Published: 30 June, 2014  |  Last updated: 01 July, 2014

Teaching English in Karumai, Japan

Karumai, Japan


Report submitted on 30 June, 2014 by Kevin Ellis.

Teaching English in Karumai, Japan:

How can teachers find teaching jobs in Karumai, Japan?
I responded to a job posting on

The main English teaching jobs available are:
Full time English language school positions and teaching at state schools – I am an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher at a Japanese state school).

What are the minimum teaching requirements?
It’s good if you are a Native speaker but when I was going through training there was also a Filipino who the company had hired to be an ALT.
The big thing is to have a 4-year college degree from an accredited school.
I also have some informal teaching experience in Djibouti, Africa and Afghanistan.
I went to Thailand and took a 120 hour ESL course which was invaluable in helping me learn how to give a proper English class.
I’m sure a combination of all those things helped me get noticed.

What teaching requirements would you recommend?
Take a 120 teaching course and help yourself out. Don’t do an on-line course because it’s been my experience that those are not taken as seriously as a hands-on course in an actual classroom environment.

What are the levels of payment?
I get a flat 11.500yen rate a day (approx. US$110) and I’m only paid on days that I work. I don’t get Japanese holidays or sick pay. If I do not work I do not get paid.

How many teaching days a week is normal?
5 days per week.

How many face-to-face teaching hours a week is normal?
11 hours per week.

What is the normal arrangement for holidays?
I get an unpaid day off from work.

What advice would you give to someone considering coming to Karumai, Japan to teach English?
Japanese people are very nice and kind people but I would not come to Japan again to teach. The Japanese people are ridiculously shy and it’s very hard to have any type of social life or just talk with some one.
I’ve worked at my current school for 4 months and some of the kids will still not look at me when they walk by or say “Good morning”.
I sometimes think the Japanese people are afraid of their own shadows.

What are the positive aspects of teaching English in Karumai, Japan?
Again, Japanese people are very nice but I have not found any positive aspects to teaching here other then the kids are very respectful and I don’t have any discipline problems in class.

What are the negative aspects for teaching English in Karumai, Japan?
I think the shyness factor is the biggest thing and I’ve covered it pretty well.
My deepest conversation with any kid at my school has been, “How are you?”, “I’m happy”. They are too shy to speak for fear of making a mistake and losing face.
The kids are great and they seem to like me but I feel that I’ve made no impact on them learning the language and speaking English with foreigners.

What are some of the teaching challenges for English teachers teaching the local people in your area?
The biggest challenge is getting the kids to speak the English language with me. I see them in class speaking it with the Japanese English teachers but they never try speaking it with me.
Anyone working in Japan needs to accept that they will probably not be talked too much unless you get a rare kid who grew up around Western people.


Living in Karumai, Japan:

Are there any visa or other legal requirements to live in Japan?
You must have a one year working visa with the status of Instructor.

What is the cost of living like in Japan?
The cost of living in Japan is crazy high and I find that I don’t go out much. I save anything that I can for a small vacation a couple of times a year.
I find myself coasting down hills just to save on some gas mileage.
Just going to a movie costs the equivalent of US$17. If I want a drink and snack I’m easily looking at US$30 for a simple 90 minute movie.

What are the usual accommodation arrangements and how can you find accommodation?
I was lucky that my company already had a place for me to stay that they contracted out ahead of my arrival. When I arrived here I just had to go pick up the house key and sign some paperwork.
The apartment is new and I’m the first one to live there so I got pretty lucky.

Other than teaching, what positive aspects are there for living in Karumai, Japan?
Japan is a beautiful country filled with nothing but great scenery. They rival the Germans when it comes to the environment and even the major cities like Tokyo and Osaka are clean and mostly free of trash.

Other than teaching, what negative aspects are there for living in Karumai, Japan?
People will not speak to me unless I ask for help with directions. I can be in the middle of Tokyo surrounded by a million people and I feel as if I’m invisible. Japanese people are just too shy and it makes living here really not too fun unless you are a private person who likes to live in their own world.

What advice would you give to someone considering coming to Karumai, Japan to live?
Have a good chunk of spending money before you arrive because it really is an expensive country to live in. Getting a large pizza at Pizza Hut will run you around US$35.

What things do you miss most (other than family and friends) from your home country?
I miss fast food, occasionally speaking English with a stranger and having a social life.

What things would you recommend to new teachers in your area to bring with them from their home country (e.g. things that are difficult to get in your location)?
Japan pretty much has everything you can get back home with the exception of my Western food.

What do you think you will miss most when (or if) you leave Karumai, Japan
I will miss the beautiful location of the school I work in. I work in a rural location in a small town surrounded by trees, hills and streams.


Additional Comments:

Bring a smile and good attitude to class and make learning fun. Japanese kids are shy and you will not get their trust or attention unless you are very personable.


About Me and My Work:

My Name: Kevin Ellis

Nationality: American

Students I’ve taught in Japan: Pre-school / kindergarten (4-6 years), elementary (6-12 years), junior high school (12-15 years).

Where I teach: State schools in Karumai, Iwate Prefecture. Teaching for 1 year.

How I found my current job: I spent time searching the Internet for teaching jobs in Japan.

My school facilities: Very good – Japan is a pretty rich country and they give their kids the resources they need to learn. Every elementary school that I’ve been to has their own swimming pool. Sweet.

Teacher support at my school: Lesson observations, peer support / training.


Do you teach English in Japan?

Tell us about your experiences – click here to submit your report about teaching English in China.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *