After coming to Japan to support England at the 2002 World Cup (that's soccer for anyone who doesn't know the world sport!) I knew that I wanted to experience more of what the country had to offer. Returning to England I soon quit my job, enrolled in a teacher training course at International House in London and within six months was on my way back to Japan. This time with a one year contract to work as an assistant language teacher in a Japanese junior high school.
Assistant language teaching is a huge industry in Japan. There are a variety of recruitment firms that hire abroad and bring native English speaking teachers to Japan to work in the state school system. The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) is also a popular way to enter the world of the assistant language teacher (ALT).
The great thing about ALTing is that there are many positions where speaking Japanese is not a job requirement. Not speaking Japanese is one attribute that can make a great ALT simply because most communication with teachers and students will be in English which is what ALTs are paid to do!
After working in London for a few years I was keen to experience more of a countryside vibe and landed a job in Shizuoka prefecture at the foot of Mt. Fuji. It's a great area with plenty of wide open spaces, fresh air and great tasting water. At the same time with the excellent Japanese bullet train network I am less than one and a half hours from Tokyo.
I work as an ALT in Susono where I have lived for the last six years! There are various options while working as an ALT. You could simply come for a short period of possibly a year or two and not take your job seriously and treat your time in Japan as a massive party. This option definitely has its merits!
Another option would be to really get into the Japanese way of life. Work hard, play hard is certainly one way to describe the Japanese. I had heard all about their work ethic before I moved here but after coming I discovered the Japanese also know how to party! Working as an ALT I create a variety of ALT lessons as a record of my time working here and also to be used as a resource by anyone looking for an ALT lesson plan.