Saki, sushi, sumo, cherry blossom trees, Hello Kitty and Mt. Fuji are just a few of the things that come to mind when you think of Japan. Despite Japan having a long history of ESL teachers flocking to their shores, it continues to remain as one of the most popular spots for ESL teachers wanting to teach abroad.
Many ESL teachers head to Japan for various reasons. Perhaps they’re interested in the rich Japanese culture, anime, Taiko drumming, Japanese literature or Zen temples, or perhaps ESL teachers in Japan go for the financial rewards. Whatever the reason is, Japan continues to offer what seems like endless opportunities for English teachers. With its amazing contrast of outdoor activities such as skiing, hiking or surfing and its busy and very chaotic metropolitan life, ESL teachers in Japan are forever awestruck by the politeness in Japanese culture and its welcoming atmosphere.
With their ever-growing population and strong placement in the international business world, Japan needs native ESL teachers to teach a wide range of learners from pre-kindergarten through to older professionals. Japan is an old player in the ESL world and competition is tough, which is why all English institutions both in the private and public sector require ESL teacher applicants to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field. If you’re looking to get hired in the Japanese public sector, you’ll need to be interviewed in person. All promising applicants will be invited to participate in a face-to-face interview either in Japan or in an international hub where recruiting companies have a head office – typically in Sydney, Auckland and Melbourne. The interview phase is complex and is done in a number of parts with an initial telephone interview followed up by an in-person interview. Big named private institutes often also request face-to-face interviews; however, Skype is also acceptable in many cases.
If you wish to work in a public school in Japan as an English teacher, working as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) may be an option. The ALT works together with a Japanese primary or middle school teacher. Landing a job in the Japanese public sector is difficult initially, but it’s rewarding with its fringe benefits and extensive holiday time allowing you to visit some of Japan’s most beautiful and exciting places such as Kyoto, Tokyo, Kanagawa, Osaka, Chiba, Aichi, and Nara to name a few.
Hiring is all-year as there’s a high demand for English language teachers in Japan, however, if you’re looking to score one of the more coveted language teaching jobs in Japan, you need to be aware that English teaching contracts usually start in either April or mid-September and then run through until the end of March.
Working in private language institutes in Japan as an ESL teacher is totally different to working in the public sector and flexibility is a must. Here you might teach a variety of different students throughout the day from pre-school right through to adults. It’s highly likely you’ll work in shifts to coincide with hours that suit your students’ needs and at times it can be tiring, however, the great thing about working at a reputable language school in Japan is that you’ll constantly get in-house training and good support. For those teachers who do a great job, performance incentives are often offered which makes working as an ESL teacher in Japan more motivating and fun. At the end of the day if you’re a highly motivated ESL teacher, who works hard, and wants to stay in Japan long-term, there’s a lot of room for success and growth. Because there are many people who need English in Japan, ESL jobs aren’t just limited to the major cities like in other Asian countries.
Japanese people are hardworking individuals and have a good work ethic and when it comes to their teachers, they want nothing but professionalism, however, if you do the job well, you will be rewarded. The average monthly salary for an ESL teacher in Japan is approximately ¥250,000 (approximately £1,400). If you choose to work part-time you’ll receive approximately ¥125,000 (£700). ESL teachers in Japan can expect to work anywhere between 8am-5pm, 5 days a week, which sometimes includes Saturdays. A full-time ESL teacher works approximately 26 hours a week and a part-time ESL teacher in Japan will work around 13 hours.
If you’re put off with the longer teaching hours in Japan, remember that you’ve got a generous holiday period of about 4 weeks in August (60% of which is paid). Additional holidays are in the winter months of December and January where you’ll get 2 weeks free (75% of which is paid). What’s more, you’ll get all the Japanese National Holidays which equates to about 10 full-time working days.
Most established language schools in Japan have about 2-15 teachers, however, there’s usually only 1 or 2 foreign teachers due to the Japanese immigration law. Rent in Japan is high. Many schools offer accommodation to their teachers and if they don’t, you’ve got to seriously think about whether you can afford to live, work, and save there. The average rental price for a small one-bedroom studio apartment in the outskirts of a city such as Tokyo or Osaka is about ¥80,000 per month (£480). One thing Japan is known for is its high cost of living and it’s important to factor this into the equation before moving to Japan to teach ESL. Other daily costs include:
A cheap meal for one: ¥800 (£4.50)
A pint of beer: ¥380 (£2.40)
A regular coffee: ¥370 (£2.30)
One-way ticket on local transport: ¥200 (£1.20)
Taxi starting tariff: ¥700 (£4.00)
In short, as beautiful as Japan is, it’s not cheap to set up and you should plan to take at least ¥200,000 (£1,120) to see you through and cover all those initial costs.
When searching for jobs in Japan, make sure you look for employers who offer to pay a return airfare and cover health insurance. Most Japanese employers are interested in keeping their teachers for a longer period of time which is why many offer Japanese lessons for free to help you assimilate into society. Ten years ago, it was extremely difficult to get around Japan. Not because of their modes of transport, but because hardly anyone spoke good English to assist. These days it’s quite the opposite and if you ask the right age group (people in their 20’s and 30’s), most will be able to communicate simple instructions to you in English.
Despite Japan being very expensive, it definitely has its perks and it’s an extremely beautiful country to live in with some of the friendliest people on earth, not to mention a delicious cuisine as well. It remains in the top 10 destinations for ESL teachers, so if this appeals to you, start Googling reputable ESL schools in Japan today.