Your Bucket List: How Do I Get to Japan?


“How do I get to Japan?”

Aside from stowing away in a friend’s suitcase for Tokyo, getting to Japan is easy. It depends on your desire. Do you want to work, play, study, or tour?

If you’re looking to play in Japan or tour the sights, you could do it the old-fashioned way and buy a plane ticket. You’ll be shelling out around $1,000 for a round-trip ticket–a definite hole in some shallow pockets. The other way to get to Japan is by joining your city’s sister cities program. “My city has a sister city?” Most cities, even the small ones, have a sister city in a different country. I came to Japan for nearly half the cost because the City of Chula Vista did a summer sister city exchange program in Odawara. If you go this route, you’ll be a representative, which means you’ll have some obligations to fulfill before seeing sights. As a representative, you’ll get to see places and things that you wouldn’t see if you were just a tourist.

Bottom line: Try to go to Japan on someone else’s bill.

If you want to study in Japan, there are various programs to try. The first one to try is your own school. Many high schools and universities have a short-stay (two weeks to three months) exchange program or a long-stay (eight months to one year) exchange program. In universities with strong international programs, you could arrange to study for a year in a coordinating Japanese university paying the same tuition for your regular university. Aside from the universities, some places in Japan offer a chance for foreigners to come to Japan simply for studying manga techniques or the Japanese language. These programs, however, are usually limited space and short-stay programs, but they still give you a glimpse into Japanese culture. There are a few programs in schools intended for job placement in Japan, such as Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University. You can also check out my post on manga classes offered to foreigners.

Bottom line: Use the easiest route first and learn some Japanese.

If you want to work in Japan, you’ll have to do one of two things: come to Japan and find work within three months or apply through a program in your home country and get the job before coming to Japan. The latter is easier to do because programs like the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (J.E.T. Programme) and the Interact Network provide some assistance in getting your visa and plane tickets and helping you settle into your new home in Japan. Coming directly to Japan and looking for work on a visitor’s permit is more stressful because of the time restrictions. If you arrive after April, you miss the hiring season, lowering the chances of finding a job. If you arrive between January and April, the chances of finding a job is higher since most work contracts end in April.

Bottom line: Apply before coming Japan or arrive before April for the hiring season.

If you want to “accomplish your dreams”, remember that dreams require work. Most young people want to be a manga artist. As Jamie Lano of suggested, read Bakuman. It’s not as glamorous as most people might think, but if you’re willing to shed some sweat and tears–and maybe blood–you’ll find yourself gaining wholesome experiences.

Bottom line: Look before you leap, and work for your dreams.

頑張ってください!Good luck!

Why I’m a Literacy Advocate


Happy International Literacy Day!

When I came home from school, my “friends” were always waiting for me. They dressed in primary colors—reds, blues, and greens—and stood at attention. As any old friend would do, they accepted me without judging me. Together, we smiled, laughed, and cried. I thought that they would stay with me forever. After I turned eleven, I never saw these friends again. We had to sell them to other children who needed them. I felt sad because we’d have to separate, but I accepted the fact that my best friends were books. There were more of them for me to find.

My relationship with books from an early age filled the void of being friendless. For whatever reason, I was too different from the other kids, so I read. I went into the books and played with the characters in a playground where everyone was accepted. I didn’t feel lonely or get angry at my situation. It was because no matter where I went, books were waiting for me.

Now as an adult, I support literacy, and I think all readers should be advocates for reading. It’s important for children to understand that they aren’t alone in a world that wants them to look like perfect images. Without that support, children fall into bad habits, destructive behaviors, and limitations. I know that if I hadn’t read books, I would’ve been a problem child who would turn into a problematic adult. Studies show that people who lack basic literacy skills are more likely to face health, financial, employment, imprisonment, and social problems in their futures (ProLiteracy,  Conference Board of Canada).  Adult readers and adults who have participated in literacy programs are generally better at getting and keeping their jobs, being unemployed less, earning more money, understanding their health problems and treatment better, and are less likely to go to jail (Lume Institute, LiteracyConnects). People can find benefits in improving their literacy skills through anything that gets them reading.

I think literacy isn’t limited to conventional trade backs and children’s books. Graphic novels, comics, manhwa, and manga are part of the reading circle. They stimulate imaginations which leads to better creative problem-solving skills that can be used in daily life. I know I exercise my creativity every day, especially since I have to make materials for Japanese kids who don’t know English. Even though I’ve left my original friends behind, they’re still inspiring me in all aspects of my life now.