May 11, 2016
My friend Shogo told me his theory on why people move to Japan to become English teachers. He speaks English well and made a lot of English teacher friends. This is what the English teachers had in common.
They were all obsessed with:
Video Games, Manga and Anime, and/or Japanese Language.
English teachers in Japan are obsessed with these things.
Do you like how I spelled Anime & Manga ‘wrong?’
There were three main categories of obsession, from Shogo’s perspective. All related to different aspects of Japanese culture, and respectfully leaving out the category of ‘obsessed with Asian women’ because hopefully they didn’t make it to Japan as English teachers (or at all).
The best video game consoles and the ones most of us grew up with are from Japan. Everyone knows Mario, but not everyone knows Momotaro Dentetsu. There are people who like video games, and there are people who are obsessed with video games. Collecting vintage and hard to find games, rebuilding arcade games, and spending lots of time in noisy game centers are good indicators that you fall into the obsessed spectrum. Have you studied Japanese so you can play games only released in Japan? Ah hah.
Anime & Manga
Nausicca, Valley of the Wind, by Studio Ghibli/Miyazaki Hayao
Sure, you know Pokemon, maybe One Piece and Naruto. Do you own a Studio Ghibli DVD box set or all of the Doraemon manga, in Japanese? Does it bother you when people pronounce anime and manga incorrectly? You could be obsessed with Anime and Manga.
Adachi Mitsuru’s amazing manga, Touch
A good indicator of obsession is when you read a good manga, and need to watch any related anime, drama, or movie spin-offs. (my obsession: ハチミツとクローバー) If you read the fan-drawn manga, or doujinshi, inspired by the original, that would be a clear, “Yes, you’re obsessed.”
If you study Japanese so you can play Japanese video games or understand anime & manga in Japanese, you fall into this category. Same if you majored in Japanese, or took Japanese classes even though you could have taken something easier (like Español) to graduate. Actually study kanji on purpose? Want to take the JLPT for fun? In a Japanese conversation Meetup club? Yeah, obsessed with Japanese language. There are also people who really want to teach English as a second language and chose Japan as a (well paying, compared with some options) place to try it out.
What about you?
Of course, these are not the only reasons people come to Japan to teach English. Why do you live/want to live in Japan? I’m guessing it isn’t because you like your sushi without cream cheese. It’s definitely not because you like earthquakes, right?
I can fit into the Japanese Language and Manga & Anime nerd categories, but I also love Japanese design and culture, traveling here, and onsen. Video games are alright – especially Momotaro Dentetsu and Doctor Mario.
I feel like this list would have described me when I was 10 or 11. I had no idea what Japan was like outside of my very narrow view. Partially because trying to research things in the early 90's was a bit more difficult than now. Then coming here in 2000 I saw a completely different side of Japan. It honestly changed my life and led me to return in 2008 and then move here in 2012. Since then I've seen countless people leave disappointed because Japan wasn't "living up to their standards" aka it wasn't like their animes. It's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of what you think a country is like before actually visiting. So, yeah do people only visit Japan because they like Naruto? Sure, but I don't think that their time here will live up to the Japan they've created in their mind. For me Japan started out as liking the simple things and turned into something much more! Which I think will happen if you get out, explore you city, and engage with the local culture. And dating Japanese women is just an added bonus...not the entire reason I moved here!
@Higgins Right, video games, anime & comics are a big part of a lot of 10-11 year olds' lives, true. There are lots of people who are obsessed with these things but who don't adapt well to living in another country, which is a huge factor. Maybe some people come here and are disappointed that they don't see ninjas and geisha walking down the street all the time (just geisha occasionally, we aren't supposed to see ninja, hah), I don't know. If you don't make that effort to go out and explore, you might miss all the parts which inspired the anime you like.
I came to Japan because after a load of travelling, I wanted to live and work overseas. Japan was one of the best paid places to do that. Plus I met someone, if you know what I mean. More on theme though, I used to tell people it was because I was a fan of an 'electronica' musician called Susumu Yokota, but non of the locals seemed to have heard of him.