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espie (Offline)
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Help finding a Child Friendly and laid back RURAL location - 08-26-2010, 12:48 AM

I am a single parent, and I intend on applying for the JET programme 2011. I would like to opt for a more quiet lifestyle. My son is 5 and would be attending a Japanese kindergarten.

I would like to know if anyone on here knows of a warmer, town/village that has a nice kindergarten, lower cost of living, close to coast (sea of japan, or pacific).

Please tell me your experience of living in rural Japan, or else please tell of experiences as JET ALT with children.

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08-26-2010, 01:40 AM

You can choose what type of environment you want to live in on the application.

Pretty much any place south of Hokkaido is "warmer". I don't think that will be the problem.

I am curious, however, if they will hire a single parent with a child. JET is essentially designed for single people. It is a one-way exchange program. Therefore there is a plane ticket for you, a single apartment, etc. set up in advance for a single person. There are times when you will need to stay overnight at places outside of home (like the renewer's conference), and these situations are not designed for children.

I realize that may be sound like a form of discrimination, and maybe it is, but unfortunately I can imagine the hiring committee thinking bringing a child is going to cause a lot of headaches for the school you are placed in. Naturally you are going to need assistance with school for your child, daycare,a pediatrician, etc. This may work against you.
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08-26-2010, 03:46 AM

I too sort of doubt that JET will be too keen on hiring a single parent, but who knows.

Any location away from the big cities will pretty much fit your criteria. Avoid Hokkaido and the mountains, and it will be "warmer" - although I am not sure of what you mean by that. Warmer than what?
Most communities have a preschool (hoikuen) - the nationally run version of kindergarten... But if you want a private kindergarten you may have to look around for one as they become scarce in the countryside.
The cost of living also drops anywhere outside the major cities. Or, really, outside the prefectures around Tokyo and the immediate area around Osaka. Most of the rest of the country is lower in cost.

I see you posted another thread with similar criteria, so I`ll stick my reply on that one in here too.

Quote:
Southern and warmer winters, (don't mind hot summers).
Most anything south of Tokyo doesn`t get much snow at all. Far south and you get blistering summers.

Quote:
Coastal, with access to fresh fish.
I would be hard pressed to come up with a location in Japan that did not have access to fresh fish. You could live somewhere the furthest from the coast as possible, and still have fresh sashimi grade fish available in every store.

Quote:
Isolated or not isolated, town, village.. not a city.
Be aware that Japanese "cities" are not always "cities" by the commonly understood meaning of the word. It`s a term used for administrative purposes. 50 relatively isolated villages and towns over a huge area can be called a "city". They are just administered as a whole and not individually.
On the other hand, you can have a "town" or "village" that is tiny in size, and crammed literally in the middle of an urban area. It just chose to administer itself rather than joining the city.

Quote:
Somewhere in Okinawa (what is a good safe preficture?)
A better question would be what is an unsafe prefecture. There are very few bad areas in Japan, and the ones I can think of are in Tokyo and Osaka. There really is no such thing as an unsafe prefecture.

Quote:
Around Kamogawa, Chiba
Anything in the prefectures around Tokyo risks being urban or at the least very "extended urban / suburban" and not rural.

My personal suggestion would be to look into the mountains, and along the northern coast.


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08-26-2010, 04:15 AM

Just for the record MMM, (at least in my prefecture) they don't send you away to any "renewers conference" any more. I think they chose to cut that out of the program(me) because it was considered a waste of money.

I've heard of parents/couples in JET before, but never have I heard of a single parent. If I were a single parent, JET (or something like it) is not something I'd like to do. The logistics of dealing with daycare and the like would be outrageous. As far as the "overnight stuff" goes (which you might have depending on your school) you can, and teachers often do, opt out of going. However, there are different "enkais" (I guess dinners/banquets with your coworkers) that you will have to go to out of obligation especially if you are in the inaka.

I live in the inaka. The town that I live in is one of the easiest and most comfortable places to live (as far as I'm concenred). The prefecture is often voted as being the place with the happiest/most satisfied residents (or something to that degree). However, there are areas that are EXTREMELY hard to live in. I'm talking having to drive like a half hour or an hour to get to a super market and getting snowed in during the winter (and having to shovel snow every single time you move your car). There is always the chance that you will get a place like that.

I'm just gonna say, I think your child will probably learn some Japanese while he or she is here, but I think it would hurt his or her overall education if it's only going to last for a couple of years (as the Japanese will likely be forgotten in 10 years or so). So if you speak and understand Japanese really well, then maybe. If you don't speak Japanese really well, then I think it would be a risk for your child (think about your kid getting really sick in a foreign country in which you don't speak the language too well... and you're in the mountains in the middle of nowhere.... when it's snowing). I am 100% sure that will happen if you get accepted. I think the program will think of this and immediately say no, so I wouldn't put any high hopes on getting in. I'm sorry to be so straight, but I think that's how it will go. If you are completely serious and prepared for everything then there is no sense in not trying though.
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08-26-2010, 04:31 AM

Would the mountains and northern coast not be cooler in the winter, Nyororin?

I am not sure where the OP is located, but finding a relatively dangerous prefecture in Japan is like looking for an empty glass at a bounenkai. (Too obscure?) There just aren't any.

I have not traveled extensively in Chiba, but my impression was it is pretty urban. I lived in Amagasaki, which is an industrial city between Kobe and Osaka. Actually there are several cities between Kobe and Osaka but riding a train it would almost be impossible to tell where one city ends and the next one begins (a couple rivers give hints).

However, if you go north to central and northern coast Hyogo there is a real distinction between the forests and mountains and the very small towns the pop up here and there.
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08-26-2010, 04:38 AM

Thank you for the replies, some information is helpful indeed.

Steven those obstacles you mention are those that I deal with on a daily basis in my own country anyway. Sure things would be much harder in a foreign country. Ask any single parent, they know what hard is, and would probably bang their chest and say, c'mon bring me some more. The logistics of dealing with daycare... logistics don't change that much with a partner.
Do people not use babysitters in Japan? (For the dinners etc)
If I were on a JET salary, surely in a remote area I could afford to pay somebody to mind my child at neccessary times.

For those curious if they would hire me. I'll let you know how it goes.

:-)

Keep the ideas of locations/experiences from parents coming! Much appreciated.
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08-26-2010, 04:55 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by MMM View Post
Would the mountains and northern coast not be cooler in the winter, Nyororin?
Mountains in the south - no.
The northern coast, in most places no. The ocean keeps the winter mild, but also keeps summer a bit milder.

Mountains along the northern coast? That would be one to avoid, but not what I intended to suggest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by espie
Do people not use babysitters in Japan? (For the dinners etc)
This may be a surprise to you - but they do not.
Japan simply does not have a culture of babysitting. The idea actually tends to shock a lot of people as it is simply not done.

You can find evening/night childcare services, but expect to pay enough that it WOULD be pretty painful even on a JET salary (6000yen/hr after 8pm). And that is in the city, where you can actually find that sort of service. I can guarantee there would be nothing of the sort in the countryside.
You may find info on inexpensive babysitting services, but they are provided by the local government only in the event of an emergency (usually medical) which a dinner is not.

I understand that being a single parent is a stress anywhere, but single parent culture in Japan is very very niche and the type of support you are accustomed to is likely not going to be found. Daycare/preschool/kindergarten is an end at 3pm thing - and you can pay a huge extra fee to get them to extend it to 5pm at the latest.

In most cases single parents choose to live close to or with their extended family for the childcare grandparents provide.

When this isn`t possible, what happens is that single parents receive government housing support to reduce their cost of living and take on employment that can be tailored to fit the childcare schedule.

The other way around isn`t feasible at least until later in the child`s schooling. (ie. There are after elementary school programs at libraries, etc, that last until 6pm, and then after 3rd grade last until 7pm.)

But these are things you really would have to be in the city to even find. A rural setting is pretty much to the last place I would choose to go as a single parent with no family support.


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08-26-2010, 05:12 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by espie View Post
Thank you for the replies, some information is helpful indeed.

Steven those obstacles you mention are those that I deal with on a daily basis in my own country anyway. Sure things would be much harder in a foreign country. Ask any single parent, they know what hard is, and would probably bang their chest and say, c'mon bring me some more. The logistics of dealing with daycare... logistics don't change that much with a partner.
Do people not use babysitters in Japan? (For the dinners etc)
If I were on a JET salary, surely in a remote area I could afford to pay somebody to mind my child at neccessary times.

For those curious if they would hire me. I'll let you know how it goes.

:-)

Keep the ideas of locations/experiences from parents coming! Much appreciated.
Compared to the US, babysitters are pretty rare in Japan. Couples would either not "go out" or drop the child off with a relative. (Adoption outside of families is also very rare.)

Just curious, how is your Japanese?

I understand being a single mom makes you a bit thick skinned and a problem solver, but imagine being a college student in America, and then imagine being a college student in a country where you don't speak the language and few speak English. Everything becomes a challenge. It's one thing when a college student can't find a fresh milk or find a doctor, but it is different when the mother of a 5-year-old can't. I am not saying this is my thinking, but may be the thinking of your potential employer.

In some ways it is like applying to be a au pair or a camp counselor as a single parent.
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08-26-2010, 05:33 AM

I like the points that you both make, and it makes me consider that I must be wise in my choice of location, and must make my survivability obvious in my application.
Studied Japanese for a few years at university, but actually ended up in Mexico for two years and became fluent in Spanish. So the basics and capacity to learn Japanese are all there. Time to brush up.
MMM I like how you compare Jet to Au pairs. However, I have certainly heard interesting stories of single mothers and overseas employment. Being one, I visit plenty of forums. Speaking of...I shall now investigate whether au pairs like Japan :-P
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08-26-2010, 06:04 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by espie View Post
I like the points that you both make, and it makes me consider that I must be wise in my choice of location, and must make my survivability obvious in my application.
Studied Japanese for a few years at university, but actually ended up in Mexico for two years and became fluent in Spanish. So the basics and capacity to learn Japanese are all there. Time to brush up.
MMM I like how you compare Jet to Au pairs. However, I have certainly heard interesting stories of single mothers and overseas employment. Being one, I visit plenty of forums. Speaking of...I shall now investigate whether au pairs like Japan :-P
There are no au pairs in Japan. Just as there aren't any in the US. US has nannies. You won't find those in Japan, either. Having non-family take care of your children after 5pm is a kind of foreign idea.

I am glad to hear you have studied some Japanese. That is going to go a long way in terms of survivability.

I wouldn't spend too much time dwelling on the choice of location, as that is just a question on the application that is asked in case they WANT you so bad they will pull strings to get you into the exact location you want.

Let me put it this way, I requested Tokyo, Nagoya and Fukuoka, (because I had friends in each of those cities) and got a city outside of Osaka, nowhere near any of my choices. In the end, I wouldn't have changed a thing. However, I spent 15 minutes thinking of my placement "choices". In reality, they will place you wherever they want to, assuming they hire you. The program has been shrinking over the last eight years, and the number of applicants has been going up. It is very competitive now.
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