Wondering what it is like to teach English in Japan? Super. You are in the right place.

In this post I'll talk about the culture, the environment, the teaching scene and share some video interviews with teachers in Japan.

I'll also be doing some comparison to some other Eastern Asian countries like Korea, Taiwan and China.

Jeanie

"So in Japan having a debate is a really big issue. So it's totally different. Like in America we like to argue all the time. But in Japan people don't.

Some Japanese students find it easier to debate in a different language like English. So that is always interesting to see. So that is what I like, different experiences."

Jeanie in Tokyo, Japan

You'll hear more from Jeanie and other teachers in Japan later. But now we'll talk a bit about teaching in Japan.

There's a lot of rules and it's the most formal

I heard someone say once, "They pretty much do things by the book here." 

Japan is the most formal place to teach. Some schools will expect you to dress in a suit and tie.

You get some visa freedom here

You'll have the most freedom here in regards to your visa.

In Japan your employer is not connected to your visa. This means that if you quit your job, you can keep the visa and find a new job without having to leave the country to get a new visa. However, you still need an employer/sponsor to help you get a job.

In Taiwan, China and Korea the employer basically owns your visa and that makes changing your job more difficult.

In Japan you can also change the status of your visa in country granted there is enough time.

For example, if you enter on a tourist visa or working holiday visa and find a job you can change it to an employment visa. I entered Japan on a tourist visa and within about a month of submitting my documents I got a residence card.

I didn't have to leave the country.

In China, Korea and Taiwan you can't typically do that as you have to leave the country for a visa run to get a new visa.

It's the cleanest

Japan is by far the cleanest place to live in East Asia.

The streets are pretty clean and there seems to be a greater awareness about the environment here than in the other places. For example, public bus drivers will turn off the buses at red lights to conserve resources although some of them are still pretty stinky exhaust wise.

You won't find that in other parts of East Asia which is generally more crowded and polluted.

But it's still not perfect there is still pollution: some buses stink, people still dump garbage off the side of the road, etc.

Most unique

You'll see a far greater array of fashion styles in Japan than in the other countries. Self expression seems to be more acceptable here than in the other places. Japan has also started a number of trends in Asia, like for example anime and cosplay.

You'll also find a greater diversity of music styles here. In the other three locations you'll find mostly mainstream pop music. 

elvis presley imitators in japan

It's hip

Japan is hip. Japan was the first country in Asia to embrace Hip Hop. You'll also find Elvis Presley imitators, low riders, and their own unique styles like Cosplay.

It's more westernized

Japan is the most modern and westernized although you're not in Kansas anymore. It is a wealthy country - the third largest economy in the world, but it's considerably smaller than China or the USA. The level of comfort here will be the highest.

People are pretty polite

The people here are generally very polite, reserved and well mannered. If someone bumps into you, you'll most likely get an apology or two. This is different compared to other countries like China or Korea where pushing can be common especially among older folks.

As Jeanie say in the picture above people don't like to debate. Most East Asians don't like confrontation and that's part of the culture

The earth shakes here

Japan lies in the Ring of Fire. Making it a very active place with many earthquakes and volcanoes. Taiwan also lies within this area.

It's bike friendly

There are many bikes in Japan. People of all age groups ride pedal bikes. You won't see many pedal bikes in China, Taiwan or Korea, but here bikes are aplenty and Japan is bike friendly.

But you better follow the rules or you might get stopped by a bike cop. They want you to register your bike and use a light at night time.

My Experience

I am a fan of Japan. I like the vibe. I moved here in January 2019 after visiting for the first time in 2008. I currently live here in Fukuoka, on a cultural visa.

Some observations and snap judgments about living in Japan:

  • They drive on the left side of the street (which will mess with you if you are from a country that doesn't).
  • Japanese seem to like to run or I seem to like to hang out where people run (parks).
  • Popular sports seem to be baseball.
  • Japan is bike friendly, but the cops are strict about theft and the rules.
  • I hear lots of sirens.
  • Bowing is more common here than other places.
  • People smoke in many restaurants like in other Asian countries.
  • It's quieter than China, Korea and Taiwan.

Teachers in Japan talk deep stuff: The banana game, debating, ups & downs and then answer the question, "Is Japan foreign friendly?"

 

The teaching scene in Japan

  • Requirements: 4 year degree & native English speaker, plus possible preferences for experienceTEFL certification, etc. More on the requirements to teach English in Japan
  • Job Market: Most Competitive
  • Average Salary: 250,000 Yen ($2,030) a month 
  • Cost of Living: Most expensive 
  • Housing: Not free, employers sometimes help find
  • Airfare: Usually only a free flight home with the JET program
  • Teaching hours: 22-30 a week
    *These are just averages expect differences between institutions

FAQ

Who will I teach?

You can teach whoever you want. You can teach adults, teens, elementary or kindergarten. There are different kinds of schools. In some schools you may teach many different ages. There's a 70+% chance that you will teach mostly children.

Should I teach in an eikaiwa or as an ALT?

Eikaiwa's will vary more and you will usually work as a solo teacher. As an ALT you work as an assistant language teacher and that can be easier. 

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