Hi, it’s Derek from Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi. Today, I’m going to tell you about my journey to becoming an English teacher/coach in Japan. Let’s get started!
University in Canada
My journey began while I was going to university in Canada. I heard about being an English teacher in Japan and it sounded exciting. Moreover, I wanted to travel abroad. I decided I would go to Japan and teach English there after graduation.
University Summer Job
In the summer of 1997, I worked for my university in an English as a second language (ESL) program. My job was doing extracurricular activities with the students. The students were from a women’s university in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan. While studying at my university, they did a homestay with local families.
Trips With the Japanese Students
During the ESL program, I went on trips to Niagara Falls, Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal. We had a great time together.
Arrival and First Job in Japan
I arrived in Osaka, Japan on a working holiday visa in October of 1997. Through the Working Holiday Center in Osaka, I set up an interview in Yamaguchi Prefecture and landed my first job as an English teacher in Japan.
The English school that I worked for consisted of the owner (a Japanese lady who also taught English) and myself. I lived in the city of Ube in a house. In the house, I taught just one student and used a company car to go to all other English lesson locations. I had an international driver’s license, so I could drive in Japan. It was challenging at first, because I was not used to driving on the left side of the road and having the stick shift on my left. But I eventually got used to it.
I taught English in kindergartens, a company, a private home, cram schools, a classroom in a downtown building and a classroom in a shopping mall.
I joined a local gym where I went weight training in my free time to keep in shape.
It was also the time I ever drank coffee. I saw canned coffee in a vending machine that had “American Coffee” written on it. I was intrigued by the name. The can was also bigger than the other cans. I tried it and I liked it!
A Nice Visit
Some of the university students who had studied English at my university paid me a visit. It was really fun seeing them again!
Traveling in Yamaguchi Prefecture
My employer allowed me to use the company car for shorts trips, so I visited the university where the university students were going. It was in Yamaguchi City. There, I briefly saw a few more of the students who had studied at my university. I also witnessed Japanese archery there which was very interesting to watch.
A student took me to see Akiyoshido, Japan’s largest and longest limestone cave located in Mine City. It was interesting. Mine City is also home to Akiyoshidai, the largest karst plateau in Japan.
Trip to Kyushu
I also went on a trip to Kyushu with a friend using a seasonally available railway ticket called Seishun Juhachi Kippu (meaning “Youthful 18 Ticket”). This ticket gives you five days of unlimited, nationwide travel on local and rapid Japan Railway trains. I enjoyed visiting Nagasaki as well as Kogoshima.
Nagasaki was nice. It was next to the water, hilly and had nice and colorful Chinese architecture. I believe Peace Park was closed at the time due to being just before the New Year, so we could not visit it.
In Kagoshima, we took a ferry and stayed at a youth hostel near the famous volcano Sakurajima. As we were there on New Year’s Day (January 1, 1998), my friend and I joined others staying at the youth hostel who walked to a small local shrine to pray for the new year. At the hostel, we were kindly served a free bowl of zensai, a traditional Japanese dessert soup made with azuki beans which had mochi (rice cake) in it. It was delicious.
Another trip I enjoyed was driving with other foreigners to Hagi, a former castle town. Hagi used to be the capital of the Mori Clan, one of the most powerful clans during the feudal age in Japan.
Move to Tokyo
I enjoyed my time in Yamaguchi Prefecture but then I decided to move to Tokyo. There, I hoped to get a new teaching job and also get work related to acting (an interest of mine). So I was off to Tokyo for a new adventure in 1998.
Working in Tokyo
In Tokyo, I found a new job at another English conversation school. We were 2 teachers there and students came to the school for their English lessons. I taught there for a while before taking a short trip to Canada and traveling in Europe for a few months. After traveling in Europe, I returned to Japan and got another job at another English school which specialized in corporate English lessons. I taught in-company classes for Mistubishi Motors, teaching both business English and English conversation classes. After doing that job, I went back to Canada to study acting for film and television in 2000.
Working at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi
In late 2001, I once again came back to Japan to teach English. I joined Smith’s in 2002. I have been teaching English at Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi ever since. This is by far the best English teaching job in Japan that I have ever had. I love being my own boss and teaching in one place. My students are such as pleasure to teach, and I have the Smith’s head office staff as part of my team who do great work. I am very lucky!
Thank you for reading! (^.^)
Smith’s School of English Tsukaguchi