Japan is a country rooted in history, tradition, and religion, yet has distinctly placed itself as a leader in modern-day technology. Its regions offer a span of landscapes for those seeking jobs in Japan, from the fairytale-like winter snows in Hokkaido to the flashing city lights in Tokyo to the serene oceans of Okinawa. Curious, adventurous job seekers are intrigued by the distinguished culture and hope to discover their individual career paths through work abroad in Japan. After spending a few months working abroad in Japan, workers will learn the incredible work-ethic that runs deep in the Japanese culture and lifestyle.
The usual “go-to” for foreigners looking for work abroad in Japan is often the biggest city in the country, Tokyo. This exciting city holds the biggest metropolitan population in the world. The majority of Japanese and international headquarters are located in Tokyo. While many foreigners assume that they are only able to teach English,with some Japanese language skills foreigners can actually find themselves working in education, business, recruiting, journalism, and entertainment.
Osaka is the one of the most famous culinary destinations in Japan. With cheap and delicious food options, people can find themselves stuffed in food heaven. Job hunters seeking a culinary experience can find a variety of job opportunities in Osaka in terms of cooking classes, and with time and networking, possible apprenticeships. Jobs in Osaka at local restaurants, cafes, and bars are common for foreigners. There are also several international schools and corporate English companies looking for English teachers.
Okinawa may surprise some as a location for foreigners to work in Japan. The pristine jade-green waters of Okinawa attract tourists from all over Asia. Individuals will find job opportunities utilizing their customer relations skills in the tourism and hospitality industry. There is a U.S. military presence around Okinawa and it is common to see U.S. Americans around the prefecture.
Nara is a tranquil, country-side prefecture that was the former capital of Japan. This is the perfect place for a job-seekers wishing to be immersed in a quaint, historical area. Nara is famous for traditional crafts such as pottery, swords, and painting. The biggest industry in Nara is tourism, and accordingly, there is a need for foreigners to work in the hospitality industry.
Jobs in Japan
Japan is one of the most developed countries in the world. They are leaders in technology, famous for their culinary and traditional arts, and also a country set on improving their English fluency.
Teaching English is by far the biggest industry that foreigners work in Japan. The three main English teaching options include the government-sponsored JET program, corporate companies, and international English schools. All three options help with visas and housing.
Technology is a hugely successful industry in Japan. They are highly praised for their mobile phone technology, automobiles, and electronics. It is home of the international corporations like Panasonic, Sony, Fuji, Nintendo, Toyota, and Honda. Many of these corporations recruit from their international offices outside of Japan.
For those seeking a more Hollywood-type of experience, people can also find themselves working in the entertainment industry. Being from a different cultural background and having a unique physical look, you can find agencies seeking models and actors for advertisement, runways, television shows, and movies.
Work Schedule People in Japan often work many hours of unpaid overtime. Being prepared for this work-life imbalance is crucial to understanding Japanese corporate culture. Japan also practices the seniority based system of a senpai and kohai mentor relationship. Group identity is very strong-- while individualistic thinking may be valued in Western countries, Japan praises harmonic like-mindedness. Although this strong work ethic applies to Japanese workers, foreign workers may be treated with different or lighter expectations.
Language. Many foreigners start their careers by teaching English in Japan. Once they’re in Japan, they can take advantage of free Japanese language classes offered at their local community centers. In order to work abroad in Japan in non-English speaking positions, knowledge of Japanese business culture and language skills is a must; most foreigners must meet the N1 or N2 level of the official Japanese-Language Proficiency Test.
Salary & Affordability
Average salaries vary greatly depending on the type of position and the location of your work abroad in Japan. Working in the tourism and hospitality industry can earn you an average of $3,000 per month in Tokyo. Working in hostels and hotels often provide a lower salary, but offer you free housing. A typical teaching salary can earn you around $2,300 per month in Osaka. English teaching positions definitely offer enough to get by, but how much you save depends on your saving habits and travel intentions.
Rent is approximately $800 to $1,000 per month for a one-bedroom apartment in a large city, like Tokyo and Osaka. Rent usually increases the closer you get to a convenient city center. Workers looking to save money may want to choose another location outside Tokyo. In more rural areas, like Nara and Okinawa, rent is about $500 per month.
Meals in Japan are often very affordable, at about $6 for lunch. However, any type of foreign specialties can be costly. While a person might pay $15 for a small take-out pizza in the US, you’ll pay about $40 in Osaka, and even more in Tokyo. Fruit can be surprisingly expensive in Japan. At the local grocery store, items like strawberries ($10 per pack), peaches ($10 per each), and mangos ($5 each) can be costly. You can expect to pay at least twice as much on any international specialty like Italian cheese, French wine, and U.S. American cookies.
The transportation in Japan is fantastic! People can easily travel locally or around the country. Discounted train tickets and monthly passes are offered by various train companies. It is very common for employers to give a stipend for transportation costs. Taxis are very expensive in Japan, and the majority of people utilize trains and subways.
Accommodation & Visas
Many individuals who work abroad in Japan live in apartments, or tiny apartments sometimes called “rabbit-houses.” Most places require that you pay “key money” and a security deposit. The key money is usually a one-time non-refundable payment of two to three months rent that goes directly to your landlord.
A one-bedroom apartment in the city-center is comparable to a studio apartment you might find in San Francisco. The size of an apartment is usually measured by a tatami mat system; the size of a tatami mat varies from region to region, but is generally about three-by-six feet. While apartment hunting, you might see terms like “1LDK” which are are used to indicate (1: Number of Bedrooms, L: Living Room, D: Dining Room, K: Kitchen).
Citizens of certain countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and a few countries in Europe, who are 18 to 30 years old can obtain a working holiday visa to work in Japan for up to a year. Citizens of the United States can visit Japan for a period of 90 days or less. This period is an excellent opportunity to find job opportunities in Japan.
In order to legally work abroad in Japan, foreigners must obtain a visa and you must have a college degree in order to obtain a work visa. Companies cannot legally hire you without this. Once you find a job in Japan at a company that is willing to sponsor your visa, the visa process is very streamlined and not difficult to obtain. While finding a job is never easy for anyone, once you go through interviews and are offered the position, the company should automatically sponsor your visa. Foreigners are valued very highly in Japan because they offer a special cultural and linguistic skill set. Foreigners that also have fluency in Japanese are even more rare, and can find job opportunities a lot easier!
Benefits & Challenges
Japanese people are incredibly accepting of foreigners. They will treat you as a guest to their country and value the specialized experience and skills that you bring. However, even after years of living and working in Japan, you always be treated as a guest which can be quite alienating to some people.
“Saving face” in Japan is a very important cultural etiquette. While more Western countries praise honesty, Japan tries to preserve the social standing and honor of others. Citizens try not to cause someone to “lose face” by stirring up feelings of embarrassment or shame. In the workplace, something as simple as pointing out a mistake in front of other co-workers would be looked down upon in Japanese society.
Using the correct honorific speech, keigo, toward elderly bosses and co-workers demonstrates your respect for them. This concept is very difficult for Western people to grasp and utilize, but it is incredibly important to understand and be aware of when working abroad in Japan.