There are other types of teaching work available in Japan, such as private tutoring and business language classes for adults. However, these jobs are usually taken on as an extra source of income on top of one of the above jobs. And generally, they need to be approved by both your employer and immigration.
Work Visa in advance
Cost of Living
Phone / Video call / In person
What Kind of Teaching Jobs Are There In Japan?
On the whole, Japanese workplaces are known for organisation and order. In most companies, there are very clear-cut positions, job titles and responsibilities. This is true of working in a school as well, with two definitive paths for TEFL teaching: working as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) at a public school or working as a teacher at a private institute.
Teaching English in Japan at a public school
Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) positions are available at public primary schools, middle schools and high schools. You’ll work alongside a Japanese Teacher of English (JTE) to prepare and execute classes. This involves anything from coming up with activities to aid learning to preparing supplementary material to teach topics. And sometimes your job will be as simple as reading out vocabulary to help students with their pronunciation!
Finding a job
One of the most popular ways to get an Assistant Language Teacher position in a public school is through the government-backed Japan Exchange and Teaching programme (JET). Successful applicants are given a one-year teaching placement at a public school in Japan. The programme is one of the largest international exchange programmes in the world, having placed people from 73 countries in teaching positions. The application process is competitive and takes a number of months, but the programme is arguably the best of its kind.
If you don’t have time to apply for the JET programme or you’d like to work in a specific place in Japan, you can also apply for ALT jobs online. Lots of teaching positions are advertised on on TEFL jobs board, such as the LoveTEFL jobs board. Most schools that advertise online will ask you to do an interview over Skype but a handful of schools will send staff to abroad to conduct face-to-face interviews.
When to apply
It’s possible to find work at public schools all-year-round, but most ALT jobs start in April and end in March, when the Japanese school term starts and ends. Schools often start recruiting months in advance, so it’s worth starting to look for English teaching jobs in Japan well before you plan to move there.
Teaching hours & Class sizes
Your contract will usually be 29.5 hours of teaching per week. Though in reality, you could spend closer to 30-40 hours in school, including breaks and getting from class to class. You can assist in up to 25 lessons per week, each less than an hour long, with class sizes of about 35-40 students.
Salary & Bonuses
Assistant Language Teacher positions pay between $2,150-3,050 per month and might also include an attendance bonus.
There are usually three breaks throughout the Japanese school year: summer break at the end of July, winter break at the end of December, and spring break at the end of March. Some public schools continue to run classes in between semesters whereas others will close for the holidays. Paid leave days also vary from school to school, with some jobs paying ALTs between semesters and others not. So it’s important to check what it says in your contract before signing up to anything!
- Working alongside an experienced JTE
- No evening or weekend work
- Can find a job through the reputable JET programme
- Not in charge of your own class
Teaching English in Japan at a private institute
Private institutes in Japan are primarily comprised of ‘Juku’ (cram schools) and ‘Eikaiwa’ (conversation schools). Juku schools tend to prepare students for specific tests, such as high school exams and university entrance exams. Whereas, Eikaiwa schools focus more on conversational skills, generally to be used for travelling or socialising.
Private institutes also offer adult learning, so you may well find yourself teaching anyone from toddlers to pensioners. There’s really no thick and fast rule about who goes to private language school in Japan! In that sense, teaching in Japan at a private institute can offer a little more variation than at a public school. However, it also requires more flexibility to accommodate your students’ availability – meaning you could be working somewhat unsociable hours.
Finding a job
Just like public school jobs, private institute positions are usually advertised on online TEFL jobs boards. Many of these companies online are relatively large, corporate companies that have the funds to recruit from overseas and sponsor your working visa.
If you’d prefer to search for a job in person or work for a smaller company, that’s also a possibility. You’ll need to be proactive though – visiting institutions and cold-calling schools – and you might even need to get a working holiday visa before your trip. You should also research the companies you visit to make sure they have a good reputation. Just because a school has classes and students doesn’t mean they run a legitimate business!
When to apply
Private language schools in Japan teach year-round and new positions open up throughout the year. However, some of the application processes can take quite a while, so it’s a good idea to apply well in advance of your intended start date.
Teaching hours & Class sizes
Juku and Eikaiwa schools offer lessons in addition to students’ regular school hours – or outside of office hours, for adults – so classes usually take place on afternoons, evenings and weekends. And unlike most public school jobs, you have the option of working full-time or part-time. Although working hours vary between private language schools, full-time hours are generally about 26+ hours per week and part-time hours are about 13+ hours per week.
Class sizes are usually much smaller than public school classes, often with less than 10 students in each lesson. There’s also usually a mixture of age groups in each class, especially in adult classes where students can be anywhere between 20-80!
Salary & Bonuses
As working hours vary between private institutes, so does the salary. As a general rule, full-time employees earn about $2,150 per month, and part-time employees earn approximately $1,100 per month. Contracts tend to be for a duration of one year and often include a generous completion bonus.
As private institutes operate year-round, they generally don’t have any end-of-term breaks. This means you’ll get less vacation time than you would at a public school. However, TEFL teachers at private language schools usually get about 10 days of annual paid holiday as well as days off on major public holidays.
- More freedom to be creative with lesson planning
- In charge of your own class
- Changeable and unsociable working hours
- Lower pay than working at a public school
Other types of teaching work in Japan
Am I eligible to teach in Japan?
Teaching in Japan can be quite a competitive industry, so having the right qualifications is essential. You’ll need a university or college degree to be able to acquire the work visa. And although it’s not an official requirement, most institutions will expect you to have at least a 120 Hour Online TEFL Course as well.
If you have any previous TEFL teaching experience, that will obviously improve your chances of finding work too. However, if you don’t have any experience yet – don’t worry! A 140 Hour TEFL Combined TEFL Course with in-classroom teaching practice is often enough to secure a teaching position.
How can I get a visa?
To get a working visa for Japan, you’ll need a job offer from a Japanese school or language centre. Depending on what kind of institute you receive a job offer from, the type of working visa may vary slightly. However, in most cases, you’ll need to be able to provide your degree – which may need to be authenticated or notarised, a criminal record check and your passport.
If you apply to teach English through a programme, such as the JET programme, the visa process will be slightly different. However, a programme coordinator should guide you through the process and provide a list of the documents you need to provide.
Where can I teach English in Japan?
Tokyo is the hub of Japan’s English language education industry as well as the most desirable destinations for most foreigners. You can expect bright lights, bizarre fashion, unusual cafes and restaurants, and incredible architecture. Osaka is the place to be if you would like to live somewhere modern with fantastic food. The city is much smaller than Tokyo but there are still plenty of teaching positions available, especially if you have a specialist degree in education. Kyoto is a smaller city that offers a more traditional Japanese way of life, complete with stunning ancient palaces, shrines and temples. Other popular teaching locations in Japan include Hiroshima and Nagoya.
What are the challenges of teaching English in Japan?
Although Japanese students start learning English at the age of five in all public schools, the standard of English is still relatively low. In fact, the 2017 EF English Proficiency Index (EPI) ranked Japan at #37, below South Korea, Vietnam and China. Part of the reason the level of English in Japan isn’t higher is likely because many schools are more focused on students passing exams than actually becoming proficient at communicating naturally. This means that lots of your students may be good at English on paper, but not necessarily confident in real-life situations. This can be a frustrating reality if your goal is to help students genuinely improve their English.
Cost of living in Japan
A common assumption is that Japan is extremely expensive. Where this might be true as a tourist, it’s not necessarily the case as a resident.
To give you an idea of costs in Tokyo: a one-bedroom apartment in Roppongi costs about $650 per month, a meal at an inexpensive restaurant usually comes to about $9, and a one-way metro ticket costs about $2, depending on distance. And as with anywhere, there are ways to keep your spending down. To name a few options, you can try shopping at local markets for budget-friendly fresh food, your nearest 100 Yen Shop for cheap essentials, and ‘Shotengai’ shopping streets for other bits and bobs.
Japan has got it all: awe-inspiring mountains, metropolitan cities, traditional towns, and even a few dreamy beaches and islands. There’s both ancient culture and impressive modernism, often only a stone’s throw away from each other. On top of that, Japan is a traveller’s dream, with super-fast trains to take you all over the country as well as an abundance of incredible nearby countries to visit. So, if you want to be inspired and amazed every day, Japan isn’t a bad place to go…
Japan has some of the richest cultural heritage in the world, reflected in everything from the way locals eat and sleep to the way they dress and pray. You can get a taste of ancient culture by spending the night in a traditional ryokan (Japanese inn), taking a dip in an old-fashioned sento (public bathhouse), or trying your hand at delicate shuji (ancient calligraphy style). Not to mention getting involved with other famous parts of Japanese cultural heritage, like trying origami, seeing a geisha dance performance, attending a tea ceremony, or visiting a Zen rock garden. There are also a number of must-visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the country, including stunning Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and historical sites.
Japan’s modern culture is no less fascinating, with advanced in technology on show in most major cities. Whether it’s the famous electronics brands that call Tokyo their home, the giant mechanical signs of Osaka’s Dotonbori, or the futuristic toilets with millions of buttons – technology plays a big part in Japan. Pop culture is also incredibly prominent in modern Japan, including eccentric Harajuku style, artistic manga and anime, bizarre gaming arcades, and popular J-pop groups.
But with such interesting local culture comes some culture shock too! The Japanese are incredibly disciplined and polite, so you’ll need to learn to walk on the correct side of the pavement, greet people respectfully – which often differs depending on the situation, and even how to drink the Japanese way! (Spoiler: it involves saying ‘kampai’ (cheers) a lot and not going home before your boss on work nights out.) On top of that, the Japanese generally don’t do tipping, they take off their shoes inside – including in some traditional restaurants, and avoid speaking loudly or chatting on the phone on public transport. So, as you can imagine, you may put your foot in it a few times, but no doubt you’ll enjoy learning about Japan’s fascinating culture and traditions too!
There’s definitely no shortage of good food (or drinks) in Japan. The country is famous for a number of specialities, including sushi, tempura, matcha green tea, sake, and a whole range of noodles. And most of the time, you’re never far away from one of these delicious dishes or drinks.
Many restaurants specialise in a single dish, having perfected it over the course of generations. You’ll quickly find yourself willing to travel the extra mile just to go to your favourite soba noodle or katsu curry spot!
Japanese cuisine differs throughout the country, along with the changing climate and weather. So, don’t miss out on trying different regions’ speciality dishes whenever you travel to new places in Japan!
Accommodation in Japan
Many of Japan’s major cities are overpopulated, so most apartments can be pretty small. In Tokyo for example, flats are often less than 40 square metres in size. However, as small apartments are the norm throughout much of Japan, many are furnished with clever space-saving storage. Though, it may still be worth packing a little lighter than usual…
Outside of Japan’s major cities, you can live much more comfortably. In fact, a large one-bedroom apartment in a decent location should be affordable for all full-time TEFL teachers.
Some TEFL jobs in Japan offer assistance finding an apartment, and others include accommodation as part of your contract. If you find the latter, you needn’t go searching for a place to live or budget for rent – lucky you!
If you’d prefer to find your own apartment, or you’re looking at TEFL job adverts that don’t include accommodation, you’ll need to put away some savings for your first month of rent. A common practice in Japan is to pay your landlord ‘key money’ – a mandatory, non-refundable payment of about one month’s rent. Some accommodation won’t require key money, but it’s worth factoring this expense into your budget just in case.
Weather in Japan
With an archipelago of almost 2,000 miles, Japan’s weather varies greatly between the north and the south. For example, the northern city of Sapporo experiences temperatures as low as -8°C in winter and reaches up to 26°C in summer. Whereas in the south of Japan, Kumagaya City’s temperature ranges from -1°C in winter to 32°C in summer – and has reached a whopping 40°C in the past. Much of the country also endures rainy season throughout the summer months and some areas are known for tropical storms.
Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, isn’t far away from Russia and shares its neighbour’s cool weather for much of the year. In winter, temperatures drop well into the minuses and most cities are covered in snow, with skiers taking to the region’s mountains. Whereas in summer, some cities on the island enjoy temperatures of up to 26°C.
Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, on the other hand, has a sub-tropical environment. The region’s temperature reaches up to 32°C in summer and very rarely drops below freezing point in winter. The region also experiences heavy rainfall between April and September.
Japan’s largest island, Honshu – home to Tokyo and Mount Fuji – has a vast range of temperatures and rainfall across the region. Tokyo has hot, wet summers with an average temperature of 29°C in August, and cold, dry winters with lows of 2°C.
And although it’s not strictly weather, it wouldn’t be right not mentioning Japan’s stunning cherry blossom season in late March to mid-April!
Please note: The information in this guide is accurate as of the time of writing. However, the laws and requirements to teach abroad can often change. Make sure to check the latest advice from the local authority of the country you plan to work in.