Osaka may not spring to mind as a TEFL hotspot, but Japan’s third-largest city has a lot to offer those who can see beyond the bright lights of Tokyo.
The town is well known as the commercial hub of the Kansai region and has a reputation for having good-natured, easy-going citizens and an earthy, wholesome cuisine. It has several historical and cultural must-see spots and can match any modern city for facilities and recreation. In fact, Osaka is second only to Tokyo for entertainment, shopping, and transport.
However, the town does have a reputation for being the capital’s ugly sister; it suffered terrible bombing raids during WWII, and much of its ancient charm has been replaced by huge quantities of concrete, which some visitors find quite bland. But the city has in many ways turned this lack of urbanity to its advantage; there is a particular style to the place that gives it a distinct sci-fi look, especially at night when the streets come alive with flashing neon signs, beckoning residents and tourists alike with promises of fine dining and good times.
Some of the city’s highlights include; Osaka-jō and its surrounding park, Osaka Aquarium with its huge whale shark, the spectacular nightscapes of the Dōtombori area, and the amazing Open Air Museum of Old Japanese Farmhouses. But Osaka has a lot more to offer than the sum of its attractions; like Tokyo, Osaka is a place to be lived in, and a meander around its streets can be just as rewarding as any structured sightseeing tour.
Teaching English in Osaka
The majority of English teachers will arrive in Osaka with a TEFL position already in place, with many of the larger language schools recruiting teachers from their home countries in a process that can take several months to complete. However, it is still possible to arrive on a tourist visa and seek employment once you’re there. Many smaller language schools are willing to hire teachers this way and there’s always the possibility of earning extra cash teaching private students.
In general, salaries are quite good for TEFL teachers in Japan, especially so in Osaka. The average wage is somewhere near 125,000-250,000 JPY/month (approx. $1,500-3,100 US). Typically this is for a 25hr working week and teachers are expected to sign (at least) 6-month contracts, sometimes 12 months. Employers usually provide health insurance and paid holidays. Additional benefits that can be expected include a monthly travelling allowance (usually up to 25,000 JPY/month), assistance finding accommodation, and a contract completion bonus.
Japan, like many eastern countries in recent times, has standard criteria for those wishing to teach in the country. English teachers are required to hold a bachelor’s degree (in any field) and it is advisable to have at least some teaching experience before you arrive. Osaka may not be quite as competitive as Tokyo for work but the better jobs usually go to the more experienced teacher. However, having a 100+hr TEFL certificate is a clear indication to potential employers that you have the basic skills necessary
Things to do in Osaka
Universal Studios Japan is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo Disneyland, which is almost identical to its two sister parks in the USA. The park features a wide variety of rides, shows, restaurants and other attractions.
Sumiyoshi Taisha is a shrine dedicated to Shintō Gods associated with sea and sea travel and was built in commemoration of a safe passage to Korea by a 3rd-century empress. Having survived the bombing in WWII, Sumiyoshi Taisha still has a couple of buildings that date back to 1810. The shrine was founded in the early 3rd century and the buildings that can be seen today are detailed replicas of the originals. They offer visitors a rare opportunity to see a Shintō shrine that predates the influence of Chinese Buddhist architecture.
Osaka Aquarium is probably one of the most spectacular aquariums in the world and it’s a great day out for adults and kids alike. The aquarium is built around a huge central tank, which houses the star attractions; one whale shark and one manta. You’ll also find a huge variety of other sharks, including leopard sharks, zebra sharks and hammerhead sharks. There are also countless other species of rays and fish.
Umeda Sky Station
Just northwest of Osaka Station, the Umeda Sky building is one of Osaka’s most striking pieces of modern architecture. The view from the top is especially impressive – particularly at night, when the lights of the Osaka–Kōbe greater metropolis area spread as far as the eye can see.