• Consider accommodations. Large ESL schools usually have accommodations for you. Generally they pay the key money and will handle communications with your landlord if anything breaks. Often they will rent several units in one apartment house, so you’ll have friendly faces just two doors down. Smaller schools sometimes don’t offer accommodations because they prefer to hire from within Japan. Less risk and they simply don’t want to fork out the key money. So you would have to find your own accommodations in Japan. No easy feat!

  • Think about curricula. Large ESL schools often won’t have any flexibility in their curriculum. You will teach what you’re told to teach. However,smaller ESL schools will often be more flexible with their curriculum (if they even have one). This can give you the chance to experiment with new ESL games, activities and texts.
  • Consider the teaching atmosphere. Large ESL schools tend to see their teachers as expendable. With their massive recruiting budget and connections, they can replace teachers in the blink of an eye. This results in a colder atmosphere and causes faster turnover in the staff, and long-term bonds never get made. However smaller ESL schools tend to treat the teacher as a part of their team and may value your opinions and input on various school functions. They also allow you to hangout with students after class – this helps build relationships and adds to the entire experience.
  • Consider salary and other benefits. Large school salaries will all be in the 250,000 yen a month range. Your large chain schools usually give some kind of bonus -whether it is a free ticket back or a completion bonus. Generally the raises will be very small. Smaller ESL schools often give a bit more in the salary category simply because some of them are so far out in the country that it’s difficult to find teachers. Often it’s easier to get raises (or bigger raises) and other perks from smaller ESL schools than the larger ones. They don’t have such a well-oiled recruitment machine so it’s tough and a big pain for them to replace teachers.


  • Make sure you understand everything written in your school’s teaching contract before signing it. If you don’t know or understand something, be sure to ask!
  • Many teachers are easily intimidated by contracts or believe them to be the final word. The reality is that any contract is subservient to established labor laws. Labor laws are the final word. So even if you wind up signing yourself to a 46 hour 6 day a week contract it’s unenforceable because it is illegal.
  • It’s important to know your rights as a worker under Japanese labor laws. If you feel you’re being treated unfairly, you can contact General Union for representation (by joining the union) or contact the Labor Standards Office for help in your disputes.