Japan: A Working Holiday Guide – Book Review

Japan: A Working Holiday Guide

Lately I’ve been interested in people who teach English in Japan. Since the early 90’s, teaching English was one of the sure-fire to get work in Japan. In many cases you didn’t even need to have any previous teaching experience, you just had to look like you knew what you were doing.

While things have changed somewhat in the last few years – with several big name English schools going out of business – teaching English is still a big draw for anyone who wants to make their living in Japan. So I thought I do a little research on the experiences of people finding work as teachers or other professions in Japan.

Here’s my review of the book Japan: A Working Holiday Guide.

The Japan Experience

It probably goes without saying that Japan is going to be an entirely different experience for most first time visitors. Although we do our best to prepare for what it may be like, chances are we will still be surprised by it.

The book does a good job of preparing first time workers for some of the experiences they are likely to face. Practical advice is given about arriving in Japan, looking for a job and finding accommodations.

When looking for your very own apartment you won’t find them advertised by the number of bedrooms. Instead, the Japanese use a system incorporating living room and kitchen: L=living room, D=dining room, K=kitchen.

There’s lots of good information on the small details of working and living in Japan that you won’t find in the guide books. From where and how to eat to dealing with confusing street addresses.

Addresses in Japan are written ‘upside down’ compared to what we’re used to. They start with the largest area (country or prefecture) and work down, with the persons name at the bottom. Although sometimes, just to confuse, they’ll be written the other way around.

What I didn’t like about the book

Although the book contains a lot of useful information, there where a couple of things that I didn’t like about it.

The book received a much need update in 2001, but it could really use another one. Prices are incorrect and some of the information needs updating. For example, out-of-business companies like Nova are still listed and the Kansai Time Out is referenced throughout the book even though it stop publishing in 2009. Not a huge deal, but it could be a little confusing for people looking for these businesses or publications.

Also, another bit of a head-scratcher was how the book will post classified ads throughout. I can understand if they were doing this to give you an idea of what the ads look like, but the ads are given with contact information intact. I can only imagine some poor Japanese guy still getting phone calls for an apartment he listed 10 years ago. Kind of strange if you ask me.


While the book has a few minor flaws, overall I think it’s a great introduction for people planning on giving a working holiday in Japan a go. The book is written from an Australian ex-pat perspective, so you’ll get a few Aussie expression sprinkled throughout the book – which can be both fun and confusing.

The book is 190 pages and available for about $22.00 from Amazon sellers. You may also be able to order it from your local library.

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