(Written for a working
holiday visa I got in November 2012, from the UK)
Just over a year ago I got offered a job with the company Booboo Ski to work in a Japanese ski resort. To be able to work with the company, and in any job in Japan you need either a working visa or a working holiday visa. As working visas can be difficult to get, your best bet is to get a working holiday visa which is available to a lot of nationalities under 30.
From what other friends have told me from Australia, places in Europe and America, the ways to get a working holiday visa for Japan are very similar to the UK. Once I received a job offer from Booboo Ski I was told to get a working holiday visa, which led me to research what I needed to do. If you are a British citizen you have to go to the Japanese embassy in person. There are two in the UK, and you don’t get a choice. If you live quite far north then you have to go to Edinburgh, otherwise your main embassy is in central London, and easy to find.
To apply for a Japanese working holiday visa you need several documents:
- A CV (resume, curriculum vitae, whatever you call it)
- A completed working holiday visa application form which is available from the embassy website
- A six month itinerary of what you may do in Japan
- A letter stating why you want a Japanese working holiday visa
- Two passport photos
- Three months of bank statements showing you have at least £2000 in our account
The CV is pretty explanatory. I just used my regular CV but twigged the interests section and put I really liked languages and Japan.
The application form will ask for accommodation in Japan, I just put down a random hostel, one which I did happen to stay in, so don’t worry if you don’t have a proper address, just find any hostel in the first city you will be in.
Six Month Itinerary
This is the trickiest part but it's not difficult. Even though I had received a job offer from Booboo Ski, in order to get a working holiday visa you have to say you don’t have a job. I think the logic is that you can’t possible have a job because you haven’t been given a visa yet. Therefore your six month itinerary should state sentences such as “I might look for restaurant work in Tokyo”, “I may research English teaching jobs in Osaka”. I laid out my six month itinerary on a normal A4 paper in a table format and in each row put something like: “December – January = Tokyo = I want to visit the various temples in Tokyo and the manga cafes, I may look for restaurant work whilst I am here.”
Don’t go into too much detail, just a few sentences on a few places. I think I labelled five altogether (Tokyo, Hakuba, Kyoto, Osaka and Nara) all saying similar things such as “I want to go here for the culture, for the sightseeing, and I may look for work” I’d also recommend avoiding putting that you’re looking or bar or club work, just stick to restaurants. Also, you can’t say you will look for a full time job as this is not allowed with working holiday visas.
Letter Explaining Why You Want a Working Holiday Visa
This should be a brief A4 piece stating why you want to go to Japan. For me I pretty much repeated what I put in my six month itinerary, but obviously in a letter format with fluid sentences. Just exaggerate how much you want to see Japanese culture, and how you want to learn the language.
At the time I moved money from my savings into my current bank account and when I got to the embassy they asked where this random £2000 had come from. So then I had to go to my savings bank and ask for a statement. So if you have moved some money around try and show where it’s come from.
Once you have all of this information just go to the Japanese embassy and you will take a ticket from the machine and wait until they call your number out. Luckily I only waited 10 minutes, and I went on a random Thursday in November. They will call you to a desk, look through your information and say come back in a week. I wasn’t sure if they would phone or email me to say whether or not my visa was successful, so I phoned them and they said I just had to come into the embassy to find out. So about 10 days after I handed my application in, I went with my receipt number and they handed me back my passport with a working holiday visa inside. I paid £25 and wa la, one working holiday visa received. A British working holiday visa lasts for one year and cannot be extended, unlike countries such as Australia which last for six months but can be extended for eighteen months altogether. You can only get one working holiday visa in your life, unless you have some really good reason for another, which I’m unsure about. I hope this guide helps, feel free to add any extra details.
The UK is just like any
country in Western Europe in terms of costs and the typical tourist daily
budget. The country isn’t cheap to travel around, and cities like London
certainly don’t stretch the budget. However, as a British citizen I’ve learnt a
few tricks of the trade on how to travel this island whilst saving the pennies.
Accommodation is a big expense in any European country, but as many as you may know; there are tricks to make it a lot cheaper. Firstly, there are hostels which are supposed to cut down on costs; however the ones in the UK, especially London, don’t really come that cheap. For some reason the UK hostels charge you extra if you aren’t a member of the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), so if you are travelling in the UK for a while then it may be worth investing in an YHA card which can be bought online (maybe in the hostels as well) and it can last for one to five years. Other suggestions are to try the budget hotels such as Etap or Travelodge. Sometimes these aren’t that cheap, but they often offer a £45 a night deal which beds three people in one room. They are basic, but convenient. Of course there is the backpacker favourite of Couch-Surfing which is still fairly scarce in the UK but it is becoming more and more popular.
Trains are one of your biggest expenses in Britain. If you aren’t a UK citizen then an interrailing pass may be worth the price, however you often have to reserve a seat with these tickets as well, otherwise you could be stood up for several hours. To save a bit of money make sure you don’t book on the day. Prices may even be half as cheap if you book just the day before. However, there are other options to explore this country on a budget, which include bus/coach travel, with companies such as the National Express and Megabus. These can be booked online, and although they do take longer than the train, they are so much cheaper!
I wouldn’t recommend hitchhiking in the UK; it isn’t that common so I don’t know how much luck you would have. However, this country is great to cycle in and many roads have designated cycle lanes and paths. London offers a scheme called ‘Boris Bikes’ where you can rent a bike and then return to any bike slot in the city. They are easily found throughout the capital and they allow you to see more of the city and on a cheaper cost. If bikes aren’t for you then stick to the London underground (the tube). I recommend investing in an Oyster card, which is a prepaid travel card and can often save you money rather than paying for each individual journey. If in London for a few days then buy a tube ‘day ticket’ as this will also be cheaper.
A further option in Britain would be to try domestic flights. As the UK isn’t big you won’t find many flights but planes from London to other major cities, especially Edinburgh, might cost less than the train.
Food and Drink
Restaurants can range from cheap to expensive all over the UK. Pubs are a good bet for cheap food, but the meals can be pretty basic, but they’re filling and some are very cheap. Also, the more ‘countryside’ you go, the better pubs you tend to find. The chain of Weatherspoons (a toned down chain pub found in city and town centres) also offers cheap meals. Expect local drunks in there at lunchtime but that’s what you get from £2 pints of beer. For lunch time style meals head to Boots or Tesco. Boots is a pharmacy/beauty store where you can buy make up and any kind of toiletry, but they also do ‘meal deals’. For around £3.20 you can buy a lunch type meal (sandwiches, salad, pasta pots with crisp/chocolate/fruit/cake and a drink). I often buy these for lunch and they are great price and common to buy in the country. Tesco express, which can be found in most town and city centres, do a similar deal but cheaper, but also less choice.
For making your own food, this can be done really cheap. Compared to Japan, I’ve found UK food is really cheap and there is a lot of choice! We have huge supermarkets and therefore a huge choice of bargain food. Find a supermarket and you can cook a good meal at a low cost. Drink wise, you’ll find cheaper drinks in supermarkets, but if you want to go out then head to a pub or a Weatherspoons for cheap beer.
The sightseeing costs can vary from city to city in Britain, but in London a lot of the most popular and most sought out spots are free. For example: the British Museum, Science Museum, History Museum, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Hyde Park, Trafalgar Square, Tate Modern and many more hotspots are all free. Some of the museums ask for a donation but you can easily look around and not pay a penny. Places like Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and Big Ben are best enjoyed from outside, so no need to pay the costs to go in. If you want to see a musical or a show in London, then go to the ticket offices very early on the day of the performance, as they sell front row seats for £10 I believe. But it is first come first served.
Apart from London, the costs of sightseeing spots can vary. The beauty about travelling in the UK is that many of the tourist sights tend to be buildings (e.g. Big Ben, Oxford University) or some kind of natural sight (e.g. the Lake District), therefore allowing you to save on any entrance fees. It may be worth investing in an international student card, which can be bought from the internet and often pays for itself with the amount of discounted ticket prices you can get.
These are the main costs for any traveller I would argue. In terms of shopping, prices can range ridiculously in any city centre. Cheap clothes can be bought at supermarkets and the high street store Primark. For more expensive attire you’ll find many shopping arcades in the city centres. The UK certainly isn’t cheap, but once you know a few of the tricks then you can enjoy this country a lot more without demolishing your wallet too much.
When backpacking around
Japan it’s very easy to get sucked into the city vibes and stay pretty central
to where the main tourism lies. However, the real culture and often the charms
of this country lie around the city outskirts. Some places may be more obvious
than others to visit, but escaping the neon lights and hustle and bustle, is
more what Japan is about. Take Tokyo, for example. This is a fantastic city and
I don’t discourage anyone from spending time here, however if you do have some
extra days, it is definitely worth exploring what else is around this capital.
Mount Fuji is probably the most popular and most well-known place around Tokyo. Japan’s tallest mountain and a recent ‘World Heritage Site’ this spectacle is worth a visit. However, the need to climb Mount Fuji may not be for everyone. If anything, this mountain is best explored from a far to see the beautiful views and the sunset behind. But if you do want to go to the mountain then the easiest way is to go by bus or train from Tokyo. There are no trains directly to the mountain point so catch a train to either Fujiyoshida or Gotemba and get a bus from there. However, the best viewing points for this mountain are in Hakone or in Fuji itself.
If you intend to climb the mountain the season to do it is between July and August. Even then don’t be fooled by the surrounding temperatures. The mountain is very cold to climb up and you need lots of thermals and proper mountain clothing. Any other time of the year is do-able to climb if you are an experienced and trained mountain climber; however you often have to submit a route to the police or mountain guiders. Tour guides are available at the mountain but can be very expensive, around 20,000¥ plus for one day.
Hakone is a traditional Japanese town close to Mount Fuji, and offers some of the best spots for good Mount Fuji views. The town is known for its onsens (link to Japanese onsen) and scenic aspects. For example, you can visit the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park, which is an active volcano, thus resulting in a lot of hot springs and bathhouses around the area, which are great to unwind in. Furthermore, take a visit to the Hakone Glass museum, which I visited on my trip. It did seem to be in the middle of nowhere, but the museum was busy enough from tour buses so I assume there are some tours from the town centre to the museum. The museum showed was inside and out and looked like an enchanted garden with various glass decorations which glistened in the light. A must-see if in Hakone.
Kamakura is another small traditional Japanese town, south of Tokyo. Kamakura is a common spot in the Japanese tourist guide books and a good place to spend a short day. You can catch the train easily from Yokohama (25 minutes) and the Tokyo JR Yokosuka line (one hour). Some might say Kamakura is difficult to cover on foot, but I managed to see all of the main sights by walking, so it is doable if you have the time and energy. The town is full of different temples and shrines, which are more traditional and less touristy than what you’ll experience in Tokyo. A popular sight is the Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu Shrine which is quite close to Kamakura train station. The shrine and temple is very large and beautiful, and very traditionally Japanese, so I’d argue is a most-see in the area. The second most popular sight is the Great Buddha at Kōtokuin, which houses the second largest Buddha in Japan. Usually quite busy in the area, but cheap to see and you can go into the Buddha itself.
Another way to spend your day in Kamakura is to hike the Daibutsu hiking course which starts near the Great Buddha. Not a difficult hike and do-able within a day’s visit. If you’re lucky enough like me then you’ll meet some old Japanese men at the top of the trail offering free sake, which was worth the hike in my opinion. The town is also on the coast, so in good weather you can take a trip to the beach, but watch out for hawks as one swopped down and tried to claw the icecream out of my hand. Now known as the day I touched the Pacific Ocean for the first time, and the day I got attached by a hawk.
Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan, but not huge on tourism. The city is large due to its extensive business and port links, rather than tourist spots; however it is still a place which is worth a visit. Yokohama is only 30 minutes away from Tokyo, and accessible from many of Tokyo’s main train lines. The city can also be accessed straight from Narita airport. The sights which may interest most tourists include Chinatown, the Bay Stars baseball stadium, Marine Tower, Yamate which is essentially a piece of Europe placed in Yokohama, and Yokohama Cosmo Ward. Yokohama Chinatown is the biggest Chinatown in Japan, but essentially just like any town in my opinion, so not a massive must-see. However, if in Japan during baseball season then I advise to go to a baseball game. Depending on the time of year and the game depends on the price and how easily you’ll be able to get tickets, but you’ll have more luck at the Yokohama bay stars stadium than any stadium in Tokyo. Prices are reasonable and the crowd really get involved, making it worth the trip.
I’m coming up to my last month in Japan, where I’ve spent my time working as an English teacher. If English is your mother tongue, then you’ll find it quite easy to get an English speaking job as a lot of countries have the need for English teachers. Whether you are looking for an au pair job in Europe or wanting to work in a high school in China, you’re bound to find it quite easy to get employment.
When I first left the
Japanese ski resort, I began the search for jobs in Japan. I first looked on Craig’s
List and the popular Japanese foreign job site ‘Gaijin Pot’. The majority of jobs
ask for teaching experience, but as these sites don’t ask for any references or
any profile checks, you can just exaggerate or make it up. Obviously don’t
write you have teaching qualifications, and that you taught English to the
French President, just say you’ve had some kind of teaching experience, even if
that was teaching dance at a summer camp. Overall just say your goal in life is
to teach English to Japanese people...
My three jobs consist of:
- Working in a high school as an English teaching assistant
- Working for a cooperate language school, where you teach exercises out of a textbook
- Working for an advanced English conversation school
Japanese High School Life
This job was crazy easy to get. Usually the school won’t interview you, but rather a company hired by the Education Board. The interviewer asked me if I had experience, but then didn’t ask for any details or examples. She then asked for my availability, and wa la I got the job with sponsorship for a working visa, so I technically could stay in Japan forever if I carried on with this company.
Working in the High School is a bit of a joke sometimes. I work twice a week (six hour days) and I barely have to teach. I’ve heard from other English teachers that they have to plan lessons extensively, but for me it isn’t the case. I’ve found that working in an actual school involves as much effort as you want to put in to it, therefore it can be a challenge and quite rewarding if you really want to get involved. However, I only plan some of my lessons with my Japanese teachers (who speak fluent English and always lead the class whereas I stand on the side), but they have the syllabus and plan most of the work. I teach eight classes a week, all the same lesson, which is pretty much reading out a listening exercise then helping the kids with any grammar or translations. But as I don’t speak Japanese, the kids can’t use me as much as they like, so I do stand around a lot. Also, there are many days where I don’t have to teach due to exams/school trips but I still have to be in school because it’s on the schedule provided by the Education Board, so a lot of my time is sat at my desk watching movies on my laptop.
Corporate Language School
I hate this job. There are many companies in Japan who provide this kind of language service, which involves teaching slots of 40-50 minutes and has students starting from as young as 14 year olds. My company has eight lesson days (40 mins each, a ten minute break between each) where I teach classes from 1-4 people out of a textbook. The levels range from complete beginner to what I would consider almost fluent. I think it’s a bad way to teach as we aren’t allowed to speak any Japanese to the students; therefore time is often wasted explaining a word or a grammar point, where a simple translation would have been far easier and quicker. Also, as the lessons are out of a textbook (usually involving “please listen and repeat”) I find this dull and honestly not a fantastic way to teach or learn.
However, I’ve met teachers who teach full time and have done for over ten years, who love this job, but I prefer more of a challenge and input, so it’s not really for me. Also, as the companies are very corporate, you don’t get paid the greatest wage. If a student doesn’t turn up to your lesson you don’t get paid, but yet the company still receive the money off their booking. However, these companies tend to interview you on Skype, and from your home country. Then they will sort out your visa/accommodation/bank account, so a plus side to this job is that they make it easy for you to get to Japan and be instantly sorted.
Advanced Conversation Class
The third and most enjoyable job I have is working at an advanced conversation class. This is a two hour class which can range from 1 to 8 people, but usually the same people take my lesson each week, so I get about a 6 person class. It is entirely up to me what I talk about, and my boss encouraged me to talk about things which interest me. As my interests of drinking, movies and travelling were covered in the first few weeks, I got stuck on what to discuss next, so I looked online at advanced teaching topics and found a number of different discussions which ranged from the environment to violence and society. These provide a base for my lesson and then I come up with questions surrounding the topics to discuss with my class. As it is an advanced English class, I simply speak in my normal pace and tone and use my everyday vocabulary. The class can speak at my rate, and I simply correct any grammatical mistakes, or explain any words or phrases they aren’t too sure of.
The three jobs vary massively and they cover a great range of what a typical English job in Japan requires. Some of my friends have carried out similar jobs abroad, especially with JET programmes and the like, but I’ve found these programmes cost a lot of money to do, whereas my jobs pays me a lot of money instead. Overall, any of these kinds of jobs are a good way to earn an income if you want to stay in an expensive country like Japan for more than a few months. You can choose just to work a few days a week and this should cover your expenses but still allows you plenty of time to sightsee and drink like me.
As an English teacher in
Japan, I often get asked the question, “where is best to visit in England?” Before
I came to Japan I didn’t really have an answer to this question but now I feel I’ve
thought about it enough to know where is best to visit. A lot of people tend to
visit London for obvious reasons, and I don’t discourage anyone from travelling
there. London is a city like no other and it has a lot to offer a tourist and the
typical British person! Other places which have cropped up on peoples travels
are The Cotswolds, The Lake District and Edinburgh. I feel ashamed to say I’ve
never been to The Cotswolds or Edinburgh and only the Lake District once. I
always find that backpackers tend not to travel around their own country as
there is a big wide world out there to explore. However, I’ve still done my
fair bit of travelling in the UK, so here are some places on my recommendation
I won’t say too much about London, as this city can be explored in a post by itself (such as James’ ‘Drinking the East Dry’ post.) Overall London has a great deal of history, tradition, and a good mix of the old and new to keep any tourist entertained. With a ton of museums, buildings, stores and restaurants, you could spend a week here and not even touch on what this city has to offer. My main advice for London is to spend at least a few days here and plan your time per district, for example you can visit the Science Museum, the V&A and Harrods all on the same street. Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square are in walking distance to each other, and like many other places in this city, you can walk between the top spots, therefore saving money on the tube. If in London for more than a week, then it is worth buying an Oyster card for travel. It’s a typical city top up travel card, and it can save you money.
Bristol and Bath
Bristol is a good two hours train ride from London, but the city also has an airport so may be worth checking out if coming from Europe. Bristol and its surrounding area are home to many great British spots including Bath, The Cotswold, Cheddar and the location of Glastonbury music festival. Bath is a historic city and it has a lot of tradition and culture, where you can explore the ancient hot springs. The Cotswold is more further South than Bristol, but still in a similar part of the country. This is also a very tradition place with historical houses and great old buildings.
Oxford (York and Cambridge)
Oxford is the epiphany of all things British. I love this city and I’ve spent many a weekend here when my friend was at university. The University of Oxford is a different world and worth exploring. The grounds can be strolled through, and you might feel like you’ve stepped into Hogwarts. The city is beautiful and is very traditional, with beautiful buildings and great churches. It’s not a cheap city but there are hostels that won’t break the bank, and you can find the odd cheap café and pub. Take a trip through the market and find a Ben’s Cookie (the best cookies I’ve ever tasted) then stroll around the colleges and deer park. A great city to explore during autumn and Christmas, as you’ll find the typical brass band on the street playing Christmas carols, and the autumn leaves in the park make the crisp mornings complete.
Cities like Oxford which
are also worth exploring are Cambridge and York. I’d argue and say Cambridge is
like Oxford but not as traditional, and York is smaller but has a northern
charm. More little cobbled streets, and more tea rooms. York is a good place to
join in the novelty of a British afternoon tea, but this can be quite
Liverpool is a great city but really only worth a day or two of time in my opinion. The city is home to The Beatles, a fact which they will never let go. Therefore you can find lots of Beatle references (e.g. the John Lennon airport), memorabilia and celebrations of this great British band. Liverpool also houses some great art galleries and one of the most impressive cathedrals I have ever seen. It won the Capital of Culture in 2008, so the city does have a fair bit to offer, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend going out of your way for it.
The Lake District - Windermere
The Lake District is like no other place in the UK, and is pretty fascinating for a lot of tourists. It is a very tranquil and peaceful spot but yet still a hot tourist destination. Imagine masses of green fields, nature, little tea rooms and the most traditional of English pubs. There are plenty of hotels and hostels around this area, and a great deal you can enjoy in terms of British novelty. The Lake District isn’t a party place, it’s more the nature lover or a lover of long walks, however in some of the towns you can attempt a fairly good pub crawl in the most local of pubs with cheap beer. If visiting, go on the lake in a yacht or sail boat, then head to Grasmere for the famous gingerbread, and the home of Beatrix Potter.
Edinburgh is a toned down London, but in a positive sense! I haven’t much to say as I’ve never been but James has visited a fair few times and was lucky enough to go during the famous Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve celebration in Edinburgh). This Scottish capital is also famous for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is a summer festival celebrating and showcasing all sorts of fantastic talent, ranging from the top British comedians, artists and musicians, therefore definitely worth visiting during this time. I would say Edinburgh is the second place to visit in the UK, second to London, and you can get easily connectable flights between the two cities.
Of course there are plenty of other places to visit in the UK, especially around the coast. The Southern Coast of the UK can be great in summer, and places such as Cornwall, Devon and Brighton do become very popular. Other towns and cities which may have cropped up are Stratford upon Avon (the home of Shakespeare) and maybe cities like Manchester or Cardiff. Do your research and see which parts of Britain are for you.