How I Got a Non-English Teaching Job in Japan

Lorraine at Himeji Castle in Himeji, Japan Lorraine Chai

It’s not easy. . .but it's also not impossible.  

When I moved to Japan, I did start out as an English teacher. As months went by, I realized teaching wasn’t for me and I was lucky enough to find job at a travel company in Tokyo.

This is what I did to get a non-English teaching job in Japan: 

Start out as an English teacher first

Although I left my teaching career, I still don’t regret it. Teaching English gave me the first experience in the Japanese working culture. I learned a lot and eventually found myself practicing it and speaking keigo (insanely polite Japanese) to my students' parents.

If you want to work in Japan, teaching English is a great opportunity to get familiar with the Japanese work culture before you actually work the salaryman ones. And not to mention, most schools have the ability to sponsor a visa for foreigners outside of Japan, while other companies don't take oversea applications.

Learn Japanese

It’s very easy not to have to speak Japanese in Japan. The romaji system (a system that uses the English alphabet for Japanese words) and the use of food pictures for the menu are common that you could live your life quite comfortably in Japan without speaking the language, even in the countryside, too.

If you want to find a non-teaching job, knowing conversational Japanese will definitely increase your chances of getting one.

However, if you want to find a non-teaching job, knowing conversational Japanese will definitely increase your chances of getting one. Despite the amount of international visitors, many Japanese can’t speak English, so Japanese is the main language to communicate—even for foreigners.

I did not know Japanese at all before coming to Japan. But I wanted to learn the language to make my daily life easier. I took two to three-hour lessons a week and my conversational Japanese improved tremendously. At my new job, it's been useful knowing common business phrases,particularly when I have to call suppliers. 

Demonstrate your professional experience from your home country

At most of my interviews in Tokyo, I didn’t talk about my English teaching career—instead, it was mostly about my job experience back home in Canada.

Job skills are transferable and they still can be applied to any job, even in a different country. With that being said, it’s still okay to talk about your experience as an English teacher, too. Like any interview, connect your qualifications to what the position you’re applying for.

Differentiate yourself from the crowd

There are many foreigners that are English teachers, so job interviewers are looking for something else in what you can do. What I did in my spare time was blogging and writing. (Like what I am doing now!) I showed them my articles and they were impressed.

So try to find another skill to help make you stand out. You can look for volunteer opportunities or take online classes. Or even write for Verge Magazine!


It doesn’t have to be a formal event, even meeting people on your own time works. I met a couple of foreigners through Meetup that worked at non-Japanese companies in Tokyo. It also helps to join an online professional network such as LinkedIn. Recruiters can directly contact you and you don’t have to apply for job postings. It’s been said that Tokyo has more jobs than job applicants and it can be quite overwhelming so having recruiters present you opportunities makes the job hunt easier.  

If you’re thinking about pursuing other job opportunities in Japan, it can be quite difficult if you’re applying overseas or aren’t fluent in Japanese. But if you’re determined, hardworking, patient, and goal-oriented, I believe you can get one. Like anything in life, it just takes time.

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Lorraine Chai

Lorraine Chai is a tourism professional that loves to learn about different cultures. To pursue her dream, she took an English teaching job for a private language school in Japan. On her spare time, she likes to chase mountains and uncover local Japanese foods.


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