There’s always a huge amount of interest in English teaching jobs in Japan. Hardly difficult to see why: the Japanese education system is formidable, it has one of the strongest economies in the world and, as ever, Japanese culture - from animation and comics to music, video games, sport and so much more - is a huge pull.
What’s in it for English teachers? A whole lot. ESL teachers in Japan tend to pull in comparably excellent wages, and a range of benefits are included in many contracts, including, pension, transport fees and even more. You’ll need a degree and 120 hours of TEFL certification to get started, and once you do, you’ll find an incredible teaching infrastructure and studious pupils who are keen to learn English.
Let’s explore the different kinds of institutions, job roles and employers that Japan has to offer to English teachers, so you can get started on making that life-changing move to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Going straight to employers is also a great idea. Japan has a number of fantastic options in terms of English conversation schools (or Eikaiwas), including AEON, Interac and Amity. We’ll discuss those in more detail later on, but if you have a specific teaching job in mind, it’s often best to go straight to the source.
There are also programmes that find work for eager TEFL teachers. These include the JET Programme, which invites university graduates to work across Japan, assisting lessons and providing cultural exchange for Japanese students.
In short, you won’t find that opportunities teaching English in Japan run at a premium.
So, first of all: where can an intrepid English teacher find English teaching jobs in Japan?
The first port of call should be the internet. The TEFL Org’s Jobs Centre is always our first recommendation, but there are also excellent Japan-dedicated resources that advertise an array of teaching positions. There’s GaijinPot, an English-language one-stop-shop that doesn’t just help with teaching jobs, but also finding accommodation, study opportunities and classifieds. Jobs in Japan does exactly what it describes, as does The Japan Times’ classifieds. Otherwise, the old favourites like Indeed and LinkedIn will have plenty of job adverts running all year long, 24/7, with positions for assistant language teachers, English teaching jobs and tutoring opportunities alike.
Tutoring is also a fantastic opportunity. In big cities, there’ll be plenty of freelance work available, teaching to businesses, individual learners or families. Whether working alone or for a language teaching business, you can easily fit tutoring around pre-existing commitments in Japan, or if you’re able to establish an excellent reputation, work full-time as an English tutor.
It’s worth noting that there are also all sorts of cultural customs you’ll have to get used to while teaching in Japan. Hierarchy and respect are absolutely crucial in Japanese culture.
Japan is a place where traditions and customs don’t bend easily, whether you're an English teacher or working as something else, and you’ll get much further by being likeable, compliant, and respectful than trying to buck the trend.
So, what kind of opportunities can you find teaching English in Japan?
The most obvious route is the Japanese public school system. English lessons in Japanese schools start at junior high (Chūgakkō) and continue up to high school (Kōkō). This means, of course, that there are teaching jobs for English teachers within mainstream Japanese education.
There are also teaching jobs in Japan’s prestigious universities. These jobs can differ, from language exchange to private tutoring, or even lecturing English as a degree subject. Of course, your experience and your prior qualifications count massively when it comes to finding work in universities, but if you have a bachelor's degree or even a master’s under your belt - as well as a TEFL certificate, of course - it’s well worth looking.
Language schools -Eikaiwas as they’re known in Japan - are also a great port of call. English teaching schools, for kids and adults alike, are extremely popular in Japan. In the case of children, lessons are geared towards passing school exams or keeping up with in-school teaching. Adult learners are also keen to improve their English proficiency, with Japan being an economic powerhouse, and English being the lingua franca of business.
Currently, there aren’t many summer-specific programmes taking place in Japan. Japan’s visa regulations mean it’s difficult to find short-term work, although there may be more on offer for degree students in the future.
Visit The TEFL Org Jobs Centre to see listings of current job opportunities teaching English in Japan.
AEONhas hundreds of school branches across Japan, where TEFL tutors can find work teaching English. An English teacher will be expected to work 40-hours a week (25 teaching hours), teaching adults, kids, and even ‘parent and baby’ classes. You need a degree, and it’s beneficial to have a TEFL certificate and teaching experience. Expect a salary of 275,000 Yen per month (£1,600/£2,010), and housing provided at a cost of 55,000 Yen per month (£320/$400).
Amityhas over 80 branches in Japan, teaching kids aged 6 months to 15 years.
For a list of highly-rated bilingual or international schools in Tokyo, visit the Good School Guide.
ECCprovides lessons for kids (and babies, from 18 months plus) and adults. You’ll work 35-hour weeks, pay is 270,000 Yen per month (£1,580/$1,975), and contracts are for one year.
Gaijin Pot is a great place to find current listings for jobs in Japan. Note that many positions require you to already live in Japan to apply.
The JET Programme ('JET' stands for Japanese English teaching) is extremely popular, hiring assistant language teachers to work across Japan. You need a degree and they prefer candidates who have never lived/worked in Japan but have a keen interest in the country. Those with years of previous teaching experience will find the ALT role stifling and frustrating. Work 35 hours per week (plus some weekend events) for a 1-year contract, earn 3.36 million Yen in your first year (around 280,000 Yen/£1,635/$2,050 per month).
Similar to the JET Program, at Interac you’ll be an Assistant Language Teacher working in elementary, junior high, and high schools. You’ll teach around 20-25 classes of about 45 minutes per week. You need a degree. Salary starts at 2.4 million yen per year (£14,000/$17,600).
Westgateoffers 3 to 7-month contracts teaching in universities and elementary schools. Starting salaries range from 260,000 – 280,000 Yen per month (£1,520/$1,900 - £1,635/$2,050, depending on experience. Accommodation can be provided at a monthly cost of ¥81,000 (£470/$590).
Part of the Yaruki Switch Group, Winbe English is a large chain with branches across Japan. You’ll be teaching kids and so prior experience is beneficial. Comprehensive initial training program provided. Salary starts at 250,000 Yen per month (£1,460/$1,830), working 8 hours a day, usually Tuesday–Saturday.
So, now you know where you might find a job teaching English in Japan, let’s discuss the salary and perks that come along with teaching jobs in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Of course, salaries can vary enormously, depending on your qualifications, experience and the kind of institution you’re working for. Typically, you’re looking at a range of 200,000 to 600,000 Yen per month ($1,700 to $5,000), which compares extremely well to other TEFL destinations in East Asia.
These salaries can be compounded with performance bonuses. Japan’s education system is extremely competitive, and excellent exam results can result in some extra payment for teachers.
Only 2% of Japanese people are fluent in English, so it’s definitely a good idea to familiarise yourself with some everyday phrases. For example, domo arigato (thank you very much), onegai shimasu (please), Kon'nichiwa (hello), Moshi Moshi (casual hello/”I speak, I speak”) and yoroshiku onegaishimau (nice to meet you) will all go down well!
Finally, respect and hierarchy are hugely important in this popular destination. As a teacher, you’ll be expected to command the respect of your students, and in turn, your superiors at an institution will expect you to respect them, and speak formally. This is true everywhere in Japan, from Tokyo to Yokohama and beyond.
So, with all that knowledge about teaching in Japan on lock, what do you need to know about teaching English in one of the world’s most popular TEFL destinations?
Firstly, the requirements. If you have designs on teaching English in Japan, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree, as well as a TEFL certificate. You’ll need to have completed 120 hours of high-quality TEFL study with a highly-accredited course provider. Native English speakers can be preferred by employers, but that isn’t to say it’s impossible for non-native teachers to secure work.
The most popular destinations to teach English in Japan are, naturally, the capital Tokyo, as well as Yokohama, Kyoto, Osaka, Sapporo, Fukuoka, Nagoya, Nagasaki, and Sendai. The maximum age for teachers is 65, meaning Japan isn’t a destination to teach after retirement.
Getting a teaching job in Japan depends very much on qualifications. You’ll need a BA degree to be approved for a working visa, and you’ll also need a 120-hour TEFL certificate - at least. From there, you’ll find that private schools, international schools, public schools, language teaching companies and universities are regularly hiring TEFL talent. Native English speakers are preferred.
Yes - American teachers, like teachers from other English-speaking countries, are very much encouraged to find English teaching work in Japan.
Japan is a very hospitable and accommodating country, and while the visa requirements may be stricter for teachers than in other countries, foreigners looking to work hard are welcomed in Japan.
ESL teacher salaries can vary wildly, depending on your employer. As a good rule of thumb, teachers should expect a salary in the range of 200,000 to 600,000 Yen per month ($1,700 to $5,000), which compares favourably to other Asian TEFL destinations.