We'd like to announce that we are now hiring for Spring 2018! If you'd like to live and work in beautiful Tochigi Prefecture, now is the time to send us your application.
As a gentle reminder, we require that you be a native English speaker and have a Bachelor's degree or recognized equivalent.
To apply, use our contact form, located here. Tell us a little bit about yourself (where you're from, why you're interested in coming to Tochigi, etc.) and paste your resume or c.v. below your introduction.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Hot, sticky weather turning to cold, wet weather in the blink of an eye? Rain falling from otherwise sunny skies? Umbrellas for sale at every convenience store and news stand? Must be rainy season!
Rain, rain, go away...
What's Rainy Season?
Tsuyu, or rainy season, generally lasts from June 8 to July 20 here on the Kanto plain. The temperature swings from the low teens to the high twenties overnight and every thunderstorm is followed by a miniature heat wave. Degree by degree, it gets hotter, wetter, and stickier, before finally ending in the unbearable heat and humidity of full summer.
Keeping oneself and one’s clothes free of sweat, rain drops, and rain splatter can be easier said than done. Luckily, we’ve got some advice for you to weather the season in style. Read on for our nine tips on staying dry during the hottest, wettest, part of the year.
On the Go:
You’ll notice that our tips in this section are more geared towards keeping clean and cool than dealing with rain. That’s because, in our experience, rain is easy to deal with - just go inside - but the lasting effects of heat, humidity, and sudden changes in temperature can be much trickier.
Carry a towel. Cute animal shape optional.
(Photo by user Littleinfo on Wikimedia.)
1. Carry a towel.
You may have noticed that the teachers and students at your schools have suddenly taken to carry small towels with them at all times. Go down to your local convenience store or 100 yen shop and grab a couple for yourself. We recommend carrying at least two with you during rainy season and the subsequent summer months. Use one for wiping away sweat and the other for cooling off (by soaking it in cold water and laying it across the back of your neck.) And you’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough to keep you supplied while your first set is in the wash.
2. Invest in a folding fan.
Folding fans have long been a symbol of Japan and for good reason. They’re compact, lightweight, and, most importantly, effective. Although there is nothing wrong with a pretty fan, we recommend substance over style in this case. You’ll want one that is a bit heavier but that will stand up to being pulled out of your bag a dozen times a day as you need to cool off in the office, in the classroom, or while walking from one to the other.
Our preferred umbrella.
3. Get an umbrella.
Umbrellas are everywhere in Japan. And so cheap! Until it starts raining. Then convenience stores sell out of stock within minutes. Department stores suddenly raise their prices. And any unattended umbrella will “disappear.” So, be prepared. Spend a little bit more money to find an umbrella that fits your frame - many Westerners find Japanese umbrellas to be too small to fully cover them and thus end up with one dry shoulder and one wet shoulder - and then label it with your name in Japanese. And don’t forget to take it with you!
4. Carry extra socks.
For a number of reasons, some streets in Japan do not have adequate drainage for sudden downpours. As a result, walking to work can lead to uncomfortably wet socks and shoes rather quickly. As you will probably have clean, dry shoes waiting to be worn inside your school, you’ll want to have clean, dry socks to go with them. We recommend throwing an extra set into your day bag so that you’ll be ready to face the day comfortably dry.
Remember to drink lots of water. Lots.
(Photo by Barbara Piuma on Wikimedia.)
5. Drink lots of water.
It’s easier than you would think to become dehydrated during the rainy season. The constant changes in the ambient temperature plus high humidity lulls people into drinking less water or tea than they normally would. Carry a thermos with water and take advantage of your schools’ tea services to make sure you’re drinking enough. At the same time, keep an eye on how much coffee and alcohol you drink as they can contribute to dehydration.
6. Stock up on wet wipes.
It’s easy to get up a better sweat than you wanted during rainy season, so it might be a good idea to keep a packet of wet wipes in your day bag, both to keep cool and to avoid becoming too fragrant during the course of the day. There are several good brands available with an assortment of cooling, moisturizing, and deodorizing varieties to choose from.
Again, rain is rarely the problem. But the amount of standing water left by sudden downpours makes for fertile mosquito breeding grounds and the constant humidity makes the mold run wild.
We love these little piggy mosquito coil holders. Seriously, they're amazing.
(Photo by Flickr user Typexnick.)
7. Invest in mosquito netting or mosquito coils.
Your local hardware store will have entire displays dedicated to all the latest and greatest ways to prevent Japan’s swarms of mosquitos from feasting on your blood. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice in choosing or setting up mosquito netting or coils. Both options are cheap, effective, and quite helpful in getting a good night’s sleep.
8. Cool your home with cool pads and fans.
While you’re at the hardware store, look into buying cool pads. These gel filled mats are designed to go under your futon while you sleep. Electric fans are likewise worth their cost as they can help keep your air-conditioning bill low. For extra effectiveness, fill a plastic bottle with water, freeze it, and then position it so that the fan blows across it.
9. Watch out for mold.
Mold is to rainy season as Santa is to Christmas: you don’t get one without the other. While the mold in Japan is generally mild, if it gets dense enough it can cause respiratory problems, allergies, and rashes. A little bit of water and bleach will take care of most varieties. The key point is to scrub it away the second you see any. Keep some rubber dishwashing gloves on hand and you’ll be all set.
Tsuyu means "plum rain" because the plum blossoms bloom during this time of the year.
There you have it, 9 tips for surviving Japan's rainy season! Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments. Good luck!
*Umbrellas and bicycles are about the only two things you will ever have to worry about having stolen in Japan. You can lose your wallet and have it returned with all your cash and credit cards undisturbed, but leave your umbrella alone for even a second on a crowded train and you’ll never see it again.
Just don't look down. Trust us on this one.
One of the more challenging aspects of ALT life happens at lunch. While it seems simple enough on paper - eat lunch with your students - the reality is seldom that simple. In addition to the logistical problems of when to go to which classroom there is the larger problem of what to do. Just sit there in stony silence? Try to be “on” and entertain every student in the class for the full lunch period? There are no easy answers, but in today’s article, we’re going to give you a few tips to survive lunch hour.
So much rice.
How Can We Eat?
The school lunch, called kyushoku, alternates between Japanese and international fare and usually consists of a main course, a salad, and a soup. For the Japanese meals, rice is served alongside fish and traditional foods like tofu and miso soup. International meals, on the other hand, may feature bread or pasta and sometimes even a dessert cup!
In fact, recently, here in Tochigi, for the international meals there has been an effort to provide meals centered around different countries cuisines. In other words, there might be a "Brazil Day" or an "Australia Day" where (Japanese interpretations) of that country's food is served. It can be hit or miss, but it's fun to see the efforts and interpretations.
Unfortunately, the meal service is not free. As an ALT you will be charged the same fee that other teachers and staff members are charged on a monthly basis. The good news is that this is often very cheap, coming in at as little as ¥250 per day, not to mention that the food is nutritious and usually tastes pretty good, too.
No cocktails allowed. Not even intergalactic ones.
Why Do We Eat?
ALTs are asked to eat with the students for a couple of reasons. The first, and most important of these is that it gives the children a chance to bond with an instructor they may not see all that often. By sitting down at a lunch table with a small group of kids, it is hoped that the students will lose some of the shyness and hesitancy that they often exhibit in the presence of foreigners.
Alongside this is the hope that the students will be willing and able to use what they have learned in their English classes. By the time they're in third grade, most students should be able to ask simple questions about the teacher's likes and dislikes as well as understand (simple, reasonable) answers. By giving the kids a chance to use what they've learned, they will gain confidence and be more willing to learn.
Your role here is to be friendly and to make conversation however you can. Ask the students about their likes and dislikes in English, or ask them about their lives outside of school, or tell them silly jokes. What you talk about it is not as important as making the effort to talk and bond with your students. And keep it local. You don’t need to entertain the entire class. Instead focus on the small group of kids in your group. Make sure they get your full attention and that they feel connected to you and you’ll have friends for life.
Where Shall We Have Lunch?
Some schools have a dedicated lunchroom, others have the students eat in their classrooms. Either way, you'll be asked to lunch just as you would be asked to a lesson, and shown to a seat. If it’s a few minutes into the lunch hour and no one has come for you, talk to the staff present in the staff room. They can, and will, call up to the classroom for you and make sure that you’ve not been forgotten.
And again, even though you're there with the entire class, you should focus your attention on the three or four kids in your lunch group. Introduce yourself even if the kids are familiar with you and ask their names. In short, be a good guest and avail yourself of the chance to chat with your students.
Once you’ve been served, wait until the student leaders have asked everyone for silence and lead the class in saying “itadakimasu.” Once that’s done, dig in! When you’re finished, say “gochisosama deshita” and return your dishes to the serving carts. But don’t leave just yet. Instead, either go back to your group or to another group and continue to talk to the kids until the end of the lunch period. Then you can escape back to your desk.
Milliways, the only place to eat.
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
At the beginning of the school year, make sure to introduce yourself to the school nutritionist and let them know about any dietary restrictions or preferences you have.
In recent years, the schools here in Tochigi have been making a special effort to cater to any and all dietary requests, but they are limited in how many changes to the set menu they can make. In other words, if you are allergic to dairy, they can and will accommodate your needs by providing a juice instead of milk and by not giving you yogurt. Likewise, allergies that can be easily avoided merely by not having, for example, shrimp in your meal, can also be accommodated.
However, for those of you who may be keeping to strict vegan or halal diets, you may be better off bringing your own lunch. For those kinds of special needs, it is best to communicate openly and often with your schools to find the right meal plan for you.
Introduce Yourself: 4 Steps for Preparing a Self-Introduction That Will Keep Your Students’ Attention
If only our self-introduction was this iconic...
By now, you’ve made it through training, you’ve met your co-workers, and you’ve navigated your first few days at school. Congratulations! But now the real work begins: teaching. And, as a general rule, during your first lesson, you'll be asked to introduce yourself to your classes. It can seem daunting, but with a little prep work, you can put together a quick and informative presentation that will charm your students.
In this article, we'll give you a few tips for making an easy self-introduction that you can use at elementary and junior high schools. Let’s begin with…
We just want to know where the popcorn's at.
The Beginning: What do your students want to know?
While it can seem as though self-introductions are challenging because you don’t have enough to say, it’s often the exact opposite that becomes a problem. In fact, the real challenge is in giving them both information about yourself and the context with which to frame it.
After all, most of the children you'll be teaching have no direct experience of the world outside Japan. Many have no experience outside Tochigi Prefecture. And even then, most of them are not old enough to have a solid grasp of life outside their bubbles of family, school, and town.
(In other words, telling a bunch of Japanese fifth graders that you love 18th century artwork by the Dutch masters is pointless. Fifth graders don’t have anywhere near the knowledge or experience to relate to such information. On the other hand, telling them that you love One Piece, they understand that. They’ve all seen the program and they love it.)
With that in mind, the information children (and teachers) generally want to know about their new ALTs can be broken down into two broad categories: information about you and information about where you’re from.
But this brings us back to - what do students want to know about you? What do they want to know about your hometown? Let’s move on to…
First Google result for "Japanese Culture."
Brainstorming: Small Differences and Large
Our keyword for brainstorming this presentation is “relatable.” Children, especially elementary school aged and younger have two frames of reference - their immediate family, friends, and school life, and Japan (and the world) in broad strokes. We want to tell things about ourselves that they can push into one of these two frames.
Let’s do a quick brainstorming exercise: draw a circle on a sheet of paper. In the middle of this, write “me”. Around this, add four big branches. Label these Bio, Likes, Dislikes, and Experiences. On the bio branch list basic facts about yourself that you are comfortable sharing. These might be your age, marital status, favorite food, etc.
For the Likes and Dislikes branches, think about the things you liked when you were in elementary or junior high school. Are they still around and will the children be familiar with them? (Pokemon - yes, Thundercats - not so much.) But also think about things that are present in Japan. Add sub-branches like “favorite Japanese food” or “most disliked Japanese food” and fill in the tertiary branches accordingly.
And for the Experiences branch, list out experiences that your students might also have had. Think “first trip to Tokyo Disney” or “first time eating sesame ice cream.” It is also a good idea to list experiences that you have had that they may be looking forward to - traveling to other countries, holding a koala, meeting a boyfriend or girlfriend, etc.
On a separate piece of paper, make the same circle for your country or hometown. List of categories for Flora, Fauna, and so on. Think about unique and interesting plants, animals, and places - the kinds of things that get shown on t.v. programs about your country. If you’re Australian this is koalas and Ayer’s Rock. If you’re English, this is foxes and Big Ben, and so on.
Once you have several ideas written down on the appropriate branches, start looking at which ones are most relatable to your students. Also consider which pieces of information can be easily tailored to differences in ages and grade levels. But before you choose any, let’s talk about…
No, pan-der. P-A-N...you know what? It's fine. We're just gonna go with it.
Relating to your audience is paramount. Kids want to know all about you, but kids also have the attention span of, well, kids. We like to use two avenues of attack in our presentations: cultural differences and shocking facts.
Cultural differences come in two flavors: big, shocking revelations that were previously unknown to you or your audience, and small, everyday differences that you can either confirm or explain to the students. (As an example of the latter - Japanese kids are taught that Americans all wear shoes indoors, all the time. Explaining when and why this is only partly true can be an interesting part of your presentation. By contrast, and to show the former - many Americans grow up owning horses or multiple dogs and cats, or other interesting pets. Many Japanese students might have only a single animal as a pet, if any at all.)
Kids have a fair bit of factual knowledge about their country. They know that Mt. Fuji is the tallest mountain in Japan. They know how tall Tokyo Tower is. Compare these landmarks to places in your own country. It doesn't really matter if it's the closest one to where you're from or whether you even have any direct experience of it - it's far more important that it helps the students build a lasting impression of you. If they know you, or feel that they do, they will be far more comfortable learning from you.
Because you're presentation all has to go together. Like a puzzle. Yeah.
Putting It All Together
By now you've got several sections to assemble: there are things about yourself, your experiences, and how they all relate to your country. Look for logical through-lines that you can use to make your presentation flow. For example: start by telling the students your name and asking them to guess where’re you from. Introduce your country with a large, famous landmark. Ask the students what the most appropriate feature of Japan is. Move on to a famous food from your country. Segue into your favorite food, then your favorite Japanese food, then ask the students what their favorite foods are, and so on and so forth.
Once you’ve got your outline or script set, start looking for photos or realia that help show exactly what it is you’re talking about. If you have your own photos that you’re willing to share, that’s even better. Prepare a slideshow or prints and make sure you have your notes ready and you should have a great presentation.
Just remember, kids are unpredictable. You never know what’s going to set them off on a tangent or how hard it’s going to be to bring them back in line. In our experience, it’s better to go with the flow rather than rigidly adhere to your plan. At the same time, they’re already pre-disposed to like you. They’re going to be curious about you and they’re going to be interested in anything you have to say as long as you say it with a smile.
ALTs confronting the daily schedule.
A Day in the Life
Congratulations! You've made it through the first few days of school and all the attendant meetings and ceremonies. But now it’s time to tackle the confusing mess that is the daily schedule.
In this article, we're going to walk you through a typical one-day schedule for ALTs, starting from the moment you get to work until the very end of the working day. So, let's assume you've gotten yourself to campus, changed your shoes, greeted everyone in a cheerful manner, and found your desk. Great! You're just in time for...
Pictured: The Morning Announcements
The Morning Meeting
Sometime around 8:00 (might be 7:55, might be 8:05, check with your school) the teachers and administration will have a brief meeting in the staff room to go over the day's events and any important notices.
As an ALT you will not be expected to make any announcements yourself, but there are things you may need to know about, so you'll want to make sure you are at your desk and ready at least five minutes before the meeting starts. Try to avoid playing with your phone during this time. Seriously, pay attention.
The meeting will be brief; around 8:20, the home room teachers will leave for their classrooms to take attendance and brief the students on the day's events.
First and Second Period
Approximately 8:30 to 10:30
Before each class, designated students will come to the staff room and announce the name of the teacher they are looking for. They then go to that teacher's desk and offer to escort the teacher to his or her classroom.
You should wait at your desk for the assigned students to find you. Encourage them to speak to you in English. They will offer to carry any textbooks or materials to class for you. Unless it's sensitive material (e.g. test preparation worksheets) you should let them do so.
Once the bell signals the beginning of class, start your lesson plan. Don't worry about late or absent students - that's the home room teachers' job. Enjoy your class time and make sure to finish on time. Students (and teachers) only have about 10 minutes between classes so it's important that they have that time to prepare and move around the school.
Once you've made it through the first two classes of the day, it's break time.
Someone said recess?
Approximately 10:15 to 10:45
You might have noticed that our times for first and second period and recess overlap. That's because the situation is different for elementary and junior high schools. At elementary schools, after second period, students will have a twenty minute recess period. If you are free during this time, it is a good chance to head out to the playground and throw a ball with or talk to some of the children. However, it is also a very good time to get resources made or prepared, or to meet with your team teachers.
Junior highs, unfortunately, don't get the recess period. However, some days will have an alternate schedule, leaving a twenty to forty minute gap between second and third period. They might use it to practice for an event or to study for tests. As with elementary schools, you should use this time as best you are able to prepare for lessons and so on.
Third and Fourth Period
Approximately 10:30 to 12:30
As you might suspect, third and fourth periods are essentially a repeat of first and second periods, only everyone is a little bit less energetic and a lot hungrier. Which is good, because after fourth period is...
Pictured: Students Preparing Lunch for an ALT
Approximately 12:30 to 1:30
By now, Japanese school lunch customs have become somewhat well known: Students serve lunch to their teachers and their classmates from prepared bulk portions in either their classrooms or the school cafeteria. Just as before teaching periods, students will come to the staff room to ask you to eat lunch with their class.
Japanese school lunches are usually decent, if not good, and students are always curious about other countries and customs. So, be entertaining and have fun. Try to tell jokes, ask questions, and learn about your students.
Lunch lasts for about thirty minutes. Students will take care of the clean-up, so no need to get your hands dirty. But rest up, because after lunch is...
Recess / Cleaning Time
Approximately 1:30 to 2:00
After lunch, students at both elementary and junior high schools have a bit of a break. At elementary, this is codified into a formal recess period, at junior high, it is a less-structured period of about twenty minutes before fifth period begins. However, once recessed is finished, the brooms and dustpans get pulled out of storage closets for cleaning time.
Students (and teachers, including you!) go to their assigned area and generally tidy up, sweep, and wipe down any dusty surfaces. Honestly, there's not as much cleaning actually being done as some news shows would have you believe, but it is an important part of the school day, so you should try to participate.
Fifth and Sixth Period
Approximately 2:00 to 3:30
While fifth period happens just as you might expect, sixth period can be a little different in that, many days, there is no sixth period. Rather, there is unstructured study time where students can work on various projects, homework, club activities, and so on.
If there is no sixth period, feel free to walk about the school and check in with students. As with lunch, this is a chance for you, the ALT, to get to know your students and for them to get to know you, so make the most of it. Poke your head into rehearsal spaces and art rooms and, if invited, join in.
Beaten, battered, triumphant: us at the end of the day.
The End of the Day
Approximately 4:00 or 4:30
After fifth or sixth period and / or cleaning time, students will return to their classrooms for a final meeting. You should head to the staff room and work at your desk until the bell has rung to dismiss students. By this point in the day, it's probably close to four-thirty and you're ready to go home. But not just yet!
Before you leave, make sure to check in with your co-teachers to talk about the next day's plans and schedule. Once that's done, announce your departure, and get yourself out the door.
Congratulations, you've successfully navigated a full school day without missing any classes or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Rest up and be back bright and early tomorrow so we can do it all over again!
Pretty much us. Every year.
The new school year is just around the corner and teachers and students alike are getting ready to tackle a new round of academic challenges. But before anyone can get to any of that, there is...the first day of school!
Here are five things you can do to make sure you start the year off on the right foot:
Ok, maybe not this early.
1. Get There Early
The first day of school is chaotic. Students are figuring out where they need to be, teachers are trying to do ten things at once, and the administrative staff are making sure nothing gets left undone. In other words, no one needs you showing up late, adding to the confusion or throwing off everyone else's schedules.
So don't just be on time. Instead, make sure to arrive at your school with enough time to introduce yourself, shake a few hands, and be shown to your seat before announcements and assemblies begin. Usually, this means being on campus, in the teacher's room, five to ten minutes before 8:00 am.
Make it a point to introduce yourself. Ahem. Sorry.
2. Announce Yourself
Whether it's your first day at a new school or your fifth year at the same school, there will be lots of people around who have no idea who you are. You can fix this in three short, easy steps:
First days are the same in every school. Even flight school, apparently.
3. Get Out of the Way
As stated above, the first day of school is chaotic. Generally, teachers and staff will want to accommodate you, but they will also be very pressed for time. Therefore, once you've introduced yourself and been shown to a desk, be prepared to wait a while.
If you seem to have some time, get out a textbook and study some Japanese or familiarize yourself with your schools' textbooks and routines. Request a seating chart of the teacher's room, and any logistical paperwork you may need (phone tree, school phone numbers, etc.)
If possible, and after checking with your lead teacher or vice-principal, take a walk around the school grounds. Learn where the classrooms are and which teachers head each class. Locate the specialty classrooms (like the art room and music room) and the library. These will be good places to interact with students later on, so it makes sense to learn where they are while you have some free time.
Whatever you do, be proactive in finding the tools and resources you may need in the months and weeks ahead.
Not pictured: teachers trying to figure out where they need to be.
4. Hurry Up
Be prepared for your point-of-contact person or the vice-principal to suddenly request your presence at an assembly or in a classroom. There will be an opening ceremony on the first day of school and you, along with every other new teacher, will be asked to briefly introduce yourself. However, we've said it twice now - the first day of school is chaotic. Teachers may not be sure when and where they need you to be until the very last minute.
Therefore, you should stay at or near your desk* and be ready to drop whatever it is your doing and accompany the staff to wherever they need you to be.
*The exception to this might be taking a walk around the school as per point 3. However, do not just leave your desk. As we said above, check in with the lead teacher or vice-principal just to make sure they don't need you elsewhere right then.
Our very best smile.
5. Keep Smiling
To be honest, we've had great first days and we've had not so great first days. There is chaos and there is confusion and it can be difficult to find anyone to tell you what's going on or to help you with anything you may need. And, frankly, it's understandable. After all, and sorry to be blunt, but, the day is not about you.
It is about getting the students into the right mindset and routine so that they can excel academically. It is about giving the teachers a chance to take stock of their charges and to make sure that they are prepared to do their best. It is about the staff making sure that all the gears are working smoothly so that the school can serve its purpose.
Your role is to support and help however you can. And, on the first day, the best thing you can do is smile, be friendly, and be patient. Later, you will be able to befriend all the students and all the teachers and show them the glory that is the English language. But for now, just smile.
Just your typical ALT on his way to lessons.
Is there a dress code for ALTs?
We hear this question a lot. And the answer, like the answer to so many other questions is - it depends on your school. But there are a few rules and guidelines that we’ll share with you in this article.
To begin, dress standards at Japanese schools are generally business-professional. Teachers, administrative staff, and support staff all wear suits and ties to school. ALTs are expected to do the same. Depending on your schools, there may be specialty requirements based on season or occasion or even exceptions to the standard suit.
We’ll cover all this and more, but before we do, there is one absolute rule you should remember: This is only a guide. For actual best practices look at what the teachers at your schools wear day in and day out and copy them as best you can.
Read on then, for Work Tochigi’s guide to dressing for ALT success!
Standard Issue: 3 Piece Suit and Scowl
What's a suit and how do I wear one?
Just kidding. We’re assuming you know how to dress yourself. However, in our experience, many younger people are not accustomed to wearing suits day in and day out. Think of this section as a guide to things you may have forgotten or never known about.
A standard men's suit in Japan consists of a blue or black jacket and slacks, button-front dress shirt, a necktie (not a clip-on), dress socks, and belt. Three-piece suits, will also have a matching vest (waistcoat).
Things NOT generally acceptable:
This traditional blazer is perfect for both teaching and putting up with 007.
Standard suits for women consist of jacket and trousers or skirt, and blouse. The blouse may be colored, but beware of plunging necklines or loose buttons. It is also common for women in Japan to wear stockings or hose under their suit, even if it is a trousered suit. Camisoles are also very common as an underblouse.
Things NOT generally acceptable:
Note: These are separate from things you might want to have in your bag. This list is of things that go on your body or in your pocket.
Things you may want to keep in your bag:
Here's a list of things you might want to have in your bag to keep at your desk:
* Many westerners find that, due to different body chemistry, Japanese deodorant brands do not work as well as those from their native countries. Thus we recommend keeping a large stock on hand for your personal use.
**This, again, is highly dependent on individual schools, but many Japanese teachers keep some light snacks, like senbei or peanuts, at their desks as a quick bite between lessons.
You know M's got snacks in her desk. Probably something salty.
Track suits or athletic clothes?
Teachers at your schools may spend a lot of their time in track suits. We'd prefer that, as representatives of Work Tochigi, you avoid doing this. After all, you are not p.e. teachers and will most likely not be running around outside. In the event that you are invited to participate in a soccer game or baseball practice or some other lunchtime or after school game, you should feel free to don athletic gear. However, please change back into proper attire before heading back into the classroom.
Black ties or white ties?
Black neck ties are reserved for funerals in Japan. They are, quite literally, worn at no other times. So, no matter how stylish you may look, you should not wear a black tie to a school event.
Conversely, white neck ties are celebratory and are often worn to weddings and graduations. You may want to consider picking up a white neck tie either before coming to Japan or before the end of the school year. Many schools ask their ALTs to participate in graduation ceremonies and wearing a white neck tie is an easy and fun way to be a part of the group.
Shoes in Japanese Schools
Will I need separate shoes for indoors and outdoors?
Yes. Faculty usually have two different pairs of shoes at their schools, not including the shoes they wear to and from work (e.g. business or dress shoes). One pair of shoes - often sneakers or athletic shoes - is to be worn outside on the school grounds during p.e. classes, fire drills, and assemblies. The other pair is usually a comfortable (but clean and well-kept) pair of athletic shoes or sandals that can be worn in classrooms.
As a general rule, new ALTs will be able to wear guest slippers during their first day of school, but you should be prepared to provide your own shoes as soon as possible.
And, to be very clear, shoes that have been worn outside, at any point, are not acceptable for indoor use, no matter how thoroughly they have been cleaned.
Well, that's one way to stay warm in class.
Hot & Cold
Staying warm during the winter months can be a challenge in Tochigi Prefecture. Depending on just how far north your school is, it can be a very big challenge. Winter brings temperatures in the low single digits or even below, snow, wind, and rain. Adding to the general misery is that Japanese schools do not have central heating.
Often, Japanese schools, especially older ones, will have individual heating units installed in classrooms and staff areas. Additionally, wearing an overcoat or wool cap in the classroom is frowned upon. Which means that spending any time in the hallways results in rapid, irreversible ice-cubing of many ALTs.
Fortunately, modern technology provides many ways to avoid becoming an ice-cube without ruining the lines of your suit.
Here are a few:
Uniqlo (and other clothing makers) have perfected cheap, warm clothing thin enough to go under your normal suit without adding bulk or stretching the fabric. These items can be purchased online via Amazon and other e-sellers or in person at the many, many Uniqlo retail stores.
But, if you don't mind bulk and want to go with traditional underwear, thermal long-johns are your best bet.
Three piece suits have never really gone out of fashion in Japan, partly because of the heating issues. Many stores offer thick, warm sweaters and vests for men and women designed to go between your shirt and your jacket. These layers are especially good for teachers in areas that may have a wide shift in temperature throughout the day. What is particularly appealing is that they are designed to be part of a suit, so they don't ruin the lines but can be removed in the middle of class without scandal.
Kairo are small chemically activated heating packs sold throughout Japan in drugstores. Many of your students will have them in their pockets any time the temperature drops below 20 degrees celcius.
What about “Cool Biz”?
Summers in Tochigi can be hot. Really hot. And humid. And did we mention hot? Several years ago, Japan implemented a policy called "cool biz" in an effort to cut down on energy costs in offices and government buildings across Japan. In short, the government asked office workers to dress business-casual for the summer months, thereby reducing the amount of air conditioning and cooling needed. Less cooling means less power, or so the reasoning goes.
Does this apply to me?
As always, the definitive answer is - it depends on your individual school. There's no harm in asking, although it might be best to just observe your fellow teachers and do as they do. When in Rome, after all.
How do I dress “Cool Biz”?
For most teachers and office workers, Cool Biz means reducing a suit to slacks, a short-sleeved button front shirt and no tie. We also recommend an undershirt (for men and women) and cooling underwear (see our favorite retailer Uniqlo!).
For special occasions only.
Do you have any other advice?
Yes. Now is the time to stock up on towels and body wipes. However many you think is enough, double it. These items can really help you feel relaxed and able to move through your day more easily.
Conversely, you might also want to take a sweater. Schools do not have central air conditioning. Instead, each classroom has its own cooling unit, which the Japanese teacher will be in charge of. Schools may also be under a mandate to not lower the temperature beyond a certain point (24 degrees Celcius, for example). Depending on how many students, what kind of weather, and, of course, your own tolerances, many teachers keep a sweater or wrap handy for those days when the air conditioning is really putting in the work.
Anything else I need to know?
We mentioned above that it is a good idea to keep a toothbrush either in your bag or at your desk. In addition to being useful for your own self-care, oral hygiene is very important in the Japanese education system. Children are instructed to brush their teeth immediately after lunch. Teachers are expected to be good role models for the students. Thus...
As for the rest, it's optional, of course. But take it from us as lessons learned. Adjusting to temperatures in new settings can be difficult. Having the tools on hand to make yourself comfortable and presentable can go a long way to helping you become a valued member of the teaching team at your schools.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this guide to dressing for ALT success. As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to send them to us via our contact form. In the meantime, good luck and have a great school year!
We've told you all about the different kinds of visas and we've given you some information on how to get your visa. But, for those of you who are already in Japan, the rules and regulations for your visa are a little bit different. The first step is to figure out what kind of visa you have.
Coming to Japan, Step 3.5: Tourist, Working, or Family Visas.
Tourists, Families, and Job Changes
Maybe you came to Japan on vacation and have enjoyed yourself so much that you've decided to get a job and stay a while longer, or maybe you're married to a Japanese national, or maybe you've already been working here for a while and are looking for a change of pace. We'll discuss all three scenarios and the most likely applicable visas in this post.
(If you're in Japan on a tourist visa keep reading. If you've already got a working visa or family visa skip down to the next section.)
It is not uncommon to change from a tourist visa to a working visa. The most difficult part of the process is realizing that you are not able to work in Japan on a tourist visa! If you want to work in Japan you absolutely must have a working visa.
If this is the case, you should begin looking for work immediately (say by sending us your resume via this page). Once you have found a job, your company will be able to provide you with the necessary documentation to begin the visa change process.
However, you will still need to provide the following documents:
As always with these sorts of matters, there may be other documents needed as well. To be sure you have everything you need, look here (http://www.immi-moj.go.jp/english/tetuduki/kanri/shyorui/02.html) on the Immigration Bureau’s site for more information. Once you have all the necessary documents, take them to the nearest city or prefectural office and begin the submission process. It is possible to begin working once the application has been submitted. Just be warned that you may face severe penalties if your application is denied and you continue to work. Good luck!
Family Visa and Working Visa
Congratulations, you can begin working right away! Make sure that your visa is still within the expiration limits and that it is in good standing and you are free to join any company you choose. We recommend this one right here. Good luck!
Visa applications can, and do, take time to process. Choosing the right visa and following all the necessary steps is a detailed and lengthy process. And there is a bit of a catch-22 in that you will (most likely) not be able to complete the application until you have a job lined up, which might require you to have a visa…
In this post, we’ll look at the steps you’ll need to take to get a working visa that will allow you to move to Japan and work with us at Work Tochigi.
Coming to Japan, Step 3: How Do You Get a Visa
1. Check-in with Your Local Consulate
So. We (Work Tochigi) have interviewed you and decided to offer you a position. You have decided to accept. We’re all thrilled and eager to have you move to Japan as soon as possible. What should you do next?
Because the visa application process can differ widely for residents of different countries, your next step is to contact your local Japanese Embassy or Consulate and make an appointment to speak with an official.
They will tell you which documents you will need and what they will need to see from us in order to get your visa.
Official List of Embassies and Consulates
2. Get Your Documents in Order
You will need:
It is also possible that they will ask for a set of documents from us. We will have these prepared and ready for you early in this process.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Documents List
Yup. Once all the paperwork has been filed, there is not much else you can do. Although the agencies involved do their best to respond to applicants within a month, waits of up to six months are not unheard of. Be patient. Study your Japanese.
Once you have had your visa approved, contact your company representatives in Japan (here!) and get packing! From the date of issue, you’ll have three months to enter Japan and start working. Good luck!
The image attached to this post was created by Joao Silas.
In our last article, we said that coming to Japan is an easy but detailed process. Nowhere is this more evident than when it comes to your visa status and it all starts with choosing which visa is right for you.
Coming to Japan, Step 2: