Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
As I wrote in the last post, you will be waiting for a Certificate of Eligibility (COE) once you provide all the necessary documents to your company. After you apply for your work visa and get it in your passport, your primary job is to pack and be ready to go.
Your company will probably give you a date to arrive on, and from the US/Canada we lose a day, so that means leaving the day before you plan to get there.
Your first few days in Japan and during training, your company will help you to get a residence card if you didn’t get yours while going through immigration at the airport. (I think only Narita, Haneda, and Osaka airports provide this service at this time.) You will need to go to the city hall in your city when you know your address and update it on the residence card.
You will get inkan/hanko. This is a tiny round stamp used in Asia to sign legal documents (with orange-ish red ink). Each family has one with their last (family) name in kanji (Chinese characters). Note: it’s a good idea to practice before stamping. If it doesn’t print clearly, you might be asked to fill out a whole new form and stamp it again.
Most banks require inkan to sign up for a bank account. The only bank I know of that doesn’t is the bank in the Post Office, (Yucho Ginko). Your company will probably recommend a bank they use (near their office) to avoid direct deposit fees (which they might ask you to pay, but really shouldn’t).
Most foreigners don’t have a Japanese name, so what do they put on their inkan? You can do a variety of things, but I recommend using either your first or last name (the one that works better) and asking a Japanese person to help you choose kanji that sound like it. Most family names use two or three kanji, and that’s all that will neatly fit on your stamp. If your name is really long or difficult to pronounce in Japanese, be creative. Keep in mind, it’s going to be used for legal documents, and they prefer that it at least sounds like your real name. Not always easy.
You will have up to a week of training with other new hires, make some friends, learn about your new company and job, etc. (Some companies will assign online tasks / training like reading company handbooks in addition to an in person training.) During the training your company should take care of your hotel/other temporary housing.
Probably you will be signing your contract at the training. This will go over all your hours, school(s) you work at, vacation days, etc. The contracts are sometimes in Japanese with the English translation under each section.
Hopefully during training (if not sooner) you will find out where you will be living and working for the next year. The companies usually provide housing assistance and most work with a company called Leopalace in areas they are available.
The reason most recruiting companies use Leopalace 21 is that the apartments are single occupancy furnished for short term housing. You will probably sign a one year contract and the apartment should be within a reasonable distance to where you will work.
The location of my apartment was great when I lived in a Leopalace. It was plenty of space for me, but it was far from a palace (about 230 square feet). Most likely the apartment will be small compared to what you are used to. The great thing is, you will have your own room, bathroom, and itty-bitty kitchen (hallway?). (I don’t advise actually cooking in a Leopalace kitchen. There was no counter space at all.) You will have a washing machine (NO dryer as they are not common in Japan. Get used to hanging your clothes to dry.), a tiny electric stove (two burners, NO oven), microwave, TV, chairs and table, bed, heater/air conditioner and water heater.
Normal apartments in Japan do not come furnished or even include things like a stove. The cost of buying all your appliances in addition to finding housing in Japanese is kind of too much, so it’s really convenient to use the housing option your company provides. 90% of the time it should work out well, but if it doesn’t work for you (too far from work, noisy, etc.), talk with your company about your options.
Before your first day in the school, you should go with staff from the recruiting company and meet your principal at the school, maybe chat a little and drink a cup of tea. You will be expected to be in professional dress (a suit) for this and it won’t take long, but might be exhausting. I’ve heard it’s a nice gesture to bring a souvenir from where you’re from for the school staff and principal & vice principal. This is not required and I had no idea the first time I worked in Japan, but who doesn’t like presents, right?
The first week of work, you might not actually go to any classes. You might sit at your desk wondering what you’re supposed to do for a week. Someone might tell you at the end of the week, that it would be nice if you can prepare some kind of an introduction for when you finally go to the classrooms and meet your students. If you have something big and easy to see from the back of the classroom, it helps, as you might not be able to use your laptop/tablet to do a presentation. It seems that many areas now have a flatscreen TV in most classrooms. An HGTV cable can usually be used to attach a tablet or laptop (or hybrid) to show photos during your introduction. Some schools have an “English room” where students come for classes. Preparing a simple introduction including your hobbies, food you like, etc. is fun for the students to get to know you. Self introductions are a big deal in Japan, so having something semi-planned is useful. A question and answer time is usually really interesting for students too.
Hint: Make the students laugh. Show them a photo of the Disney castle and say it’s your house. Show them a photo of a hamburger as big as a table (I actually used this photo) and tell them it’s your favorite food. When they ask if you have a boyfriend/girlfriend, say, “Yes, I’m sorry,” as if they were interested. I always say I’m eight when they ask how old I am. Some students will take it too far and ask for your address and phone number. You’ll soon learn there are questions you always lie about (personal information) and things you try to answer honestly. See this series of posts about Questions English teachers are commonly asked by their students.
During your first week of school you might not have any classes yet. This time can be used to prepare by decorating, creating displays about your country/state/city, lesson/game planning, studying Japanese, or getting to know staff. Also, any time the students are outside of the classrooms, you can say hi to them and get to know them. They will probably be too scared to talk to you at first, so initiate conversations. You are encouraged to greet students and staff every day. It will make you look really good if you stay busy. It will also be more fun for you!