TEFL in Japan: Country Guide

Teach English in Japan

Japan is one of the world’s top TEFL destinations, and it’s easy to understand why. It’s a country where the old and new exist together in perfect harmony. A land of contrasts, eccentricities, incredible food, pioneering technology, and – importantly – an abundance of work for EFL teachers.

Despite mandatory English education from 5th grade, Japan has struggled to improve English proficiency over the years. The most recent EF English Proficiency Index placed Japan 35th – behind many other Asian countries such as South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines. Coming into force in 2020, all high school graduates will be required to achieve a B1 level of English. This move is likely to drive the demand for English language tuition in the country even further, so it’s good news for anyone aiming to TEFL in Japan!

With great wages and students renowned for being hard-working, enthusiastic and polite, Japan is an attractive destination for both newly-qualified and experienced EFL teachers.

A street in Tokyo, Japan

Key Facts

  • Popular locations for TEFL jobs in Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Kobe, Kyoto
  • Average salary for EFL teachers in Japan: The basic monthly salary for full-time positions is likely to be in the region of 250,000+ yen (£1,700+) per month
  • TEFL qualification requirements: Most language schools require that applicants have at least a 120-hour certified qualification from an accredited course provider.
  • Prerequisite university degree: A BA degree is a visa requirement. However, if you don’t have a degree, it can be possible to teach (with restrictions) on a working holiday. For more information, see our post about TEFL and working holiday visas.
  • Term times: The Japanese school year begins in April, and the first term runs to the end of July. The second terms start in early September until late December. The final term begins in early January, running to late March.
  • Currency: The Japanese Yen (JPY)
  • Language: Japanese
  • Teaching programmes: The JET Programme is an official Japanese government scheme which sends graduates to Japan in the aim to improve foreign language teaching in schools.
  • Age restrictions: Japan has a mandatory retirement age of 60, meaning you have to be under 60.
  • Previous teaching experience: This is not essential, and there are plenty of opportunities to be found for newly qualified teachers in Japan.

A forest path in Japan

Living Costs

  • Accommodation: £563 to £795 per month. It is worth noting some employers in Japan offer an apartment as part of your contract. Others may provide a stipend or assistance with finding a place to live.
  • Utilities: £79 to £159 per month
  • Health insurance: Health insurance is usually provided by your employer in Japan. In some cases, you may have to pay it yourself, but this will usually be deducted directly from your salary.
  • Monthly transport pass: £86
  • Basic dinner out for two: £29
  • Cappuccino in expat area: £3.35
  • A beer in a pub: £3.65
  • 1 litre of milk: £1.37
  • 2 litres of Coca-Cola: £1.43

Japan has the reputation of being one of the world’s most expensive countries to live in. In the main cities living costs can be high – in particular, Tokyo. On the other hand, if you live outside of central Tokyo, you can easily keep to a budget.

In fact, it’s cheaper to travel in Japan than it is in much of North America and Western Europe. There are also many ways you can reduce your living costs by buying Japanese food in local supermarkets and living more like a local.

A Kyoto street

Finding a Job

The demand for TEFL teachers in Japan is high. From teaching jobs in kindergartens to Business English positions within Japanese companies, there is a range of work to be found. After taking a course with TEFL Org you’ll have access to our exclusive TEFL Jobs Centre where you can find TEFL jobs all over the world.

You can also find positions in advance on other jobs boards such as TEFL.com, Jobs in Japan, Dave’s ESL Café, and ESL base.

The JET programme is a popular option for first-time English teachers looking to TEFL in Japan. Participants work as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in government schools across the country, assisting a Japanese teacher with the delivery of English lessons. Applications usually close around November for departure in April.

Another option would be to travel out to Japan first and arrange work once you get there. This has the advantage of allowing you to do your interview in person, but it can be a nerve-wracking prospect for some to travel to a country without a job. You need to be aware of visa regulations if arranging work this way as it would involve transferring from a 90-day tourist visa to a work visa.

Whatever you decide to do, teaching English in Japan will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience!

A person writing a Japanese character with a brush

Student Stories from Japan

TEFL Org graduate, Tomo, has written about finding a job in Japan and spending Christmas there.

Tokyo, a city of bright lights, incredible (if slightly bizarre) technology, food (even fast food) that is fresh and beautifully presented, and a culture that both embraces the “western world” yet manages to keep enough of the little things that make Japan, Japan. Combined with people who are polite, elegant and have impeccable fashion sense, the guidebooks make a pretty positive case on why you should go to this city.


For more information on teaching English abroad, read our definitive guide.

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