On Returning to Japan

So here’s the deal…

We are already planning our return to Japan. We are going to be there for the last two weeks of June this year, but I am talking in a more long-term way.

It has been less than one year since we left Japan, but life gets complicated. Sometimes we can plan as much as we can to prevent things from happening, but they inevitably do.

Let’s take a few steps back and look at December of 2016…

After lots of deep thought and many late-night discussions, my wife and I came to the conclusion that we were basically boxed into a situation in Japan we couldn’t seem to claw our way out of.

I was working at an international school, but not receiving even close to the same compensation as my contemporaries at other schools. Raising a family in Japan (or anywhere) is also quite costly. It is even more costly when you have children who seem to have more health problems than the average kid.

Things had to change.

I knew I had the experience and resume to get a better teaching position at a much bigger school somewhere in the world. A little late in the job hunting season, I started applying to schools in January.

Most opportunities at really big schools that offered amazing packages were in China.

I had never contemplated living in China. I had heard all about the pollution and other stereotypes and that dissuaded me, BUT…I started getting some pretty amazing offers.

We decided to take an offer from a very well-known and respected school in Beijing. Their corporate-style package would take care of me as well as my family. The key to all of this would be the experience.

I would get more experience and more professional development training and make myself even more marketable on the global stage as an educator.

We moved to Beijing and I absolutely love my new job. I love having more resources than I have ever had before. I love my professional colleagues and administration. I get support and encouragement. I also have so much freedom as a classroom teacher. I started a Nature Club to connect kids from Grades 1-5 with something they rarely have contact with. I have even received a promotion for the next school year.

Everything is perfect! 

There’s a problem though…

We, of course, knew Beijing was far more polluted than Japan, but this past year hasn’t been too bad at all compared to years gone by. We have air filters in every room, wear masks on high AQI days, but the pollution combined with how insanely dry Beijing is have taken the toll on my kids.

My son has been getting sinus infections that have led to ear infections. My daughter was diagnosed with asthma. Doctors have told us that our children’s health problems are directly related to Beijing’s environment. Not good stuff….

We have now started to seriously discuss next steps.

The job market for teachers in Canada hasn’t been good for a very long time and I am not willing to move my family back there if I can only get work as a supply teacher.

I figure that I will probably be a career international school teacher. I am okay with that. It’s actually kind of exciting.

We are focusing on Japan in the future. That’s where we want to be. There aren’t as many international schools that offer the big opportunities as in other countries, but we will aim for my “second home.”

We may end up somewhere for a few years in between as I continue to develop professionally, but getting back to Japan is the goal!





The writer:

Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff.com. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Beijing, China with his family. Kevin called Kobe, Japan home for 10 years. He also runs makingbetterteachers.com.

FOLLOW ME ON Twitter: @madformaple

Instagram: @jlandkev

Facebook: Facebook.com/justjapanstuff

Email: justjapanpodcast@gmail.com



  1. Sorry to hear about the health of your children Kevin – that’s clearly a serious business and must create a hell of a challenge for you and your family.

    I hope you manage to find a solution (even if it includes an interim step) that you’re happy with.

    Keep up the terrific work!


  2. Whaaaat? WOW! I mean, the circumstances that are prompting this move back are not good, but I am glad to know that you will be back in Japan. And I’m sure there are a ton of other people who feel the same way! Hope you continue to find clarity as you search for the next destination! (It better be Kobe!)


  3. Sorry to hear that your children a not well. I would have never thought that the pollution would be that bad. I hope you’ll soon find an appropriate job and your children will have a more healthy environment and will be well again!


  4. Thanks so much for the update! I wish you all the best in your journey back to Japan. I’m sure you are missed! My son, daughter-in-law and I will be making our first trip to Tokyo next month. We are so excited! Thanks again for the update and we will continue to follow you and wish nothing but good things for you and your family on your journey.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s