How I am living cheaply in Fukuoka, Japan

I originally put this post about living in Japan cheaply on my other blog ESLinsider. Here is the post…

How I am living cheaply in Japan

I just moved to Fukuoka, Japan about 5 days ago. I have wanted to live here for quite a long time. Finally, I made it. One of the things that kept me out of Japan was the fact that I thought it was so expensive.

I think that is what most people think, right?

Well, I think it can be, but it’s not that expensive for me as at the moment  I would say that I am paying about $7-800 a month to live here.

My rent

I am living in what is called a sharehouse. I basically share a kitchen and bathroom with 8 other people and have my own room. That costs about 30,000 Yen a month plus 12,000 for utilities which is about $380.

I saw other places in Japan that were close to that price, but without a long term visa most places won’t rent to you. Many also want you to have a Japanese friend to act as a guarantor. There can also be a lot of fees: like a cleaning fee, key money, guarantor fee, deposits, and you sign a contract for a year.

I had to pay a deposit of 30,000, but only signed a contract for 6 months.

It’s pretty wimpy construction, but it’s alright for now.

If you are interested you can find these online by searching:

(insert city name here) sharehouse

Food

Some things seem a little cheaper and others not so much. Eggs are less than $2, milk is also less than $2 a litre, vegetables vary, The only thing I noticed that was a bit more expensive that I usually eat was sweet potatoes. They were like a few dollars more expensive for a lesser quantity.

I haven’t seen much of a selection for cheese which was expected as that was the same in other places I lived in Asia.

I am estimating that my bills will be similar to before in San Fran or maybe a little less.

I have been making a lot of soups with miso or soba noodles.

Transportation

I got this great bike so my transportation is free. I paid 6,800 Yen for this bike. I have been using it quite a bit as most things I need to get to are far. It’s about 7 kilometers to jiu-jitsu and a similar amount or more to get to the center of Fukuoka (Tenjin or Hakata).

Japanese lessons

I feel pretty excited to have found some lessons that are nearly free. The city government has a volunteer program at different government buildings throughout the city. These classes are like a $1 a class or $5 a month or maybe $10 for 6 months of lessons (usually one day a week), but there are classes everyday of the week in different locations.

At this point I am trying to match up my schedule so I can take the classes near or around the same time that I do jiu-jitsu.

Jiu-jitsu lessons

They are cheaper than in the States. The cost at the place where I am planning on going to is 10,800 a month which is about $100.

How long will I stay in Fukuoka?

As of right now I am on a tourist visa. I can stay here for 3 months and then I have to leave. I will probably just take a short trip to Busan, Korea where I used to live and come back for another 3 months.

Then I will have to decide if I want to stay in Japan for longer. If I do want to stay in Japan for longer then I will probably need to change my visa status. To do that I would need a different visa. Some of the ideas I have are:

  1. Apply for a cultural visa
  2. Find a job teaching English in Japan

The cultural visa is more appealing to me as I may be able to get that by studying judo, but I have not found anywhere to do that in Fukuoka. You’d think it would be easy to do, but not so.

There are lots of places for jiu-jitsu in Fukuoka, but the “BJJ” community on Reddit doesn’t think I could since “Brazilian” jiu-jitsu and Japanese jiu-jitsu are considered a bit different. Brazilian jiu-jitsu evolved from Japanese jiu-jitsu and emphasizes grappling on the ground and competition.

But I am still planning on asking my teacher about it after I have been training there a while.

As far as teaching English goes I have sort of been there and done that in China, Korea and Taiwan. Lately ESLinsider has been doing well and I have been able to live off of it. However, if something changes then I may need to get a job or perhaps a part time job that would give me a visa.

What does an online TEFL course involve?

What does an online TEFL course involve? Well, it depends on the course, but in this post I’ll focus on what ESLinsider’s advanced course involves.

The advanced course is “advanced” as according to research it uses the best methods to learn online. Some of these methods include the use of instructional videos and other visuals, feedback, writing, bite-sized learning, repetition, audio, etc.

Course syllabus

Here is a look at some of the topics in the advanced course.

  • Introduction (30 teachers share their experiences on video in Asia)
  • “Engrish” entrance exam (let’s make sure you speak English and not “Engrish”)
  • Teaching methods (7 different methods of teaching explored)
  • The teacher as a public speaker (How to captivate your students)
  • Learning styles (the old concept of learning styles & what to take from it)
  • Lesson planning (Learn 2 different preparation methods)
  • Presenting language (Learn how to introduce language to your students)
  • Teaching reading
  • Teaching speaking
  • Teaching writing
  • Teaching listening
  • Teaching pronunciation & phonics (Learn pronunciation tips for kids-adults)
  • Midterm
  • Grammar
  • Using games & activities (for enhanced learning & engagement)
  • Teaching with songs (How to use music to teach)
  • Dealing with problems in the classroom (Solutions to common problems)
  • Classroom management (How to handle the most difficult students)
  • Classroom management tips
  • Writing your resume (How to outshine the competition even without experience)
  • Finding jobs (Where to look, how to avoid scams and crappy employers)
  • Culture shock
  • Final exam
  • TEFL certification

Inside each level or topic you will find a variety of content that includes video, text, images and audio followed by questions and occasional assignments.

To proceed to the next level you need to maintain a grade of 80% or higher.

Entrance exam

This quiz is pretty short and easy if you are a native speaker. I also tried to make the course as entertaining as possible. Learning should be fun or interesting because if it’s not then you wont learn!

The same can be said for your future students.

Lesson planning assignments

This course uses images from common student books. You will be most likely using books that are similar to this when you get abroad. This course includes 4 lesson planning assignments with feedback so you can correct any errors that you may make.

Here’s one assignment focused on teaching vocabulary. Before you do the assignment you will receive instruction on how to do so. The feedback adds a little reinforcement.

Small chunks of reading

If you looked at the research above you will see that many people don’t actually read much online. So unlike some other courses that may be entirely text or require reading large amounts of text before taking quizzes, ESLinsider delivers content in small bits as to not overwhelm you.

And frequently there are instructional videos which make learning more enjoyable, faster and easier.

The videos are then followed by questions such as true or false or multiple choice. And if needed you can go back to the video and watch it again.

Learn more about the latest research on online TEFL or learn more about ESLinsider’s advanced TEFL course.

When Is The Best Time To Take An Online TEFL Course?

When is the best time to take an online TEFL course? This is a question that I don’t actually see people ask often or consider. Most people take courses whether they are online or onsite BEFORE they start.

But is this actually the best time?

Well, it improves your resume as it gives you a qualification, but as far as the training goes I don’t think it is for a couple of reasons.

The first reason why is because you haven’t started teaching yet and you have nothing to work with or compare it to. At this point teaching is still an abstract concept.

The second reason why is that there’s going to be a gap in between the time when you complete the course and when you start your job. So that is not going to help your memory of the course material.

If the online TEFL course wasn’t any good then that’s also not going to help your memory.

On average it will probably be at least a couple of months in between when you finish the course and start working.

How long do courses allow access to the courses?

Well, it depends on the course. Most online courses allow less than 6 months. Here are a couple of examples.

So when is the best time to take an online TEFL course?

Now contrary to popular belief which is you take a course before you start teaching I would say that if you are going to take a course just one time then I would take it after you start.

Why?

Because you will have context. The material will seem less abstract to you. It will probably be more helpful too because you will remember more of it.

But don’t I need the certification to get a job?

You can get a job with an online TEFL certificate, but you can also get a job without any TEFL course.

But won’t my job be difficult if I don’t know what to do on the first day?

Sure, but I think it’s going to be a bit difficult either way. Ideally you should take a course before you start and then after again for review. Research shows that repetition and spaced intervals between studying leads to better memory and retention.

I don’t think your first week or so will be that easy regardless so yes, taking it before should help, but I think it will be much more helpful if you start after you start your job for the reasons mentioned above.

So now you know more about the best time. But what is the best online TEFL course?

Is an online TEFL course enough? What do you mean by enough?

Is an online TEFL course enough? What do you mean by enough? Do you mean can you get a job with an online TEFL? Or do you mean is it good enough for the training?

In my experience teaching in Asia: China, Korea, and Taiwan I would say that most schools there will accept online TEFL courses, however it does depend on the school.

The schools that don’t accept online courses are often more prestigious or in places like Europe or the middle east. Most first time teachers do not get into these schools anyways unless they have experience.

So despite what you might have heard having an in-class course is not going to make a big or any difference in your chances of getting a job or making more money. Having TEFL experience matters more.

The course is just a start.

Are online TEFL courses any good? Well, that is going to depend on the course as all online courses are not created equally. What you take away from a course or what you learn is going to depend on the course and you.

Is an online TEFL course for you?

  • Are you a self-directed learner?
  • Are you self disciplined?
  • Are you independent or introverted?
  • Do you want to control the pace?
  • Are you planning to teach abroad for just 1-2 years?

If your answers are mostly yes to those questions then an online TEFL course may be better for you compared to an onsite TEFL course.

Now let’s talk about the training.

Here’s why most online TEFL courses are not good enough

How do online TEFL courses work? Well, it depends on the course, but for a lower quality one you read passages and then take quizzes or answer multiple choice questions. Now you can learn by reading, but if you have no visual element to it you’re going to have an awfully hard time remembering what you are studying.

Studies show that people tend to only read 20-28% of a page. So if you only read that much then how much do you think you will remember?

If you don’t remember what you studied in a course then how well do you think you will teach?

You need a visual to learn how to teach. For me the best way to learn how to teach was by watching other teachers. Now you can do that in a classroom or you can do it online with video.

A higher quality course is going to use a lot of instructional videos because studies show that people learn better with video compared to text.

It’s also more interesting.

You may have read that online courses are useless or worthless, but the people who say those things typically fall into a few groups:

  • Traditional learners
  • CELTA snobs
  • They took a cheap/low quality Groupon TEFL course
  • They never took an online course and are just repeating what others say

If you read r/tefl on Reddit you will soon find out that many people there are pro-CELTA. CELTA is supposed to be a good course, but it’s not for everyone especially those who are not in it for the long run, don’t teach adults, don’t want to cram, or pay $2000.

On the other end of the spectrum on Reddit are those that recommend taking the cheapest online TEFL you can get so you can “check the box”.

These people are only focused on appearances and getting the job, but getting a job is just the beginning.

A cheap course is cheap for a reason. You tend to get what you pay for. As mentioned above you probably won’t get instructional videos, feedback or a quality course.

Going with a low quality/cheap course will likely continue the circle of people saying online courses are worthless. So yeah they are worthless if you take the wrong course just to get a job (“check the box”) and you don’t learn.

I think the biggest factor for a successful experience with an online course is to have a visual. You should watch other teachers teach the same or similar students as you are going to teach. If you teach kids then you need to watch other teachers teach kids.

If you teach adults then some stuff will transfer to kids, but not all and vice versa.

Here is an advanced course that is especially focused on teaching kids (5-14) in Asia.

Why doesn’t ESLinsider have any 3rd party reviews?

Not Well-Known, Yet Has Invaluable Information and…” Kyle

Are you searching for reviews of ESLinsider’s TEFL courses? Wondering why there aren’t any on 3rd party sites? Or maybe you saw the reviews on ESLinsider and are wondering if they are fake or if there are any bad reviews of ESLinsider?

Towards the end of this article I’ll talk about the “bad reviews”, but now we’ll talk about why there aren’t any reviews on 3rd party sites.

But wait a second.

Actually there are on Youtube.

I’d like to point out that unlike many other courses ESLinsider actually has a lot of “reviews” on its videos on Youtube. And those videos are used in ESLinsider’s courses.

Here’s an example:

280,000+ views

1,700 likes and 98 dislikes.

Here’s a comment from one of the videos:

“I’m a new teacher and these videos really saved my hide (they still do) and my students like these activities a lot. I would like to thank you…” – Luiz Felipe

What about review sites?

If you are searching for reviews on ESLinsider then I’ll assume that you are also checking out other companies too and you have probably been to some review sites like:

  • gobroad.com
  • teflcoursereview.com
  • gooverseas.com

Those are affiliate sites.

They make money by referral links and advertising. You have to create an account there before people can leave reviews on your course.

I did initially create an account with either the goabroad or the gooverseas site (can’t remember which one as they look the same to me) a few years ago, but changed my mind and had it deleted for a few different reasons.

No, it wasn’t because of a bad review as I only had the account for like a week or two. But one reason was if I wanted a better position on their site and to be found there then I had to pay money.

Plus I was thinking, would it be better if I had reviews on another site or my own site?

So I decided to put the review software on my own site instead.

There are lots of affiliates in TEFL…

And chances are that you have come across them unknowingly. What that means is that a lot of the reviews that you may have read were written by someone who makes money by referring people to courses.

Once you click on their referral link which could be on sites like above or on blogs or a place like Quora you will be taken to another site and if you make a purchase on that site then the affiliate will make some money.

That’s fine if that’s what you want to do, but most people aren’t going to write a totally honest review if they are getting paid to do it and in many cases these people recommending these courses haven’t even taken the course.

Are paid reviews genuine?

Do a search in Google for these keywords:

  • tefl affiliates

And you will find a lot of companies – pages and pages of TEFL course companies that do this.

If you want to learn more about this then I recommend that you check out this article on TEFL affiliates.

Anyways…

ESLinsider doesn’t have an affiliate program. Maybe I could make more money doing that, but I just don’t like it.

I don’t know about you, but to me it’s not very genuine. It’s basically bribing people to write a review or link to your course.

I have read that many of the reviews written online are fake and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are plenty of fake reviews in the TEFL course world too.

Fake reviews

  • Yelp estimates 25% of it’s reviews are fake. Source
  • This source suggests Amazon has 200+ million fake reviews.
  • Some companies may offer discounts to customers who write reviews. Source
  • Some companies hire PR firms or someone on Fiverr to write fake reviews that are either positive or negative. Source
  • Companies may manipulate their customers to write reviews. (see below)

I read a story on Reddit a few years ago (which I can’t seem to find now) about a girl who had to write a review of the TEFL company before they gave her a certificate.

So as you can see some TEFL reviews may be fake or manipulated in some way.

ESLinsider is small

It’s not a large company. It’s run by one person. It’s been up and online since 2011. It didn’t actually start as a course. It started with how-to videos and an ebook. There was no course until 2012. It offers online training and resources for teachers especially focused on teaching kids in Asia.

All the reviews that are written on my site are written by people who have taken courses there. I also kept some testimonials (2012-2016) which started long before I set up the reviews on my site in 2016.

As of right now there are 25 (5 star) reviews on ESLinsider and one with just a rating. She left a 4 star rating, but no written review. I did ask if she would add it as I don’t mind constructive criticism, but she didn’t. I ask people if they can leave a review when they finish the course, however they aren’t obligated to.

There I do say that I may delete a review if they don’t use their name and email used in the course. But I only say that to prevent possible trolls or evil competitors from writing a malicious fake review like some of these people did below.

Does ESLinsider have any bad reviews?

Well, to be honest there are a couple that were written by trolls or should I say people who used anonymous accounts.

They didn’t take a course with ESLinsider.

One guy claimed that I was selling diplomas, perhaps he saw this drawing I did and believed it. But if you search Google for the keywords “ESLinsider diploma” you won’t find any place where you can buy a diploma.

And another guy called ESLinsider a “spam machine” and that I “smeared” competitors which I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a competitor using an anonymous account because of his comments defending affiliate marketing and advertising.

I wouldn’t say that I “smeared” any competitor. And most of the articles of reviews of other courses that I wrote on my site aren’t actually my reviews, but quotes from other people that I took off of Youtube, Reddit and other sites.

Some of the articles that I have written were before I even had a course like this one on lies.

I criticized the TEFL industry then and still do. I just tell it as I see it.

He also said something about a free course. I used to have a free course from about 2012 to 2016, but that was discontinued and that was mentioned in a blog post called, “Free TEFL is dead”.

A lot of his comments are lies or he is just misinformed like for example said I did affiliate marketing referring to an old article and interview with Alex Case. You can go ask Alex Case that or

He also criticized my “qualifications” or lack of them. True, I am not a licensed teacher, but I did graduate from Northern Arizona University and I have done 2 different TEFL/TESOL courses, but I don’t put that info on my blog because I think it’s irrelevant because they are just superficial qualifications.


“Not Well-Known, Yet Has Invaluable Information and Advice From a Great Teacher…

At first I was hesitant to take Ian’s Advanced Course, since there didn’t seem to be much information about it online. However, I can now say with full confidence that Ian has put together a masterclass catalog of teaching materials, each presented in a clear and logical way, with a great website to re-find anything if needed. The course pages seem to be frequently updated and Ian is incredibly quick to respond to submitted assignments or messages.

Direct communication with Ian is a huge plus. There are a few assignments to submit (Lesson Plans, mainly) and Ian gave me very detailed and meaningful feedback on every one. Also, the certificate looks very professional. I have no complaints about the course and everything exceeded my expectations! – Kyle P.

Read more reviews of ESLinsider’s online TEFL courses or ask me a question.

Also there are some reviews on a guide book that I wrote on Amazon and an interview below:

THE HAGWON

This is my latest creative work that I posted on Youtube and on ESLinsider. It’s about teaching in Korea. If you are a first timer then to teach in Korea you basically have 2 options for schools to teach in.

You either teach in a hagwon or in a public school. Hagwons are private institutes. There are quite a few horror stories online about teaching in hagwons.

Yet they are not all bad, but I decided to make my own horror story to help promote one of the latest ebooks that I wrote.

ESLinsider’s 10 Most Popular YouTube Videos

ESLinsider.com is a resource for those interested in teaching English abroad. It provides resources such as how-to videos, online TEFL courses, guides and a blog. It’s also a place where you can find out what’s it like teaching and living in Eastern Asia: China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan.

It has a strong presence on Youtube with over 200 videos and over a 1,500,000 views between two channels. This post will take a look at the 10 most popular videos.

Most of the videos are how-to videos shot in the classroom. The other videos posted here have to do with culture, money, advice from teachers and teaching ESL without a degree.

1. Teaching English To Kids in 5 Fun Steps


I took some time to make this one. My goal was to make it informative and fun. This video takes you through a lesson plan and gives you some structure as well as some ideas for class in a fun way.

The majority of the how-to videos were uploaded in 2011 this one was later in 2014 and it’s growing fast. At this rate this video will become the most popular video ESLinsider has on Youtube.

This video was filmed in a kindergarten in Busan, South Korea.

By the numbers since 2014:

  • 250,000+ views
  • 286 likes
  • 191 shares

“Amazing!!! I have my very first day teaching kids on a EFL context in Nicaragua! I’m pretty sure they will love a class like this one! Thanks!” – iMedia’s comment

2. The Preview – ESLinsider’s 1st Video On Youtube


This video and another longer version were the first to go on Youtube in 2010. This video was a preview of the videos that went on Youtube and on the site. It shows a sample of some of the how-to videos.

This video is a preview of 3 of the how-to videos.

  1. The first one is an icebreaker called “Categramble” that can be used with lower intermediate to advanced students.
  2. The second one is called “One Hand, Two Hands”. This is a listening activity that is used here to tell the difference between plural and singular nouns. It can be used with all levels.
  3. The third one is called “Whispers”. This is a speaking activity that works well with younger students through elementary school and sometimes even older.

This video contains footage from a public school in Changwon, South Korea and a kindergarten in Busan.

By the numbers since 2010:

  • 170,000+ views
  • 220+ likes
  • 73+ shares

“Nice video with very cute kids^^ What is the name of the song at the end of the video? Loved it! :)” – Leyl’s comment

This video is on a channel that was discontinued. The following videos are placed on ESLinsider’s main channel.

3. “Teacher Says” – A Warm-up/TPR Activity For Kids


This activity can be used as a warm up for kids or it can be used for teaching body parts and actions as well. It works well with young kids. If you can’t get them to make a mistake then that probably means they are too old for it or their level is too high.

In my experience it works until about 3rd or 4th grade.

This was filmed in a kindergarten in Busan, South Korea.

By the numbers since 2011:

  • 159,000+ views
  • 78+ likes
  • 50+ shares

“Loved it! Good strategy to teach human’s body parts!” – Shimeny Soares comment

4. “Line Up” – An Icebreaker


“Line Up” is an icebreaker that will work well on the first day of class. It’s a simple getting to know you activity with a twist.

This video was filmed in a public elementary school in Changwon, South Korea. As you can see the students here were adults. They were in fact parents of some of the children that I taught. There was an adult class once a week.

By the numbers since 2011:

  • 119,000+ views
  • 41+ likes
  • 26+ shares

“Great job!!!!!” – Cesar’s comment

5. “Sprite” – A Simple Vocabulary Activity


Sprite is a simple and effective game that works well with practicing vocabulary. Students get a chance to practice writing, speaking, and listening. It’s also fun too as they kids get to move around which is important.

This video was filmed in a public elementary school in Changwon, South Korea. These children were mostly in the fourth grade. I think some were in the 5th grade too.

By the numbers since 2011:

  • 48,000+ views
  • 58 likes
  • 39 shares

6. Why The Obsession With Asian Women


Did you know that according to some studies Asian women and white men are considered the most attractive by most people of different races?

By the numbers since 2012:

  • 44,000+ views
  • 173+ likes
  • 391+ comments
  • 20 shares

7. “Pass The Bag” – Vocabulary Game


This was another popular game for teaching vocabulary. It uses music which can be fun and refreshing. This video was filmed in a kindergarten in Busan.

By the numbers since 2011:

  • 43,000+ views
  • 62+ likes
  • 40+ shares

“Haha, they are sooo cute! And he is great at giving dynamic classes!” – Ursula’s comment

8. How much money can I make teaching English in Asia?


This video talks about how much money you can make teaching English in Northeast Asia. It specifically talks about hourly wages and salaries for teachers in South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and China.

I share my experience and how much I made teaching.

By the numbers since 2011:

  • 30,000+ views
  • 123 likes
  • 12 shares
  • 169 comments

A little note…

Some videos that I didn’t post here were a bit more popular in terms of views.

Such as:

However, there a few videos that are growing faster that were added later like the last 2 on this list. So I have included them here. I also thought they would add a little variety to this post.

9. Advice On Teaching Abroad From 26 ESL Teachers


I interviewed about 30 ESL teachers in China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan. One of the questions that I asked them was if they had any advice for newcomers. Here they share it.

By the numbers since 2014:

  • 26,000+ views
  • 170 likes
  • 34 shares

10. Teaching English In Asia Without A Degree Or As A Non-Native Speaker

This video talks about teaching in Asia without a degree or if you are not a native English speaker. Those are the two main requirements (degree + native speaker) that you usually need to teach there.

Teaching without those requirements can be illegal and sometimes it isn’t. It largely depends on how you get your visa. There are some loopholes to that.

I am also not advocating that or not, but rather just telling it like it is. It can be illegal and there are risks, but that being said most teachers abroad probably taught illegally at least once.

Read more about teaching English in Asia without a degree.

There are other videos with more views than this, but this one is newer and growing.

By the numbers since 2015:

  • 15,000+ views
  • 67+ likes
  • 7+ shares

So what other kinds of videos will you find there?

Most videos are how-to videos. You’ll find instruction and ideas on:

  • Lesson planning
  • Warm-up and icebreakers
  • Vocabulary games and activities
  • Sentence/Q&A games and activities
  • Teaching tips
  • Teaching numbers, reading, writing, etc.
  • Classroom management and more

All of these videos can be found on the site and you’ll also find written instructions below the video that you won’t find on Youtube. They are also organized better on the site.

You can catch the latest blog updates, get feeds from other teachers in Asia by following ESLinsider on Twitter. You can also read reviews of ESLinsider’s online TEFL courses.