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Overview

Living and working in Japan is a truly unique experience. Throughout history the Japanese have developed a set of values and customs unlike any where in the world. The ancient arts such as flower arrangement (ikebana) and the famous tea ceremony (chaji) still have an important place in a society where robotic technologies and high speed maglev trains are becoming common sights.
Many teachers coming to Japan will of course be drawn to Tokyo. This giant metropolis is a truly modern city having been rebuilt after both the Great Kanto Earthquake and World War 2, it is now home to both the beautiful and the truly bizarre!. There are many other wonderful places to live and work aside from Tokyo and it is relatively easy to find employment throughout the country.

The easiest and quickest route to employment in Japan is to teach for one of the major English schools. Teaching English in Japan is not known as TEFL but rather Eikaiwa which translates as “English Conversation”. The two major “Eikaiwa” schools are AEON (www.aeonet.com) and GEOS (www.teaching-english-in-japan.com).

If these big schools do not appeal to you then some other notable schools are WinBe (www.winbenet.com), Grandom (www.welcome.to/grandom), GABA (www.gaba.co.jp), and ECC (www.ecc.co.jp) . These schools are smaller and may be in more out of the way locations but will allow you greater freedom in the classroom. Often they are located in smaller towns and rural areas giving you a great opportunity to see the real Japan.

Another possibility is to consider the JET programme. www.jetprogramme.org, whose focus is broader than teaching English as a second language, is a government sponsored program. Foreign teachers live in and interact with local communities, primarily as English instructors but are expected to join in with other activities too. The maximum period for the JET programme is 3 years and it has fewer financial and promotional incentives than working in the private sector but it is a highly rewarding experience none the less.

Salary and hours
If you work for one of the “Eikaiwa” schools, the salary will usually be no less than ¥250,000 per month and be as much as ¥300,000 depending on where you are based and the hours you will be teaching. The working week is usually around 30 hours, although you should bear in mind that you may be asked to work overtime.

The annual salary for the JET scheme currently stands at ¥3,600,000.

Type of teaching
The majority of the work will be teaching conversation classes. It is worth bearing in mind that one drawback of teaching for the larger organizations is that they have their own syllabus and teaching method allowing the teacher very little room to experiment in the classroom.

Accommodation
An apartment will normally be provided for you.
Start of school year/ best time to look for work
The “Eikaiwa” schools recruit all year round in centers throughout North America and the United Kingdom.

Red Tape
In order to get a visa to work in Japan you will need a university degree in any discipline and the sponsorship of a Japanese company. It is possible to enter Japan on a tourist visa and seek employment/sponsorship but it is much easier to join a company that recruits in your home country as all of the paperwork will be done for you. You will then receive a visa as a “Specialist in Humanities” which you can renew in Japan every year for as long as you are employed.
In rare cases 3 and 5 year visas are issued dependant on your employment status.

Miscellaneous advice
The good news for potential teachers is that you do not need a CELTA or a Trinity Diploma to teach in Japan. A TEFL taster course, on-line course or weekend course will be sufficient to get you employment in most schools. The major schools often provide training and career development programmes allowing you to receive teaching qualifications in Japan.

FCO

Lonely Planet Guide - Japan