I would say the worst experience in Japan I’ve had is witnessing the lack of control adults have for their own lives.
Being an English teaching assistant, I get to work inside a real Japanese school and office and understand bit by bit the politics that is “Japanese Education.”
One of these big factors are: unwanted promotions and unwanted transfers.
Once a year, the schools all over the prefecture gather and discuss which teachers go where. This is kept secret from the teachers until after the closing ceremony and their students go home for spring break.
I work with a woman who is teaching her junior-level students, who will be seniors next year and graduating. She was told she would be transferred. I came into work that morning to her crying at her desk. Teachers would come and give their sympathy, and she would cry more, saying she didn’t want it. You could feel that those were tears for her students. For the fact she wouldn’t be able to teach them again.
In Japan, homeroom teachers have their students for 3 years. In those 3 years they form strong bonds with each other, go on trips, laugh, cry, study hard, work hard, and do everything together. School culture in Japan is a whole new world. Having a homeroom teacher ripped away at the eve of their 3rd year is heart breaking.
I saw students trickle in during the break and come to her desk. They tried to speak normally but their voices cracked and the tears came. Some cried loudly, others cried into the teacher’s shoulder. I cried simply by watching. Watching a society where they take their teachers away from their students and force them through this heartbreak. A society where she will never be able to teach again. Because of a ‘promotion’ where she will be trained to be a vice principal, and perhaps later a principal.
She became a teacher to teach, and she was damn good at it. Being able to speak to 16 year old’s in an EFL society without trouble is an amazing feat. She won’t be able to watch them grow next year, she won’t be able to see them through their choices for Uni or working right away. She won’t be able to help them through the final doors of their education.
Instead, Japan makes her cry. Japan makes her students cry and their hearts break. Japan forces upon an adult a decision she didn’t want. Japan forced me to sit and hear a grown woman cry at her desk, saying how much she didn’t want it, saying how much she’d miss her students, saying how much she wanted to be a teacher, and she’s forced to accept the heart break.