Live and Teach in Japan


No this isn’t a sales pitch..It’s for those that would love to come to Japan and just can’t seem to make it happen. Feeling stuck is terrible like you just can’t figure out how to get from A to B.

I know what it’s like to tell people you will go to Japan one day and studying Japanese in your free time, only to have them scoff in your face as if it’s some pipe dream. People are often very quick to tell others what they can’t do,  simply because they themselves have no clue how to do it.

Hopefully this blog post can help you connect those dash marks to get on your way.

In Japan you will 90% of the time run into two types of foreigners living here. They are either  The English Teacher or The Student. You will find those that have been able to live here  doing other jobs such as modeling, acting, translating, proofreading, office work, working in the tech industry and so on. I think most of the people that do that are really good at Japanese.

I will be talking about what I know  though which is teaching English. I have been teaching English in Japan for about 5 years now, these are some common questions people have asked me…

1.Do I need a background in English or Education ?

No. One of the main requirements for getting a job teaching English in Japan is that you have a four year degree. The best thing is, the major does not matter. I know teachers here that have  majored in so many different things. I myself have a psychology major, my husband majored in theater and costume design. He thought this position would not be open to him because he had no prior background in ESL. You do need to be a native English speaker though.

2. Should I come before I have that job?

Many will flat out say no, don’t come here without a job. But I would say that depends on who you are applying with. There are many  companies , that being here for an interview  face to face would be in your advantage. Though many companies will offer SKYPE interviews, even if you live here.

3. When should I come?

The best time would be in early spring before the new school year starts in April. Many companies start looking for employees as early as January.

4. Where do I start looking for work?


The most important thing to look for is that the company will sponsor your Visa for you.

There are two types of visas:

1. Instructors Visa – Those  are usually given to those working in schools as an ALT (assistant language teacher)

2.Culture Specialist Visa – This one is usually given for Eikaiwa workers or those working for a private English teaching company.

5. Which is better ALT  work or Eikaiwa work?

Probably the most difficult question to answer. I have worked for both and there are definite pros and cons to each.

ALT (assistant language teachers)

This position is different depending on if you are in Elementary, Junior High or High School.

Pros–   You are not in charge of discipline if the students act up, it’s on their teacher to straighten it out.You don’t need to yell at the students for not listening or playing around.

Elementary Schools–  You are responsible for the lesson planning usually, but they are light weight. Playing games, singing songs, making English fun is the main point.Right now homework and tests are not required, though that may change in the future.

Junior High School– Probably the easiest job,  you usually don’t have to make lesson plans, you just do as instructed by the teacher. Sometimes just having students repeat things after you is all you may do. In addition you get fun club activities like Kendo, and Judo you can participate in afterschool if you wish.

High School– The students are older they have been studying English for awhile so sometimes they maybe easier to actually communicate with. You could find yourself teaching your own lessons like in Elementary School or you could be a tape recorder like in Junior High School , maybe a mix of both.

Cons-  You may find yourself shifting between multiple schools, high energy is required at elementary school so that can get tiring. In junior high school, teachers and staff are sooo busy it can get lonely and confusing if you don’t understand Japanese. You  may have trouble getting along with the students because they are middle schoolers. I found most students to be kind but this is where English turns into a difficult subject for them  with homework and tests, so they may take their frustration out on you the same can be said for high school.

Eikaiwa  (working for an  English lesson company)

Pros–  Pay.  No questions about it working in an Eikaiwa is usually where you make the most money.

Adult students are usually very friendly as they actually want to be there. Sometimes work will start midday or even later as you work on students schedules when they are out after school and when adults are done with work so classes may run until 9:30pm. If you do have morning classes  they may be either retired adults or  very small children and stay at home moms.

You often are not expected to be there when you are not working, so if you have no lessons you can do other things, unlike a public school  where you are stuck in the building from 8:00am-5:00pm.  Also many give a day off during the week, so you can do banking or visit the post office.

Cons – Unlike in the public school system, you are in charge. You have to come up with your own lesson plans, some Eikaiwas have books and lots of materials you can use, but some may not.  You may find yourself spending a lot of time on lesson planning.

Discipline-  Because it is your class, and you’re dealing with kids, you are the disciplinarian. The hardest part is, is that they are also your clients whom you must keep happy. If they don’t like your class and their parents pull them out, you are losing money for that company.

There is so much to cover in this post but I hope you now have a clearer idea of how to teach English in Japan.

Thank you sooo much for reading such a long post.

If you have any comments or questions feel free to ask. I will probably  do a video blog on this subject in the future.

And don’t let anyone try to tell you what you can and can’t do including yourself.




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