Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Update on visiting Shiramizu!

Richard here,

Shiramizu continues to be very active in Sugito, Saitama, Japan.

Also Koike Sensei won a gold medal at the Wadokai World Cup last August in Nagoya.

And Arakawa Sensei again plans to visit Kenzen Sports Karate in Victoria, Canada in March with the International Budo University karate team.

For those interested in visiting Shiramizu, please contact Arakawa Sensei directly by sending an English email.

arakawa.takamasa at nifty dot com

If you want to train at Shiramizu for a longer period of a week, Arakawa Sensei is still happy to received people.

Most foreigners can get a 90-day visitors visa when they arrive in Japan as long as they either have a return ticket for within those 90-days or they apply to the Japanese embassy in their country before they leave.

If anyone wants to stay longer than 3 months, please read the previous posts on traveling to Japan.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Basic tips of living in Japan to train Karate while working

Richard here,

Recently I had some emails from people wanting to come to Japan to train at Shiramizu for longer than a 3 month tourist visa, so here's some straight forward advice we normally pass along when asked.

People from the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Korea, and Hong kong can get 12 months on the working holiday visa - it's either an initial 6
months then easily renewed for another 6 months here, or sometimes the Japanese embassy office
 just stamps 12 months in your passport prior to departure. If you are not from these countries then look at the Japanese cultural visa and a dojo to sponsor you. After you arrive you can apply for a work permit to teach 20hrs a week - learn karate and teach English - as immigration will not give out work permits to teach what you came to learn.

Shiramizu fee for training any time is 3000-4000yen per month. Tournaments, camps and special events are extra.

Accommodation varies - foreign guest houses (gaijin houses) can have
shared rooms from 20,000-40,000yen, single rooms from 30,000-50,000yen.

Full apartments are maybe 50,000-90,000 if you live outside Tokyo up
in Saitama by the dojo, but then you also need to furnish it, and
perhaps pay key money and deposit money.

30,000yen should be more than enough for food, and normally cooking 
yourself most of the time is a good idea, but there are many cheap food options for the
average person here.

Google is the best tool for learning how to live and work in Japan so be
creative in how you make your searches.

The work and school schedules run April to March, so the main job
hunting season is from December to March for starting in April.

However, people quit the English teaching jobs all the time, so starting in
Sept or Jan or anytime is possible. is pretty good, but there are other job posting websites so
google around. Tokyo Craigslist normally has lots too.

Every single message you send to someone if you start applying online,
by fax or by snail mail has to be properly worded if you're looking for
English conversation jobs. One's skill as a perfect 'native-level speaker' is the main selling point so it's important to make no English mistakes in your daily communication.

So, the best advice is,
-Save money for 3 to 6 months prior to coming, or even 12 months.

Don't buy unnecessary things as there are more than enough things to spend money on in Japan.

-While you're saving money, google all the time to find interesting
websites so you can read a lot about working and living in Japan.
The Gaijin Pot forum has lots of threads on working and living here - some
threads are not so handy, but some have good info on whatever you're interested in.

-Then pick your time, apply to lots of jobs, aim for a few gaijin
houses to rent a room, get your working holiday visa and just come

The other option is get a 4-year degree in whatever in English from an English university and then get a 
company to sponsor you to come to Japan. Or get a degree in IT or something many Japanese companies will want to hire for.

Interac Japan is an English job agency for putting native speakers in
schools to help English teachers teach English. Native speakers in these positions are called Assistant Language Teachers, ALT's, so no teaching license is needed.

To be hired as an ALT, you just need a 4-year degree in anything from an English university.

The JET program can also bring you over after you have a degree as an ALT.

Interac  get the work visa for you, and help find an apartment, but you pay your own way over. Sometimes jobs open up during the year when people suddenly quit, like to go traveling to Thailand, which is unprofessional by not finishing the contract, but it opens up positions for other people.

With JET, they pay your way over and find your apartment, but you
can't choose your city so many people end up not where they want to be.

It's a great idea to travel around Asia during time off periods, especially since traveling there and spending time there is so inexpensive, but it's very important to finish whatever contracts one has signed on to complete.
Best to aim for being near a big city. The biggest city in Saitama is Omiya.

There are karate dojos absolutely everywhere, but Shiramizu is
probably the best in terms how positive and supportive they are for
foreigners. There are lots of Japanese dojos that just ignore an foreigner in the dojo for a
long time before maybe accepting them.

So you might want to look for a job in Saitama.

Make sure to use Google Maps so you can see where things are.

Jorudan is a good train trip planning website, so if you try to live
near the dojo in Sugito City, and for example you see a job in
Kawaguchi City, you can check what the local train stations are and
see how long the trip would be.

Traveling an 30-60mins by train to work is common here. All companies
always pay for all your train fare at the end of the month which is
nice, or they add a little extra to the hourly wage to cover it.

Lots of people on the working holiday visa tend to have 2 to 3
part-time jobs to cover their monthly expenses.

A good goal to aim for is to try to make 150,000yen per month, and spend 1/3 on
rent, leaving you with the rest for to live on.

Everything over that you should save.
Lots and lots of people can do this as long as they are able to accept
living in a small shared spaces.

I know people who have survived here on much less, but they get
creative on how to live cheap, plus they focus their energies on only
a few things.

The goal for being here is to be outside doing things, going to the
dojo, learning Japanese, meeting people, etc, so having a small, but
convenient place to stay is a good idea.

A budget of 1000yen is good for daily expenses,
lunch, etc. Then if you don't spend 1000yen in one day, you save the
extra for the weekend. This way you never go broke, as long as you don't spend too much.

Teaching eikaiwa (Eignlish conversation classes) is the normal way to earn money by teaching English. Normal wages are 
2000-3000yen an hour for normally a 3 to 7
hour shift.
Trying to earn 8000-10,000yen a day is a good idea.

ALT jobs pay from 210,000 to 300,000yen per month, but again, you need the
4-year university degree and the company in Japan has to sponsor you.

Teaching private English lessons is another good way to earn extra cash.
Normally for 3000yen an hour, you meet the person at a coffee
shop and just chat, or check their English homework. If you are good
at asking people if they want a private lesson without coming on too
strong, you can actually get quite a few clients very fast. I know a few guys
who were doing one or two a day for many years, so they had lots of
extra cash on hand.

Working in a store or restaurant is normally 800-1000yen an hour.

There is no culture of tipping restaurant or hotel staff at all in Japan.

You pay what you see.

Tipping is done by basically people continuing to use the service they
like. If someone likes your private lessons, they will never cancel
each week and they'll tell their friends about you, plus invite you
out for dinner and day trips.

In terms of karate training, I think the Shiramizu adults classes are
Tue/Thu/Sat 7:30-9:30 right now, plus Wed morning.

They have 2 full-time dojo with dozens of kids and high school
classes, plus lots of high performance. The high school kids are normally
better than most adults so training with them is good too.

Probably 450 kids and 50 adults total.
If there is no class scheduled at different times during the day, you can use the dojo space for personal training.

Arakawa Sensei is the nicest guy in the world, one of the best instructors to study
from, very professional and everyday he is doing dojo classes and
karate business, like organising many, many events.

The intern website has years and years of information that if you read through you'll learn
quite a lot.

And, if someone does end up coming to Japan and wanting to come to
Shiramizu, let me know, I or someone from the dojo will meet you at
Narita airport and guide you into the city.

And google lots, take notes, bookmark good sites, as lots of ALT's and
JETs have blogs about Japan, plus other non-Japanese in IT or finance or house building or whatever. Some are recent, and some old inactive sites.

On some blogs about Japan people just complain that Japan is not like 'back home' (so they should have stayed home), but lots of people write about living and working
here successfully.

Japan has lots of problems, but for someone who wants to come over for a year to work hard and train hard, you can really get a lot out of it.

Japan matures people and sharpens them up because this is a
very active country where most people are overall driven to do things well.

So, if you really want to get over here, you will.

If anyone has any specific questions you can't find answers for, just email me at the intern gmail account.


Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's card: nenkajo!

Here the Shiramizu New Year's card, listing the main events of 2011 on the right and the contact information on the left.

Around January 20th we'll announce who will be the next selected intern for the 2012 position.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Year end practice! And Happy New Year!

On Friday, December 23 (a national holiday), over 300 Shiramizu students assembled at a local recreation center gym to participate in the last practice of the year. At the end of the practice was the annual '1000-punches' (zenbontsuki). Not only was it a great practice for everyone, but those students who did well in competitions, from local to the national championships to the Asian championships, received special gifts of recognition.

Afterwards many of the core adults had some good fun at the year-end party (bonenkai), a very important event for all companies, schools and of course karate clubs in Japan. I'm sure everyone have many bonenkai to attend due to different commitments. (This is different from the shinenkai, the beginning of year party in just a few weeks - sweet!)

It's truly been a unique year, very topsy-turvy from the triple disaster on March 13, to the 2nd full-time dojo opening in Satte City, to multiple interns coming and going, to the internship being reset again for 2012.

As things have gotten back to normal, I think it's amazing how Shiramizu has continued to grow and be vibrant, both in getting new members, in current members deepening their traditional knowledge of Wadoryu karate plus in members now growing up to be adults who are achieving great things in different competitive leagues (high school, university and adult) plus moving up the dan ranks.

For visitors coming to sleepy Sugito City where the head dojo is, about one hour north of Tokyo, probably no one would ever think such a small place could produce so many members creating a vibrant, active club run by professional karate instructors. As I think about all the professional instructors I have known over the past 25 years, while many have had one or two very good strengths as an instructor, no one has been as well rounded as Arakawa Sensei, nor as consistent day after day, year after year, at teaching and promoting, not to mention event hosting, in such a positive manner. I myself as a pro coach concede this fact, but that's why I still learn from Arakawa Sensei, and that's why so many people come to visit the dojo. No one is perfect, but the infectious energy for karate here at Shiramizu is great to experience.

Happy New Year to our many, many readers. We wish you all a great 2012. Look for the intern blog to again be very active over the new few months. Plus we also look forward to all our visitors again showing up, which I think starts with quite a few people coming from Canada in just a few weeks.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

2012 Intern application deadline extended to January 31

While we've had some interest in the 2012 Internship starting in April, no one qualified has yet to step forward. Therefore, we'll extend the application deadline to January 31, 2012!

Some questions I have received recently;

1. Is Tokyo safe? (some worries over the Fukushima reactor problem slowly being fixed).

Yes, it's safe, life is carrying on, monitoring by the government and non-government agencies at all levels happens everyday and the 'fear of the unknown' has subsided quite a bit.

It's good to look at the other programs accepting foreigners, like the universities, as they all saw a drop right after the triple March 11 disaster, but by September, most foreign student levels were back to normal in Tokyo. At my university which is extremely popular with foreign university students, hundreds of students from around the world are on campus.

While there is quite a bit of good/so-so/bad/incorrect news floating around, the Fukushima problem is getting closer to being resolved.

I must say this is a very good time to be in Japan because the triple disaster has finally awoken Japanese people to be much more proactive in politics and social issues, to the point civil society (charities, non-profits, volunteer groups) for all kinds of issues have starting popping up.

2. Is airfare included?

No, it's not included, but if the selected applicant has the right karate background, they can earn extra money assisting some of the karate classes and at the end of the year receive a substantial payment from the dojo that will most likely equal their return airfare.

3. Can I do other things not karate related?

Sure! We expect the intern to act as a professional taking care of the English classes and to attend the required karate lessons/events etc, but other than that, the intern can do whatever they want.

Again, for those interested, please read over the application information and send us an application by email.

Thank you,

Friday, October 28, 2011

UPDATE! Working holiday visa & high school diploma ok for internship

Richard here,

UPDATE: Application deadline extended to January 31, 2012!

Internship application update.

1) Working holiday visa only ok
2) High school diploma or equivalent ok, no college/university degree needed
3) Dates are slightly changed to April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2013

The dojo informs me that they will accept a new intern from next April 2012 on only a 'working holiday visa' & the intern also only needs a high school diploma, not a university degree.

This is very good news as it is much easier to acquire this visa from a Japanese embassy or consulate if you are from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Ireland or Hong Kong, aka 'the English-speaking' countries in the program.

(As an aside just to head off all the questions I know I will get like previous years as to why Americans are not allowed to participate, it was explained to me that while Japan would be ok with the US joining, there is no political interest in the US for making the program reciprocal to Japanese, hence the two countries have not made an agreement.)

Official information for each country can be found here on the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Working holiday visa applications are received by the selected applicant
directly going to their local Japanese embassy or consulate within 3 months of planning to arrive in Japan.
The dojo is not involved in visa applications.

A 'working visa' is different from a 'working holiday visa' in that the work visa applicant needs a university degree and they must be sponsored by the host company in Japan.

The purpose of the working holiday visa is for the applicant to focus on cultural activities and travel in Japan, with working part-time being a secondary purpose. This matches the internship perfectly.

If an applicant is from a country not in the working holiday visa program, they will have to prove they either already have an acceptable visa or they can get a visa on their own as the dojo can not sponsor any visas this time.

Internship applications will be accepted until November 30th.
UPDATE: Application deadline extended to January 31, 2012!

For all the details about applying, click here!


Monday, October 17, 2011

Slow but steady

Hi, Jonas here.

My cold has finally gone away, and I am back in the dojo!

I was really worried that I would have forgotten the katas after almost a week and half of absence from training, but after a couple of minutes of guidance from the teachers I was back in the game.

I find that remembering movements and such is quite different from just remembering something mentally. Physical movements seem to stay with you much deeper. Even though you feel like you have forgotten, if you just start doing it (moving your body) somehow it just naturally comes back to you. Quite an interesting sensation.

But giving your brain a little help on the way is never a bad idea. During my cold I took my time to finally read and watch some of the karate learning material that is in the intern apartment. The Shiramizu DVD and, "Introduction to karate" by Shingo Ohgami.

I have finally been able to remember both Pinan Shodan and Nidan, and the Shiramizu DVD has has been a great help with in memorizing all the movements.
I am still very insecure about all the stances, especially neko ashi dachi, but I guess stuff like that only comes with time so I will just have to hang in there.

ファイト Fight!

Book I was recomended, actually written by a Sensei living in Sweden of all places!

The Shirmizu DVD, great for studying at home!