Things to know before moving to Japan to teach English

Moving to another country is always a challenge, whether you want to do some long-term travel or migrate and establish a whole new life. Luckily, there are countless resources and strategies for moving to Japan.

Japan is a beautiful place to live, offering an experience, unlike many other countries. Historically, it has been one of the top destinations for travelling English teachers for a good reason. Here is an overview that will point you in the right direction for each type of hurdle you are running towards.


The Japanese banking system does not distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, so you can essentially go and sign up for an account. You will need a local address and phone number for the forms.

Taxes are handled entirely by your company in Japan. Many people here have no idea how to do this on their own – so there will be no expectation for you to know how taxes work, either. It can become a little more complex if you have multiple jobs, but the Japanese tax system is not too difficult to navigate.

Budgeting in Japan

People who say Japan is expensive probably visited for a week and stayed on one of the main tourist trails. If you are moving to Japan, living like a local will help you to budget your English teaching earnings.

Sure, fruit and beef are pricey; you would go broke eating cheeseburgers and strawberries every day. However, fresh vegetables and seafood are available year-round, with many seasonal specialities that are drastically cheaper when they are in season.

If you are not a fan of cooking, there are convenience stores and fast-food restaurants everywhere. Moreover, the selection and healthiness of many convenience store options are excellent. There is a slight chance of you having to spend more than ¥500 on a quick, delicious meal.

An employer generally covers commute costs, and public transportation is quite good in most of Japan. Secondhand bicycles are a convenient backup plan for getting around.

Renting a house or apartment is not too bad if you sacrifice either size or location. Living in a semi-remote place can drop your housing costs considerably. Other regular expenses like water, electricity, and gas are comparable to other developed countries. The biggest pitfalls will always be food and entertainment, so plan your indulgences wisely.

Still concerned? Please take a look at our [guide on earning more money in Japan]!


Many companies in Japan offer assistance with housing, acting as a cosigner or setting new employees up in a cheap apartment or share house. That’s another reason to have a job before your plane lands. If you want to choose your pad, there will be more legwork involved. You should be able to find a foreigner-friendly real estate branch in any major city. They will know which landlords are open to the idea of renting to you.

One thing that shocks many newcomers to Japan is the idea of key money. Key money is a “gift” to a new landlord for the privilege of renting from them. It is a longstanding tradition of bribery that became formalized. It’s usually one or two months’ rent – don’t expect it back.

Apartments in Tokyo are infamously small, but it’s not a bad thing. You will be minutes away from thousands of cafes, co-working spaces, gyms, theatres, restaurants, parks. You name it. Just get a bed, and do everything else out in the world. It’s the way to experience the big city.


Learning Japanese is not necessarily required right away, but everything you do in Japan can be made easier by knowing some of the local languages. Tofugu has a wonderful, comprehensive guide to starting with Japanese studies, so start there.

Once you are in Japan, there are usually free or cheap local lessons to be had, or you can seek out an intensive program that will help get you up to speed. Learning another language is also a powerful way to examine your English teaching techniques. Moreover, passing the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) is usually a requirement for job changes.


If you’re getting a job before you come to Japan, they will typically also handle all of the paperwork for your visa application. You need a sponsor for a work visa, but your residence status is not tied directly to that company. So, once you are here, it is possible to change companies without too much difficulty, as long as your visa type is applicable.

There are different work visa classifications for English teaching jobs, such as instructors, humanities specialists, and professors. So make sure you review the type of career you would like before you lock yourself into a role. Changes and additions will require more paperwork and personal trips to the immigration services office.


If you are coming from a country with terrible healthcare, you’re in luck! Japan’s system is easy to use and relatively affordable. No more learning weird acronyms like “HMO” or “PPO” or stressing which doctors you can receive treatment from. You will either be on the Japanese Health Insurance through a full-time employer or the Japanese National Health Insurance if you are a part-timer, student, or in-between jobs.

Finding a Job

Unless you are retired, you’ll likely need a way to fund your new life in Japan. For newcomers, finding a job that will sponsor your visa is critical unless you plan to use a Working Holiday program. Check out our guides on the types of English Teaching Jobs in Japan and then Finding English Teaching Jobs in Japan.

It is relatively easy to find work if you are qualified for the applicable visa. Generally, it would help if you had at least a 4-year college degree OR 10 years of relevant, specialized experience to qualify for a work visa in Japan. On top of that, additional training, experience, and certifications like the CertTESOL and DipTESOL can make this step much easier.

Where to Start

You have probably noticed that much of your relocation to Japan relies on your ability to be employed. Furthermore, if you’re here, you want to teach English as a second language. Partnering with a well-established organization like the STC will give you the skills to be hired and the assistance to set up your life here in Japan.

The CertTESOL course is an ideal internationally recognized qualification for English teaching jobs. Moreover, once you complete the course, the STC offers job placement assistance and personalized advice for your move. Start the process today by choosing a course date and taking the pre-course questionnaire to make sure you qualify.

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