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Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Experience the Culture of Japan While Teaching

Japan is a popular destination for EFL teachers, as schools typically offer their teachers a good wage and plenty of benefits. In Japan, children begin formally learning English in school once they reach middle schools and continue through high school. Due to the large amount of English learners in the country, there are plenty of employment opportunities in Japan. Recently, one of Japan’s biggest recruiters, Nova, went bankrupt. While this means that finding that dream job in Japan may be more difficult, it is still out there for someone willing to search around.

Japan is a country of variety. Big cities such as Tokyo, and Osaka provide all of the cutting edge technology and style one could ask for, and countryside areas such as Katorimura and Mihonoseki provide a relaxing and spiritual escape. Even the climate changes drastically with the seasons. Whether you find work in the bustling metropolis of Tokyo, or in a quiet village in the countryside, Japan has something to offer every teacher and traveler.

Probably the most recognizable landmark in Japan, is the silhouette of Mount Fuji. Shown in countless movies, postcards and paintings, it is a must-see for anyone spending time in Japan. It attracts over two hundred tourists annually, and only about a third of these are foreign visitors. Japanese people also revere this symbol of their country and make the arduous trek up. Located in the south of Honshu, it can be viewed from the surrounding cities of Gotemba, Fujiyoshida, and Fujinomia. Some of the most spectacular views can be seen from nearby Lake Ashi.

Mount Fuji

Built in 1958, Tokyo Tower is the second highest man-made structure in Japan and is the symbol of Japan’s technical advancement. Modelled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, tourists can travel to the observation deck 250 meters up and see as far as Mt Fuji. For those travelers afraid of heights, the four story “FootTown” at the bottom of the tower features the Tokyo Guinness World Record Museum, and Tokyo Wax Museum as well as restaurants and shops.

Tokyo Tower

Built on the historic grounds of the former Edo Castle, the current grounds of the Tokyo Imperial Palace remain a compelling tourist attraction for anyone visiting Tokyo. The 3.41 sqKm grounds feature historically restored buildings, gardens and moats. The inner grounds of the Palace remain closed to the public, aside from on New Year and the Emperor’s Birthday. On these days, visitors are allowed to gather at an inner square of the palace and catch a glimpse of the royal family.

Tokyo Imperial Palace

Located near Nagano is the famous hot-spring area known as Jigokudan (translated as Hell’s Valley), so named for the steam that bubbles up from the mountainside. In winter, the weather here is particularly ferocious and that’s when the local population of Snow Monkeys come down out of the surrounding forests to soak in the natural hot-springs. An amazing sight for any traveler to Japan, a day here will reward you with some unbelievably beautiful photos before the monkeys head back up to their home in the trees.

Jigokudani Monkey Park

Any time of year is perfect for visiting the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji). This popular tourist attraction is found in Kyoto, and sits perfectly beside a reflecting pond. The original pavilion was burned down, but has been perfectly restored to its original state, including the gold leaf which gives it its distinct looks. The area around the temple are in perfect balance with the building and together they are an excellent representation of Japanese style and elegance.

Golden Pavilion

While Japan is most fondly thought to be a warm and friendly nation, there are few places in the world that inspire reverence and solemnity like the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. The distinctive building in the middle of the park, known as the Genbaku Dome (or A-Bomb Dome) was the only building left standing near the blast after the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Now it stands as a sobering reminder of peace and is a must-see sight for anyone visiting the city.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park

Located in the Southern part of Honshu, in the historic city of Nara, Todaiji is one of the most spectacular Buddhist Temples in all of Japan. It houses one of the biggest statues of Buddha, at 15 meters tall and weighing 500 tons. In the recent past, more and more of the outlying temple buildings have been opened to the public, allowing visitors to deeper appreciate the majesty of the overall location. Aside from spectacle of the Great Buddha Hall and other buildings, the beautifully sculpted gardens are populated by skia deer, and it’s almost impossible to take a bad photo.

Todaiji Temple

In Kyoto, there are few places as beautiful as this 8th Century Temple. Perched on the hillside, overlooking the city, it is particularly beautiful in the spring and summer. There is a natural waterfall, fed by a local creek that flows through the temple. People once used to jump from the waterfall to ask for a wish to be granted. These days, you can drink from the stream, and many tourists (including a large amount of Japanese visitors) come here to pray for fortune in business, school, and love.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

For lovers of popular culture, Tokyo features a number of fantastic districts which each offer their own specific type of shopping and entertainment. If you like going to bars and nightclubs, Shibuya is the trendy place to go, and Rappongi is the tourist district. There is also Akihabara is the electronics/comic books district, and Harajuku is the cutting edge fashion district. People say that Paris gets its style 5 years after Harajuku. Even if you are not particularly interested in fashion, you can’t deny the amazing lengths these Japanese fashionistas to stand out among so many amazing individuals. Many of the most elaborately dressed teenagers love having their photos taken with foreign tourists if you ask them.


Way down on the southern island of Okinawa is the breathtaking Churaumi Aquarium. The unbelievably large Kuroshio Sea Tank that stretches from the first floor all the way to the second floor of the aquarium, houses the largest fish in the world, the mighty whale shark, and not just one. They plan on being the first aquarium in the world to breed the enormous fish. There are also manta rays, and spotted dolphins. A total of 77 tanks are on display in the aquarium. The park also includes some fantastic restaurants and views of the island, and is a must see if you get down this far during your trip.

Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

Do you have any more tips for visitors to Japan? Leave your comments and experiences below.

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