People often ask me “Why did you move to Japan?” and I always find it quite difficult to answer this question. There isn’t really one specific reason why I moved, it’s more like a dream of mine that developed over time into a viable opportunity to do something different with my life.
I would like to share with you why I left my life in London to live in a coastal village in rural Japan.
My initial interest in Japan began around ten years ago, after I read the novel Memoirs of a Geisha. The book is a fictional account of the life of a geisha in the 1930s and 1940s in Kyoto. It allowed me a glimpse into this secret world, so mysterious and different to anything I knew. Japan had piqued my interest, and my curiosity quickly took over. I wanted to learn more about this far away land.
The start of my journey
Back in the daily grind of life I carved out a career for myself in London working within tourism. I worked in a few sales and marketing roles, for various luxury hotel groups, and destinations. During the 2009 financial crisis the hotel company I worked for decided to cut jobs. Unfortunately mine was included in the cull.
Although I didn’t realise it at the time, this redundancy was a good thing for me. It made me start thinking about what I really wanted to do with my life. After some thought I eventually came up with three life goals. These were to travel lots, speak other languages and get my university degree.
So in the summer of 2010 I enrolled myself onto a part-time Bachelor of Arts course in Japanese and Journalism at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London. This way I could combine my love of writing with my desire to learn a new language and my interest in Japan. I studied hard over the next four years, working full-time during the days, then studying in the evenings and at weekends. It was around the time that I started my course that I discovered the Jet programme too.
What is the Jet programme?
The Jet programme is a government sponsored scheme that recruits native English speakers from various countries all over the world to live and work in Japan. You are hired to teach English in Japanese public schools all across the country. The recruitment process is competitive but if you get in, the rewards are great. Your airfare to Japan is paid for and everything is taken care of for you, from accommodation to a job. You just have to show up. The money is pretty good too. As soon as I found out about Jet, I knew this was my way into Japan.
In 2014, after I graduated from university, I applied that same year for the Jet programme. The application was sent in during the autumn, and I heard from the Japanese embassy in London in early January 2015 that I had been granted an interview. Before the interview I had read many horror stories online of candidates being reduced to tears, or having to sing or do other embarrassing things to prove their worth. However my interviewers were friendly and they didn’t ask me any stupid questions at all.
I found out a couple of months later in March 2015 that I had been offered a placement. In May I received the details of my location. My placement was to be in Kochi prefecture; a rural part of Shikoku island.
Leaving the UK behind
On August 1st 2015, I left the UK with a one way plane ticket and finally made the move to Japan! So far, I haven’t regretted one day I have spent here. Whilst moving to Japan has had its challenges and low points, it has always been surprising, mostly wonderful, and never dull, despite living in the countryside!
I love the way Japan takes the futuristic mega cities like Tokyo, and blends them with centuries of unique Japanese culture. This rich culture and history lies within a backdrop of vast mountain ranges, sprawling bamboo forests and glistening rice fields. It feels like a special and magical kind of place, and the more you delve into it, the more rewarding it becomes and the more interesting things you find.
My friends in the UK often say they wish they could do what I do and move abroad or go travelling, but they always seem to find an excuse not to do it. All I can say is that if I can do it, anyone can! I’m about as boring and non-adventurous as people come! In later life you won’t look back and regret the things you tried, only the things you dreamed of doing but dared not to do. Have you ever considered a move to Japan or another country? Let me know in the comments below!
Thanks for reading my story!