Cool! Shiribeshi

We have invited people who have immigrated from abroad and are now living in the Shiribeshi region of central Hokkaido to contribute columns from a variety of perspectives. The columns appear in Japanese in the morning edition of the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper every other Monday. https://www.hokkaido-np.co.jp/series/s_cool_otaru
In this section, the columns are posted in the author's original text.

Special feature

【Column】 The importance of being open-minded

Written by Mitchel Lange, a Niseko transplant from Seattle, USA. He currently works as a Coordinator for International Relations in the Niseko Town Hall.

I’ve been in Japan since 2014 and if there’s anything I’ve learned since coming here it’s to stay open minded.

After graduating from university with a degree in Japanese, I didn’t want to be limited to the field a majority of English speaking foreigners find themselves in when coming to Japan: English teaching. Looking to assimilate as best I could, I applied to a variety of entry level positions in Japanese companies and I actively looked for opportunities unrelated to English education where I could put myself in all-Japanese environments. After all, if I could speak the language, why would I limit myself to a job where I didn’t need to speak Japanese?

However, none of the companies I applied to called me back. After a while I decided to widen my search up to include opportunities teaching English, and I ended up getting an offer from a Tokyo company in 2015 to be an English conversation instructor. Although this wasn’t my first choice for my career out of college, I ended up working for this company for two years and honestly I look back and feel like it was a great experience for me. Not only did the job provide me a working visa, allowing me to live in Japan and get my foot in the door of the Japanese working world, I was also was linked up with a great community of foreign teachers, some of which I still actively stay in contact with to this day.

After this job I applied for the JET Program, which landed me my current job at the Niseko Town Hall in 2017, and I learned another lesson in open-mindedness. When applying for this job, which can place you in a government office in any municipality of Japan, I originally chose Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu as my desired work location. I was actually pretty open-minded about where to work and I was okay with working anywhere except one place: Hokkaido. I was NOT a fan of snow and after living in Tokyo for so long with a robust train network I was not looking to live in a place where I needed a car to get around.

But we all can see how that turned out- I have now been in Niseko for 5 years and I have fallen in love with the place. Not only was the snow and reliance on cars not as bad as I thought it would be, but I also didn’t realize how much I missed trees, mountains, and nature since living in Tokyo. On top of that the small, tightknit community here has made me feel very much like a Niseko resident, as opposed to in Tokyo where I always felt like I was seen as a temporary visitor. Niseko very much feels like a place I can call home, which I never expected to find while living in a foreign country. I never would have had the opportunity to live here unless the JET Program told me to come here in the first place, I am very glad I had such an opportunity.

Although these are only a few small anecdotes from my life, the common thread here is that being open to experiences I was trying to avoid led to outcomes I am now thankful for. Looking back at how close minded I was towards English teaching and living in Hokkaido makes me wonder if there are any other fantastic opportunities I’ve missed out on because of what I thought I wouldn’t like or what I thought wasn’t good for me. Don’t be like the old me- be open to available opportunities and see what the world has to offer you!

Location

Niseko Town Hall

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