by Rachel Nickson, recruitment manager of Saxoncourt Recruitment
Living in Japan offers the opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich and vibrant culture. This is a culture that is famous the world over for its delicious food, modern technology and unique festivals and traditions. There’s so much to do and see in Japan that you could spend your whole life there and just scratch the surface.
Try Japan’s world-famous cuisine: sushi, tempura, ramen and udon. Climb the picture-perfect peak of Mount Fuji or soak up the tranquillity beneath Daibutsu, the Giant Buddha statue at Kamakura. But if that sounds a bit too serene, and you love high technology, visit Akihabara, the shopping district for video games, anime, manga (comic books) and computer goods where you’ll be spoilt for choice with all the high-tech offerings. All the above are within striking distance of Tokyo. And wherever you go, try speaking a little Japanese – the locals will love you for it!
Spending twelve months (or several years) teaching English in Japan provides teachers with the opportunity to experience all of this culture in glorious Technicolor. This is definitely one of the major advantages to working in Japan, but what else does it have to offer? According to Oliver, a teacher working in Japan, his top-five attractions are the food, hot springs, history, karaoke and nightlife. Teachers have a diverse and exciting social life, which helps them to adjust to life in Japan. One of the major difficulties for teachers arriving in Japan is the culture shock – to a new arrival, Japan is just very strange and very different indeed. No matter how prepared you think you are and how much research you have done, nothing can prepare you for the onslaught to your senses that is rush hour in Tokyo. This fast pace of life can make it difficult to adjust when you first arrive but facing this with a sense of adventure will help to overcome these issues.
Something else to consider when moving to Japan is the cost of living as this is much higher than other parts of Asia. Salaries in Japan still provide a comfortable standard of living but don’t provide the same saving potential as some other countries. How do you get hired to teach in Japan? To qualify for a teaching position in the country, teachers simply need to have a native-speaker level of English and a bachelor’s degree. There is a heavy bias on teachers being native-English speakers, so those who don’t meet this requirement may find their options limited. While technically not required for the working visa, those without a Tefl certificate or Celta (or equivalent) qualification will also find their options limited as most of the top-name schools require these, including our own Shane English School. However, having evidence of previous teaching experience can help to overcome this.
Japan is still fairly traditional in its approach to EFL teaching, and students expect a high level of professionalism from their teachers. This means that professional business attire is required by all teachers, even those teaching in kindergartens. Teachers looking for new positions will get ahead by keeping this in mind and promoting a professional demeanour throughout their application. English teachers looking for work in Japan have a number of options available to them – there are teaching positions available with a variety of different school types. The biggest sector is the Eikaiwa – conversation schools, such as Shane English School (part of the Saxoncourt Group, of which Saxoncourt Recruitment is a subsidiary) or ECC. They offer classes to students of all ages, and teachers have a diverse schedule with a range of classes. Most classes take place in the afternoons and evenings. Then there are the haken – these agencies send teachers to work in companies or public schools. They provide the opportunity to specialise in a particular age group, but schedules can vary significantly. In the public schools (state schools) sector, teachers can work as assistant language teachers (ALTs, classroom assistants) through the JET programme or other agencies. Most of the teaching will be with school-age students during the school day. Positions in universities are sought after, and they are usually only available to teachers with several years of teaching experience in Japan. With all these options, there is something for everyone in Japan in a variety of locations. Most teaching positions are in the bigger cities of Tokyo and Osaka, but there are opportunities in more rural locations for teachers looking for a more ‘authentic’ experience.
SALARIES & RENT
What is the minimum amount of money a teacher must earn to live comfortably? The average salary is 250,000 yen (£1,773) per month and most teachers would start on this salary. The minimum teachers should be looking to earn is 240,000 yen (£1,700). Average cost of accommodation? Accommodation costs vary depending on location but can range from 40,000–90,000 yen (£283–£638) per month. Many teachers prefer to live in shared houses, although private accommodation is also an option.
Cost of visa and information about visa system for teachers: The visa process for Japan is fairly simple but takes around 6–8 weeks to complete. Documents have to be gathered and submitted in Japan in order to process a Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). The CoE is then submitted to a Japanese embassy and the visa process is complete. Documents can also be submitted and processed in Japan, with no need for a ‘visa run’ to a Japanese embassy abroad, although this is not the preferred method.
Pic courtesy: Moyan Brenn