Many roads lead to Japan

June 30th, 2013By Category: Uncategorized


Today, many people from all over the world are coming to live in Japan. There are many reasons why people choose a life in a country like Japan. While we can certainly not list all of them here, we can say that some people only come for a short time while others are here to stay.

For me, coming to Japan was just a natural part of the process. I got interested in Japan when I was ten years old. I used to watch Anime and read Manga, but I did not know anything about Japan at this point. Since the Internet was not as widely available as it is today, I got my information mainly from magazines. At that time almost nobody knew about Manga or Anime in Germany. The scene was just getting started, so it was hard to get new material. At first I just read about different kinds of Anime, but then the magazines started to write about Japanese music, culture, history and language.

I was fascinated. I spent the years in high school recruiting my friends over to the Anime and Japan faction. In the end, they helped me to widen my own horizon. When I graduated from high school, several aspects of Japanese culture had already become a normal part of my daily life. I knew that if I wanted to be happy in my life I needed to stay close to what I loved. I was not exactly sure how to approach this, but a friend of mine, whom I had introduced to Anime, had just entered the University of Bonn to enroll for the Asian Studies program, which featured Japanese as one of many available Asian languages. I knew that that was probably the best option I had so I enrolled one year later.

I studied Japanese language, Japanese culture, and was lucky enough to spend one year abroad at Keio University in Tokyo. Even though I enjoyed my life in Germany when I came back, I knew that I wanted to return some day. The love for this country that had developed over the years was still very strong. Even though I had no illusions about the difficulties of life in Japan I still wanted to go.

I didn’t really know where to start, since most jobs require you to already live in Japan or have a bachelor’s degree. The thesis, that I wrote about the change of the Geisha world, was still being rated. During a holiday that I spent in Japan in September, I came across a small English school that was looking for an English teacher. Even though it was a pretty short notice I immediately applied and got accepted.

Most of the English-speaking foreigners in Japan are probably English teachers and I didn’t necessarily want to do the same that everybody else does, but I was very happy to get the opportunity to come to this country for work.

While I spend one year as an exchange student in Tokyo, I am now living in the more rural prefecture of Iwate. Especially in a place like Iwate it might be hard for foreigners to find work that is not related to their native language. Still, someday I want to try to find a “normal” job in Japan. Even though I am not unhappy about my current job, I believe that it is important to evolve. I am happy now just to live here, but I hope that in the future I can use my creative output at work.

Many Japanese people have gotten used to seeing foreigners in Japan, especially in Tokyo. But if you come to a place like this you will encounter people who are not prepared to see someone like you. That includes men, women and people of all ages but certainly children. When children spot me on the train or in the supermarket they often have a hard time hiding their curiosity. Sometimes they stare at me with an open mouth and sometimes they immediately stop whatever they were doing and keep looking.

But I don’t mind that. They are not used to seeing us here and that is also why I like my current job. I don’t only want to teach children a language that is important all over the world now, but I also want to raise awareness about the fact that the world is filled with all kinds of people. Maybe we cannot always fight the discrimination issues that we still face in the modern world. But I believe, that if we can educate the children and show them that other people are just like them, even if they look different, we can make an important step in the right direction.
Even though we might always be outsiders, we can be proud to play our part in shaping Japanese society.

Author of this article

Michael Werker

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  • zoomingjapan says:

    Thank you! 🙂

    Yes, there certainly are good and bad things about living in the (Japanese) countryside. Most of the time I enjoy it and wouldn’t trade it for living in a big city!

  • Michael Werker says:

    Hey, thank you for your comment! It is nice to hear, that a fellow German had similar experiences! I am still fighting with not having a regular Internet connection at my house, but I will surely check out your blog soon!

    So you live in the countryside, too? Haha, as with most things, there are pros and cons, right? 😉 I was just on a random walk when I took the photo. I just thought: Hey, that looks kind of nice here! Anyway, I hope to read you again 🙂

  • zoomingjapan says:

    Excuse me while I need to find my jaw again. It just dropped to the floor!
    The first few sentences could have been written by me! I can’t believe it!

    I’m also German. I became interested in Japan when I was in elementary school doing Karate. Later I was also interested in anime and manga, but just like you said it was very hard at that time as almost nothing was available in Germany.

    The difference is that I decided NOT to study anything Japan-related at univeristy as I didn’t want to make my hobby my profession. I did regret it a few times, but not too much.
    I moved to Japan in early 2008 and have been here ever since.

    I agree with what you’ve said about living in a rural region. I’ve only ever lived in the countryside here in Japan. The photo above looks pretty much like where I live.
    I do write about my experience in my blog series “A German Alien in Japan”. Maybe you want to check it out and share your own experience in a comment as well.

    Michael, thanks so much for this article! 🙂