So, should I do Just Be Cause?

What do people think? How should I approach it now? This month’s appears as if it will be directed in part at least towards the apologists.

Leave a comment ?


  1. @George:

    The original JET Programme got it right: three years should be the maximum you spend relying on your native language and your genki-ness as your primary job skills that earns you a salary. * Stretching the range by a year, let’s say you should aim for two to four years tops.

    It’s a great “bootstrap” to get in the country, get assimilated language-wise, and gives you enough time to get over the culture shock phases. And if you don’t waste ALL your time (some is okay) partying, you may have the opportunity to network and put your real skills (not your mother tongue) to use after your JET contract ends.

    * Note how I’m phrasing this: there is room for professional teachers to have a professional teaching career in Japan. But this is not the job that most eikaiwa offers.

  2. So, 50 comments! Are we still not discussing it yet? :razz:

  3. @Level3:

    I briefly worked in Europe many years ago, and I recognise what you’re saying from that. Quite a few Brits I knew were running away from “family problems” at least some of which they’d more or less taken with them. Perhaps I’ve just been lucky in not meeting that many day-one messed up people in Japan.


    Yep. Professionalisation is the way to go with language teaching if you’re going to stick with it. Japan is one of the few countries that lets people teach with no qualification at all. (I think some eikaiwa are threatened by qualifications). I also think an honest “how not to crash and burn” guide written for the prospective long-termer is a good idea. One that isn’t perfumed with tired witty wry ambivalence towards the host culture.

    @Andrew in Ezo:

    Japan being a relatively wealthy and well-run first world nation, I think exacerbates the situation.

    I’ve sensed this, and I’ve wondered exactly why. I can’t believe it’s simply that Japanese aren’t impressed by western wealth. Why do you think it is?

  4. Honestly, if you like teaching for eikaiwa, and I mean *teaching*, not just droning on for an hour about what you watched on YouTube last night, there’s no harm in staying with it. The money isn’t great but it’s enough to get by on… my family certainly got by on less when I was young.

    The eikaiwa problem is that it’s the easiest ticket here, and a lot of people take the job to get here, then keep the job because it’s easy and pays okay, even though they hate the job. Hating your job echos through your whole psychological well-being. It puts you on edge, depresses you, and makes you far more prone to irritation.

  5. @George:

    Anyone planning on continuing to live in Japan long term really should return temporarily to their home country, get some experience and come back if they like it here.

    I agree with this 100%. It gets you better qualified and shows you that the grass is indeed not always greener.

  6. @The Dude:

    Perspective is a good thing.

    I wonder how does the core demographic of Eikawa teachers (by my assumption, early twenties, fresh out of college, single) affect this, though? The “anchor” relationship…

  7. @iago:

    I’m not sure what master’s level qualifications are out there for ESL teachers or teachers in general, but after a year or two in JET/Eikaiwa, returning back home and into a graduate program would be a good idea. Someone in JET could easily save the money for tuition, though it might be more difficult for someone at Nova type place.

    Coming back later, they’d be qualified for a university position. In language related fields in Japan, a PhD isn’t even required to for an Associate Professor position. And, they would have that perspective that is missing, maybe even find themselves saying, “back in Japan they do this way which is better…” :wink:

  8. @VK:
    I didn’t mean to put down eikaiwa as a job with my example (both he and I each did it for about 2-3 years before moving on to more salaryman-type jobs). I meant to use him (and me, to more of an extent than I’d care to admit) as an example of someone who will reflexively dismiss Japan-based perspectives because they aren’t the way things work “in the real world”, when in fact his experience in that “real world” outside of Japan is zero.

  9. I don’t really care whether you do ‘Just Be Cause’, but can you please do something about ‘Japanzine’ at some point? It’s started appearing in my inbox and I have no idea why, or who puts it together, apart from the fact that they have a predilection for hastily cobbling together a collection of barely concealed racism and ill-thought out stereotyping about the Japanese. It seems to be aimed at the expat community over here…

  10. @Taurus:

    I haven’t read it for years, but it had good and bad moments. I found it more dull than offensive. That said, “Ask Kazuhide” can reach moments of brilliance. It took me a while to get the joke that it’s a satire on gaijin prejudice.

  11. @VK:

    Yes, but do FOTB gaijin know “Ask Kazuhide” is satire?

    You might as well ask me what I think about the true intent of the Colbert Report. :wink:

  12. @Sublight:

    Oh, I didn’t take you as running down eikaiwa teachers – so no worries. I was just prompted to pontificate (again) by what you said.


    do FOTB gaijin know “Ask Kazuhide” is satire?

    Yeah, but screw them. He can be laugh out loud funny. As for Colbert, you can think what you like (although I’m hoping Mitt Romney will give him his mojo back). But I know that Glenn Beck is a deep cover liberal satirist. :smile:

  13. I`m very wary of these discussions about Eikaiwa or Eikaiwa teachers, particularly when they talk about what skills Eikaiwa requires, and how long one should stay in Eikaiwa. “Eikaiwa” is an often misapplied umbrella term, and different schools have different levels of opportunity for teachers, and different levels of service for students. Big, chain Eikaiwa schools just want to get bums on seats, but there are also plenty of private, well-run Eikaiwas which put a lot of value on professionalism and qualifications. The fact that people bunch them all together means that stigmatization of one leads to stigmatization of the other, and as a result highly qualified teachers are assumed (mostly by other foreigners) to be getting by on nothing but their ‘mother tongue’ and their ‘genkiness’. I have friends who teach and develop materials for small Eikaiwa schools, and I imagine they would take offense at the idea that they are coasting or wasting their time, and should really be getting a proper job.

    Obviously I understand that when people use “Eikaiwa” they are referring to chain schools, but that’s what I mean by the term being misapplied.

    Even with regard to the chain schools, I think Eikaiwa is what you make of it. For those who wish to go into teaching it provides an entry-level position in the industry, and also a crash-course in teaching all manner of ages, levels, and genres. If people want to teach as a career, they should use their Eikaiwa time (as I did) to get qualified, get experienced, and get ready to move on to something more prestigious and rewarding.

    For others, Eikaiwa is a means to an end. There are plenty of people who aren’t interested in money or having a career, and are far more interested in pursuing a hobby or a passion (music, travel writing, whatever). Eikaiwa gives them enough money to support themselves and enough free time to do what they really want to do. I can`t see any problem with that.

    For some people it’s a way of running away from their problems, or it’s literally their only option. Those people are….a concern.

    It’s a shame that the big Eikaiwa schools in Japan have such a stranglehold on the market. The respectable international language teaching institutions (International House, the British Council, etc.) failed, or are failing in Japan, because their claims to have the most qualified teachers are countered by the claims of Eikaiwa chains to have equally good in-house training programs. The average Japanese person has no recourse to judge those claims against each other, and so the respectable institutions fail while the crappy ones proliferate.

    Anyway, getting a bit whiny and off-topic. Apologies.

  14. I think Ask Kazuhide is buried under so much prejudice that it’s difficult to notice the satire. I haven’t actually read it beyond the headline in the emails because the rest of the stuff is so crap. Unless that’s satire too, in which case it fails because it’s not really funny.

  15. Thank you. thank you. thank you.
    I had never heard of “Ask Kazuhide” before, but just spent about 15 minutes with the more recent stuff. Absolutely loved it. Not funny? Well, I have to disagree. I will provide no arguments – its a matter of humor, but yes I understood it is being all satire.

  16. Oh, well it only seems to start in May, last year. Or the links are broken or something. Anyway good read.

  17. Oops, I’ve just seen the full article with pictures. :facepalm: Including Hiko Saemon. :headdesk:

  18. @Ken Y-N: Probably time to play that calm down video again…


  19. @Ken Y-N: Meh. Not working…

    I just cannot believe he did that. Worm.

  20. @Rob:

    I have no doubt that there are small, professional eikaiwa schools out there with people dedicated to the profession, but that in no way lessens the fact that it’s an extremely risky industry to enter for an extended period of time unless you have ambitions to start your own school – and considering the decrease in students lately, that’s not even safe.

    All jobs need to be considered for future career growth, potential for educational opportunities, salary, etc. Eikaiwa limits you in almost all of those areas, and even worse, it provides you with absolutely nothing that will assist you in other fields (except for maybe personal connections). Getting educational qualifications are absolutely essential if you want to proceed in education, and unless you’re extremely dedicated, you’re not going to find the time to get that done while teaching.

    My anecdote isn’t going to apply to everyone, but I did the whole post-eikaiwa job hunt and in nearly every interview they would actually ask me what I did before teaching (it was essentially a 4 year blank in my resume). Even worse, everyone and their brother knows someone who has taught English in Japan, and so even overseas it has the same negative reputation that it has over here. My only saving grace was my proficiency in Japanese which was used to find a new career path.

    havill said it best that 3 years is really the maximum amount of time someone should spend teaching without moving into the business side of the industry. Sales, management, etc. will all look better on a resume than the teaching part (with the exception of actually developing your own curriculum/textbook). The business stuff will actually require Japanese, and that can even open doors to other, better work here.

    I’m not bashing the industry, but it’s clear that it should be considered temporary in all but the most extreme examples. And I agree that it could be used as a means to an end, but I honestly can’t imagine anyone would look at the short-term potential of a job as a permanent solution to move forward in life. That’s how many people get stuck 15 years into the industry and suddenly realize they need a change but have few options to ‘escape’. And that’s also a pattern I see in lots of people who start to relentlessly bash Japanese culture, blaming it for the predicament they find themselves in.

  21. @Ken Y-N:

    Unbelievable. What’s Hikosaemon supposed to do? Provide browser histories and logs to this champion of democratic rights? Borudemoruto appears to be burning bridges before he’s even built them.

    Does the Japan Times owner know that one of his columnists is leveraging the JT in settling personal scores?

    (apologies for any contravention of new house rules).

  22. @George:

    I’d qualify what you’re saying in terms of clientele. Eikaiwa for companies is very different to Eikaiwa for hobbyists. Much like the benefits of qualifications, teaching in a non-silly results-focused environment can provide greater job satisfaction as well as a kind of career path.

  23. What’s going on with Hikosaemon?

  24. Chrysanthemum Sniffer

    I believe they are referring to pictures on the version which appears on the website that shall not be named.

    You know, fuck it. That’s the sort of behavior that warrants links.

  25. @Ken Y-N:
    The JT article? Do I have to schlep to the library and see something that isn’t in the web version? Sure as hell ain’t buying an issue.

  26. @Chrysanthemum Sniffer:

    I think he’s just “learning” that being even more accusatory gets him more attention. That and the new Racism Is Everywhere You Want It To Be theory seems to have gotten almost dozen new letter-writing recruits. He doubled his fan base in 1 month! :wink:

    I think this silliness should be translated into Japanese and made available to a wider audience.

  27. @Level3:

    No, the version on his website includes a haters’ gallery, with pics of Ken, LB and Hiko. In Hiko’s case, it looks like he searched through a video of him having a conversation to find a screencap of him with his face scrunched up.

  28. Ah, okay, I see. Mind you, in his defence, he has also posted a picture of himself at the top of the article looking well, well ridiculous (I mean, about leagues ahead of how silly any of the ‘haters’ look).

  29. iLikedolphins

    As a NA(non-American), these kind of basher vs apologist arguments remind me a lot of the North American political situation in which everything becomes extremely polarized.

    In fact apologists do actually exist, and I dislike them as much as the Japan bashers!

    Gaijin who try too hard to please exist as well, and they are embarrassing!

    I want to hear more about successful gaijin. People like me who are entirely comfortable in a Japanese environment, have many (male) Japanese friends, happy in their family lives, yada yada yada…

    why do we always have to read about the unhappy fringe nutjob people?

  30. @iLikedolphins:

    “why do we always have to read about the unhappy fringe nutjob people? ”

    Because the Japan Times hired him as a columnist? :lol:

    Thank you. I’ll be here all week! Remember to tip your waitresses…unless they spoke English to you, then try to get them fired! :wink:

  31. @iLikedolphins:

    The thing is, there aren’t that many genuine apologists. I suppose I’ve met people who really struggle at the beginning to distinguish between good and bad behaviour, and think that bad behaviour is just a different culture – they exoticise the place too much. And then there are foreigners in eikaiwa management who encourage the “It’s the Japanese way” view to get away with crapping on their subordinates.

    But those sorts of people end up very unhappy very quickly. I think a lot of them snap and turn into Japan bashers. Some of the life histories given by Japan bashers start off with how much effort they put in at the beginning to assimilate and how little it paid off. (I found it interesting in the literature on culture shock that people who psychologically deny their difference with the dominant culture often encounter emotional difficulties.)

    My self-regulating reference point has been the idea of an Indian or Pakistani migrating to the UK decades ago. The goal for them was not to become white, but to become British (and in doing so, what it means to be British has shifted a little for everyone.) And it’s normal to have ambivalent feelings about your identity, where you came from and where you have moved to. That’s produced by moving, not by either of the countries in themselves. Emigrating presents psychological challenges.

    I don’t know if you know the British comedy show Goodness Gracious Me, but a lot of the sketches are based on relationships between native born British Asians and their migrant parents. Some make an embarrassing effort to become a stereotype of Englishness (the Kupars become the cravat-wearing Coopers), while a famous character constantly whinges how everything good in the UK came from India. It reminds me that I must not become comedy foreign Dad for my kids.

    It’s also because this is my reference point and I know the in-your-face prejudice migrants to the UK encountered (and how it has changed and frankly improved), and also the difficulties in adjusting to a new culture about which they often had entirely the wrong (overly positive) idea before they came, that I find the microaggressions-as-foul-offence point of view utterly ludicrous, and the “things will never change” undertone quite false.

    I don’t think of myself as a successful gaijin. That’s not my goal. I want to be a successful teacher, a successful parent, a successful linguist, a good friend, a member of a community… I focus on those things instead. And I think that’s the key to happiness.

    Problems occur when barriers are put in the way of me doing these things because I am not Japanese. That’s what I would consider the appropriate arena for anger and human rights activism. Not chopstick compliments or schoolkids trying to talk to me.

  32. @VK: Absolutely agree. And Goodness gracious Me and The Kumars are a good reference point. And now I want a curry.

    My goal isn’t to be successful as a Foreigner, it’s to be successful as an Individual, a family member and part of a community with all its similarities and differences. And I suspect that’s a shared goal for all those living in Japan, wherever they lie on the spectrum.

    I think a lot of the irreversible negativity is from those already going or gone.

  33. “Apologist” is such a misnomer anyway. Apologizing implies regret for wrongdoing. I would have preferred to refer to such a person as a “blind defender”, although that makes for far less snappy plays on words.

  34. @iago:

    Ah, so that’s why it’s called that. TIL (Today I Learned), as they say on Reddit…

  35. Oh man I got a response! Sweet!

  36. …though, I admit, not the desired one…

  37. @David Moss:

    So did Hikosaemon, attempting to set the record straight. If anything demonstrates the bankruptcy and paranoia of the microaggressive theorist, it’s that response. Derald Wing Sue responds to criticism with abuse, too.

    Hikosaemon phrases the problem beautifully:

    My biggest concern about this observation of Debito was however the negative impact it can have on first contact conversations between new arrivals and Japanese – what kind of a conversation are you supposed to have with someone you think has greeted you with a racial slur? If I accepted this theory as presented without alternate positions and personal experience to balance it, I would not have formed any of the friendships I have with my closest Japanese friends and colleagues, and my quality of life here would be greatly diminished as a result.

    This is the objection that gets met with abuse rather than reason. It’s dismissed as a plea to “suck it up”, but they seem to miss the point that clearly these “microaggressions” are not attempts to exclude. They result in friendships. Friendships tend to be, y’know, inclusive.

    Underlying objections to the current microaggressions craze and accusations of apologism is this basic puzzlement: “Who are these people, who are unhappy with and unsettled and alienated in Japan, to lecture people who are happier and more settled and more connected about how best to interact with Japanese?”

  38. I agree VK, and don’t take this to seriously, but I recently changed my religion on Facebook to VK, out of respect….

  39. @David Moss:

    :shock: Oh good heavens, don’t do that!

    Put “Tepidean”. Tepido died for our sins (or our schlongs), and had twelve followers in life (now more in death). Hikosaemon has denied Tepido three times, so he can be the first Pope.

  40. Having watched the Youtube video, the outcome was kind of predictable (other than the Jolly Green Giant there… :shock: ).

    The Scott Hards interactions were kind of interesting, though.

  41. @iago:

    Okay, now play the ball, not the person, everyone.


    Must. Be. Constructive. Will. Try. Harder.

  42. I love how they claim to despise the “othering” which they delusionally believe is happening to them every day, yet are more than happy to “other” anyone who doesn’t agree with their delusions as “Apologists”, “Haters” and “Guestists” :?: (whatever that means)

    Realizing their own double-standards has never been their strong point.

    The very real “othering” is coming from this lot. Othering all happy gaijin and othering themselves into isolation while blaming the society for their own anti-social (outright sociopathic in some cases) tendencies.

  43. (No Longer) Unimpressed


    “Guestists” refers to devotees / groupies of columnist Mike Guests, or proponents of his theories?

  44. @(No Longer) Unimpressed:

    It could be Gregory Clark’s kind of view – which could be crudely stereotyped as “their house, their rules” when it comes to cultural practices not contravening human rights.

    However, it’s very difficult (if not impossible) with this particular writer to distinguish between his opposition to an idea and his personal dislike of individuals because they’ve been critical.

  45. @(No Longer) Unimpressed: @VK:

    Yes, it’s referring to the school of thought that says we [foreigners] are all merely guests in this country and therefore should be always on our best behavior and never criticize our hosts.

  46. @iago:

    Except there’s no one – not even Clark – who is like this.

  47. @VK:

    No, it’s a convenient invention, though, don’t you think? Just like the “Gaijin Clown” or any of the other straw men thrown in front of the pitchforks.


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