2002-01-11, 11:35 AM
I have a couple of questions that I thought many of you might be able to help me with. I'm a 25yr old Japanese-American living in the Bay Area right now. I'm taking the next 2-3 months off from work to relax. During that time, I am hoping to brush up on my Japanese (took 3 yrs in highschool some time ago...but I've forgotten most of it) and figure out which fork in the road to take on my journey to Japan.
I have a B.A, and want to move to Japan (Tokyo or Kyoto area first) for a year or more. I figure teaching english is my best bet at landing a job.
That said...I've researched the different schools-Nova, Jet, Aeon, Geos, Berlitz.....do you have an opinion or have you heard which schools tend to have the most rewarding programs for both teachers and students? I've read several threads and online discussions but would like to hear more from those of you have "been there and done that".
I am thinking about getting my TEFL/TESL certificate before heading over. I know this isn't required for AEON or NOVA, but I've heard that school programs, universities and/or companies prefer those individuals with such credentials. There's a tuition investment of $1,400-$2,000 US for obtaining such a certificate from doing my research here in the U.S...if I'm going over there for a one year is the return of investment worth it? Will I be paid more..if so, how much on average? Or would i need to stay longer for it to make sense. *Rumor* -- if you have such a certificate, you might be able to get your flight from the U.S paid for. True or False?
On another note, I'm not sure whether or not to go with housing provided by (AEON, JET, NOVA, etc) or just go get my own place. Are vacancy rates tolerable over there (Tokyo or Kyoto specifically). I've reading that Gaijin houses might be the easiest option if I don't go with pre-arranged housing.
If I do get my TEFL certificate, I imagine it will be much easier to find a teaching job. Would it make sense then to bypass the whole school option (NOVA, JET) and just find work when I get there?
Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Hi you may be interested to read this post I found on the LetsJapan site about the NOVA apartments. the thrust of it is that NOVA actually makes a profit from its employees when it rents out its partments, and takes a cut when it signs up teachers for their insurance.. i would avoid their apartments at all costs, if you dont like being ripped off.
That said, NOVA is also known for having a non-discrimination policy, and hires many 'minorities' rather than just 'plain vanilla'- some of them even become managers or head teachers.
I am personally acquainted with a Japanese American who teaches at a university, there are Asians, african americans and Polynesians etc on the JEt program and and the wife of one of my friends is a Vietnamese Australian and teaches at ECC. Appearances are important in Japan, discrimination does exist, (many get turned down for not having American accents too) so I just take it with a grain of salt). Jobs are harder to get for everyone now and many who don't 'look the part' are usually the first not to get hired but thats not to say its impossible.
REGARDING NOVA APTS, HEALTH INS. -- AND NOT GETTING "DONE" BY NOVA...
I would like to offer my opinions of NOVA apartments and
NOVA (JMA) health and medical insurance to anyone
about to fall into the ranks of NOVA -- and then suggest
better alternatives -- better for YOU, that is...
Having known many who were recruited overseas and
heard tales of the beautiful photos of what "some" NOVA
apartments are supposed to look like ("yeah, sure", and
also knowing far more people, myself included, who got
into NOVA once they were already in Japan, I certainly
empathize with the plight of those who are getting ALL of
their info. on Japan from their employer-to-be, NOVA.
And NOVA hires some of the FINEST liars in the world
to deceive you.
But you have shown intelligence by actively seeking out
OTHER opinions, such as those expressed by us, the
membership of the "novateachersunited" email group.
(Please spread the word about this, people!)
And now, I will get to the TRUTH about HOUSING...
with accomodation -- as with EVERYTHING that NOVA
will ever supply you with (please see what I have to say
about mandatory MEDICAL INSURANCE, below) -- NOVA
expects to make money FROM YOU.
First, my thoughts on NOVA earning revenue from its
The Americans among my readership should have learned
something about the farming Southern States, and how
rich farmers retained much of their wealth after the fall of
slavery... Well, surely NOVA too regrets that, since the
Japanese lost WWII, we foreigners cannot simply be
enslaved; in lieu of this, the next best thing in to underpay
WHILE OVERCHARGING! Now, is it JUST ME, or does
this sound exactly like... the poor sharecroppers in the South
(U.S.A.), 100 years ago... paying exhorbitant prices at the
"COMPANY STORE" -- but then ALSO told what they would
get for their crop... by "the company..." To complete the analogy,
with the sharecropper being underpaid AND overcharged:
remember, NOVA has CUT pay, but has not offered an
increase to the minimum full-time pay... in OVER TEN YEARS!
And though they will carefully hide from you ANY hint of how
much they earn when you either rent a room from them and/or
take the JMA health and medical insurance deal from them,
BOTH are THE worst you can get IN JAPAN.
Yeah. THIS is classic NOVA: as we would say, where I am
from, "they get you coming AND going." So, it isn't enough
to do (what companies in OUR home countries would) what
would earn even a LITTLE employee appreciation, and simply
resolve to EARN YOUR INCOME FROM YOUR CUSTOMERS,
and find ways to use their sheer SIZE to garner great benefits
and such deals for their employees. No, they just "disguise,"
and hope you don't notice the part where NOVA is making a
tidy sum -- ON EVERYTHING YOU GET THROUGH THEIR
What to do...? Well, for health insurance, go to the union's
website (URL below) and find the better deal. Hey! Why not
make a couple COPIES of the chart that compares insurance
deals... and then... when you have that day of orientation before
your training days begin, when you have a private moment
with the OTHER new NOVA "victims" (er, "recruits," perhaps
you prefer...?), you can make some instant friends and
alliances -- by saving the other US$30 or more per month just
by KNOWING THE TRUTH, not just the "NOVA version."
And for housing...? Search the internet for "GUEST HOUSE"
and "GAIJIN HOUSE" in Japan. You will find many in both Tokyo
I prefer Osaka, but that is just me. Both are huge, crowded
cities with major nightlife, tons of OTHER English schools (for
when you have had it with NOVA, hint, hint!). Having never
lived in Tokyo, I can only recommend places in Osaka. No.
1 would be "BANANA HOUSE," where you get your own
room, utilities included, and share showers and shitters; a
cleaner (but much longer commute for most) would be "OSAKA
ENGLISH HOUSE," (say "hi" to BILL for me) especially if
you REALLY hate the slightest bit of filth. Either way, you get
a fair deal, a 100% refundable deposit -- and something worth
a great deal: your "home" is filled with MANY foreigners, who
work at different places, drink at different places, shop at... etc.,
and EVEN have the occassional tip on a job opening (before it
hits the newspapers!), and thus, if you hang out in their "common
areas" (TV rooms, internet areas, etc.) and are just average-
friendly, you can learn a GREAT deal from others who have been
here longer than you. Go with a NOVA apt., and not only are
you ISOLATED (as NOVA would prefer, of course!), but also,
you can "enjoy" knowing that about HALF of what you are
paying... IS GOING STRAIGHT INTO THE NOVA COFFERS!
As for medical insurance -- which in your orientation, NOVA
will present "their" (JMA) deal, and in their little "dag and pony
show," a BOSS FOREIGNER will contrast their "GREAT" deal
with the Japanese public health insurance for workers -- please
understand that this is quite CRAFTY, since, yes their deal
IS far better than the govenment's... but... at the same time...
it is hardly the ONLY private health insurance, only one of
THE MOST COSTLY, due to precisely TWENTY-TWO
PERCENT of your premiums going to... (good, you ARE
catching on!!!) N O V A. (** NOVA MAKES 40,000,000
Yen PER YEAR... from their 22% OF PREMIUMS PAID
BY THE FOREIGN EMPLOYEES THAT THEY HAVE
GULLED INTO GETTING INTO IT **)
As for full details on the private insurance deals out there (of
which you must choose one, if you do not go with public health
insurance -- too costly!), and also the details as compared to
the NOVA-sponsored deal, please go through the links from
the NOVA TEACHERS' UNION web site -- and learn that
just about ANY other private health insurance in Japan offers
a better deal, both in costs to you AND coverage... only, the
OTHERS don't "kick back" to NOVA...)
FOR FULL DETAILS, and NO LIES, go to the NOVA
TEACHERS' UNION's "Get the Facts Before You Pack"
and after reading about JMA, see the chart below the few
paragraphs on JMA and JUST HOW NOVA screws many
with it... and see the chart. I was SHOCKED to see how
the MUCH LARGER firm, "MITSUI MARINE," offers, at
just under HALF the cost of JMA... better benefits and
For lots of great info. on protecting yourself from your evil
employer... please join myself and others who share
experiences and advice on dealing with NOVA. By email.
Go to http://www.egroups.com/messages/novateachersunited
and click on "JOIN THIS GROUP."
2. FOR ANYONE THINKING ABOUT LIVING/WORKING IN OSAKA
In response to a message about the pros and cons about "NOVA living,"
I would agree that if you can get together your own group of even
two, if not three people to share an apartment, even in SIX months,
you would come out ahead, over the ridiculous prices NOVA EXTORTS
from its very own work-force. Really, if you consider that you can
find plentiful 2-bedroom apartments for 60,000, and GREAT 3-bdrm
places for 70-90,000, one need only do the math and discover that
even considering the initial investment of 3 months deposit (of which
half or more is generally refunded, let's remember), in only a few
months you come out cheaper than going with a NOVA DUMP.
Further, on "gaijin-houses," or guest houses: I have lived in two
and visited another two. At OSAKA ENGLISH HOUSE, the place
was kept SPOTLESS by two full-time housekeepers, and years
ago I paid 60,000/month -- with two meals/day included, 6 days
a week. I stayed there for 18 months. Okay, that WAS years ago.
Now, I think you can have your own nice room with no meals for
60,000 or therabouts. I prefer BANANA HOUSE. I have stayed there
twice, once for 2 years, the second time for six months. Actually,
I get a considerable amount of email from people thinking about
coming to Japan to work. When they are thinking Osaka, I always
suggest BANANA HOUSE. Why...? Well, when you just arrive in a
new country, the LAST type of place you want to stay in is one
(i.e. an apartment) in which you are isolated. In Banana House,
you pay 17,500 for a week or 55,000 Yen for a month, with only
a 10,000 Yen deposit -- which is 100% refundable, and they DO
give it all back to you. For that, you have your own large room,
with closet, table, futon, aircon, utilities included, and now, most
rooms have their own refrigerator and bed, as well! Then, you
share free showers, a kitchen, two common rooms with large TV's
and CABLE (incl. English-language movie channels!), and now,
a computer area with free internet access! Plus, easy access to
TWO train lines AND the extremely important MIDOSUJI subway
line. But, for the "Japan-newbie," I cannot overemphasize the
value in living at such a place for the chances to meet other
foreigners... have people to hang with... hear about jobs, learn
where to shop, what mags/papers to buy for job-leads... and
basically, quickly learn how to enjoy life in Japan from the very
start -- whether one speaks Japanese or not.
Oh, and whether you wind up working for NOVA or any other
English school, do you REALLY want your accomodation dependent
on your remaining their employee...? Stay at B-House or another
such "gaijin-house," or guest house, as they are alternatively
referred to, and when you move on to a better job -- which the
overwhelming majority of NOVA teachers do, before the end of
their Japan stay -- and you need not be told to "be cleared out
of the school's flat THE DAY YOU RESIGN!"
I hope that my opinion is of use to those considering a stint in
Japan. Banana House may be found on the web, by th