Japan is often high on the list of a teacher’s “want to work in list.” We all have images of the country in our mind; busy cities, tranquil temples, Mount Fuji, the bullet train, sushi, etc. etc. I have my own personal favourites; the punk rockers in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park, the miso soup bars at metro stations and, sorry, cliché coming, the blossom trees when in flower. It’s no wonder Japan is so popular with teachers, it’s a great country to live in, the students are lovely, working conditions – including pay – are usually good, the social life is excellent, there’s loads to see and do. All in all it’s a great experience.
If you get your job in Japan through UIC we’ll guide you through each step of the process. We know Japan and the schools we recruit for well. We’ll talk to you honestly and frankly about both the good and bad aspects of working there and have lots of material to share with you which will give you a good idea of what life will be like if and when you start work in Japan.
It’s a great adventure but, like any job in a foreign country, is a big step, one that you need to be fully appraised of before you commit yourself to it. We’re always happy to answer any questions at any stage and you can find more outline information about Japan itself and the jobs we have on offer on the adjoining pages.
There’s no doubt that teaching in Japan is a rewarding, enjoyable experience. It is, however, a demanding job far from home meaning that most people experience distinct ups and downs during their time away. Here is a brief overview of the main things to bear in mind at this stage. Please note that the information here is very much of a general nature and is intended to give an idea of how things can be. The life of a teacher very much depends on the specifics of where they are working, the location of their accommodation and their working schedule
It’s a busy life! You work 5, sometimes 6 days a week from lunch time through to mid/late evening. Despite this there is plenty of time for relaxing and socialising and for travelling around. You live in a basically furnished, single-person apartment, which is provided by the School. Apartments are usually situated somewhere in the sprawl of urban Tokyo. As the schools tend to be in suburban and commuter areas you are unlikely to spend your working life downtown.
Money shouldn’t be a worry. Most people are able to live well, do a bit of travelling and save a bit during their time in Japan. You will, however, need some upfront funds to cover your initial weeks in Japan until you are first paid.
The main social activities tend to be eating and drinking with fellow teachers, getting to see the sights of Tokyo and taking trips further afield in Japan. There is a good amount of interaction with students and staff, either during school events or socially so you will get to see what makes the locals tick.
Your initial contract will be for one year but keep an open mind. Most people take a while to settle in and don’t start to get the most from the experience until later in their stay. The School encourages teachers to carry on beyond the initial term and there are incentives to do so. Japan has such a rich culture and offers so much to discover that the more time you give it, the more you’ll love it.
The stereotype of the shy, reserved Japanese person belies a genuine warmth and friendliness towards foreigners. The Kanto region is now truly cosmopolitan and the days when the sight of a gaijin (Japanese for foreigner) turned heads are a thing of the past. The Japanese treat each other and their guests with a high level of civility and violence and crime rates remain among the lowest level of any country in the developed world.
The mix of modern and ancient that runs apparently anachronistically throughout Japanese life is both a source of fascination for the casual observer and of serious study for academics. Anyone interested in the various aspects of Japanese culture will have easy access to such things as Tea Ceremony, martial arts, Kabuki, Sumo, calligraphy, festivals…the list goes on. However these more traditional pursuits are not forced upon people and those interested in pastimes that are more modern will find that Japan has more than enough to keep them occupied.
As with the culture the varied and delicious Japanese cuisine is in evidence everywhere (it is very much an eat-out society) and any visit would be incomplete without sampling some of the mouth-watering dishes. Nevertheless those addicted to McDonalds, KFC or even good old fish’n’chips will have few problems finding them or similar ‘western’ offerings. The supermarkets in Japan often stock many of the brands seen in the UK and other overseas countries and excellent alternatives are easily found. In recent years, websites offering such staples as Heinz beans, Marmite and Vegemite via mail order have also become more common. Great news for some of you at least!
Despite the sensationalised stories of Japan’s high cost economy, life in Japan can be lived to the full without breaking the bank. As in any country, people have to budget to live within their means and frequent days/nights out in the trendy districts of Tokyo will soon leave a hole in any budget. However, most teachers are able to save despite a full social life and without resorting to a rice and water diet! Some items (such as fruit) may seem crazily expensive. But other items are cheaper in Japan than the UK. There are also similar low cost shops in Japan to those found in your home country. Japan easily sees off the UK’s ‘Pound Land’ with its 100yen shops (roughly 75 pence at the current exchange rate!). For those who really want to splash out, 1,000yen shops (roughly GBP7.50) are also quite common. These are just some of the benefits of the bursting of Japan’s economic bubble and subsequent recession (from which Japan is now beginning to emerge). Low inflation and more reasonable prices!
Overall, the ex-pat experience in Japan can be as different or similar to home life as the individual wishes to make it. Japan is not a difficult country to live in and the inevitable inconveniences encountered when living in any foreign country are far outweighed by the great variety of options Japan has to offer.
Links to other Japan pages:
Our Jobs in Japan
The Thoughts of a Teacher
The Application Process
Images of Japan