About Teaching in Japan
The following topics are covered in this section of our website. Please click
the topic of interest to view it directly.

1. Overview of teaching in Japan
2. Basic Working Conditions
3. General Duties
4. Salary
5. Start
6. Contract
7. Teaching Hours
8. Students
9 .Vacation and Holidays
10 .Accommodation
11. Travel Arrangements
12. Medical Insurance
13. Taxes and Deductions
14. Dress code
15. Training, Assistance & Teaching Materials
16. Additional Employment
17. Teaching Tips

1. Overview of teaching in Japan
The most popular job in Japan for foreign nationals to engage in is to provide language instruction. As the government has decided to promote English as Japan’s second language (it isn’t officially Japan’s second language), the English industry is enjoying a boom. Everyone from parents to company executives to university students are trying to learn the language which will help secure their own or their children’s futures. Because of this ever increasing interest, teaching positions in this field are widely available and interested individuals from all over the English speaking world make there way to Japan.

Teaching English in Japan is a remarkable profession. Unlike university and college trained teachers,
English teachers in Japan are usually expected to focus on the conversational aspect of the language. There is a simple reason for this: after the Second World War, English became an integral part of the Japanese school system. In fact, many students today graduate from high school with better results in English (grammar) than their American counterparts. Therefore, although the school system still provides a very extensive education in grammar, people enroll in private English schools to aid their conversation skills.

Now if you are reading this, you are probably interested in finding out more about spending some time in Japan as an English ‘sensei’.

What follows is information I hope will make your decision easier and more informed. Contained also is some information and links to a unique and entirely free teacher placement service for interested teachers. www.englishtreejapan.com will help you find the English teaching position you are looking for. The best part is they do it completely free of charge for you.

Get your resume right. Let your potential employer know just how right you are for the job!

Establish your credibility right off the bat by getting your resume right! Working in the recruiting industry has given us insight into common mistakes made by applicants. Don't send resumes with accompanying photos of yourself that are taken outside at night, have you doing goofy poses or wearing a santa hat to name a few.

If you feel your resume could use a major overhaul, or you need some crucial advice, English Tree recommends Expert Resumes for Teachers and Educators.

To start, please take a moment to read some of the information about teaching in Japan.

2. Basic Working Conditions*

  • Salary: 250,000 yen / month ($2,400 USD) + 100,000 yen bonus at completion of the contract (for a currency converter click here: http://www.englishtreejapan.com/Central_Japan_Lifestyle/index.htm.)
  • Start: Positions available at all times.
  • Contract: 1 year (renewable depending on your performance and the company’s needs).
  • Teaching Hours: 25-30 hours of teaching / week + 5 – 10 hours of preparation.
  • Students: All ages but typically elementary School & middle School (classes of generally 4-12 students).
  • Vacation: At least 10 days paid vacation plus, in most cases, national holidays that fall on regularly scheduled working days
  • Accommodation: Living accommodations provided by the school (within a reasonable distance of school) but employees will be expected to pay for their monthly apartment rental costs (ranging between 50,000 yen and 70,000 yen per month).
  • Medical Insurance: Subsidized medical insurance (covering the period of employment).
  • Visa: Working visa sponsorship.
    *These are examples only of basic working conditions for use as a general guide

3. General Duties
The teacher's duty and responsibilities include, but are not limited to the following:

a. Instruction of either English as a Foreign Language (EFL) in any or all phases of the Institute's program.
b. Preparation for classes.
c. Assistance in developing the Institute's educational program and materials.
d. Attendance in required staff & teachers’ meetings, workshops, training sessions, etc.
e. Participation in other activities related to any aspect of the business of the Institute.

4. Salary
Depending on your experience, education, employment status (full-time or part-time) and hours worked, you will be earning 250,000 Japanese Yen or more per month. You will be paid in Japanese Yen either monthly or bi-weekly. After setting up your bank account in Japan, your salary will be deposited automatically into your account. If necessary, you will be able to transfer money home from your bank or via a postal money order. In some instances, schools will pay you in cash. Your gross salary amount is almost the same as your net pay amount because only 5% of income tax is deducted from foreign teacher's gross monthly pay in accordance with current Japanese law.

When comparing this salary to a Western salary, please also consider that:
  • Deposit: Costly damage deposit and non-refundable key money fees relating to your apartment are covered by your employer.
  • Taxes: Japanese taxes are much lower. (5% income tax and 5% GST)
  • Bonus: Upon completion of your one year contract, you will usually be given a bonus (usually in the vicinity of 100,000 yen) (click to have a currency converter http://www.englishtreejapan.com/Central_Japan_Lifestyle/index.htm).

5. Start
www.englishtreejapan.com has positions available at all times. The application process (phone interview with the school and Work Visa application process) takes at least 6 to 8 weeks. In other words, from the moment these companies introduce an applicant to a school, they can be in Japan and teaching 1.5 to 2 months later. When applicants first apply, they are asked when they would like to start. For example, if an applicant says that he/she would like to start around the beginning of November, phone interviews with potential employers (schools) in September are organized (most schools only announce their openings about 2 months in advance), a position is secured, guidance through the process of obtaining a Work Visa for Japan is provided, as is guidance on booking a flight to Japan.

6. Contract
All positions are for a duration of at least 1 year. Renewing for one more year at the end of the contract is also almost always welcome (depending on your performance and the company’s needs).

You may annul your contract by giving a minimum of two months' advance notice in writing. In the case where the Employer seeks contract annulment, reasonable and adequate grounds must be provided for the contract to be dissolved.

7. Teaching Hours
You will be expected to work between 25 and 40 hours per week. Many jobs are Monday to Friday, but some require you to work on Saturdays and Sundays as well with other days of the week off in lieu. Most institutes have classes lasting for 50 minutes, giving you a ten minute break between lessons.

For adult students, the only times they are available to attend classes are before or after university or work. Because of this, some institutes may require you to teach in split shifts (e.g. something like 6:30-9:30 in the morning and 18:00-21:00 at night). However, the vast majority of jobs available are for teaching children. For these, you are most likely to have just one shift beginning in the afternoon (e.g. 12:00-20:00), teaching elementary school-aged children to begin with and high school-aged children in the evening. If you teach kindergarten children exclusively, you are more likely to start in the early morning and finish in the early afternoon. You should expect to be putting in at least one hour of preparation each day for your lessons. Most contracts stipulate that the employer is entitled to ask you to work up to 40 hours per week.

8. Students
A minority of the positions are for teaching adults. Most students are Elementary and Middle School students. Some students are Kindergarten aged. Most classes have 6-12 students in them.

9. Vacation and Holidays
Depending on the institute you are working for, you may be entitled to most Japanese national holidays (about 10 days per year).

Japanese National Holidays
The actual dates of some national holidays vary from year to year and in many cases occur directly before or after weekends. Please be aware that employers are not required to give paid days off on national holidays. However, many language institutes do grant employees paid days off or days off in lieu of most national holidays. The actual date that national holidays fall on varies from year to year but to give a rough idea of what to expect, the following is a listing of national holidays in Japan for 2005:

Jan.1 - New Years Day Coming-of-Age Day
Jan.10 - Coming-of-Age Day
Feb.11 - National Foundation Day
Mar.20 - Vernal Equinox Day
Mar.21 - Vernal Equinox Day Observed
Apr.29 - Green Day
May.3 - Constitution Day
May.4 - Declared Official Holiday
May.5 - Children's Day
Jul.18 - Marine Day
Sept.19 - Respected-for-the-Aged Day
Sept.23 - Autumnal Equinox Day
Oct.10 - Health Sports Day
Nov.3 - Culture Day
Nov.23 - Labor Thanksgiving Day
Dec.23 - Emperor's Birthday

Paid Vacation
In addition, you will usually be given 10 days paid vacation for the duration of your one-year contract. You will have to let your employers know well in advance of when you intend to take them; institutes can't afford to have all of their foreign teachers go on vacation at the same time. Many institutes also ration paid vacation into two separate vacations by allowing two one-week vacations. Additionally, in some cases, the institute may require you to take 5 of your 10 allotted vacation days at a prescribed time (ie: when the institute closes for holidays).

Paid Sick Leave.
According to Japanese labor law, employers are not required to give paid sick days. However, many institutes will allow some paid sick days throughout the duration of your contract.

10. Accommodation
Many Japanese language schools buy or lease apartments for company employees near their respective schools. Teachers are provided with reasonably priced accommodation in these apartments for the duration of their stay. Teachers are responsible for paying their rent (usually between 55,000 yen and 70,000 yen per month) (click to have a currency converter http://www.englishtreejapan.com/Central_Japan_Lifestyle/index.htm) but the language institute takes on the burden of Japanese apartment rental start-up costs (damage deposit, non-refundable deposit, real estate commission, etc…).

Apartments are usually located within walking distance of the schools, or if not, very close to public transportation. Apartments can be shared in some cases (2 Bedrooms, 1 living room, a relatively small kitchen space and a bathroom with shower/small bathtub; with another foreign teacher at the school) but the majority of company housing apartments are private (1 Bedroom, 1 living room, one small kitchen space and a bathroom with shower/small bathtub). Japanese accommodation is likely to be much smaller than what you are used to. It is unlikely you will have any kind of yard or garden. Apartments are generally furnished with a bed, small table, refrigerator, gas stove, kitchen utensils and washing machine. Many company apartments also feature an air conditioner/heater although this is not standard.

You will be required to pay (or share the payment with your room-mate, if applicable) for your utilities. Utilities may also include an apartment maintenance fee, in addition to your heating, water and electricity. Utility costs usually range anywhere from 10,000 yen / month ~15,000 yen / month depending on usage. Some schools may take a small portion of your first month's salary as a deposit for potential unpaid utility bills. However, this deposit will be returned to you at the end of your contract.

Housing Allowance:
Some employers (not all) may offer a housing allowance for a teacher who wants to find his/her own apartment. It is not recommended that you take a Housing Allowance for having your own apartment if you are a first timer in Japan and you don't have anyone that you know near the institute. Chances are that your employer can find you a better apartment for that amount of money. Besides, you don't want to be involved with renting and leasing an apartment when you first come to Japan as it can be quite complicated. However, if you already have someone with whom to share an apartment nearby, then it might be a viable option.

11. Travel Arrangements
In terms of getting to here, you will usually need to cover the costs of your travel to Japan. It is recommended that you purchase return airfare from your home country to the city requested by your institution. However, upon completion of your contract you will be paid a bonus that will go a long way to offsetting the total cost of the round trip ticket you purchased to get to Japan. Further, you will have to pay for and arrange travel within your home country to the nearest international airport along with traveler’s insurance. Companies don’t often cover this cost.

12. Medical Insurance
Many teachers come to Japan with traveler’s insurance purchased via an insurance or travel agent in their home country. Although it varies from institute to institute, most employers cover roughly half of your medical insurance costs. If you are intending to stay for one year only, you are eligible to use traveler’s insurance which can be purchased from a travel agent in your home country. Your employer will cover some of the costs for this (usually to a maximum cost of 40,000 yen to 50,000 yen). However, the exact amount covered varies from institute to institute. If you choose this option, be sure to keep your traveler’s medical insurance receipt to remain eligible for a partial reimbursement from your institute. Also be aware that when visiting a doctor, you will need to make a cash payment up front with a reimbursement coming directly from your medical provider.

If you are planning to stay in Japan for more than one year, by Japanese law you are obliged to enter the National Health Insurance scheme. For a person earning 250,000 Yen per month National Health Insurance will cost around 13,000 yen per month (it actually costs roughly 27,000 yen per month but it is usually shared 50/50 between the employer and employee).
Click for more info about the National Health Insurance plan (http://www.htia.org/e/info/health_i.html#no2 ).

13. Taxes and Deductions
A) The tax rate for teachers in Japan (foreign) depends on your monthly wage. Needless to say, the higher your salary, the higher your tax rate. Please refer to the National Tax Agency Website for more info (http://www.nta.go.jp/category/english/ ).

B) Your employer is required by law to supply you with a monthly pay slip called a "kyuryou meisai". This slip shows your pay rate and the amount of tax deducted from your pay.

E) There is a new pension scheme available that employers are now required by law to deduct from your pay. The amount is equal to 13.934% of your monthly wage. For more information, visit the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare’s homepage. (http://www.mhlw.go.jp/english/org/policy/dl/p36-37d1.pdf) Upon ending their status as resident of Japan, foreign nationals who have contributed to the Japanese pension scheme for 6 months or more are entitled to receive lump sum payments in lieu of the money they have contributed. To become eligible to receive this payment, you must make an application to your local Social Insurance Office (called, “shakai hoken jimusho”).

Salary deductions:
1. Income Tax. Click for more info (http://www.nta.go.jp/category/english/ ).
2. National Pension Scheme. Click for more info
3. The National Health Insurance. Click for more info (http://www.htia.org/e/info/health_i.html#no2).
In some cases, the institute may also deduct the cost of your rent directly from your salary each month.

14. Dress code
This is rarely mentioned in a contract. Many institutes are very open about what you wear when teaching, especially if you are teaching children. However, most do have some form of dress code. This can be as minimal as not allowing you to wear shorts to insisting on dress suits, shirts and ties. Either way, you will notice that your Japanese co-workers will usually be expected to dress much more formally than foreign teachers. Generally, most schools are satisfied if you dress in smart-casual fashion. There is one rule that will be found in almost all institutions. If you have a tattoo, you will be required to cover it when teaching. This is because tattoos are often associated with Yakuza (Japanese mafia) and your company does not want that kind of image projected to their customers. This rule also carries over to many public bathhouses which do not permit entry to those with tattoos.

15. Training, Assistance & Teaching Materials.
During your training you will have a chance to interact with other teachers and learn the techniques you'll need in class. Most English conversation teachers who come to Japan have little teaching experience and end up being very competent teachers. The length of training varies depending on the school and experience of the new teacher.

Most schools also have English-speaking Japanese staff who can help you with any difficulties. In some institutes, Japanese-speaking teachers may be available to explain the finer points of English grammar to the students while you are responsible for their pronunciation and for helping students to grasp lesson material. Please be aware that it is very rare for institutes to provide Japanese assistant teachers during your class to provide assistance or translate for you. The schools and parents of the students prefer that you communicate in English only.

Institutes will provide books and materials for you to use, but you will also be able to supplement them with your own games and activities often being able to share your culture and background with your students.

16. Additional Employment
Side jobs are usually discouraged. In fact, many contracts specifically forbid teaching staff from additional employment without the permission of the employer.

17. Teaching Tips
Many future teachers worry about the fact that they may not be good teachers or that they will not be able to communicate effectively with the children. This should not be a serious issue though. Teaching English is not difficult if you work hard and make learning fun for the children. Japanese students are similar in many ways to students in the West. They play with many of the same toys and games, have a passion for video games and are obsessed with movie and rock stars. Students are there because they want to learn English in addition to the schooling they receive at their regular schools. They are willing to work hard and most students are extremely well behaved and courteous to their teachers. Even if you have a student who is disruptive, with proper strategies, problems are quickly rectified. Unlike in many Western schools, discipline is not a major concern in schools. However, to be more effective all teachers should remember a few key teaching tips.

First, always speak clearly and at an appropriate level for your students. Some classes may contain beginner students who will not understand you if you speak too quickly or with too much jargon or slang. Other classes may have students who have lived abroad longer than they have lived in Japan. These students have a much higher level of understanding and may even correct your English!

A second strategy that is important is to try and get to know your students. Find out what music they like, who their favorite movie stars are and what sports or hobbies they take part in. Use this in your lessons and students will quickly become engaged in your lessons.

Also, it doesn’t hurt to try and learn some Japanese along the way. Learning to write your name and a few key words impresses the students and will encourage their desire to learn more English. Although keeping to the philosophy of speaking English only is usually maintained, learning some Japanese will help you understand your students better; even if you reply to their Japanese questions in English.

Another tip is to be firm, fair and have fun. Remember that you are the teacher and that your job is to help the students learn. It is your job to determine how much noise or playing around is acceptable. It is also important to treat all children the same, even if you are tempted to favor a few of the darling students who help you with your books on the way to each class!

Finally, it is most important to incorporate activities that will make learning fun for the students - and for you!