Monday, March 16, 2009


After a few weeks of anticipation, I finally got my placement info! I'll be teaching at 2 High Schools in Iwate Prefecture, Japan, a town of about 7,000 people:

I'm pretty stoked that I got a rural area even though I mentioned being indifferent earlier. Japan, like any other country, has urban, suburban and rural areas, and teachers can be placed in any one of them. I told my recruiter that I was open to any location since they all have pros and cons. The more rustic, the easier it'd be to learn the language and culture but more populated areas would definitely have more going on. That's not to say I'd turn down Tokyo or Osaka; that'd be like turning down San Francisco for Arcata, CA.

I'm still working out the details (housing, car, etc) but I was assured I'd be the be the only gaijin, or "non-Japanese", in town. And I suspect I may be the first black person some of the townspeople will have ever seen...

..but more on that later. For now, here are some pics of the Iwate Prefecture:

Mount Iwate:

Iwate Snow Festival:

Iwate Park Pond:

Uba Falls

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Getting the Job

Interested in Teaching English in Japan? Wondering what it takes? While I can't attest to the program or experience itself (yet), I can give an account on my application process.

Before seriously considering this move, I had only heard of the JET program (it seems to be the most popular...most folks ask me if that's who I'm going through), but in addition to their popularity, they also have a November deadline. Fortunately, there are other established and reputable programs that offer the same opportunity and accept applications through January. Here are the ones that I looked into:
Google Translate works wonders for the ones written in Japanese. And for supplemental reading, there are also tons of forums out there where English Teachers congregate to talk about all facets of their experience, including employer reviews. But just like any other forum, there are trolls so use your best judgment to discern and extract useful info posts.
I liked a few of the companies but ultimately decided to continue with Interac. And because I applied at the tail end of the application window, the whole ordeal only took about 3 weeks:

January 24th - Applied Online
January 27th - Received request for follow-up essays and turned them in the same day
January 30th - Interview with Interac in Los Angeles, CA. This consisted of a presentation on teacher life in Japan, a mock lesson where I taught my fellow applicants, a basic grammar test, a personality test and a 1-on-1 interview
February 12th - Received Offer

...and that's how I got the job

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Why I accepted this job

I'm growing more familiar with 4 of the 5 W's (and 1 H) of Journalism. After mentioning that I'm going to teach English in Japan, I usually get something along the lines of "You're going to teach English in Japan? Wait...what? When? How? Where? Why?". It's not always in that order but they're typically asked at some point. And I can see why: I'm a Nigerian/Texan IT and SW professional living in San Francisco and this is a 180 degree turn from the last 4 years of my life.

Nope, I'm not kidding. I'm moving to Japan.

I'm starting on Monday, April 5th, 2009.

I'm going through Interac, an organization that places native English speakers in schools throughout Japan

No idea, but I'm open to anything. Tokyo? That'd be nice but probably not...they usually reserve spots in Tokyo for people who can do more than say "Hello" in Japanese. And I can't even do that correctly.

This one is trickier because it doesn't warrant a simple response. It's the culmination of a few things: personal interest, professional development and the economy.

I've been interested in Japan since Jr. High School and have been actively trying to visit since 2005. Like many, I got my first taste of the country by watching Anime (specifically, it was Vampire Hunter D, Ranma 1/2 and Akira) but grew increasingly fascinated over time. From their innovation (e.g., the World's first bullet train) to their culture (e.g., the high work ethic, ridiculously low crime rate) to their unique and inventive products, news of Nippon gradually moved it to the top of my list of countries to visit.

Professionally, it's inadvertently beneficial. I have a B.S. in Computer Engineering and have been working full time since 2005. This move is not directly related to my career path, it's a cut in pay and I could easily get technologically rusty during my stint away from the Bay. That said, it will also give me international exposure, help me learn Japanese, provide a leadership opportunity and most importantly, be challenging. I have no illusions: this won't be a walk in the park. If it was, it wouldn't be as appealing.

But it was the economy that really put the wheels in motion: I made this decision after becoming economic collateral damage even though there were other options available. On one hand, I could join another exciting startup in Silicon Valley but that would mean gambling with job security at a volatile time in an already risky work environment. On the other hand, there are still many stable IT jobs, despite the recession, but that could mean working in a less stimulating environment.

In addition to those 3 elements, this gig also helps me reach a dream: becoming a teacher. The disparity between honor and regular classes--both of which I took--back in high school highlighted how vital a good teacher was to student success. I graduated from an athletics-focused school and felt that students weren't always motivated to want more because they were stuck learning from teachers who resembled Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I responded by promising myself I'd become a teacher one day so that I could do for my students what those teacher's didn't. This job affords me that opportunity.

To be fair, I wasn't 100% sure of teaching English in Japan when the thought first crossed my mind. But the more I looked into it the more it felt right. Not only do I get to travel, achieve a dream and develop, I also get paid for it! I'm looking forward to becoming both a student and a teacher. It's going to be quite an adventure.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Moving to Japan!

I've accepted a contract with Interac to teach English in Japan for one year and will be starting in April.

I don't speak Japanese
I've never been to Japan
I don't know anyone who lives in Japan.
And I'm sure to stick out like a sore thumb.

I've never been so excited!

I created this blog to record and share my experiences in the land of the Rising Sun