Why Teach English in Japan?
Once you’ve gained your TEFL qualification, the next thing you’ll need to think about is where you want to teach. There are opportunities to teach English all over the world, and with a flood of job offers from various countries, it can be difficult to choose where to go! We’ll explore why Japan might be the best place for you to teach English.
The Teaching Opportunities
Despite the prevalence of English teachers in Japan for the past few decades, Japan remains a place where people aren’t very good at speaking English, even if they learn it in school. What this means is that there are plenty of opportunities for TEFL teachers in Japan. Parents recognise that extra tuition is often necessary for their children to succeed in the language, and many business people are realising the value of speaking English at work. Whether you want to teach children or adults, you’ll find somewhere to teach in Japan.
There are plenty of options, but they aren’t available to everyone. If you want to work for a big chain company, you’ll have no problem finding a job in the location of your choice. However, if you want to work for a small or independent company, it will be difficult to get a foot in the door – you need a valid working visa to enter Japan for work, which small companies can’t afford to sponsor. A popular route to take is to accept a job for a bigger company (often in Tokyo) to get you into the country. Once you’re in Japan, it’s much easier to change jobs and apply for smaller companies if that’s what you prefer. Another choice is to enter on a working holiday visa, and then switch to a working visa once you find employment.
Japan is generally known for being an expensive place to live, but this isn’t actually true. Tokyo certainly is an expensive place to live, but if you live pretty much anywhere else in Japan, you’ll realize that it’s not that expensive at all, especially once you learn the cheap places to shop.
One of the best things about working for a large company is that you get a ‘Tokyo wage’ regardless of which city you end up in. Large companies will have branches all over Japan, and they set their wages for foreign teachers based on living in Tokyo. So if you end up living in a small city or a town, you’ll have a low cost of living and still be receiving the same as a teacher working in the capital. However, if you work for a small company or independent school, your remuneration is likely to be much more modest.
Full-time foreign teacher wages can range from 220,000 Yen to 300,000 Yen per month. A good figure to aim for is 250,000 Yen per month. For an experienced teacher, 270,000 Yen per month is a good starting wage.
While each student is an individual, it’s certainly true that there are traits you’ll notice in students from certain countries. In general, Japanese students are a joy to teach, particularly for first-time teachers who are nervous about unruly classes. Top traits you’ll notice in Japanese students:
- They’re polite.
- They’re hard-working.
- They’re quiet and well-disciplined.
- They respond well to praise and encouragement.
There are also some downsides to teaching Japanese students, as there are for students of every culture. You may find that some students are too quiet, or painfully shy. Japanese students often find it hard to be creative, have individual opinions, or to contribute if they aren’t 100% sure of the answer. This is even more noticeable in adult students.
Japan is a wonderful place to live, for so many reasons. Transportation is good and it’s easy to travel around the country on public holidays. The food is delicious and far more varied than you realize until you’ve lived there for a while. It’s also cheap to eat out (particularly for lunch deals) and if you earn a decent wage anywhere outside of Tokyo, you can probably afford to eat out at least once a week. The seasons are beautiful – it can get quite hot in the summer, and cold in the winter too depending on where you are, but the spring and autumn months are blissfully long. A country with a rich history, in Japan you can always find something to do and somewhere to go. Finally, unless you’re based in a tiny town, you’ll find it easy to connect with other foreigners.
It’s estimated that over 2.5 million foreigners work in Japan, and you could be one of them! There are pros and cons for any location, and wherever you end up you’ll find things to love (and to hate). Japan is a stunning country that many foreigners fall in love with – does it sound like the kind of place you’d like to teach English?
About the Author
Celia Jenkins is a freelance writer and TEFL-trained English teacher who spent five years teaching in Asia. She specializes in travel writing and writing for children, and has a penchant for knitting. Celia is the author of Knitted Sushi (easy knitting patterns for beginners) and Ben and Maki – Let’s be Friends (an English/Japanese bilingual picture book). To contact Celia about freelancing work, check out her Upwork profile or contact her through her website.