The harsh truth about English teaching in Japan when you’re a Filipina
I was trying to explain to my partner why it’s hard for me to get a job now – especially now that I am pregnant.
In Japan, I have three strikes against me :
- I am a woman
- I am a non-Japanese Asian – a Filipina at that.
- I am pregnant
Of course, it doesn’t mean that I have ZERO chances of getting hired. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not impossible. But chances are really low. It might also be because I am picky nowadays – gone are the days when I’d settle for any 1000 Yen teaching jobs (roughly, 10$ per hour). I know my worth and I am not settling for less. I am also lucky to afford being picky – ie I am not desperate.
But let’s cut the crap. Even my partner- who is Eastern European – will have bigger chances of getting hired as an eikaiwa teacher simply because he looks the part , regardless of his English skill (his English is perfect with a cute accent!). He is WHITE.
To make matters worse, I am a Filipina. The Japanese hold prejudice against Filipinas. I guess a big factor was the influx of entertainers in the 80s and 90s. To sum it up, here’s a good answer on Quora posted anonymously:
Filipinos in Japan are met with indifference at best. But they’re generally uncool foreigners – pretty much like other Southeast Asians. Japanese people will notice that you’re a foreigner and simply go on their way or look down on you depending on the person. This is in comparison with other cool foreigners, especially White Westerners.
I’m half Filipino and half White American and I often just introduce myself as American first (because I teach English and I’m a US citizen). I most definitely have the cool factor almost everywhere I go. I feel very interesting. People would ask me about the US, what it’s like there, about me, etc. When I reveal that I’m half Filipino, conversations about my Filipino side are fleeting. They continue asking me about the US and seeing me as American. This tells you that Japanese people are simply uninterested in Filipinos and the Philippines in general.
Filipinos also fall short of the Japanese standard of beauty. A lot of people have called me ikemen (handsome) but when I tell them that I’m half Filipino, I’ve had a few instances when I heard something like, “You’re handsome even though you’re half Filipino,” or “You’re Mom is so pretty even though she’s Filipino.” When I took the Japanese girl that I dated to a Filipino festival in Tokyo, the first thing she said was, “Boy, aren’t you lucky you don’t look Filipino.” Japanese people are very polite and wouldn’t be caught dead saying things like this in front of a Filipino, but after a few drinks, when they lose their inhibitions, opinions come out.
As other people have pointed out, the Japayuki image of women is still alive here. (BTW, Japayuki is a Filipino term although is sounds Japanese.) If you’re a Filipino woman, especially if you married a Japanese man, you will be seen as a Japayuki. Never mind if you went to Kyoto University on scholarship, the image is pretty strong for some people. One Filipina blogged about her experiences here in Japan but I can’t find the link.
The only good thing is that people will be jealous of your English. That’s likely the only thing Japanese people will mention because they want to be polite and say something good, but that’s all they know – that’s all the good opinion they have of your nationality, most likely. But this doesn’t bring you status in Japan, unlike what another answerer said.
Within the English community (English teachers), you’re at the lowest of the totem pole. Your salary will be the lowest: I was pretty shocked when I heard my Filipino friend’s salary considering that she has an MA in TESOL and a BA in Early Childhood Education. I was making more than her and I only have a Japanese BA from the States with no teaching experience; You will also be the butt of jokes: Nothing is more offensive to an English teacher than be compared to a Filipino English teacher. I understand that this is because Filipinos aren’t native in English, but my point is that this doesn’t help in elevating the social status of Filipinos in Japan. People don’t view Filipinos as a skilled immigrant, but as a cheap laborer. Look at the adverts in Craigslist specifically looking for Filipino house cleaners and caretakers.
Simply put, Filipinos are just another immigrant from an impoverished country with no cool factor.
Japanese people are very polite and you will not experience any blatant discrimination here. Also, what I stated here are my observations and I tend to notice small details and perhaps overanalyze them.
Here’s the post on Reddit.
Are you a man or a woman? That would make a big difference. If you’re a woman, apply directly to any and all kindergarten and eikaiwa jobs. You’ll be hired in about 1.42 seconds. Seriously. They are desperate for women that are not from the Philippines.
I find that I am qualified to teach. I went to a Philippine university and was on scholarship at a Japanese university. I also went on a language program in Europe. I don’t have an accent (in Hawaii, they always thought I was a local and questioned my white partner where he was from instead!)I speak 3 languages plus I have JLPT 2. Yet, it’s so hard to get my foot in the door.
If you still want to come here, come at your own risk. Remember these things :
1) Discrimination here is not blatant. You will not be attacked on the streets. But doors that are open to you are jobs like factory jobs or cleaning jobs …..or even hostess jobs.
2) Remember, hostessing may be a thing of the past. But if the stigma of the war – which is over 50 years ago, is pretty much still alive (look at the Korean-Chinese-Japanese whudunit squabbles about the war), then so does the Japayuki “image” still linger. I still get asked if I used to be an entertainer.
3) It also doesn’t help that a lot of the remnants of the Japayuki era have stayed here in Japan. Many of these women are not college-graduates. It reinforces the image of “uneducated Filipinos”, fit only for blue collar jobs. (Compared to other countries, professionals are still few and far in between)
4)If you get to have a visa sponsored by a Japanese company to work as an engineer (or teacher, even), congratulations! But remember, with a Japanese company, Filipinos will never go up the corporate ladder. They don’t have the US concept of “working your way up” and promoting those who deserve to be promoted regardless of skin color. Treat it as a valuable job experience, a stepping stone to another company.
5) Because we don’t look the part, we have to work extra hard as our Western counterparts. Expect to get paid less too.
6) When you get here, please follow all the rules and make a better name for the Filipinos living here.
7) Those of us who stay have accepted that we cannot change the system. We aren’t Debito (Google). But we’re still here maybe because life is just much easier – in terms of crimes, traffic, pollution and quality of life – than back home. Yes, we do bitch and whine, and then we get on with our lives.