Japan Australia Pages

Friday, May 13, 2022

How to Move from ALT to Teaching at University

English Classroom
The ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) role is a great way to start your teaching career in Japan as a native-level English speaker. ALTs typically work across a wide range of schools from elementary to high school across Japan. There are usually plenty of ALT teaching jobs available every year during the recruiting season for the new school year which starts in April. 

For those who have been in Japan for a few years and are looking to further their career as a teacher, it makes sense to move from an ALT role to teaching at the university level. While this is quite a big step up, it is still possible for most with the right experience and qualifications. 

In this post, I will outline some of the key criteria that you will need to have in order to make the jump from being an ALT to a teacher at a university in Japan. 

1. Get your Master’s Degree 

One of the main criteria for working at the university level in Japan is a master’s degree (related to teaching). This could be in TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) or Linguistics. Getting a masters is not an easy thing and can take some time, especially if you are working full time and are doing your master’s online. Try and obtain your masters while working as an ALT as the shorter working hours and long vacation time is ideal for achieving this. 

Tokyo University
"Tokyo University of Foreign Studies" by Kimtaro is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

2. Complete a Cambridge CELTA 

The Cambridge CELTA Certificate is a great initial step in gaining the necessary qualifications to work at the university level in Japan. It is the most widely recognised English teaching qualification in the world and is regarded in high esteem by employers. You can complete one in a few months and then start on the process of obtaining a masters. In fact, some universities might accept you with only a CELTA certificate if you are lucky. 

3. Give as many Presentations as you Can 

Presentations gain you points for your application to a university level teaching job. Try and give as many as you can to build your presentation portfolio on your CV. A great place to start is the JALT (Japan Association for Language Teaching) Organization which has chapters in most prefectures in Japan and have monthly meetings which are always looking for new and enthusiastic presenters. The content of the presentation can be on anything that is teaching related in any field from kindergarten to adults. 

Image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

4. Get Yourself Published 

Another way to gain points is via publications in academic journals which you can do by publishing the material that you have created or share your knowledge in a particular field. JALT has a publication called “The Language Teacher Journal” which comes out every two months. It is a great way to get your material out there in the Japan teaching world. A great way to start is to find someone (hopefully a full-time lecturer) who is interested in your work, or who is already working on something similar and do a joint publication. This is the perfect way to get your name out there. Publications can be on a broad range of topics from literature and textbook reviews to teaching young learners. 

Academic Publication
Image by oyajimbo is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. 

5. Network and Attend Conferences 

Sometimes all it takes is knowing the right person. You can network and build connections by attending teaching conferences in Japan. Teachers come and go in Japan, sometimes very suddenly, so if a university is in a pinch and is in desperate need of a teacher in short notice, they might just pass your application, especially if they have met or know you from a professional organization or conference.

You can also find university teaching jobs in Japan easily online. 

English Classroom
"Classroom M212" by barbourians is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Nihongo Master Podcast

Nihongo Master
I recently had the pleasure to be a guest on the Nihongo Master podcast to talk about spring in Japan, one of my favourite topics. 

Nihongo Master is a fantastic Japanese learning website that helps you study Japanese in a fun and interactive way. The e-learning site focuses on helping learners at every level master the Japanese language. 

They have their own YouTube channel and a popular podcast, so you can learn about the Japanese language and culture on the go. 

During my chat with host, Azra, we talked about a wide range of spring time topics including about my experience with spring in Japan, spring in my home of Gifu in central Japan, my tips and advice for anyone looking to travel to Japan in spring, and the best spots to see the cherry blossoms in the Chubu area of Japan. 

You can check out the podcast episode on the following link Nihongo Master S11E9: Wrap Up Japanese Spring with John from Japan Australia

If you are looking to learn Japanese, or just need some extra motivation in order to study, give Nihongo Master a try.

Nihongo Master Podcast

Sunday, April 17, 2022

A Lovely Experience at Ibiza55 Club l Bar

Charming night at Shinjuku
I was strolling in the nicely lit streets of Shinjuku, looking up at the lovely neon lights climbing up the buildings, scanning the people whose work cages were open. The sun was setting down. 

People were laughing. The ambiance was much less stressful than the morning rush. That evening’s haste was much more hopeful, as if people were looking forward to something. 

Of course they were. It was Shinjuku! 

Charming night at Shinjuku
Charming night at Shinjuku

Night came up and I passed by an interesting entrance of a bar/club with vibrant colors. People were rushing to go in from the outside. It had a white frame that said Ibiza55. I went through the ignited frame of lights and went down the stairs to be welcomed by a very friendly owner who seemed to love what he does. 

The entrance of that bar called me in
The entrance of that bar called me in

I love to meet those kinds of people, who find a way to enjoy and love what they do, rather than stoically accepting life’s harshness, those who see a full half in a cup. I marched a few more steps to the bar and ordered a beer. The bar had a colorful neon sign behind it, which made me more aware that I was in Shinjuku, one of the best places to party in one of the most prominent cities in the world, Tokyo. It made me feel blessed. 

Partying in Shinjuku

Enjoying the Shinjuku nighlife

The bartender was an attentive gentleman who welcomed me with a wide smile. I took my reasonably-priced beer, grabbed a sip, and metaphysics started to take its turn. 

I asked myself: Why do people party? What makes it so fun? 

People often look to experience feelings that overwhelm them, that take their hand towards the top. The cognitive is sometimes too much to bear, but “to feel” gives a fluid and organic sense of flow that is unmatched. 

People party to feel. 

There are many hardships in life that make us numb. Long work hours, job politics, conflict resolution and risk management matters. All too serious and too boring. 

People want to live, laugh, and be free. No one wants to be contained, neither in a work cubicle nor for bosses they probably disdain. 

People party to feel free. 

People party to feel free
People party to feel free

Luckily, before my mind became too thoughtful, a lovely woman joined me on my right seat. She was wearing a red dress which I couldn’t take my eyes off. She had an extensive face and a wide smile; the one which had the extra teeth look. Her eyes held some mystery in them. Her hair was falling like waterfalls around her shoulders and back. 

Before my mind went back to labor, I said the first thing that I could think of: 

“Cool bar, huh? Do you come here often?” 

“Yeah,” she said, “Ibiza55 is one of my favorite places to be in Tokyo. Everyone here is just so nice. I feel alive here.” 

Her name was Yoko, and she spoke perfect English (My favorite kind). 

More people joined in. Suddenly, it was 11 p.m. and the bar was almost full. It gave it a cozier feeling. 

Dancing the night away in Shinjuku

Dancing the night away at Ibiza55


People seemed to have forgotten about the worries of their day. Partying seemed like a meditative approach that lets the mind be, which many times and surprisingly, is a great way to find solutions. 

It was 4 a.m. now at the bar and I thought it would be closing soon. 

“When do you close?” I asked the bartender. 

“12 p.m. the next day,” he said. 

Woah, those people surely know how to party, I thought. 

I decided not to leave any time soon. I was in a special place, at a romantic time, and there were many beautiful people around me. I was living and collecting memories that I will never forget. 

I realized that our favorite memories are those stories we collect from time to time, and stories most of the time include people. 

Where are most of the people? 

Friday, April 1, 2022

Five Things to Know About Living and Working in Japan

Shibuya Crossing
The Land of the Rising Sun is one of the most fascinating places on the planet with its ancient temples and shrines, historic castles and Zen gardens perfectly blending in with its modern architecture, neon lights and high-speed bullet trains. Living and working in Japan can be a rewarding but daunting experience, so to help you out, we have compiled a list of five key things to know before moving to Japan. 

1. Be Open to New Things 

Japan is a great place to live but is a completely different living experience from anything that you are used to back home. There are a lot of things here in Japan that you will find totally different from your home country. For example, no trash cans in public places, super early last trains (tough when you want to go out for dinner or a drink or two), and banks closing at three in the afternoon. 

Don’t be afraid of these differences but embrace them and your new life in Japan. 

JR train in Japan
"Japan Trains" by shibuya246 is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

2. Be Prepared to Follow the Rules 

Japan is a country that lives and functions by rules and everyone obeying them. Group harmony is more important than any one individual. Some of these rules can seem excessive or overboard but need to be followed in order to get anything done. These rules can be found in basic things in everyday life. For example, simply ordering a hamburger at McDonalds. I once wanted to order a Big Mac without any pickles and an extra serving of cheese. This really threw the poor girl serving me into confusion and panic with alarm bells going off in the restaurant. The restaurant manager was soon on hand, profusely apologizing for not being able to customize my meal. In Japan, A Big Mac is a Big Mac! 

McDonald's in Japan
"McDonalds" by Stephen Cannon is marked with CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

3. English is not Widely Spoken Outside the Big Cities 

One thing that really surprised me when I first arrived in Japan was how little English was spoken outside of the major cities and tourist areas. Most Japanese only speak Japanese and very few are willing or capable of speaking English. This has been getting slightly better in recent years, especially with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics happening last year. If you are planning to live in a more rural location or even just outside of a big city, it is definitely a good idea to learn some of the language. For work, most companies will require that you have at least basic Japanese skills in order to work effectively and communicate with your Japanese co-workers. English speaking jobs in Japan can be found in most of the major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. 

Tokyo at night
"Tokyo By Night" by 4 Colour Progress is marked with CC BY-NC 2.0.

4. Japanese Culture is Unlike any Other 

It is easy to get baffled by the many customs and traditions here in Japan, especially for someone new to the country. A great deal of patience is required in order to live stress free. It is a good idea to brush up on some basic culture and social etiquette to avoid any faux pas. Important things to learn include how to handle chopsticks (placing them incorrectly could symbol death), how to greet colleagues at work, how to exchange business cards in the correct manner and the correct social protocol for eating out on the street, riding the train, or entering someone’s house. 

Luckily the Japanese are very welcoming and forgiving, so if you do make a mistake, they will brush it off as someone new to the country and you will not have to live with the shame your whole life.

Meishi business cards
"Meishi" by dominiekth is marked with CC BY 2.0.

5. The Work Culture 

One of the biggest challenges in Japan is understanding the work culture. The Japanese are known for being some of the hardest working people on the planet. Japan is notorious for its lifetime employment process and employees working overtime for the good of the company. Belonging to a group and working well within that group is much more important than standing out as an individual. The workplace culture expects employees to dedicate themselves to the workplace as an extension of their own family. Working 12-hour days is not uncommon and it is rude to leave the office before your boss. The work culture is one point that I would like to elaborate a little more on in a future post. 

Shibuya Crossing
"Shibuya Crossing" by J. Damasio is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Tips for Australians when Travelling Overseas

Japan Airlines
1.) Plan Ahead 

Research & Select your Destination 

The first thing to do when planning a trip overseas is to figure out where exactly you want to go. The tricky thing is that there are so many amazing destinations to choose from, so this might be the hardest part of the whole process! You can start by listing the top locations you want to visit and seeing how feasible it is to visit each location. This can be in terms of the time of year you want to visit, the weather, the cost or the amount of tourism. Luckily, once you make a decision on where you will be going on your vacation, everything else is not so bad to plan! 

Research your destination

Flights & Airport Parking 


The next step is choosing your flight! There are countless sites to help you find the cheapest flights and if you start looking super early you can track the flights and purchase them when they are at their lowest! It is important to keep in mind that sometimes the cheapest flights have longer journey times with multiple stops, especially if you are flying to a destination that is located very far away from Australia. The most important thing is to decide what is most important to you, the cost of the ticket or the ease of the travel experience! 

If you are planning on driving to the airport with your luggage and family or friends, be sure to check out Flyparks well in advance too. Flyparks is an online comparison site for parking across the biggest airports in Australia and New Zealand. So if you want to save on airport parking and find the best deals on Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide or even Perth Airport Parking, then Flyparks is the place for you! 

Visa Requirements & Passport Expiry 


Next, you should check to ensure that your passport is valid and that it will not expire while you are away on your vacation. Also be sure to see if it's required for you to get an entry visa or travel visa for your specific destination. That way you won't be surprised on entry. 

2.) Stay Safe 

Travel Insurance 

It is very important to be insured while you are on your trip with the best policy you can find. Be sure to research as many policies as you can and read in depth what you will be covered for. 

Be sure that you also book flights and accommodations with flexible or return policies in case anything happens unexpectedly. 

Watch your Valuables 

In addition, it is important to keep your possessions as safe as possible. The first thing you can do is to not bring too many valuable items including cameras, computers and other electronics. This can be too stressful to carry or to leave at the hotel room and you don't want to be worrying about that while you are trying to have an amazing vacation! 

Also, if you bring important items with you while you are sightseeing, be sure to have a safe backpack with hidden zippers or even a lock! In addition, consider wearing your backpack in front of you to be sure that no one will steal anything while you are not looking. It may not be your desired look but it is better to be safe than sorry! 

Make Copies of Important Documents 

Lastly, be sure to have a plan for if something goes wrong. Have copies of all documents and emergency contact information with you at all times so that you are prepared. 

Ensure you will have Access to your Money 

Be sure that the credit/debit cards you are bringing are common forms of payment in the location you are visiting! Some destinations often only take cash, or specific types of credit cards. It is important to have cash with you in the local currency to ensure that you can always pay for something or in case your credit card isn't accepted. Note that you should also contact your credit/debit card company and let them know that you are traveling so they do not shut off your card for security reasons! 

3.) Pack Efficiently 

Pack efficiently

Know Baggage Limits 

Before you get to the airport, check your airline’s baggage limits to make sure that you don’t have to pay a large price upon check-in at the airport. In addition, after you finalize packing it may be useful to weigh your baggage with an at-home scale to ensure that your bag is not over the weight limit, which is also another unexpectedly large cost you might have to pay during check in. 

Leave Room to Bring Back Souvenirs 

It is important to pack efficiently with enough clothing items to last the whole trip and various types of weather possibilities you may encounter while traveling. One important tip that is often forgotten is to leave some empty room in your suitcase as you will likely find some fun items to bring home with you as souvenirs! This way, you won't have to stuff your suitcase or worry about paying for heavy baggage fees on the way home. 

4.) Plan Travel & Lodging 

Travel and lodging

Traveling within your Destination 

It is important to know what the most popular or cost effective ways there are to get around the city or town that you are visiting. There is usually public transportation, rental cars as well as taxis or ride-share services. If you research this ahead of time, you can make your life a whole lot easier by being prepared and not having to overpay for taxis to get from point A to point B. 


Be sure to find the accommodation that is truly right for you. These days, there are countless sites that you can use to compare lodging options in pretty much any destination. There are hostels, hotels, Airbnb, renting apartments and so on. Be sure to find a place to stay that fits a majority of your requirements so that you have a safe and comfortable place to return to after a long day of adventuring. 

5.) Prepare all technology 



One thing that many people forget is that different countries have different outlets! It is a common thing to forget with all the hectic and excited energy leading up to a vacation, but beware that buying a converter at the airport can be up to 4 times more expensive than buying it prior to leaving! Thus, be sure to look into the types of outlets your destination has and also the voltage used on different outlets/devices. 

International Phone Plan or Apps 

These days, everything is done on our phones. From your hotel confirmation email to your flight boarding pass, your phone is essential when traveling. Thus, it is important to ensure that it will work when you are out on the town and without wifi. Thus, be sure to look into international phone plans and how to communicate with loved ones back home or the individuals that you are traveling with.

Hopefully you are now feeling less stressed about your upcoming vacation and are getting more and more excited for the adventure that awaits you. Traveling from Australia is not an easy thing to do but it is most certainly a rewarding experience. If you follow all the advice given in this article then you will be on the right track. Good luck and enjoy your travels abroad!

Japan Airlines

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Ghibli Park in Aichi

Ghibli Park in Aichi
Most of us have been touched by a classic Ghibli movie at some time in our lives, and now that Studio Ghibli magic is being brought to life in the autumn of 2022 with the opening of Ghibli Park in Aichi.

Scheduled to open on 1 November 2022, the large-scale theme park will be located at Expo Memorial Park in Nagakute, Aichi Prefecture.

The 7.1-hectare park will feature attractions from iconic films such as Mononoke Village from Princess Mononoke, and the castle from Howl’s Moving Castle. The experience will be enhanced with Ghibli themed cafes, restaurants, and playgrounds.

The theme park will be divided into five different areas: Hill of Youth, Ghibli’s Large Warehouse, Mononoke’s Village, Valley of Witches and Dondoko Forest.

The lush green park was the site of the 2005 Aichi World Expo, so it is a perfect match for the nature of the famous flicks.

Hill of Youth 

Located near the north entrance of the park, this area will feature Ghibli works such as Laputa: Castle in the Sky (1986) and Howl’s Moving Castle (2004).

Ghibli’s Large Warehouse

This indoor area is home to an exhibition room, a children’s playground, shops, restaurants, and a small theatre.

Mononoke’s Village

Mononoke’s Village will feature a real-life recreation of Tatara-ba, the irontown depicted in the movie. The beautiful scenery will transport you back in time to the Muromachi period (1336-1573) of Japanese history, where the movie is set.

Mononoke's Village
Mononoke's Village (Photo: ©Studio Ghibli)

Valley of Witches

The Valley of Witches draws inspiration from films that feature protagonists with magic powers such as Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).

It will be home to a real-life, 16-meter-tall replica of Howl’s Moving Castle, including moving cannons resembling eyeballs.

Howl's Moving Castle
Howl's Moving Castle (Photo: ©Studio Ghibli)

Dondoko Forest

Dondoko Forest will feature Satsuki and Mei’s house from My Neighbor Totoro (1988), which was set in a rural landscape from the Showa period (1926-1989).

This will be no ordinary theme park. You will not find rollercoasters or death-defying rides here, but simply a fantasy world, where you can feel part of your favourite Ghibli movie.

Ghibli theme park in Aichi
Photo: ©Studio Ghibli

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Writers Read Their Early Sh*t Podcast

Writer's Read Their Early Sh*t Podcast
I recently had the chance to be a guest on the fantastic Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast hosted by the amazing Jason Emde.

We talked about the world of online travel writing along with a range of interesting topics such as the coolest places to visit in Japan and whether Aussie space-rockers The Church are the best band to ever come out of Australia. We also had a chance to delve into some of my very early blog writing.

Today, Jason has returned the favour by guest posting on Japan Australia to tell us all about his wonderful new podcast, but before we get into all of that, let’s find out a little about the man himself.

Jason was born in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada, and grew up in the Okanagan Valley. He received his BA from UBC in 1995 and moved to Japan, where he taught English to students of all age groups. He also bartended, edited scientific journals, officiated at hundreds of weddings, played bass in a KISS tribute band, made amateur films, won his debut boxing match by TKO in the second round, and traveled extensively in Japan, the rest of Asia and Europe. His first book, “My Hand’s Tired & My Heart Aches: Letters from Japan 1995-2005,’ was published by Kalamalka Press in 2005.

A young Jason Emde
A young Jason Emde in the middle 

Now, let’s hear from Jason about the inspiration for the Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast.

The idea for the Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast first came to me while I was working on my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and happened to read a poem I wrote in elementary school about a tree. It wasn’t much of a poem (“Emphatic!” reads my teacher’s only comment) and I realized—or remembered—that all writers, famous and obscure, are probably sitting on treasure troves of undeft early work, shitty first drafts, and undeveloped and unsophisticated efforts, all of it stuck in a box in some closet or drawer. I know I am: there are whole filing cabinets back in my hometown overflowing with frothing journals, notebooks full of utterly pretentious waffle and twaddle, stacks of mind-humpingly primitive poetry, and old letters full of flatulent bombast and smut. Some of those early attempts and experiments, I thought, might do at least three things when exposed to the air: provide a charming autobiographical snapshot of the writer, with space for entering into friendly relations with early ineptitude or artistic immaturity; encourage considering everything an experiment, and release some artistic pressure; and do their splendid to entertain. Early, unripe work might provide an opportunity to confront a former version of oneself, and maybe even forgive him or her, and it might delight and divert other artists, no matter what stage of the game they’re at. That, in any case, was the idea.

Writers Read Podcast

I launched the podcast in the summer of 2021 and have interviewed—and vastly enjoyed the early sh*t of—poets like Sarah Tsiang and James Tyler Russell, songwriters like David White and Dave Antich (otherwise known as DJ Max in Tokyo, who provides all of the podcast’s music), memoirists like Victoria Taylor, novelists like Adam Lewis Schroeder, and travel writers like John Asano from Japan Australia. One legendary episode featured my sister, Alison Emde, reading gems from her teenage journals. The conversations so far have been freewheeling and funny and unpretentious and intimate and moving, fueled by a love of language, a fascination with craft, and a kind of broad-minded sympathy. There have also been digressions into such things as literary pilgrimages, the best and worst punctuation marks, macrame soap holders, secretly rooting for the monkey, how The Church is (possibly) the best band Australia ever produced, why Japan is so ace, and kabuki thunder-rockers KISS. I’m very much looking forward to talking to more writers of all kinds (and all levels of success and achievement) and exploring the occasionally unruly pleasures of their early, wet-behind-the-ears work.

You can listen to all the episodes of the podcast at the Writers Read Their Early Sh*t podcast page, and give Jason and the podcast a follow on both Facebook and Instagram

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