Kon’nichi-English! A Guide to Teaching English in Japan

If you embrace Japanese culture and need some help to achieve your dream and teach English in Japan, this guide is for you.

A Comprehensive Guide to Teaching English in Japan

Japan’s unique culture and language

Sensō-ji, Buddhist temple

If you embrace Japanese culture and need some help to achieve your dream and teach English in Japan, this guide is for you.

Teach English in Japan: Qualifications and Requirements

Visa and work permit procedures

C. Finding Teaching Opportunities

There are many job options. You can teach in private schools, public schools, language centers, and eikaiwas . Remember, you can always teach Japanese students online, too. There are many online teaching opportunities and this might be a good way to dip your feet into Japanese culture without taking the full leap of moving to a foreign country.

Get Hired: Websites and Resources

When searching for English teaching jobs in Japan, there are several reputable websites and resources to explore. Here are some of the best websites to find teaching opportunities in Japan:

  1. GaijinPot (https://jobs.gaijinpot.com/): GaijinPot is one of the most popular job search websites for foreigners in Japan. It features a wide range of job listings, including English teaching positions.
  2. Jobs in Japan (https://jobsinjapan.com/): This site focuses on job opportunities for English speakers in Japan, including teaching positions.
  3. Dave’s ESL Cafe (https://www.eslcafe.com/joblist/): Dave’s ESL Cafe has job listings for English teachers worldwide, including Japan.
  4. Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme (https://jetprogramme.org/en/): Operated by the Japanese government, the JET Programme recruits English-speaking Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) to work in public schools across Japan.
  5. Ohayo Sensei (https://www.ohayosensei.com/): This is a popular subscription-based newsletter that regularly sends out English teaching job opportunities in Japan.
  6. TEFL.com (https://www.tefl.com/): TEFL.com offers job listings for teaching English as a foreign language, and it includes positions in Japan.
  7. Interac (https://www.interacnetwork.com/): Interac is a private dispatch company that hires Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) for Japanese schools.
  8. ECC Foreign Language Institute (https://www.eccteachinjapan.com/): ECC is one of the largest private language school chains in Japan, and they often hire English teachers.
  9. CareerCross (https://www.careercross.com/): This website offers a variety of job opportunities for bilingual professionals in Japan, including English teaching positions.
  10. ELT News (https://www.eltnews.com/): ELT News provides information about English teaching jobs in Japan, among other resources for English teachers.

Get Hired: English Language Schools in Japan

The easiest way to teach English in Japan is to get hired by a school before your move. I suggest emailing schools your cover letter and resume and calling them directly. Here are some major English language schools in Japan to reach out to.

  1. Nova: Nova is one of the largest English conversation school chains in Japan, with branches across the country. They offer a variety of courses for different age groups and proficiency levels.
  2. ECC (formerly known as “AEON”): ECC is another prominent English conversation school with numerous branches throughout Japan. They provide English language education for children, adults, and business professionals.
  3. Berlitz Japan: Berlitz is a well-known global language education company with a strong presence in Japan. They offer English lessons using the Berlitz Method, which emphasizes immersion and natural conversation.
  4. Shane English School: Shane is an established English school in Japan that focuses on providing engaging and interactive English lessons to children and young learners.
  5. Gaba Corporation: Gaba is a unique English language school that offers one-on-one lessons to adult learners, allowing for personalized and flexible learning schedules.
  6. Aeon Kids: Aeon Kids is the children’s division of AEON Corporation, offering English language classes specifically tailored for young learners.
  7. Kids Duo: Kids Duo is a popular English school that caters to children, providing a fun and dynamic learning environment.

You can also move to Japan and build up a freelance tutoring business. This will give you more flexibility and possibly a higher salary, but it will take some legwork.

Pay in Japan

You need to earn about 4.7 million yen ($43,600) yearly, in Tokyo, to be comfortable. In some parts of the country, you can live off a bit less. For example, you can live off of 4.4 million yen (roughly $40,900) in Kanagawa and Osaka. In areas far away from the cities, you can get by with 3 million yen (roughly $28,00) if you are really careful with how you spend your money.

Networking and Joining Teacher Communities

Connecting with other English teachers in Japan is so important. You will be able to share experiences and advice to other teachers and this will help you feel more at home in Japan.

There are several ESL (English as a Second Language) teacher communities in Japan where teachers can connect, share experiences, and seek support. These communities are great resources for networking and finding valuable information about living and working as an ESL teacher in Japan. Some of the popular ESL teacher communities in Japan include:

  1. The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT): JALT is one of Japan’s largest and most well-known professional organizations for language teachers. They host conferences, workshops, and local chapter events where teachers can exchange ideas and best practices.
  2. Tokyo English Teachers (TET): TET is a community of English teachers based in Tokyo. They organize regular meetups, workshops, and social events for teachers to network and share experiences.
  3. Osaka English Language Teachers Association (OELTA): OELTA serves as a community for English teachers in the Osaka area. They conduct workshops, presentations, and social gatherings for professional development and networking.
  4. Fukuoka English Teachers Network (FETN): FETN is a group for English teachers in the Fukuoka region. They hold events and provide resources for teachers working in and around Fukuoka.
  5. Nagoya International Center (NIC) – English Teacher’s Corner: The NIC’s English Teacher’s Corner offers a platform for English teachers in Nagoya to connect, share teaching ideas, and participate in various activities.
  6. Okayama Association of JET Programme Participants (OAJET): OAJET is a community for current and former JET Programme participants in the Okayama prefecture. They organize social and professional development events for English teachers.

Online networking

Facebook Groups

There are several Facebook groups specifically dedicated to English teachers in Japan. Examples include “ALT – Assistant Language Teachers in Japan” and “English Teachers in Japan.”

Reddit Groups

Join r/movingtojapan

Preparing for Your Adventure

The Japanese Education System

Before teaching English in Japan, it will help you if you work on understanding the Japanese Education System.

The Japanese education system is highly structured and rigorous, emphasizing discipline, academic excellence, and respect for authority.

It consists of six years of elementary school, three years of lower secondary school, and three years of upper secondary school. The curriculum focuses on core subjects like math, science, language arts, and social studies, with an emphasis on memorization and rote learning. Additionally, students participate in extracurricular activities, club activities, and moral education. The schools focus on helping students ace the entrance exams to prestigious universities and future careers.

Lesson Planning Tips

Addressing the needs of introverted and extroverted students

Focus areas for Japanese students learning ESL

Like all ESL learners, Japanese speakers face specific challenges when learning English due to the linguistic and cultural differences between the two languages. When teaching English in Japan, be mindful to target these key focus areas.

Here are some aspects that are particularly difficult for Japanese speakers.


English has a wide range of vowel and consonant sounds that do not exist in Japanese. Japanese learners may struggle with correctly producing sounds like “r,” “l,” “v,” and the English “th” sounds, as they have no direct equivalents in their native language.

Intonation and Stress

English uses stress and intonation patterns to convey meaning and emotions. Japanese is a pitch-accent language, and the intonation patterns are different from English. Japanese learners may find it challenging to use the correct stress and intonation in English speech.

Word Order

English follows a subject-verb-object word order, while Japanese uses a subject-object-verb word order. This difference can lead to errors in sentence structure and word placement when Japanese learners speak or write in English.

Articles (a, an, the)

Japanese does not have articles like “a,” “an,” and “the” in English. Understanding when and how to use articles correctly can be confusing for Japanese speakers.

Verb Tenses and Aspects

English has a complex system of verb tenses and aspects, while Japanese has a simpler tense system. Japanese learners may struggle with distinguishing between past, present, and future tenses, as well as perfect and continuous aspects in English.

Politeness and Register: Japanese have different levels of politeness and register in their language, which are reflected in verb forms and expressions. English, on the other hand, has a more straightforward politeness system, and Japanese learners may have difficulty adjusting their speech accordingly.

Reading and Writing: English uses the Latin alphabet, while Japanese uses a combination of kanji, hiragana, and katakana characters. Learning a new writing system can be a significant hurdle for Japanese learners of English.

Cultural Differences: Cultural norms and communication styles can influence language learning. Japanese learners may need to adapt to more direct and assertive communication styles commonly used in English-speaking countries.

Cultural Differences

Respecting cultural norms is essential for English teachers working in a Japanese classroom. It helps create a positive and inclusive learning environment. Additionally, it fosters trust and rapport with students

Here are some ways an English teacher can respect cultural norms in a Japanese classroom:

Learn about Japanese Culture

Take the time to study and understand Japanese culture, customs, and social norms. This includes learning about bowing, gift-giving etiquette, and the use of honorifics in language. Being aware of these cultural practices will demonstrate your respect and appreciation for their way of life.

Use Polite Language

In Japanese culture, politeness and respect are highly valued. Use appropriate honorifics and polite language when speaking to students and colleagues. Addressing students with the appropriate level of politeness (e.g., using “-san” after their name) shows respect and consideration.

Dress Professionally and Modestly

Dressing modestly and professionally is a sign of respect in Japanese culture. Avoid overly casual or revealing attire while in the classroom or school setting.

Follow Classroom Rules and Procedures

Each school and classroom may have specific rules and procedures. Be sure to adhere to them diligently, as respect for rules is an integral part of Japanese culture.


Japanese culture places great importance on punctuality. Arrive on time for classes, meetings, and school events to demonstrate respect for your students and colleagues.

Emphasize Group Harmony

Encourage cooperation and teamwork in the classroom, as the value of group harmony is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture. Group activities and collaborative learning experiences are often well-received.

Avoid Personal Questions

In general, Japanese culture tends to be more reserved regarding personal matters. Avoid asking overly personal questions to students, and maintain appropriate boundaries in your interactions.

Many ESL teachers are drawn to teaching English in Japan due to the country’s unique culture and language. I am excited for you to embrace this enriching experience and hope this post guided you along the way.

Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL
Ingrid Maria Pimsner, MA, BA, TEFL

Ingrid Maria Pimsner has been teaching for over a decade in various universities, nonprofits, and private academies. She has taught English as a Second Language for Lutheran Children & Family Service, Nationalities Service Center, Lernstudio Barbarossa Berlin-Tegel, and more. In addition to her Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certification, she holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a MA from Maryland Institute College of Art.