Karaoke nights with coworkers, weekend shinkansen trips, ordering your daily lunch gohan in Japanese—working in Japan comes with plenty of real-life fun you can’t get when you’re just a tourist!
This is your chance to try authentic matcha!
If your dream job description includes “in Japan,” though, you’ll have to prepare for a job search not quite like anything you know. The rules you’re used to following when applying for jobs and working in the United States don’t necessarily apply.
There’s no one roadmap for how to work in Japan, but there are some key tips, tricks, and yes, requirements, to keep in mind. If you’re open-minded and willing to work at it, you can find a job that delivers on your dream of living in Japan.
Is it easy to get a job in Japan?
Finding a job in Japan as a foreigner may seem intimidating at first. There aren’t many foreign workers, and a high level of Japanese is a must for many full-time jobs. However, Americans dreaming of a job in Japan do have several options.
Teaching English is often the easiest route, especially if you’re not yet comfortable speaking Japanese. But Americans can find jobs in Japan besides teaching, too. While you can’t expect an effortless process, you can get a job in Japan if you do the work to find the right fit for your skills and goals.
What are the requirements to work in Japan?
A love for sushi won’t hurt.
Keep certain basic requirements in mind to find the path to your dream job abroad. Requirements to work in Japan include:
- Specific job requirements. As with any job, make sure you have the skills and experience listed in the job description.
- Four-year degree. Getting a job in Japan without a degree isn’t impossible, but it is really tough. Regular working visas require a university degree, which translates to a four-year degree in the United States.
- Language level. You’ll need a high level of Japanese for most jobs in Japan. You can prove your Japanese level to employers with the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The standardized test has five levels. N1 is the highest level; you’ll usually need to pass N2 at minimum to get a job in Japan. That said, there are jobs in Japan for English speakers. Starting out as an English teacher offers a way in while you work to improve your own Japanese language skills. You can also brush up on your Japanese with further study before diving headfirst into your job search.
How to work in Japan as an American
If you meet the requirements to work in Japan, you’re already halfway there.
Before you send out job applications to every Japanese company you come across, set yourself up for success by taking a few essential steps:
1. Consider the type of job you want
Figuring out how to get a job in Japan starts with determining the type of job you want, so think about your interests and goals along with your level of Japanese fluency. Your language skills have a big impact on the types of jobs in Japan for foreigners that are open to you.
Teaching Jobs in Japan
Teaching consistently ranks as one of the top jobs in Japan for English speakers. Whether you consider teaching your ultimate passion or you’re looking for a way to start working with little (or no) Japanese language skills, teaching English in Japan is a viable option.
Bonus: Many schools and programs offer support to their employees, such as help with visas and housing, which removes some of the stress that otherwise goes hand in hand with jobs in Japan for foreigners.
The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, better known as the JET Program, is one of the most well-known opportunities for aspiring teachers in Japan. The government initiative places assistant language teachers in schools throughout the country. You’ll need a Bachelor’s degree and interest in building and maintaining a relationship with Japan to apply to this competitive program.
Teaching jobs are a great way to get yourself established in Japan.
You’ll also find private schools eager to have native English speakers teaching in their classrooms, which can offer a less competitive route. In addition to a four-year degree, you may need a certification in TEFL or TESOL https://kopetnews.id/.
Don’t write off your dream of teaching if you aren’t already certified though. Some certification programs take just a few months, and you can even find programs that let you get your certification in Japan.
Teaching English offers perks even for job-seekers who can’t picture themselves as teachers for the long term. You’ll get off the plane with a built-in community through your school, ready to help you adjust to living in Japan, and you’ll get to boost your language skills while immersing yourself in day-to-day life in the country.
Once you’re more comfortable speaking Japanese, networking and finding a job in Japan becomes that much easier.
Full-Time Jobs in Japan
Already proficient in Japanese? Getting a job in Japan as a foreigner almost always requires business-level or fluent Japanese skills, so you’ll have more choices if you go into your job search with the ability to understand and communicate clearly with your colleagues.
From international organizations to fashion brands to technology companies and beyond, workplaces in Japan are looking for employees who can engage with other English-speakers. You’ll likely still need to pass the JLPT N2 exam before you apply.
If you’re hoping to land certain software development or IT jobs, you may have success finding a job in Japan with a lower level of Japanese overall, as long as you have a strong knowledge of the terminology related to your field.
You might also consider starting out with an internship in Japan. Getting your foot in the door as an intern can boost your chances of getting a job in Japan later on, all while giving you a hands-on introduction to the lifestyle and culture you can expect when working in Japan as a foreigner.
2. Understand the work culture
Work culture is immensely important to understand prior to arriving in Japan for your new job.
Whether you’re eager to extend your time in the country after studying abroad in Japan or your job search serves as your first Japanese experience, the work culture can deliver a bit of a culture shock.
The workplace in Japan comes with rigid expectations. Learning how to work in Japan as an American includes navigating cultural differences.
Foreigners are a clear minority in the workforce. At the same time, teamwork and the business as a whole are typically considered more important than one individual’s job.
You’ll need to get comfortable with the way your coworkers get things done instead of trying to impose your own style, and prepare for politeness, courtesy, and likely long hours at work. Setting your expectations accordingly can ensure continued success after you get your job offer.
3. Get your resume ready
Successfully getting a job in Japan as a foreigner means understanding nuances of the culture, long before your first day on the job. Think of your resume as your first impression. This little document introduces you to a potential future employer, so use it to highlight how you’ll contribute.
Instead of bombarding tons of companies with a generic application, take some time to create a resume that shows how your specific skills will benefit their specific business.
You can also make your resume stand out with an eye-catching file name (think: “experienced-bilingual-teacher-resume”) to set it apart from the inevitable sea of resume.pdf files flooding job boards.
And though it may seem strange if you’re used to applying to jobs in the U.S., it’s common in Japan to submit a photograph of yourself along with your resume. Just use a passport photo (or something else that looks official—no selfies!) and you’re good to go.
4. Ace the interview
We get it—interviews can feel as intimidating as climbing Mount Fuji.
Your interview will likely take place online, but that doesn’t mean you can treat it like a casual call with friends. Some dos and don’ts when interviewing for jobs in Japan include:
- Act professional
- Dress up in business attire
- Make eye contact (but not too much eye contact!)
- Show up late…or too early
- Ask personal questions
- Eat or drink during the call
All in all, strive to demonstrate the value you’ll contribute to the business. Don’t focus on what you want to gain, but instead show your interviewer that they’ll like you—and that you can do the job.
5. Secure your visa
You’ll need an appropriate visa if you’re working in Japan as a foreigner. Teaching programs, schools, and other companies often provide support, but make sure you and your employer have taken all necessary steps before you arrive. It’s very difficult to get a visa once you’re in the country.
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Ready to start your life in Japan?
Figuring out how to get a job in Japan can feel like a real challenge, but taking the time to do your research and prepare will pay off once you find your dream job. No matter the type of job you decide to pursue, an amazing cultural experience awaits when you decide to work in Japan!