Japan Times calls for info re NOVA eikawa school’s condition


Hi Blog. Got a request from the editor of the Japan Times Community Page, Ben Stubbings, who would like information for the next column (draft due this weekend) re the NOVA eikaiwa school situation. Anyone out there who has some info they’d like to see hit a national audience? Let Ben know. Some questions from him follow.

With even Trans Pacific Radio for weeks now urging listeners who might be NOVA employees to get out of NOVA while the going is good, help out if you can. Another article germane to this situation enclosed below in the comments section below. Arudou Debito


I’m writing an article for The Japan Times Community Page on the current plight of Nova, focusing on what the chances are of the firm going under, considering the recent government penalties and late payments of teachers’ salaries and rent. In particular, I’m going to consider what would happen to teachers in terms of their salaries, visas and apartments if Nova goes bankrupt. Following are a list of questions I’m looking into for the article.

Also just got a mail from a teacher who knew someone who got a threat of eviction that showed the rent Nova was paying for the apartment was considerably less than the amount he was forking out every month out for the flat! That’s almost another story in itself, but I would be interested to know if anyone else has had a similar experience.

Here are the questions: 1) In exactly how bad shape is Nova financially, and what are the chances of it going bankrupt?

2) What are the chances of a bail-out by other firms or the government?

3) How are Nova’s chances if it survives the 6-month penalty period?

4) What is the extent of the nonpayment of rents and threats of evictions this month – how many have been threatened with eviction and has anyone actually been evicted?

5) How many schools have closed recently and how many teachers and staff made redundant?

6) What is the situation regarding redundancy pay and unemployment benefits for sacked staff – particularly what would be the situation if the company went under?

7) What would be the consequences for teachers in terms of accommodation if the company went bankrupt?

8) Likewise, the situation for thousands of teachers with valid visas – would there be a roundup and cancellations of visas?

9) If thousands of staff were suddenly to find themselves out of a job, what are the chances of them finding another job here? Need school facts and figs for this.

10) Are Nova union members any more protected than non-members?

I hope you can help. This is an issue that affects a great number of people – teachers, Japanese staff and students – who deserve to know what’s going on and what to be prepared for, just in case the worst comes to the worst.

Ben Stubbings Community Editor The Japan Times

community@japantimes.co.jp (work: Japanese/English)
benstubbings@yahoo.co.uk (no Japanese)

17 comments on “Japan Times calls for info re NOVA eikawa school’s condition

  • Foreign teachers dudded in Japan
    The Age (Australia)
    Justin Norrie, Tokyo
    September 19, 2007
    Courtesy of Rube

    HUNDREDS of foreign English teachers in Japan were anxiously awaiting overdue wages from language school NOVA yesterday, amid speculation that the corporate giant was edging closer to collapse.

    The country’s foreign workers’ union said it could “only hedge a guess that up to 3000” English teachers, many of whom are young Australians, went without pay last Friday and were left waiting nervously over Japan’s long weekend for the money.

    “But at the very least there are hundreds of them. My phone hasn’t stopped,” said Louis Carlet, from the National Union of General Workers.

    Some teachers said they were owed thousands of dollars, while others posted messages on websites over the weekend to say they were quitting in disgust.

    “I’ve never felt so defeated in my whole life,” said 24-year-old American teacher Jerry Johnston, who was considering leaving Japan after just two months but could not afford the plane ticket.

    It is the second time in two months that NOVA has paid staff late. A recent slide in the company’s stock price followed news of a delay in payments to some of its 2000-odd Japanese staff last month.

    NOVA employs roughly 7000 foreigners — more than any other Japanese company. Australians make up the backbone of its 5000-strong teaching staff. The company has more than 400,000 students, accounting for the biggest share of Japan’s multibillion-dollar private English teaching industry.

    CEO Nozomu Sahashi issued a statement to staff at some branches last Friday to say it had “not been possible to complete all the necessary operations to deposit instructor salaries … Salaries will be deposited by September 19.”

    But Mr Carlet told The Age: “I’m getting reports that they have been cut off by their stationary suppliers, and delivery services, because they’re not able to pay them.

    “They could be on the verge of going under at any moment. It’s very serious.”

    One 28-year-old Australian, who works as a teacher at a NOVA school outside Tokyo, said: “My pay didn’t come in on time and it was the same for a lot of people here.”

    Mr Johnston said: “A lot of us are nervous. Really nervous. We’re looking for jobs but being told that companies aren’t hiring within Japan. And we haven’t even made enough money to buy a plane ticket home.”

  • 1) Re: Nova’s financial condition and chance of bankruptcy;

    I’ve translated and looked over the financials from the past 4 years. Nova’s only been cutting costs but is at a loss on how to generate new revenue short of it’s entrenched method of “exapnding” that is exhausted in 2005. Bankruptcy is anyone’s guess, the creditors will have to file suit and force the company to dissolve, it certainly won’t do so willingly.

    2) What are the chances of a bail-out by other firms or the government?

    Zero while the METI restrictions are in place. Nova’s making an all out dash to try and survive to December when the restrictions could be lifted. At that point, it might possibly become an attractive target for a buy out until they take a look at the debt load and the sales figures. It would be cheaper and arguably more likely to succeed if a business chose to open it’s own schools rather than buy into Nova’s pain.

    3) What are Nova’s chances if it survives the 6-month penalty period?

    Pretty good actually, assuming it can figure out a way to keep the staff paid. There’s every indication that Saruhashi has been leveraging the stock held by Nova Kikaku and the 8mil shares that are still outstanding point to a very serious situation of proxy sales and insider trading. All depends oh how many teachers and staff are willing to continue to work with salaries coming later and later every month.

    4) What is the extent of the nonpayment of rents and threats of evictions this month – how many have been threatened with eviction and has anyone actually been evicted?

    Usually teachers are moved into other accommodations before there is any action by the landlord. There’s been a copy of a letter sent to a landlord (unsure if it’s for accommodation or for a branch) on the Yahoo stock discussion board that outlines how Nova can’t pay last months rent like it promised, or this months, and it doesn’t give a date when it will be able to. If it’s already behind 2 months on one contract, there are likely many others it’s also behind on.

    5) How many schools have closed recently and how many teachers and staff made redundant?

    Quite a number have closed, more are slated to be closed by the end of Sept. Nova obviously hasn’t released any information, but if you start asking questions on 2ch you will be pointed to school that have closed and can check them out yourself.

    6) What is the situation regarding redundancy pay and unemployment benefits for sacked staff – particularly what would be the situation if the company went under?

    Nova hasn’t offered any redundancy packages to anyone I know of, and the requirements for unemployment benefits means that if the company goes under it will take time before anyone can expect to see compensation.

    7) What would be the consequences for teachers in terms of accommodation if the company went bankrupt?

    Most teachers live in nova accommodation, but it’s likely many would return to their country of origin. The teachers that have been at Nova long enough to move out and get an apartment of their own are already worried about making rent. Most eikaiwa teachers don’t have more than a month or two of income saved up.

    8) Likewise, the situation for thousands of teachers with valid visas – would there be a roundup and cancellations of visas?

    Check with the immigration office, but I doubt it. Are you really from the JT? this shouldn’t be a difficult question to get an answer for.

    9) If thousands of staff were suddenly to find themselves out of a job, what are the chances of them finding another job here? Need school facts and figs for this.

    All depends on how much time it takes to find the Job. Most will only be able to afford to look for a short time. Some teachers (mostly the newest recruits) have already stated if they miss a paycheck they will just barely be able to afford a ticket home.

    10) Are Nova union members any more protected than non-members?

    No way to know.

    On a side note, while JT’s has been pretty good at covering issues like eikaiwa, teacher’s rights, and Nova’s corporate situation…. you and basically every paper in Japan got scooped by the Sidney Morning Herald. This delay in wages didn’t come out of left field, there’s been problems with pay since July for Japanese staff. You guys are picking up the ball very late in the game…


  • While it is good to see that the Japanese press is now taking a greater interest, it is a pity that it takes gaijin intervention to make it happen. …and why is it in a community page and not the general news where more Japanese people may see it?
    Where was the Japanese press when Japanese staff were paid late for the previous 3 months? In Western countries this would have been headline news for such a large company.
    Why are Nova’s shares still being traded on the stock exchange when it is obviously in such dire circumstances and trading under false pretences?
    Many teachers have a great deal of sympathy with the students whose hard earned funds are disappearing. This is why brave, smiling faces continue to be shown. Students, when hearing of the non-payment situation, have been genuinely shocked.

  • If it’s rumors about NOVA you want, visit http://www.gaijinpot.com and you’ll see at least a dozen threads about NOVA. More than one deal with names of branches that have closed (if you can trust anonymous forum posters). And, the latest thread here http://www.gaijinpot.com/bb/showthread.php?t=42425 talks about NOVA’s JMA insurance freezing any reimbursements to people who have used that medical insurance.

    I would hope whoever reports on this uses good sense to get facts, not just rumors. It seems that there aren’t any Japanese newspapers posting about NOVA just yet.

  • I sent an email to the Daily Yomiuri last Friday, just after I heard from a friend still working in Nova that teachers didn’t get paid… nothing. They had their chances, and you’re right Novawhiz – JT & DY got scooped.


    NOVA 200校閉鎖検討 賃料滞納で立ち退きも 全体の2割超す
    東京新聞 2007年9月20日 夕刊
     閉鎖が確定しているのは、子ども向けの英会話教室「NOVA KIDS」を専門に運営する拠点を中心に約五十。このほか、賃料の滞納にしびれを切らした家主がNOVA側に強制退去も辞さないとする内容証明付きの書類を送り付けたり、NOVAが既に口頭で家主に退去を伝えたりするケースが続出しており、閉鎖は二百校前後になるとみられる。二百校を大きく超えるとみる関係者もいる。


    According to today’s Daily Yomiuri, Nova will close 50 schools of the 900+ that are now open. From the rest of this brief article it is not difficult to read the writing on the wall. That is, that these steps are merely the beginning of the end. It should be noted that the DY did not mention teachers or salaries; a glaring omission.



    Nova to close 50 branches
    The Yomiuri Shimbun

    Nova Corp., the nation’s largest English-conversation school operator, plans to close about 50 branches at the end of this month, sources said Thursday.

    The English-language school chain is to consolidate neighboring branches mainly in the Tokyo area, but also in areas including Osaka and Kobe, where a number of branches are located near each other.

    The company already has begun notifying students who are subject to changes of classroom location, the sources said.

    The business environment for Nova has become increasingly difficult recently, partly due to a decline in the number of students following a series of lawsuits filed by former students concerning repayment of class fees. In the wake of the scandals, the company also was hit by an order from the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry to partially suspend operations of the school.

    The planned consolidation of school branches is aimed at streamlining the business and reducing operational costs including rent.

    Nova has already closed 12 school branches since March. The number of school branches stood at 913 as of the end of last month. Besides the 50 branches slated for closure at the end of this month, the company also is considering further closures, mainly among branches where office rental contracts are shortly due to expire.

    Regarding the prospect of further closures, the company issued a statement saying, “At this moment, nothing has been formally decided.”

    (Sep. 21, 2007)


    Japan Times/Kyodo
    Friday, Sept. 21, 2007

    Nova may close hundreds of schools
    Slump from ad scandal triggers rent defaults, radical restructuring

    OSAKA (Kyodo) Nova Corp., reeling from a false advertising scandal, is planning to close at least 200 of its 900 or so schools later this month to turn around its struggling operations, sources said Thursday.

    The nation’s largest language school chain is mainly targeting money-losing branches, but some of the 200 branches are being closed for failure to pay rent, according to the sources.

    Nova said in a statement that it has not officially made any decision on the closures and will disclose information when necessary.

    Nova, headquartered in Osaka Prefecture, was ordered by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in mid-June to suspend part of its business for six months for lying to consumers about its services when soliciting students. It then went into a slump as the ruling crippled its ability to enroll new students.

    The scandal prompted many students to end their enrollment, and contract cancellations will likely rise, the sources said.

    At its peak in June, Nova had some 480,000 students enrolled. But Nova itself admitted in August that total enrollment will likely plunge 19.2 percent year on year by September.

    The schools slated to be shuttered are located mainly in Tokyo and major cities in Osaka, Aichi and Hyogo prefectures, where rents are high. The company has already picked about 50 branches, including Nova Kids schools, for the shutdown.

    The total number of closures will likely be far in excess of 200 because some landlords are threatening to evict over defaults on rent payments, and Nova itself is offering to vacate some of the properties, some of the sources say.

    The 200 include branches that were shut down both in late August and this month, as well as those slated to close by the end of next month, the sources added.

    Meanwhile, Nova is believed to be running short of funds because it is falling behind in employee salary payments, the sources said.

    Later in the day, the General Union, which represents Nova staff, including foreign language teachers, urged the company in a written statement to proceed with caution to minimize any adverse effects on Nova’s students and employees.

  • Do You Work for NOVA? TPR Wants to Talk to You.

    Filed under: Trans-Pacific Info
    Posted by Ken Worsley at 12:40 am on Thursday, September 20, 2007

    We are putting together an audio documentary on the downfall of NOVA, and we’re looking for people who would like to talk with us…

    Click here

    If you currently work for NOVA, we have some bad news for you: you are about to be unemployed. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about that.

    What we can and would like to do, though, is interview you for a coming edition of TPR Spotlight.

    More at

  • Where was the Japanese press when Japanese staff were paid late for the previous 3 months? In Western countries this would have been headline news for such a large company.

    Well, first: the Japanese press publishes bullet-pointed handouts that are given to them by companies or government organizations. This is called the press club system. Thus, nothing on NOVA thus far. If something appears in the English press (and it’s important to distinguish the English press in Japan from the Japanese press) it then becomes fair game for the Japanese press.

    As for the second point: NOVA is not a large company. It is a publicly traded medium size firm. There are 400-500 ‘relevant’ bankruptcies in Japan each month (with the firm having over 10 million yen in debt). From that perspective, NOVA is a drop in the bucket.

    As far as question #1 above goes, I agree with novawhiz above (who is agreeing with me) – NOVA has done so much on the cost side, cutting all kinds of costs here and there, but what has it done on the revenue side? It still offers the same products and services that brought about this financial trouble in the first place…reminds me of Nissan, who turned things around by cutting costs and now find it came back to bite them in the ass since there is nothing left to cut and the revenue side is little improved from six years ago.

    Back to NOVA: They have not rolled out any new products or services, they have no money for marketing, and they are not paying people. When a company has been financially failing for the past few years and STILL has not made adjustments to their lineup of products and services, you know the management is incompetent. Yeah, keep cutting costs guys…seriously, what a bunch of morons.

  • Debito

    Got a two major holes in my article need filling. First, I need to contact someone who can speak authoritatively on the business side of Nova and assess the chances of it going under, as many people are predicting. I was wondering if you know anyone who would fit the bill.

    Secondly, of course, is a representative of Nova management. I’ve more or less given up on trying to get answers from them, but I’ll give it a last try again tomorrow. If Nova were to show any sign of caring for its employees and customers enough to give an honest explanation of what’s going on, I’d eat my shorts.

    As always, your help would be greatly appreciated.

    Ben Stubbings, Japan Times

    community@japantimes.co.jp (work: Japanese/English)
    benstubbings@yahoo.co.uk (no Japanese)


    Japanese cash crisis hits NZ tutors
    5:00AM Monday September 24, 2007
    By Simon Collins
    Hundreds of young New Zealanders have been caught up in financial problems affecting Japan’s biggest private English language school, Nova.

    Courtesy of Paul Hackshaw

    Japanese newspapers reported that the company was closing 200 of its 900 campuses after the Government imposed a six-month ban on new long-term student contracts at the company in June.

    A New Zealand Embassy spokesman said two New Zealanders affected by the closures or non-payment of wages had contacted the embassy but Kiwis working for Nova would “probably [be in the] … hundreds”.

    Ben Takizawa (formerly McGrigor), an Aucklander who taught English in Osaka for a year until February, said about 10 per cent of the company’s 5000 foreign teachers were New Zealanders.

    Another New Zealander, who did not want to be named because he still works for the company, said he had yet to receive his pay for August, which was due on September 14.

    He has a Japanese wife and two children aged 6 months and 4 years and is now looking for another job.

    “I just want New Zealanders to know that Nova is not a good option at the moment,” he said. “They are late on pay this month for teachers, in July the staff salaries were late, and supposedly the rents haven’t been paid on a number of branches and they are closing branches down.

    “It’s just not a safe option to come over at the moment.”

    But an Auckland University student who was interviewed by a Nova recruiter in Auckland on Saturday said the interviewer, an Australian based at Nova’s Sydney office, did not mention anything about the company’s problems.

    “The only thing he mentioned about the business was that they were expanding – a new market opportunity had opened in Taiwan.”

    He said the recruiter interviewed 11 applicants in Auckland and also visited Dunedin and Wellington.

    The New Zealander still working for Nova said: “I can’t believe they are still recruiting people. It’s criminal. People are coming over to just a mess. They don’t know about it. It’s wrong.”

    Nova’s problems stem from an investigation by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry which found the company was requiring students to pay in advance, then refusing to refund their money in full if they pulled out.

    At its peak, the company had 480,000 students. But it said last month that student numbers would be down 19.2 per cent for the year to September.

    The New Zealand teacher, a supervisor at his branch, said most teachers had been paid but supervisors were still waiting for their August pay.

    “I think they have just run out of money. There are a lot of stories floating round. They are not really telling us anything, they are just keeping us in the dark.”

    The New Zealand Embassy said it was referring New Zealanders to the Nova union and to the Japanese Government’s labour counselling offices.

    “The embassy is continuing to monitor the situation and we remain open to receive inquiries and provide the best advice we can,” the spokesman said.

    “We would advise people … to make sure [to] seek full information about a company before choosing to get a job with that company.”

  • From: president@nambufwc.org
    Subject: Re: NOVA haven`t paid me
    Date: October 8, 2007 12:00:17 AM JST
    To: debito@debito.org

    Hey Debito, just an update here. Nambu has recently been putting on regular information sessions for Nova teachers. Like I said before, I pushed the union to get ready for the upcoming crisis when the signs began to show in spring, but there wasn’t much interest especially from within our Nova branch itself. It ceased to be a functioning unit long ago and I suspect the membership has priorities other than than union activities and especially other than assisting managers and scabs who haven’t been paid. I’ve been told that in the 1990s during the Nova drug testing scare that the branch had 300 to 400 members. This crisis came at a difficult time for Nambu because it coincided with preparations for our annual convention and the lack of organization withing the Nova branch itself. This is not public information.

    The FWC has a Nova information schedule here. The Nova branch membership has grown since the first information sessions were held:


    I believe that the General Union is doing something similar, but there haven’t been any information sessions since last month.


    So, what’s blogable you might ask? Nothing really yet other than our information sessions, but expect another crisis on the next teacher payday, October 15th. Nambu will probably continue its recruiting and information sessions. I expect the General Union to do the same, although there isn’t much English language information on their site. There’s a press conference scheduled for Tuesday, but I don’t expect anything new and interesting until after instructor payday/not paid day.

    http://nambufwc.org/current-disputes/nova-corporation/ http://www.generalunion.org

    The GU’s Yamahara wrote a report on Nova that was published in this month’s issue of Rodo Joho.


  • ExNovaExPat says:

    I am writing in response to the poster named [b]novawhiz[/b]

    While I don’t wish to disrespect anyone here, I have to say sir, that you (novawhiz) have absolutely ZERO idea of what you’re talking about!

    In fact, it seems that you are trying to defend NOVA as being a great company, when in fact, the truth couldn’t further from what you’re saying.

    As of today, the Suruhashi has gone missing meaning no one is getting paid. His partner, Anders, resigned yesterday, leaving insubordinates to face the music.

    More schools are due to close at the end of October, and there’s speculation amongst many NOVA teachers, that they are going to turn up to work at the end of the month, still unpaid, and find the doors padlocked by the building owners!

    NOVA teachers were AGAIN, promised payment on October 19th – four days after the scheduled pay day, but as of today – October 23rd – teachers and staff are being told to wait until the 25th. Why? Because apparently some idiot company is thinking of investing in NOVA and pulling it out of the red.
    That said, the rumour now is that this will NOT happen, because the two main culprits – I mean owners – have done a runner!

    It is pretty obvious that NO ONE is going to come out on top here except for Suruhashi, who has refused to part with his stake in the company, and his millions in the bank.

    Teachers are being left out in the cold, while all the time, NOVA pushes teachers to different locations, just to prolong the agony. Not only that, but they are STILL HIRING TEACHERS FROM ABROAD!!!

    NOVA has, over the years, treated students, staff and teachers with the utmost disrespect, and now it’s coming back to bite them. NOVA has fought the law on MANY occasions and LOST EVERY TIME!

    How much longer will the Japanese government allow this corrupt corporation to run?
    Seems they won’t have to worry about it for much longer, as NOVA itself has now run out of steam and has nothing left to fuel it’s engines.

    So long NOVA!


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