Every year thousands of foreign ESL teachers head to Japan as jobs are widespread in towns and cities across the country. The average salary is enough to live well and still save and the cultural and social aspects of the country are unlike anywhere else on Earth. If you have already decided that Japan is for you, it might not be quite so easy to decide on exactly which part of it to call home. Every city will have plenty of potential options and quieter areas will also offer a change from the normal hectic pace of city life. Although it would be hard to make a bad choice of destination in Japan, we recommend the following options based on the local job market and the experiences of our previous course graduates.
It is no surprise that Japan’s largest urban area is at the top of this list as it is a place unlike any other. ESL teaching jobs are abundant in the city as there are over nine million residents and the salaries on offer are the highest you will find in the country. The local cost of living is also famously high, particularly accommodation, but if you secure a job that includes help with housing you should have little to worry about. Most teachers earn enough to provide a good lifestyle and many also add a bit of private tuition to their schedule to top up their main earnings. Whatever type of student you prefer to teach, you should find the right job for you as kindergartens, primary schools, secondary schools, and universities are all genuine options in Tokyo.
Away from the workplace Japan’s huge capital has an endless supply of experiences to enjoy. Potential for entertainment can be found around every corner, with live music, endless shopping, museums, galleries, and much more available across every one of the city’s 23 districts. Although rush hour can be a crazy experience for first-time visitors to areas such as Shibuya and Shinjuku, you can’t fail to be dazzled by the sheer exhilaration of it all. From swanky Ginza to trendy Harajuku, you are unlikely to get bored by the everyday goings on in Japan’s number one city. The well known efficiency of the local transport networks will ensure that no part of the city is out of reach. The superfast bullet trains also mean that the entire country is there to be explored whenever you have some time away from the classroom.
Although it is a fraction of the size of Tokyo, Osaka is still a large bustling city where ESL teaching jobs are typically easy to find. Salaries are a little less on average than the capital, but so is the cost of living, with accommodation being particularly more affordable than the capital. Osaka is often seen as more laid back than elsewhere in the country, with a comedy scene that is famous throughout Japan and a population who enjoy having a good time. Whatever your idea of fun, whether it is food, comedy, or sake related, your nights out in Osaka are sure to be unlike any you have experienced before.
Known as “the nation’s kitchen”, Osaka is famous for its food scene where you can eat out every night and never run out of places to try. It is also said to be the friendliest place in Japan, so nights out should never be a lonely occasion. Must-try local specialties include fried octopus balls known as takoyaki and a savory pancake called okonomiyaki. When eating out you should also sample another local speciality, sake. Osaka is said to produce some of the very best sake in all of Japan thanks to the local mountain water.
The port city of Kobe is located 30 km from Osaka and it is a thriving hub of business and tourism, making it an ideal place for hunting down ESL teaching opportunities. Although significantly smaller than its near neighbor, Kobe still has plenty of private and public schools where jobs can be found year-round. The city is also the headquarters of several large corporations, providing even more options for teachers looking to work within the business world. As a port city, Kobe is often seen as more multicultural and diverse than many other cities in Japan, and its expat community really does offer a melting pot of cultures to explore.
As well as the usual array of entertainment options across the city, you will also find more unique pastimes to enjoy such as beaches, watersports, and some of the most famous hot springs in the country. The nearby mountains that overlook the city are another popular spot for unwinding after a long week in the classroom. Head for the hills and blow away the cobwebs with a weekend hike through some of Japan’s most breathtaking scenery. As with most parts of Japan, the local transport network is superb, making it easy to get around on a local level, as well as nationally.
Although it is the capital of Hokkaido, Japan's northern island, Sapporo is less known by most ESL teachers than many other cities in the country. At just under two million residents, the city is still large by most standards and there is no shortage of things to do, by day and by night. However, what sets it aside from most other cities in Japan is its location within easy reach of wild and largely untamed wilderness. Winter sports lovers will be in their element as world-class skiing and snowboarding is easily accessible, as is the promise of relaxation at one of many hot springs in the area.
Due to its northern location, Sapporo is known for its cold and snowy winters and the annual Snow Festival which takes place every February. This spectacular event draws visitors from all over the world who come to marvel at the snow statues and ice sculptures that dot the city. The ESL job scene in this part of Japan is less prominent than in some other areas, but there is no shortage of opportunities if you are keen to find them. You might need to have a bit more patience when planning to teach English in Sapporo, but the rewards will be more than worth it.
Located in the far southwest of Japan on the island of Kyushu, the coastal city of Fukuoka provides another popular destination for teaching English. As the nearest port city to the Asian mainland, Fukuoka has a long history as a gateway to the country, with museums and castle ruins offering a good insight into the region’s far off days. Today, the city is best known for its beaches, green spaces, street food, and its chilled out vibe that ensures its a pleasant place to live and work. Once again, teaching jobs are not found in such huge numbers here as you will find in Tokyo or Osaka, but with a bit of patience and research you should have little trouble finding the right fit for you.
Fukuoka has a reputation as a fun place for younger people to live and work as the city is home to over ten thousand international students each year. It is also perfectly located for enjoying the wider region and all its natural glory, something that is slightly harder to achieve if you choose somewhere like Tokyo as a base. Whether you are into outdoor pursuits, history, or the local culture, Fukuoka is the perfect place from which to pursue your interests.