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How I Got My First Job in Japan

I’m currently in the job application process again so I thought it would be an opportune time to properly answer a question I get asked on a regular basis:

“How did you get a job in Japan?”

This is my story!

Like a scene out of a movie, I bought a one-way ticket to Tokyo and showed up with my pets, a suitcase, and the determination to make my dreams come true. I was so unbelievably happy to be in Japan. I found the courage and I did it!  During the first several weeks, I applied directly to one English school and some non-teaching jobs that I found through Google and Facebook searches.  I was hopeful for a particular restaurant job that was willing to sponsor a visa (!!!!) but they kept on dragging their feet and I couldn’t wait on them anymore.

Most of the jobs I then applied to were through Gaijinpot.  Gaijinpot tends to have a bad rap if you do a quick search for reviews, though I found it to be no different than any other online job board — sure, there’s a lot of not great jobs but if you do your due diligence you will find solid offerings.

I ended up with three job offers from three different types of schools. From application to receiving an offer, the interview process for all schools took between one-two weeks.

Children’s Teacher at a Private Kindergarten

It was fairly obvious from the job listing that this job was babysitting with occasional English songs and games. I had just left an incredibly high-stress industry in the US and being paid to play games with kids sounded like the perfect change of pace. The interview process took place in three parts across two days: answering essay questions on why I wanted the job, a traditional Q&A interview with a recruiting manager, and observation/shadowing of a kindergarten class. Most of the interview was spent assuaging the manager’s fears that I was overqualified and that I did genuinely want to spend my day taking care of children.

Private Conversation School Instructor

Aka an “eikaiwa.” The dreaded eikaiwa. I had read so many horror stories about English conversation schools that I was shocked by my pleasant interview experience. It was a really good life lesson to take everything online with a grain of salt! The interview was two days. The first day was with one of the head English teachers where I answered questions about why I would be a good teacher & was quizzed a bit on English grammar and how I would explain it. The callback interview was with a Japanese staff where I was given their teaching materials and asked to perform a sample lesson. I felt I did an absolutely dreadful job with the sample lesson but asked for advice on how I could improve and they liked me enough to offer me a job.

International School Teacher

Based on my prior research, it seemed like working at an international school was the holy grail of entry-level teaching jobs in Japan. Unlike the kindergarten and eikaiwa, this job was full-time and salaried with benefits and private health insurance. I technically didn’t qualify for most of the jobs at the school but I applied anyway and it turns out there was an opening for a preschool teacher that didn’t require a degree in education. Despite the extra long commute this school required, I really wanted this position because of the stability, salary, and benefits…… until I found out right at the very end that changing diapers was required of the job.


I ultimately decided to take the eikaiwa job! I then began applying for a visa and wasn’t able to start working for several months — but I was very surprised how fast & easy it was to use Gaijinpot to find a job. My number one takeaway from the experience was to not put so much stock in what randoms on the internet say. Had I not shied away from Gaijinpot and eikaiwas, I could have started on my Japan working life much sooner ✩