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Teach English in Okinawa, Japan

Okinawa, an archipelago located to the south of mainland Japan, is known for its unique culture, breathtaking beaches, and a history that sets it apart from the rest of the country. With a subtropical climate, crystal-clear waters, and rich biodiversity, Okinawa is often referred to as the "Hawaii of Japan". Beyond its natural beauty, the islands have a distinct cultural identity, influenced by both Japanese and indigenous Ryukyuan elements. Teaching English in Okinawa offers educators an opportunity to immerse themselves in a setting that seamlessly blends traditional and contemporary lifestyles. Whether you're gazing at the historic Shuri Castle, diving among vibrant coral reefs, or participating in local festivals, Okinawa promises an enriching experience both inside and outside the classroom.

Reasons to Teach English in Okinawa

  1. Cultural Immersion: Unlike any other part of Japan, Okinawa has a unique blend of Ryukyuan and Japanese cultures. Teaching here allows one to gain a deep understanding of these intertwined identities, offering insights that go beyond the typical tourist experience.

  2. Natural Beauty: With its pristine beaches, lush forests, and diverse marine life, Okinawa is a paradise for nature lovers. Teachers can enjoy weekend getaways, exploring the beauty of the islands, diving, snorkeling, and hiking.

  3. Warm and Welcoming Community: The Okinawans are renowned for their hospitality and warmth. As a teacher, you'll be embraced by the local community, making it easier to adapt and feel at home.

  4. Health and Longevity: Okinawa is one of the world's "Blue Zones" – regions where people live longer than average. The local diet, lifestyle, and environment contribute to longevity, offering teachers a healthier way of life.

  5. Smaller Class Sizes: Schools in Okinawa often have smaller class sizes compared to bigger cities, allowing for a more personalized teaching experience. This provides an opportunity to forge stronger bonds with students and make a more significant impact on their learning journey.

  6. Rich History: Okinawa has a tumultuous history, especially during World War II. Teaching here offers a chance to delve deep into the historical events that have shaped the islands and their people, providing a holistic understanding of their resilience and spirit.

  7. Less Urban Hustle: While Okinawa is modern and developed, it doesn't have the frenzied pace of cities like Tokyo or Osaka. This laid-back atmosphere can be a refreshing change for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of big city life.

  8. Language Exchange: The desire to learn English is strong among the Okinawans, and as a native English teacher, you'll find numerous opportunities for language exchange, helping you to pick up Japanese or even the local Okinawan language.

Understanding Okinawa's Education Landscape

Okinawa, being an integral part of Japan, adheres to the nation's high standards when it comes to education. Yet, the archipelago does have its distinct characteristics. The educational system comprises primary, junior high, and senior high schools, followed by universities or vocational training. With the rise in tourism and global trade, there's an increasing emphasis on learning English, making it a sought-after skill.

Public schools in Okinawa often incorporate English lessons as part of their standard curriculum from an early age. Additionally, there are numerous eikaiwa (private English conversation schools) dotted across the islands. With the government's push towards globalization and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (which required improved English proficiency among the populace), there has been a surge in the demand for native English teachers, not just in mainland Japan but also in Okinawa.

Eligibility and Requirements to Teach English in Okinawa

The requirements to teach English in Okinawa will be similar to the standard requirements for teaching English in Japan, however, here are the specific requirements for Okinawa:

  1. Bachelor's Degree: As with most of Japan, a bachelor's degree in any field from an accredited institution is essential.

  2. TEFL/TESOL Certification: While not always mandatory, having a TEFL or TESOL certification can give you an edge over other applicants, especially in competitive areas.

  3. Native English Speaker: Preferably from countries like the USA, UK, South Africa, Australia, Ireland, Canada, New Zealand, and Ireland.

  4. Japanese Language Proficiency: Not mandatory, but having a basic grasp of Japanese can be advantageous, especially in daily life and school settings where English isn't widely spoken.

  5. Clean Criminal Record: A background check is standard for most teaching positions.

  6. Health Certificate: Some institutions might require a health check-up to ensure you're fit for the job.

Salary and Benefits for Teaching English in Okinawa

Teaching in Okinawa can be both fulfilling and financially rewarding. The compensation often reflects the national average for English teachers in Japan:

  1. Salary: Monthly salaries typically range from 200,000 to 250,000 yen for public schools and can go up to 300,000 yen for private institutions or eikaiwa.

  2. Health Insurance: Most employers offer health insurance, covering about 70% of medical expenses.

  3. Paid Vacations: Teachers can expect paid vacations during school holidays and national holidays, in addition to a few personal days.

  4. End of Contract Bonus: Many schools provide a completion bonus at the end of your contract, which can be a nice financial boost.

  5. Professional Development: Opportunities for further training and development are often provided, allowing teachers to grow in their careers.

Remember, the exact salary and benefits can vary based on the employer, your qualifications, and the length and terms of your contract.

Living in Okinawa

Okinawa, an island prefecture located in the southernmost part of Japan, offers an experience that's a delightful fusion of traditional Japanese culture and the unique Ryukyuan heritage. Known for its beautiful coral reefs, pristine beaches, and a subtropical climate, Okinawa is not just a popular tourist destination but also an enchanting place to live and work.

Natural Beauty

Surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Pacific, Okinawa is home to some of the world's most breathtaking beaches, like the Nishihara Kirakira Beach and the Miyako Island beaches. Diving enthusiasts will be delighted with the marine biodiversity, colorful coral formations, and historic shipwrecks that lie beneath its waters.

Culture and Heritage

While Okinawa is very much a part of Japan, it has its distinct cultural identity, rooted in its history as the independent Ryukyu Kingdom. The island's traditional dance, Eisa, its music, and the local dialect reflect this rich heritage. Shuri Castle in Naha, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands as a testament to Okinawa's royal past.

Diet and Longevity

Okinawans are often celebrated for their longevity, with many of its residents living past 100 years. Their diet, known as the Okinawa diet, is believed to play a role in this. It consists mainly of vegetables, tofu, seaweed, and fish, with a minimal amount of meat and is considered one of the healthiest in the world.


The climate is subtropical, with hot and humid summers and mild winters. Typhoons are common between August and October, so it's essential to be prepared and take necessary precautions during these months.

Urban Life

Naha, the capital city of Okinawa, offers all the amenities of modern urban living – from shopping centers and restaurants to entertainment and cultural sites. The public transport system, primarily buses, is efficient and covers most parts of the island.

Cost of Living

While Okinawa is generally cheaper than metropolitan cities like Tokyo or Osaka, living costs can still vary based on your lifestyle. Rent, for instance, can be more affordable, but imported goods can be pricier due to the island's remote location.


Okinawa hosts several U.S. military bases, so there's a sizeable foreign community on the island. This presence, combined with the local's renowned hospitality, makes it easier for newcomers to integrate and find a sense of belonging.

Teacher Stories

Sarah from USA:

"When I arrived in Okinawa, I was instantly struck by its beauty. The beaches were unlike anything I'd seen back home in California. Teaching English here has allowed me to immerse myself in a blend of Japanese and Ryukyuan culture. The kids are so enthusiastic, and the community has been incredibly welcoming. Plus, the Okinawa diet? I think I've found my secret to a long, healthy life!"

Liam from UK:

"Okinawa's history fascinated me back in my college days, so when I had an opportunity to teach here, I jumped at it. Naha is vibrant, and the island's slower pace of life is a refreshing change from London's hustle and bustle. I've learned so much from my students, and I've even picked up a bit of the local dialect!"

Nandi from South Africa:

"Okinawa's warm climate reminds me of home. I teach in a small school near the beach, and it's incredible how much the local culture is tied to the ocean. The festivals, the dances, and even the stories the children share have a touch of the sea. It's been an enlightening experience, and I've made friends I'll cherish for life."

Ruby from Australia:

"As a diver, Okinawa has been a paradise for me. When I'm not teaching, I'm exploring the marine life. The students are curious and eager to share their culture, and I've had the pleasure of attending traditional Eisa dances and festivals. It's a cultural exchange every day in the classroom."

Connor from Ireland:

"The tight-knit community in Okinawa has been a joy to be a part of. There's a sense of community here that's hard to describe. Everyone looks out for each other. I've been invited to local homes, tried traditional dishes, and even participated in community events. Teaching English in Okinawa has been about so much more than just the language."

Ava from Canada:

"Coming from the vast landscapes of Canada to the compact beauty of Okinawa was a change, but a welcome one. The island's nature, the flora, and fauna are breathtaking. My students often share stories of their island adventures, and in return, I share tales of snowy Canada. It's a beautiful exchange."

Aiden from New Zealand:

"The physical beauty of Okinawa mirrors that of New Zealand, but the culture is a world apart. I've been fortunate to teach older students, and the discussions we've had about our respective countries' histories and cultures have been enlightening. Plus, the local food is to die for!"

Moving Towards Teaching English In Okinawa

Okinawa offers an unparalleled blend of natural beauty, rich history, and cultural diversity.

The island's unique charm, combined with the warmth of its people, makes it a memorable destination for educators worldwide. If you're considering teaching English abroad, Okinawa promises an experience that will enrich your life in ways you hadn't imagined.