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Teaching English in Japan

Teaching English in Japan

It’s been our pleasure this week to find out more about living and working in Japan from Global English TESOL graduate Mike Konig.

We asked Mike some questions about life in Japan, how he found his first job and to give us some tips on living and working there. Here’s his advice.



Hi Mike, where are you in Japan and what has your main teaching English job been there?
I am presently living in the countryside of Hyogo Prefecture in a small town called Ono City.  It's about an hour north of Kobe and two hours west of Osaka.  I work for one of the larger language schools, called ECC, where I travel to places to teach in both elementary schools and kindergartens. Aside from ECC, I also give several lessons at night to my own private students at their homes, in community centers and, finally, at a big hospital in Ono City. On the weekends, I work as a wedding officiant for Japanese couples. I lead a full life, but wouldn't trade it in for anything.

Can you think back to what made you decide to become an English teacher?
It was 24 years ago in May 1998 that I took a one-week trip to Japan. To make a long story short, I fell in love with the country and wanted to come back.  Teaching English was the most practical way to do that. As soon as I got home from Japan, I sent out many resumes to Japanese English conversation schools with no luck. My big chance came in June of the same year. A friend at work was able to recommend me for a job with a school he knew. This personal introduction to the school owners changed my life forever.

Tell us about your first teaching role - how did you get it? Can you remember the interview you had?
My first teaching role began in 1998 at a small English conversation school in a small countryside town called Yashiro in Hyogo Prefecture. I had no teaching experience and the school didn't have a lot of teaching materials. I didn't speak Japanese, so had a difficult time communicating with students young and old. It was ”baptism by fire.” It also helped that the school needed a new teacher as soon as possible.  I remember the interview because it came by a telephone call at 12 Midnight because the person calling me forgot to consider international time differences.  So, I did the interview while half asleep. I must have said something good because I got the job.  

Which courses have you taken with Global English and what was the most helpful thing (if you can remember!) that you learned from the course?
 I took the 150-hour Certificate of Educational Studies in TESOL with a module in Business English. Without a doubt, the most important thing I took away from the course was the importance of a needs analysis at the beginning of the course, so there is no wasted time and effort by students or teachers. A solid foundation is the best way to begin it makes lesson planning more tailored to the goals of my customers. 

On a final note, the Global English modules contained very specific worksheets on what to cover in the needs analysis and, to this day, remain an integral part of my TESOL library.

Tell us about other teaching roles and your plans for the future - do you plan to keep teaching full time?
In the morning, I spend about three hours at either a kindergarten or elementary school and then have the afternoon off, before commencing my evening lessons. All of these smaller jobs come out to be comparable to working full time. The only differences are more control over my schedule and also what I charge for my time. I enjoy my present lifestyle and do not plan to change much in the future.

What is it about teaching in Japan that you really enjoy?
Working with a company like ECC, which has classrooms all over the country, I enjoy being in a different school in different towns every day. I enjoy the travelling aspect of the work and sometimes being able to mix business with pleasure after work is finished. I do get sent to schools both far away from home and near. The variety is part of the fun. 

What are some of the challenges, either about teaching or living in Japan?
Going to so many different schools on a regular basis, you notice that teaching situations can be like night and day. At some schools, the students are a little easier to work with and there is adequate support from the staff and management. At other places, you can run into environments that are not so teacher-friendly, where you really need to be good at reading the tea leaves and adapting to challenging situations.

Do you speak Japanese and if so how essential would you say this was to being successful there?
Having lived in Japan for almost a quarter-century, I do have enough to get around and survive. I do think it is helpful to be familiar with the language and customs of any place you will be living or setting up roots in. Depending on what your teaching situation is, knowing Japanese might or might not be essential to success in the classroom. Some schools and companies do not want teachers using Japanese in the classroom or around students. For other places, for example, universities and certain schools, in their job advertisements, they specifically look for people with conversational Japanese ability.

So, even if you are not using Japanese at work, it is advisable to become functionally literate to make life a little easier.

Have you any advice to others about starting as an English teacher, either in terms of finding work, teaching English or settling into life where you are?
Here are some practical tips if you plan to work in Japan:

  •  Have a job lined up before you come.
  • Take a course that will give you the fundamentals of TESOL.
  •  Bring 4-6 months of living expenses with you to be safe.
  • Learn some basic greetings and other useful phrases in Japanese before coming.
  • Do your homework when searching for a job. 
  • If a job is paying less than 250,000 yen per month or less than 2,500 yen per hour, skip over that job.
  • Do a Web search on the basics of law enforcement in Japan just to be safe.

These are just a few of the main pieces of advice I would give to people coming to Japan.

Thanks Mike, it’s great to hear how you have made a life for yourself. Thanks so much!

Sayōnara for now…

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If you are interested in living and working in Japan, you can check out the courses Mike took here:

150-hour Advanced TESOL and Business English Teaching

Find other stories of people living and working in Japan:

Mai here >>
Yosuke here >> 
Melanie here >>
Corinna here >>

Our Japan fact sheet page is here >>

Are you a Global English TESOL grad who would love to share your story? Get in touch today!

  • Author: William Bradridge
  • Date: Wednesday 16th February 2022

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