David C. Moreton
English Teacher and Researcher (Japanese History and Culture)
BA (1995), MA (2001) – both UBC (Asian Studies)
Who are you?
My name is David Moreton and I have lived in the Kansai area of Japan for about twenty-two years. For the past twelve years I have been working at Tokushima Bunri University, located in Tokushima city (pop. 250,000) on the island of Shikoku. I work full-time as an English teacher and assist in the International Education Office at the university, and once a week teach Grade 5 and 6 students at an affiliated elementary school. However, I am also actively involved in researching two aspects of Japanese history and culture. One, the eighty-eight Buddhist temple pilgrimage route around Shikoku and two, the railway between Thailand and Burma that Allied prisoners-of-war and Asian laborers were forced to build by the Japanese military during WWII.
(See my website for more information: http://www.davidmoreton.com)
How did you start working abroad?
In the fall of 1994 I was hired by a travel agency in Vancouver to act as a tour guide for high school students from Kyoto. It was through this company that I was able to secure a teaching job at that same high school the following spring. I stayed there for four years and came back in 1999 to UBC for my MA. During my graduate studies, I got to know a British woman working at Tokushima Bunri University who was researching the Shikoku pilgrimage. She said that she had to go back to her job in Vancouver and asked if I would be interested in taking her place. I said yes. She passed on my resume to those in charge and I was hired in 2001, just when I had finished my MA.
How is working and living abroad as a foreigner?
After twenty-two years it still has its ups and downs, but after ten years of living and working in Osaka and Kyoto, I was happy to move to Tokushima where there is lots of space, few people, clean water, fresh vegetables, a slower and relaxed pace of life etc. I am happy to be able to smell freshly-turned earth in the fields or freshly-cut grass and I would never want to give up my five-minute walk to work. Plus it is wonderful to have my in-laws in the same town so they can easily spend time with my children. However, I realize that for deciding to live on Shikoku my salary is probably much lower than expats on the main island, especially those who are in the business field. As well, on the island there are most likely no non-teaching related jobs for foreigners, no international schools, plus it takes a lot more time and money to go back to Canada to see family. I also feel that there are still some people who are not ready to treat foreigners with equality in the workplace, so this can be a source of frustration. But I chose to stay in Tokushima for its lifestyle and the pros of living and working here certainly outweigh the cons.
Any Advice for other alumni that are hoping to go abroad?
I strongly recommend learning the language. Do not judge people in other cultures based on your cultural background. Contact alumni in the area for advice on jobs, living tips, cultural advice etc.
Can you recommend your favorite location in your region?
My favorite part of Shikoku is the pilgrimage route that connects numerous temples and shrines located around the island. For over 300 years this pilgrimage has been popular among the Japanese, but recently it has been attracting the attention of many non-Japanese who are coming to experience this historically-long and culturally-rich journey.