Teaching English in Japan

Introduction

If you are up to the challenge of living and working in Japan, it can be one of the most exciting and rewarding times in your life. Japan is full of people eager to study English, which means there are always opportunities for those looking for teaching jobs.

It is still important to be realistic about the challenges you may face, including:

  • the distance between Japan and Canada;
  • the distinct differences between Japanese and Canadian culture;
  • the low number of English-speaking people and services in many small towns and even larger cities; and
  • the high cost of living.

See the latest travel advice and advisories for Japan for information on safety and security, local laws and customs, entry requirements, health conditions and other important travel issues.

Most Canadians who work in Japan do not experience contractual or employment relations problems. A few, however, have found themselves in work situations far different from those they expected.

The Embassy of Canada and its consulates in Japan cannot become involved in any contractual conflicts experienced by Canadian citizens. They cannot provide legal representation or mediate in such situations. Nor can they investigate, certify or vouch for prospective employers. It is up to you to evaluate any employment offer before signing a contract.

However, if you do encounter difficulties while working in Japan, contact the Consular Section at the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo or one of the consulates of Canada at the following addresses:

TOKYO, Embassy of Canada
3-38 Akasaka 7-chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan 107-8503
Tel.: 81 (3) 5412-6200
Fax: 81 (3) 5412-6289
Email: tokyo-consul@international.gc.ca
Internet: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/japan-japon

HIROSHIMA, Consulate of Canada
Address: c/o Chugoku Electric Power Co. Inc., 4-33 Komachi, Naka-ku, Hiroshima-shi, Hiroshima-ken, Japan 730-8701
Tel.: 81 (82) 246-0057
Fax: 81(82)246-0057

NAGOYA, Consulate of Canada
Address: Nakato Marunouchi Building, 6F, 3-17-6 Marunouchi, Naka-ku, Nagoya-shi, Aichi-ken, Japan 460-0002
Tel.: 81 (52) 972-0450
Fax: 81 (52) 972-0453
Email: ngoya@international.gc.ca

OSAKA, Consulate of Canada
Address:
c/o Tsuda Sangyo Co., Ltd.
1-8-19 Hirabayashi Minami, Suminoe-ku
Osaka, Japan 559-8550
Tel./fax: 81–6–6681–0250 (International) 06-6681-0250 (Domestic)

SAPPORO, Consulate of Canada
Address: Canada Place, 2nd floor, Poseidon Maruyama, 1-3 Odori Nishi 26-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Japan 064-0820
Tel.:  81-11-643-2520 Fax:  81-11-643-2520
Email: ryojikan@yamani.com

Or contact the Embassy of Japan or one of its consulates in Canada.

Calling Japan

To telephone Japan from other countries, call:

International long-distance code + country code + area code + telephone number

For example, if you are in Canada and want to reach the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo, you must call:

011-81-3-5412-6200

If you are in Japan and want to telephone long distance within the country, you must call:

City/area code + telephone number

For example, if you are in Osaka and want to reach the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo, you must call:

03 + 5412-6200

Calling abroad from Japan can be complicated, as several companies offer international telephone services and they all have different access numbers. If you are calling abroad from a pay phone using an NTT telephone card, IC card or coins, it is best to use the KDDI access code, which is:

001 + 010 (long-distance access code) + country code + area code + telephone number

If you are calling abroad from a home or mobile phone, you would normally call:

Long-distance access code + country code + area code + telephone number

We recommend, however, that you check your telephone company’s long-distance access code.

Finding a teaching job in Japan

So you have decided to move to Japan to teach English. It is definitely best to have a job arranged before you arrive. If you are thinking of coming to Japan and then searching for work, you will need enough money to support yourself while looking for a job. Keep in mind that if you come to Japan on a tourist visa, you are not allowed to accept employment. You must obtain a work visa first (see entry and exit requirements).

Most teaching vacancies in Japan are in major cities such as Tokyo. If you do not want to work in a big city, there are also opportunities to work in smaller cities and towns, although the salaries can be lower. The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme offers the opportunity to work outside metropolitan areas, with the added advantage that salaries are the same across Japan, regardless of the location. 

Types of language institutes and programs

The Embassy of Canada and its consulates in Japan do not maintain a list of teaching institutes. If you are thinking of accepting a job as an English teacher in Japan, you are advised to ask the institute concerned for the names and telephone numbers of current and former teachers, so you can contact them directly to ask about conditions there.

There are four main types of teaching opportunities in Japan:

The JET Programme

The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is operated by local authorities in cooperation with Japanese government agencies. Established in 1987, JET’s main purpose is to promote international exchange. It has an excellent reputation in Japan and abroad. JET participants are placed in any of Japan’s 47 prefectures and designated cities, where they work as either assistant language teachers or “coordinators for international relations.” Contracts are renewed on a yearly basis for a maximum of five years.

JET hires more than 2,000 native English speakers every year to teach in Japanese schools. The maximum age of participants is 40. Participants typically get 20 days off per year in addition to national holidays. Visas, flights, living accommodations and health insurance are arranged by Japanese government agencies. For more information, visit the JET Programme Canada website.

The JET Alumni Association assists in the pre-departure training of new participants and works with the Embassy of Canada in Japan in selecting candidates for the program. Visit the JETAA Canada website for more information.

Conversation schools or eikaiwa

English conversation schools, known as eikaiwa, are found all over Japan. The major ones have many branches, while others may be small-scale, short-lived operations. Most recruit native English speakers from outside Japan to teach conversation classes to children and adults. The minimum educational requirement is usually a university degree. An English as a Foreign Language (EFL) or teaching certificate is an asset but is not essential.

A five-day workweek followed by two consecutive days off is the norm. A typical workday consists of five to eight teaching hours, with the majority of classes being conducted in the afternoons or evenings. Most classes have from 10 to 15 students, usually university students or business people who are preparing for overseas assignments or simply trying to improve their English skills. Most conversation schools arrange flights and accommodation, work visas and health insurance, in addition to offering on-the-job teacher training. Since some of these organizations are quite large, there are opportunities for ambitious individuals to work up the  career ladder that brings additional pay and benefits.

Elementary and high schools

Since English is part of the school curriculum in Japan, many elementary and high schools hire part-time or full-time assistant language teachers (ALT). Although many ALT jobs do not require previous teaching experience or EFL certification, employers generally favour those with qualifications and experience. An ALT is hired by a prefectural board of education or the JET Programme in accordance with the regulations of the Japanese Ministry of Education. An ALT may also be engaged through a private contracting company. However, individuals hired through such agencies should review their contracts carefully to avoid problems.

Many schools provide housing and at least 10 to 20 days off per year, in addition to national holidays. Class sizes tend to be large (35 to 40 students), so maintaining student attention may be a challenge. Actual teaching time can be less than at conversation schools, but teachers’ duties usually extend beyond the classroom. The JET Programme is a good option for those interested in teaching in high schools. Some schools prescribe the course of study and teaching approach. Others do not even have EFL learning resources. Check whether materials are provided by the school before accepting a job. It also helps to bring your own EFL learning materials.

Colleges and universities

The major colleges and universities in Japan have foreign language faculties, and most employ full-time language teachers. Depending on the size of the institution, classes can be small (up to 15 students) or significantly larger. Colleges and universities tend to have the highest hiring standards: most instructors have master’s degrees in foreign language teaching and previous teaching experience. Working conditions and salaries are comparable to those in the West, and the faculty turnover rate is low. Most instructors teach 10 to 15 hours per week but must also carry out regular administrative duties. Some institutions offer on-campus housing for teachers. Teachers get about three months of vacation per year.

Job-hunting resources

Teaching jobs in Japan are most commonly found through newspaper and Internet advertisements. The Monday edition of the Japan Times is a well-known newspaper resource. Internet resources include the English Teaching Job Classifieds in ELT News, Gaijinpot.com, Jobs in Japan and O-Hayo Sensei.

Entry and exit requirements

Visa matters

Canadian citizens entering Japan as tourists may stay for up to 90 days, as long as they hold a Canadian passport and do not receive any income while in Japan.

Canadians who wish to work in Japan must first apply for and obtain an appropriate visa from a Japanese embassy/consulate overseas. The process involves finding a potential employer who is willing to act as your sponsor and arrange for your certificate of eligibility. To obtain this certificate, you must provide proof of education and a letter from your employer to an embassy/consulate of Japan. If you then qualify for a visa, one will be issued by the embassy/consulate. Your Japanese employer will usually assist you in communicating with an embassy/consulate of Japan and in obtaining your visa from the Immigration Bureau of Japan.

Keep in mind that, once you are in Japan, you cannot change your visa status. However, if you receive an offer of employment while in Japan on a tourist visa, it is possible to leave the country and obtain a work visa from a Japanese mission in Canada or a third country, such as South Korea, provided that you meet all the necessary visa requirements.

Working holiday visa

This category of visa allows Canadians to enter Japan for a short-term working holiday. Visa holders need not obtain further permission to engage in paid activities while in Japan, provided that these activities do not contravene Japanese laws regulating businesses offering food and entertainment, as well as other regulations that affect public order and good morals.

The Government of Japan will issue, free of charge, a single-entry working holiday visa to a Canadian citizen who:

  • currently resides in Canada;
  • intends mainly to holiday in Japan for a specific period of time;
  • is between 18 and 30 years of age at the time of the application;
  • possesses a valid Canadian passport and a return travel ticket;
  • has reasonable funds for an initial stay in Japan, including medical expenses (defined as $2,500 in traveller’s cheques or a bank statement showing a balance of at least $2,500); and
  • is in good health and does not have a criminal record.

More information on working holiday visas may be obtained from the website of the Embassy of Japan in Ottawa.

Canadians in Japan on working holiday visas may also obtain general information from the Japan Association for Working Holiday Makers.

Work visas

There are several classes of work visas. The vast majority of English teachers either hold an instructor visa, which authorizes them to work in public institutions (elementary schools, junior high schools, high schools, schools for the blind, handicapped children’s schools), or a specialist in humanities visa, which authorizes work in private institutions, such as conversation schools and companies. These visas are usually granted for a period of three years. To obtain a work visa, you will need:

  • a valid passport;
  • an application form;
  • one passport-size photo; and
  • a certificate of eligibility issued by the Japanese Immigration Bureau (your employer must apply for the certificate on your behalf, although you will need to provide proof of education and Canadian citizenship).

Visit the website of the Embassy of Japan in Ottawa for more information on work visa requirements and how to apply.

Changing your employer

You are must report any change in your job or employment status to the Japanese Immigration Bureau within 14 days, even if you do not have a new job lined up.

If you have found another job, the Immigration Bureau will either maintain your current visa (e.g., if your job category and personal status are the same) or change your visa status to another category (e.g., if your job category or personal status has changed).

If you do not have another job lined up, you generally have 90 days to secure another one before your work visa is revoked by the Immigration Bureau. The deadline may be extended if you can demonstrate that you are actively seeking employment (e.g., by using a recruitment agency), although such exceptions are not guaranteed.

Teaching English part-time

It is legal to teach private English lessons in Japan if you wish to supplement your income. However, this option is only available to you if you already have a work visa. You cannot qualify for a visa by teaching private lessons, and you cannot teach private lessons at all if you are on a tourist visa. 

Overstay and illegal work

It is illegal to remain in Japan beyond your permitted period of stay or to engage in activities not allowed under your visa. Some expatriates have encountered serious legal problems with Japanese immigration authorities for accepting employment without the proper work visa. If you are in Japan on a visitor visa, you are not allowed to engage in any paid activities. Violation of Japanese immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including deportation, imprisonment up to three years, and/or fines of up to 3,000,000 yen. It is your responsibility to understand local laws and obey them. If you violate Japanese laws, Canadian consular officials cannot assist you in any way, other than to provide you with a list of local lawyers.

Re-entry permit

For details on recent changes to the re-entry permit system for foreigners living in Japan, see Foreign Resident Registration below.

Foreign resident registration

On July 9, 2012, a new residency management system came into effect for foreigners living in Japan. Changes include:

  • the replacement of the alien registration card with a resident card;
  • a new re-entry system to waive the requirement for a re-entry permit for foreigners who leave and return to Japan within one year; and,
  • changes to the maximum period of stay.  

For more information on the new residency management system, entry and exit requirements, and other immigration procedures, see the website of the Immigration Bureau of Japan or consult our travel advice and advisories for Japan.

Contracts

A contract is a basic requirement for teaching in Japan. Before you begin working, be sure to negotiate a contract with your employer. You should have a clear understanding of your contractual obligations before signing the contract.

A basic teaching contract should include provisions for the following matters: salary, housing, working hours, severance pay, income tax, medical insurance, holidays, transportation and travel allowance for the flight back home (provided that you complete the period of the contract). If these items are not covered, you should negotiate until they are included in the contract.

Most contracts provide for either a set monthly salary or a salary based on the number of teaching hours. A guaranteed monthly or hourly salary should be specified.

Money

The currency of Japan is the yen (JPY). For the current exchange rate, consult the Bank of Canada’s Currency Converter. Foreign bank cards are accepted only at select ATMs, including those at the Japan Post Office, 7-Eleven and Citibank. Some banks in remote areas do not accept traveller’s cheques. Credit cards (particularly Visa and MasterCard) are widely accepted, but they are used less often in Japan than in Canada, and many small restaurants accept cash only. Many people carry cash for their daily expenses. Crime against foreigners is low, although it important to exercise caution.

Any bank displaying an Authorized Foreign Exchange sign can exchange foreign currency. Travelex foreign exchange booths are found in large cities. Currency can also be exchanged by withdrawing funds from a Canadian bank account at one the ATMs noted above.

Cheques are not used in Japan, so it is essential to open a Japanese bank account in order to be paid by an employer. Bank transfers are commonly used as methods of payment for various purposes (e.g., gym memberships) when credit cards are not accepted.

Accommodations

Housing

Some employers provide housing as part of a teaching contract. An employer that does not provide housing may still be able to help you find accommodations and negotiate an appropriate rent and utility payments. In general, accommodations in Japan are much more expensive and considerably smaller than in Canada.

Searching for living accommodations

Searching for accommodations in Japan can be done through a realtor or through the classified ads of newspapers or magazines. When meeting with a realtor, you should be accompanied by someone who can act as an interpreter.

Apartment layouts are usually described by a code consisting of a number (for number of bedrooms) plus one or more letters: L (living room), D (dining room), or K (kitchen).

Many apartments, particularly less expensive ones, are not equipped with appliances, such as washing machines, fridges or stoves.

General conditions

Before finalizing a rental contract, make sure you understand the contract as well as the living conditions and rules.

Rental amounts are usually quoted as a monthly charge, but there are likely to be additional charges, such as management fees (kanrihi) and gift or “key” money (rei-kin). Also keep in mind that the total amount of money required to finalize a contract is five to six months’ rent (see “Payments” below).

When signing a lease, you must present your resident card and often a statement of income (ask your employer). You may also be asked to have someone sign as your guarantor (usually a Japanese national living in Japan).  Some companies provide a guarantor service for a fee. 

Payments

Upon signing a lease, you will typically be asked to pay the following:

Rent

You can expect to pay both the current and next month’s rent at the time you sign your lease. The following month’s rent is normally payable by the end of the current month.

Shiki-kin (security deposit)

This money, deposited with the property owner when a contract is signed, usually amounts to one to two months’ rent. It is used to reimburse the landlord for unpaid rent or repairs required when the tenant leaves. Money remaining after these deductions is returned to the tenant.

Rei-kin (gift money)

This money, given to the landlord when a contract is signed, usually amounts to one to two months’ rent and is not refunded when the tenant leaves.

Kyoekihi / Kanrihi (common area / management fees)

These fees must be paid by most apartment tenants.

Chukai-ryo (agency commission)

This fee is paid to the realtor who introduced you to the rental residence (usually about half a month’s rent).

Temporary accommodations

Guesthouses, commonly called “gaijin houses,” are a convenient option if you are looking for temporary housing in Japan. You will usually have the option of a dormitory, single or double room, or furnished apartment, which can be rented by the week or month. Some temporary accommodations can be quite expensive and require you to make a security deposit. Here are a few Tokyo websites to help you get started:

For more affordable accommodations, you might consider a homestay with a Japanese family. Homestays are a great way to make new friends and to learn some Japanese along the way. For more information about homestay programs in Japan, see the following websites:

You could also search Internet message boards for shared accommodations in your area.

Income tax

Any person who receives income in Japan must pay Japanese income tax. The taxation year runs from January 1 to December 31. Foreign taxpayers are divided into two categories: non-residents and residents. Tax rates are determined by the length of stay, not the type of visa. Information about Canadian tax obligations for individuals living abroad is available from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA):

International Tax Services Office
2204 Walkley Road
Ottawa ON
K1A 1A8
Tel.: 1 800 267-5177 (in Canada) or (613) 952-3741 (from Japan, collect calls accepted)

For further details, see the CRA publication Canadian Residents Abroad (T4131).

Non-residents

A non-resident (someone who stays in Japan for less than one year) will have income tax withheld by the employer for income earned in Japan (including income paid outside Japan but generated in Japan).

Residents

A resident is a person who stays in Japan continuously for more than one year. For taxation purposes, there are two types of residents:

  • Permanent residents are subject to taxation on income generated both inside and outside Japan.
  • Non-permanent residents (who stay in Japan more than one year but less than five years and do not intend to become permanent residents) are subject to taxation on income generated in Japan. Foreign income brought into Japan by non-permanent residents is also subject to taxation.

Both permanent and non-permanent residents are entitled to claim certain deductions for medical expenses, losses, theft and home loans.

Taxpayers are salaried or non-salaried:

  • Salaried employees do not need to file income tax reports themselves, since tax is deducted from their salary and paid by the employer.
  • Non-salaried taxpayers must calculate their own income and tax over the year and submit an income tax report between February 16 and March 15 of the following year.

For details on taxes, consult the websites of the National Tax Agency of Japan and the Tokyo International Communication Committee.

Pension and tax refunds

Foreigners leaving Japan are usually eligible for a lump-sum refund of their pension contributions and a tax refund, depending on certain conditions (e.g., how long they have worked in Japan). Consult with your employer or ward office for information on obtaining pension or tax refunds when leaving Japan.

Medical insurance

The cost of medical services in Japan is high, so it is essential to have appropriate medical insurance at all times. Every resident of Japan is eligible to enrol in a national insurance plan. Non-residents with valid alien registration cards, who will be in Japan for more than one year, are obliged to enrol in either the National Health Insurance System or the Social Insurance System (usually for long-term employees of a company). Before accepting a job, confirm with your employer that there are provisions for medical insurance. It is important that you understand the nature and scope of the coverage, so be sure to ask your employer about the details. Contact the Consular Section of the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo for information on English-speaking medical and dental practitioners in Japan.

Applications for National Health Insurance can be made at your local ward or city office. You will need to present your foreign resident  card.

National Health Insurance will cover 70 percent of your medical costs. You are responsible for the remaining 30 percent. Coverage does not extend to medical costs incurred outside Japan. Before travelling to a third country, you should take out supplementary health insurance through either a Japanese or a Canadian insurance company to ensure that you are fully covered in case of a medical emergency.

Before you leave

Get informed

Take time to learn about the cultural, political, and economic environment of Japan. Consult our Japan Travel Advice and Advisories for up-to-date information on safety and security, local travel, laws and customs, health issues, entry and exit requirements, and much more.

Things to bring

The most valuable things to bring to Japan are a positive attitude and a sense of humour. Since the weather varies extensively, you will need a range of clothing to suit all seasons. Buying clothes in Japan can be an option, although they are expensive, and finding larger sizes may be a problem if you are not near a major city. Consider bringing the following items with you:

  • Rainwear; an overcoat; winter clothes.
  • A suit for men and a conservative skirt or pant suit for women; something dark for formal occasions.
  • Underwear: it can be difficult to find larger sizes.
  • Footwear: larger sizes are not readily available; slippers or indoor shoes must be worn inside Japanese homes and schools.
  • Sportswear: locally purchased items are expensive and usually polyester-based.
  • A spare set of contact lenses or glasses.
  • Presents: in keeping with Japanese tradition, you may want to bring courtesy gifts for your boss, colleagues and students, as well as your neighbours.

Medicines and toiletries

Japan Customs places strict restrictions on the amounts and types of medications and toiletries that can be brought into or sent to Japan. Medicines sold over the counter in Canada are illegal in Japan if they contain stimulants. Codeine is also illegal. Check the contents of cold, allergy, sinus and pain medications carefully. If you plan to bring a supply of such products with you, contact the Embassy of Japan or one of its consulates in Canada to inquire about Japanese customs restrictions. Most over-the-counter medications are available in major cities, although prices are often higher than in Canada.

Medications and products, such as cosmetics, ointments, eye drops, deodorants, sanitary products, fluoride toothpaste and dental floss, are restricted to 24 pieces per product. Antiperspirants are only available in spray-on or roll-on formats in Japan. Deodorant sticks  can be easily ordered on the Internet.

Prescription medications are restricted to a one-month supply. Larger amounts may be seized, and you could be charged with intent to sell illegal substances. Once your supply has run out, get a new prescription from a doctor for an equivalent medicine sold in Japan. Leave medication in its original package and keep a letter from your doctor stating its purpose, as well as a copy of the prescription.

Things to leave behind

Thoroughly review the Japan Customs website to ensure you understand what is prohibited and must be left behind.

Japan Customs is very strict and thorough. If illegal articles or substances are found in your possession, you will be arrested, detained and deported.

Japan has a zero-tolerance policy on illegal drugs. If you are found in possession of even small quantities of illicit drugs, you expose yourself to fines, lengthy prison terms, deportation and possible banishment from Japan. 

For more information, consult the safe-travel publication Drugs and Travel: Do’s and Don’ts

Cultural issues

Canadians in Japan

Canadian citizens are well regarded in Japan. It is not surprising that so many of them flock to Japan to teach English or seek other employment. They each bring their own unique expectations and find themselves in varying circumstances. For example, some expect to live in large Western-style houses and are disappointed when they have to settle for modest apartments.

An inability to communicate in Japanese can be a challenge and cause feelings of isolation for some Canadians. Some may feel overwhelmed by the crowded trains and city streets. Others may feel isolated when working in a small, rural town or city. Be prepared to have your expectations challenged. Keeping an open mind is a key to enjoying your experience in Japan.

First impressions are important everywhere, but especially in Japan. Your appearance and manner will have a tremendous bearing on the attitudes of students and co-workers.

Dealing with culture shock

Living in Japan can be exciting and stimulating, but it can also be confusing, frustrating and overwhelming at times. You will inevitably be faced with challenges, such as the open-concept layout of the Japanese workplace. Offices and staff rooms are usually large, open spaces, with desks organized in clusters, according to work groups. Noise levels can be high, and there is often a constant and distracting bustle of activity.

Most foreigners living overseas experience a degree of culture shock. This form of psychological stress affects even experienced expatriates and occurs when familiar cues and patterns are no longer present. It is important to recognize the symptoms of culture shock, which may be fleeting or last several months. Symptoms include irritability, sleepiness, apathy, depression, compulsive eating, excessive drinking, exaggerated yearning for all things and friends back home, negative stereotyping of Japanese people, a decline in efficiency, recurring minor illnesses, and obsession with cleanliness or health. These impacts may be aggravated by a lack of exercise, rest and nutrition.

The symptoms of culture shock tend to surface three to six months after arrival, when the novelty of a new place begins to fade and settling in becomes imperative. The following suggestions may help to ease the adjustment process:

  • Admit frankly that these impacts exist. It is not a sign of weakness to admit that you feel uncomfortable, tense or confused.
  • Recognize that adjusting is hard work. View change as a challenge instead of a threat. Do not expect everything to fall into place immediately.
  • Establish a routine as soon as possible. A routine for eating, sleeping and personal time provides an anchor when everything else is flux.
  • Make your home a comfortable and safe haven. Create a space of your own and take time out for yourself. It is not enough to look forward to vacations.
  • Learn the rules of living in Japan. Learn as much as possible about Japanese culture. Try to understand how and why the Japanese act the way they do. Japanese behaviour and customs are different from your own, but they are neither better nor worse than what you are used to. Instead of trying to change everybody else, adjust yourself.
  • Learn some Japanese. Learning even a little Japanese will make your life a lot easier and is always appreciated by the Japanese. The best time to start is at the beginning of your stay, as many foreigners lose momentum and end up living in the country for years without speaking a word of Japanese.
  • Get involved and meet people. Pursuing interests you share with others is a good way to bridge the cultural gap.
  • Keep in touch with friends and family back home.

For more information, see coping with culture shock.

The Tokyo English Life Line (TELL) is a 24-hour helpline that provides counselling to foreigners in Japan. For assistance, visit the TELL website or call 03-3498-0231.

Female teachers in Japan

Whatever your age or marital status, as a foreign woman living in Japan you will have to contend with unique health- and safety-related concerns. A bit of planning and research will prove to be invaluable.

While expectations of women are different from country to country, you have a choice in how you respond to these expectations. Women still tend to take second place in the Japanese workplace, and you may have some disagreeable experiences that test the limits of your tolerance. For example, you may not like the idea of the “office lady” (OL) serving tea to everybody. You may be shocked at incidents you perceive as sexual harassment. How you respond is up to you, but it is important to discuss your opinions with others while maintaining cultural sensitivity. Do not let others pressure you into conforming to the norm of Japanese femininity. Be yourself. The Japanese are as eager to learn about you as you are about them.

The Japanese often use compliments as a way to smooth communications. You may receive a lot of comments about your appearance from colleagues, students, prospective friends and even strangers. Sometimes colleagues may seem overly concerned about your welfare. Although their concern should be appreciated, comments about how you spend your private time, how you dress, your hairstyle or your weight may not be welcome. Handle these comments as politely and firmly as possible.

If you become the victim of sexual assault, you should immediately seek the assistance of the nearest medical and police authorities. The Embassy of Canada in Tokyo can help you find support to deal with the emotional, social, medical and legal consequences of the assault.

For more information, consult the Consular Services publication Her Own Way - A Woman's Safe-travel Guide. Filled with practical tips of interest to the female traveller, its prime objective is to encourage Canadian women to travel safely. Also recommended are Bon Voyage, But... Essential Information for Canadian Travellers and Well on Your Way - A Canadian’s Guide to Healthy Travel Abroad. Both are available online or by calling 1-800-267-8376 (in Canada) or (613) 944-4000.

Other online travel resources for women are www.journeywoman.com and www.being-a-broad.com.

Sources of information in Japan

There are several English-language newspapers in Japan, including the Japan Times and Daily Yomiuri. Both newspapers offer information on such topics as Japanese culture, local events, politics and job classifieds.

Websites that may help you settle into life in Japan include japan-guide.com, GaijinPot and TimeOut, which provide information on local events as well as forums and message boards that create opportunities to discuss common challenges in Japan.

How the Embassy of Canada can help

The Embassy of Canada in Tokyo assists Canadians in a variety of ways. It notarizes documents required to process applications (e.g., citizenship, marriage in Japan), renews Canadian passports and provides consular assistance to Canadians in difficulty. The embassy can also provide contact information for various Japanese government agencies and assist with communication under difficult circumstances (for example medical and other emergencies). The embassy does not provide legal advice or legal counsel, but it can provide you with a list of local lawyers and law firms. The choice of legal representation must be your own. For more information, consult the Embassy of Canada to Japan website. Finally, all Canadian citizens in Japan are encouraged to register with the embassy. Information obtained through registration can be used to contact you in an emergency or if family or friends need to get in touch with you urgently. Registration is voluntary, and the information you provide is protected and used in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act. You can register online, by mail or in person with the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo.

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