a teacher in Japan in front of a whiteboard, surrounded by lush green foliage, with a glimpse of the ocean in the background. The teacher is smiling and gesturing to the board with his back to the class. Illustrated.

Advice on Teaching English in Tropical Okinawa, Japan

Are you an adventurous ESL teacher looking for an opportunity to immerse yourself in a tropical paradise? Why not teach English in Okinawa, Japan? With its rich cultural heritage, vibrant urban landscape, and breathtaking natural beauty, Okinawa offers a unique experience for English teachers.

As an ESL teacher in Okinawa, you’ll have access to a wide range of teaching opportunities, including public schools, private language centers, universities, and international schools.

Key Takeaways

  • Okinawa offers a unique blend of urbanized city and tropical paradise, with UNESCO World Heritage sites, white sand beaches, and historically significant tourist spots.
  • Teaching opportunities in Okinawa include the JET Program, public schools, international schools, universities, and private language centers.
  • Requirements to teach in Okinawa generally include being a citizen of a recognized English-speaking country, having a Bachelor’s degree, and having some teaching experience.
  • Teaching in Okinawa can be fulfilling and rewarding for those who enjoy exploring different cultures, with benefits such as airfare reimbursement, housing, medical insurance, and teacher training offered.
  • Okinawa has a low to medium cost of living. As an ESL teacher, at minimum, saving $1000 a month is not unrealistic. 

Location, Climate, and Culture

Those that want to teach English in Okinawa, Japan will love the highly-urbanized yet culturally-rich city with a tropical vibe.

If you’re looking for a cooler climate, consider Osaka instead.

Okinawa Climate

SeasonAverage Temperature (°C)Average Rainfall (mm)Average Sunshine Hours
Spring (March-May)19.3 – 24.6245 – 2854 – 5.5
Summer (June-August)27.5 – 29.4190 – 2755.5 – 7.5
Autumn (September-November)22.7 – 28.2120 – 2754 – 6
Winter (December-February)17.4 – 19.2100 – 1453 – 3.5
Okinawa climate: weather by month, temperature, rain – Climates to Travel

Things to Do in Okinawa

Okinawa is a paradise for those who love nature and the beach. Besides, the city boasts a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Shuri Castle, representing Okinawan traditions’ rich history and culture.

White sand beaches and historically-significant tourist spots such as the Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium, the Peace Memorial Park, and the Nakagusuku Castle Ruins are other attractions that make Okinawa a must-visit destination.

Here’s a list of Okinawa’s attractions and famous sites you can explore on your holidays and weekends.

  • Shuri Castle
  • Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium
  • Okinawa World
  • Nakijin Castle Ruins
  • Oceanic Culture Museum
  • Okinawa Prefectural Museum and Art Museum
  • Okinawa Peace Memorial Park
  • Former Navy Underground Headquarters
  • Pineapple Park
  • Mihama American Village
  • Ryukyu Mura
  • Gyokusendo Cave
  • Kouri Ohashi
  • Cape Manzamo
  • Irabu Ohashi

Okinawa’s Unique Culture & Heritage

In addition to the tourist attractions, Okinawa offers a unique cultural experience that sets it apart from the rest of Japan. The Okinawan people are proud of their heritage, and their customs and traditions are evident in the local cuisine, music, and festivals.

You’ll experience the vibrant culture of Okinawa, a blend of Japanese and Ryukyuan influences. The city’s tropical vibe and rich history and traditions make it an ideal place to teach English and explore a new culture.

Teaching Opportunities in Okinawa

If you’re interested in teaching abroad, opportunities in Okinawa range from public schools to private language centers. Each option has its unique teaching methods and cultural awareness requirements. Here are three sub-lists to help you understand the teaching opportunities in Okinawa:

  • The JET Program is a government-sponsored program that places English teachers in public schools throughout Japan, including Okinawa. The program offers competitive salaries and benefits, including housing and airfare reimbursement. 
  • International schools in Okinawa offer a more Western-style education and typically cater to children of expats or wealthy Japanese families. These schools often require a teaching certification and previous experience. The salary and benefits are often the most competitive, but the competition for these positions is also high.
  • For example, private language centers like GABA specialize in teaching conversational English and may have longer hours. These centers may require less experience and education (you might not need a degree) than public or international schools, but they offer fewer benefits and lower salaries. Teaching in private language centers requires creativity and the ability to connect with students on a personal level.
  • University English Teacher: Teaching positions at universities in Okinawa typically require a higher level of education, such as a master’s or doctoral degree in English or a related field. University English teachers often have more autonomy in designing and delivering courses, focusing on academic English, literature, or specialized subjects. Salaries for university English teachers tend to be higher than other teaching positions, but competition is high.
  • Private Tutoring English Teacher: Private tutoring or teaching online in Japan offers flexibility in scheduling and the ability to work one-on-one with students or in small groups. Private tutors in Okinawa can find opportunities through various platforms or agencies that connect them with students seeking personalized English instruction.

Overall, teaching in Okinawa offers a range of opportunities that cater to different teaching styles and cultural awareness needs. Whether you prefer teaching in public schools, international schools, or private language centers, Okinawa’s a unique and rewarding teaching destination.

Salary and Benefits

When considering teaching opportunities in Okinawa, it’s important to consider the expected salary and benefits offered for each type of job.

The salary for teaching in Okinawa varies depending on the type of job. Private tutoring is the lowest paying job, while international schools offer the highest pay. However, remember that the cost of living in Okinawa is high and comparable to Hawaii.

Job TitleEmployerLocationSalary (USD)Type
ALT (Assistant Language Teacher)JET ProgrammeOkinawa, Japan$2,800 – $3,500 per monthPublic school
English TeacherECC JapanOkinawa, Japan$2,500 – $3,000 per monthEnglish center
English TeacherBerlitz JapanOkinawa, Japan$2,000 – $2,500 per monthEnglish center
English TeacherGaba CorporationOkinawa, Japan$1,800 – $2,200 per monthEnglish center
University English TeacherVarious universitiesOkinawa, Japan$3,000 – $5,000 per monthUniversity
Private Tutoring English TeacherVarious platforms or agenciesOkinawa, Japan$20 – $40 per hourPrivate Tutoring


In addition to salary, benefits for teaching in Okinawa include airfare reimbursement, housing options, medical coverage, and teacher training. Some schools may provide housing or a stipend, but this may not be true for all schools.

Medical coverage is also provided as part of the benefits package. It’s important to research and compare different schools’ salaries and benefits before deciding where to teach in Okinawa.

Cost of Living in Okinawa for an ESL Teacher

In Okinawa, Japan, a newly qualified ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) can expect to earn a monthly salary ranging from $2,800 to $3,500 USD, resulting in a net income of $2,366 USD after accounting for the 5.3% income tax rate in Okinawa.

Here’s a breakdown of what it might cost you:

Sample Budget for an ESL Teacher in Okinawa

The cost of living in Okinawa is relatively affordable compared to other parts of Japan. For instance, the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is $427 USD, which is significantly lower than in major cities like Tokyo or Osaka.

Additionally, utilities, internet, food, and transportation costs are relatively reasonable, with monthly expenses averaging $1,308.7 USD.


  • – Salary: $2,800 – $3,500 USD per month (average for a newly qualified ALT Teacher in Okinawa, Japan)
  • Tax: $134 USD per month (5.3% income tax rate for Okinawa)

Net income: $2,366 USD per month


chart showing USD expenses of an english teacher in okinawa japan
  • Rent: $427 USD per month (average for a one-bedroom apartment in the city center)
  • Utilities: $113 USD per month (average for one person)
  • Internet: $37.5 USD per month (average for 50 Mbps+ unlimited plan)
  • Food: $430 USD per month (average for one person)
  • Transport: $51.2 USD per month (average for a monthly ticket for local transport)
  • Entertainment: $100 USD per month (estimated for cinema tickets, gym membership, eating out, etc.)
  • Health insurance: $50 USD per month (estimated for a basic plan)
  • Miscellaneous: $100 USD per month (estimated for personal care, clothing, etc.)

Total expenses: $1,308.7 USD per month

Cost of Living in Okinawa. Jun 2023. Prices in Okinawa (numbeo.com)
Cost of Living & Prices in Okinawa: rent, food, transport (livingcost.org)
Cost of living and prices in Okinawa 🇯🇵 Updated May 2023 – TravelTables

Comparing this budget to the United States, Okinawa’s cost of living is generally lower. Salaries for teachers may be lower than in the US, but the expenses in Okinawa are more manageable. For example, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Okinawa is significantly lower compared to major US cities.

Additionally, health insurance costs and other miscellaneous expenses are also comparatively lower. However, it’s important to note that salaries and expenses can vary depending on the specific location within the US and individual circumstances.

Overall, for a newly qualified ALT Teacher, Okinawa offers a relatively affordable lifestyle with a reasonable income that allows for savings and a comfortable standard of living.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any specific challenges that teachers may face when teaching in Okinawa?

When teaching in Okinawa, a cultural adjustment may be a challenge. Students may be shy, and teaching techniques that work in other countries may not be as effective. It’s essential to be aware of Okinawan customs and adapt accordingly.

What is the availability of part-time teaching opportunities in Okinawa?

Qualifications required may vary depending on the institution, but having a Bachelor’s degree and some teaching experience can increase your chances. Keep an eye out for job postings and network with local language centers.

How important is knowledge of the Japanese language when teaching in Okinawa?

Knowing Japanese is not crucial, but it helps build rapport with locals. You can use teaching methods for non-native speakers to make classes engaging. A language barrier shouldn’t stop you from exploring Okinawa’s culture.

Are there any cultural customs or sensitivities that teachers should be aware of when working in Okinawa?

When working in Okinawa, being aware of cross-cultural communication and classroom etiquette is important. Respect local customs, avoid pointing with your finger, and take your shoes off before entering homes or certain establishments.