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  • Molly Higgs

How to Teach English in Japan

Brown leafless tree near snow covered mountain during daytime photoBrown leafless tree near snow covered mountain during daytime photo
A leafless tree near snow covered Mt. Fuji

From the space-age architecture of Tokyo to the ancient forests of Spirited Away, Japan is as diverse as it is scenic. With such a compact blend of modernity and history, expats can go from sipping sake in back-alley bars to temple-side meditation in an instant.

Those who teach in Japan can gain access to this unique cultural heritage and also secure a stable income and an enviable resume. 

Wondering how you can teach English in Japan and experience the land of the rising sun for yourself? Here’s our breakdown of requirements, necessary documents, and other stepping stones you’ll need to cross on your way to teaching in Japan.

Understand the Requirements

Even after conducting the bare minimum research, it’s easy to see why English teaching jobs in Japan are so sought-after. Competition can be fierce, so it’s crucial to make sure you meet all the requirements.

To secure that all-important work visa, the Japanese government requires new teachers to meet their set of mandates, and hiring schools will sometimes add their own prerequisites. 

  • Hold a Bachelor’s Degree: Many English teaching jobs in Japan, whether they’re in private institutes or public schools, will require you to have a bachelor's degree. While it’s possible to teach in Japan without a degree, most employers require a bachelor's degree in any field.

  • Have a TEFL Qualification: It’ll come as no surprise that to teach in Japan, most employers will require you an accredited TEFL qualification. As competition can be tough, holding a TEFL certificate and being able articulate what you learned from the course will help you stand out in the job arena. 

  • Have a Clean Background Check: Having a clean criminal record is imperative to most jobs, especially in the realm of teaching. To teach English in Japan, applicants must provide a comprehensive background check proving they have no prior convictions. This needs to be an original national-level criminal record check free from any major or minor offences. 

  • Health Check & Drug Tests: As with most Asian countries, those wanting to teach in Japan need to pass a basic health exam, proving they’re fit to instruct the next generation. While these exams can vary, they usually involve a drug test, a physical exam, and sometimes a psychological evaluation. This might sound a little intense, but employees just want to know that you’re healthy in body and mind.

  • Meet the Age Requirements: To teach English in Japan, you need to be at least 21, and under the local retirement age which is 62 to 65. Many schools looking to hire those in their 20's and 30's. But if you fall outside of these age demographics, don’t be disheartened. Each institute is different, and there are English teaching jobs in Japan for various ages. 

  • Financial Security: Immersing yourself in this unique culture requires higher starting costs than other teaching locations. To teach English in Japan comfortably, you’ll want to start your journey with at least $2,500 in savings. This will get you through your first month of rent, food, and whatever you’ll spend exploring your new home. 

Find The Type of Position You Want

Silhouette of Japanese man looking outside
A man staring outwards towards cherry blossoms

After checking that you meet the initial requirements to teach in Japan, the next step involves a bit of research. TEFL jobs in Japan take various forms, from teaching Business English to adults to language assistant roles in public schools. Each type of TEFL job and its location offers a different experience of Japan, and it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons of each.

Assistant Language Teacher Positions (ALT)

Assistant language teacher positions positions are the most prevalent TEFL jobs in Japan and are a go-to for first-time teachers. As a public school teacher, your job title as Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) means you’ll work alongside an experienced local teacher, which is the perfect opportunity to really ease yourself into life as a teacher and learn on the job. The Fewer Things' teach in Japan program offers TEFL training, pre-departure support and job placement as an ALT in a Japanese public school.

English Conversation Schools (Eikaiwas)

These private schools focus on providing practical English classes for everyday use, catering to various age groups and levels. If you decide to teach in Japan via an Eikaiwa, you can opt to teach high-flying businessmen, kindergarten students, or elementary school pupils depending on your skill set. Because these roles are more akin to being a homeroom teacher than ALT positions, Eikaiwas usually require a degree in Education or prior experience.

Post-Interview Visa Prep

Receiving a job offer to teach English in Japan is an amazing feeling, but there’s a lot more paperwork to complete before jetting to Japan. Visa requirements will vary depending on what country you are from, and it’s worth visiting the Japanese Embassy’s website to learn about the specific requirements for your country.

There’s a wealth of support out there, and many teachers opt to teach in Japan via a programme to ease their transition. To get the all-important working visa to teach English in Japan, you will need:

  • A Valid Passport: This one’s obvious, you’ll need a passport to travel internationally and consider English teaching jobs in Japan. Ideally, you’ll have a passport from an English-speaking nation. 

  • Completed Visa Application Form: This can be found on the Japanese Embassy’s website, but your school and program coordinators will help you navigate each section. 

  • Certificate of Eligibility: When you are hired to teach in Japan, your school will provide this for you alongside your contract.

Popular TEFL Locations in Japan

People shopping at a Japanese bookstore
Japanese bookstores during golden hour

From the illuminated skyscrapers of Tokyo to archaic and tranquil temples in Kyoto, there are plenty of places to choose from when it comes to teaching English in Japan.

Here are some of the most popular TEFL locations in Japan:

  • Tokyo

  • Kyoto

  • Osaka

  • Fukuoka

  • Nagoya

  • Sapporo

  • Yokohama

Frequently Asked Questions About Teaching English in Japan

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about living and teaching English in Japan.

How Much Can You Make Teaching English in Japan?

Most people are drawn to  TEFL in Japan for the cultural experience, but the comfortable salary and opportunity to save is a huge bonus. Public school positions typically pay a monthly salary from $1,500 to $2,400 USD per month, while private schools offer between $2,000-$2,800 USD per month.

Can You Teach in Japan Without a Degree?

Though job options are more limited, it’s entirely possible to teach in Japan without a degree. Programmes such as The Fewer Things’ Japan Explorer guarantee a paid teaching placement for 12 months, with applicants given the chance to work within the public school system.  

Is there a demand for English teachers in Japan?

Yes! English teaching jobs in Japan are always cropping up. As a global business power and with many industry-leading companies, Japan is always looking for more teachers to improve English proficiency which will inevitably benefit its international trade.

Can I teach English in Japan Without Speaking Japanese?

Yes! It’s a common misconception that you need to speak Japanese to live comfortably and TEFL in Japan. Employers and schools want their students to be fully immersed in an English classroom. While it’s always a good idea to learn your host country’s language, nobody will expect you to hold a conversation in Japanese when you begin teaching. Many schools offer free Japanese lessons to help you integrate and find your linguistic feet.

Read more about teaching English abroad:


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