Friday, February 20, 2009

Open letter to JET applicants

Dear potential JETs,

It has come to my attention that one of my posts was recently cited in your message boards as a cause for concern. It never occurred to me that some of the stuff I spout would be a cause for concern (except, of course, with relation to my sanity). Granted yes, it was only one person who showed concern, and had such person been a little more in touch, they probably would have realized that when I mentioned Secretaries being groomed as potential wives at the Kaisha, that it did not it any way whatsoever, apply to her situation as a potential English teacher in Japan. As a JET participant, who exactly would you be groomed for anyway? The male science teacher? The kids?!

Said person stated, "I also know that applying for jobs in Japan always involves submitting marital status and a photo, so your looks DO count." I believe they are asking for your marital status in the way the government would during a Census year, not because they are only looking for single women to pair off with whatever single males happen to be lying around the office. I find the photo thing reprehensible as it's just not done in Canada, but to the best of my knowledge it is fairly common in some other Commonwealth countries. Again however, this does not mean they are doing a "hot or not" competition while sifting through the piles of applications they receive every year. Despite what any company may argue to the contrary, I believe that including a photo definitely affects one's initial impression of applicants but if JET (or any other organization/company for that matter) did not hire "average-looking" people, there would be very few English teachers in Japan. And before your knee jerks so hard you find a bruise tomorrow, I am not saying that JETs or English teachers here are fugly on the whole, but take any group of people (excepting perhaps models) and there is going to be a huge range of looks and body sizes.

It's the same in Japan. All these foreign guys with Asian fever fail to understand is that the percentage of hot women here is not abnormally high compared to other countries, it's just that women here tend to dress up more and spend more time looking pleasing and feminine than other places. Effort aside however, an average Japanese girl in a prim skirt with ribbons and bows is just that, she doesn't suddenly get hotter. I think women here are over-hyped. There are some real hot ones and some real not ones, just as there are everywhere else in the world. They do tend to be smaller, and more compact, but you can't really go back in time and come back as an Asian woman now can you?

If you are female and come on the JET program, you should come with a healthy body image. If you have any problems with how you look, particularly when it comes to weight, you will probably end up trash-talking Japanese women for being petite bitches and complaining that there are no stores with your size. This is a reality and why there is a such a thing as shopping on the internet with plastic.

If you like yourself and have confidence, you shouldn't have trouble avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls, nor should you have trouble finding a bf, be it Japanese or foreign. Keep in mind though ladies, that there is a much smaller pool of foreign guys to choose from and an even smaller pool if you take out all those who have come down with a bad case of Asian fever. So unless you pull that stick out of your ass and consider dating Japanese boys and learning Japanese, you should resign yourself to waiting around for one of those gaijin boys who want to date you to materialize. They do exist, and frankly if gaijin guys here cross you off their list just for being similarly gaijin, they aren't worth pursuing in the first place. I've dated foreign guys here and it was generally a positive experience; if you are attractive (inside, outside, wherever), it will translate.

Why did I make the snarky stick out of ass comment? Because I am sick of hearing lonely foreign girls complain about there being no nice gaijin boys here. Did they not come through the same immigration gates that I did? The ones that were clearly marked, Welcome to Japan in several languages? This is Japan and because of that, there are funnily enough, a plethora of hot Japanese guys, some of who will date foreign girls. Glorious day!

In short ladies (and gents for that matter too), come to Japan, learn Japanese and make an effort in the morning to look nice. You can glean a lot from how someone dresses, and while it may not be fair, you will probably be treated with more respect here if you care about your looks and avoid dressing like a tourist or an English-teaching bum. I'm not saying these things to scare you, but one of the biggest complaints I hear about Japanese girls is that they are a) small and b) well put together. In coming to Japan, you may learn to have a new-found respect for your straight teeth, curly hair, or ski-jump nose. I have never thought of my nose as a source of compliments but coming to Japan changed all that. Over the last 3 years I have received stares of amazement followed by shrieks of jealousy over my nose and big eyes. You'd think I was little red riding hood's fucking grandmother or something. Apparently it is quite the party trick when you can't see over your nose when looking sideways. Go figure.

I digress, as usual, and while I don't have experience officially teaching English in Japan, I hardly think you need to worry about JET feeling like you work for a Japanese company. They are not grooming you for marriage, they just want your Native English Skills. The only time you will have to worry is if you find yourself at a Japanese company as the lone white girl, among a sea of perky, fake-smiling, shiny haired, snaggle-toothed Secretaries, wondering just how exactly, you got there.


Tokyo Cowgirl said...

"but if JET (or any other organization/company for that matter) did not hire "average-looking" people, there would be very few English teachers in Japan"

I couldn't have said it better myself! I think you should write your own expat guide for Japan, it would come complete with the host club rating system and yes, the cold hard truth about the JET program, English teachers, and Asian fever.

Kelley Dawne said...

People need to relax. The main reason they ask about marital status on the JET program is because of location issues, I think.

They usually won't accept married couples because the chance of both of them being able to work in the same area is small. And most married couples don't want to be split up. That's the main concern. Most Japanese men want nothing to do with foreign women. It's only lately that Japanese men are slowly starting to marry foreign women.

As for Japanese women, most of them spend upwards of 5 hours on their grooming in the mornings. This involves HOURS of hair and make up (like what some stars go through for Oscar night) and what you are really looking at is 7 layers of make up and hairspray.

There are some very beautiful people here, but no more than any other country. I see lots of people I thought must be models or actresses in Canada too. Don't let the anime fool you gentlemen, they aren't all sex kittens here.

Reannon said...

"This is Japan and because of that, there are funnily enough, a plethora of hot Japanese guys, some of who will date foreign girls."

The key word being SOME. It's true that it is possible to find a boyfriend here if you're a foreigner...but it's certainly not easy, for all of the reasons you mentioned. But Tokyo is also a ginormous 'anonymous' city and that fact alone can make it tough, whether your foreign or not. I've lived in NYC and personally, I found it harder to find a date there.... For every single man in NY, there are six single women.

I'm not sure what the statistics are for Tokyo...but it'd be interesting to try to find out.

jo said...

how exactly did you end up there?

(and hello from a serious lurker...)

Kira Petersson-Martin said...
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Kira Petersson-Martin said...
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Green-Eyed Geisha said...

I knew this would ignite some flames with the ladies.

Cowgirl: To do so, I would need some help from a fellow "debunker of myths" like yourself.

Kelley and Reannon: I think it's not quite true that most Japanese men want nothing to do with foreign women. From my limited experience it seems there are those who are foreign-crazy and only want to date us by virtue of the fact that we are foreign, those who will date us because they like a certain individual regardless of her nationality and there are those who would never consider dating us.

In terms of Japanese men marrying foreign women, it's been going on for longer than you think, but the numbers stand out only for couples where the wife is from another Asian country, another type of foreign woman that we often tend to forget about. According to the (not as recent as I would like) stats on the following 2 sites, the number of Japanese men married to foreign women is actually greater than the number of Japanese women married to foreign men. For the Japanese men, the number of non-Asian wives is small, while for Japanese women, the number of Asian husbands is fairly high, but the number of non-Asian husbands is higher than that of non-Asian wives. That was a mouthful.

jo: Hey lurker! I've often been one myself. The story of how I ended up here/there is one for a rainy day. Seeing as it rained this morning, in short: I came here on exchange in university and couldn't get enough, wanted more and came back to study at a ghetto and ridiculously strict Japanese language school. I still hadn't had enough so I started looking for work and found myself at the Kaisha in a sea of Secretaries. If you had told me upon embarking on my second long-term stay here that I would end up shacking up with a Japanese man I would have laughed in your face.

Kira: Props to you for owning to the comment. I have to apologize for coming across as critical and bitchy, it's not personal, I was actually glad to see your comment on the JET boards as I have been wanting to write about body-related issues in Japan for a while. I think your concern is valid in that a lot of foreign women here feel maginalized and like they are in a competition with Japanese women. When I realized this wasn't the case, it made things much easier. Still, one of the adjectives most used to describe gaijin is "big" whether it refers to our overall build, height or weight. You're totally right that there is social stigma in living here, and unfortunately some of it is magnified in this being Japan, and topped with the day-to-day stress you may encounter, it can be too much at times.

Anyway, thank you for reading my blog. I appreciate your comments and I hope you enjoy your time on JET. If you have any questions about anything, I hope you'll feel free to ask either here or by email!

Reannon said...

Yeah, I read somewhere that most of the foreign women Japanese men are marrying are other asians, (Thai, Phillipino) and that many of them are bought by rural farmers through mail-order bride arrangements.

Doesn't help my situation much. One of my good friends is actually leaving Japan over this...She just broke up with her BF and knows that she'll never find another one here. So she's going back home. While I think she's being a touch dramatic, I can def understand. She's in her mid-30's and wants to get married soon. This isn't the city with the best odds of finding a husband. Especially if you can't speak Japanese.

Thanks for the links. : )

Reannon said...


(I hope I'm not being rude by addressing my comments to another commenter...but I just felt I had to add something)

I don't know that you're completely wrong about the assumption that potential employers will judge / make assumptions about a person based on their photo. I mean, Japanese or not, everyone does it. It's automatic and can't be helped.

I don't know anything about JET or their application process, but I don't think they exclude people for being overweight or for not matching the 'blond, blue-eyed' foreigner stereotype.

I think it's more to exclude the Marilyn Manson types with facial tatoos or something. I think as long as you look professional and well-groomed...that's all that matters.

If you're worried, you should google image search 'gaijin ESL teacher' and you'll see photos of people that look like serial killers. My friend has a beard so long he looks like an Amish person...or like a caveman. Another friend has visible neck and arm tatoos. If they can get hired off a photo, then anyone can. : )