My experience teaching English in Japan.

September 5th, 2013By Category: Teaching in Japan

I have been teaching English in Japan for almost five months and I would like to give a little insight into my role as a teacher in Japan. I hope I may entice you to come out here and teach.

My mum said that she thought I was always born to be a teacher, and I think this becomes more apparent to me every day. Usually to teach in Japan your mother tongue needs to be English, you need a university degree and a teaching qualification of some sort is desired but not essential. You require a working visa in order to work and earn money in Japan.

I hear that most teaching positions will come with an apartment or small house already organised for you, rent prices vary. This was the case for me; I have also been given a bicycle so I can get from school-to-school easily. I usually work about 25-28 hours a week. Whilst I won’t state my own personal wage, wages are good in Japan, you can live comfortably every day, travel Japan and hopefully go home with some savings (this depends on how luxuriously you live your life in Japan). I did a quick bit of research into teaching figures and on average teachers earn about 240 000 – 260 000 Yen a month. My motivation to come here was not about money, but the experience of teaching and also immersing myself into another culture. Having worked in recruitment, I strongly believe that you should never do a job because of the money.

Private language schools for English are known as eikaiwa. Often teachers will teach private lessons and are also contracted out into kindergartens, primary schools and private companies. This is my case. I work for a private language school and students range from kindergarten to adults and working shifts range from day to evenings shifts. My earliest lesson of the day is 11:00am, which are always my adult’s lessons. Many of my adult’s lessons are free conversation classes; I often talk about our week, recent news articles, hobbies and interest. I really love these classes it’s a great way to learn about adults and even ask about the best places to travel in Japan. My students love to give me travel tips and advice, so it’s a great opportunity to find out about those secret Japanese gems which are off the tourist track.


Giving gifts to teachers is quite common. This week I have received a few lovely gifts as a little token, and it really brightens my day.

After my 1 hour morning class, my main teaching day begins around 4:00-5:00pm. I usually have about 4-5 hours teaching in the evening depending on the day, and most classes are children (16 years old and younger). Children are grouped depending on their ability and class sizes are small, the biggest group class I teach is 4. A teaching year is April to April, and you are teaching the same topics e.g. family members, phonics and actions over and over again to engrave it in their memories. These classes are always different; obviously every child is different so some classes are very energetic and fast paced whereas others are more reserved.

I am also sent to different kindergartens across the city. I absolutely love these classes. The class sizes are much larger (up to 30 children) compared to the private/ group classes. I literally threw myself into it from day one; there is no way you can afford to be shy in front of 30 kindergarten children. The more of a clown you are, the more they will think you are the best teacher. Every week I try to use big animated expressions, silly noises and voices, dancing and songs.

I have learned that you really have to be enthusiastic and eager to teach, and you certainly can’t have an off day in teaching because it effects the children’s education and ability to learn. Of course at times it can be frustrating when a child can’t pronounce ‘a’ properly or ‘the.’ Patience is a virtue. It’s about repetition constantly, this requires patience’s because you are doing the same thing over and over again. But I found that you have fun and they learn more if you actually spend time thinking of new games or activities for each month otherwise it is boring for the children and productivity declines as time goes on.

Most importantly you should have fun!

I personally do not find this job stressful at all, it’s a rewarding job where you meet really interesting people and learn a lot. I admit that not every day is going to be ‘the dream.’ There is no standard ‘teaching in Japan’ experience, each experience is different and everyone can look forward to a unique role within a workplace. Whilst I cannot compare this experience to teaching in another country, I can genuinely say you would not be disappointed teaching in Japan. I hope that I can give a little insight that may help if you are considering moving to Japan.

Author of this article

Marion Dodd

I am an English teacher living in Japan, aspiring to become an artist and telling people about my time in Japan through my art work.

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  • Shuhrat says:

    First of all I`d like to thank you for your encouraging experience in Japan. I read it very carefully in order to get whether you are doing this job for just earning money or this is the very aspect of your life. I see that you breathe with your job. Keep doing it

  • zoomingjapan says:

    NOVA went bankrupt a long time ago. The bad stories you’ve read are probably from that time. I heard they’re back now, but probably “too new” to read a lot of bad stories about it.
    NOVA used to be one of the big eikaiwa school chains. They’re not hiring you out to other schools. I think what you might be refering to are the ALT dispatch companies.

    I have no personal experience with the big eikaiwa schools such as AEON or Berlitz. I’ve only always worked for small, family-run schools and I loved it. Both, the big ones as well as the small ones, have their flaws. Eventually you need to figure out what works best for you and that means you need to experience it yourself. A lot of teachers didn’t like those small schools I’ve been working for, but for me it was the best option. It depends on you and your preferences, so you shouldn’t care too much about what is written about this and that company. 😉

  • Ruthię says:

    Hey Miranda, no I’m still on my contract here in Indonesia. I have 2 more months and a bit to go now, I’ve reconsidered moving to Japan and now I am working towards moving to Malaysia and settling there for a while 🙂 where abouts are you now?

  • Miranda Smith says:

    Did you move to Japan Ruth? How’s it going? My research tells me NOT to apply for the big companies like Nova and Aeon.

  • Miranda Smith says:

    Hi there. I heard that the pay is 200, 00 – 260, 000 and it’s hard to live off if you are in a big city but it’s fine if you are in a small city. True?
    Also, I’ve read that you should not work for big companies like Nova and Aeon and look for a small school in a small city. What do you think?
    Thanks so much for your time

  • Miranda Smith says:

    Sounds great. I’ve read some pretty terrible things online about the big companies like Nova and Aeon. I read that they are so strict, watch you all the time and you cannot be imaginative or change the curriculum. They might put 3 teachers in the same accommodation and make you all pay full rent. What do you think of this?
    Also, can you clarify this – Is Nova a company that hires you out to Eikaiwa schools or Nova is actually the name of the Eikaiwa school? (and there would be many of them). Thanks so much for your time

  • Ruthię says:

    Very interesting! Thank you for sharing with us.

    I am currently teaching English in Indonesia at the moment and I am having a wonderful time teaching here, I am learning just as much from my students as they are from me. I am currently on my 4th month of teaching here and I am planning to relocate to Japan after my one year contract is over. Which organisation did you apply through? are there any that you would recommend? Looking to hear from you.

    You could drop me an email if it makes things easier
    I am also an artist, seeking to improve myself in order to help others in some shape or form.

    Ruth Asidi

  • Christina Gmiterko says:

    Did a company schill write this? haha

    Actually, your first year teaching in Japan is quite different than any year after that. Main reason being is because you get hit with a ton of taxes and health insurance increases from your second year onwards….yet your salary will never change to compensate for it.

    The average salary right now for a full time ALT in Tokyo is 200,000. It’s barely survivable. The only way anyone could actually save is if they either leave after their first year of teaching or they are teaching in a very rural area.

    Sorry to be such a downer, but thought I should throw in a dose of reality here.

  • carlton says:

    I agree with what you said about having fun. I taught at a International school as a

    summer school teacher. I was given an opportunity. I don’t have a teaching degree.

    I do have a degree. My years in the military I have taught quite a bit. I love the

    experience, and I had so much fun. I miss those students. I am now working on my

    TESOL online course, and trying to get another job. That job was only a temp one.

    I am hoping to find another one soon. If you have any other tips I am open ears.

    Thank you.

  • Lorraine Joyce says:

    Great post! I wonder for the valid agency you went to so you could land on this job? 🙂 I’m very much interested!

  • zoomingjapan says:

    Welcome to Japan and to the teaching world! 🙂
    It would be interesting to read what you have to say after a few years! 😉

    I’ve been in Japan for 6 years now, always been teaching in eikaiwas, so I know very well what you are talking about here.
    I’m a good example of one of those who are not native speakers of English.
    However, I have a MA degree in education and in my opinion just being a native speaker doesn’t qualify you as a good teacher.

    I’ve seen so many teachers come and go in the past few years and only very few were good teachers. Most of them didn’t want to be teachers anyways and just did it for the money.

    I agree with what you said. You need to have fun!
    When you enjoy it, the kids will, too!

    If you don’t like teaching, then sit down, study hard and get a job where Japanese skills are required.

    I’m (almost) fluent in Japanese. In fact I’m more or less fluent in three languages, but I would never change jobs.

    I love being a teacher! 🙂


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