Ganbatte Means For It! Or...How to Become an English Teacher in Japan - a book review

by Ernie Yap, Nov 24, 2007 | Destinations: Japan

Title: Ganbatte Means For It! Or...How to Become an English Teacher in Japan

Author: Celeste Heiter


Have you ever thought about becoming an English teacher in Japan? Do you ever get tired of a friend who has done that and boasts persistently about it and thought, ‘heck, I could do that!' but find yourself balking at the last minute? Or are you all hyped up but have no idea as how to start your ‘Asian adventure'?


Whether or not you are thinking of going to Japan or you are already on the way there, this is the book for you.


Ganbatte is a seminal piece of work that incorporates both the author's own narrative that tells her story as well as a guide for you to tell your own.


Just as the title suggests, the Ms Heiter's own story begins with an exuberant devil-may-care decision to hope on the plane to Japan with a prince charming and the book deftly simmers to the nitty-gritty details of settling down in a new culture; culminating in the birth a baby! From staring at an old woman checking her computer accounts with an abacus to ogling naked young men on the streets during a Shinto festival, I appreciate the author giving an eyewitness account of this mysterious land that seems so paradoxical to the western mind.


There is another LonelyPlanet-like aspect to the book; the dos and don'ts of being in Japan, the land of the rising sun.


I find it amusing and impressive that there is even a one-year countdown to take-off as the author suggests which steps to accomplish every month all the way down to the final day. It is idiot-proof; (there is even a paragraph on jet lag.) Seemingly redundant advice such as ‘don't yawn in public', ‘offer your seat to the elderly in the train' may seem a bit odd and off-topic, I feel these things cannot be told often enough. And as foreigners in a foreign land, any such faux pas ought to be avoided.


As an English teacher aspirant, should you buy a one-way or a round ticket? How much would you earn as an English teacher? Is there a market for foreign teachers? How is the weather and seasonal changes like in Japan? What sort of clothes should you pack? How do you settle down economically? How to furnish one's apartment? What are sayonara sales?


After reading the book, you are excited but unsure? No problem. In the chapter titled ‘Do you have what it takes?', there's a 10-question quiz by which you can determine your readiness measured against your score.


Written by a Californian who is now back home but still functioning as an English teacher to Japanese businessmen, I feel this is a passionate work of a lovely memory as well a complete guide for one to enjoy and succeed in taking this momentous, life-changing step.