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How Far Will My TEFL Salary Go in Japan?

Temple in JapanYou’ve got your TEFL certificate packed, applied for a job and are all ready to go on your first Japanese adventure! So, before you leave you’re going to want to find out what things actually cost in ‘The Land of the Rising Sun’. But… why hear it from us when you can hear it direct from TEFL teacher Danny who spent 18 months living and teaching in Kanawasa, a large city on the west coast of Honshu island! Here’s what he had to say on:

The average Japanese TEFL salary…

The wages in this part of the world are excellent and you can expect to make around 250,000 Yen (Y) a month which works out as around US$ 2,500. The best place to get an idea of what you can expect to earn is to check out the Japan ads on Gajinpot and on i-to-i’s jobs board. The taxes are also low, at around 10% for this range of salary and with some of the better schools you can often find extras like end of contract bonuses, flight reimbursements and accommodation allowances.

The cost of living in Japan…

Although I lived in Kanawasa during my time in Japan – I also visited Hiroshima, Osaka, Tokyo, Nagano, Nagoya, Kobe and Kyoto. What I found was that Japan, like most countries, has higher prices in the main cities. Tokyo is actually one of the most expensive places on earth to live, and some of the prices can be eye-watering. However, other things are a lot cheaper than you will find elsewhere, and most TEFL teachers still manage to save some money every month.

The basic costs…

One hundred Japanese Yen is about equal to one dollar and here are the prices of some of the most common things I bought in Japan.

  • Bottle of beer – 300 Y ($3.00)
  • Litre of milk – 180 Y ($1.80)
  • Loaf of bread – 200 Y ($2.00)
  • Kilo of apples – 500 Y ($5.00)
  • Head of lettuce – 190 Y ($1.90)
  • Monthly rent on typical 1 bed apartment – 55 000 Y ($550)
  • Internet connection per month – 4000 Y ($40)
  • A few stops on a local train – 200 Y ($2)
  • Monthly gym membership – 8000 Y ($80)

Splashing out…

On my TEFL salary I managed to go out pretty regularly and had enough cash for my other interests like rugby and travelling too. Here’s an idea of some of the more ‘leisure items’ that I bought.

  • Mid range restaurant 3 course meal – 2000 Y ($20)
  • Night at a capsule hotel – 2000 Y ($20)
  • Decent pair of jeans – 8000 Y ($80)
  • Summer dress in Zara or H&M – 6000 Y ($60) Oooh Danny, we didn’t know!

When my family came to visit (and on the weekends) I also got involved in a lot of Japanese culture with my fellow TEFL friends, here’s an idea of how much this kind of thing would cost:

  • Sumo tickets – 3500 Y ($35)
  • Baseball tickets – 3100 Y decent seats at Chunichi Dragons ($31)
  • 1 day ski lift pass – 3900 Y  ($39)
  • Cinema tickets – 1800 Y ($18)
  • 1 Hour at an Onsen – 400 Y ($4)

Electronics such as computers, TVs, phones and cameras are also very cheap and exceptionally high quality in Japan. For example, I once paid 10 000 Y ($100) for a 2GB external hard drive that at the time would have cost at least 3 times as much in the UK.

Some other things that can be very expensive in Japan are…

  • Fruit is often individually wrapped, visually perfect and very expensive
  • Meat can be quite expensive in Japan, but on the plus side fish is cheap!
  • Coffee is around 350 Y ($3.50) for a regular cappuccino
  • Flying abroad can be quite expensive, even on short haul flights to places like Beijing (China) and Busan (South Korea), as there are no cheap airlines like Ryanair or South West.

And overall thoughts on the cost of TEFL in Japan…

As you can see, Japan is not a cheap place to live, but a TEFL salary should be plenty. I was able to save around 50 000 Y a month to go on snowboarding and sightseeing trips all over Japan, and went to China and Thailand too. Public transport is outstanding, so you don’t need a car, and there are always little deals you can take advantage of, such as the free refills of coffee at Mr Donut stores! I suppose the only thing left to say is that I hope you have an amazing time in Japan, because I certainly did!

So, that’s all TEFLers! What did you think? Did you find Danny’s article useful and if you did which country would you like to see next?

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