I get a lot of questions here and there about Japan and Japan-related topics, so I thought I’d start a thread to try to answer this stuff and provide a resource for people who might want to read up on it. So here it is: your T-Forum resource for all things Nipponese.
I’m going to address teaching a bit here, then talk about other stuff in replies to this thread so as not to take up too much board space…
Anyway. Teaching. I’ve been here since 1992, doing mainly English teaching plus some translation, business consulting, interpretation and so on. Teaching English in Japan can be great or it can be a total drag. Which it becomes for you mainly depends on two things: how much of the language and culture you absorb, and what school you work for.
There are a lot of huge, nation-wide schools here that specialize in teaching English. The top four are Nova, Aeon, Geos and EC Inc. Basically, if you can avoid working for these schools do so. They are profit machines, pure and simple; the management does not like foreigners (who are kind of a necessary evil if you’re going to teach English), and the working conditions are worse than what you’ll find at a smaller school.
The usual pay for a starting English teacher is 250,000 yen/month (the minimum mandated by law), which comes out to about $25,000 per year. While this isn’t too high, it’s also not too bad considering that all you’ll basically have to do is talk. You don’t have to have a degree in linguistics to become a teacher here; any fool who’s got a degree in anything, even if he doesn’t know an adjective from an acorn, can get hired easily. (Not that I’m bitter or anything.) But you do have to have the college degree. Without that, forget it.
If you have an advanced degree in something related to language or language learning, then your best bet is to try for a University position. They are better paid and have better hours, and you get a lot more respect from the people around you. If all you have is a BA, then you should try Berlitz or one of the smaller mom-and-pop English schools that abound here. The other (and best) option is the JET (Japanese Exchange and Teaching) program, which is run by the Ministry of Education. They take thousands of recent grads every year, you’re under their umbrella (which makes getting visas and such a snap), and the pay is considerably better.
Okay, all for now. I’m going to reply to thread with more later.