Back

Deciding whether to continue living in Japan or whether to go "home"

#1
Debito.org recently started a post asking people what their "personal threshold" is for for staying in or leaving Japan. I've found it to be pretty interesting:

http://www.debito.org/?p=14158

I've mentioned this before, but I did JET after college and went back home afterwards. So I have experience living in Japan for a few years an English teacher. 

From the comments, for most people who plan to leave, the education of their children seems like a big concern. That surprised me.

I know that some people here are interested in living in Japan, and thought that this might interest them.
Reply
#2
Don't they have international schools in Japan? When I lived there, I knew some of my co-workers put their kids in such schools. As to the quality of the education, I assumed it was standard / above-standard since it wasn't free.
Reply
#3
From my understanding, japanese primary schools are very good as far as passing standardized tests is concerned. However they are known for rote memorization and suppression of critical thinking rather than fostering it.. Also Japanese high schools are well known for bullying students who are different so if your kids aren't japanese, they can plan on a horrible junior high school and high school experience.
Reply
August Sale (14th - 25th): 30% OFF Premium PLUS - 25% OFF Premium
JapanesePod101
#4
(2016-09-12, 2:03 pm)saizen Wrote: Don't they have international schools in Japan? When I lived there, I knew some of my co-workers put their kids in such schools. As to the quality of the education, I assumed it was standard / above-standard since it wasn't free.

The cost of international schools is prohibitive unless you earn a tonne...
Reply
#5
Leaving Japan for my kid's education would probably also be one of mine as well. The reason has little to do with how the education is done. I think in the case of US vs Japan, at a core level, the two countries are not all that different. I do however believe that Japan probably pushes education farther than the US in K-12.

There are a few reasons I will leave eventually. First, I want my kids to experience living in another culture. They'll have dual citizenship, so they should have a chance when they are young and before college, to see life in another country.

Second, I've already decided that if I have daughter(s), leaving Japan is a requirement. I want them to experience living somewhere where its less patriarchal than Japan. I don't want them to be completely brainwashed by the Japanese culture machine and believe that life is like that. I want them to know they have options about where they can go if they find Japan stifling. They can easily go to another country and find more success than they probably will in Japan.

Third, I've seen Japanese students that have lived in other countries for a period, and I really like how rounded they are as individuals.

(2016-09-12, 2:03 pm)saizen Wrote: Don't they have international schools in Japan? When I lived there, I knew some of my co-workers put their kids in such schools. As to the quality of the education, I assumed it was standard / above-standard since it wasn't free.
There are a few international schools in Japan. You have to live in a large city though usually to have access to them. They aren't free, but then, neither are most of the public schools as well. Even at public schools, I noticed that there were various expenses that parents would pay. It was probably still cheaper than an Intl. or private school though.

I can't speak to the quality of education though. So long as its a legit Intl. School I think it should be fine. I've noticed that there are some schools that have popped up over the years in Japan that claim to be "International" schools, but in reality, they aren't all that international. My metric for an International school is that some of the core subjects at the school (Math/Science/Literature/etc.) have be done 100% in English and not Japanese. Another good indicator is how strict/competitive it is for Japanese students to get into the school. Every International school in Japan will have some students that are 100% Japanese, but the school majority shouldn't be these students. There should be a mix of students that are half Japanese or are students of foreign nationals. This is in order to help provide an environment for mixing cultures, while also placing a limitation on the communication language (more foreign nationals = more talking in English).

ktcgx Wrote:The cost of international schools is prohibitive unless you earn a tonne...
Since I live alone, I can't even begin to ponder what the budget for a family looks like. But looking at the Canadian and British international school, the tuition runs about $1500-$2000/month. If you are single earner family, this would be hard to manage probably, but on a dual income family this shouldn't be too difficult. Keep in mind, I'm assuming you aren't working as a teacher in this case. If you are a teacher in Japan, then this will probably be impossible to pull off on your own. Working in any other instance though, so long as you have lived/worked in Japan for about 5-10 years, you should have moved up in your career enough that you should be making about $50-60k at least. A SO that's also making about that much as well, should help with the cost of tuition at these places.

EDIT:
I got so focused on the education aspect that I forgot that another good reason to leave Japan is for career advancement. It can be hard for some people to move past a certain point in their career in Japan. There are also some careers that have a high bar of entry for foreigners as well (licensed teachers/doctors/dentists/etc).
Edited: 2016-09-12, 3:23 pm
Reply
#6
Education is certainly a big issue.
I've seen a few friends leaving Japan in the last few years either because they didn't want to put their children through the Japanese education system or because they were already having trouble with it.

Another issue with international schools is that as you are basically taking your children out of the Japanese education system, it'll probably make entry to a Japanese university a lot more complicated. So while an international school might be a good option for parents who have no intention on staying in Japan for the long-term, it might not really be an alternative for permanent residents.
Reply
#7
Education would be an issue for me as well (assuming I ever have children); though I have serious misgivings about the education of children in the US (really, any Western style education) as well: it's basically prison; the rate of education is abysmal, even in middle school and high school; and it prevents the students from understanding the world beyond school life by wasting their time with constant busy-work ("Yes teacher, I get PEMDAS already; do I have to do fifty of these problems?").
I also have serious concerns about the physical health of students that are only given a half hour from an eight hour day to move around beyond walking to a different classroom; and that number is shrinking in some districts.
(Honestly, if it weren't for the social aspect being lost, I'd say with certainty that I'd homeschool my children; as it is, I can only say that it'd be preferable.)

But since that's not Japan specific, here's another one that's really important to me: family.
My family is pretty tight, particularly on my mother's side (right on up to my grandmother's generation, almost everyone gets together multiple times per year). I'm already thinking of how I can make it back at least once a year during my graduate program (assuming I get the MEXT or some other financial backing), and I'll run right back home after its finished, only to return temporarily for business trips or vacations.
If I end up with a wife and kids, in either country, though... I'd feel really bad about forcing that desire on them. With children especially, moving around frequently can be really stressful; maybe going between two locations wouldn't be terrible, but I'm not a developmental psychologist...
Yet I still think knowing your family and having a good relationship with them is really important for psychological and character development; good family always has your back, and can both support you and tell you when you've screwed up in a way that no one else can. So knowing more of your family can only be good (IMO); to cut half of them off by being too far away seems a bit cruel.

It seems the only way to win (make everyone happy) is not to play (don't get married, don't have kids), but that would also suck...
Edited: 2016-09-12, 9:33 pm
Reply
#8
(2016-09-12, 7:25 pm)mutley Wrote: Another issue with international schools is that as you are basically taking your children out of the Japanese education system, it'll probably make entry to a Japanese university a lot more complicated. So while an international school might be a good option for parents who have no intention on staying in Japan for the long-term, it might not really be an alternative for permanent residents.

I don't think international schools will cause too much of an impact on kids that go from the school to Japanese unis. The only major thing I can think of is if they aren't exposed to the kohai/senapi/sensei system enough. Beyond that, Japanese universities aren't all that hard that you would worry about some major difference between the schooling types.

sholum Wrote:But since that's not Japan specific, here's another one that's really important to me: family.
Ya this could definitely cause problems for people. I know some people that won't move more than 500 miles away from their family. Everyone is a bit different though. I have no problem living on the other side of planet from my family and rarely talking to them, since my nuclear family has always lived away from the rest of my relatives. You could definitely find someone in any country though I think, that is the same way in this regard.
Reply
#9
Comment #20 is priceless:

http://www.debito.org/?p=14158#comment-1394365

I just saw it this morning. It really captures the zeitgeist of the JET program / English teaching world from my time in Japan.

I actually know people in the exact situation it describes. I know people who attempted to move back after 10 years, failed to find satisfactory work, and reluctantly moved back to Japan.

In my case I moved back to grad school - that was my way "out". Other people moved back and found satisfactory work as well. But many people found that the longer they stayed, the harder it was to reintegrate back into their home country (at least from a work perspective).
Reply
#10
@ariariari
Ya that's basically why I turn people away from English teaching in Japan if at all possible. Unless they seem to have a well thought out teaching plan that includes getting a teaching certificate and experience in their home country, or they are literally at a complete dead-end in life (near broke, min wage job, poor future outlook, etc). Going to Japan as a teacher can pretty much ruin your life and its way too easy to get stuck in the routine even when you do have plans.
Reply
#11
It's probably fine to stay in Japan if you build your career around skills you can use elsewhere and ideally not in sector of economy, where the government can easily screw you over, like in education. Smile

Still, I don't know Japanese pension system and how safe it is to depend on it as a foreigner. Would be bad to work there 40 years and then be robbed of your pension. Maybe its best to plan it so you are not reliant on Japanese pension system at all.
Reply
#12
(2016-09-14, 1:59 am)Robik Wrote: Still, I don't know Japanese pension system and how safe it is to depend on it as a foreigner. Would be bad to work there 40 years and then be robbed of your pension. Maybe its best to plan it so you are not reliant on Japanese pension system at all.

Couple of years ago that did happen to a Chinese woman in Osaka, it was big news. The courts decided she had no right to her pension, despite paying into it for 40 years, because pensions are only for people of Japanese blood.
Reply
#13
(2016-09-14, 4:53 am)ktcgx Wrote: Couple of years ago that did happen to a Chinese woman in Osaka, it was big news. The courts decided she had no right to her pension, despite paying into it for 40 years, because pensions are only for people of Japanese blood.

Yeah, I'm sure that's not what happened.
Reply
#14
(2016-09-14, 5:20 am)Stansfield123 Wrote: Yeah, I'm sure that's not what happened.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07...ts-ruling/

It wasn't pensions but the welfare system (think unemployment benefits, poverty welfare). She paid taxes for decades and was denied. Pensions can't be denied due to international treaties, but welfare can be I guess.
Reply
#15
(2016-09-14, 7:57 am)vix86 Wrote: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/07...ts-ruling/

It wasn't pensions but the welfare system (think unemployment benefits, poverty welfare). She paid taxes for decades and was denied. Pensions can't be denied due to international treaties, but welfare can be I guess.

Yes, one of the things that is false about ktcgx's claim is that she was denied her pension.

Here are a couple of others:
1. The ruling had nothing to do with her "blood". The issue was her citizenship.

If you live in Japan legally for five years or more, and are willing to renounce your old citizenship, you can go through the naturalization process and become a Japanese citizen, with the same legal rights as everyone else.

The reason why she was denied welfare is because she's not a Japanese citizen. The article doesn't say why she isn't, but if she really did live in Japan all her life, it was obviously her choice, not the Japanese government's. Japan DOES afford citizenship to foreigners, irrespective of their lineage.

2. This ruling is about WELFARE, not unemployment benefits, or any other entitlement scheme she contributed to. Non-citizen residents who contribute to unemployment, pension funds, etc. ARE entitled to those benefits. Only thing they're not entitled to is welfare.

This is something EVERY rich country does, not just Japan. It is meant to discourage a phenomenon called "welfare tourism". If your goal is to go on welfare, you shouldn't move abroad. You shouldn't move to anywhere, not just Japan.
Edited: 2016-09-14, 8:45 am
Reply
#16
Well, I already left Japan because I didn't want to be an English teacher anymore. Teaching English good and fine but who wants to do it forever? And Japan can grate after awhile - I'd go back, but I think a good break from it is essential. The Japanese mindset doesn't play well with mine (or, I think, most people from Western countries - hence all the bitching).

If I had kids, I would absolutely not put them through the hell of Japanese school. Primary school would be fine, but beyond that? ***** no. What kind of education system produces a graph like this?
Reply
#17
(2016-09-15, 6:46 am)Aikynaro Wrote: The Japanese mindset doesn't play well with mine (or, I think, most people from Western countries - hence all the bitching).

If I had kids, I would absolutely not put them through the hell of Japanese school. Primary school would be fine, but beyond that? ***** no. What kind of education system produces a graph like this?

I often think that the people that get on well in Japan are introverted people. Japan plays well for these kind of people. There will always be something to bitch about though in any place you live though. There just has to be more pros than cons in the place you live.

Something to keep in mind though with the suicide rates is that some of that is going to come down to how you raise your kid as well. A lot of those rates are driven because of tests. If you drive your kid such that tests and the school they get into determine their value to you, then don't be surprised when they jump in front of a train because they think every avenue in their life has vanished because of bad grades.
Reply
#18
(2016-09-15, 6:46 am)Aikynaro Wrote: What kind of education system produces a graph like this?

FYI, The Japanese school season starts in April and ends in February and has very little summer break but September is right after that break ends. Also, that spike in April is the start of school.

Random links about the (high) school schedule:
高校の夏休みの期間!平均はいつからいつまで?
高校のテストの期間!いつからいつまで?
Edited: 2016-09-15, 8:28 am
Reply
#19
(2016-09-15, 7:54 am)vix86 Wrote: I often think that the people that get on well in Japan are introverted people. Japan plays well for these kind of people. There will always be something to bitch about though in any place you live though. There just has to be more pros than cons in the place you live.

Something to keep in mind though with the suicide rates is that some of that is going to come down to how you raise your kid as well. A lot of those rates are driven because of tests. If you drive your kid such that tests and the school they get into determine their value to you, then don't be surprised when they jump in front of a train because they think every avenue in their life has vanished because of bad grades.
Just to put that graph into perspective, that's an average of THREE minors committing suicide on September 1st, compared to one or two on other dates. And they're usually 14 or older, not technically children (by the scientific definition). Child (pre-puberty) suicides are very rare.

As for suicides among minors of high school age, even there, the cause is usually mental illness (like with all suicides). Events at school or sudden lifestyle changes may be the trigger, but, by themselves, aren't the cause. Unless a kid is mentally ill (suffering from depression, for instance), there's really no reason to worry about bad grades or pressure causing them to kill themselves.
Reply