Fun ways to study Japanese (Part One)

Hello everyone!

We all know that using text books and listening to speaking can help us study a new language, but the best way to learn is sometimes the fun way! Sure, a text book will help you gain knowledge, but sometimes it’s easier to retain information if you have fun with it!

Here’s part one of our ‘Fun Ways to Study in Japanese’ post!

Shiritori しりとり

Our favourite game to play in the car (yes, more than ‘I Spy’) is a game called ‘Shiritori’ しりとり which literally means ‘taking the end’. It;s a fun word game that will help you practice your knowledge and memory of words in Japanese. Get a friend (or friends) who is also studying Japanese, or someone who knows Japanese fluently, and play this game together!

How to play ‘Shiritori’:

1. The person who decides to go first says ‘shiritori’.

2. The second person will say a word beginning with ‘ri’ (eg. Ringo りんご- Apple).

3. The first (or next) player will say something beginning with go (eg. Gorira ゴリラ- Gorilla).

Each person will take turns saying a word beginning with the last character. If a word like ‘jitensha’ (bicycle) is used, always use the last character of the word, which in this case is ya (や).

The main rule of Shiritori is to make sure you don’t say words ending with ‘n’ (ん). 

Another fun way of studying Japanese is by watching children’s shows! Although watching anime can help a bit with learning phrases and words, you’ll be surprised by how much more you can pick up by watching a show designed for children! It helps you practice your listening skills, as well as hear simple phrases and words.

Here are a few shows that we both recommend:

Juppon Anime  じゅっぽん あにめ

This show is a silly short show about 10 sticks (yes, sticks) who go on adventures. Although that may sound a little boring at first, this show has funny little skits that will make you giggle. It’s a fun show to watch when you have a little bit of spare time.

Hotch Potch Station ハッチポッチステーション

This show is a very similar to Sesame Street. It’s a show with lots of songs and music. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn, and how you’ll end up getting the catchy theme song stuck in your head!

Yatter Man やったーまん

Although this show did get a revamp in 2008, the 1977 original anime is amazing and has simple Japanese to help with your studies. It’s a crime fighting anime so it’s always exciting!

Chi’s Sweet Home チーズスイートホーム

I’m sure most of you know about this adorable anime! Chi’s Sweet Home is all about the adventures of a little kitten named Chi. Prepare for many ‘aww’ moments and cuteness! 

(All pictures from Google).

You can also find episodes of The Simpsons, Spongebob Squarepants and other shows dubbed in Japanese! You know the shows well, and if you know an episode off by heart, watch it in Japanese and see how well you remember it! You may even pick up a few phrases and handy words.

That’s it for this blog post! Stay tuned for part two next week!

As usual, we’re here to answer any questions you have. Happy studying!

Clare and Yu.

What nobody tells you about teaching English in Japan

Eikaiwa? Heh.

1) It can be gross. You’ll get students with bad hygiene. Body odour. They squeeze their pimples in class. They scratch, not always subtly, and not necessarily above the belt. They sweat. They fart. They sweat a bit more. You’ll get chain smokers who’ll drink two cups of vending machine coffee in one lesson, and their breath will be toxic. You’re cooped up in a tiny classroom with limited air con. It can be gross beyond description.

2) You’ll get students who have zero talent for language. They will never even get the SVO order right, never mind the finer points of the language. There’s nothing you can do about it.

3) Your companies will allow students to do material or courses hopelessly above their abilities. They will allow beginners to do TOEIC or (worse) TOEFL. It’s a waste of the students’ time and money, and a waste of your time. There’s nothing you can do about it.

4) Most of your students will have no grasp of their real ability or progress.

5) If you’re a female teacher, you will possibly encounter, at some time or another, a female student who doesn’t want a female teacher. There’s nothing you can do about it. You will also encounter, perhaps, a senior businessman who doesn’t want to be taught by a woman. There’s a lot you can do about that: show him who’s boss in that particular classroom. Easier if you’re a bit older yourself; trickier if you’re very young. 

6) You will encounter racism and ignorance that will test your faith in humankind. Initially you’ll try to educate; eventually you’ll give up. 

7) Many textbooks are ridiculous beyond comprehension. Nobody talks like that. Grin and bear it.

8) You will receive a thank you letter from a student who got a high enough TOEFL score to enter Oxford University with your help, and a box of chocolate from a businesswoman who did a successful presentation in Germany with your help. Ignore the first seven points and focus on this one.

8) But mostly we pretend to teach and they pretend to learn. And that will never change. Selah.


Today, I talked about “Adventure Time” and “Bee & Puppycat” with the few students who actually want to study English at my 2nd school. Since they’re allowed to have their cellphones during class, my JTE suggested that they go ahead and watch an episode.
Y’all should have seen the girls’ reaction to Puppycat!


What does an ALT do?

Every day - or, I guess, daily life? Kind of daily. 

I wanted to document my average day, but it ended up exhausting me just drawing it, haha. I’m glad it’s the end of the week.

Just some explanations - my base school is a Junior High School, but I go to Elementary Schools most days of the week in the morning. 

Sorry for my weird japanese

26 Etiquette Rules Every English Teacher in Japan Should Know
Anyone working in Japan can make their work life better by learning simple business etiquette. Follow our easy guide to working with Japanese co-workers.
By Michael Richey

In Japan, belonging to groups is very important.

Good news! As an ALT on the JET Program, you are part of a group (your workplace).

But that doesn’t mean you automatically fit in. Like any country, the new person has do things to show they’re part of the team.

That’s where etiquette comes in. Manners and customs are a society’s way of communicating “I belong here and want to be a helpful member.”

Learning simple Japanese work culture etiquette will do this for you. It’s a small investment that reaps big rewards. It demonstrates you’re a team-player and builds solid working relationships.

Below I’ve laid out:

  • 12 pieces of general Japanese business etiquette
  • 4 pieces of ALT-specific advice
  • 5 ideas for better communication
  • 5 key concepts that help you understand the Japanese way of doing things

Read more!

Blogs documenting peoples' lives in Japan.

Those working as part of the JET Programme

Those studying in Japan 2012 - 2013 exchange students
How to Become an ALT in Japan

Basic Requirements

1. A university bachelors degree
-Any degree is ok, Latin American Studies, German, Linguistics, Astro-Physics, Sociology, doesn’t matter as long as it’s at least a bachelors 

 2. A clean criminal background check
-Have you been convicted of a murder? Are you a pedo? Do you have outstanding warrants in 3 states? Did you go to jail for a hit and run? Japan doesn’t want you. 

 3. Appropriately healthy and able bodied
-If you have a something that will prevent you from doing your job well, you will most likely not be hired. For example; you can’t use stairs, you can’t stand for 45 minutes at a time, you have a severe speech impediment (I know people here with lisps), things like this prevent you from teaching at full capacity and most places don’t have the time or resources to make special accommodations for you. 

What other skills might recruiters be looking for?

1. Japanese language ability
-NOT required for most positions, but helpful for communication both in and out of the workplace. Unless you live in a metropolitan area, the average Japanese person’s English is VERY limited. I know many people who came here with zero Japanese, but nowadays there are many with at least rudimentary Japanese. People rarely come here fluent, but many people study Japanese while living here to take the JLPT and their level improves by leaps and bounds. I am not one of those people, so don’t ask me for more details lol

 2. TESL/TEFL certification
-NOT required for most positions, but some private companies are starting to lean more towards certified individuals. And honestly, those give you a lot of skills you will absolutely need when teaching English. 

3. Teaching degree
 -NOPE, not required in 99.9% of the cases. I know a few people with them who are ALTs, I’ve heard mixed opinions on how well it helps them as an ALT. Some find it demeaning to work subordinate and be given limited control/responsibilities, other find it freeing because they can spend more time teaching and less time with test related paper pushing and discipline management.

4. Good attitude, flexibility, people skills
-You need to be able to present yourself as someone trustworthy and amiable to recruiters. The environments ALTs work in are often high-paced, prone to sudden last second changes, and being able to make friends in the office and keep a happy face with students is incredibly important. 

5. Prior experience
-Have you worked in a daycare before? Have you volunteered in tutoring centers? Have you led discussion groups as a major requirement?  Have you ever studied abroad? Have you ever volunteered in foreign classrooms? Have you taken charge of a club and organized events? Did you dorm with international students in university? Have you worked for an international program before? Have you given private language lessons before? These are the kinds of things that show you have experience in things that ALTs frequently encounter.

Can I mention my love of [INSERT JAPANESE CULTURE HERE]?

Yes, but keep is professional, relevant, and brief. 

“I became interested in Japan after watching Spirited Away, the cultural aspects of the movie fascinated me and made me want to learn more about Japan.” OK
“I have a collection of anime pillow cases, my favorite is Miku Hatsune in this pose.” NO 

“I started listening to Japanese music in high school. I eventually started learning Japanese to better understand the lyrics.” OK
 "When Pierrot broke up, I was shattered that the fanfic community would move on to other ships.“ NO 

“My school offered a short course on Japanese tea ceremony, and I thought the way that it formed historically was extremely interesting.” OK
“I want to learn the way of the samurai.” NO 

“I’m very interested in Japanese video game production companies. I went to college and majored in game design and I want to further study it by living in Japan and experiencing the community in person.” OK
“I want to play Resident Evil on fiber optic LAN with Japanese players so I can pwn more n00bs when I get back to America.” NO

What kind of ALT positions are available?

First and foremost: READ AND RESEARCH

If you do not do your own intensive research, you can get taken advantage of. You hear horror stories from people here all the time, and those mostly come from people didn’t research what they were getting themselves into. I cannot make a comprehensive guide to the THOUSANDS OF KINDS OF ALT positions across the country, this is only an overview. Look at that link, and always do extensive research of the companies/programs you’re interested in working for.

1. Government
 AKA JET Program
-The JET Program is the only government ALT program. It makes the Japanese government the middleman in your arrangements, which takes less money from your paycheck and gives you a more trustworthy means of income. It’s very competitive and the application process takes about 6 months. They only hire once a year. It’s arguably the best program, as it pays well, you have a lot of guaranteed vacation time, and they pay for your flights to and from the country. On the downside, you don’t really have a lot of say in where you are placed. Also, you cannot get a transfer unless VERY specific requirements are met. Also some prefectures/localities are nicer to their ALTs than others, but if they try to fuck you over you know you have the Japanese government backing you and they will keep you from being taken advantage of.

 2. Private Dispatch
examples: Interac, AEON, Borderlink, JIEC and MANY others
 -These are private companies that workplaces hire to provide them with ALTs. Workplaces do this because some of the intricacies in hiring an ALT and getting them a VISA and housing are really complicated, and they’d rather pay a middleman than deal with it. Upsides, you get a little more wiggle-room with being transferred. Downside by far is the pay. It depends on the company, but that middleman definitely takes a big chunk of your pay. If you work for a place like this, you need to VERY carefully read your contract. Research dispatch companies carefully, check their ratings online, see what former employees have to say about them. 

 3. Private Hire
 AKA working directly under the local government office, a private company, or even one-on-one’s in wealthy households
-These are places that will directly hire you without a middleman. Obviously, you need to look carefully at the details of your contract before working privately. Most local government places won’t hire you without prior ALT experience in Japan. Private English Conversation Schools (Eikaiwa) have non-9 to 5 working hours to provide for business workers and students. They sometimes require you to already have a VISA prior to being hired. Private Hire really is outside of my experience, but from what I understand they can pay as well as JET, but don’t usually have as many perks.

Where do I look for open positions?

GaijinPot is the website I’ve heard of the most. Check there and research research research. There are scammers, be careful. 

JET hires once a year starting around September or October. It’s available online on their official webpage.

There are a bajillion different dispatch companies. I couldn’t possibly name them all, I don’t really have a lot of experience with them, and don’t know which are particularly good or not. Check Google-sensei for their applications, websites, and reputations.

Other than that, please be wary of Craigslist. Although legit job openings do show up, there are scammers. If it’s someone looking for a “private female in-home English tutor from ages 19~25” or something like that, don’t be dumb. Many will require you to have a VISA with a minimum of 1 year on it already. Many will require you to already live in the area of the position. Research everything carefully.

Words of warning

If you think mental health issues are stigmatized in your home country, oh honey you ain’t seen nothin` yet.

If you have mental health issues, Japan may not be the place for you. You may think going to Japan, being surrounded by your hobbies and interests, and just “getting away” will make things better… IT WON’T.

Please be aware that you most likely will not be able to get your meds over the counter in Japan. And it’s not uncommon for your meds to be banned entirely even with a prescription. Bi-polar, anxiety, OCD, depression? Your meds might not be available here. Oh and having people send them over from home by mail can get you detained and deported if you’re caught.

You’ll also be leaving the support of friends and family by coming to Japan. The ALT community is pretty cool, but people come and go so quickly, it’s hard to find groups of people that will stick together through really tough spots.

Supervisors and coworkers aren’t much help either. In Japan, people don’t talk about mental health issues at all. If you take meds for anything other than a physical illness, you do it in private where people can’t see you. If you see a psychiatrist, you do it in a different prefecture, where no one can see you. It’s not uncommon for Japanese people to be asked to leave their jobs because their boss or coworkers have suspicions.

If you self medicate with something like marijuana, be aware that recreational drug use here is VERY VERY VERY illegal. Marijuana use is treated with the same seriousness as crack cocaine. You WILL be caught, you WILL be detained, you WILL be tried without a lawyer present, you WILL be held in solitary, you WILL be convicted of drug possession, and you WILL be deported.

Some ALTs will replace their marijuana use with alcohol. That goes about as well as it sounds :|

For LGBT, if you’re used to a very supportive queer community, it’s not the same here. Japanese people are extremely closeted and unless you live near a large metropolitan area, getting into the gay scene is nearly impossible. I’m fine because I was never in the gay scene back home, but for some people it’s very hard.

If you’re trans and want to come here to transition, please reconsider. I would suggest not coming to Japan as an ALT if you intend to transition in the immediate future. If your gender dysphoria is pretty bad, you’re gonna have a bad time. Gender segregation and enforcement of gender roles will probably seriously affect your mental health. The paperwork for transitioning is even harder from overseas and lot of things need to be done in person so you’ll have to fly back and forth from your home country a lot (which is damn expensive and needs vacation leave). Even if you do get everything done, there’s no telling how your work will respond. They won’t outright say they’re firing you for your gender identity, that’s illegal, they’ll come up with some other reason.

People who come here with a goal like paying off college loans or wanting to experience another culture usually have a better time that people who come here because OMG I JUST LOVE JAPAN. Please keep that in mind.

Lingocracy : Build Vocabulary Through Having Fun

A lot of people messaged me saying that they wanted a way to build vocabulary. Others asked for more reading material. Here’s the solution to both! I love this website. Read on to find out why and how it can help you learn Japanese.

What is Lingocracy?

Lingocracy is a relatively new website where you can learn vocabulary through reading passages of text in your desired language. For Japanese there are a few examples already up online, but you are also welcome to add your own - simply copy and paste the URL into the site and it will Lingocracy-ize it for you.

How does Lingocracy Work?

After adding or finding an article, it is presented to you as below with the words underlined. By clicking a word you don’t know, it will change it to red. Hovering over it gives the definition. It remains red throughout the article, so as you come across it multiple times you will recognise it as one that you don’t know, but should know!

External image

There are also audio recordings for words so you can simultaneously work on your pronunciation and listening.

Lingocracy then arranges your learned and unlearned words into handy graphs which encourage progress.

How do I learn vocabulary through Lingocracy?

So you’ve found a bunch of words you don’t know in that pesky news article. Then, you use Lingocracy’s practice app to learn it for good! This is my favourite part of the site because it, unlike other services, makes you review vocabulary in the context of sentences. This helps solidify the words even more than seeing them standalone, and can also help with their definition.

External image

The interface is simple, clean and nice. It reminds me somewhat of Memrise but both sites offer a different style of learning. (Memrise doesn’t use sentences/texts).

What things can I read?

Another fantastic thing about Lingocracy is that you can add your own content. This means you can work through NHK Easy News articles in a really effective way using the practice section.

Lingocracy also offers a Chrome plugin where you can instantly import your web pages into the Lingocracy site.

Bad points

Since Lingocracy is relatively new, the Japanese section is limited. But there are some great things on there already for beginners, and the fact you can add your own content means you can get started with things that interest you straight away. The problem with this is sourcing that content outside of news websites - which may be difficult, especially for beginners.


Lingocracy brings together some features of other websites and a few new innovations of its own to round off a great learning resource. Although not great for absolute beginners, this is fantastic for those wishing to expand and keep track of their vocabulary that they learn while reading materials online.

Current and Ex-ALT’s masterpost

If you’re a current or future ALT in Japan, or maybe just interested in teaching and/or Japan have a look at and follow these people! 













This is just a list of of current and ex-ALT’s that we, AJET-Connect magazines social media managers, currently follow. Please feel free to suggest other blogs! 


[posted originally by a current JET in the Incoming 2016 JET facebook group] 

Moving to a different country is a huge deal with tons to consider. It can be really difficult, but anyone with any special needs–dietary, health, mental, physical, emotional–you absolutely MUST do your research and cannot expect the country to change for you.

Ask your consulates. Ask your predecessors. Do everything you can before you arrive to ensure that your life here is happy and supports the way you need to live.

Know how to say your allergies in Japanese. Know what medicines you take and find out if you can get them here. Know your glasses prescription. Find a place to practice your faith. Find a way to continue your hobbies. Don’t expect everything to be the same as it was back home.

A big, tough samurai once went to see a little monk. “Monk,” he said, in a voice accustomed to instant obedience, “teach me about heaven and hell!”

The monk looked up at this mighty warrior and replied with utter disdain, “Teach you about heaven and hell? I couldn’t teach you anything. You’re dirty. You smell. Your blade is rusty. You’re a disgrace, an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my site, I can’t stand you.”

The samurai was furious. He shook, got all red in the face, was speechless with rage. He pulled out his sword and raised it above him, preparing to slay the monk.

“That’s hell,” said the monk softly.

The samurai was overwhelmed. The compassion and surrender of this little man who had offered his life to give this teaching to show him hell! He slowly put down his sword, filled with gratitude, and suddenly peaceful.

“And that’s heaven,” said the monk softly.

—  Zen