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Teaching English In Tokyo Guide

Hi, I’m Adam, and this is my experience teaching English in Tokyo for several years and my advice for finding a job, the requirements for getting a job teaching English in Japan, getting somewhere to live, and the daily stuff that you have to deal with as a ‘gaijin’, foreigner.

This is all you will need to know if you are thinking about teaching English in Tokyo yourself. I guess doing this chronologically would make sense so I’ll start at the beginning.


teaching English in Japan

Applying to Teach English in Tokyo

I came to Japan in August 2015 to work in Tokyo. If you’re looking for teaching English in Tokyo jobs, I found mine before I left the UK through, an English teaching job portal.

The job was with Shane English School, one of the many eikiwas (English conversation schools) in Japan. Having a job to go to helped me a lot with getting my visa, I have a 5-year visa while a lot of gaijin (foreigners) in Japan only seem to get given a year.

The minimum requirements for getting a work visa in Japan are a bachelor’s degree in anything.

To get my five-year Japan working visa I had to send my original certificates to the company based in Tokyo, which was a little worrying sending them to the other side of the world so that they could check the documents and then sponsor my visa.

To get the Japan working visa printed on my passport you have to go to the Japanese embassy in person, as in typical Japanese style they don’t accept applications by post. So, I drove to London from Manchester to get my visa. Thankfully it was done in a day so I didn’t have to make the trip twice.

Finding an Apartment in Tokyo

I booked my flight and went about finding somewhere to live in Tokyo. Well, I was lazy and eventually got my accommodation done through my new employer who set new employees up with their apartments, strong word for the type of housing in Japan.

The apartment was in Tokyo, although not central Tokyo, and not really anywhere near Tokyo… But I was to find all this out on my arrival.

So my departure day came round and it was time for me to say goodbye to friends and family and board the flight east.

When I got to Tokyo I met two of my new colleagues at Narita airport and we were escorted to Tokyo by a member of Shane, the English school I was now going to be employed by, welcoming staff.

Narita is miles and miles away from Tokyo so the train ride took about 40 minutes on the Narita Express.

When we finally made it to Tokyo I had my first experience of the Tokyo that I had seen in movies and the one that I had imagined.

We got off the train at Ikeburo station and we stepped out too, what seemed to my jet-lagged mind, madness.

Bright lights, people hurrying around, a few passed out salarymen and I thought wow, I have made it.

It was a great feeling and one that unfortunately lasted only a couple of weeks until I felt a little crushed and annoyed with everything, but I will talk about that later.

Ikeburo was only a transfer so after a quick look at the place near the station it was time to board the next train to take us to our new homes. We boarded a train towards Hoya in Nishi-Tokyo (west Tokyo) which was nothing like the Tokyo I had seen in the movies.

We were shown our new places of residence, a compact apartment just big enough for me, my backpack and a chair.

The bed was on a shelf and the cooking area was stuffed into the small corridor between the front door and where the room was, almost as if it was put in as an afterthought.

As I have mentioned I was lazy and I got my accommodation through my new employer, which was daft and expensive as the rent was 96,000 yen per month (about $900) to stay in a place that was about 30 minutes away from Tokyo.

If I could do it over I would have found a place to stay on my own.

Accommodation in Tokyo generally isn’t cheap but if you are willing to share with others you can get a decent place to live for around 60,000 yen (about $560).

I stayed in the apartment in Hoya for about 3 months and then I moved to actual Tokyo. I did almost no research before my move however and as a result, I ended up taking a room in a large Japanese house which cost me 55,000 per month.

The place was in Setagaya-Ku and it was really easy to get to the big hubs of Tokyo like Shibuya and Shinjuku, from my local station.

My commute from Hoya had been 45 minutes to get to Tokyo, which was now a ten-minute train ride and I was in Shibuya.

I thought I had arrived.

But the room I moved into was awful. There was no heating, the walls were super thin, so thin in fact that I could hear the guy in the next room just breathing, and there was no communal space which made making friends within the house almost impossible.

I stayed in this cold house over the winter for three months and then I moved to a completely opposite shared house. Opposite in every way possible.

My new shared house was in Nakano-Fujimicho, about 8 minutes from Shinjuku on the Marunochi line, and had a nice mix of foreigners and Japanese.

The house was shared with 14 people with some in dorms but most in private rooms. My room cost 65,000 yen per month, but this included all bills.

The common room was massive, with cable TV and a Nintendo Wii. But the best thing about the house was the view of Shinjuku from the roof.

The Shinjuku skyline is beautiful during the day and even better at night. In this house, I made some of my best friends in Japan and even when I moved out we still met up for drinks regularly.

teaching English in tokyo Japan
Teaching the students.

My shared house was owned by Wabisabi House, which has many shared house properties in the central Tokyo area. You can find them through a Google search or as I did through Tokyo Share House.

My last place in Tokyo was a private house in Nakano. Now, there are plenty of options for private apartments the most popular being Leo Place.

Leo Place provides fully furnished apartments which had a chair, table, fridge, washing machine, kettle, microwave and TV, for around 90,000 yen per month, but you have to pay money upfront and the bills aren’t included in the price.

I am far too poor to pay anything upfront and I don’t want to waste time thinking about paying bills so I got my apartment through Residence Tokyo.

My apartment cost 102,000 yen per month but this included all bills including internet, and the apartment had all the items that Leo Place had plus a bed with bedding!

This, plus the no upfront costs sold it to me as the upfront costs for cheaper, not furnished, apartments can be up to two months rent which is not ideal if you are on an English teacher’s wage.

So, on to teaching in Tokyo.

What it’s like Teaching English in Tokyo

Well, this can vary massively for teaching English in Tokyo depending on whether the company you are working for is Japanese or foreign-run.

If it’s the former you are likely to be expected to work longer than your contract states, attend pointless meetings and be treated as if you are sub-human.

The first company I worked for teaching English in Tokyo was Shane English School as I mentioned before.

These are owned by a Japanese company, after starting as English-owned, and as a result, the working hours and expectations are a little crazy.

To start the contract that I was on was a 29-and-a-half-hour contract, anything under 30 hours is considered part-time in Japan and part-time workers do not get company health care or pension.

Although I was scheduled to be in the schools from 12 pm to 9 pm I only had up to six hours of teaching a day.

So, for example, I could have a lesson which started at 1 pm which would mean I would start at noon, and only 30 minutes of this first hour I was paid for.

After my first lesson is finished my next lesson could be at 4 pm, 5 pm, or even 8 pm. This can leave you with a lot of spare time during the day.

One of the other negatives about teaching in Tokyo for Shane English School is the campaign days they have to try to attract more customers.

Those days can fall on your day off and if they do you have to work, for no extra pay, or you risk losing your job. On some occasions, I had to work a six-day week. This didn’t please me.

Also, Shane didn’t offer any sick days and if you were ill you would lose 12,000 yen of your salary.

Although you do get fairly long holidays with Shane most are already chosen for you as you only have five days that you can choose yourself. My salary with Shane started at 252,000 yen per month and increased by 5,000 yen the following year.

The second job I had in Tokyo was with the British Council.

Those of you who know English teaching should be aware that the BC is well respected in the industry as being a real company that offer their employees actual incentives for staying, and reward staff for actually doing a good job when teaching English in Tokyo.

The starting salary for teachers with a CELTA at the BC in Tokyo is 262,000 yen a month and the contract is 30 hours a week. A 30-hour contract means that you as a member of staff get private healthcare with Bupa and a pension.

Be warned however that your pension comes out of your monthly payments and at 25,000 yen a month it can be quite a hit if you haven’t prepared for it, something which I didn’t prepare for at all. Also, the tax can get you so be wary of that.

With my residence tax for the previous year added to the deductions that were already part of my paycheck, I was down 60,000 yen a month before I had even touched my salary.

This was only a problem for a few months when there was no overtime at the BC. With overtime, I was making around 85,000 yen a month.

Living in Tokyo

Finding work in Japan and teaching English in Tokyo is fairly straightforward but try to get something sorted out before you arrive.

If you are an English Teacher, like me, try to go to an English-run company for teaching English in Tokyo, or Japan in general, or work with a company like Shane (there are many of these companies in Japan), and then leave after the first year.

There are plenty of websites that have job listings for foreigners in Japan. One is, which I mentioned earlier and is only for jobs in ESL.

The other site I know for English teaching jobs in Tokyo, and Japan in general, is Gaijinpot Jobs. This site has jobs in many industries regardless of your level of Japanese (mine has remained at survival Japanese ever since I got to Japan), and also has information about how to get jobs in industries that are not just ESL.

Going back to the ESL industry, if you want to experience Japan only for a short time Westgate University offers 3-month contracts starting at the beginning of each academic semester.

This is a highly recommended and accredited TEFL course provider.

Overall living and teaching English in Tokyo is great, although it is something that has an expiry date for me. Mainly because however much I love Japan, it’s a country I could never really feel at home in.

Maybe this is due to my low level of Japanese, or how difficult it is to make and keep Japanese friends, or maybe the culture is just a little too impenetrable.

Maybe it’s just because the gaijin who do end up staying in Japan is just that little bit odd.

All of this is naturally just what I think about living and teaching English in Tokyo, Japan.

Although not one of the requirements for teaching English in Tokyo (you only need a university degree and it doesn’t matter what the subject is) getting a TEFL certificate may help you more in finding a job.

Teaching English is one of the main jobs in Tokyo for foreigners that you can find and overall is a good experience to have. Tokyo is an amazing city to be in.

I share a few opinions about Japan with the American woman who wrote this article about living in Japan.

This is a guest post from Adam Tonge (pictured in the article), a British citizen who has been teaching English in Tokyo for several years.

If you do end up living in Tokyo then be sure to check out some incredible places nearby on these day trips from Tokyo.

If you plan on moving around Japan a lot to check out some places then take a Japan Rail Pass (get one with that link) to save money on the trains.

I recommend using SafetyWing Travel Insurance for any trip to Japan, at least to get you started at the beginning of any move there, or a visit.

Teaching English abroad really is one of the best jobs to get to live in and know a new country.

Share this advice about teaching English in Tokyo:

16 thoughts on “Teaching English In Tokyo Guide”

  1. Hi Jonny. This is really useful for people thinking of moving to Japan to teach English. Many thanks!!
    – could you advise on the visa situation inside Japan? Can a teacher switch companies easily without affecting the work visa? I.e. If one is unlucky in the first choice of company and finds a better school, is it quite easy to just move?

  2. Brian Thurlborn

    It can be VERY hit and miss with the so called perfect job ! Our son has just returned to Japan, ALL the blurb they gave him, Rubbish !! Starts a 3 day week next week, NOT full time as stated !!! Once they have you there after paying for a flight from the UK on very little money is no joke !! At 44 he has just told us this is his last year of teaching (23 yrs as a teacher in the Far East )

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  8. I’ll get in touch with my friend who wrote this article and see if he has any connections. Otherwise anyone else reading these comments can you help? Reply here.

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  11. Dear Jonny Duncan,

    I’m also interested in teaching jobs in Japan, I have a bachelor’s degree in English language and literature. By any chance, does your friend still teach there? I’m open for a conversation.

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