If you’ve decided to embark on a teaching career but aren’t sure where to go, how about considering Japan? There are plenty of reasons to choose this popular Asian location for your teaching career, whether you are a newbie to the trade or have experience under your belt. Read on to discover our top 9 reasons for teaching English in Japan.
1. Good Choice for both Qualified and Unqualified Teachers
It’s not often the case that one country boasts plentiful opportunities for both experienced, qualified teachers as well as those of you who are inexperienced and unqualified. While teaching jobs with Eikaiwa (language schools) in Japan will often require you to have not only a TEFL qualification and experience as well as a degree, there are those that provide in-house training and will be happy enough to take you on as a newbie.
Also, if you’re looking to teach with the JET program, they actually prefer newbie teachers who have never taught before, and you aren’t even usually allowed to apply if you’ve taught in Japan before. So whatever your status, as long as you speak English as a native, you should find it easy to find employment.
2. Japanese Students are Lovely
While each student is an individual, there are certain characteristics and traits that you see consistently within a single culture. In Japan, the students are certainly different to the talkative or boisterous group you may have taught before.
In general, here are some character traits that you can expect to find across the board with your Japanese students:
- They’re often shy or quiet, and you won’t need to be constantly telling them to Shhh, be quiet! like you would with other cultures.
- Japanese students are typically quite studious. They want to excel and push themselves with their work.
- As a culture, Japanese people often help each other and they aren’t as competitive as other cultures. So this can work well in a mixed ability class.
- Like everyone you meet in Japan, you will typically find that your students are polite, friendly, and they will quickly warm to you – especially if you live outside of a big city, where foreigners aren’t so common.
3. Great Whether you want to Lead or Assist
If you’re new to teaching and don’t like the idea of being thrown in the deep end and dealing with it all yourself, Japan offers plenty of opportunities for full-time assistant roles.
Becoming a teacher through the JET program is basically being a TA – you’ll rarely do anything by yourself, and many people employed by JET will openly say that it’s not really a teaching job at all. As such, it’s a great choice for new teachers who want to ease into their job.
On the other hand, if you like the idea of total control, get a job at an Eikaiwa (private language school) where you will need to do everything from planning your lessons to teaching and writing reports. Jobs can vary greatly, so do your research for further details on what different schools require from you.
4. Japan is Awesomely Beautiful
Wherever you go in the world to teach English you’ll undoubtedly see some amazing, breath-taking views, but you can’t deny the fact that Japan is simply awesome in its beauty, both natural and man-made.
From sweeping mountains to dense forests, glittering cities to tranquil pagodas, holy temples to seaside beaches, Japan is completely gorgeous. Taking a walk down the street will take you past quaint craft shops, sweet little temples and verdant public parks – there’s always something to see, and festivals year-round with things to do.
5. Japanese Food is Epic
If you don’t like sushi, don’t fret – raw fish is actually such a small part of the cuisine of Japan that if you don’t like it, it isn’t a problem. Aside from their famous dishes like seafood nigiri and steaming bowls of ramen, there are countless delicious dishes you probably haven’t even heard of.
How about karaage, the Japanese fried chicken loved by locals, or katsu-don, a bowl of rice topped with a breaded pork cutlet? Okonomiyaki is affectionally nicknamed “Japanese Pizza” but is nothing like the doughy dishes we know from Italy, whereas you can find a doughy delight in shu cream, which is choux pastry – a much loved delicacy.
6. Visa Freedom – Not Connected to Your Employer
Other nearby countries (such as China) require you to get a new visa if you get a new job – i.e. it’s a total pain. However, in Japan your visa is not tied to your employer, and if you decide to get a new job, it doesn’t mean you run the risk of having to pack up and move home. Also, depending on where you come from, looking into a Working Holiday Visa might be a good move. If you’d like to scope out the country a bit before making the full leap, you can apply for this visa to work part-time for a year and check it out before applying for full-time work.
7. Holidays are Pretty Good
Typically Japan will have about 18-22 public holidays throughout the year. While your total holiday time depends on the school you work for, in general it isn’t bad at all. It’s also particularly good if you work for a state school or university rather than a private English kindergarten or Eikaiwa – these will often require you to work throughout the summer and other long school holidays.
Also, bear in mind that JET program teachers don’t get paid throughout the holidays. However, if you get the golden combination of a teaching contract for a university, you can look forward to both numerous public holidays as well as long periods off over the school breaks.
8. Japan is Safe and Clean
Ok, so there are a fair number of earthquakes and tsunami in Japan – that’s true. However, the likelihood of being caught up in one of these is fairly slim, and even if you are, the likelihood of being involved in a disaster where you are injured or killed is even lower. In the 1995 Kobe earthquake, around 150 of the 6,434 victims were foreigners. In the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami, while over 15,000 people were killed, only 19 were foreigners. So bearing that in mind, the chances of being injured in a disaster are very low.
Also, Japan is generally a very safe place to be – female foreigners are often much happier to walk around at night on their own in Japan than they would be in other places, and small crimes such as theft and pick-pocketing don’t happen often. Also, Japan is a clean place to be – pollution is low, you don’t see much litter on the streets, and it’s a pleasant place to exist.
9. You Can Save Money
If you live in Tokyo, chances are that your wages will just about cover your rent and other expenses with very little leftover at the end of the month – that’s the case for big city living. However, if you work pretty much anywhere else in Japan, you’ll find that your pay packet goes a pretty long way.
Outside of the capital, rent can be pretty cheap, and if you really want to save money, there are places to rent that are completely tiny and cost next to nothing. In-country travel can be expensive (like taking the train) but other than that, costs are low.
When I lived in Japan, I spent 3 months in Tokyo before moving to a smaller city (Kumamoto) where my apartment was five times bigger and half the price. I made a fair wage, managed to save quite a bit and still enjoyed eating out at least twice a week.
Bearing all that in mind, are you sold on Japan? Of course there are cons as well as all the pros listed above. Hiring teachers mostly from the UK, the USA and Canada, Japan is a pretty long way from home, and most teachers don’t get to visit family more than once a year.
Also, many people find the language tricky to learn (particularly the reading and writing!) so if you live somewhere small without many other foreigners, it can be a little isolating if you haven’t mastered the language. However, there are good and bad points wherever you are in the world, and Japan has so many benefits that, in my opinion, it far outweighs the bad.
Japan is a beautiful country with a fascinating culture and plenty of opportunities to teach English – what more could you want?