You've heard about the good, the bad, and the ugly. You've seen what can go wrong, what will go wrong. And hopefully by now, you know a little more about Japan and AEON than when you first came upon Keeping Pace in Japan.
So what will you do? Cancel your trip? Stop filling out the eikaiwa applications? Try to find another way to join the ranks of the gaikokujin?
In my opinion - and this is based on the opinion of someone who, overall, had a good experience his first year in Japan, despite inconsistencies and lies in his place of employment – the eikaiwa is probably the best means a first-timer has of coming to Japan. And AEON is one of the better English-teaching schools, despite its faults. NOVA may soon be out of business, GEOS is on roughly the same level as AEON, and ECC may have the best vacation schedule, but they're not the easiest people to contact (interviews every six months and only in select cities).
So why am I saying this? I've spent the last five entries talking about nothing but problems and aggravations... why endorse a company that allows such activities? You don't have a whole lot of options. If you are creative and resourceful, the best option of coming to Japan would be:
1. First build up your Japanese to JLP 2 at least, and give yourself at least 500,000 yen for a safe buffer zone.
2. Drop everything and just fly to Nippon. Enter the country with a three-month tourist visa and start looking for work. You can work contract jobs (though technically illegal) without reporting the income, and stay in a cheap gaijin house until something comes up. Without a gaijin card, you cannot get a bank account (which rules out a few jobs payable only by electronic transfer, most gyms, etc.), or an apartment (as far as I know).
3. If you find a stable job within three months you can change your visa status to a working visa, get a gaijin card, and begin anew. I've been told you have to leave the country to change your status from a tourist to working visa – any experience on this? Email me.
4. If you can't find a job within three months, you can have your tourist visa renewed for another three, or leave the country (to Korea or China) for a few days and come back on a new three-month visa. Nothing illegal there.
Some people have done this, and had it work out for them. As you can see, it can be a hassle, and you would have to be constantly looking over your shoulder if immigration decided to play catch-up with your paperwork.
To avoid this, I do believe it's best to come in with a stable company, a valid visa, and go from there. If you're anything like me, once you've lived in Japan for several months, and discovered the essentials of living and the pace of the world, you know you can survive anywhere. AEON helps you with a bank account, foreigner registration, a cell phone, language skills, and an apartment. Your keys to survival.
So what about taking advantage of AEON's offer, entering the country, getting set up, and then resigning? ...possible. I don't recommend this for two reasons: financial and traditional. I'm old-fashioned when it comes to work, and believe in fulfilling your commitments (though I've had this tested very often). Financially, though, you'd be giving up a great deal of money - 65,000 yen contract bonus, about 50,000-60,000 yen for the cash equivalent of your plane ticket home, and all the money you would need to start over in a new city; you can't stay in the company apartment if you're not working for them.
Although it's not my personal choice, I can definitely see why some people would choose to quit the eikaiwa world and find a better job more suited to their skills. This works ten times better if your Japanese ability is JLP 2 or greater.
Don't base your opinions on teacher's personal weblogs, not even mine – although I'm trying to give you more information than I've ever seen about AEON online, it is still a shadow of the actual experience.
Take some time and think it over. Look at the facts you have, and the unknowns (I can help you there as best I can). Know that no matter what happens, you will give up a level of comfort you have come to expect in your country, your home, your job. If you can accept this, keep an open mind, and see yourself experiencing another culture, we just might have a place for you here.
Ganbare (good luck).
The Truth About AEON: Part I
The Truth About AEON: Part II
The Truth About AEON: Part III
The Truth About AEON: Part IV
The Truth About AEON: Part V
The Truth About AEON: Part VI
The Truth About AEON: Part VII