Migrant Voices – Tomonari Sasaki

Shepparton High School

Tomonari Sasaki wished to become a skilled teacher of English. After coming to the Australia from Japan, he became a skilled teacher of Japanese at Shepparton High School.

My name is Tomonari Sasaki and I have taught Japanese to Year 7 to 12 students at Shepparton High School since the beginning of 2003.

I was born in Japan and grew up there until the age of 25, when I moved to Australia. My home-town is called Chiba, which is located on the eastern side of Japan and close to the capital city, Tokyo. It would take about one hour from the middle of Tokyo by train or car. The population of Chiba City is 900,000 approximately. The western side of Chiba city is on Tokyo bay and there is a big industrial area where iron is made. Chiba city is special because there is a monorail in the middle of the city and a professional baseball stadium near the bay.

There are four people in my family: father, mother, younger brother and me. My father has worked as a primary teacher for more than 30 years in Japan. My mother sometimes does a part-time job, but is mainly a home-maker. My younger brother works for a company that sells food and other things for daily life. His job is to deliver them to customers who have a membership of the company, by small truck.


I left Japan for Australia when I was 26 years old because I wanted to improve my English skills to become an English teacher in Japan. I was not going to immigrate to Australia at that time. I did an English teaching part-time job when I was a university student and really liked it because it was a pleasure to see the students learning progress. However, I knew my English skills were not good enough. I thought I should be able to speak, listen, read, and write English appropriately and as fluently as native English speakers do if I wanted to work as a genuine, authentic and qualified English teacher in Japan. That is why I decided to go to a country where English is used.

The reason I chose Australia is that my father recommended a language assistance program in Victoria, Australia, where applicants not only improve their English skills, but also learn how to teach language in a real class situation. I believed that I would make use of the program as much as possible to achieve my goal.

It took about four or five months to organise the trip to Australia because I had to apply for the program, renew a passport, book a plane ticket, tell the private school where I worked at the time that I was going to Australia, finish the lease contract of the house I rented and so forth. Because other people in my family did not have to leave Japan, they stayed and I came to Australia by myself. The flight to Australia was good. I was a little bit anxious about what was going to happen, but looked forward to working in Australia.

I arrived at Melbourne airport on the 15th of April 2001. My first impression when I arrived was that all the signs were written in English and people spoke English in the airport. Because the assistance program offered a lift to get to the meeting place where all applicants had intensive language assistant training for a week, I did not have to be worried about where I had to go from the airport. I got on a minibus and talked with the Japanese staff in Japanese until we got there. I did not have friends waiting to greet me, but the staff welcomed me a lot. I have been getting along with them since then. We are now good friends.

As I said before, I was supposed to go back to Japan when I finished the assistance program, but I thought that teaching Japanese in Australia would be challenging and rewarding. Therefore, I prepared for getting into the Diploma of Education course to earn a teaching qualification. Luckily, I was accepted to study at Monash University in Clayton in 2002 and was given an offer to teach Japanese at Shepparton High School from 2003. These two events were the positive things that happened in my life in the first few years in Australia.

I have been enjoying teaching Japanese because it is a pleasure to see their language progress. I have also been involved in other school activities including school production, sports day, swimming day, cross country day, darts competition, Relay for Life, school excursions and Japan trip. These events are always enjoyable. Shepparton High School makes me feel a part of this community.

The main cultural difference is the food. I cannot buy enough ingredients to make Japanese meals in Shepparton, so I normally go to Melbourne to buy them and cook some Japanese dishes. Other cultural differences such as houses, transport, religion and language are fine. I really like this spacious area in Shepparton because I grew up in a small apartment house in Chiba.

I believe that I am very happy with my new life in Shepparton, Australia, because I have a job that I am really engaged with and friends who support me in different ways. I may go back to Japan when I cannot work here anymore, but I would like to work as a skilful Japanese teacher at Shepparton High School as long as possible. My dream is to see my students being involved in dealing with anything related to Japan, using the Japanese they learn. They will do a good job for both Australia and Japan.


Source: Suitcase Full of Dreams (Reproduced with permission)

Image Credit: Suitcase Full of Dreams (Reproduced with permission)


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