“I came to Japan on a working holiday scheme and I’m enjoying working and traveling,” says English language teacher Ada TSO. “I’d recommend working holidays to people who’ve just graduated from college and to those who want to start a completely new life. I myself quit a job to come to Japan because I wanted to live and work here while I was still young.”
Ada was born in Hong Kong and grew up in New Zealand. “Every day I communicated in Cantonese and Mandarin with my family and Chinese immigrant neighbors, while speaking English at school,” she recalls. “When I was a child, my older brother often watched Japanese cartoons translated into Cantonese and I enjoyed ‘Doraemon’ and other programs with him. That’s how I came to be interested in Japanese anime and manga. I love ‘One Piece,’” she says with a smile.
Ada took Japanese language courses in high school and university. While still in university, she came to Japan on an exchange program and studied at Sophia University for half a year. “It was a marvelous experience,” she says nostalgically. “So many Japanese students wanted to be friends with foreigners. We traveled a lot together. Some of them came all the way to New Zealand to visit after I returned home.”
After graduating from university, Ada worked for a radio station in Auckland. “I worked as a news reporter and also as a moderator in public debates before elections.” She left that job after two years and returned to Japan for a year.
“It’s a pity that because I teach English, I don’t have much opportunity to speak Japanese,” she says with a wry smile. She doesn’t attend a Japanese language school. “That’s why, when I get the chance to speak Japanese, I try practice my conversation as much as possible. On my days off, I memorize grammar and words with study-aid books. Unlike my student days, I now work full-time and it’s hard to maintain my motivation for studying. To spur myself on, I’ve made a goal of passing the N2 grade (of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test) before the end of this stay in Japan.”
Ada sometimes works as a narrator in English and Cantonese. Most companies, however, don’t want to hire foreigners with a working holiday visa. “That’s why the majority of people here on a working visa have no choice but to become English teachers,” Ada says regretfully. “People who want to improve their career prospects, would do better to obtain a working visa by finding a Japanese employer before entering Japan,” she says.
“Prices are high in Japan, but there are ways to save money. I found this site called tokyocheapo.com and discovered there were cheap shops like 100-yen shops and Matsuya,” says Ada. She now lives in a shared house to save on her rent. “The lower cost isn’t the only benefit of a shared house. You also get to know people from different countries, so you can make friends to go sightseeing with around Japan.”
Ada visits cafes in her free time. “For me, the ideal confectionary does not only taste good, but looks good and also smells good. I’m researching exceptional confectionary by taking photographs. After returning to New Zealand, I want to work and save money in order to have a cafe of my own one day. I think the experience of tasting sweets and green tea in Japan will be useful then,” she says.
Text: SAZAKI Ryo
[From Novemberber Issue 2014]