About 5000 foreigners employed by Nova Corp were left unpaid when the firm collapsed. Nova ran 900 language schools across Japan. Many of its employees were teachers from Australia, New Zealand, the US and other countries.
"I have a couple of thousand yen ($20) left in the bank," Kristen Moon, a teacher from the US, told a news conference in Tokyo, at which she appeared as a pink rabbit character that Nova used in advertising.
"I am expecting an eviction notice any day."
Australian Natasha Steele said her former students were feeding her.
Nova teachers were employed on one-year contracts and many had not worked long enough to get unemployment benefits, a union official said.
The average instructor was paid about three million yen a year ??? about one third below the average annual wage in Japan.
Thailand, Korea and Japan are popular destinations for newly-qualified English teachers who frequntly use their skills to fund travel in Asia.
While language teachers in Japan earn more than those in Thailand, better wages are not always the prime motive for choosing a teaching destination.
Other language schools in Japan may eventually replace the gap left by the collapse of Nova.
But in the meantime, hungry teachers will either be forced to return home, where their qualifications do not always guarantee a teaching job, or to look for alternatives in the region.
One Phuket TEFL school operator, who preferred to remain anonymous, said he did not think the shock waves from the Nova collapse would reach as far as Phuket.
"It is always sad for the employees and their families when a business closes without warning," he said.
"However, the market for English classes is still there, even if Nova isn't providing the tuition. So many of the employees may get jobs with another company.
"It will probably not add to, or reduce, the number of people coming to Phuket to train to teach."
Ms Rattanaporn "Bee" Pimsuwan, General Manager of the Patong Language School, said: "We expect business to continue as normal. What has happened in Japan may even help us as we teach many Japanese students.
"Perhaps more will come now. I believe Nova grew too large, too fast. This is also the opinion of ex-employees of Nova based here in Phuket."