Japan is a very active market to teach English in. It is also a culturally rich, clean, and safe place to live, but it will take preparation as well as an open mind and sensitivity to the Japanese culture to live here.
If you think Japan might be the place for you, and you would like to spend some time teaching English here; here are some considerations to take concerning getting a TESOL job in Japan.
Job Hunting – Japan
The web is probably the best source to find employment in Japan. The website Gaijinpot is a great resource to find employment in Japan. You can find all kinds of information about working and living in Japan.
Many of the teaching jobs in Japan are through placement agencies like Interac. You might also be able to secure employment through one of the bigger franchise language schools; like Nova, or AEON.
If you find yourself in Japan and are looking for work in Tokyo (and have some Japanese language proficiency) there is a service called Hello Work that has a division that will help foreigners find jobs. The Shinjuku branch can offer translation services for English speakers through appointment only.
Job Types – Japan
The JET program is a joint program run in conjunction with the government of Japan. Many of the postings are for rural areas, but not all. The application is a lengthy process, but everything will be taken care of for you (ie: Accommodation, placement). The wage is also very fair.
Another option is as an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). These positions are postings to elementary and junior high schools. These positions are contract positions and will follow the Japanese school year.
The final option is a position at an Eikawa. Eikawas are after-school programs that run from the afternoon till about 11 pm at night, 7 days a week, and all year long. You could apply to an Eikawa at any time.
Job Requirements – Japan
1. Experience – Probably the most attractive thing you can put on your resume other than being a native speaker of English is having some kind of teaching experience. There are some private companies that headhunt for schools that will provide some training and experience opportunities for the Japanese markets.
2. Education – Most jobs require a University/College degree of at least 3 years, although a TESOL certification will prepare you more if, for example, you have a bachelor of science. You can find work without a university degree (I myself do not have one, but I have teaching experience and I am married to a Japanese national). If you live in a city like Tokyo (like me) the competition for better jobs can be quite stiff, and the candidate with the most credentials will often come out on top.
3. VISA – Most jobs here are contract jobs and most places look for at least a one-year commitment. If you are coming to Japan and don’t have a sponsor I would suggest getting one before you come here. Certain schools will sponsor teachers to come from overseas and some placement agencies will assist in finding a job that will sponsor you.
There are several ways you can obtain a VISA, I would suggest checking the Japanese embassy’s website in your country or calling them for information. Once you have the proper paperwork for a VISA, you will be granted a “Gaijin Card” (foreigner card). If you are coming to Japan without a secured job you will need this card to apply for jobs while within Japan.
4. Japanese Language Skill – Having a proficiency in conversational Japanese and being able to read (at least some) of the language will make things much easier for you in Japan.
Certain jobs I couldn’t apply for because my conversational Japanese wasn’t good enough. Some schools aren’t equipped to be able to provide translations for you, and some require you to conduct parent-teacher interviews in Japanese.
Japanese people are very friendly and most know a few words of English, but the more you are able to speak Japanese the better time you will have here, and the more you can immerse yourself in the fascinating Japanese culture.