U.S. State Department Geographic Bureaus: East Asia and Pacific Bureau

Teaching English in Japan

Fact sheet released by the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs,
U.S. Department of State, July 28, 1997.

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Conversational English is a big business in Japan, and for a recent college graduate looking for an adventurous year or two, teaching English in Japan can be quite a good deal.

Language Schools

The range of language schools in Japan is broad. At one end of the spectrum are rigorous schools that seriously attempt to educate their clients. At the other end are institutions that seem more a part of Japan's leisure industry than academia. None of these schools are supervised by the Ministry of Education, and the standards required for newly hired teachers are minimal.


Obtaining a visa to teach in Japan is not difficult. Any native English speaker with a valid college diploma can get a visa to teach English if he or she has a sponsoring employer. Those who fail to arrange their employment and visa ahead of time may run into problems, for those entering Japan on the visa waiver program cannot later adjust status within Japan.

Those who enter Japan on the visa waiver program must first obtain a certificate of eligibility from the Immigration Bureau, take the certificate to a Japanese Embassy or Consulate in a third country to obtain a visa, and then reenter Japan on the correct visa. It usually takes an experienced employer at least six weeks to secure a certificate of eligibility for a new employee. Those coming to Japan on the visa waiver program to seek employment should be prepared to pay the cost of at least one trip from Japan and back to obtain a working visa.


Potential teachers should be advised that they cannot rely on oral promises made by recruiters in the United States--all that matters is the written contract. Many teachers encounter difficulty when trying to leave an original visa sponsor for a better paying job. After spending a great deal of money to recruit and train a new teacher, employers are reluctant to see them leave for a rival company. Points of contention include advanced notice of quitting and the final paycheck.

Salaries are usually based on the actual number of hours taught, with a guarantee of a certain minimum number of hours per month. Private tutorial assignments outside of the classroom are commonly available for teachers at conversational language schools.

Despite a number of anti-discrimination laws in Japan, employers do not hesitate to cater to the prejudices of their customers. Some schools tend to hire only tall, slender, attractive, young blondes to pique the romantic interest of their clientele. Even reputable schools receive requests from their clients for teachers with specific physical attributes.

JET Program

One of the best ways to teach English in Japan is through the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program, which is sponsored by the Japanese Government. The JET program allows recent college graduates from the United States and other English-speaking nations to spend a year in Japan working as teacher aides in public schools throughout the country. In addition to round-trip airfare and housing, participants receive a comfortable annual salary. Applications are available from the Embassy of Japan in Washington, D.C.:

Office of JET Program
Embassy of Japan
2520 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, D.C. 20008

Other References

Those with an English teaching certificate can register with the TESOL/CAL ESOL Placement Service, which provides employers outside of the United States with an opportunity to locate qualified teachers:

ESOL Placement Service
Center for Applied Linguistics
3520 Prospect Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20007

Another source of job information is the Japan Association of Language Teachers:

Executive Secretary
Japan Association of Language Teachers (JALT)
Nishi-Uru, Shio-Jo, Karasuma
Shimogyo-Ku, Kyoto 600

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