Starting My Journey: Teaching English in Japan

Updated on May 5, 2020
Wanderingteacher profile image

I am currently teaching English near Moji. I love sharing my experiences to help those who are curious about teaching abroad.

You do not need a teacher's certificate or TEFL to teach English in Japan, but a BA in any subject helps. And you need money for the trip.

Starting My Journey

I decided to start saving money about a year after graduating from college. I wasn't sure what I wanted the money for just that I wanted to have it saved.

The main websites I used to make extra money were for tutoring and for babysitting and occasionally tutoring. Keep in mind Wyzant pays more, but they take away about 40% of your pay, so I recommend, but be careful of scammers. Do not accept checks for payment and do a quick light or marker test on cash you receive (not in front of your client).

Another good website I used for some quick freelancing work was Upwork. The jobs typically don't pay much, but some are quick and easy jobs like reading a story and writing a book review. Those jobs are typically worthwhile.

In order to find a full-time job for my primary income, I used some websites and did some research to get my resume in working order and applied to anything I found interesting on Ziprecruiter and Indeed. I recommend these websites over most because once you download your resume you can one-click apply. This is the fastest way to get interviews and jobs in my experience. Once I had gotten my full-time job I put in as many hours as possible and supplemented my full-time job with freelance work such as book reviews, tutoring, and babysitting.

In order to make sure I saved the money, I opened a separate account that had no monthly fee and started a traveling jar as well. For a good no-fee bank, I recommend Regions or Aspiration for something fully online. I set myself a goal for how much I could logically and reasonably save per month and came up with a set amount. I recommend taking about 50% of the money you normally spend on fun, eating out, etc, and putting it towards your savings goal. Within about a year I had paid off my debt and saved up about $4,000. That was when I started applying for jobs abroad.

Where I Live in Japan
Where I Live in Japan

Finding Work Teaching Abroad

My recommendations if you are looking into teaching abroad and have your BA are EF/English First, Interac, and JET. EF and Interac accept applications year-round and have a fairly simple hiring process. JET only accepts applications during a specific time of the year and is a much harder program to get accepted into. It just depends on how long you are willing to wait and how much you can save for your trip.

I ended up deciding on Interac as they had my preferred location and had a good support system in place for their workers. They do not cover the cost of airfare, but depending on your airport the one-way flight isn't horrible. Expect to spend about 700-1000 if you are flying out from Fort Lauderdale or Miami. My recommended airlines for comfort, price, and convenience are Jetblue and China Airlines. Those are the two airlines I used. They had the easiest booking process for international flights by far and even last minute my flight came out to about 1000 USD.

I had a nice long stopover in Taipei but chose not to go exploring due to the massive amounts of luggage I had. However, they have plenty of shops to explore there. Please keep an eye out for my next article which will talk about getting settled in Japan and some tips for picky eaters.

Things to Pack for Japan

You may want
For your Visa
work clothes
a Kindle or a couple books in English
Flight itinerary (direct from airline)
indoor shoes (especially if you wear over a 9 US womens)
antiperspirant as that is uncommon here
Copy of your license
extra money beyond your moving costs (just in case)
something unique to your country as an omiyage
some textbooks to learn Japanese or at least an English-Japanese dictionary
A sim card for data at the airport (there's usually a vending machine)
Your passport
A 3 to 2 prong adapter (You Will Need This!!!!)
A folder that has pockets (those are hard to find here)
Shimonoseki Beach
Shimonoseki Beach

Foods to Try and Avoid


  • Taiyaki: It's a pastry in the shape a fish typically with a sweet filling. My personal favorites are cookies and cream and red bean paste which is yes a sweet filling
  • Mochi: Think gooey outside and delicious and sweet center. (Check out this article to learn more about mochi!)
  • Katusdon: Pork cutlets bowl
  • Yakisoba: Think fried buckwheat noodles
  • Ramen: It's nothing like the packaged kind in the U.S.
  • Yakitori: Grilled/skewered meat
  • Okonomiyaki: Think a savory pancake with veggies, pork, and usually covered in a salty sauce reminiscent of soy sauce. Usually, you get mayo to go with it. I recommend asking for a fork/Fuoku (in Japanese) because it's a bit messy with chopsticks


  • Natto: It's fermented soybeans and has a strong taste, strong smell, and slimy texture
  • Cow Tongue: It tends to look like bacon so be careful.
  • Pizza: Unless the place is well-known it may have toppings you don't like/aren't used to. Stick to plain cheese.

If You Don't Like Fish

Avoid buying rice balls they usually aren't plain. Also, don't go out to eat with someone who does like fish unless it's a ramen place or somewhere small, as they sometimes give you a free appetizer which is usually fish.

Tip: In Japan, it's very impolite not to eat all your given so try to only order what you can eat. If you don't want something on your food use the word "nashi" after it. If you want no tomatoes it's "Tohmahto nashi kudasai."


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Where I Live in Kitakyushu

Kitakyushu has excellent transportation (you can use the bus or train to get to work easily).

Transportation can get expensive quickly but for me is covered by the school (my monthly transport to and from school is about 20,000 yen or roughly 190 to 200 USD).

Most of the street signs are in English and Japanese but the bus schedules are all Japanese, so GPS helps.

Very few people will speak English so brush up on your Japanese before you come.

Recommended Language Learning Videos

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2017 Julia Rose


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    • R Swafford profile image

      Rebecca Swafford 

      2 years ago from Texas

      This article is so cool! I think its admirable how you made all of it happen by hard work (and smart saving). I am also from Florida, but wandered over to Texas to start my own journey. Going to a foreign country and getting a job and learning the ropes sounds much more complicated and very unique!


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