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Best programs to teach English in Japan

Discover the 8 best programs to teach English in Japan in order to broaden your options when teaching English abroad.

Japan is of the most popular destinations for teach abroad programs and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

The West has been obsessing over Japanese culture since time immemorial.

From robots to anime to pokémon to geishas to Shinto shrines to Final Fantasy to Studio freakin’ Ghibli to…okay, you get the idea.

Ever heard of a weeaboo? Well, it means someone who has taken their love of Japanese culture a little too far (it’s intended to be derogatory, but it sounds too cute to feel that way).

Anyway, the fact is we love Japan!

And as a result, lots of English speakers flock there to teach conversational and business English.

Despite the prevalence of weeaboos among us, few teachers seem to know that much about what program options exist for teaching English in Japan.

Have you ever done a Google search for “teach English in Japan programs?” or “how to teach English in Japan?”

Google is filled with page after page of the JET program!

You’d even be forgiven for assuming it’s one of the only ways to land a job as an English teacher in Japan.

This is simply not the case, there are plenty of different programs bringing fluent English speakers to the most sought after places in Japan, including Kyoto, Osaka, Fukuoka, and Nagoya.

We’re going to talk about the best programs out there so that you can broaden your options and finally embrace Japanese culture up close and personal.

Here are the best programs to teach English in Japan:

  • The JET program
  • Interac
  • Westgate
  • JIEC Program
  • NOVA Japan
  • Gaba
  • Benesse BE studio
  • ECC

1. The JET program

teach english in japan jet

Perfect for: Graduates across all majors and new teaching graduates.

Okay, so this couldn’t be a blog about teaching abroad programs in Japan without including JET.

Thing is, it’s not your only option, so remember that and don’t despair if you don’t get in.

There are other programs (which we’ve taken the liberty of listing our faves below) and this is not the only way to kickstart your English teaching adventure in Japan.

The JET program (also known as the JET Programme) stands for the Japan Exchange and Teaching program. It’s a Japanese government run program and one of the most reputable.

They hire English-speaking graduates from all over the world to live and teach in Japan.

It’s a mix of private and public schools and as far as salary goes, it’s one of your better options.

Positions include competitive salaries, benefits, housing allocations, and the magical flight reimbursement.

If you work with ALT, you are an Assistant Language Teacher, which means you have help in the classroom (a benefit for first year teachers who might be nervous to face a class for the first time).

Positions are available across Japan and the finer details of your contract will depend on what school you end up in.

How do I know if I qualify for the JET program?

Here are the requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • TEFL certification considered a strong asset
  • Interest in Japanese culture (you will be considered a cultural ambassador)
  • Be both mentally and physically healthy

Interested? Check out this first-hand account from a recent JET program participant!

2. Interac

interac teach in japan

Perfect for: Graduates across all majors and new teaching graduates who want to teach in rural Japan.

Interac is one of the biggest programs recruiting ESL teachers for Japan.

They hire all year round but tend to place teachers in the spring and fall.

Spring is their biggest season, so that might be the best time to send over your resume.

This is also an ALT (Assistant Language Program) position, so there’s a safety net in the classroom for the nervous amongst you.

One thing to note is that a lot of the positions are in rural areas and they do recommend that candidates are able to drive.

They tend to prefer applicants open to a quieter existence and willing to drive.

The positions offered in cities are crazy competitive and tend to be easier to transfer into once you’ve already taught in Japan for a year or two.

A teacher set on working in a Japanese city might do a year working with Interac Japan in the countryside to pave the way for their metropolitan dream!

Interac Japan requirements:

  • Fluent speaker of English
  • Educated through English for at least 12 years
  • Bachelor’s degree

3. Westgate

westgate japan

Perfect for: Experienced ESL teachers with a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re interested in teaching English at the university level in Japan, then the Westgate program is for you.

Universities come out on top in terms of benefits and salary so you can expect an impressive salary if you land one of these coveted positions.

On top of that, teachers can expect to receive a fully-developed curriculum.

This is in stark comparison to some university programs in other countries where you might get thrown in at the deep end with little or (*shudder*) no guidance.

Westgate offers 3–5 month contracts to prospective teachers so you can get a taster before committing to Japan for the long-haul.

In addition to all this, you don’t even need a master’s degree to apply.

Usually, all they’re looking for is an undergrad with an ESL certification and some solid teaching experience (1,000 hours of ESL classroom teaching).

Westgate also hires full-time elementary school English teachers with contracts for this program lasting 4–7 months.

They require a university degree, ESL certificate and at least 1,000 hours of teaching experience with young learners.

Westgate requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • ESL certificate
  • 1,000 hours ESL teaching experience (for elementary positions, experience must be with young learners)

4. JIEC Program

jiec japan

Perfect for: ESL teachers with a degree and 2 years of experience.

JIEC Japan generally hires ESL teachers for Japanese kindergartens, but teaching positions do exist at other levels.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on job postings on their site as they hire all year round.

They look for ESL teachers with a Bachelor’s degree (minimum) and two years’ experience (specifically teaching ESL).

In terms of JIEC benefits, accommodation is covered and a settlement bonus is usually included, as well as a competitive salary.

Their kindergartens are usually private and so hours can vary including both weekends and weekday evenings.

JIEC Japan requirements:

  • 2 years of ESL teaching experience
  • Bachelor’s degree

5. NOVA Japan

Nova teach in Japan

Perfect for: Fluent English speakers with no experience.

NOVA Japan is a private English school that offers all sorts of opportunities for ESL teachers in Japan because they are considered a one-stop shop for learning English as a second language.

From one-to-one conversation classes with business professionals to more traditional classroom-based learning.

There are over 250 branches so you could end up teaching anywhere!

One of the advantages of this program is that all the teachers in the school are fluent English speakers so you will have a ready-made expat community in place.

The benefits are awesome with teachers having their accommodation sorted, flights reimbursed and a guaranteed number of lessons in their contract.

Other perks of the job include Japanese lessons with a fluent Japanese speaker (at a discounted rate) so those of you hoping to speak the local lingo will be taken care of!

Nova Japan requirements:

  • No teaching experience required
  • Fluent English speaker
  • Bachelor’s degree

6. Gaba

working for gaba japan

Perfect for: TEFL certified graduates across all majors.

If you’re an English teacher who wants to focus on 1-to-1 language lessons, Gaba (an eikaiwa, or English conversation, chain of schools) is your best bet.

Specializing in adult learners, Gaba gives you the chance to be really creative.

No two lessons will be the same as the focus is on a custom learning experience for all students.

Gaba has their own methodology and training is provided.

The best part is that this program is incredibly flexible, allowing teachers to choose their own schedules and control their income.

Monthly earnings will vary, but the going rate is 1500 yen per 40-minute lesson with bonuses in place for high-performing teachers.

The one thing to note is that teachers are treated as independent contractors so they will be responsible for their own flights/accommodation, etc.

This is definitely a great opportunity for those teachers that enjoy their freedom and aren’t fazed by the idea of setting themselves up in Japan.

Gaba requirements:

  • Fluent English
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • ESL qualification (TEFL certified)
  • Experience in a corporate environment

7. Benesse BE Studio

Benesse BE studio

Perfect for: Graduates across all majors.

Benesse BE studio provides exciting English learning programs for children in over 1,700 schools across Japan. The youngest student is 9 months old. The majority of students are Japanese students under the age of 7.

Teachers will enjoy the fun and interactive activity-based lessons just as much as the students.

Class sizes are kept small (up to 8 students) to allow for a highly engaging communicative environment for young learners to be exposed to and exercise authentic English communication skills.

Teachers are supported with a comprehensive training program and relocation/work visa assistance.

Benesse BE studio requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Fluent English

8. ECC

ecc teach in japan

Perfect for: Experienced ESL instructors and licensed educators.

With 188 schools across Japan, the ECC Japan currently employs over 400 overseas teachers and they’re on the lookout for a whole lot more.

ECC schools in Japan are immersive English environments where students are encouraged to speak English as much as possible.

From children to adults, they offer a wide range of classes, so teachers tend to get a choice of who they want to teach.

It’s worth noting that this is a private language school and teaching hours will usually be evenings and weekends.

This program recruits globally, so you have the chance to speak to someone in person before flying across the world.

Check out the ECC jobs page for more details on working for ECC Japan, including ECC requirements, the application process, teaching locations, salaries and more.

ECC Japan requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Fluent English speaker
  • Able to attend a 1-day recruiting session

Updated! Noteworthy additions now hiring

woman walking down a residential street in japan

Amity Corporation

Perfect for: Experienced ESL teachers with a bachelor’s degree.

If you’re interested in teaching conversational English to children as young as 6 months old and up to 18 years old, then the Amity Corporation may be for you.

Since 1994, Amity has provided teaching opportunities for experienced, motivated professionals from around the world.

Amity has over 96 schools throughout Japan in cities, suburbs and rural areas. Imagine living in Japan, exploring the countryside on the weekends, taking the bullet train, staying up late in Tokyo, and tasting all the delicious street food you walk past.

Not to mention the incredible perks that come with being employed by Amity.

Amity offers a generous 1-year contract with a competitive salary, fully furnished subsidized apartment, transportation stipend, work visa sponsorship, paid training, holidays and vacation periods, subsidized corporate health insurance, and a contract completion bonus.

Amity requirements:

  • Fluent English language speaker
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • ESL certificate

Choosing the best program for you

If you are passionate about teaching abroad and have always dreamed of living in Japan, why not marry these two dreams together? If you’re not sure it’s the right move for you yet, try testing things out by going to Japan for a short stay and teaching English online. (This might even open the doors to re-deciding your home country altogther!)

To recap, our 8 favorite programs for teaching English in Japan are:

  • The JET program
  • Interac
  • Westgate
  • JIEC Program
  • NOVA Japan
  • Gaba
  • Benesse BE studio
  • ECC
  • Bonus: Amity Corporation

Each program offers something a little different, but there are tons of options to ensure you find the best possible fit for you.

Recommended reading:

Now’s the perfect time to apply for ESL jobs abroad.

There’s a high demand for English teachers in Japan.

Find out who’s hiring and what the best English teaching jobs are in Japan, other countries in Asia like South Korea, Vietnam, China, and finally, Spain!

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