokyo, but it might not always be possible to go there)?

6. How is the foreign community in and around Tokyo? For example, where we are now there is a network of foreigners and it is fairly easy to find a place to begin with whatever it is you need or want to do.

Thank you for taking the time to read my post!
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 5:55 am
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

A month ago you were questioning us about the climate and conditions of Beijing, now it's Tokyo....

Are you playing a game with us ?
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 7:10 am
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

I am not 'playing a game'. My husband is applying for several positions and they happen to be all over the world. This is why I am asking questions about immigrating to several places (I've also posted in the US forum): so we can decide which is the best place to go to. We are not like most people on this forum as my husband doesn't work for a company that wishes to send him abroad with everything covered and taken care of... it's all on our shoulders, which is why it's important to gather more information about all our options.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 7:35 am
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

I think if you are looking for a mid to long term move, you would first pin point the location, then your husband applies for the job vacancies, then when you visit the country (for example for an interview or short holiday) you would get many of your questions answered from your own observations. As now, you seem determined to leave France and go anywhere. You should make a decision - at least in terms of East or West.

I would suggest if you are also wanting a job, Asia won't satisfy you, unless you want to teach English. Japan will be similar to China, in that foreign experts can easily get work permits, but their accompanying family can't find employment with foreign companies as they tend to bring in their own people.

The US would then be your best bet for a job - but right now employment levels might discount against that.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 1:20 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Japan has some of the strictest immigration laws on the planet but they can often be seen as being a lot more sensical and straight forward than the likes of Korea or even the United States.

Your husband would need employment-based sponsorship which I don't think is an easy thing to get hold of unless your a language teacher. Like in most cases, I imagine that depends very much on the type of work and the supply of Japanese workers available though.

As the spouse of a Japanese (with the correct visa) you would have full working rights but as the spouse of a foreigner, I'm not too sure. English teaching work can also be difficult to find if you're a westerner of asian origin as they don't take all that kindly to them over there.

I imagine that it could be quite difficult to live there with minimal Japanese skills unless you were part of a small community of westerners and again I think that is usually an English teacher thing. Virtually nobody speaks any language other than Japanese over there and I felt far more intimidated when I was there than I have in any other country that I have ever been to.

There are small pockets of foreigners in Japan and I saw them myself when I was there but they tend to live in their own little world outside of society as is usually the case with these things and I don't think that joining them long term would really be the best idea.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 1:42 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Thank you both for your advice. We appreciate it.

Choosing where to go sounds so simple, but it is easier said than done. We are not rich and do not have the money to visit all the possible places (even if it is only two places in Asia, for example). Plus, it isn't exactly my husband's choice where he goes; it also depends on whether he gets accepted or not and where that job is!

One could ask why we don't wait to see where he gets accepted, but by then there is limited time for my husband to accept one offer and reject the others. i.e. Not enough time to get the information in order to decide where we may live (potentially for the rest of our lives)! It would be silly to pick one choice and stick with it without knowing anything about it. e.g. If we already decide we are going to Beijing, we would be putting all of our eggs in one basket and it would be disastrous to discover we don't like it at all after visiting. So I gather as much information as possible from multiple sources to help give us a better idea of what to expect. It narrows things down and pinpoints which pros and cons we are comparing. By the time we know where he has been accepted, we will hopefully be confident about our decision and be prepared.

I've already discovered that, if we go to the US, I will be forbidden from working! I've heard recently from other people in Japan that a spousal visa will at least allow 20 hours a week (though I would need confirmation on that).

I don't know if my husband will be sponsored by his employer and I have heard about how difficult it is to immigrate there. Then again, the US isn't easy either. However, this job offer is specifically for foreigners and is advertised in English so I am guessing they are expecting to sponsor the successful applicant.

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
English teaching work can also be difficult to find if you're a westerner of asian origin as they don't take all that kindly to them over there.
They don't take kindly to those that try to teach English, or they don't take kindly to them at all?

As for joining the 'outcast foreigner' society... We are more or less in one here in France, though there are French people within our group. I wonder if it would be similar in Japan? I'm guessing we would likely spend most of our time with colleagues my husband already knows there (especially in the beginning). They are well-travelled and more likely to mingle with people from all over the world too. Here we have not only French friends, but Italian, Colombian, American, Japanese... The Japanese expats I've met were very friendly and curious about me, but they may be in a special category as most Japanese do not live anywhere other than Japan.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 1:50 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Originally Posted by SesameBun View Post


They don't take kindly to those that try to teach English, or they don't take kindly to them at all?
Just teaching English, don't get me wrong, they are a lovely people but they have their visions of what an English teacher should look like and it usually means that Asian-western people don't get a chance. It is also exceptionally hard by all accounts to find English teaching work there without a University degree these days.

Unfortunately the ones that you have met will be a minority as well. They don't really leave their country very often as a race (my girlfriend's Mum speaks English quite well but like most Japanese people has never left the country in her lifetime) and I don't think that a lot of Japanese-foreigner mixing goes on there outside a few of the more cosmopolitan businesses and language speaking communities.

It is quite an odd society on the whole as well, I found things out for the first time when I was there last year that I didn't particularly like. The fact that they have seperate carriages on some trains where men aren't permitted due to a groping epidemic being one of them.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 1:56 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Originally Posted by SesameBun View Post
I've heard recently from other people in Japan that a spousal visa will at least allow 20 hours a week (though I would need confirmation on that).

.
Be careful with that term, in Japan that is what they call the visa given to residents who are married to Japanese citizens. The visa you would be on is obviously different to that.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 2:14 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost View Post
they have their visions of what an English teacher should look like and it usually means that Asian-western people don't get a chance.
Would be tough for me depending on how they see me then. I do get some people that insist I look 100% white, but I guess I wouldn't know until I've been there... What if I dyed my hair blonde and wore blue contacts?

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
It is also exceptionally hard by all accounts to find English teaching work there without a University degree these days.
It seems that way everywhere in the world now.

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
Unfortunately the ones that you have met will be a minority as well. They don't really leave their country very often as a race...
Yes, that's what I thought and is also what I have been told a number of times, either by those who have lived/visited Japan or by Japanese people themselves. So I guess it is also true that it is tough to get to know and to befriend Japanese people?

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
It is quite an odd society on the whole as well, I found things out for the first time when I was there last year that I didn't particularly like. The fact that they have seperate carriages on some trains where men aren't permitted due to a groping epidemic being one of them.
I've seen and heard about a number of different things. Most things I find interesting and sometimes amusing, but it might be different if I'm there. It's fun hearing about people's experiences, but it might not be so enjoyable when I find myself experiencing it! At least I would be somewhat mentally prepared.

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
Be careful with that term, in Japan that is what they call the visa given to residents who are married to Japanese citizens. The visa you would be on is obviously different to that.
Thank you for the warning. I will definitely have to investigate this further.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 2:29 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Originally Posted by SesameBun View Post
I do get some people that insist I look 100% white, but I guess I wouldn't know until I've been there... What if I dyed my hair blonde and wore blue contacts?

Sorry, I thought you were of Chinese descent otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned it. To be honest, you would probably be fine. I have read stories about quite a few westerners who are ethnically asian and have gone over there on YMS visas, especially from Canada, and have found teaching work without a degree and without looking particularly western. It can be all about how you present yourself.

For the most part, they are lovely people too. I've been with a Japanese girl for a long time now and her friends and family have never made me feel anything less than truly welcome despite my limited language ability. People there seemed quite used to foreigners too unlike a lot of Seoulites in Korea, some of whom looked at me as though I was wearing a panda costume, smoking a joint and brandishing a blood stained meat cleaver.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 3:10 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

If i may offer you my comments and opinions:

1. My wife is from Atsugi in Kanagowa Prefecture. It isn’t Tokyo – its real Japan. You will find very few people who speak any English at all. Without my wife by my side I am stuffed in Kanagowa, whereas Tokyo is slightly more Westerner friendly (some signs in English, a few words are understood).

2. Kanagawa, being quite rural, has things like Asian squat public toilets. You get used to it. But it often doesn’t feel like a first world area. You see people working in rice fields etc.


3. You CANNOT teach English without a degree. End of story. Japan is incorruptible, and very strict. People will tell you that you can avoid the system. No degree no visa, no visa no job.

4. Japanese can be quite racist – especially older people, and in the more rural areas. My Parents in Law still find it hard to accept that their daughter married a gaigin. People will avoid me on the street, or just stare. They don’t mean anything by it, its just the way they are. I m different, and as such I do not conform and should be avoided.

5. The Japanese you meet outside of Japan are very different to the mainstream. Older less worldly Japanese are very rigid in outlook and attitude, although they can be extremely kind.

6. Kanagowa Prefecture isn’t near Tokyo, its 50Km direct as the crow flies from Tokyo. Its an even longer train ride, with quite a few stops. In the rush hour its not nice. My wife used to commute before we married. From memory 2 hours each way. To meet most English speaking expats you will need to go to Tokyo – probably Rapongi.

7. DigitalGhost is right about groping on the trains, it is seen as semi acceptable. The whole attitude to women is different to the West. It is still a very male dominated society. It doesn’t help that women never say no. (One thing my wife HAS lost).

8. Your husbands visa will only apply to him. You will not get a work permit on the strength of his visa, only a temporary resident (alien) visa. (Even married to a Japanese girl I am still classed as an Alien, although I can get a work permit.

9. DigitalGhost is spot on, its an odd society. Like some kind of “Alice through the looking glass” world, nothing seems quite right. You recognise everything, but nothing is what it seems. Attitudes are also very different. Drunkeness, male infidelity, sex, hostess bars, attitudes to work, are all very different to the West.

Having said all of the above, I love the place, and would recommend you go.

That “looking Glass” experience is amazing, and well worth experiencing. The fusion of technology and antiquity is amazing. You will see 1000 year old temples and technology that you can only dream of, and they will be side by side. The people can appear cold and unfeeling, and yet at the same time show incredible kindness and warmth. Taxis with powered opening rear doors, uniformed elevator girls in the big stores, ordering food on touchscreens in small Izakaya restaurants. The shops and beautiful girls in Shibuya. Its a huge experience.

I love Japan.

Last edited by slapphead_otool; Feb 8th 2010 at 3:11 pm. Reason: spellling
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 3:23 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Originally Posted by slapphead_otool View Post
It doesn’t help that women never say no. (One thing my wife HAS lost).
Yours and mine both and I'm not even married to mine yet.

I think it is the strict adherence to the rules which got me the most though. In some ways it's amazing in that they have a profound respect for the elderley and you won't see anybody under the age of 60 sat in the designated seats for the elderley and infirmed on the train, no matter how busy it is.

Like slapphead said though, discrimination can be rife and it's their country and you are supposed to abide by their rules. It is the only nation in the civilised world which makes a policy of imprisoning illegal immigrants as criminals before removing them, even in cases where a genuine error has been made. Their rules are definitely there to be obeyed without question too. I was in a Taito station in Akihabara with my gf and one of her best friends and accidentally wandered into an area designated for 'girls only', however it's worth mentioning that the sign stating that had been knocked over and was lying face down on the floor when I got there. Within an instant a small, irrate little woman was standing in front of me, brandishing the sign and basically giving me a look which could have burned a hole through my head and, without any doubt, suggested 'get out now'. She knew I was a foreigner from looking at me and had most likely guessed (as the Japanese tend to do) that I didn't have any knowledge of their language, but that didn't make any difference. In Japan, you obey or you leave.

The requirement for a degree for teachers is an immigration requirement too so I think if slapphead is correct (and he probably is) then you won't be able to work over there.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 7:49 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost View Post
Sorry, I thought you were of Chinese descent otherwise I wouldn't have mentioned it.
I am of Chinese descent, but only from my father's side. My mother is white British.

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
To be honest, you would probably be fine. I have read stories about quite a few westerners who are ethnically asian and have gone over there on YMS visas, especially from Canada, and have found teaching work without a degree and without looking particularly western. It can be all about how you present yourself.
I wonder how many there were though and how skilled they were.

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
For the most part, they are lovely people too. I've been with a Japanese girl for a long time now and her friends and family have never made me feel anything less than truly welcome despite my limited language ability. People there seemed quite used to foreigners too unlike a lot of Seoulites in Korea, some of whom looked at me as though I was wearing a panda costume, smoking a joint and brandishing a blood stained meat cleaver.
That is very fortunate. My own Asian family is 'atypical' due to the fact that they immediately accepted my white mother. I hear plenty of horror stories about racist Asian families unable to accept a non-Asian having relationships with any of their family members.

slapphead_otool - Thank you for your input.

Originally Posted by slapphead_otool
My wife is from Atsugi in Kanagowa Prefecture. It isn’t Tokyo – its real Japan.
Thank you for the warnings, but we would likely be in Yokohama, so I think it is unlikely we will encounter some of the things you mentioned.

Originally Posted by slapphead_otool
You CANNOT teach English without a degree. End of story.
Thank you for clearing things up. Any idea whether or not I can volunteer?

Originally Posted by slapphead_otool
4. Japanese can be quite racist – especially older people, and in the more rural areas. My Parents in Law still find it hard to accept that their daughter married a gaigin. People will avoid me on the street, or just stare. They don’t mean anything by it, its just the way they are. I m different, and as such I do not conform and should be avoided.
My husband experienced some of this (he's white). I don't know how I would fare as a half Asian, half white, but I've heard some rather unusual stories. My Japanese pen pal says I look quite Japanese, though this was a head-on photo. My nose is more western from a profile view. Any ideas as to how people would react to me?

Originally Posted by slapphead_otool
7. DigitalGhost is right about groping on the trains, it is seen as semi acceptable. The whole attitude to women is different to the West. It is still a very male dominated society. It doesn’t help that women never say no. (One thing my wife HAS lost).
I was made aware of this by others and it is worrying, though I'm sure that if I don't go out too late alone I will be able to deal with it. I've dealt with some rather severe harassment in the past. Then again, I've also heard that they are far more persistent because of the general attitude.

Originally Posted by slapphead_otool
That “looking Glass” experience is amazing, and well worth experiencing. The fusion of technology and antiquity is amazing. You will see 1000 year old temples and technology that you can only dream of, and they will be side by side. The people can appear cold and unfeeling, and yet at the same time show incredible kindness and warmth. Taxis with powered opening rear doors, uniformed elevator girls in the big stores, ordering food on touchscreens in small Izakaya restaurants. The shops and beautiful girls in Shibuya. Its a huge experience.
This is actually something that I would very much like to experience. One reason being because it is so different from everything I know.

Originally Posted by DigitalGhost
Within an instant a small, irrate little woman was standing in front of me, brandishing the sign and basically giving me a look which could have burned a hole through my head and, without any doubt, suggested 'get out now'.
When everyone follows the rules it can be a good thing (e.g. Both my husband and colleagues who've lived in/visited Japan have had very valuable goods returned to them without anything being stolen), but, from what both of you have said, I see it can also be a bad thing!
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 8:58 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Yokohama was the most westernised area of Japan which I visited in terms of layout and how open, relaxed and spacious it felt. I would say it was the only part of Japan which I could really see myself living in. It's easily commutable to/from Tokyo as well being only a 30-40 minute train ride from Ikkebukuro.

There are many stories of people who have landed in Japan without a degree and have done OK working in an Eikawa. You would need to present yourself well though and obviously obtain a working visa through some other means but by all accounts it isn't impossible as long as you have the correct immigration paperwork. In reality, you can understand why they do it as private foreign language students pay a lot for their lessons in Japan so they should be educated by a teacher who is at least half competent. I would say that you come across as being someone who would make a far better teacher than most of the fresh graduates which I have met though and you obviously have a skill for languages otherwise you wouldn't have been able to learn Kanjii in the way that you did.

I don't think that you would draw any attention there either, at least not negative anyway. Nobody really looked at me twice over there and I am tall even by western standards and have a Japanese partner. Tokyo, in particular, is very cosmopolitan and has a lot of foreigners living in it and I got used to hearing the occasional British, Canadian or American accent when walking around some of the better known areas.

For me, it's a country I could maybe live in for a couple of years I think, but no longer than that. As charming as parts of it are, it's maybe just a little bit too different for me I think and plus I know that my girlfriend could never really be happy if she was living back over there long term, although she does like to visit at least once every year or so.
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Old Feb 8th 2010, 10:47 pm
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Default Re: Questions About Immigrating to Japan

Hi SesameBun and Digital Ghost,

Sorry Sesame, I made a mistake. When you said Kanagowa Prefecture I assumed, since you hadn’t explicitly said Yokahama, that you meant the more rural towns and cities of the Prefecture.

Yokahama (as you are probably aware) is a huge city and much more cosmopolitan. It has an amazing Chinatown for instance, where reputedly the best Chinese food in the world is on sale.

You will not feel as isolated in Yokahama as you would in the rural areas. My wife says don’t worry about it at all, you will have no problems.

Re looks and attitude – my wife actually looks more Chinese than the classic Japanese featured face (prominent chin, longer narrow face). Here in Sydney she sometimes gets mildly annoyed when Chinese shopkeepers speak to her in Mandarin. I suspect that your main problem will be the same thing – the Japanese will assume you speak the language. I doubt it will be an issue.

The people are strange, as both DigitalGhost and I have pointed out, but that is a large part of the charm. Even after 10 years with Misako ,she still amazes me several times a day with the things she does and says.

To give you some ideas take a read of Norikos Blog, about a Japanese girl in the US:

http://norikostale.wordpress.com/

DigitalGhost, I have the same problem as you. I would be happy to live in Japan for a few years. Misako, on the other hand, is happy to be out of there and has no desires to ever go back, other than annual holidays.
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