Working in Japan

Working in Japan may seem like a far-fetched idea for many, especially given how “exclusive” the country always seems to be. However, due to the country facing a declining population and workforce in recent years, working in Japan now isn’t as difficult as it was before. Here is a guide to working in Japan so you can get started.

For more Japan life-related guides, check out these articles:

– Things to consider before your job search –

1. Your Japanese language proficiency

Working in Japan - Japanese language proficiency
Image credit: Lee Okuyama

Japanese language proficiency is one of the most important factors that determines whether or not you are eligible for consideration in many Japanese companies.

Most Japanese companies require full-time employees to at least have the JLPT N2 exam certificate as proof that you are able to communicate in Japanese.

On top of that, you may also be required to know specific terminologies related to the type of job that you are applying for. So if you are planning to work in Japan, do take note that being able to speak and write the Japanese language will open up more job opportunities for you.

That being said, there are some jobs that don’t require you to know any Japanese.

2. Type of job

Working in Japan - the second step is to consider the type of job
Image credit: RODNAE Productions

Many foreigners seeking a full-time job in Japan choose to become an English assistant language teacher. It’s a job that is fairly easy to secure as it doesn’t require any Japanese language certification. Also, native English teachers – especially those from countries where English is the official language – are high in demand in Japan.

Even though the bar to teach English in Japan is not very high, you are often required to at least have a college degree and sometimes a TEFL or TESOL certificate.

If you are fluent in Japanese, you’ll have more options to choose from as many companies want to look for foreign workers who can communicate with them in Japanese and also help them expand their clientele internationally.

Carefully consider the type of job that you are interested in or are at least willing to do for about a year or two, so that you will not suffer from worker’s remorse after being in Japan for a while.

3. Japanese work culture

Working in Japan - the third consideration is the work culture
Image credit: cottonbro

As Japanese work culture is known to be notoriously demanding, it is an aspect of working in Japan that all foreigners should consider before committing to it.

Japanese companies tend to prioritise group harmony over individualism, which means that workers are expected to work for long hours – including overtime – which results in not having a proper work-life balance. Employees are also expected to take part in nightly drinking sessions with their co-workers and supervisors as part of their job.

However, do take note that even though this culture might be commonplace in most Japanese companies, there are exceptions that don’t follow this tradition.

4. Cost of living

Working in Japan - the fourth consideration is the cost of living
Image credit: Masaaki Komori

Since working in Japan also means that you will be living in Japan, it will be necessary to consider your financial situation before even thinking about flying over.

The amount of money you’ll need to bring over must be sufficient to cover your expenses before your first paycheck. These expenses include your monthly rent, downpayment, tax, insurance, and daily expenditure. Read more about the costs associated with living in Japan here.

Some jobs or companies provide accommodation or subsidiaries of sorts, so if your financial situation is tight, you can consider looking for positions that offer these benefits.

– How to get started –

1. Visit job search websites

Working in Japan - visit job search websites
Image credit: Christin Hume

The most convenient way to start applying for jobs in Japan is to visit reliable international job search websites such as Jobs in Japan, Daijob, and GaijinPot. If you are looking for a teaching job in Japan, consider applying via the JET programme website.

It may be exciting looking for a job in Japan, but don’t forget to take note of administrative details such as the salary, location, as well as the language proficiency required for the job.

2. Personal network

Working in Japan - personal network
Image credit: Cory Schadt

An alternative way to look for a job in Japan is to use your personal network. If you have friends, colleagues, or mentors who are working in Japan or for a Japanese company, you can try contacting them for job opportunities or recommendations.

LinkedIn is also a good platform to make connections with individuals or recruiters who specialise in connecting foreigners with Japanese companies as well. However, be sure to thoroughly verify the legitimacy of the company, recruiters, and job offers to avoid being a victim of fraud.

3. Preparing your résumé & attending an online job interview

Working in Japan - Preparing your résumé & attending an online job interview
Image credit: John Diez

Once you’ve found a job that interests you, the next step is to prepare your résumé. 

It is common practice in Japan to include a professional headshot of yourself – ideally in a suit – in your résumé. Since your application will be viewed by Japanese employers, you’ll do well to follow suit.

As for the content of your résumé, be specific about why you are interested in the position and how you can contribute to that company. If you have knowledge of the Japanese language or Japanese corporate culture, be sure to highlight that too.

Generally, tailor your résumé to a specific company when talking about your interests and skills, rather than using a broad and generic one.

Working in Japan - dress professionally for job interviews
Image credit: Hunters Race

Your job interview will most likely be conducted online, so ensure that your internet connection, webcam, headset, and microphone are functioning properly beforehand. Technicalities aside, you should also thoroughly research the company so that you can show the interviewer that you are sincere about getting the job.

During the interview process, it is ideal to conduct yourself professionally by dressing appropriately, maintaining a good posture, and being confident in how you present yourself.

4. Getting a work visa

Working in Japan - getting a work visa
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Congratulations, you’ve now landed a job in Japan. Now, you must work closely with your potential employer through the process of getting a work visa. As the process tends to take a while, you will want to prepare the necessary documents in advance to avoid any additional delays.

Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan website for more details about visa inquiries.

Working in Japan for foreigners

Even though the current state of affairs might make it difficult for us to travel overseas and work in Japan, you can consider using this time to pick up the Japanese language so that when the borders are open again, you’ll have more job opportunities to explore in Japan.

To more find out more about Japanese culture, check out these articles:

Cover image adapted from: Lee Okuyama and cottonbro

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