First Steps

to Teaching English in Japan

What are the First Steps Teachers should take to teach in Japan?

What do new teachers to Japan need to do before they come?





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Minamiashigara shi, Kanagawa, Japan
Located near the Kari River across from a supermarket with access to nearby Iiwahara Station (Daiyuzan Line). There is a restaurant next door and a Sri Lankan restaurant and Japanese restaurants n...





*Decide on which country is best for you by reading up on the countries and the English teaching situation there.

*Get a University Degree--any degree is fine.

*Get some TEFL or other training

*Research Japan or whichever country you decide to go to.

*Can you get a working holiday visa?

*Save your money and research living cheaply in your chosen country.

*Study the native language of your chosen country--Japanese in the case of Japan.

*Volunteer teach in your hometown to get some valuable experience.

*You can try to get a teaching position while in your home country via the internet (by applying to jobs advertised at our site or other sites.) It is difficult to get a job this way though

*Even Better, go to Japan or the country of choice and apply for jobs once there. Take a lot of cash however. I came to Japan with 3,000 dollars - I took out a bank loan to come.

(I also had my job lined up beforehand.)

*Make Japanese connections by getting a job where you live that deals with Japanese people in some way.

(I was a program assistant in a summer program at Columbia College in Vancouver. I met hundreds of Japanese there and one of them helped me get my first teaching position in Nagoya Japan.)

Lastly - Don`t listen to criticism of your idea to go and teach abroad

Seems like a funny step to mention perhaps, but it will be one you need to get over. If you listen to the criticism and start to feel that they are right, you may gradually give up on your idea of leaving home to teach. I put off my dream for a year because of it. Don`t! If you have found this page, chances are, you are very interested in making the leap and soaring through life.

Many people won`t understand. Few have the chutzpah necessary to get up, and leave their comfortable situation in their town to move across the country for a job. Fewer still, are able to imagine packing up to go and work in Japan. Many will miss you and don`t want you to leave.

Face it, you are a bit different from the crowd, and there is nothing wrong with that. Welcome to the elite! --Those who see the world as their oyster and a place to explore. Dive in and get to know the locals!




Do I Need a 4 Year Degree to Teach English in Japan?

The short answer is no! You need that 4 year degree to get a work visa. If you can get another visa ie) a spouse visa, or a student visa, you can teach English in Japan. How much you are permitted to teach varies by visa. Ryan Boundless explains all of this in more detail below:

How to Teach in Japan without a 4 Year Degree




Tips for Effective Resume Writing

School Managers, see many resumes. If yours is the one with the typo, or incorrect English, yours will go in the recycle bin quicker than others. You want to be the one, that gets a phone call, then you are part-way to the job. You need to write an effective resume. Read the article below on perfecting your resume then come back here to read about more first steps.

You have about 30 seconds to a minute to make an impression on the personnel manager. Make the first impression a great one!

Have a great looking resume. Either make it yourself or have a professional service type one up for you. Make it look professional as schools, institutions and universities here are trying to hire professional people.


First Steps: Specifically for Americans:

Americans are blessed in Japan in many ways. Japanese love winners and America is known as a country full of them. American English is thought to be the standard by many Japanese. So many want an American teacher. (Us Canucks points to his own navel) ride on your coat-tails - being thought of by the Japanese as quasi-American. So many schools want American teachers. However your situation is a little different from people from Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

Jobs in Japan for Americans: the unique American situation


Have a Question about Living in Japan?

Ask at our Japan FAQ page!
Get more answers to your questions at the Japan FAQ.

Have a Question about Teaching in Japan?

Ask! No question is silly! (Except some of mine!) Probably someone else is wondering about the same thing. Have a question? Just ask! We will answer and no rude comments will be tolerated. So fire away and Ask your questions!



Thoughts & Advice for Newbies!

Here are some more thoughts and advice on teaching in Japan for new teachers.


For a comparison of the ESL situation in different countries read this article on teaching English overseas at

Tesol Zone.

Post your Resume for Japan Teaching Jobs

Post your Resume for Free


Teaching Overseas - Primary Education Oasis

Primary Education Oasis details how to get international teaching jobs and what it's like to work overseas.

First Steps: My first 2 Years in Japan

After arriving in Nagoya it took me a while to get my bearings. I dealt with new bosses, new food, no curtains, huge black cockroaches (that could fly!) not to mention culture shock.

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First Steps -- Improving Ourselves through Study

Even after over twenty years of teaching experience, other teachers constantly remind me of the importance of continuing to study. And for new teachers, it is very important too! Why not do it while traveling to a beautiful country like Spain!

(Pictured: Tokyo in the winter by Richard Baladad)

What will you be paid? More on Salaries in Japan.


Learn more about the visas offered.

(Pictured: Cherry blossoms along the road by Richard Baladad)

First Steps -- More in Depth Advice

"One large difference between the two countries is the visa system - Korea ties your English teaching (E-2) visa to your employer, while expats in Japan 'own' their visa. In other words, your legal ability to stay in the country is not tied to your job, which makes it a lot easier to legitimately switch jobs in Japan than Korea. As a result, the schools can't screw you over in quite the same way - although I'm sure it still happens in Japan in one way or another."

--from the Chris Backe at his "Chris in South Korea" Blog

First Steps - Why Japan?

First off, why are you interested in teaching English in Japan? What stereotypes do you have of this exotic country? Are they true, or merely a facade?

I cannot answer that question for you. You need to answer that for yourself by doing some research on modern day Japan.

What is she really like?

A good Lonely Planet Guidebook on Japan would be a great place to start--as would Wikipedia and any book by Edwin Reischauer and Alan Booth.

Why Japan over other countries? Why do you want to teach in Japan specifically?

Why not Korea or China for example?

For some the culture is intriguing--manga, anime, sony, the temples, ikebana, sumo and origami to name a few. For others the pay is better in Japan than in many countries. It is very safe. It is clean and the food is healthy. There are many reasons for choosing Japan. What are yours?

For me: I had met many Japanese in Vancouver and thought they were great people. I had, had a Japanese-Canadian friend and had been exposed to a certain extent to Japanese culture through his family. My brother had taught in Japan and he told me all about it. Then I talked with more people who had done the same thing, and I read all that I could. That convinced me that Japan was the correct choice.

But you need to find out for yourself.

In some countries the currency is weak or the work situations are often negative.

I won`t mention any countries by name but some of them are infamous for bad working conditions.

Generally in Japan, the work situations are good. However you need to be careful. Hopefully this website will help you! Read all you can! I can`t say this enough. You will never regret the time you spent reading about living and working here.

Get a University Degree

Although there are people who do teach without a university degree, the jobs they get tend to be not as good as those of university graduates. Therefore, the first step to teaching English in Japan, is to get a university degree.

Get your TEFL or Other Training

Getting a TEFL certificate or equivalent will help you to get hired.

It also gives you valuable training. CELTA or TESL are other possible certificates you can study for. They will help to prepare you to teach, and they will show potential employers that you are serious about teaching English in Japan.


(First Steps photo: of clouds in Japan by Richard Baladad)

First Steps -- Do Some Research

At risky of sounding like your grandfather, repeatedly telling you about that huge storm back in `52, I will repeat:

Read everything you can about working in Japan. Not only at How to Teach English in Japan, but other websites and books from your local library. Almost everyone knows someone who has taught in Japan.

Ask them for advice and pepper them with questions about what it was like.

Become an expert on English schools and what it is like to live and work in Japan. You will regret it if you don`t! You may get into an undesirable situation if you don`t do the research.

No one said this would be easy. You are taking a huge step by leaving your home and your family, but let`s make it a positive and exciting step, rather than a nightmare!

Okane--Money: Japan is Expensive, you need to Bring Some Cash!

I brought 300,000 Yen with me when I first came to Japan. I wanted to have a cushion to get started with. It is crazy to come with hardly any money. Bring some cash. Get a bank loan if necessary. That`s what I did. Then I paid it back over the first year.

Now that I have told you Japan is expensive. I have done my duty. I have warned you.

The reality though, is Japan can be expensive. When I go back to Canada, I think Canada is so expensive. In truth, I no longer know how to live in Canada cheaply. I look at the restaurant bill, then realize I have to add a tip on top of that and think, Oh my God, this is gonna cost a bundle!

You will learn to live cheaply in Japan

Japan can be amazingly cheap. If you cook for yourself, you can eat well and cheaply. If you want to eat out sometimes, go for lunch. Lunches are very large and very cheap at restaurants. Many if not most, have lunch specials.

There are many "recycle shops" where you can furnish your apartment on the cheap. Japanese take care of their things surprisingly well, so buying used is a great deal.

Japan is home to the best dollar shop in the world--Daiso. They sell everything and most of it is 100 Yen--about one dollar.

I could go on and on, but you will learn how to live cheaply here. But come with some cash to tide you over for the first 6 weeks or so--the time it takes to receive your first pay check.

Nihongo -- The Japanese Language

Start studying Japanese. Many local community centres in North America offer night classes in basic Japanese. Start learning before you go. You can also learn on the internet through some of the recommended sites in the Learn Japanese section of this website.

You may be able to do some language exchange via skype or by meeting Japanese people in your area.

First Steps -- Volunteer

Volunteer to help at some local schools. If possible teach some ESL classes voluntarily to get your feet wet. You may be able to do some volunteer ESL teaching at a community centre or your local library.

First Steps, How will you pay for your trip to Japan & Getting Settled

I saved what I could from the summer job I had, but as mentioned above, I also took out a bank loan, which my father co-signed to get started. Japan is an expensive country, especially at first. You don`t want to be overly stressed while getting settled. You will need to budget once here, but why not make it easier on yourself by taking out a loan to make the transition easier?

First Steps - Abacus Finance to the Rescue for Kiwis Wanting to Move to Japan

One question you need to have answered before going anywhere is "How will I pay for everything?"

Abacus Finance can help you with Travel Money. You can Apply online - no obligation application - and find out now if you can get the travel money you need.


What else should you do--more advice.

First Steps: the basics

Some lessons Conrad Matsumoto has taught me about the basics of English teaching in Japan. Probably inately we know some of the basics of being a good teacher. But it doesn`t hurt to be reminded of them from time to time.



How to get hired to teach English in Japan
First steps: what kind of teaching situation would you like?
Read about a man who had a plan that can help you with teaching in Japan.


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