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Hosea Baker ’02
GoodBye Albright, Konichiwa Japan!

Hosea Baker '02

Ringing bicycle bells, crowded streets, and millions of Japanese faces greeted Hosea Baker’02, a fresh college graduate, as he explored the streets in his new hometown of Osaka, Japan. Four and a half years later, Baker still hears those ringing bicycle bells everyday as he makes his way to his teaching job at Daisho Gakuen High School.

Baker, an English and religious studies major, teaches English at the Japanese school. Like most college seniors, Baker scrambled to find a job before he graduated. Originally, he had plans to move to California to be an actor, but after seeing the limited amount of diversity in current motion pictures, he decided that Hollywood was not for him.

“Then, my mom heard an advertisement on the radio about teaching English in Japan . . . I did the research . . . flew to Canada for a three-day interview, passed, and here I am today.”

Baker teaches at a private high school in the Kansai region. In Japan, taxes pay for an elementary and middle school education, but after that, the student is responsible for his or her own education. The openings in the less expensive public schools in the Kansai regions are filled by the students who pass the entrance exams, Baker says. The students who do not want to enter the workforce at age 15 and those who cannot pass the entrance exams end up going to private schools like Daisho Gauken.

For Baker, teaching English in Japan hasn’t always been easy, “Honestly, the students are a challenge . . . in many cases, because the students don’t grasp the basics of English in middle school, their learning tends to be a bit slower.”

But Baker quickly learned not to show any favoritism in the classroom. To deal with the gaps in his students’ education he says, “I find that when I push hard and discipline harshly, I get results that even the students didn’t think they were capable of.”

To keep students interested, he says he varies English lessons each semester. After learning grammar and analyzing American movies, he invites an English-speaking friend to come in and interact with the students. “They get a kick out of it,” he says.

Teaching hasn’t been the only challenge Baker has had to face. For the first few months in his new home, he says he experienced a bit of culture shock. Other than Canada, he had never been to another country. “I literally only knew how to count to three [in Japanese] before coming to Japan.”

As Baker explains, Japan is, “a country the size of California with a population half that of America’s. So, every place feels like New York, except Tokyo, which feels more like New York times 10.” Among the packed city blocks, he not only faced unfamiliar pedestrians, but also many, many bikes whizzing by him at lightening speed. In Japan, a lot of people use bikes as their primary means of transportation. Baker says it took a little getting used to. “Everyone has these bells that tell you to get out of the way.”

The most difficult aspect of Japanese life, he says, is being an outsider. “In Japan it’s common to see foreigners, but they are generally from Europe,” Baker says. “It’s not very common to see someone of African descent. Everyone’s eye is on you. That was hard to get used to.”

Although he says it took him nearly 18 months to completely immerse himself in the Japanese culture, he now loves living in Japan. He’s joined a gospel choir and a church group made up of many international followers. And, he says because the level of safety is much higher than it is in the United States, he feels comfortable exploring the area. “I can go out, ride the train, or walk around at one in the morning and no one bothers me,” he says. Plus, he adds, the pay for English teachers in Japan is excellent.

Fortunately for Baker, he also doesn’t have to worry about taking time off. Teachers at Daisho Gauken get three and a half months of paid vacation, which for Baker is great because the one thing he misses most is his family.

Baker says he does plan to come back to the states eventually, “but no time soon.” For the next three to five years, he will continue to dodge the speeding bicycles on the streets of Osaka, Japan.

– Kellie Connors ’07

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