Working in Japan without the proper paperwork is near to impossible and certainly not recommended. Teaching at a private English school, or Eikaiwa, can be a great, flexible way to remain in Japan while you pursue your life’s goals. Most eikaiwas offer visa sponsorships, so long as you commit to certain criteria (EX: teaching 40 hours per week, signing a 1–year contract, etc). You’ll find everything from small local companies set up by former JETs, to large, corporate learning centers. And as a native speaker of English already living in Japan, you will always be in high demand.
Eikaiwas offer a hugely important service to the Japanese community. Most students you encounter will be under pressure to learn English because their career depends on it. They might be the only person in their office to speak English, or maybe the only one who cannot. English could be an opening door, or one that’s quickly closing. Companies like Uniqlo now hold all of their internal meetings in English, as their founder saw it as pivotal in gaining global success. Imagine the stress if you aren’t up to par! As more companies make the switch to English, demand for high quality lessons will be even greater.
The working hours are different. Many students will take lessons before or after work, which means most schools offer classes from 7:00am – 11:00pm. Teachers can work in what most know as Flextime. If you are a morning person, you can wake up early and teach from seven until twelve, leaving your afternoons free to explore. If you want to sleep in, hit the gym and study Japanese, why not work 5:00pm until closing? Each school will have their own requirements, but use these schedules to your advantage.
The clientele can also be fun to work with. If you are looking to increase your network of professionals in Japan, an eikaiwa will give you very close contact with a wide range of locals. Many schools offer small group or one–on–one lessons. While teaching part–time in Tokyo, I met company CEOs, fashion photographers, hip–hop stars and TV actors. No matter where you hope to end up, it never hurts making new contacts.
There is, however, a bit of caution I should give you. Teaching at a eikaiwa is not the JET Programme. Eikaiwas are for–profit institutions, which means a certain element of Sales may work it’s way into your lesson plans. If you don’t have experience in the service industry or business, it may feel strange to be involved in such a scheme. But teaching at an eikaiwa really is as much about customer service as it is learning.
Oddly enough, you will also make far less money. Allow me to share with you my own experiences. My company paid teachers 1,500yen per lesson and it took a while, 3~4 months, to fully book my schedule. You may be at your office from 5:00pm until 11:00pm, but if you only have four lessons booked, you will only receive 6,000yen for your efforts. My average monthly take home was only 200,000yen! For me, it wasn’t about building a career off of teaching. I got to live in Shibuya, across from Yoyogi Park, and was able to work on international projects, meeting new people every day.
Like any major decision, I urge you to take a step back, and look at your motivations for staying in Japan. If you want to explore a city, rather than a farming community, then look at some of the bigger eikaiwas. Find out if they offer Japanese lessons or any other support services you may find helpful. And make sure your expectations aren’t set too high. If you want the to freedom to explore Tokyo or Osaka, and can live on a modest budget, then do your research and see which company is right for you. If you’d like to know more, don’t hesitate to reach out. @hackerinjapan on twitter, email at firstname.lastname@example.org