Oct 21

Teaching In Japan 101

by in How To's & Lessons Learned

5th graders By jmurawski (Jennifer Murawski) on January 2, 2006 via Creative Commons on Flickr

You want to travel but don’t have enough money saved up, yet you want to leave now! Problem solved, you can teach English for a year overseas right? Yes and no.

YES: Teaching overseas is a great opportunity to travel to a different part of the world and be employed at the same time.

NO: You need to pick a country, and while places like China and Korea offer many great opportunities going to Japan is not what it used to be. The days of showing up and landing a job on the spot are long gone, nowadays the demand is much higher than the availability. You need to work on getting your TEFL/TESOL certification, do you have 2+ years teaching experience as well because that might help. Great now that you have the basics we need to start doing the hard stuff like picking out a company, preparing for interviews, and understanding our obligations as an English teacher in Japan.

Job Boards VS Established Programs

First you need to decide if you want to go through a program or find a school on your own by searching through job boards. If you want to work for an established program it is best to first familiarize yourself with the top 5 existing programs. Often these programs require you to start the interview process a year in advance, if you are trying to locate a job to start immediately then you will find better luck through searching job postings. The benefit of a company is that they often provide more opportunities and are more reliable than their smaller competitions or individual schools who don’t have as many resources or experience working with foreign teachers. So who are the top 5 programs in Japan?

Too much work or will take to long, that’s OK we can take a look through the job boards and see what we can find. There are hundreds of various sites with job postings, some credible some not, and it is a lot of work sorting out which ones are worthwhile. To give you a head start here are some more credible job posting sites:

*Pay close attention to the job description, many of these jobs are part time and/or require you to already be in Japan.

So what are some of the things to look out for when you are searching through all these opportunities?


Your current résumé might have been great to land you that job in the US but it wont cut it in Japan. Things run a little different in the rest of the world, and expectations are that you already know what they will be asking.They will ask personal questions on applications such as your religion or request a picture to be attached. Additionally, you will often be asked for a letter of character instead of references, so start thinking of people who would be willing to write that for you.

Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka?

Nihongo Desu Ka by mkhail on January 14, 2010, via Creative Commons on Flickr

Often they will ask you if you understand Nihongo (Japanese), and if you don’t say you don’t. I’ve been working with a tutor for a couple months and I still wouldn’t say I even speak a little, I know this is true because I have some 1st grade workbooks that have been sitting on my bookshelf intimidating me. Don’t lie to get the job because this will end up doing more damage in the end.

Where is the interview?

While Skype can be used to conduct an interview, I’ve done a few myself, sometimes this is not an option. Especially for the larger companies, there are often pre-established dates and locations for interviews. Some companies host their interviews in the US, some only in Canada and others yet you are expected to interview while in Japan. Seeing that the desire to teach in Japan is far more popular then available positions don’t expect the company to cover any of the travel cost to get to the interview.

Hours VS Dollars

Often you will see that you are expected to complete a certain amount of hours a week, this number is often below 40. Sweet, saki time right? Unfortunately not, the hours listed is teaching time, office hours, or time spent grading and planning, are often not shown. Make sure to ask what their expectation is, because you might be expected to fulfill a larger commitment than you bargained. Additionally is there travel time involved? I was offered a position once but would have had to bounce around between a number of schools, at my own expense. Their assurance was that they would help me to locate a bicycle.

Extracurricular activities? Yup sometimes night and weekend activities come up and you will be expected to be there. This may not be so much of a surprise if you are an experienced teacher, however if you never taught before this may be a surprise that you aren’t really done at the end of the day.


This information may not be there for you to see on the sites but truth be told it is more of a co-teaching experience. You serve the purpose as the English voice-box and rarely have control over the curriculum. Find out what the expectations are before you sign away. On the other hand you will need to learn how to be creative, if you have a secret talent for sing-a-longs bring this up during the interview because it may help. I once was asked to singe my favorite childhood song during and interview, luckily I was prepared for this question because I researched common interview questions for that company.

How Do I Get There?

Chances are you will be taking on the cost of your flight there, sometimes you will be offered a partial reimbursement, but this is rare. You have a better chance of having your flight home taken care of after working with the school.


Sometimes the company will help you locate a place, sometimes they will provide one and other times you will be expected to locate your own. What about key money? What is key money you ask, it is comparable to a security deposit which in this case can be anywhere from 1-3 months rent that will be due up front. This is why it is important to find out if your new job covers the key money or not. If they do provide an apartment is it shared or a private apartment, and is it furnished.

800px-1000_yen_Natsume_Soseki (1) by courtneyBolton on April 22, 2010. , via Creative Commons on Flickr


You aren’t going to teach in Japan because you want to become rich, so what perks does the company or school offer with your small salary. It is important to find out if their will be health insurance provided, what vacation days are granted, Visa assistance, possible overtime, completion bonus, return travel assistnace or possibilities to renew your contract if you end up loving the job.

You can find more information by checking out more than just the job boards at GaijinPot, All-About-Teaching-English-In-Japan, the discussion board at Dave’s ESL Cafe or another great site Japan-101. No, I’ve never worked in Japan or even been there for that matter (I fly out Dec. 5th for my first visit) but that doesn’t mean I haven’t read up on it, a lot. I really wanted to locate a job in Japan after I studied abroad in Brazil and I read everything there was to read, and applied for every job on every job board that I could find. In the end I was offered a few jobs that backtracked last minute and then re-offered a few months later leaving me a little weary. I still want to teach there, and hope to establish some connections this December when I go, but until then good luck in your hunt!


EDIT UPDATE: I have recently located an additional resource that will help you locate a job teaching in Japan. GoTeachAbroad.com


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13 Responses to “Teaching In Japan 101”

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  3. From I love Japan:

    Great resource, thanks so much for this.

    Posted on 2010/12/30 at 3:42 pm #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      Not a problem I may have to revisit some of these resources starting next year myself.

      Posted on 2011/01/04 at 1:22 am #

    Japan was my first choice too but the cost of living there is high. However much you’re making justifies how much you’d be spending to live there or get around.

    You could always consider Korea. Pay is one of the highest, it’s not as competitive as Japan, doesn’t require certification and is much cheaper.

    Posted on 2010/11/27 at 2:44 am #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      This is true but we’ll see how it works out, I’m already one semester into a free Masters program for TESOL so I’m hoping that gives me a competitive advantage. That and meeting some people there first hand should help. However if you don’t have those two options I’d side with you on Korea.

      Posted on 2010/11/29 at 7:04 pm #
  5. From Nathan:

    Great info – Sofia thought about doing this as well, will make sure to pass on this info to her.

    Posted on 2010/11/11 at 10:26 am #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      Thanks, I highly recommend those last four sites, they will have the most up-to-date information and if you have the time to plan out I recommend going through a major company as they are more reliable. The one thing I left out though is if you want to be in Tokyo…good luck you have a better chance being in a more rural area because everyone wants to work in Tokyo and those who apply directly, while in Japan, or already work for a company and want to be transferred to a major city have a better shot.

      Posted on 2010/11/11 at 2:35 pm #
  6. From Anonymous:

    Nice list of job sites, the requirements to teach here are a bit strict now, Japan actually has less English speakers/percentage than China, which is so odd as they are much more wealthy and had longer contact with the west, the do need good teachers not people attempting it for the first time as the seem to struggle.

    I’ve looked at jobs (teaching and otherwise) in Japan and there is not as many around as people might have you believe, I’m glad I have mine and will stick with it for now :-)

    Posted on 2010/10/24 at 5:15 am #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      Yeah, it seems like 20 years back you could show up on a tourist visa and land a job in a weeks time. Nowadays it takes planning and preparation to find one and experience to land a job. I’ll be over there to visit throughout December outside of Tokyo hoping to make some connection. Although this is easier said then done.

      Posted on 2010/10/26 at 2:40 pm #
  7. From Candicewalsh:

    Dang, Japan was the place I had targeted to teach in, especially with JET. Thanks for the info!

    Posted on 2010/10/22 at 7:13 pm #
    • From Cornelius Aesop:

      Hope it helps a little, It would be nice if all my research helped someone to land a job.

      Posted on 2010/10/22 at 9:16 pm #


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