Teaching Salaries in Japan: How Much You Can Make as an ESL Teacher?

Teaching in Japan won’t make you rich but they will allow you to live comfortably in one of the most intriguing countries in the world.  Japan is consistently one of the top places for ESL teachers due to their competitive salaries, attractive benefits, and standard of living for both residents and visitors.

Related: The Best TEFL Courses in Japan

How much can you make teaching in Japan?

The average salary for Japanese ESL instructors is 250,000 yen, or about $2200 USD.  There is no shortage of ESL teaching jobs in Japan and some teachers stand to make quite a bit more than that depending on their school and experience.

School TypeJapanese YenUSD

Eikaiwas: 200,000 – 250,000

Eikaiwas are private institutions or language schools and tend to cater to students looking for extra help.  From a teaching perspective, they are also the most common job available and have teaching requirements that are fairly easy to meet. A word of caution, though – eikaiwas usually operate in the afternoons, evenings, and on weekends in order to attract students outside of normal school hours.

Public Schools: 200,000 – 280,000

Public school teachers in Japan are called “ALTs” or Assistant Language Teachers and while their salaries are similar to those of eikaiwa teachers, their hours differ greatly.  Public school teachers can expect to work normal school hours (meaning no weekends) and those working for the government-sponsored JET program stand to earn a bit more than other ATL teachers (though the application process is more strenuous).

Universities: 300,000 – 600,000

If you’re qualified to teach university in Japan you can earn a salary that dwarfs all other school types.  Couple that with low hours and top-notch benefits and it’s not hard to see why these are some of the most desirable jobs in Japan.

International Schools: 250,000 – 600,00

Legitimate international school jobs are scarce in Japan, partly because of the size of the country but also because they are so appealing most teachers stick around for a bit.  Assuming you meet the requirements, it’s easy to pull down an above-average salary in addition to benefits like discounted or free tuition for your kids.

Be forewarned, though – lots of these jobs are passed down through networking so don’t be surprised if you have to work harder than usual to land an interview.

Private Tutoring – 3,000/hour

Private tutoring gigs are just as prevalent in Japan as other countries and industrious teachers can expect to land them without much effort.  If you can establish a good location and schedule, the hourly rate makes it easy to pad your normal salary.

Here is a great video about salary distribution based on a survey of teachers:

Benefits for ESL Teachers in Japan

As I mentioned earlier, the teaching salaries in Japan are not the only appealing thing about working there – their benefits are often quite competitive as well.  Most teachers can expect perks ranging from the expected (end of contract bonus) to the “wow – that’s awesome” (discounted or free tuition).


Let’s start with what’s not included in most contracts – housing.  For some reason, Japanese employers have not joined other ESL schools in offering their teachers a free apartment.  Instead, what they usually offer is assistance finding a place to live or access to apartments at a set rate so teachers know how much to expect to pay in rent (usually around 50,000 yen).  For teachers used to having an apartment provided as is typical in Korea and China, this is something to consider.

Curious what average teacher housing is?  Here is a cool video of a teacher’s apartment in Nagano:



Unlike housing, bonuses are as synonymous with ESL teaching as lesson plans and at the very least teachers in Japan can expect an end-of-contract bonus (usually equivalent to one month’s salary).  Some teachers are also eligible for additional bonuses related to performance, retention, and recruitment that can really enhance their monthly teaching salaries.


Getting to and from Japan is not cheap and teachers can breath easier knowing that most schools will reimburse their airfare.  While some will take it on to your first paycheck, others will make you complete your contract before paying out (to reduce the risk of being used as a free ticket to Japan).


Japan is unique in that some eikaiwa jobs require teachers to travel to other language centers and even companies in order to give lessons.  If you are hired for this type of job, expect the company to compensate you for travel expenses.  If they are unwilling to, my suggestion is to consider another employer as the costs of traversing the city can easily eat into your salary (and sanity).

Cost of Living in Japan

Teaching salaries in Japan mean nothing without knowing how far your Yen will go once your there.  While it’s impossible to document every cost you may incur during your time in Japan, looking at some of the basic necessities should provide a clearer picture of what you can expect to spend.

The following prices are from Osaka and are meant to serve as an average – things in Tokyo will cost slightly more while smaller cities will be slightly less.

ExpenseJapanese YenUSD
1br Apartment in City75,000$675
Pint of Beer at a Bar350$3
Average Meal for 23,000$27
Bus Ticket200$1.75

Source: Numbeo // Prices as of March 2017

How much can you save as a teacher in Japan?

Saving money as a teacher in Japan is completely dependent on your lifestyle – some teachers are able to put away half of their paycheck or more while others choose to live basically check to check.  If you go into teaching in Japan with a frugal mindset it is very easy to live and eat like a local and save at least 50% of your salary.  If you want to travel, go out, and eat western food all the time (there is nothing wrong with that), expect your Yen to go fast but to have a ton of awesome memories instead.


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