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.
【Column】 The importance of being open-minded
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!