Is it your dream to teach English in Japan?
For me, one of the best parts about working in Asia is traveling in Asia.
While you’re already there, it’s not as far to visit other Asian countries. Working in public schools means a good two months of vacation time (usually unpaid) that can be spent exploring the country if you plan ahead.
People I know working in Japan long term often use the school breaks to visit family or travel to other countries. If you aren’t a big traveler now, you might become one. School breaks are also a good time to have people visit you, so you have time to go sightseeing together. There is so much to see just in Japan, so there is always somewhere you’ve heard is awesome and you want the chance to see.
Japanese people are usually interested in traveling, at least within the country. A lot of companies have time off at the same time as students (on about 16 National Holidays), so in general everyone travels at the same time. Planning ahead and saving in advance for traveling is always a good idea. If you have paid days off, those are great for extending holidays, staycations, or traveling in the off season. Make sure you ask for those days off well in advance.
The big traveling times in Japan are spring, summer, and winter. The other times a lot of people will do short distance traveling are in May and September, when there are several holidays within a week.
Spring break is around two weeks in late March and early April. English teachers will most likely be doing training and possibly moving during part of this time. This is the beginning of the school year and the time people usually start a new job in Japan. Everyone will be making time to do hanami (flower viewing) when the weather is perfect to see cherry blossoms (sakura) opening. It’s a great time to enjoy the warming weather with friends or coworkers, eat and drink, and enjoy the beautiful blossoms.
Summer break is really nice for English teachers working for a recruiting/dispatch company at public schools. Because students don’t have classes (but will go to school for clubs / sports practice), you can have up to six weeks off. Usually summer break is around the last week of July until the end of August. You might be expected to do a little ongoing training during the summer break. This is probably the best time to visit home because it’s the longest break. It’s also super humid in most of Japan during summer, so you might want to travel for that reason.
Winter break is usually the last week of December and the first week of January. This is the most crowded and expensive time to travel (not unlike other countries). Christmas is Not a holiday in Japan (but they do eat fried chicken and Christmas cake and go on dates to look at pretty lights). You might even end up working on Christmas. New years is a really big deal, but more in a quiet way. Everything will be closed for the first few days of the year, so make sure you have some food at home or you’ll be fighting for what’s left at convenience stores and eating at McDonalds. Try to experience some of the Japanese new year traditions if you stay in town.
I recommend using the Seishun 18 Kippu for traveling by train during the main three holiday times in Japan. It’s a really good deal for ‘all you can ride’ JR trains, excluding limited express trains and shinkansen.