Coming to Japan to teach can be the fulfillment of a long-time dream for many, and in a lot of ways it won’t disappoint. Japan is a beautiful country with polite, friendly people, good food, and lots to see and do. No matter how much you may love Japan, though, there are bound to be a few things you genuinely miss from your home country. In this article I’ll go through some of the things I (as an American) or colleagues over the years have wished we had more of.
Bring some “Comfort Food”
It’s the little things that can make the biggest impact, and nowhere is this more true and in food. Although Japanese food is world-renowned, there are going to be times you long for the familiar tastes of home. While I know you’re not going to be able to pack yourself a turkey sandwich or your mom’s meatloaf, there are a lot of small things you can bring which can give you just a taste of the old days. Teachers in Japan have been known to bring back their favorite kinds of sauces and spices, instant gravy or dressing mix, or sweets and cookies.
After your first year or so, you’ll have a much better grasp of what you can get here, and what you can’t. From that point on, if you stick with Japan, you’ll be taking an empty suitcase home with you on your visits…
Bring some Deodorant
OK, not everyone will have this problem, but I do: Japanese deodorant is WEAK. I suppose Japanese people are naturally tidy in that way and do not smell, but if you’re like me and become decidedly less fragrant on hot and sweaty days, it can become a real problem. Don’t forget your job will be sitting in close proximity to people while being charming all day. Bring some of your good ol’ western deodorant/antiperspirant. Essentially a tropical island in the summer, Japan is brutally humid!
Bring special-sized Clothes/Articles
While the Japanese have been getting bigger in recent decades thanks to an increasingly western diet, as a whole they remain considerably smaller in stature than most people from western nations. If you need larger sizes in shoes, clothes, etc. then it can sometimes be difficult to find new ones here in Japan – especially for women. Big & Tall shops and departments DO exist but not everywhere and the selection may be worse than you’re used to.
Bring your Records
Finally, don’t forget to bring your important papers with you. Japan loves bureaucracy, and will want copies or to see the originals of various important documents. Even if you don’t plan to stay here long term, and you’re just teaching for a little bit before moving on, it pays to have your records with you for whatever the city hall bugs you about.
Things to remember: Passport(s), Birth Certificate, College Diploma, Certification Records, Government ID, Driver’s License (and maybe even expired earlier ones)
I hope this article helps you start thinking about what you’ll need when you come to Japan to teach. The world is shrinking thanks to the internet and travel and various things are getting easier to source, but it’s best to be prepared. If you’re new to Japan, you’re going to need that little bit of home to get you through the rough patch when the honeymoon period ends!