A close friend of mine worked in Japan for many years. His primary job was teaching English to children and sometimes Japanese businessmen. He held a second part-time job helping with an events company. I asked him for his overall views on being there for so long and doing what so many dream of.
He told me stumbled into moving to Japan quite by accident when a close friend invited him to come to Japan after he finished college. He told me when he first seriously started to consider moving to Tokyo he wondered could foreigners get a job there?
As it turned out yes there is a myriad of possibilities for those who are willing to take a chance. Not everything is always as it seems though…
Where are all the jobs at…
As a general rule, Japan is open to foreigners who want to work and live there. The job types that are usually open to foreigners include teaching, hospitality, and general labor positions. Because of Japan’s aging population jobs are open in many parts of the country to foreigners.
The most common jobs open to foreigners are:
- Teaching English
- Convenience Store Clerks
- Kitchen staff
- Retail workers
- Hotel staff
- Interpreter or Translator
- Event staff
- General office staff
- Farm labor
In total, some of the job positions may have vastly different requirements even within the same niche. For example, some teaching positions may require that you have no Japanese language ability at all and other teaching positions will. Some jobs require a college degree while others won’t.
Next, most people ask simply how can I go about getting my dream job in Japan? There are steps you will need to take and make sure you have everything you need to apply for each position.
There are thousands of job positions available across the entire country of Japan and probably the easiest job you can obtain is a teaching position. Some companies will provide you with everything you will need to get the job and move to Japan.
The first step is to start a job search on well-known and reputable job boards. Here are three of the most well known:
Gaijin Pot Offers a listing of positions from dozens of industries and varying levels of Japanese language skills from none to advanced.
Daijob Started in 1998 has placed thousands of workers from all over the world. Offers a free scouting service at no charge to the applicant.
JobsInJapan Offers a unique search-ability on their front page to search by job title or company you’re wanting to work for.
Getting a work visa…The ins and the outs
If the company doesn’t offer a service to get the visa on your behalf then you will need to go thru a few steps to obtain one for yourself.
First, you will need to contact the nearest Japanese embassy in your country.
Two, request documents to obtain a work visa for Japan.
Three, after you receive the paperwork fill out the application and either mail or bring it directly to the Embassy or Consulate.
Four, If approved you will either receive the visa by mail or pick it up directly from the consulate or embassy.
I asked my friend what level of difficulty was there in getting the work visa? He quickly told me it was surprisingly not difficult at all in his case.
In total getting a work visa in Japan is not difficult despite the overall belief that Japan is a difficult country to get a temporary work visa. Japan itself has no limitations on how many foreign workers can legally enter the country to obtain work.
With the greying of Japan’s population and nearly 30% of its population being over 65 years old, the need for workers increases every year. In addition to the aging population, there is a second major issue of a low birth rate.
Hence, Japan’s population is in decline and is projected to shrink over the next decades. This will necessitate the need for workers in almost every industry.
How much Yen for my Yang
If you’re looking to maximize your possible income in Japan then you will definitely need certain skills.
On average the best paying jobs for foreigners in Japan are in the IT and communications field. The starting annual salary is about $22,774.00 USD and tops out at about $41,983.00 USD annually. IT has consistently been the highest entry-level jobs in Japan on average.
The most common position in Japan for workers from the USA and Canada is in the field of teaching English.
As a general rule English teachers make approximately $21,000 (entry-level) to as much as 32,100 Annually. However, income varies based on your level of education and where you are teaching, such as elementary schools, junior highs, high schools, colleges, or even large corporations.
One of the simplest ways to get into a teaching job in Japan is the JET program. However, be warned that some of the positions are not easy and westerners see it as a bit of a grind and often can’t find it easy to adapt to the work schedules and requirements of the job.
One of the main reasons for many going the JET route
There are many benefits to the JET program. Everything is taken care of to get your first entry-level teaching position in Japan. Much of the paperwork and visa documents are done for you. JET also has better pay and offers foreigners more benefits such as insurance and housing assistance.
Steps to get into the JET program are:
- Apply Online
- Report Medical Conditions
- Write Statement of Purpose
- Get Two Letters of Recommendation
- Submit College Transcripts
- Proof of Graduation or Expected date
- Proof of Citizenship
The program is a great way to speed up the process of starting your teaching career in Japan. Some find that they would rather work in private industry or that they don’t like the job at all and return back to their home country.
Nothing ventured nothing gained
So what if you don’t have a degree and don’t plan on getting one. Can I still find a job teaching English in Japan? That’s probably the second most common question for anyone dreaming of a life in Japan as a teacher.
The short answer is you need at minimum a bachelor’s degree to teach in the JET program.
A few ways to get past the degree requirements are that you have a Holiday Visa that allows you to work. A spousal visa if you have married a Japanese citizen or a Student Visa. Public schools won’t bend on the degree issue but teaching jobs in the private sector are a much more viable option.
Learning the language will definitely increase your chances of getting almost any job in Japan as most will require communication skills.
On average it takes about 2200 hours of study to achieve an average level of Japanese language ability. It depends greatly on the person’s natural ability, study intensity, other foreign language aptitudes, and how long you spend studying the language outside of the classroom.
As a whole, it takes about 88 weeks (2200 class hours) for an average student to achieve Japanese language proficiency. Of course, this time can vary due to many factors, such as the student’s natural ability, prior linguistic experience, and time spent in the classroom.
Ultimately my friend decided teaching wasn’t how he wanted to spend the rest of his life and decided to move from Japan altogether. His frustrations with commute times and long working hours at the school were to taxing on him.
Although he has been away from Japan for several years now he tells me there are many things he misses about Japan itself and if the work conditions had been different he might still be there.
Not everyone is suited for every job. Sometimes it takes many career changes to find the best fit for yourself. Transitioning to a completely alien culture from one that you have grown up in can be difficult at best.
Living and working in Japan can be very rewarding, it goes back to that old saying nothing ventured nothing gained.