Hello JapanNewbies! Today we’ve got another interview for you. A “getting to Japan” success story if you will. Akeem has been accepted to work in Japan as a CIR in the JET program and will be arriving in Japan on July 27th. Which is like, tomorrow, pretty much.
Akeem first contacted me long ago, in JUNE 2008(!!!) when the possibility of working in Japan was just an idea he had. Through a lot of hard work he has finally worked it out and he’s heading for Japan. That’s two years man! If this isn’t proof that persistence pays off, or something, I don’t know what is.
I hope this interview serves as an inspiration to those who want to work in Japan some day, and also as sort of a roadmap for people who want to know the possible avenues they should consider to make it to Japan. Here we go!
Thanks Akeem. So to start off, could you tell us when your interest in Japan started, and specifically when you started seriously considering moving to Japan to work full time?
My interest in Japan started when I was young. I used to watch this funny TV show that taught you how to count in Japanese in song form. In high school I got addicted to Japanese music and anime. It was only until I got into college that I could take formal classes. I applied to be an exchange student and Keio University and was accepted. That year changed my life. Since returning from Japan in 2006, I’ve been trying to get back. While holding down a corporate desk job.
Your story is surprisingly like mine! I started studying in high school, got hooked on anime and Japanese music, and studied abroad at Nanzan University in Nagoya… that year changed my life as well.
Was the exchange program you went on part of a larger program? Or simply a school provided opportunity?
The exchange to Keio was part of an exchange program through my university. If you are at the University of Washington, please visit this site about the exchange program to learn more.
Moving on, what was the most difficult aspect of making the final decision to move to Japan for you?
Since I’m following my dreams, the decision was not so difficult. Perhaps the logistics are the most concerning part. Trying to throw away your current life, car, motorcycle, and general junk you accumulate through living can be tough.
Do you already speak Japanese? If not, are you worried that this might be a problem when you arrive?
Yes, I already speak Japanese fairly well. However, I’m most concerned with specific details that a CIR has to perform like interpretation and translation. I know I’ll be sweating bullets when they ask me to interpret on the topic of something like environmental issues.
Sounds like your Japanese is solid already. Good stuff. Are there any books or online resources you recommend for people trying to push their Japanese to the next level?
Personally, I prefer to listen to and speak Japanese more than reading and writing. I think that every learner should have the Kodansha Kanji Learner’s Dictionary for Kanji lookup. If you are into reading more advanced Japanese, I really enjoy Read Real Japanese which contains many short stories by contemporary writers.
For speaking and listening, I love to watch dramas. jdorama.com has some great resources for seeing what’s out there in the Japanese drama scene. I prefer the dramas because they contain more natural speech and give you a better context for how language is used compared to anime. I’ll often spend time repeating certain phrases to make my Japanese sound more natural. I’ll also keep track of a bunch of YouTubers who speak Japanese to get some varied types of input. I love to watch 大笑い shows to learn a bit more about Japanese humor.
How long did you actively work on this big move?
This process started back in September of 2009. The JET application process is long and rigorous. There are dozens of pages to fill out, transcripts to get and letters of recommendation. Then there is the interview, an FBI check, a ton of waiting to hear the result of each step and finally getting rid of all of your stuff to make the big move.
I had no idea there was an FBI check. Geesh.
What options did you initially consider regarding your move to Japan? Could you describe your success with each of them? Any in particular that you would recommend, or others that you would advise others to avoid?
I’ve looked at and considered a bunch of options. I looked at trying to get a job directly with contracting agencies in Japan. I’ve put out resumes and made calls to discuss my skill set and probabilities of getting a job. I’ve worked with contracting agencies in America that specialize in finding work for people that are J/E bilingual. I’ve had a couple of interviews through them but nothing panned out. I even flew to the Boston Career Forum looking for a job to no avail. I also interviewed in China for a bilingual job, got an offer and had to turn it down.
I would recommend looking at all of these avenues. I went into each of them with the mindset of furthering my Japanese. I’ve had to write resumes and go through interviews in Japanese. They have all really helped me understand my deficiencies in the language and what employers are really looking for.
This is a big question, but could you tell us anything about the entire CIR application process that you think would be hard to find out otherwise? I know lots of people would love to apply to the JET program.
The information about the program and application process is bountiful on the internet. Don’t be afraid of the interview. Go into it with the mindset of showing them your character and you cannot go wrong. Leave the interview having said all that you want to communicate.
What are you most looking forward to regarding the big move? How long do you think you’ll stay in Japan once you move there?
Ramen ramen ramen! Did I mention ramen?
Sounds like you and Ramen Fanatic would get along just fine!
I love Japanese food and will knock grandma out of my way to get another bowl.
Please don’t do that if you live in Osaka, the grandma might knock you out instead.
On a more serious note, I’m looking forward to new challenges that the CIR position will present. If everything pans out, I’d like to eventually move into the IT field in Japan. I have a very technical background that I wish to put to good use.
Is there anything interesting about your move planning that you think would interest our readers?
If at all possible, get out of the place that you are living about a week before you depart. Stay at a hotel or live with friends until your departure date. This gets rid of the stress of having to get rid of something at the last moment.
Any links to those job placement agencies that you used that were especially promising?
In the US:
Pasona – Jobs here are focused for J/E bilingual people around the US.
Boston Career Forum – You should go at least once.
SkillHouse.co.jp – Jobs are mostly IT oriented.
Any final words for others who hope to move to Japan some day?
Do whatever you can to stay active in the Japanese community where you are. It will surprise you how connected some people may be. This could easily turn into an opportunity for you.
Thanks! We’ll catch up with Akeem again once he is in Japan!
Thank you again for this opportunity.
Good luck with everything!
Akeem’s website: http://neomeruhen.com/
NeoMeruhen’s YT Channel – YouTube channel which chronicles the process of what it’s like becoming a JET CIR.
Jason “MyArgonauts” – The best YouTube Channel on JET in existence
Check out this other Japanese-learner interview with @Sandkatt.
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