lifestyle

The Japanese summer as an ALT without air conditioning at school

24 Comments
By Victoria Vlisides

Being an assistant language teacher (ALT) in Japan is pretty amazing story-wise. It’s like being on an episode of "The Office" (the British or American version) in Japan and being surrounded not only by the quintessential characters you’d find in an office, but also a ton of kids to make it all that much more hilarious and fun.

One thing that isn’t fun, though, is how Japan hates air conditioning — even in the dead of summer, even in a facility that houses the young. With Japan’s ganbatte attitude (a utilitarian version of Nike’s “Just Do It!”), no one really gets used to 98 percent humidity in 32-degree Celsius temperatures in the summers in much of the country, but you learn to live with it. For spoiled Americans like me, it’s a pill a bit harder to swallow when your entire body is wet, clothes soaked, it’s only 9 a.m. and you gotta put on a happy face and get out there and teach ’em and reach ’em.

I’ve heard legends of some schools being located close to Narita International Airport so that they have to have the windows closed (because of the noise of the planes) and therefore must have air conditioning throughout the entire school. But this is a luxury mostly for the rich or for the… lucky. Most public schools will not have air conditioning in the general areas like hallways, bathrooms and gyms but may have it either in the classrooms (no lower than a steaming 27 or 26 degrees Celsius) or in the teachers’ office — usually not both. Perhaps you could not rightfully claim you are ganbatte-ing (fighting) if too much of the building is cool enough to form coherent thoughts.

Either way, ALTs learn a sweaty and resilient piece of Japanese culture through being a confused gaijin trapped inside for the summer and experiencing what most Japanese have or will. Right now, in the thick of it, it feels unbearable, but trust me, you’ll survive. Until then, here are a few memes not only for solidarity from all of us at GaijinPot, but also for a few laughs to get you through the day with this countdown. (Just try not to drip sweat into your mouth while laughing.)

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

24 Comments
Login to comment

Thankfully, for ALTs most of the summer is on vacation. Unfortunately, the public school ALTs will not get paid for it, which also means they can’t affird to run the aircon at home either.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Science has proven that student test scores significantly drop when classroom temperatures are this high. The score difference is something like 40% lower on average.

Good job, government.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I was a JET in Oita in 1993 and arrived in early August. The support was minimal from my supervisor. I showed up at school around the first week of August and just sat completely alone at my desk for a few days boiling in sweat. No other teachers or students were there, and finally the Vice Principal told me to go home until classes started. We were all paid 300,000 each month including August. Once classes started it got better and I enjoyed it. It was a good introduction into Japanese thinking though, more important to be there sitting than use common sense. This lack of support explains why a few people straight out quit, or became alcoholics for that year anyways.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I had an instructor friend (this was at a university, not a high school) who would ostentatiously carry a large thermometer around, and put it on his desk during classes in May and June, before the air-conditioning was switched on.

The moment the temperature got above the maximum set for workers by the local authorities, he would apologise to the students and end the class, explaining that he didn't want to be a party to a breach of labour laws.

Only happened once or twice a year, but a pretty admirable stance, I thought.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

It's not "gabatte" in this case, it's "gamon" - the culture of ignoring hardship while at the same time not even bothering to do something about it. This mindset is the one that forces girls to wear short skirts even in winter and doesn't allow them to put rights underneath; or tells workers they have to work until 12am for the good of them company. This is not one of the aspects of Japanese culture that I admire.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

This happens in many Japanese companies as well. I once asked an executive why they keep their offices so hot and they replied that office is not home, if it feels good then it won’t have the “work” feel.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Reckless, “It was a good introduction into Japanese thinking though, more important to be there sitting than use common sense.”

As you were the only one sitting there, it would seem to have proved the opposite.

girl_in_tokyoToday  11:39 am JST

“It's not "gabatte" in this case, it's "gamon"”

Did you mean “ganbatte” and “gaman”?

“doesn't allow them to put rights underneath”

tights?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

Thanks for the funny gifs.

I've worked in locations with expansive walk-in refridgerators and have seldom been left without company when taking breaks there.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

80s/90s building, there are box type of air conditioner....Japanese also love the sound of cicadas....anyway, Nice looking natural girl from some prefecture.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

ALTs shouldn't complain. They get a long holiday for doing nothing, at the taxpayers' expense

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

just scrap this totally useless dumb holiday system. Just an expensive waste of time

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Forget the aircon. Decades of English language "support" by ALTs, and you still end up with an ad in the photo above. Eyes rolling.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

ALTs put in a lot of hard work for low pay, the very least they deserve is a bit of air conditioning.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

They get a long holiday for doing nothing, at the taxpayers' expense

My understanding is the overwhelming majority of ALTs do not get paid during these holidays.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I hate aircon too.

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

@Reckless - I was a JET in Oita in 1993 and arrived in early August. The support was minimal from my supervisor. I showed up at school around the first week of August and just sat completely alone at my desk for a few days boiling in sweat. No other teachers or students were there, and finally the Vice Principal told me to go home until classes started. We were all paid 300,000 each month including August. Once classes started it got better and I enjoyed it. 

So, 20 years ago a JET's salary was ¥300,000 per month for the full year. Now, 20 years later, the salary is ¥220-240,000 per month with 50% salary in summer or, in some cases, no salary thorough August and half of July. It should be no surprise the number of JETs coming to Japan in the last two decades has dropped by 60%.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

So, 20 years ago a JET's salary was ¥300,000 per month for the full year. Now, 20 years later, the salary is ¥220-240,000 per month with 50% salary in summer or, in some cases, no salary thorough August and half of July. 

As far as I know they still make 300,000/month every month. Where are you getting this info?

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

So, 20 years ago a JET's salary was ¥300,000 per month for the full year. 

That's what I got 20 years ago, and a subsidised apartment. And travel money and the whole of August off.

Those were the days...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@Disillusioned: "So, 20 years ago a JET's salary was ¥300,000 per month for the full year. Now, 20 years later, the salary is ¥220-240,000 per month with 50% salary in summer or, in some cases, no salary thorough August and half of July. It should be no surprise the number of JETs coming to Japan in the last two decades has dropped by 60%."

Yes, that's right. Japan's economy was just starting to crack but the spending was still good. At that time the national government hired us abroad and we were all flown to Japan on JAL in business class with a few days at a Tokyo hotel for training. One guy was bounced from business class to economy and given 200,000 yen on the spot cash. It was amazing for me coming from Philadelphia where you could barely find a $5/hour job during the recession. I recall the yen was like 80 to the dollar for some part of that year and everyone was sending money home. Some Canadian guy saved more than half his salary to put a down payment on a home during his one year stint. For so-called JETs now, making that crap money, I suggest you do it nominally and then start your own school ASAP. You can make decent money with your own students, and then move into translation, etc.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Strangerland "As far as I know they still make 300,000/month every month. Where are you getting this info?"

Ummm, Have you heard of Interac or whatever they are called these days ?? I have plenty of friends who work for them and they certainly do not make 300,000 yen. Also they either don't get paid during August or receive a small salary to be on call. They also do not get paid for the winter break.

It's criminal as Interac get around 500,000 from the schools but pay the teacher less than half of it.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Just to clear it up , JET,s are still on 30K / month.......22 -25K are ALT,S working for hakken companies such as Interac.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Have you heard of Interac or whatever they are called these days ??

Yes, but Interac is not JET. JET is JET. So this is incorrect:

So, 20 years ago a JET's salary was ¥300,000 per month for the full year. Now, 20 years later, the salary is ¥220-240,000 per month with 50% salary in summer or, in some cases, no salary thorough August and half of July. 

JET teachers still make 300,000/,omth.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The Interac salary sounds frankly insulting. You can make as much in Vietnam at 1/4 living cost. Wouldn't even recommend Interac to first year college grad.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Judging by the photo above, ALTs dont deserve air conditioning.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites