Teaching English in Japan
If you like the idea of teaching English in Japan, you’ll need to join the queue as Japan is a very popular destination for TEFL teachers. Whether or not you know something about the Japanese culture, you’ll still be surprised when you get there and start to experience it. Japanese people are usually very welcoming and warm people who are very proud of their country, and keen to tell you all about it.
Teaching English in Japan requires a lot of enthusiasm, energy, patience and flexibility. You’ll need to learn about local customs, and to respect them. There is plenty of work available, both teaching children and adults and teaching opportunities are divided between the state and private sectors.
Teaching in state schools
Your best chance of finding a teaching job in the state system is to look for an opening as an ALT, or Assistand Language Teacher. If you work as an ALT, you will work alongside a Japanese teacher in an elementary or junior high school on a daily basis. You’ll typically work around 30 hours a week, with classes from 8.00 until 5.00pm Monday to Friday. As an ALT you will qualify for a salary of approximately 250,000 yen per month.
Teaching in private schools
There is plenty of work available teaching English in the Japanese private sector, with students of all types and ages, from kindergarden children to business executives. In-house training is often available.
There are also private English conversation schools in Japan, called Eikaiwa, where children and adults are able to learn English from native English speaking teachers. Teachers are usually given 12-month fixed-term contracts and full-time teachers can expect to earn around 250,000 yen a month.
Qualifications and work visas
It is possible to get a job teaching English in Japan without formal qualifications but qualified teachers will find it much easier to find work. Many employers now require a first degree and TEFL certification and a native-speaker level of English. In order to teach English in Japan you will need a work visa, which you can apply for at your local Japanese Embassy. Alternatively, you can apply for a working-holiday visa if you intend to go to Japan and look for a job whilst you’re there. For advice on obtaining a visa, speak to your local Japanese Embassy.
Life in Japan
As with any country, it helps if you can speak at least a little Japanese. However, you can still find work even if you can’t speak the language and unless you are fluent in Japanese you will be encouraged to take Japanese lessons whilst you are there. You should take them. Learning Japanese won’t just help you understand your students and colleagues, it will also help you to learn and adjust to the local culture.
Japanese culture is famously full of unique customs and is very different to that of Western Europe or the USA. Teachers should take the time to read up on these customs before travelling. Listed below are some of the more common customs and forms of etiquette.
Here are some of the more common everyday rules:
- When you are indoors, in somebody’s house, don’t wear shoes on tatami mats. Stick to socks or bare feet
- Always remove your shoes when you enter somone’s home and leave them facing the door, ready for when you leave
- On social occasions, don’t leave before the guest of honour
- In traditional-style eating places, men should sit cross-legged and women should sit with their legs folded to one side
- If slippers are provided for you to wear, use socks (ideally white) to avoid your feet touching the slipper.
- There may be separate slippers to use when you go to the toilet, so always check
- Avoid blowing your nose in public
- Avoid eating when you are walking in the street
- If you prefer to use western cutlery in restaurants you need to ask for it, but it is generally available
These are just a few of the many social rules that you will need to respect if you want to teach English in Japan, but don’t let them discourage you. Japan is a lovely country, capable of surprising and delighting everybody.