Life in Japan

All you Need to Know about Working at an Eikaiwa in Japan

Have you ever thought of teaching English in Japan? There are so many possibilities and also contradictory information online that it can be confusing sometimes.

I’ve been working as an English teacher in Japan for 6 years now and I thought I should use my experience and share some useful information with you.

Teaching at a so-called “eikaiwa” is one of the various options you have when working in Japan.


What is an Eikaiwa?

Eikaiwa (英会話) consists of the kanji for “English” (ei, 英) and “conversation” (kaiwa, 会話) – and that’s exactly what an eikaiwa is: an English conversation school.

The English skills of Japanese people are often quite low.
Now, you might wonder if they don’t learn English in school. Well, yes they do. However, the Japanese school system is rather old-fashioned and hasn’t changed much in many decades. The way English is taught in Japanese schools is not very effective. The majority of students can’t actually use the language. Most of them just study in order to pass tests, so the focus is on learning vocabulary and grammar rules by heart. Conversational skills aren’t considered to be that important.

As the English education at school is insufficient, a lot of people rely on additional help of either cram schools (“juku”, 塾) or eikaiwas.

working at an eikaiwa in Japan


Working at an Eikaiwa:

Working for an eikaiwa is one option if you consider teaching English in Japan. People often ask me what it’s like to work there. They seem confused because they read a lot of contradictory comments in forums. You’ll certainly find a few horror stories and I won’t say they’re not true, but let me tell you that not every eikaiwa is the same. In fact, there are a lot of differences.


Types of schools:

There are the big chains like NOVA, ECC, AEON, Berlitz or Peppy Kids Club. On the other hand there are small, often family run conversation schools.


The big chain schools:

The big chains usually have a higher budget, newer material and better classrooms. They can be found mainly in big cities. They’re well-known and getting a job there is more competitive. It’s easy to replace one teacher with another. Some of these schools also focus on selling products to students, so rather than a teacher you might feel like a salesperson sometimes.

The advantage of big chains is that it’s easier to obtain information online (e.g. experience of previous teachers), there’s a greater support network and some even offer a “career ladder”.


Small individual schools:

Small conversation schools can often be found in rural areas. Some of them struggle because they can’t spend as much on advertisement and promotion compared to the big chain eikaiwas. A few schools even have to close (and you’ll lose your job) because they can’t keep up with their competitors. Compared to the big chain schools, they might or might not treasure their teachers more. They know that it won’t be easy to replace the teacher as many don’t want to live in a rural area of Japan.

There’s often less structure and less money to spend on class material, but you might have more freedom in planning and organizing your lessons. You also might have a much closer relationship to your students than in one of the big schools.



English conversation schools are seen as an addition to the English education at regular school. Some parents want their kids to learn English as soon as possible! Others want to improve their English conversational skills for business reasons or just as a hobby.

It’s very common that you’ll have students of any age, usually raging from 2-70+ years old. While at most schools the majority will consist of kindergarten, elementary school, jr. high and high school kids, you’ll also have the occasional adults.

Class sizes may vary from 1-10 students and often they’re not all the same age. It never gets boring that way, but also can be challenging at times.


Working Hours and Vacation:

This may vary from school to school, but most commonly you’ll find something like that:

  • working hours: afternoon to evening (e.g. 1pm to 9pm)
  • 40h per week (25 teaching hours) / 5 days a week
  • work on Sat or Sun is common (maybe no consecutive days off)
  • vacation / days off vary a lot

Your day at work usually starts with kindergarten and elementary school kids in the early afternoon and the later the day gets, the older the students are.

How strict those working hours are handled depends on the school. Some require you to be present all the time even when you don’t have any classes. Others will let you come just right before your classes start and let you go home as soon as you’re done.

By working for an eikaiwa you usually have less vacation than ALTs (assistant language teachers) who work for public schools and have vacation when the schools do.

While it may vary from eikaiwa to eikaiwa, 1-4 weeks vacation per year are quite common. The vacation is often in accordance with the Japanese holidays (New Years holidays, spring vacation, Golden Week, Obon summer vacation). Some schools will be closed on public holidays, others won’t.



The average salary is 250.000 yen per month for a full-time position. I would advise you not to take a job that offers less than that!
Very few eikaiwas will offer you more for an entry position – up to 300,000 yen are possible. However, I wouldn’t expect that if you’re just starting out as an English teacher in Japan.

Some schools will pay for transportation or offer you a car. In accordance with the labor law a few schools will enroll you into the “shakai hoken“, but the majority won’t. So you’ll have to pay health insurance (kokumin hoken) and pension (kokumin nenkin) yourself. It’s illegal, but it’s a standard practice.

A few schools will pay for your accommodation (or at least subsidise it), others will at least offer assistance in finding an apartment. Some will offer you paid sick leave, but many won’t.

If you’re single and don’t live in one of the most expensive parts of Tokyo, the average salary is enough to make a living – and even save some money (or pay back student loans). Taxes in Japan are extremely low (especially compared to Germany …).



Apart from teaching, lesson planning, creating teaching material or attending school events (e.g. speech contests), you might also have to work outside of the school. Some eikaiwas have contracts with nearby companies or kindergartens. Teachers might be sent there outside of the regular working hours.
Especially in smaller schools you might have to help with advertising, recruiting, cleaning or creating material for seasonal events.

What and how you’ll teach, depends a lot on the teaching philosophy and program of each school.

For kindergarten kids you’ll mainly just play with them, using English (songs, jumping around, teaching basic things like colors, numbers and the alphabet). With older students you’ll work with textbooks and whatever material the eikaiwa offers. Test preparation is necessary and very common. The most important English tests in Japan are: Eiken (英検), TOEIC, TOEFL and the National Center Test for University Admissions.

Adults often just want to have (random) English conversations with you.


Basic requirements:

Most eikaiwa schools want you to be a native speaker of English and have at least a BA / BS degree in any field! However, those are mainly the requirements to obtain a work visa.

In fact, if the work visa is not an issue, it’ll be enough if you have a good pronunciation and a relatively good command of the English language. As long as you won’t teach university students or business English, you don’t have to be a native speaker. I’m not – and yet I teach English. I know my English isn’t perfect, but it’s good enough for this kind of job. With younger students it’s more important that you have a clear and correct pronunciation and that you can create lessons that are fun.

For a few conversation schools it’s important that you have some sort of ESL certificate or qualification. While you’ll find a job without having one, it can certainly help to outdo competitors.

Some schools also require you to have a driver’s license that is valid in Japan.


Working at an Eikaiwa – Pros and Cons:

Here are a few positive and negative aspects I see with working for an eikaiwa school in Japan. They might be subjective as they’re based on my opinion, but I think it’ll point out a few important things you should know and think about before taking a job at such a school:


Working Hours (+/):

The working hours at an English conversation school can be something good or bad, depending on your lifestyle. Starting in the afternoon means that you can sleep in. You have your mornings to exercise, study Japanese, go grocery shopping or just sleep some more.

On the other hand you have to work until 9 or 10pm. Joining any club activities, a gym or just hanging out with friends who have “normal” working schedules might be difficult. If you live in a rural area, getting anywhere past 10pm might be impossible. Also, it’s very likely that you’ll have to work on a Saturday and instead get a random day off during the week.


Students’ motivation (+):

The parents pay for the students to come and study. Some students come because they want to. Of course not all of them will be motivated, but it will be very different from teaching in a public school where you’ll find a lot of unmotivated students.


Small class sizes (+):

As mentioned earlier your class sizes will be ranging from roughly 1-10 students per class. Small class sizes allow a closer relationship to the students. Smaller classes are also easier to manage and you can focus more on each individual student and their progress.

Compared to 30+ students per class in a regular school, I think that’s a much better deal.


Work Load ():

Although this depends a lot on the school, it’s safe to say that you’ll probably be busier at an eikaiwa than you would be as an ALT (assistant language teacher) in a regular Japanese school. You might have to do 5 or more 60-min. lessons in a row. It can be extremely tiresome.

You might be sent out to an external school, a kindergarten or a company in addition to the regular working hours.

However, there are also schools where you don’t have so many classes and your work load is relatively low.


Not a teacher but an entertainer ():

Especially when working with younger students you have to jump around, dance, sing or just simply make a dork out of yourself. That has not much to do with teaching and it’s certainly not something everybody can or would like to do.

You might have extremely quiet and shy teenagers. Then, you need to come up with some good ideas to wake them up and make them talk. You need to be entertaining and surprise them. Just standing in front of the blackboard and preaching some grammar rules won’t do anything.


My personal experience:

When I first decided to come to Japan I didn’t think I would end up being an English teacher. Although my major in university was in a related field, I thought I would not be able to teach little kids. It really scared the hell out of me. But I wanted to go to Japan so badly and the lack of time just didn’t allow me to look for other jobs. I had nothing to lose. I brought my own work visa (Working Holiday Visa) and thought if I don’t like the job, I could just leave and try something else.

To my surprise I came to love this kind of job immediately. Japanese kids were surely different from the ones in Germany. It was so much fun teaching them. Even now, 6 years later, I still enjoy it a lot. It’s not something I want to do for the rest of my life, but as I like it so much, I never considered trying something else.

I have to admit I wouldn’t be fond of it, if I were to teach only one age group. Having this huge variety of students and ages every single day makes it exciting. It never gets boring.

My classes consist of 1-9 students. Over the years you really get close to them, you see how they grow up and improve their skills. You’ll be proud if one of your students wins a contest or passes a test. That’s the great thing about being a teacher. It can be really rewarding.


Side Note: About frustrated teachers:

I won’t deny the fact that there are problems at any school. A lot of people have difficulties in adjusting to Japanese work ethics. Others just have no idea about teaching as they come from a completely different field. On top of that they don’t care about teaching at all and only do the job in order to make some money and stay in Japan.

Those are often the people who get frustrated easily and start fighting with their managers. That’s where a lot of the negative comments come from that you’ll find in various Japan forums. Some of them are justified without a doubt, because there are some really bad schools out there.

In my 6 years I’ve seen many teachers come and go. Some couldn’t deal with living in the Japanese countryside, others couldn’t adjust to Japan in general. For some teachers my previous school was the best thing ever, for others it was hell. And I’m sure that’s true for any other eikaiwa out there as well!

That’s why it’s hard to tell whether a school is for you or not. You won’t know until you try, but you can prepare by getting as much information as possible about your future employer, the location and the students. Make sure to get in touch with current and former teachers and don’t just listen to some random comments in forums.


Read about other people’s experience:

There’s so much more to say about this topic. You should also read about other people’s experience with teaching at eikaiwa schools in Japan.


Where to find Eikaiwa jobs:

There are many options, but my top 3 sites for eikaiwa (or teaching jobs in general) are:

For bigger chain conversation schools you can also apply directly through their website:


I couldn’t cover everything in this blog post, so if there’s anything in particular that you want to know about, please let me know in the comments below!

I’d also like others to share their own experience with us! Have you worked at an eikaiwa before? What pros and cons do you see?

Would you consider working at one?


  • Thank you for your post, it was really helpful!

    You know, it’s not easy to find valuable information about teaching English in Japan nowadays, because from what I’ve seen so far, every article was written by a native speaker, and that doesn’t really help a European like me.

    So Hungary is about to obtain the working holiday visa. The details will not be public for a few months yet, but I did some research of course, and it seems like, that you can only stay at a company in Japan for 3 months top. How does that work with an Eikaiwa?

    In addition, I checked the websites you wrote about, and well ECC for example, requires natives.
    Can you please share your story, how you ended up working as an English teacher, despite of being a European?

    • Hi Cynthia,
      I think I’ve written about my story several times already, so you can check it out here.

      There are a lot of schools that require you to have “native level” and don’t require you to be an actual “native”, I would focus on those schools, because your chances of obtaining a job will be higher with those.

      It’s great to hear that Hungary will have the working holiday visa soon, but only 3 months is quite short.
      There are short-term jobs for teaching English as well, so you can always do that, but the transition to a full-time job and especially obtaining a proper work visa will be difficult then.

      Good luck to you! :)

  • Hi! I just finished reading your post and found it really interesting. A friend of mine recommended me to apply in Peppy Kids Club, The starting sallary is 240,000, It was a huge sum of money and I’m sure that I could provide for my family if I could get my hands on my complete sallary, however, upon reading the work conditions, I’ve learned that I would be paying for my monthly rent, and I’ve heard that the cost of living in japn is really expensive. Is it true? Because I really want to apply for the job but I’m worried that i wouldn’t be able to provide for my family. Thank you in advance! 💞

    • Hello,
      Don’t forget you also have to pay taxes, pay for health insurance and maybe for pension.
      But the rates are REALLY low in my opinion – at least compared to Germany. Then again, Germany is the country with one of the highest tax rates worldwide.
      Same goes for whether Japan is expensive or not. It depends where you’re from and what you’re used to.
      I don’t think Japan is very expensive compared to my country. If you’re worried about that, then look for a job in the countryside and not in a big city. :)

      Good luck to you!

  • Hi I used to live in japan before and I also finished highschool in yokohama but for some reason I had to go back to my own country which is in the philippines. Right now I’m about to finish college with a degree of BS Psychology and I’m planning to go back in Japan to work. I just want some piece of advice from you about looking for a full time job as an english teacher with a fair salary and What are the usual way or techniques of teaching a language in eikawa? I also want to ask if do you teach your lessons alone or you have someone else to help you teach the lesson? I would love to teach english in a kindergarten because I love kids and I believe if you love your work then you dont have to work the rest of your life.;) I miss Japan so much

    • For most eikaiwas you usually teach alone. You’re in charge of a small class.
      As for techniques it really depends. Each school has their own system and you’re supposed to use that system.
      I really liked the one we were using at both of my previous schools and it also gives you structure. You’re still free to do what you want within that system, so there’s enough room for creativity if you want.

      Working for a kindergarten is usually different from working in an eikaiwa, though.
      Some eikaiwa might also send you to teach a lesson or two per week in a local kindergarten.

      I think I’ve linked to a few job pages here or in my other blog posts about this topic.
      Personally I like Ohayo Sensei the best.
      Once you’ve read through several offers, you’ll also get a feeling for the current level of “fair” salary. 

      Good luck to you!!

  • I know this article is getting pretty old now, but I just wanted to say one thing. I have my own small eikaiwa, and I can tell you for sure that I spend more in an average month on class materials that the big chain school I worked for spent in a year. If you wanted materials there, the standard answer was no. There were no books, no games, even pencils and erasers were hard to come by. In contrast, I buy regular materials, replace old or dirty chairs, change posters, and always have enough pencils and erasers for every student. Not saying that’s a hard and fast rule, but I think small eikaiwa owners care about students, where chains care about numbers.

    • Actually, that’s also my experience.
      A lot of the smaller eikaiwas do have to think about business in order to survive, but they also care about their students.
      Many of them attend the school until they go to university and a few years later they send their own kids to the same school. :)
      I understand that there’s not an unlimited amount of money that can be spent on materials, but just saying NO is insane.

      Thanks so much for sharing your experience. :)

  • Hi, I found the article particularly interesting as I’m trying to get more information about working in an Eikawa in Japan during the summer. I would really appreciate if we could have a chat in order for me to ask you some more specific information related to my personal situation.
    Thanks in advance!

  • Thinking of working for a conversational school this spring. I noticed you mentioned a list of the large schools. Can you recommend any small schools in Japan?

    • I’ve only worked for two different tiny, family-run schools. And how you like these is totally individual and up to your taste. I had a few co-workers who quit rather quickly as they didn’t like it there. Thus, I can’t really recommend anything to you. My advice is to go with your gut feeling. If you have a job interview, see how you like the people talking to you and if you think the atmosphere is bad or if there’s anything fishy.

  • Very interesting! Thank you for this! As someone who still has a lot of japanese to learn, I wonder if I even have the chance to get such a job?

    It is hard as a foreigner, who speaks little Japanese and only has the chance to learn and practice the languang in Japan, to get a prober job :/

    some friends of mine moved to japan, but both of them married a japanese guy and my fiance would not allow that :D

    • Hi Jenna,

      Most eikaiwa jobs don’t require you to know any Japanese at all.
      In fact, some even urge you NOT to use Japanese with the students.

      Of course, if you want to live in Japan and be independent – especially if you don’t live in a big city, you should make sure to study as much Japanese as possible.

      However, it will not lower your job opportunities for most eikaiwa jobs.

  • (Im especially worried about crazy work hours, and not enjoying *Tokyo, Japan)

    I taught ESL to kids in China for 3 years at 2 private owned schools. One school was a learning center, and the other was a kindergarten.

    Of course business is important, but the overall vibe was less corporate lol.
    At the learning center, I had Tues&Thurs off. I worked 3pm to 9pm M/W/F. But I worked Sat&Sun 9am to 6pm. (cool schedule) Ha.

    But what about Tokyo? Will they most likely give me extreme working hours?
    Am I supposed to become a working robot? LOL

    • Hi Monty,

      Nope, most likely not. Most eikaiwa schools are not like a typical Japanese company.
      Of course, it depends on the school, but compared to Japanese companies you usually get less overtime and more paid vacation.

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