If you want to teach English in Japan and Tokyo has caught your eye, you’re not alone. Japan’s capital city might be known as a futuristic utopia, but centuries-old traditions hide around every corner. And it’s this unique mix of old and new that attracts so many TEFL teachers every year.

Options for shopping, eating and sightseeing are endless. In addition, the city is an incredible base for exploring some of Japan’s most naturally beautiful areas. And, with some of the best international schools, the highest number of ESL positions in the country, and the most competitive salaries, it’s no surprise that it has become one of the most popular places in the country for TEFL teachers.

Teaching English in Tokyo: an overview

Want to know what it’s really like to teach English in Tokyo? As teaching English abroad destinations go, Tokyo isn’t for the faint-hearted! Tokyo is the world’s biggest city (with some 37.8 million people!) making it fast-paced, crowded and constantly evolving. But if you can get your head around the crowds, there are teaching jobs available to suit every kind of TEFL teacher.

TEFL jobs in Japan range from teaching children at public schools to working at private language schools (sometimes known in Japan as eikaiwa); working as an assistant language teachers on the government-backed JET Program to finding a position at a bilingual kindergarten; as well as teaching at universities, private tutoring and even teaching business English classes to adults.

Requirements for teaching English in Tokyo

The requirements to teach English in Japan depend on a number of factors. While there are strict requirements for a work visa, individual employers and teaching programmes can have additional requirements on top of these. 

As Tokyo is such a popular destination for English teachers, the schools there can afford to be picky. To teach English, schools will look for a bachelor’s degree, as well as a TEFL certification and, frequently, some prior teaching experience. If you don’t have any previous teaching experience it can be worth considering other, less competitive, parts of the country. 

While it’s not possible to get a work visa or join the JET programme unless you have a bachelor’s degree, there are still options to teach English in Japan without a degree. The most common way is to apply for a Working Holiday Visa, which is available to citizens of certain countries between the ages of 18-30.

Non-native English teachers can also find a TEFL job in Tokyo but will need to prove their foreign language fluency and teaching experience. Having a recognised certificate of proficiency, like the IELTS, will make it easier for you to secure work as a non-native speaker. 

Salary & cost of living in Tokyo

It’s no secret that Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world for expats. But how much you will make and spend working as a TEFL teacher in Japan will greatly depend on factors like what kind of school you teach at and the type of lifestyle you want to have. To demonstrate, ESL teachers in Tokyo can make anything from 220,000 Yen (£1,600 – / $2,100) and 600,000 Yen (£4,360 / $5,730) per month.

Consider whether you want to work at public Japanese schools, international schools or foreign language institutes, and whether your employer will provide any assistance with things like flights and accommodation.

Housing can be one of the most expensive aspects of living in Tokyo, with many teachers choosing to share an apartment to save money. Eating and drinking in Tokyo can be as cheap or as expensive as you make it, while it should go without saying that Western restaurants and brands will cost more.

Overall, teaching English in Tokyo might not land you on the rich list anytime soon, but you should be able to earn enough to live comfortably in the city.

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English teaching jobs in Tokyo

If you’re looking for an English teaching job in Japan, Tokyo is a great choice. While its popularity can make positions at some of the top international schools competitive, there are enough English learners to provide jobs for all kinds of TEFL teachers.

Type ‘English teacher Tokyo’ into any search engine and you’ll find endless options for teaching English in the city. From applying to the JET programme and teaching Japanese students at public schools, to international schools that require teachers for their young students, many schools in Japan are desperate to find good TEFL teachers.

Schools in Tokyo

One of the most important decisions you will need to make before you start teaching English abroad is what kind of school you’re going to work at. In Tokyo, there are two main types of schools that provide TEFL jobs for foreign teachers – public schools and private language schools (eikaiwas).

Public schools

If you go to Japan through a teach abroad program like JET or similar, you’ll be working for the Japanese education system and teaching at a public school. As an Assistant Language Teacher, you’ll most likely be teaching children or teens, and will almost always have a Japanese teacher leading the class. Working hours are usually set with weekends off, but class sizes can be large. Salaries tend to be in the region of 220,000 – 280,000 Yen (£1,600 – £2,000 / $2,100 – $2,675) per month.

Private language schools

Many TEFL teachers in Japan look for teaching jobs in private language schools in Tokyo. These tend to have the highest salaries, with some experienced teachers earning as much as 600,000 Yen (£4,360 / $5,730) per month. 

Alongside a high salary, job benefits usually include flight reimbursement, health insurance, pension, social insurance, and assistance with finding suitable housing. However, unlike public schools, lessons at a language school will usually start between 10 am to 1 pm and last until 6 pm or 10 pm and working days will typically include the weekends. 

JET in Tokyo

It’s also possible to teach in Tokyo through the JET Programme. However, those using this approach should know that it’s not always the easiest way to land a job in the capital city. The Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme was created to bring internationalism and English learning to rural schools and local communities. This means that, while there are some assistant language teacher positions available in Tokyo, you are much more likely to be placed in smaller cities, towns and even remote villages.

If you do decide to apply to the JET programme in Japan, you’ll need to be from one of the participating countries, hold a bachelor’s degree and be able to demonstrate a keen interest in Japanese culture. In return, you’ll receive a good salary, free round-trip tickets to Japan and help with finding suitable accommodation.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q. Are English teachers in demand in Tokyo?

    A. Yes! As the country’s capital and most cosmopolitan city, there’s a high demand for English teachers in Tokyo. From kindergartens to private schools and business English classes, there’s a wide range of English learning institutes that require teachers, making the capital of Japan a great place to find a job.

  • Q. How much does an English teacher in Tokyo make?

    A. An English teacher in Tokyo can make anywhere between 220,000 Yen (£1,600 – / $2,100) and 600,000 Yen (£4,360 / $5,730) per month, depending on what kind of school they are teaching at and level of experience. In addition, hourly rates for private tutors are usually between 2,000 Yen (£14 / $19) and 6,000 Yen (£44 / $57) per hour.

  • Q. Can I work in Tokyo through the JET programme?

    A. While it is possible to be offered a placement in Tokyo, the JET programme was designed to enhance internationalisation and education in local communities in Japan. Therefore, it is much more likely that candidates will be placed in small to medium-sized cities or in small towns or villages.

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