Japanese Survival Guide Point 9 – Finding Work!

We are almost at the end of this marathon theme that started a couple of months back and has been dominating Saturdays on this blog for half that when I decided to give it its own dedicated day. If you are coming to Japan, you are going to want to find a job, probably first. Time to look at how to go about it and the pros and cons of different jobs.

Firstly, you need to look at the times of year that the companies do intake. Although it is possible to find a teaching job in Japan most times of the year, for the main stream jobs in schools unless you apply at the right time you would be competing to replace someone who has left their job for whatever reason.

The two biggest companies today hiring are JET – which isn’t really a company, but a government programme. It’s still the biggest scheme in Japan, taking the most foreigners. The second company is Interac, who have been around in Japan for a long time now, and claim that in a few years they will place more teachers than JET. Outside of these two there are dozens if not hundreds of other companies in Japan. There are Boards of Education for different cities and areas who will employ some teachers right off the bat, but as a new arrival to Japan you’d have to be immensely qualified and/or experienced to land one of those jobs.

There are a number of places to look for jobs online. For those looking for an ESL job, the first port of call is usually Dave’s ESL Café. This is obviously not Japan specific, so if you’re looking for an ESL job pretty much in any part of the world, then this is regarded as the best place to search. For a site more dedicated to Japan, Gaijin Pot has a lot of jobs listed there too.

Let’s look at the two main options, JET and Interac. You will find that smaller companies may be quite similar in structure to Interac, that is they are dispatch companies that find placements for teachers and provide a level of support to their employees. However, dispatch company life can be quite different from that of a JET placement.


JET is government run, and has a number of pluses in my opinion. Firstly, they do have the best pay, medical insurance and will pay for your flights. The downside of the JET programme is that you don’t get the holidays that other companies will offer you. They are the pickiest, and the interview/selection process starts a long time before you actually start. JET does not follow the Japanese School year, rather the European/American school years, and placements traditionally begin in August for the twelve months. However, it’s nearly 12 months earlier that applications are accepted.

JET pays you through the year, from what I’ve been told (please correct me if I’m wrong) the same for each of the 12 months. That’s good news, but the holidays are almost non-existent. I have heard of many people on the JET programme having to spend weeks in school when there are no classes at all. Well, you are getting paid!

Interac, I will say now, (I haven’t mentioned Interac before) was my employer for the two years. I didn’t apply for JET, I would have had to wait until August 2012 for a start and I didn’t want to be unemployed for half the year. Interac do Skype interviews, but also have a number of information sessions and interviews in various countries such as the States and Jamaica.


As for any company, you’ll need a satisfactory police check, but they also drug test you as well, I was drug tested within a couple of hours of arrival in Tokyo. There’s a somewhat gruelling five day orientation programme in Tokyo before your sent out to where you are going to live. JET and Interac place you, and although they ask you to tell them where you’d like to be placed, it’s very VERY unlikely to land a spot in Tokyo or Kyoto, Yokohama. Like me, you’re far more likely to end up in the countryside somewhere.

Interac, more than JET (I believe) is really big on the teacher taking full control of the lessons, in High School at least. So you are preparing a lot of worksheets and your lesson plans really need to be thorough and timed well. You get decent holidays, but you don’t get paid fully for them. In August you receive 60% of your pay, in December you get 75%. You start at the start of the school year – which is April, although orientation is the second half of March usually. March and April are paid according to your contract, which for me this March was less than 50% of the normal pay because the contract finished on March 14th.

Although it’s great to have more free time, the pay often comes as a shock and it makes the next month really hard going. Also, Interac pays you at the very end of the following month – Pay for March for example is paid on April 30th. So when you first start it’s a long wait for your first decent pay.

Pay – According to their website, new JET participants get around 300,000 ($3000US) yen a month. For those starting on Interac, it’s around 230-250,000. Then you have August, December, March and April which it is well down on that. There is a big pay difference. Dispatch companies such as Interac, Joy Talk and others officially pay you for 29.5 hours a week. At 30 hours, medical insurance (compulsory in Japan) kicks in and they would have to contribute towards that. JET, I believe, looks after (at least in part) medical insurance.

The one main thing to remember is that JET will only take people for five years. If you love Japan enough to stay longer, then you’re looking at finding a dispatch company. I will be writing more on my experiences with Interac next week.

Both programmes accept applicants around October to November each year for the next year, but keep in mind JET does not begin until August.

The white board awaits for the students,

The white board awaits for the students

So there you have a brief breakdown in comparisons. Interac are a big company, so there is certain level of reliability that comes with that over smaller companies. I have heard of small companies that can’t afford to pay their teachers and worse, so if you are not going one of the big two, I really recommend researching hard about the company and how it does business. Most are probably fine, but you don’t want to land yourself in a situation where you’re living in Japan and haven’t been paid for months.


Their websites –

Jet Programme



Tomorrow, it’s another Sunday Spotlight, centring on a great city in South East Asia. May the journey never end!

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