Photo:Colin Ryder on Flickr

How to Teach English in Japan

Teaching abroad is a fantastic experience that looks great on your resume and gives you the opportunity to get paid to travel. In most cases, learning the native language of the country isn't a necessity, and job contracts can be from a few months to a few years long.

With Japan's unique culture, state-of-the-art technology, beautiful countryside and low crime rate, it remains a popular destination for aspiring English teachers worldwide. This article explains the requirements for becoming an English teacher in Japan, and the steps you have to take to land a job there.

Photo by Nhrdsk on Wikimedia Commons.


Like any teaching job, you have to prove that you've had some sort of education. In Japan, the typical requirements are as follows:

  • You must have a bachelor's degree (in any subject).
  • Be mentally and physically healthy.
  • You must have had English education for a certain number of years (if you're not a native English speaker).
  • Speak a little Japanese.
  • Have a driver's license (though this depends on the job).

More things that will help your application:

  • A teaching certificate, such as TEFL or CELTA.
  • Teaching experience.
  • Speak some Japanese.
  • Have a driver's license (you can take the driving test in Japan, or obtain an International Driver's Permit before you go).

*Double check the specific job application for their requirements. All jobs require a bachelor's degree, but the others only apply to some companies. In a lot of places, such as Tokyo, you're not required to drive, but it's a bonus for getting around in general.


There are several ways you can apply to teach English in Japan.

  • Various job listing websites in English: listings of jobs all over Japan, usually have many different English teaching offers.
  • The JET Program: one of the most popular methods to apply for jobs in Japan. You can apply from October of every year.
  • Company websites: for a specific company, check their website. Companies include English For You, A to Z and OneUp English school.

Getting a Work Visa

There are several ways that you can obtain a work visa in Japan.

  • The simplest way is by getting a company to sponsor you. Once you've landed a job with a company, they'll ask you to scan and send your passport, fill out a form and send a passport photograph. The company will work out the details and ensure you have a work visa either before you arrive, or a little after you arrive.
  • Another, slightly more risky (but perfectly legal) way to get a work visa is by going to Japan as a tourist and finding a job whilst you're there. You can have an interview in person, and you're available to work immediately, which is a bonus for you. However, you can only stay in Japan on a tourist visa for 90 days, so ideally you'll need to get a job within 60 days of arrival, as it can take around a month for the visa to be processed.
  • Another way is by getting a Working Holiday Visa for Japan. Check your home country's embassy for the application process. With a Working Holiday Visa you can work in Japan legally, and stay in Japan for 6 months or more.


Generally, the starting dates will vary depending on the job. Good times to apply include the summer months, and January or February. All applications require a cover letter and for you to upload your resume. This is all in English, as most company owners and employers can speak English. A lot of the time, a teacher at the school from a foreign country, such as Australia or the USA, will assist in the application process.

If you apply via the JET Program, see the application process on the website, and bear in mind there are a lot more steps involved than to just fill out a form. For example, you must be in your home country, your country must be eligible and you must be prepared to travel for an interview.

Tips for your Resume

Photo : Flazingo Photos on Flickr

To maximise your chances of getting an interview, consider adding these features to your resume.

  • Speaking Japanese: learn at least a little Japanese, such as the basic phrases, before you apply. Proving you're willing to embrace the language will strengthen your application.
  • If you've lived abroad before, mention it. A concern of companies when employing foreigners is the teachers suffering from things like culture shock and homesickness. If you have experience living in a different country, talk about it. The interviewer may ask you about a time you've dealt with a cultural difference.
  • Teaching experience: even if it was just volunteering in a school for a day, put it in your application. You have to show that you have interest in teaching, not just living and working in Japan.

Employers are looking for teachers who are experienced, enthusiastic, and would be comfortable living and working in Japan for a length of time. You must also show your interest in Japan as a country, and the culture and language.

Preparing for a Skype Interview

It's good to be prepared for the interview. Here are some tips for your interview with a Japanese company.

  • Make a Skype account. If you already have one, make sure that it's professional; that the name is something simple and the photograph is appropriate.
  • Make sure your headphones/speakers and microphone are working and that your internet connection is strong enough. You don't want your interview to be interrupted by technical difficulties.
  • Check the time difference. The company will usually tell you the time they'd like you to log into Skype in Japanese time. Make sure you know what time it would be in your area.
  • Research the company. See what teaching methods they use.

Interview Questions

Possible questions that might come up in your interview include the following:

  • Why are you interested in Japan?
  • Why would you like to work for this company?
  • Are you aware of what teaching methods we use? What do you think of them?
  • What's your ideal method of teaching? What would you do if our method is different?
  • What have you learned from your education/teaching experience?

Think carefully about your answers to these questions before your interview. If you prepare thoughtful answers, your application will be strengthened.

150315_How to Teach English in Japan
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Photos by Luna

Extra Tips

  • Be enthusiastic! To teach, you have to care about your subject and care about students. Show how enthusiastic you are to teach the most widely spoken language in the world.
  • Research a little about Japanese culture. If you've never been to Japan, it doesn't have to harm your application. Show interest in Japan, the Japanese language and its culture, and it won't matter that you haven't been.
  • Be flexible. You may desperately want to teach in Tokyo, but if the perfect job crops up in Hokkaido, apply anyway. You may not get your dream location immediately, but getting experience is important. Be willing to compromise.

Teaching in Japan is great - you'll meet some amazing people, learn a new language and most importantly, be involved in other people's education. Good luck!

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