Hello everyone! I am a 2011 shortlisted applicant with a couple of questions regarding doing the programme with a dependent. I should also note that I know that every situation is different, or "ESID" as I've seen it lovingly referred to on these forums.
I'm not looking for a specific answer to my question so much as I am just interested in what others in similar situations have done.
I intend on going to Japan with a dependent for the JET programme and both her and I are wondering what she can occupy herself with while we are living there for a year. We are both recent graduates from university with a fair amount of loans to pay off so ideally we would both be working during our time in Japan, but we accept the possibility that this is probably not an option. In a situation I'm sure others have been in, the problem exists in that her Japanese language ability is non-existent. While not working for a year sounds great, she would really like to involve herself in something while in Japan. How realistic is it to think that she would be able to find any sort of position - paid or otherwise - without speaking the language? I have heard that in larger cities it is possible to get a position with only speaking English and a token amount of Japanese, but is there any truth to these reports? Is tutoring in English in the location I am assigned a viable option? Outside of paid employment, has anyone had any success in their dependents finding volunteer opportunities while in Japan? And speaking more generally, what kinds of experiences have others in similar positions had?
Thanks in advance for any answers/insight you provide!
Currently I'm a dependent (former JET), as my husband is still a JET. I found part-time work teaching English, and now I do freelance work at home (mostly online, including writing). It's not too difficult to find part-time work (in English), depending on your location, though certain times of the year typically offer more jobs than others. There are plenty of sites online you can find postings for teaching jobs, many part-time.
As for volunteering, that is a bit trickier. My husband and I have done different types of volunteering, but in most cases we've had to arrange things in Japanese. However, there are some English-type schools or daycares that would willingly take on volunteers (if you have any like that in your area). Sometimes you can also arrange something with your local elementary school, though some level of Japanese would probably still be necessary unless someone at the school is fine with English. Or, depending on your prefecture, you have may have JETs in your area that are currently volunteering somewhere. For example, Smile Kids Japan is a nationwide org that started in Fukui, and there are now ALTs around Japan volunteering at local orphanages because of it. It helps to have someone set things up that speaks Japanese, but if there is a group of ALTs, your wife could potentially join them. Or start something and recruit someone who does speak Japanese to help out.
Other than that, taking up a hobby, joining a local gym, taking some online classes, etc., are all good ways to stay occupied and enjoy life here. And some of those things will actually likely help to learn Japanese in any case, and aren't always difficult to get by with little English.
Anyway, let me know if you have any specific questions - it would be a bit easier to know what's available depending on your location, and also talking to other JETs in your area to see what they do or have done.