Bringing the learning home (Australian Learning & Teaching Council)

No qualifications required!

Before beginning my student exchange I participated in a working holiday in Okinawa, which was an absolutely unforgettable experience. I learnt so much not only about the Japanese and work culture but myself. Being in Tokyo I actually miss the breathtaking place and the amazing people who I met down there.

Despite having no prior experience working in a restaurant or a bar, I was placed working behind a bar, pouring beers and mixing cocktails for the Japanese customers. What surprised me is that anyone who wants to can work behind a bar. During my two months working at that restaurant we also had numerous high school work experience students who worked with us behind the bar, not only serving drinks but also making them. The legal age to consume alcohol in Japan is 20, so these students were definitely underage. This contrasts the strict RSA laws that exist in Australia.

Furthermore, marine staff and lifeguards are not required to hold any formal qualifications; they do not even need to know how to swim! Being a qualified pool lifeguard, holding numerous mandatory first aid certificates myself this shocked me, particularly to think what would happen if there was an emergency. Frequently the marine staff would be asleep at their post despite being the only lifeguard on duty and people being in the water.

Another thing that I found strange was that despite living on a beautiful island the Okinawan people do not swim and if they do they go in the water fully clothed (shoes included) and almost always wear a floaty. Very different to the Aussie beach lifestyle that I am used to!


3 responses

  1. tonialeannegray

    Hi Sarah — I find this rather staggering on a number of fronts:

    1. From a litigation perspective — what happens if someone drowns and the lifeguards are not qualified?

    2. Underage bartenders — that must have a legal backlash?

    3. But the biggest laugh — swimming fully clothed and shoes on .. now I understand why they swim this way in Australia — I always thought they forgot their swimming costume and couldn’t resist the temptation of going in the surf on a hot day … LOL.

    Actually, if they swim fully clothed — surely they have to be at higher risk of drowning — so another layer is added to the risk management nightmare.

    Keep the “different” stories coming from Japan. Kind regards

    November 3, 2010 at 7:45 pm

  2. Jan Gothard


    I can’t help thinking about Bondi Rescue and the disproportionately high numbers of Asian tourists who seem to get pulled out of the water – not really a surprise if this is the cultural background!


    November 4, 2010 at 2:59 am

  3. Jenni Roche


    I’m from Ireland and I’m going to Okinawa on a Working Holiday Visa for three months starting in July, but I can’t seem to find much information about jobs or where to stay! I would really appreciate it if you could point me in the right direction about where to stay and how to apply for jobs there. Anything you could suggest having worked and stayed there yourself would be great!

    Thank you!


    June 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm

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