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Teaching English in Japan 101

The Asian markets are some of the largest in the world for English teachers, and Japan has one of the longest traditions of employing English instructors. The Japanese have mandated that English be taught in all of their public schools beginning at age 5 and lasting through the completion of high school. This broad base of child learners has opened a large market for English teaching jobs in Japan. Adults are taking English language classes in the millions as well, and it often seems that language schools are on every corner of a city block.

Those looking to teach English in Japan can find jobs year round, and in-person interviews are conducted 3 to 6 months in advance throughout the U.S., U.K., and Canada. Instructors are usually responsible for airfare and housing costs, although schools do assist in finding housing and sometimes provide accommodations.


Many Americans teach English in Japan through the famous Jet Program and the Interac Program, which places qualified Americans as assistant language teachers (ALTs) in high schools and grades schools throughout the country.  Many foreigners also teach in private language schools. English teachers must obtain a proper work visa to work in Japan.

Japan can offer a good salary for teachers looking to save, however, there are three things to keep in mind with this.

  • The best benefits and highest savings potential are often with the JET program because it does include housing and airfare. Participants in the JET program can save between $300 and $600 a month in their first year.
  • If housing is not provided, expect higher start-up costs, including paying “key money”. This is typically the amount of one month’s rent that is given as a gift to your landlord, and it will not be returned once your lease is up. If you are renting your own apartment, this is an expense you should consider in planning for your start-up costs.
  • The average monthly cost of living in Japan tends to be higher than other Asian countries, and it can take longer to establish yourself and start saving money. Depending on where you are living, expect to break even for the first 4-6 months if you are working at a private language school.

Overall teaching English in Japan enables teachers to live a comfortable lifestyle. Schools typically offer 20 to 25 hours of work per week (and sometimes more), leaving plenty of time to travel and explore. English teachers need a bachelor’s degree, and TEFL certification is typically required to teach English in Japan. Major cities for teaching in Japan include Tokyo, Fukuoka, Kobe, Kyoto, and Osaka.

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