May 5, 2021 in Living in Japan
Note: in this post I will share what I have done to invest in crypto while living in Japan, but please don’t take this as any kind of investment advice. Investing in crypto has caused some people to make truly staggering returns, but it is also possible to lose all of your money if you don’t invest wisely. Proceed at your own risk!
The process of setting up an account is relatively painless. It took around 2 working days after submitting my documents for everything to be verified. What’s more, they have an English user interface and seemed to be content with the fact that the name on my utility bill was in katakana but the rest of my ID is in the Roman alphabet — is it patronizing of me to say that I was impressed by this? This kind of egregious discrepancy probably wouldn’t fly with a Japanese bank!
Each Bitflyer account has its own unique bank details which makes transferring money into your account a breeze. Unfortunately I don’t bank with Sumitomo Mitsui, which means I have to fork out 300 yen for the bank transfer fee each time I do this.
Bitflyer’s user interface is fairly straightforward. You can opt of the simple Buy / Sell screen which allows you to buy crypto directly from Bitflyer.
The drawback of using Bitflyer is that it costs 800 yen to get money back into your bank account. Since I don’t plan on doing this often, this seems like a reasonable expense.
- Highly liquid JPY exchanges (many people are using it)
- Ability to fund account by domestic JPY bank transfer
- Easy to use
- Limited cryptocurrencies and products (no Dogecoin, boo!)
- Wide variety of coins
- Ability to fund account by domestic JPY bank transfer
- Less liquidity on JPY exchanges
Binance is the largest crypto exchange in the world by trading volume. While being a highly profitable private company, it seems to stay true to the decentralized ethos around cryptocurrency. In fact, it’s not really clear where the company is based and the management seem to constantly duck questions about this topic.
However, Binance does seem to be the most versatile platform with the widest variety of products I have found. You can earn interest on your crypto in a savings account and even stake your coins in liquid swap pools to earn fees. The ability to earn interest alone seems like a no-brainer if you’re planning on buying and “hodling” for the long term.
- Highly liquid exchanges with BUSD (Binance’s USD stable coin)
- Large variety of cryptocurrencies
- Staking and interest account products
- Payment by credit card available
- No JPY bank transfer
A Note on Crypto Staking
The reason I’m writing about this is that Binance allows you to easily stake the crypto that supports it with a very easy user interface. In my opinion this is a good way to get into staking to understand how it all works, while it’s probably more profitable to do some research and find a better way of staking eventually.
My method: buy on Bitflyer and then transfer to Binance
To be perfectly honest, I am quite surprised that it’s even possible to buy cryptocurrency on Binance with a Japanese credit card. It feels like the kind of thing that wouldn’t usually be possible if the card issuers knew what’s going on (maybe they don’t). In order to bypass the credit card fees and overall sketchiness of using my Japanese card to make purchases on Binance, I have opted to use Bitflyer as the “on-ramp” into the crypto world, and then transfer my BTC and ETH to the Binance wallets — from there, the Moon’s the limit!
This approach has enabled me to make use of all of the features Binance has to offer, such as interest-generating accounts and staking. I am aware that the next step to maximize gains is to set up staking myself using a wallet like Meta Mask, but haven’t quite got there yet! Binance makes it very easy to stake your cryptocurrency and earn interest.
As mentioned before, this article is not a recommendation on what coins to buy, but I will throw in a snapshot of my altcoin (non-bitcoin) portfolio for good measure.
I am currently staking ADA, BNB, ONE and DOT (I don’t have enough to stake ETH 😔) and earning from 10 to 50% APY on these assets — rather nice returns!
This is a non-exhaustive list of the options available in Japan, but I wanted to share what has worked for me. Please let me know in the comments if you have any feedback or recommendations!
January 28, 2021 in Teaching English
If you would like to build your own freelance business in Japan, perhaps teaching English, you’re going to want to make sure that you take full advantage of the benefits and leverage available by registering as a sole proprietorship.
A lot of foreigners to Japan basically “set up shop” on a real bootstrap kind of basis, never realizing that they run some significant risks – and are missing out on big benefits – operating a freelance business in another country like Japan this way.
Luckily though, with the inside information below, you won’t have to worry about those risks any longer.
Below you’ll find (almost) everything you need to know about how to set up as a sole proprietor in Japan.
Benefits of Registering a Sole Proprietorship in Japan
Though there are a multitude of advantages to setting up a sole proprietorship in Japan, the biggest has to be your ability to enjoy unrestricted income potential in a way just not possible as a foreigner without this business structure.
Foreigners in Japan are limited to what they can do as entrepreneurs, freelancers, and even employees while working in the country. When you operated sole proprietorship registered in Japan, however, you can have a lot more freedom.
On top of that, you’re also going to have an opportunity to deduct your expenses from your revenues to save on your Japanese taxes.
All in all, this is the smart move to make.
Can Anyone Incorporate in Japan?
A lot of people can create a sole proprietorship in Japan, though there are some restrictions in place for foreigners living and working in the country that want to build this kind of business.
Long-term residents (with a visa), permanent resident visa holders, and the spouse of permanent residents are all able to set up as all proprietorship in Japan without much issue.
Those that have a “working holiday visa” are also eligible for this program.
Individuals with stable contracts connected to Japanese companies, those that are in Japan as a student or cultural activity member (with permission to work), as well as those that have a freelance work visa will be able to set up a sole proprietorship, too.
Requirements You’ll Need to Hit
There are a couple of requirements you need to hit when you go to register for this program.
First of all, you’re going to need a tradename that you can use to reserve in register your new business with through the Japanese Companies Registrar.
You are also going to need to have a legal address (your home address works here) to put down on your documents, the address that your use as your headquarters your new business – even if your freelance work takes you around the country.
You’ll also need to fill out paperwork with the Companies Registrar and at least one of the tax organizations and authorities in Japan.
Any specific licenses, certifications, or government approvals you need for your business will have to be secured in advance, too.
Important Info About Permits Needed in Japan
As a freelance English teacher in Japan you may need to secure a permit from the Japanese Ministry of Education – especially if you’re looking to open a private school.
If you are running an afterschool program, though, or an adult education program the odds are pretty good that you will not need to get your hands on that same kind of permit before moving forward with your business registration.
Important Info About Taxes in Japan
As a sole proprietor in Japan, you are going to be responsible for paying a number of taxes you may not be used to paying in your native country.
Every sole proprietor is going to have to pay:
- Income tax on all of their income
- A consumption tax
- An enterprise tax
- A residence tax
- As well as any and all real estate taxes that may be applicable in this situation
All of these taxes are going to be paid out on a self-assessment kind of basis, with progressive tax rates that are based off of any annual income figures reported with local authorities.
As of early 2021, the lowest tax rates in Japan for sole proprietors sits at 5% in the highest is pegged at 45%.
Other taxes are going to range wildly – with some municipalities charging 6%, others 4%, and others still somewhere between 3% and 5% for a variety of different taxes.
At the end of the day, you’ll want to make sure that you are filling out the “blue form” as opposed to the “white form” when you are filing your taxes. There are a lot of advantages here as a foreign freelance sole proprietor in Japan – especially when it comes to managing your income and your expenses.
January 3, 2021 in Teaching English
Many English teachers begin their journey in Japan teaching in schools, but there is an excellent freelance teaching option which can be a huge bonus to teachers already settled here.
Benefits for students
By hiring a freelance teacher, students are able to skip the costly sign up fees of traditional language schools, as well as saving money on the hourly rate of lessons (think of the cut that usually goes to the school).
Benefits for teachers
The benefits for the teacher are many: the freedom of not having to wear a suit and being able to teacher wherever and whenever I like are couple of my favorites – not to mention the fact that teachers can charge more per hour (again, students are eliminating the cut that goes to the language school, and this gives a lot of room to charge more per hour than what a teacher at one of those schools is usually paid).
There has never been a more demand for English teachers in Japan: along with an increase in demand from adult learners of English, more and more parents are seeking freelance teachers for their kids.
But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to find work as a freelance teacher in Japan. There is fierce competition, and you will need to stand out from the crowd.
However, the good news is it’s entirely possible to be your own boss and teach freely in Japan. I have been doing this for years: I charge JPY 5,000 per hour and have numerous happy students who I have been teaching for many years.
In this article I will share some of my experience of freelance English teaching in Japan.
The benefits in detail
Charge your own rates
As I mentioned earlier, a massive benefit of being a freelance English teacher is the ability to set your own rates. You can set your rate according to your level of experience.
Generally speaking, you can earn more as a freelancer because you can charge less than the hourly rates of traditional language schools while pocketing more than what you would earn while teaching at one.
The average lesson fees students pay at the large English schools is around JPY ¥6,500 per hour. This means that even if you charge JPY ¥5,500 per hour, your rates are still cheaper. However, it’s probably not the best idea to charge this amount at the beginning – we will come onto this later.
No dress code
Personally, I find not having to conform to a dress code very liberating. This isn’t to say I would recommend rocking up to a cafe lesson in those awful ripped jeans that people wear for some reason. Common sense is necessary here, but at least there is no need to wear a shirt and tie!
A great benefit of freelancing is the ability to choose your location. Many freelance teachers choose to teach a cafe in their neighborhood, and the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the demand for online lessons. This means that there is now a huge opportunity to teach remotely in Japan.
Eventually it is possible to go freelance full time for the ultimate freedom. This can be an amazing experience, but there are a few potential downsides.
While it is possible to connect with very loyal, long-term private students, it is nevertheless the case that freelancing offers less security than full time employment. Students plans may change, and at the end of the day it is down to you to fill the time if you lose a paying customer.
Depending on your visa, you may be required to be working a certain amount of hours for your status of residence to be valid. Breaching visa conditions is a very serious offence and can lead to deportation, so it makes sense to be very careful here.
Where to start finding private students
So now you’re attracted to the proposition of becoming a freelance English teacher in Japan – that’s great.
Here are some websites where you can make a free profile to attract students.
Another benefit of this site is that teachers are not required to share their personal details as all communication can be handled via the messaging system on this site.
But I still can’t find students?
At the beginning of the article, I mentioned how competitive freelancing could be – that’s true. Freelancing in any industry is challenging, and it’s no different in the ESL industry in Japan.
But let’s look at some useful tips to increase your potential to get students and build that successful freelancing career you dream about now.
Have a professional picture
Japan is a conservative society in many ways, and if you want to look like a credible English teacher, make sure your photo isn’t you at the beach.
If you have a professional picture, it will give students more confidence in your teaching. And better still, they will be more confident approaching you.
Videos, Videos, Videos!
I can’t stress enough how important this is. Having an introduction video on your profile gives you a huge advantage. Remember that people find it difficult to reach out to teachers whom they have never met. A short video can make people feel more acquainted with you before sending a message.
Don’t charge too much when you begin teaching
One of the most significant issues for many freelancers when they first begin is setting their rates too low. However, some teachers might find that they have set their rate a little to high to begin with.
I would recommend beginning with an hourly price of less than 3,000 yen per hour for your first classes.
Have you described yourself in detail?
If you’re using a website to find students – make sure you describe yourself in detail. Students want to know what you offer to them. Do you have experience teaching ESL all over the world? What made you come to Japan?
And another great idea is to seem personable. Some of the older Japanese students are more likely to choose a teacher that they can relate to. You could always add some of your hobbies and interests. In a way, freelance teaching in Japan involves some personal marketing.
Are you willing to travel to meet students?
It’s a great idea to stay in your neighborhood and steer clear of that busy Tokyo Metro, and it does get jam-packed during the week. But if you add more locations to your teaching profile, you will stand out from the crowd.
It’s a great idea to add as many train stations as possible. Students love to see teachers who are dedicated and willing to travel. You can mention that students will need to shoulder the transportation fee on your profile.
Are there any other ways to get students?
Absolutely, there are many ways. The websites above are a great starting base if you’re new to freelancing or just arrived in Japan. But another great way is word of mouth.
You can print yourself off some meishi and give them to people you meet, or print out some flyers and hand them out outside train stations! Whatever it takes, simply getting your name out there is what counts.
Make it known to people that you meet that you are a private freelance English teacher and build up your reputation.
A word of caution
Understandably, a lot of school owners are concerned with the rise of freelance teaching.
I still remember how the owner of my old Eikaiwa school went ballistic at me when she discovered that I had (quite innocently) become friends on Facebook with one of the school’s long term students. Ironically, I hadn’t even considered the prospect of teaching privately until then, but the incident certainly planted the seed in my mind!
I think anyone who has been in Japan for a while can see that there are a huge number of Eikaiwa schools which are offering little value to the students other than pairing them with a native teacher. Freelance teaching sites are forcing Eikaiwas to up their game, which can only be a good thing.
That being said, any freelance teacher would do well to be mindful of the sensitivity here – outright taking a school’s students and teaching them privately is not cool, and often simply not worth the drama it could cause in the long run.
April 9, 2020 in Teaching English
There is increasing demand in Japan for online English lessons. Many companies are offering to connect students and teachers with their service using video chat solutions which they provide themselves.
However, freelance teachers will need to figure out their own systems for teaching as well as receiving payment, and agree these with their students. In this article we examine the best options to teach English from anywhere in the world to students in Japan.
Skype (best for 1 to 1 lessons and small groups)
Well-known in Japan and established all over the world, Skype was one of the first video chat solutions to hit the mainstream.
The benefit of this is that many people already have Skype accounts and familiarity with the service. While not a professional solution, from my experience Skype has been good enough to teach 1 to 1 lessons quite comfortably.
With the ability to share your screen and have a chat feature at the same time as video to clarify spelling and grammar, Skype is very user friendly and useful for freelance teachers giving lessons to individuals and small groups.
- Well-known and easy to use
- Decent screen share functionality
- Possible to blur background (many students like this feature to protect their privacy)
- Free solution may have some connection issues from time to time
Zoom (best for larger groups and webinars)
Offering robust connection and webinar functionality (for paid users), Zoom has become extremely popular in recent times.
Zoom is a great option if you are teaching classes of more than 10 students. As host, you are able to control who can speak, and there is also a “raise hand” feature, just like in a classroom, which allows students to indicate that they have a question and would like to speak.
You are then able to enable their audio easily and avoid having many people speaking at once. As the free version is limited to 40 minute calls, Zoom is not the best for freelance teaching to individuals, but it offers professional quality for those teaching classes.
- Excellent audio and video quality
- Good screen and content share capability
- Can record lesson on a local device or in the cloud easily
- Free version only available for 40-minute calls
- Requires student to install software they might not be familiar with
Perhaps less famous as a solution for teaching, Apple’s video chat software FaceTime can enable surprisingly good quality lessons.
The app is available on multiple Mac devices, meaning you can teach from a Macbook to someone joining on an iPhone or iPad. It is only available on Apple devices, however.
- Screen share and recording capability
- Reasonably good quality audio and video
- Only available on Apple devices
Facebook Messenger is another solid video chat platform, but the quality of calls has been lower than the others mentioned in this article in my experience.
However, and contrary to what many people believe, you can share your screen using Facebook Messenger, which means that it can be a good method for teaching from a PDF textbook or by sharing video.
What’s more, and also not so well-known, you can also add multiple people in the same call, allowing you to teach to groups.
- Screen share feature
- You need to share your personal Facebook details which you might not want to do in a professional setting
- The quality of calls can sometimes be lower than required for teaching
Extra tips for giving lessons online
Now let’s look at some extra things to have in mind when teaching online to students in Japan.
Use a wired internet connection
WIFI is very convenient and allows you to connect to the internet wherever there is a strong enough signal. However, there are many factors which can make WIFI temporarily unstable, and this can lead to problems with video chat apps.
As the customer is paying for a service, it is very important to mitigate any connection issues on your end to avoid disappointment. For best results, use a laptop or personal computer and plug it directly into your internet router with an ethernet cable.
Give the student(s) time to respond
The slight delay we experience when using internet-based chat apps can sometimes make conversations a little awkward. In light of this, it is a good idea to pause after making a point to allow the student to signal that they have understood, or to ask a question to clarify an issue.
Some students are naturally shy and reluctant to ask questions, and many students will be very keen to simply talk to practice their speaking, so it is very important to give them ample time to speak in either case.
Use the screen share feature
As mentioned previously, many Japanese students are keen to have an opportunity to simply practice their conversation skills, and there is little need to use textbooks or other materials for this kind of student.
That being said, as every teacher knows, every student is different, and some students will want to be taught grammar and vocabulary. It is therefore a good idea to make use to the screen share feature to make sure you are both “on the same page” (pun absolutely intended) when teaching from a PDF textbook or other digital material.
As before, make sure you give enough time for the student to see everything and confirm they have understood before changing the content on the screen.
Skype should be a good solution for most teachers using SenseiStar’s matching service to teach 1 to 1 lessons, and will probably serve teachers who are teaching group lessons as well.
It is important to remember to give the students a lot of time to talk and the respond, and use a wired internet connection where possible. As ever, we would like to hear from your experience, so do let us know in the comments if you disagree with the above or have found something better quality/ more cost effective!
April 3, 2020 in Teaching English
Thanks to the demand for English education, there are a number of programs and avenues one can go through to come to Japan as an English teacher even for people who have no prior teaching experience.
With higher salaries compared with most of the rest of Asia for English teaching, Japan is an attractive destination for English speakers looking to work in a completely different culture.
The top three ways to move to Japan and teach English in Japan are:
In this article, you’ll find an overview of these three avenues and their requirements and benefits so you can find out how to come to Japan as an English teacher.
All three options in this article usually require a bachelor’s degree, which is mostly necessary for obtaining a working visa. An occasional exception is the Eikaiwa schools who may be willing to sponsor a visa for someone with an equivalent qualification or experience, but this can be difficult to find.
So without further ado, let’s dive right into it!
The JET Program
Some of the positions that JET participants (or JETs as they are known) take are Assistant Language teacher in public schools and Coordinator for International Relations in government offices.
The rewards and benefits are very attractive to new graduates and therefore the application for participation is competitive.
Contracts for teachers under the JET program usually last for around 10 months. You work slightly under an American full-time schedule at 35 hours a week Monday through Friday, and these contracts can be renewed depending on your experience.
What are the Requirements for the JET Program?
In order to teach for the JET program, you have to have a bachelor’s degree in any field from an English-speaking institution.
The JET program does not require a TESL or TEFL certification on top of your bachelor’s degree, but having one is beneficial and may help candidates rise above the competition.
Japanese ability is not necessary for the assistant language teacher positions. In fact, there have even been rumours that would-be teachers without any Japanese knowledge are preferred over those to do, with the theory being that the students need to work harder to communicate with teachers with no knowledge of Japanese.
On the other hand, placements in government offices require Japanese to be used and those with some knowledge of the language will be at an advantage.
What are the Benefits of the JET Program?
Salary starts at 2,800,000 yen, around $27,000. Each year you extend the contract, your salary also increases. This is considered decent pay for an entry-level teaching job with no experience or degree in a relevant field.
The JET program also pays for and helps arrange your flights to and from Japan. They’ll assist you with finding housing and airport pickup, as well, making transportation and adjustment easier on teachers.
Finally, the JET program teachers are all covered by four types of insurance:
- National Health Insurance
- Pension Insurance
- Employment Insurance
- JET accident insurance
The Japanese government currently allows temporary residents to claim back up to three years of their pension payments when they leave Japan, so those who do JET for three years receive a nice windfall some months after they return home.
JET program placements are usually in rural areas, so if you are dreaming of a fast-pace life in Tokyo then the JET programme might not be for you.
However, if you can see yourself living in the Japanese countryside then JET can make your dreams come true!
Let’s take a look at another avenue for teaching English in Japan: Eikaiwa, or English Conversation schools.
Eikaiwa School ESL Teaching
Eikaiwa schools are English schools/academies created to support the public English education system.
These schools have been traditionally aimed at enhancing students’ ability to hold conversations in English. The theory behind this is that Japanese people learn English as part of their compulsory education but never have the chance to actually put it into practice.
The Eikaiwa school therefore serves as a place for the practical application of English. It is not uncommon for entire lessons to consist of simply having a conversation, which comes as a surprise to teachers unfamiliar with the concept, but this is exactly what is required — and what the student is paying for — in many cases.
Some of the small and independent Eikaiwas can have a very relaxed atmosphere with very little supervision of the teachers from the management. The larger chain schools usually have a more rigorous approach and teachers can expect to be assessed and coached.
Such schools are private, so they offer different benefits than public school teaching.
Students of Eikaiwa are extremely varied in terms of both age and English ability. I used to go from teaching a three year old toddler to teaching an 80 year old great grandmother every Friday!
What are the Requirements?
Eikaiwa schools are similar to the JET program in that they simply require native English proficiency and a bachelor’s degree in any field. Of course, having a TESL or TEFL certification is beneficial, and knowledge of Japanese will put applicants at an advantage.
There are several well-known Eikaiwa schools which sponsor visas for successful candidates from outsides Japan which we will cover below.
What are the Benefits?
Eikaiwa schools feature higher entry-level salary rates than the JET program, usually. Starting salaries begin at 3,000,000 yen (around $29,000) and increase depending on experience and school status.
They also feature more flexible working hours and holidays than other English teaching positions. Class sizes are also smaller than public schools, so you can give more one-on-one attention to students and class discipline is usually easier to handle for the younger students.
Eikaiwas will also pay for the insurance that you’ll need, including national health insurance, employment insurance, and pension insurance.
Here are some of the big Eikaiwa companies who sponsor work visas.
This is one of the biggest programs in recruiting teachers to Japan. They hire all year round but mostly during the spring season.
This private English offers opportunities of all sorts. There are over 250 branches all over the country, so one could end up teaching anywhere!
This company focuses mainly on one on one language lessons for adults. The program is flexible, and bonuses are also available. Experience in a corporate environment is an advantage for this program
ECC Japan provides placements teaching people ranging from children to adults. The program recruits teachers globally.
University ESL Teaching
Finally, we have teaching English at a University in Japan. These are the most lucrative positions, and usually have tighter requirements for instructors than other types of English teaching jobs.
What are the Requirements?
It will be hard to find a university that will accept candidates with only a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field. Bachelor’s degrees in TESL, English, Education, etc., will serve as an advantage, but having a master’s degree in any of these fields is preferred, and often mandatory. Not only that, but many Universities prefer teachers who already have experience teaching at other Universities or schools.
You can find recruitment sites to post your resume on. These recruitment agencies will help pair you with a school that needs a position filled if your credentials are sufficient. Securing a direct contract is more difficult without a command of the Japanese language.
What are the Benefits?
Out of all the options on this list, University English teaching offers the most benefits.
You’ll start with a decent salary: at least $40,000. Not only that but your working hours will be far less than those at a public school or Eikaiwa school – anywhere from 5-20 hours less per week, with the same or better payments of the insurances covered previously.
You’ll be teaching college-age students, so in theory you can have challenging and fulfilling discussions about the English language with your students!
However, teachers should be prepared for the comparatively relaxed natured of Japanese universities, which often comes as a surprise at first.
Students are required to work extremely hard during high school in order to get into university, and the three to four years of university life is essentially a holiday by comparison.
With simply graduating from a university with a good name usually being enough to secure a job thereafter, many students choose to do the minimum required amount of work to graduate. Of course, this isn’t always the case, but it is very common.
As with the students who have worked and worked to get into them, teaching English at a university in Japan also comes certain level of prestige, especially if you land a job at one of the famous schools such as Waseda, Keio or Tokyo University.
New teachers can expect rolling contracts for a year at a time, and contract renewal can be quite worrisome for those in this position. Staffing and funding issues affect the number of positions available and contract extensions are not guaranteed. It is therefore advisable for new teachers to build up a network of connections to turn to in case they end up having to search for a new placement.
Each of the choices on this list comes with its own set of benefits. Whichever you choose, teaching English through any of these avenues is a good way to experience TESL education while being immersed in a new culture.
With plane tickets often paid for, relatively decent salaries paid, and flexible work hours available, teaching English in Japan has never been more popular.