Teaching English in Japan: the land of the rising sun

Japan is one of those destinations people tend to fantasise about with a great sense of romance and admiration, though mainly based on myth and media rather than personal experience. Those who do make the journey to the land of the rising sun are very rarely disappointed, finding a glorious collection of green covered islands, mammoth mountain ranges, large metropolises and intriguing architecture, polite and humble people, and a very distinct and seductive culture.

Japan is firmly built upon ancient traditions and philosophies, but modern Japan is still a leader in the fields of technology and modern architecture, with a strong economy and generally well organised and hard working ethic to everything the country does. It is also Asia’s centre for fashion, and one of the most influential countries in  Asia regarding film, pop music and art. Most significant of all, Japan is the home of Karaoke, and those with terrible singing voices are welcomed and honoured with arms wide open.

Teaching English in Japan

Japan was one of the world’s premier TEFL teaching locations a decade ago, and the dream destination for many new TEFL teachers. Despite other countries in the region beginning to catch up in terms of wages and standard of life, it still remains one of the most popular places for new and experience English teachers heading to Asia.

Teaching packages are not as spectacular as they were in Japan’s TEFL teaching heyday, but they are still good enough and typically including free or subsidized accommodation, decent wages and some schools will reimburse your airfare, or offer a sizable bonus on completion of your contract (usually a year in length).

There tends to be a lot of competition for the higher paying jobs but there are still plenty of jobs to be had and lots of opportunities for new teachers throughout the country. Many less experienced teachers will find good positions available as ALTs (Assistant Language Teachers), working along with local tutors in smaller towns and more rural areas, these jobs can be amazing experiences with teachers often finding themselves to be the only foreigner in a small community, and a chance to fully embrace Japanese culture.

Wages are fairly high in the big cities, but then so is the cost of living, and TEFL teachers with a degree and a TEFL certificate can expect to earn around 250,000 yen (£2000 / €2300 / $3000). Wages out in the smaller cities and more rural areas will be lower, but the cost of living will be significantly lower, and although you will find life to be much slower and laid back, with less opportunity to let your hair down and go wild, there is the chance live comfortably and save.

Your Japanese bucket list

Here are a few of the things you might want to add to your Japan bucket list:

Spend a night at the Love Hotel

One of the world’s most unique and talked about hotels, the Love Hotel is home to some extraordinary themed rooms, named by way of its popularity amongst adventurous lovers. As well a fantasy rooms the hotel also rents out costumes and ‘other accessories’, with an eye opening menu in the lobby.

Ride the Bullet Train

The Shinkansen, Japan’s famous high speed trains, reach speeds up to 186 mph, making the epic journey from Tokyo to Kyoto in as little as 2 hours. The most memorable and picturesque journey is to use the bullet train to reach Mount Fuji..

Climb Mount Fuji

Japan’s highest mountain (12,388 feet) is not such an intimidating climb as it may first seem. Thousands of tourist make the trek towards the peak of this mammoth mountain every year (climbing season is early July to late August), and those who reach the top may be lucky enough to witness one of the world’s most glorious sunrises.

Eat a traditional fish breakfast

Japan’s cuisine is an integral part of their culture, with great pride taken from food preparation and presentation. One of the most traditional Japanese meals is ryokan, a grilled fish served for breakfast. It may not be to everyone’s taste but if you never try you’ll never know!

Watch a Sumo tournament

No Japanese experience is complete without witnessing the country’s most iconic sport in the flesh. They may look like a bunch of fat guys that don’t get along, but the top Sumo wrestlers are the superstars and pin-ups of their nation, and Sumo is an immense sport which has many sceptical foreigners totally hooked after just one visit!

Sing your heart out at a Karaoke Bar

Japan is karaoke crazy, and the only true way to mix with the locals is to impress them (or horrify them), with you finest karaoke skills. There are hundreds upon hundreds of karaoke bars and little box rooms with large song collections (many of which are in English), to be found in just about every city on the country, and those tone death are admired and applauded as much as any seasoned crooner, so there really is no excuse not to try it!

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