What it’s Like Teaching English in… Japan!

Have you ever wondered what it’s like teaching English in Japan? Before I started working as a full-time Writer and Blogger, I did several stints of teaching English overseas – including a year spent teaching in a strict Korean hagwon in Seoul, several months as a private tutor in Southern Italy, and a short period volunteering at an orphanage in rural Thailand.  I truly believe that teaching English overseas is an excellent way to travel the world as it pushes you out of your comfort zone, enables you to fully immerse yourself in a new culture, and is a great way to make some good money while you travel.

From today, every other Tuesday on High Heels & a Backpack will be #TEFLTuesday which will feature the adventures of wanderlusting women from around the globe who are working as TEFL teachers. This week, Leah from LavidaLeah will share her story about what it’s like teaching English in Japan.

Originally from the USA, Leah defines herself as an “aspiring polyglot with feet itching to wander the world”. She has travelled through several continents and is currently based in Japan where she is teaching English at a summer camp.


Teaching English in Japan

Teaching English in Japan

Where are you teaching English? 

I am teaching English in Japan! My job allows me to move all over the country. I have taught in Nagasaki, Fukuoka, Tokyo, and even near Mount Fuji!

How long have you been teaching there for?

I have been here for one and a half months and will stay for a total of two months.

What it's like teaching English in Japan

What is your working environment like?

My work environment is not a formal school setting, but rather a strict “summer camp.” For three to four day sessions, large school groups-along with their teachers-come for a complete English immersion experience. We teach songs, games, dances, and cultural elements of the USA and Anglophone countries in addition to teaching English classes. 

How did you Find this position?

I applied through a program called “Guy Healy Summer Camp” that I discovered through my university. It’s open for anyone to apply to and they have a pretty useful website that gives you practical tips for teaching in Japan.

What is daily life like in your host country? 

Imagine daily life as a camp counselor, and that’s what my life is at the moment. Early mornings and late nights, but a lot of fun in between! During time off, however, I stay in hostels and hotels paid for by my program. 

What it's Like Teaching English in Japan

Did you have any teaching experience or qualifications prior to making the move?

I had a certificate from an online TEFL program, but it was not a requirement for the program. My teaching experience is minimal. I worked as a camp counselor/teacher teaching French with the Concordia Language Villages. This taught me a lot of what I needed to know for overcoming language barriers and working with children. 

Have you experienced any culture shock?

I travel a lot, but nothing prepared me for Japan. I had never been to Asia before, nor had I ever studied an Asian language, so everything was different to me. I couldn’t read signs, I didn’t know when to wear shoes and when to take them off, the food was unfamiliar, and the scenery was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It was overwhelming at first, but it quickly stole my heart.

What has been your greatest experience while teaching in Japan?

My best experience happened on one of my days off in Tokyo. A few of us were staying in Asakusa, and we decided to meet one of our Japanese coworkers for a little day trip. We took an hour and a half subway ride, and finally made our way to Kamakura to see the shrine and big Buddha. We had a great time, and then we went to the beach! Perfect end to the perfect day! 

What it's Like Teaching English in Japan


What piece of advice would you give to those considering teaching in  Japan that you wish that you had been told?

The one piece of advice that I wish I had been told would have been someone telling me how hot it gets in Japan over the summer. I knew it was going to be warm, but it was far more humid than I ever could have imagined. Also, learn a few phrases of Japanese! A lot of people still don’t speak English and it is good to know especially in rural areas!

What opportunities has living in Japan given you to travel?

I got to go to Japan! Aside from that bonus, travel within the country is relatively inexpensive, and I have had coworkers go to South Korea with ease during vacation time. 

What it's Like Teaching English in Japan

What do you love most about the country?

What I love most about Japan is the people I have met. Everyone has been so kind to me. I speak no Japanese. I have had strangers approach me asking if I need help with directions and waiters bending over backwards to ensure there is no meat in my vegetarian meal! 

Any parting advice about working as a TEFL teacher overseas?

Be flexible! Creating lesson plans and having to change completely can be frustrating, but students are the priority. Adapting to them to help students learn and make connections is key!

Get TEFL Certified!

Did you know that world leading TEFL provider TEFLonline.net is giving High Heels & a Backpack readers 10% discount off all TEFL courses? To book or request further information from them, click here.

If you have any questions about teaching English in Japan, feel free to reach out to Leah for guidance. You can follow her adventures through her blog and on Instagram.

Are you teaching English in an interesting location somewhere around the world and would like to be a part of the #TeflTuesday series? If you would like to share your story, please email me at: [email protected] 



Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

3 thoughts on “What it’s Like Teaching English in… Japan!”

  1. Would you consider teaching a “young persons” game? I would love to try it, but many articles I have read seem to suggest the positions are aimed at younger people. I would love to see #TEFLTuesday interview a mature teacher. Also bitterly jealous that Leah got to spend so long in Japan ! My 2 weeks there were certainly not enough time to see such an amazing country, hope she continues to enjoy her travels!

    • Hi Polly!

      No I wouldn’t say that at all! I think that there is plenty of opportunity for people of all ages to teach around the world, it just seems that unfortunately there isn’t a lot of marketing for it that targets people outside of the 18-30 bracket.

      I think that some schools, particularly in the Far East, DO prefer younger teachers (I got told I was too old for an academy in Seoul and I was only 26 at the time!) but it really varies based on the particular school, and also the country. My colleagues at the school I ended up working at in Korea were from a mix of age groups and when I was teaching in Italy I was actually the youngest one there with most of my colleagues being experienced teachers aged 40+
      Is there anywhere in particular you’d like to teach?

      That’s a great idea RE #TEFLTuesday 🙂 I’ll see if I can find someone interested in participating!

      I’m with you about Japan! I’ve been a few times, but I’d love to go back. I’m considering a trip to Hokkaido next summer but there are SO many places I want to go that I’m not sure!

      Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about teaching or looking for opportunities!

      Safe Travels!
      Melissa xo


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