You may download a PDF version of this Pre-Arrival Guide here: Media:2014_Yeti_Pre-Arrival_Guide_Reduced.pdf
- 1 PRE-ARRIVAL GUIDE!
- 2 Introduction
- 3 The YETI Council (and a few special friends)!
- 4 The Yamanashi Social Calendar!
- 5 Welcome To Yamanashi! ...Yama-where?!?
- 6 Before You Arrive
- 7 Preparation
- 8 Welcome to the world of teaching in Japan!
- 9 YETI Council Contact Information
Brought to you by:
Yamanashi English Teachers International
Hello, and welcome to the YETI Pre-Arrival Guide! This is the 2014 YETI Wiki edition of our annual Pre-Arrival Guide.
YETI is an organisation that was set up many years ago with the purpose of helping and strengthening the foreign teaching community within Yamanashi. In those days there was no internet, and floppy discs and fax machines were the cutting edge of technology (actually in Japan they still are). Feeling isolated was a real issue and you could go for weeks without seeing another foreigner. To bridge that gap, YETI was set up to spread information and organise social events.
Now - with the internet, smart phones, Skype, and the like - isolation is less of an issue. However, the need for YETI is still present.
We provide a place for old-hands and those who have never been to Japan to meet, exchange ideas, support each other, and generally form a great community. We have expanded to include students of all ages, parents, and of course teachers of all types. We are a resource that is here for everybody!
We also organise at least one event a month for people to meet up, socialise, and have fun. We arrange simple walks in the countryside, seasonal pub quizzes, ski trips, and everything in between. Our focus is very much on socialising. We welcome everybody to our events, even if they live outside Yamanashi!
We have a number of ways of keeping in touch with each other:
We post our events as well as job openings, items for sale, and other things on our forum at www.yetijapan.com. Join up today! We publish a monthly newsletter, the YETI Spaghetti, written by Kelley Lynch. YETI and the YETI Council are both present on Facebook. Be sure to add us!
Finally, YETI events do not require membership. Anyone is welcome to join! However, memberships are available for 3000yen a year and will provide you a discount at any paid events. If you come to most YETI events, the savings will be worth more than the cost of membership.
The YETI Council (and a few special friends)!
YETI is an informal community of English teachers, their friends, and other acquaintances. Every year YETI selects a few individuals to represent them as the YETI Council. These members are mainly responsible for planning and executing events.
President: Michael Martin
Greetings friends! Welcome to Yamanashi, your new home in Japan! With any luck, this pre-arrival guide will help prepare you so that you can hit the ground running.
I'm finishing my second year with JET in the mountain village Hayakawa, and I will soon transfer to Kofu. I'm an avid fan of exploring the nooks and crannies, mountain villages and back-alley izakayas of this wonderful country. If you ever need any advice about the prefecture, outdoor activities, learning the language, or just doing your job then please feel free to shoot me a message.
Secretary: Ben Lenoir
I am currently coming up on my second year in Yamanashi and I love it here! While our lovely prefecture may be a little rural we have a lot of fun things to do and great people, so don't be shy when you get here!
This is my second time in Japan and it started in August of 2013 when I came with the JET Program. Right now I am living in Tsuru-shi a quiet little town that is East of the Kofu Basin area. I get to catch some good views of Mt. Fuji on my way to work most mornings and come home to a quite apartment under the stars. When I am not doing school related things I am usually out climbing up mountains, riding my bicycle, catching bugs, or making some kind of weird artwork. We live in one of the most beautiful Prefectures with easy access to many places around us like Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagano, and Shizuoka, so whether you are a city or country person you will be easily satisfied.
Treasurer: Katherine Vos
Hello, YETI-zens! I’m Katherine, YETI Council’s Treasurer for this year. I hail from the prairies of Canada, and you can find both me and my husband hanging out in Tsuru-shi. Welcome to the BEST prefecture in Japan!
I’m about to finish my first year of living in Yamanashi, and am regularly amazed with how much our prefecture has to offer. When I’m not practicing photography, studying Japanese, skiing, or gazing longingly at Fuji-san, you can find me searching high and low for the best places in Yamanashi to eat...believe me, there’s plenty! Come out to one of our events, and you’re bound to find me. It’s always a good time -- hope to see you there!
Webmaster: Sara Wells
Hi, everyone! Welcome to Yamanashi! Originally from Kentucky (yes, of KFC fame), I’m currently a second-year JET in Hokuto “City” in northern Yamanashi. Yamanashi can feel like a strange place sometimes, but I know I’m right at home every time I get stuck behind a tractor on my way to work…
In my downtime, I like to play board games, watch movies, and try out new recipes. I also love festivals and exploring new places. If you make your way up to Hokuto, hit me up! I can’t wait to meet you all!
Although you may not have a chance to meet her, we also have a wonderful First Year Representative: Katrina Leonoudakis! However that role will soon be filled by one of you! If you're interested in getting more involved in the community and some really good networking, let us know.
Finally there is the fantastic Kelley Lynch has taken on the role of YETI Spaghetti Editor. I hope you all take the time to read her wonderful work, as it's a great way to learn more and stay up-to-date with local events!
Of course, the council could never function without the commitment and assistance of many dedicated individuals, the YETI community as a whole, and a number of wonderful people and establishments around the prefecture on whom we often rely.
The Yamanashi Social Calendar!
- Ichikawa Fireworks Festival
- Welcome Party
- Fuji Climb
- Katsunuma Wine Festival
- Autumn Pub Quiz
- Nature Hike
- Thanksgiving Party
- YETI Idol Karaoke Contest
- Holiday Party
- Winter Break
- First Ski Trip
- Second Ski Trip
- Cooking Event
- Spring Pub Quiz
- Nash 500 Scavenger Hunt
- YETI Council Elections
March – July: Sports Day, Sayonara Party, and more!
Besides YETI events, there are always activities going on around the prefecture. If you're looking for things to do in the area, keep an eye on:
Welcome To Yamanashi! ...Yama-where?!?
Now that you have a received notification of your placement, you've probably been scouring travel guides and web resources and still have no idea what Yamanashi is like – or maybe you couldn't even find mention of it! If you were to only go off of Lonely Planet and other popular guides, you might be inclined to believe Yamanashi doesn't even exist. We're here to assure you that it does in fact exist. While the prefecture might be under-appreciated by some resources, Yamanashi has no shortage of remarkable landmarks and events.
Yamanashi – the kanji of which mean mountain (山) and pear (梨) – is like a scenic hideout, obscured by a ceiling of grape branches swaying hypnotically over a pastoral landscape. To our east are the bright lights and neon signs Tokyo and Yokohama. In fact many people come here to escape the city and enjoy life at a slower pace for the weekend. Of course, this also means that we can escape the countryside for the weekend fairly easily as well. Other common destinations for YETIzens looking to get away are the beaches of Shizuoka to the south and the winter slopes of Nagano to our west.
And of course, how could you talk about Yamanashi without mentioning our number one star, Fuji-san! Mt. Fuji is visible from a number of towns around Yamanashi. You will have a chance to climb it shortly after arriving, but the season is short. During the winter months – of which Mt. Fuji has about ten – you can still visit it's quaint hometown of Fujiyoshida. In fact, many would say Fuji-san is most beautiful when draped in a cloak of fresh snow!
Yamanashi has relatively mild winters – except for odd flukes like the Snow-pocalypse of 2014 – but most people are happy to see spring arrive every year regardless. We're looking forward to more than just warmer weather, though. Every spring we wait in anticipation of the ever-elusive sakura (桜, cherry blossoms)! They may not last long, but when the blossoms have fallen it's a sure sign that another trademark of spring is on its way: fresh fruit! Just wait until you taste Yamanashi peaches. Strangely though, we aren't known for our pears...
But what's the best part of living in Yamanashi? Probably the chance to hang out with YETIzens, of course! Owing in part to our prefecture's rural demographic, we are an especially tight-knit community - and we can't wait to join us.
Before You Arrive
You have so much to look forward to! But first, a little bit of preparation before you arrive will ensure that you can make the most of your first few days here in Yamanashi. Here's what we recommend:
Memorize a simple self-introduction in Japanese.
Arriving with no formal Japanese language skills is not a problem, but it would help you if you have the greetings and self-introduction under control so that you don’t feel like too much of a lemon when you meet your supervisor and colleagues for the first time (you may feel like a lemon the rest of the time, but that’s okay). If you need a basic self-introduction, try memorizing the following:
Nice to meet you.
Watashi wa _____ to mōshimasu.
My name is ________.
Watashi wa America no Louijiiana-shū kara kimashita.
I am from Louisiana, America.
(Shū means state – don’t say it if you are telling them the city you are from.)
Dōzo yoroshiku onegaishimasu.
(This is a set phrase that means something like “Please take care of me,” or more loosely “I look forward to working with you.”)
Use this guide to help you. Don’t fret about forgetting something, as chances are you will find it here or can have it sent to you. I say this from personal experience, CHECK AIRLINE WEIGHT LIMITS and WEIGH YOUR BAG - don’t do what I did and leave it until 3am before you leave to realize your bag weighs too much.
Have lots of leaving parties and enjoy your time with friends and family.
Get those all-important email/home addresses and enjoy your newfound celebrity status as suddenly everyone really appreciates you (believe me, even ex-girl / boyfriends will come out of the woodworks…. though perhaps just to ensure you get on the plane!).
Stop panicking and RELAX!!!
You can only prepare up to a point, and then you just have to fly by the seat of your pants and put some faith in the unknown. Rest assured you will not be dropped out of the airplane into the rice paddies and be expected to live off of your survival skills. So just sit back and enjoy the adventure!!
There are two golden rules about shopping in Japan:
1. It will cost more. 2. It will be smaller.
For specific questions, there is already a lot of information on the YETI website, forum, and Facebook pages. Furthermore you can always ask the community. But to give you a little to start…
If name brand toiletries or certain styles are important to you - and you don’t want to pay for international shipping - I would suggest bringing a year’s supply with you when you come. Many toiletries or supplies can be bought on the Internet, but this could end up costing you a lot more. Here is some information about Japanese-style toiletries to help you decide how much to plan to bring with you.
Women Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, lotion, and other such supplies tend to be only a little different in Japan. You should be fine. Woman with thin, light coloured hair might find the Japanese shampoos to be heavier.
Menstruation products are available in grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies. When it comes to toiletries and medicine, going to the pharmacy to buy them will give you the largest selection. Tampons are sometimes hard to find and tend to be smaller, with only a few choices. Most women in Japan wear pads so there are plenty of those to choose from. Again, if you are not interested in exploring new brands then bring enough with you to last the duration of your stay. You can also order some sanitary products online.
Men There will be mostly different brands available here than wherever you are coming from, and there will probably be less variety. Also, fragrances are not especially popular in Japanese society so there will definitely be less selection present. If you are picky, bring extra supplies with you or plan on having more shipped over at a later date. With that said, you will of course find all of the basics and necessities here. If you aren't too particular, then you should have no problems.
Men and Women Stick deodorant is rare here and most frequently does not include antiperspirant. Bring it with you if you can, or secure a site online that will it sell it to you for a reasonable price and won’t charge you an arm and a leg for shipping.
Condoms in Japan are more fragile than they are in many other countries and they may run a little small. It is also difficult to find certain brands here. Buying them online can be pretty expensive, so plan accordingly. Yamanashi is a small community and there aren't too many foreigners so we're bound to draw attention. Because of this, some people choose to use the internet or make purchases while out of town when the need to restock.
Razors and razor head replacements can be found easily, so they should not be a concern.
Do your research before you come. There are specific laws about what is legally allowed without the yakkan shoumeisho. A good place to start is here.1
Getting the birth control pill is more difficult in Japan and will not be considered a private issue. Your employers may find it necessary to get involved. Consider going to your doctor before you leave your home country and make sure that he or she can provide you with a full year’s worth.
The sizes in Japan tend to run much smaller here than in other countries, and stores tend not to sell above a certain size. It is safest to bring what you’ll need with you. Check out some clothing charts online here.2
I would suggest bringing lots of shoes as well. For anyone with feet over size 24 cm for women and 28 cm for men, buying new shoes in Japan will be challenging. If you don’t know your size in cm, try this site.3
Most teachers will have one pair of shoes for outside use, one pair for inside use, and a third pair for gym use. Along with schools, many other establishments require you to change into indoor shoes or guest slippers before coming inside. As you will have many days in which you will need to go in and out frequently – and therefore change shoes frequently – it is highly recommend to purchase shoes that can be slipped on and off easily! Keep this in mind while packing.
Bras in Japan are slightly difficult to find for women who measure over a 36 band size or have cup sizes larger than a D. That being said, the kinds of bras generally found in Japan are frilly and loaded with padding. Padding is almost always removable and if you are on the higher side of a cup, you may have to remove it before wearing the bra. There are stores that sell T-shirt bras but the selection is smaller than at home. General rule of thumb for sizing: 32=70cm, 34=75cm, 36=80cm. All cup sizes go up one cup size. For example, someone who wears a 34C will generally wear a Japanese 75D.
You probably won’t need much formal wear other than your business/work outfits (unless you are a CIR). You might consider having one nice outfit in case you have to go to a wedding or funeral. You might also want to consider a suit that can be worn in both the summer and the winter, or to bring two.
Ideally you should contact your predecessor or other people that live in your area before arriving. If you have any concerns, they can help clarify what kind of dress is appropriate and what the climate is like.
Just like everyone else in the world, Japanese people love entertainment. No matter what your hobbies or interests are, there’s sure to be a place for you to hang out. With that said, Yamanashi is on the more rural side of things so you might have to travel a bit to get there.
There is a shelf in the International Center in Kofu with books that members of the community are welcome to borrow. People donate used books there and borrow new ones in exchange. However, I’d really recommend picking up an e-reader—they’re super convenient. Although English books are possible to get here, they are not always the easiest to find.
Be careful about voltage and adapters between Japan and your home country. Japan is 100-110V, 50/60 Hz.
DVDs are region 2 in Japan, so your home DVDs may not work in the DVD players here unless you buy a region-free player.
Again, if you have any specific questions please feel free to ask around in the YETI community.
You’ll probably want some photos and home memorabilia to show to your students. Some ALTs leave English games and books at their schools when they leave, but some do not. Ask your predecessor what kind of tools are available at your school(s) and ask what other types you might want to bring. You will definitely want to have photos and items to use during your self-introduction. You do not have to bring prizes for your kids, however. Candy is not allowed in most schools, and for most placements it would be hard to provide enough gifts for the entire student body without going broke. Stickers are often used as a reward system so you might want to bring some along. It is suggested that you bring some omiyage for your employers and co-workers, but not required.
Here is Fred’s take on the omiyage issue:
I think the JET coordinators overplay the importance of omiyage. I would say that you should not go to as much effort as the orientations and handbooks make out. However, I would consider omiyage as greasing the wheels of the system: it makes a great first impression and can sometimes go a long way in currying favour with teachers.
I have learnt that non-perishables such as key rings and pencils will be appreciated, but they can sometimes not be that useful. How many key rings do people need? If you have access to a bunch of free key rings etc, then using them as prizes and presents is spot on. Small individually wrapped sweets/biscuits/treats are the way to go for your co-workers. They are easy to distribute and the teachers can eat them when they want. If you can find out how many teachers work at your school, bring enough for everyone and a little extra just in case.
I would check the expiry date, though, as you may give them when you first arrive but they may not be distributed until the first day of term when all the teachers are present (late August in my case, sometimes even later).
It's a good idea to give a gift of alcohol to the principal of your school, although it is by no means necessary.
Internet and cell phones
Everybody’s situation will depend on their location. This will determine which companies have a presence and can provide you with the best service. Unfortunately you can't set up a plan before arriving, but be sure to ask your predecessor (if you have one) about their experiences.
There might be a lot of expenses your first few months in Japan, and this too will depend on your situation. Some areas have higher rent than others, and some people are required to buy a car to travel to work. Key money for your apartment can be quite high and other moving-in expenses can really make your first few months expensive. Bring enough money with you if you can from the get-go. It is generally suggested that you have 200,000 yen for the first month or two.
Japan is still a cash-based society. You will do the majority of your transactions in cash. If you are able to set up automatic deductions from your bank account for your rent and other bills, it’ll save you a bunch of trips to the nearest convenience store or bank. Credit cards are becoming more widely accepted but they are still rarer than back home. Foreign issued cards have been known to be rejected and there are usually fees involved with their use. Checks aren't used in Japan. Furthermore, consider switching your financial information to e-statements and e-payments before you depart. You may not have internet immediately after arriving in Japan, so arrange for payments to be made in your absence if necessary.
Power of Attorney
Some people choose to give power of attorney to someone they trust before leaving. This may be more hassle than it’s worth, but if you’re in a serious bind it could help you out.
Even if you don’t think you’ll have to drive, we highly recommend that you get an international permit for the first year just in case. Bring tax forms, licenses, transcripts, proof of graduation, and so on with you. These may be needed to set up bank accounts, get a driver's license, etc.
Things to Leave Behind
Many people feel that they overpack. This can be avoided by focusing on the necessities, and separating things that you may not need or won't need immediately. You can have these sent to you at a later date if necessary.
Items that you very rarely use you can probably do without. Exceptionally values items may not be necessary as well. If you do bring them, remember to keep them close to you while traveling so as to keep them safe.
Welcome to the world of teaching in Japan!
You are, by definition, an assistant teacher. Your membership among those with the title sensei (先生, teacher or doctor) brings with it challenges, responsibilities, and rewards. If one maxim will always hold true as an ALT, it is this:
You will get out of it what you put into it.
Your initiative, drive, creativeness, readiness to roll up your sleeves and pitch in, and sense of humour when faced with awkward situations will contribute greatly to your experience in Japan.
To give you a taste of school life in Japan, here are some experiences from current ALTs working at elementary, junior high, and senior high schools. As you will soon learn: ESID - Every Situation Is Different. It’s cliché but true. No two situations are alike, which is why I urge caution when applying the information below exactly to your situation. It should only give you a rough idea.
Kindergarten is definitely a job that requires a ton of energy, but doesn’t give you too much stress. Depending on your school, your time at kindergarten can be divided into playtime and lesson time.
Playtime is definitely a stress free way to earn your wages. Kids at first can be shy, but that’s a universal thing. Definitely don’t be a shy teacher and play with those kids! Many kids will DEMAND you play with them.
What’s not quite adorable? Boogers. But don’t worry; almost every other kid except for the Waterfall of Snot will have a packet of tissue in their cute little uniform jumpers and will be willing to help out the kid with Shrek crawling out of his nose. If you’re hands on, definitely keep some tissues in your own pockets. Either way, dress casually because kids will wipe their hands on you, and be sure to wash your hands frequently.
Many kids are very sensitive. A simple tumble can send a kid into fits of tears. If some kids fall and look like they’re on the verge of tears, don’t act concerned because that will definitely persuade the kid to wail. The best thing to do is help them up and distract them with the nearest toy or your charming self. Don’t be afraid to try and help out, but if you are having trouble understanding the crying child because of language or mumbling, feel free to pick the kid and bring him to another teacher. You are not responsible for discipline.
Kids who become greedy from your attention may throw hissy fits when your attention isn’t solely focused on them. They may literally push other kids away when they want to play with you. Do your best to get them to play in a group setting. If they still don’t want to play with the other children, hold their hand and they may finally agree to join.
Lessons are usually completely up to you. A good number of new words to teach are around 5, unless you teach numbers, in which case the numbers 1 through 10 are quite good. Easier vocabulary includes colors, fruits, and yes and no. The younger children (ages 3-4) have a harder time with consonants. For example, some kids have a hard time with the “g” sound in grapes. Games you can play to help them learn are fruit(s) basket or duck-duck-goose with substitute words. Any game that involves running is a great game.
When in doubt, flail your arms and legs. They will find it hilarious. Also, if you pick up one kid, five more will come to be picked up. Develop arm muscles!
Preparation is your best friend.
Elementary school schedules change constantly, and this can cause much confusion and anxiety. Having some go-to games (5-7) and worksheets ready will help you teach with maximum efficiency. Talk to senior ALTs or other new ALTs with an ES placement to gather information about how another school has their English curriculum set up.
Try and try again.
Most classes have been lovely; but once in a while I’ve encountered classes from HELL. If you’re unfortunate enough to cross paths with such classes, first relax and observe what happens in the first 3-4 classes you teach. Note how they behave with each activity, and pay attention to the peer dynamic and the teacher-student dynamic. From there, you will see that your students are receptive to certain activities over others. Experiment with different classroom management techniques: try staying silent until the kids pay attention; try cutting through the white noise with a well-timed, booming, “STOP”; or even establish a point system. Talk with the HRT and ask about any special circumstances you should be aware of.
Elementary schools in Japan are very particular. Teachers take different approaches to discipline, and often appear too lenient in the classroom. However, ES staff act as students’ teachers, psychiatrists, and family therapists, while expertly navigating the minefield of Japanese ’monster parents’. They have their own methods for their own reasons. If you demonstrate awareness of this fact, schools will be more receptive to your initiatives. Good luck!
Junior High School
General Info Unfortunately, JHS is the level where you're most likely to be a ‘human tape recorder’. Not to say that all JHS ALTs are in this position, but many are. But don't worry, there's still ways to mitigate that. Ask to plan warm-up games. Many classes devote the first 10 or so minutes to reviewing previous material, or just something quick before the grammar portion. Talk to students before class and get to know them. Walk around while they're working and correct mistakes. Insert cultural information when relevant during the grammar explanation. Talk about alternative (level appropriate) ways to say things.
Activity Classes Some ALTs are fortunate enough to sometimes conduct their own classes. This is your chance to really have fun with English. Do games or other activities that your students will enjoy. Avoid making your classes another grammar heavy class. Use these classes to review grammar learned in the regular class in a fun way. Projects or cultural lessons (Holiday cards, English bulletin boards, etc.)
Last-minute classes There may be a time when you're asked to come up with a game/activity at the last-minute. Be prepared for this by having some simple games in mind that take little prep work (Hang man, shiritori, categories, etc.)
English Level JHS students tend to not know a lot of English, but you can still have fun talking to them despite the language gap. If you speak Japanese, make a judgement call about how much Japanese you want to use. Ideally, you should speak only in English, but that's not very realistic. My take is to use enough English to encourage your students to practice theirs, but enough Japanese to facilitate communication.
Senior High School
Situations will vary from school to school, but here are a few generalities which could prove useful.
You will most likely be responsible for your lesson plans. You may have to come up with the concept yourself, or with the JTE. Sometimes the class has a textbook, but if you can, use it only as a framework. The repetitive structure of textbook lessons bore the students, so get them speaking! There are so many creative and fun lesson plans online (check out the YETI forum as well!). Yes, they’re ‘too-cool-for-school’, but don’t be afraid to get them moving with games and activities. The more you mix it up, the more engaged they will be.
High school level English varies – a lot. Motivation between classes will vary, as can the level of English from academic to vocational high schools. In vocational schools, the students’ coursework prepares them to enter a trade after graduation (e.g. in agricultural/commerce), with English not always being necessary. In academic schools, most of the students will go to university and will need to take entrance exams or interviews which contain English sections. It is a good idea to take this into account when planning lessons.
General school duties and activities A typical day lasts from the 8:15 morning meeting to about 4:15, although, you may have to run an English Club a few days a week during lunch or after school. September also brings speech contest season and you may be required to spend a few hours after school helping the students. There is no set school lunch at high schools. Some schools will have lunches delivered and others will allow you to run out to grab something. Clothing wise – dress professionally. Cool Biz is the order of the day in summer, and gradually you’ll be able to gauge what attire is appropriate and how far you can push your creative fashion flair – or forever-lazy tracksuit appeal. If possible, keep a suit or at least a blazer jacket at school for those all important ceremonies. If in doubt, ask!
Be bold! Be different! Be prepared! But be respectful as you’re going into a completely new environment and you will be lost at times. So ASK. Ask your supervisor, other teachers, your students! If anything, it’s a great conversation starter. Have fun, tease the kids, get to know the Kyoto Sensei (vice principal), join random events as if you know what’s happening and you are a part of the team, and smile when you are confused!
-Chandre Davids/Joshua Coleman
YETI Council Contact Information
We hope that you have enjoyed this guide and that it has proved useful to you before you start your adventures in Yamanashi.
If you have questions or concerns, feel free to email us or contact us through the forum or on Facebook. We are here to help! We will also be present at local orientation, where you can talk to us about all things YETI. If not, you will meet many of us at the welcome parties that we are planning. Until we meet face-to-face: Have fun packing, take a deep breath, and trust that it will all be okay!
To contact us, please use one of the means available on the "About YETI" page.
Lastly, a special thanks to everyone who helped to put this guide together, especially Lana Kitcher and Fred De Condappa, who undertook a major rewrite of the guide, and Jeremy Davison who helped to proofread the guide.