Many people go to Japan. Whether it’s for the adventure, seeking a significant other, or taking a break from the ordinary humdrum of life, Japan is definitely the place to expand your horizons and gain some valuable life experience while making a decent income.
I lived and worked in Japan for seven years. I have had four different jobs, all teaching in different settings in Ibaraki and Tokyo prefectures. I also danced and had my own band, which led to me meeting my husband and experiencing Japan and inter-cultural relationships in ways I could never had thought. I’m hoping to take you on back on my journey and to inspire you to experience Japan in the same way.
You might be thinking, “How can I live and work in Japan?” It’s actually very simple. The first thing to know is, as an American, you need a Bachelor’s degree to be considered for a visa by a company. What kind of Bachelor’s degree? Any area of study will suffice. You can get a Bachelor’s degree in basket weaving or Mexican wrestling! As long as it’s a Bachelor’s degree, you are as good as in.
As American citizens, we need a specialized visa to live and work in Japan. Unfortunately, we don’t have the luxury of Working Holiday visas, like Australia or Canada. The best way to get your foot in the door is to find a company that will sponsor you.
Next, you would have to consider what kind of job. Most Americans that move to Japan get the good ol’ English teacher positions. You can search on several sites to find work, and there is no limit to teaching jobs in Japan. However, not every teaching job will sponsor your visa.
The best bet for sponsorship is a large English language school. There are several to choose from. The large companies like Aeon, Aeon*Amity, ECC, and Berlitz (links to these schools are listed below) are long standing companies in Japan. You would not need to worry about these companies going bankrupt, like Nova in 2007, and finding yourself jobless in a foreign country. I have personally interviewed at Amity (a children’s language school), Aeon (children and adults English school) and ECC (children to adults). All have their pros and cons but it’s the best way to get started in Japan. Contracts are usually one year long, apartments subsidized and affordable, and come with a 3 year visa (since 2014, Japan has extended certain visa expiration dates). This gives you a good taste of Japan and will help you determine if living and working in there is right for you.
I was offered a position with both companies I interviewed at before I moved (Amity and ECC). I decided on Amity as their apartments were much cheaper than ECC and they covered more financially. ECC was also a good company but since I was just starting out, I went with Amity as a safe bet. It’s always best to interview at several and see what they have to offer in terms of support for first year teachers. This will help you choose the right fit for you.
They will ask you where you would like to be placed. Do not say “Tokyo” or “Osaka” or any specific city. There’s a good chance you will not get placed in a large city as these are the most requested areas. You will most likely be placed more than an hour outside the city. Instead, suggest the area you would like to live in, like Kantou or Kansai. If living in the countryside makes you feel social disconnected, fear not. Japanese people in the countryside are the most friendly people (if you respect the culture and the local people). Also, when your contract is up, you can always move.
Here are the URLs to the largest English schools in Japan for you to consider.
Aeon English School
Amity English school