Teach English in Japan

| 3 min read

Japan - Mt. Fuji

Fast Facts

Here's a glimpse of Japan.

Capital: Tokyo

Major Language: Japanese

Getting Around:

  1. There are various types of trains in Japan. Shinkansen or Bullet Trains is the fastest mode of transportation to go around Japan, tho expect the speed and comfort to come with a price. But not to worry as there are the regular trains which are relatively slower and cheaper in price.

    If you are on the let's-explore-Japan mode, a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) would be very helpful to save some bucks as it comes with unlimited rides for 7, 14, or 21 consecutive days. Not only that, a JR Pass can be used in both the bullet (except Nozomi and Mizuho Shinkansen trains) and regular trains. Even with the 2 exceptions, it’s still pretty awesome, right?

    There is also the Japan Rail Green Pass which provides a first class experience for passengers. Comfort is top priority here as the train comes with plush seating and more space for you.

  2. Riding the bus is another option - cheaper than trains but much longer travel time. There is a bus pass that you can use with Willer express. It offers an unlimited ride for 3, 5 or 7 days within 2 months (meaning it doesn’t have to be consecutive days as with the JR Pass). By the way, the JR Pass can also be used in some local JR bus lines.
  3. There are cars for rent but this would be an expensive option for daily commute.

Famous Landmarks:

  • Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in Japan at ~3,777 meters and looks very scenic with its almost perfect cone shape, although it’s not clearly visible at all times. This volcano also attracts climbers during the climbing season of July to September when the overall conditions are better for climbers.
  • Itsukushima Shrine in Japan has been known to have the iconic red torii gate that seems “floating” during high tide. Located in Miyajima (former Itsukushima) which means shrine island, the shrine complex is listed as a UNESCO Heritage site.
  • The Arashiyama Bamboo Grove in Kyoto is known for the sprawling stalks of bamboo. Aside from this, the district of Arashiyama also has various temples you can visit.
  • For anime lovers, Akihabara is the place to be with its range of stores specializing in anime, manga, collectibles, video games among others. There are also maid cafes nearby for where servers are dressed up like maids or anime characters.

Visa:

A working visa is needed for those planning to teach in Japan. Included in the application documents is a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). Your employer would help you to get this. If in case a COE is not provided, Check more details about the working visa.

A working holiday visa is also available for some countries who have reciprocal visa relationships with Japan. This type of visa allows someone to work part-time or full-time in order to supplement your travel fund when visiting countries included in the Working Holiday Program. See if your country is part of this program.

Note that a bachelor’s degree (any subject) is required to apply for a working visa.

Application and Contracts:

A typical teaching contract is 6 months to 1 year long.

Who can legally teach here:

Teachers who have a working visa or a working holiday can teach in Japan. If you are on another type of visa and wish to work, you can apply to change your visa while in Japan as other types are illegal and the consequences are just not worth it.

After getting the proper visa, you will also be receiving a Residence Card upon arriving in Japan which you need to carry at all times. This ID has a chip which contains your personal information.

Types of English teaching jobs:

  1. Eikawa

    Students at an Eikawa school could be any age from preschoolers to working professionals to retirees. Class size varies as well as the focus of classes (i.e. kids will be leaning on the more energetic lessons while adults will be focusing on conversations). Teaching hours would depend on the age range of your class with younger ones during the day and older ones most likely in the afternoon to night time. Schools would typically provide you with materials, sometimes a curriculum and textbooks you can refer to. For adult-only eikawas, a formal dress code is likely to look more professional because of the premium being charged by the schools from the students to learn English.

  2. Assistant Language Teacher (ALT)

    An ALT position is the popular route by which teachers start in Japan. ALTs work for public schools with students in kindergarten to high school. You would be working alongside a Japanese teacher, either assisting her/him or teaching on your own. Knowing some Japanese would be helpful to communicate with the other teacher. ALTs usually get to have longer vacations than Eikawa teachers.

    Aside from the hiring directly by schools or intermediary or “dispatch” companies, you can be assigned to an ALT position via the JET Program or the Japan’s Exchange and Teaching Program. JET is a teaching exchange program promoted by Japan’s government and follows a schedule for application. Learn more about this program and check the list of participating countries to see if you are eligible to apply.

  3. Private Schools / International Schools

    ESL Teachers in private schools teach kindergarten to senior high school students. Generally, you have more responsibilities in this type of school but also with better salary and benefits, some offering performance incentives. Opportunities are rare and not much advertised.

  4. Universities

    Getting to teach in a university is not easy with the minimum requirements of a Master’s degree and finding who’s hiring (good connections is helpful here). A teacher could be teaching a general English class or specialty classes like business and communication-related courses. Aside from teaching, you’ll also be attending committee meetings, doing research or coaching students outside regular classes if needed. University teaching gives a very good rate considering the time you spend teaching.

  5. Business English Teaching

    Teaching Business English in Japan separates itself from other teaching with its formal tone and with topics related to business. Lessons are focused on a business setting with a class made up of professionals in their 30s - 40s. Usually, they are on managerial levels and have job descriptions involving connecting with non-Japanese clients or those outside Japan. Students’ usual needs in the class are areas like making presentation materials, writing up emails and negotiating among others. A business attire when teaching is expected. Those hiring for this position are more critical and selective and with high expectations when choosing because you’ll be teaching adults with positions in companies.

  6. Summer Programs

    Some schools are offering these short term programs that run during the summer if you are not ready to commit for a longer term or maybe you’re a college student looking for a teaching internship abroad.

Local terms:

Eikawa literally means “English conversation” from kanji for “English” (ei, 英) and “conversation” (kaiwa, 会話). Eikawas, or English conversation schools, provide ESL lessons outside regular schools.

Hiring season:

English teaching positions are open all year-round but the public school system usually starts in April and September to March.

Percentages of foreigners:

There are about 2.93M foreigners living in Japan according to statistics at the end of December 2019. 27% percent of this number are permanent residents. Topping the list are citizens that came from China, South Korea and Vietnam.

Average salary:

Depending on the type of school and your qualifications, starting monthly salary ranges from 190,000 - 260,000 JPY($1,800 - $2,500 USD).

Typical benefits (housing, airfare):

Some companies provide housing support meaning they help you find a place and may offer move-in costs. There can also be a completion bonus at the end of your contract.

Average cost of living:

Monthly cost of living in Japan is roughly $2,400 - 2,700 (USD).