For many, teaching English is the most viable option to be able to make their way across the world and begin their professional lives in Japan. However, perhaps there are certain concerns that are keeping you from committing to this particular job. Should you take the plunge? I once taught English in Japan for two years and enjoyed my time tremendously, as I gained much from this experience, both professionally and personally. From a former English teacher, here are seven reasons why you should consider teaching English in Japan! It will be the adventure of a lifetime!
1. A Gateway to the Japanese Professional World
Many jobs on the Japanese market that are targeted towards foreigners often have certain prerequisites – namely, having a certain level of Japanese proficiency and a working visa already in-hand. It can be quite difficult to secure a position without these qualifications, but luckily, English teaching jobs in Japan are the exception rather than the norm. Due to the Japanese government’s efforts at globalization, there is a steady stream of English teaching jobs, and consequently, a high demand for native English speakers. As long as you are willing to invest some effort and apply to various companies, you will find that securing a job is not too challenging, as many companies will be eager to sponsor your visa from overseas and will not require you to be able to speak Japanese, should you turn out to be a qualified candidate who can suit their needs.
As you do your research, it is important to note that there are many options through which you can explore the world of English-teaching. You can, for instance, opt for federal programs that will enable you to teach English alongside Japanese teachers in institutions ranging from elementary to high schools. Otherwise, well-regarded sites such as Dave’s ESL Café, O-hayo Sensei, and others offer opportunities to teach at private schools and eikaiwa (English conversation schools). Needless to say, the remuneration and benefits vary quite drastically from job to job, so it would be advisable for you to do your due diligence and read up on users’ reviews that describe their experiences working for certain schools before making your decision to contract with a particular organization.
2. Get Involved With Local Communities
Another advantage of teaching English in Japan is that it is easy for you to become involved and even endear yourself to your local community. For starters, the students whom you will be teaching (and their parents!) may live near you, especially if you are teaching in a more rural area, so you are more likely to find familiar and friendly faces around the neighborhood than if you were to work in a heavily populated area and have a long commute to work. This makes it more convenient to break the ice and initiate connections with people. In fact, if you choose to teach in a rural town where there is a high demand for English teachers, you will find that you can really get to know your community, as people shed their inhibitions and warm up to foreigners faster than city dwellers!
Secondly, you can just jump right in and participate actively in opportunities that swing your way. Teaching English enables you to build strong connections with your students, as they will often enthusiastically share their likes and dislikes with you and confide their dreams and troubles to you. Your school itself can be an excellent platform for socialization. During my teaching stint, I was fortunate enough to eat lunch together with my students and play with them during recess, consistently impressed by their boundless energy and athleticism. You can also volunteer to participate in the extra-curricular activities offered. I spent many a happy afternoon playing badminton with the Badminton Club and running laps with the Track and Field Club. Likewise, you can forge fulfilling relationships with your co-workers by hanging out together for dinner and drinks after work. By imparting language skills and making friends with the Japanese, you are killing two birds with one stone, so to speak!
3. Facilitate International Exchange With Your Students
From the perspective of intercultural relations, teaching English in Japan affords a privilege not easily found in other jobs: getting to facilitate international exchange by teaching your students about other countries and cultures. As a Singaporean, I felt proud to introduce to my students some amazingly mouth-watering dishes such as chili crabs and Hainanese chicken rice. Additionally, when we explored how different countries around the world celebrate holidays like Halloween and Christmas, it was interesting to notice the children’s stunned reactions when they realized that not everyone experiences a white, wintery Christmas! I am certain that you will be surprised and humbled by just how differently the Japanese view the world from you.
Of course, I also acquired many interesting cultural insights about the Japanese as well. This is because when teaching English to the Japanese, I was quickly very engrossed in finding ways to make my lessons engaging. One method is to incorporate elements of pop culture that the Japanese are crazy about. I can still vividly remember how Nameko, which was a game about cultivating mushrooms, was popular during my time there. I had a whale of a time teaching my students about colors, places, and adjectives through these cute mushrooms. Another example are popular anime series such as One Piece and Naruto. These shows resonated strongly with my students, as they adored the values of bravery, resilience, and brotherhood demonstrated by the characters, and I was able to learn more about what stimulated their interest and values while trying to create engaging lessons.
4. Receive a Decent Pay
Here’s the crunch: just how well do teaching jobs in Japan pay? Well, depending on where you look, full-time jobs can vary between 200,000 and 300,000 yen (roughly 1,600 – 2,500 USD) per month. However, if you have accredited teaching certificates and have actual teaching experience in your home country, you can expect to qualify for more exclusive jobs and command higher wages. In any case, the salary you receive is typically higher than that of Japanese graduates fresh out of university, so it is definitely enough to live comfortably with so long as you budget your finances carefully.
Japan is assumed to be quite costly to live in, but this need not be your reality. In fact, 200,000 to 300,000 yen is more than adequate enough to have an enriching life, particularly if you take up a job in the countryside which does not often contend with a high cost of living. Even if you choose to teach in a busy city, you can manage your cost of living by equipping yourself with the many money-saving hacks that cover all aspects from rent and utilities to groceries to phone data and transportation. True story: I traveled to more than 30 prefectures during my two years in Japan on my English-teaching salary! As long as you live frugally, you don’t have to feel like you are aiming for the sky when it comes to fulfilling your wanderlust!
5. Experience Invigorating Personal Growth
Teaching English in Japan can gift you plenty of opportunities for personal growth. You are likely to improve leaps and bounds in your Japanese language skills since you are required to use it every day with your students, co-workers, and friends. Even more satisfying is the fact that you have to sharpen your cultural awareness to navigate social norms that may be very different from those in your home country. After spending a decent amount of time with them, I appreciated how the Japanese were considerate about never purposely trying to offend or hurt someone else’s feelings, and I soon learned how to say no indirectly. Such an act would be categorized as beating around the bush from where I come from, but my worldview broadened considerably. Who’s to say that giving a straightforward no is the right thing to do in all circumstances.
Japanese culture is quite unique, and packing up and moving to an entirely new country requires quite a bit of self-discipline in order to be able to navigate it by oneself. Tasks that seem mundane in one’s home country will suddenly become more challenging with the language and cultural barrier, but will also contribute to your independence and the development of problem-solving skills. How can you immerse yourself in your local environment and keep yourself engaged? You will find that you will just amaze yourself by how versatile you can be as you venture out of your comfort zone!
6. Get an Insider’s Look Into Japanese Culture
Regardless of whether you choose to work in a public school or a private eikaiwa, one thing’s for sure: you will get up close and personal and understand Japanese culture from an insider’s perspective. Ever wondered why avid Japanese soccer fans pick up trash before they leave the stadium after a soccer match? That’s because from a young age, Japanese children are expected to clean their classrooms for an entire period of 45 minutes. During cleaning time, everyone can be seen working together to keep their school spick and span. I was amused to observe even the principal sweeping the entrance of the school! This spoke volumes not just about how exceptionally well Japanese children are brought up, but also about how Japanese adults set a good example for children to follow. The Japanese education system is a great way to see how Japanese culture has developed, as it is perpetuated by those who have gone through the system and been taught those manners and values.
7. Make a Career Out of Teaching English
It is true that many people move on to pursue other endeavors after teaching English in Japan, but English-teaching itself can turn into a career. If you find that teaching English is something that you are passionate about and helps you achieve your “ikigai” (life’s purpose), you can seek to advance yourself professionally in this field. You could hone your craft and moving on to senior teaching positions, in which case enrolling in graduate school and completing a Master’s degree may become a requirement. After graduating with at least a master’s degree, you will then be qualified to teach English at the college level. AJET offers an array of such programs that you may want to consider.
Or you may not want to teach anymore, but still wish to stay in the education industry. In this case, one option is to take up a managerial role at an eikaiwa, particularly if you have several years of English teaching experience and have accumulated enough expertise in the Japanese language. This will allow you to guide and mentor novice English teachers and help them assimilate into their new environment more easily. Otherwise, you could even turn into an entrepreneur and set up your own eikaiwa school. Why not inspire new generations of Japanese students with your novel teaching methods? The sky’s truly the limit here, so be open to whatever possibilities that may come your way.
Are you now convinced that English teaching is a highly rewarding job? Did this article entice you to want to research more about teaching English in Japan? I had a blast venturing out of my comfort zone and embracing the Japanese culture wholeheartedly as an English teacher. This position offers a great opportunity to bring you to Japan, and if you are the sort who loves to test your mettle, I highly recommend that you give teaching English in Japan a shot!
Title image credit: Fast&Slow / PIXTA
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.