This is a response to the article entitled 10 reasons to become an ALT in Japan. While there are many people who come to Japan and work successfully as an ALT for a year or two, there are many complaints and even a few people who have more complaints than reasons to stay and have to leave before they initially planned to. Note: This article is quite negative but your own experience is what you make it.

  1. It's expensive
    You need quite a bit of money to get here and set yourself up. See Setting up a new apartment in Japan. If you come with Interac, Aeon or any other major employer of ALT's and English teachers, you will also need a couple months of living expenses to see you through to the first paycheck. See Interac salary schedule April to March.
  2. It's not a vacation
    As in you will be working a full time job but in most cases it won't be called full time and you won't be getting the salary you might be able to get if you got a job straight from university. However you probably get good vacation time if you work in public schools which might make up for it.
  3. You aren't in Kansas anymore
    You will be in a foreign country where you don't speak the language (unless of course you speak Japanese!) This makes everything a bit more tricky.
  4. It might not be what you expect
    When most people think of Japan they think of Tokyo. When most ALT's come to Japan, the don't get to go to Tokyo. Tokyo is where everyone wants to go and so Tokyo schools get the people who have been here a few years and who at least speak a decent amount of Japanese. Basically, there is usually a waiting list for Tokyo. You are more likely to end up in Kansas... or the Japanese equivilent.
  5. It's not so easy making Japanese friends
    You may be excited to come to Japan and make some friends here but it isn't easy. If you speak Japanese you might find this to be false or if you enjoy hanging out with people who like to "practice their English" then you might also find this to be false, but in general, Japanese people are less outgoingly friendly than their Western counter-parts and because they work so much more than you, finding time to hang out is also tricky! Also, if you don't speak Japanese, they and you are going to get bored pretty quickly once you realise you can't get past asking if they like this or that.
  6. You lose time
    Gap years or two are great, they are fun and they are an experience. But so is living your first few years by yourself, after university in your own country. While everyone else is getting on with life, you may find that you have stalled a little and when you get back, find yourself a "year or two behind" everyone else.
  7. It's a different culture
    Now this is probably a positive for most who consider coming to Japan in the first place but still, there are a few who come over and have a difficult time adapting. That is correct. You are the one who has to fit in. This is not your country and the way things are done will sometimes not sit right with you. But you have to sit down and button up because you are here, in a foreign country. You have to change.
  8. You can't save money
    Back in the day, like 30 years ago, people came to teach English in Japan and made bank. These days it doesn't work like that. Japan isn't the booming economy it was in the 80's and people don't have cash to spend. And I have heard some say ALT salaries haven't changed since those days (and in fact, thanks to the massive companies that have taken a place firmly between you and your true employer in Japan, the salaries have even reduced!). Between worldwide inflation and a stagnant salary, "coming home a rich man after a year in Japan" is a fairy-tale. You can save hard but you end up not getting much at all if you like to party like it's 1999.
  9. It's kind of dangerous
    In terms of crime statistics, Japan is known as one of the safest countries in the world. If you are talking about earthquakes and tsunami's on the otherhand...
  10. Add your reason here!

Japan is a lovely country and I do enjoy living here but it isn't for everyone. Again, this article was simple a response to another article entitled 10 reason to become an ALT in Japan, just to give an alternative view for people trying to decide whether to come to Japan or not.

Comments (3)

  • Jenn

    Most of this reasoning is wrong. The pay on the JET Program is highly competitive and anyone who is frugal will save money here. It might not be as much as you'd save working a full time job back home, but it's blatantly incorrect to say that living in Japan is 'expensive' and that you won't save money here. Rent in Japan is half the price it is back in my home country (Australia), I don't find Japan particularly expensive when considering the cost of living in my home country. The only people who can't save money on an ALT wage are a) those who pay high rent in cities like Tokyo, or b) those who spend hundreds on partying every weekend. Everyone else should be able to save a reasonable amount of money from their wages if they know how to budget. As for 'losing time', I don't really get why spending a few years overseas is considered a 'loss'. I spent 8 years during and after university working in a full time job and I personally consider that time to be a 'loss'. It's only after coming to Japan at the age of 30 that I feel lke I'm doing what I should have done many years ago. It depends what people's goals are - if your goal is to explore the world and gain experience in an ESL environment to build a career when you return, then your time here definitely isn't wasted. As for the new culture, and difficulty making friends, yes this is all true, but life is supposed to be a challenge, and I've enjoyed the challenge of living outside my comfort zone. It's not for everyone but i found this article to be excessively negative.

  • Trevor

    Where does it say living in Japan is expensive? As I read it, it says becoming an ALT in Japan is expensive...

  • Realist've certainly got it right when you say "anyone who is FRUGAL will save money here" and that is a grand understatement! Yeah living frugal is great! Alright! I went to university just so I can live frugally!

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