Internships (and Summer Jobs) in Japan

Not really, as we are about to find out

If you are from a Western country, and it comes to getting your first working experience, doing an internship might be one of the first things that come to mind. In some cases, certain fields can be so competitive during the hiring process (requiring multiple years of working experience etc.) that people will spend the first year or so of their careers just doing internships until they can finally land that full-time job. Even when they are not necessarily required, we tend to think of internships as great opportunities to get our first working experiences, while companies get cheap workers that do the jobs that no one else will do in return. Especially when thinking about working in a foreign country, one would think that doing an internship or something similar first would be very beneficial, as it lets you not only experience the working environment but also the living conditions before committing to working full-time. 

Internships are not very common in Japan

Unfortunately, in the case of Japan, internships are not widely available. This is not only the case for non-Japanese, even Japanese will rarely do internships before they start working full-time. They are just not a part of the Japanese job market and hiring process. The Japanese ideal is to get hired right out of university, usually, students start hunting for jobs during their third year in university here. The aim is to secure a job offer from a company, who will then hire them as soon as they graduate university, with virtually no time in between to do something like an internship first (the student will be enrolled in university till the end of March, and usually start working by the start of April). That is not to say that internships are non-existent, some companies require their prospective new hires to go through training before they graduate university. But this training will take place after they have already received their job offers. Other companies provide 1-day internships, that are actually more akin to a seminar, where a bigger group of applicants will learn about company culture and workflow. Another form of internships in Japan is paid internships (as in YOU have to pay for it, not you will be paid).

Some opportunities are available for non-Japanese though

From a non-Japanese perspective, if you are receiving money for any kind of work you do while in Japan, you need a visa with a working permit. If you are lucky enough to find a company willing to hire you as an intern, you still need to get a visa first. One possibility would be a Working Holiday visa, as it allows you to engage in any kind of work with only very few restrictions. But there is also a visa reserved specifically for “Internships”. The problem with the “Internship” visa is, that it requires you to be currently enrolled in University, and for the internship to give you credit towards earning your degree. Also, you cannot apply for this visa on your own, it has to be done through your university, who will then most likely search for agencies in Japan, that will look for trustworthy employment opportunities on behalf of their students. Oftentimes, these end up being hotels or Japanese inn (ryokan), which often provide rooms and food for their interns. Knowing that any potential intern will have a place to sleep and food makes the process a lot easier for the universities, as well as the parents of the potential interns. Another short term visa is the so-called “Summer Job” visa, which allows you to stay and work in Japan for 3 months, but this one is also again only available through your university.

If you are interested in doing an internship or summer job in Japan, please feel free to inquire with Astmil Corp. through this Facebook page. Disclaimer: This is the company that I currently work for, so you would most likely be talking to me. I did not write this article to promote our internship program, however. I simply wrote it based on my experiences when I was an exchange student in Japan, thinking that an internship during the spring holidays would be a good idea, only to find out that Japan really does not provide a lot of those. I think I have been fair and objective, but if you think my article is disingenuous or misleading, feel free to point it out to me.

About Studying in Japan

For many of us, our first real point of contact with Japan, apart from Anime and Manga, might be when we start studying about Japan at University. Many universities offer courses about Japan, be they Japanese language courses or courses on culture, history and the like. Maybe you major or minor in Japanese (or Japanology) and your interest in the Language, the country and its culture is what got you into University in the first place. Due to this, too many of us studying in Japan for some time seems like a very natural progression. Today I wanted to talk briefly about the different options that are available to you if you are looking to spend some time living and studying in the country of the rising sun.

If you are studying anything in Japan, it’s probably going to be Japanese

Language School

Your first option is going to be applicable if you are interested in studying the Japanese language. But you do not need prior knowledge to attend many of the Japanese language schools that you can find all across the country. There are many different kinds of school, some small, some big, some more focused on receiving students from western countries while others are focused on students from other Asian countries. If you are looking to attend a language school, Japan has visa agreements with many countries that allow you to stay in Japan for up to 90 days. If you are not from a country that has such a visa agreement in place, or you want to attend school for more than 90 days, you are going to need a student visa. These visas are sponsored by the school and usually allow you to stay and study in Japan for up to 1 year (although you are not allowed to work unless you get permission).

Exchange programs or language programs at Universities

Student exchanges are getting ever more popular and Japan is no exception, with many Japanese Universities sending their students abroad and accepting foreign students in return. If you are currently enrolled in a university, it is a good idea to check whether your university has any student exchange agreements with Japanese universities. Depending on your university, the application process for these exchange programs may be highly competitive, but if you are lucky enough to be chosen as a participant, you will usually receive scholarships and living assistance and thus you can enjoy your life in Japan pretty carefree. But in case you were not chosen as an exchange candidate, do not despair. For diversities sake, many of the big Japanese private universities offer language programs, which allow you to attend University and experience campus life in Japan for up to one year, while mainly focusing on studying Japanese. The caveat here is that oftentimes these programs can be expensive, but in many countries’ governmental bodies, organizations or educational institutions offer scholarships that you might be able to apply for. Inside of Japan, universities, local governments and other organizations provide scholarships as well, making studying in Japan for a year a rather affordable deal.

Enrolling in University

Last and least, we have the nuclear option. If one year is not enough for you, you could always decide to enrol in a Japanese university full-time. If this sounds appealing to you, you probably are already very well-versed on everything Japanese and don’t really need me to tell you anything. For anyone else, the big and obvious problem here is, that courses will almost always be held in Japanese. The number of people, who can understand enough Japanese when they are fresh out of high school and looking for a University, to attend classes in the Language will be pretty low in most non-Asian countries. Some universities provide undergraduate programs in English, but they are also few and far between. Just as with a work contract, committing yourself to a foreign country for up to four years without much prior knowledge can be a big ask, so many people are hesitant about attending University in Japan full-time. If you are from a European country with no tuition costs (I’m from Germany were tuition is generally free), you should also consider, that tuition fees in Japan can be pretty high (up to 10.000 Euro or 100.000 Japanese Yen per semester in some cases).

If you are studying the Japanese language, or are at all interested in Japan, then attending a University or a Language school can be a great way for you to experience life in Japan. If you are considering moving to Japan, then getting to know the country beforehand is also a bonus. Student-life in Japan is famously pretty relaxed, in stark contrast to working-life, but you will still be able to judge whether you could see yourself spending time in the country long-term.

Job Prospects in Japan: Working for a Hotel

“Job prospects” is a new miniseries of articles, where I will have a look at various types of professions that are commonly available to foreigners in Japan, try and look at whether the field is easy to get into or not, and subsequently discuss whether it is feasible to pursue a career in Japan in that given field.

After looking at Language Teaching in my first article, and Translation and Interpretation in the second one, I thought it was time to move away from the heavy focus on language. But when considering Jobs that are viable and available for foreigners in Japan, the language will usually play a big part. So, in the end, today’s topic is not so different. 

Bilingual reception staff is highly sought after

The Japanese hospitality industry is world-famous for its politeness, attention to detail and sense of “omotenashi”. Highly philosophical and the guiding paradigm of the Japanese service industry, this is a concept you ought to understand if you want to work in a Japanese hotel, as it is fundamental to the kind of service that is provided in Japan. Japanese Wikipedia tells us that “omotenashi” encompasses the following:

おもてなしとは、心のこもった待遇のこと。顧客に対して心をこめて歓待や接待やサービスをすることを言う。

https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/おもてなし

That roughly translates to: “omotenashi” is heartfelt treatment. It is to provide customers with wholehearted hospitality, entertainment and service. Apart from the philosophical debate on what 心をこもる・こめる or the wholehearted, heartfelt treatment actually means, this concept defines a pretty strict hierarchical relationship between the service provider and the customer, putting the customer squarely on top. And while a “the customer is king” attitude is common in many parts of the world, Japans hospitality industry has truly taken this concept to heart. No matter how small or unreasonable, if the customer has a demand or complaint, your first instinct should be to apologize and then go about solving their issue as quickly as possible. 

Putting in the effort? Or just appearing to be?

Now it can be said about Japan, that often, actually making an effort, and just appearing to make an effort can be regarded as the same thing. If a customer were to ask you to get him something that is physically impossible to obtain for you, instead of telling him that outright it would be considered more polite to give the appearance of trying and failing to get him what he wants. Reading this, it sounds a lot harsher than it actually is. Most customers will be perfectly friendly ones, and a few bad eggs that abuse their perceived position of power can be found anywhere in the world. But if you have ambitions of working in a Japanese hotel, best be sure to brush up on your “omotenashi” philosophy skills.

Unlikely to hire you: the famous Japanese capsule hotels

I feel like I went somewhat off-topic there, so let’s get to looking at your prospects if you are wanting to work in a Japanese hotel. To be upfront, I think they are actually pretty good, provided you speak decent Japanese. Japanese people love travelling their own country, so any given hotel is going to have Japanese customers and you are going to be expected to be able to communicate with them in the formal manner that is required of hotel staff. In other words, Japanese Language Proficiency Test Level N2 and a good command of the spoken language, especially polite language, is going to be the bare minimum for you to get hired in many cases. If you have ambitions of working in a luxury resort or for an upscale hotel somewhere in Tokyo, you will probably not be hired unless you are truly fluent in Japanese (and English most likely too). 

Other issues at play

There are some other issues to consider as well. If you choose to work for a hotel in the countryside, the locations will often be very isolated, so if you are a city-person it might be rough for you when it takes 15 minutes by car just to reach the nearest convenience store. Salaries are usually also not very good, as a new hire, you can expect to receive around 200.000 JPY a month, which will only rise very slowly over the period that you work. Hotels often provide cheap accommodation for their staff, for example, a staff-dormitory, but this is less than ideal if you have family or value your privacy. You also need to be able to work in a shift-system with irregular holidays and varying working times. Some hotels even might have shifts where they expect you to work four hours (let’s say 6:00 to 10:00) in the morning and four hours in the evening (18:00 to 22:00), which can be hard to adjust to. 

On the other hand, tourism in Japan is booming with visitor numbers quadrupling over the last ten years (let’s just forget about this year). The industry is highly valued and rapidly growing in Japan and staff that can provide service in different languages is highly sought after. In the end, if you want to work in a hotel, can stomach the issued outlined above and wrap your head around the concept of “omotenashi”, which probably is not as big of a deal as I have made it out to be then I would say that your prospect for finding work are: pretty good!

Job Prospects in Japan: Translation and Interpretation

“Job prospects” is a new miniseries of articles, where I will have a look at various types of professions that are commonly available to foreigners in Japan, try and look at whether the field is easy to get into or not, and subsequently discuss whether it is feasible to pursue a career in Japan in that given field.

Maybe a rare picture of the fabled Babel fish

Last time we had a look at language teaching, the profession of choice for people who want to work in Japan but do not speak any Japanese. But what if you do speak some Japanese? What opportunities suddenly become available to you? Even for someone that speaks good Japanese, finding employment is not a given. Japanese is a hard language to learn and master, spending significant time to study the language in University, for example, will often lead to potential hires only having their Japanese language skills to market themselves to Japanese employees. They end up competing with Japanese candidates for the same job openings, which more often than not leads to the Japanese candidate getting hired instead of someone from overseas, who has not even proven that they can adapt to the Japanese working atmosphere.

Being a foreigner can be an advantage

Of course, there are also plenty of jobs available, where your being a foreigner is an advantage. Invariably, these often tend to be jobs related to Languages. What makes Japanese such a hard language to grasp for many, is that it is so different from other languages. But this also works in the reverse, making many languages exceedingly difficult to pick-up for native Japanese-speakers. Add the fact, that the Japanese language education system can be pretty outdated, often memorizing grammar and single words are prioritized above actually speaking the language, and you end up with a country that has a great many people who can only really speak one language, Japanese. But we live in a global world, business and media cannot afford to be available in a single language anymore, or they risk getting left behind by the competition. Thus, there is a great need for translators and interpreters in Japan. 

Translation by humans is still favored at the moment, but for how long?

If companies are sufficiently big, they might hire foreigners to handle overseas clients directly. But in many cases, what ends up happening is that dispatch translators or interpreters are used instead, especially when it comes to less widely spoken languages. If you speak sufficient Japanese (at least Japanese Language Proficiency Level N2), you can often quite easily get hired as a translator or interpreter. Especially the videogame industry appears to be looking for translators and localizers quite a bit. Unfortunately, these jobs are often not very well paid and offer little incentive to people for staying on for long periods. If you end up working for a dispatch company, you will most likely have to work the weekend, public holidays or even night-shifts. As alluded to earlier, you will also most likely not make any significant career advancement as a translator, if you want a higher salary or more responsibility, you will most likely have to change jobs instead of waiting for a promotion. Similar to language teaching, I would also say that the profession of translation and interpretation is also significantly threatened by digitalization, with services like Google Translate becoming more and more reliable. 

Still better than language teaching, probably

On the other hand, you will most likely be using Japanese in a Japanese working environment. If you are hoping to work in Japan for the long-term, then there are worse choices that you could make for a first job. In the language teaching article, I said that it can be difficult to transition from being a teacher to another job. And while Japan is still a society that does not look too favourably to people who change their jobs often, getting started in translation to ultimately do something different is not the worst choice that you can make. If you have no other certifiable skills besides Japanese, then getting started as a translator will offer you the opportunity to acquaint yourself with Japan and the working environment and atmosphere, which is often way more important than whether you can code or have sales experience or similar. 

And there you have it. Being a translator or interpreter, while maybe not the best long-term career choice, is something that you can make work over the short-term while transitioning to something else. Job prospects may vary a bit, depending on your native language, but as long as you can speak English and Japanese (and have certificates backing you up), then you should be able to find a decent job quite easily. Just keep in mind that you probably do not want to stay there for too long.

What are “Technical Interns” or “Specified Skilled Workers”?

If you are searching about working visa for Japan online, then you might have already stumbled upon the term “Technical Intern” or “Specified Skilled Worker/Specific Skills”. But you might say, I thought Japan is not very big on internships? And what even is a “specified” skilled worker?

Well, both of these terms are products of Japanese being a very different language to English, making translations wonky at the best of times and incomprehensible at others. Another reason for the confusing nomenclature is the Japanese government’s unwillingness to be upfront about things.

Japan has a labour shortage, as you may be aware. Especially manual labour and other low-qualified positions become harder and harder to fill, in a country where the birthrate keeps declining but education standards keep going up. University graduates rarely want to work in an assembly line at a factory after all. But societal pressure is high to attend University, with people who did not go to a famous university often being considered failures before they even start working. So, how to fix the labour shortage?

Looking at other countries, importing cheap labour from poorer countries has been the capitalist go-to solution for many years. If you take in workers from a poorer nation than your own, they will not complain about low pay, or monotonous work with little advancement opportunities, because it will most likely still pay better than work in their home country. But the Japanese government has always been pretty conservative and traditionalist, so outright admitting there is a problem in glorious Nippon and accepting the help of migrant workers was out of the question. Thus the “Technical Intern” (技能実習生) scheme was born. Under the guise of benevolently volunteering to train people from poorer countries in advanced and futuristic Japanese production methods, workers from countries in south-east Asia were led into the country and effectively used as the cheap labour that Japan desperately needed. Unfortunately, abuse was and still is, rife within this system. Sending organizations charging prospective interns outrageous fees for placement in Japan, unpaid overtime due to being classified as “interns”, power and sexual harassment, confiscating of passports and other ID, basically trapping the interns in Japan, the list goes on and on. For some reason, the program is still alive and kicking, however.

Technical Interns not really fulfilling their purpose

Apart from its other failings, the “Technical Intern” program also failed to fulfil its original purpose: easing the labour shortage. The government reacted to this in 2019, creating a new visa category called “Specific Skills” (特定技能), this time also trying to prevent the aforementioned abuse from occurring, by putting in legal stipulations that workers have to be treated in the same way as Japanese employees. Working visa for Japan are manifold and very specific, the country has always been afraid to create a blanket “working visa”. So, they took that same approach with the “Specific Skill” visa, which gets its name from being only applicable for work in 14 “specific” industries, that the government identified as being especially in need of more labourers, and requiring you to have some “skill” in that area. The idea with this one is, that you would study Japanese and a “skill”, for example, farming, in your home country, pass the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) N4, as well as a test for your chosen skill, and then come to Japan and use your acquired knowledge to work there for up to five years, before returning to your home country again. Again, no blanket work permission. Another caveat is, that the industries for which you can take tests, vary widely from country to country, in some countries you will only be able to take tests for farming for example, while others only provide tests for nursing. Further, while technically everyone is eligible for a “Specific Skills” visa, tests are only available in Asian countries at the moment. You can take tests for all industries in Japan, but there is a cap for applications, and the test will be held in Japanese, meaning you will most likely need a higher Japanese proficiency than N4 to pass.

To sum it up, I cannot recommend anyone to ever come to Japan with the “Technical Intern” program. While there might be plenty of perfectly normal companies employing Interns to combat labour shortage, the chance of hitting a bad apple and having a really bad experience is just too high. The “Specific Skill” visa, on the other hand, has only been around for a bit more than a year at this point, so it is hard to say where it will go from here. First impressions are, that not many people have taken advantage of the program, in part due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but also due to a confusing application process and how hard it is to acquire the necessary certifications to be eligible for the visa. It remains to be seen, how Japan will react to and try to combat the deepening crisis that is the labour shortage from here on out.

Job Prospects: (English) Language Teacher

“Job prospects” is a new miniseries of articles, where I will have a look at various types of professions that are available to foreigners in Japan, try and look at whether the field is easy to get into or not, and subsequently discuss whether it is feasible to pursue a career in Japan in that given field.

What better way to start this off than with the (in)famous profession of Language Teaching? Many times, if people first arrive in Japan and start looking for work, this will be one of the first jobs that will come up if you start googling available work in Japan. If you look around English job-search websites for Japan, it often feels like about 70% of the available positions are for Language teachers, specifically English teachers. Due to the sheer volume of people in this field, you are also bound to hear many success stories of people starting careers in Japan while working in language teaching. But for most people, once you are in the language teaching niche, it will be difficult to escape from it. Which is fine if you enjoy that kind of work, but it’s best treated as an end and not a means to another, different end.

English language teaching jobs are widely available

But why is Language teaching so popular? The most obvious part of it is, that for the most part, Japanese is not required to be a Language teacher. Also, many entry-level positions are available, at least for English teaching, making it easy for you if you just came to Japan and need a job. In some cases, you can even apply from abroad, with companies hosting seminars for prospective ALTs (Assistant Language Teacher). If you sign up with a company, they will most likely also help you secure accommodation in Japan beforehand, and assist you while you are still getting used to life. Sounds relatively promising, right?

Stepping out of the teaching world can be difficult

Well, it depends. If you are looking to only spend a few years at most in Japan, before returning to your home country and pursuing a career there, then Language teaching might be a good fit for you. If you are looking to build a life and a career in Japan itself, I would not recommend it, however. The teaching world is pretty self-contained, with little room for advancement. Once you’ve worked as an ALT or conversation teacher for a few years, you might begin to want a higher salary, more responsibilities, freedom to curate your curriculum and so on. Unfortunately, all of those things are going to be hard to come by. Advancing your career is going to be pretty difficult. Once you are a Language teacher, that is kind of it. Finding employment at a University or opening your own school is going to be your only ways to significantly further your career. The former is going to be difficult to get into, and the latter carries a lot of risks that you might not be willing to take while in a foreign country. The aforementioned lack of Japanese language requirement will also often become a disadvantage if you are looking to change jobs. Many teachers might neglect their Japanese language studies due to this, and once they are looking to change jobs, all they have to their name is experience in an unrelated field and no Japanese skills. 

Better be a native speaker (an actual one, not fluent like one)

But I haven’t talked about the biggest caveat, the elephant in the room, yet, which is your mother tongue. If you are from a non-English speaking country, you are going to find it exceedingly difficult to get yourself a visa which allows you to work in Japan long-term. There seems to be this myth that anyone can become an English teacher in Japan. If you come to Japan looking for work, people will be quick to suggest English teaching. But you can only be issued a visa for English teaching if you are from a country where English is the official language (the UK, Australia, Amerika etc.), or you can prove that you went through 12 consecutive years of education in English. No matter how fluent you are in English, this means that it is very hard for non-natives to find employment as an English teacher. As for other languages, if you are a native speaker of German, French, Spanish or any other popular European language, there might be openings for you available but do not count on it. But if your mother tongue is something more obscure, then better don’t count on finding employment as a Language teacher in Japan.

So to sum it up, if you are an English native-speaker (read from a country where English is the official language, not a native-level speaker) then your job prospects as a Language teacher are decent, though you are going to find it difficult to transition into any other field of work. If your native language is anything else, it is going to be much harder to get your feet on the ground, unfortunately. Another thing to consider for the future is that in-person Language training might not be around too much longer, with people transitioning to using YouTube and applications for their Language learning more and more. 

I am going to leave it here. Again, if your dream is to teach your native language in Japan, then by all means go for it. But if you are only looking to use it as a stepping stone to get into something different, maybe think twice before committing to a long-term position.

What to avoid when looking for a job in Japan

When looking for a job, there are many different aspects to consider. Few of us, especially when we are younger, have the luxury of really choosing where we want to work, especially in a foreign country. When one has fallen in love with another countries culture and people, securing a job in that country is a good way – and often the only way – to spend more time there. When you are looking for a job in Japan, there are often lots and lots of job postings available. We all know, that Japanese working culture, while being far from the dystopian hellscape that some online commenters would have you believe, could definitely use some modernization, especially when it comes to work/life balance. While many companies have started modernizing, cutting back on overtime and mandatory company events, there are still many a “black” company where unnecessary overtime and abuse from the bosses is the norm.

Black sheep among decent companies

But how do you know, whether the company you are applying for is a decent one or one of the black sheep? First, you could try looking up the company’s reputation on one of the review websites like glassdoor.com or careerconnection.jp. These websites allow employees of a company to leave a review of their company, giving star ratings for working hours, salary and so on. As with every online review, these are best taken with multiple grains of salt, but they are a good place to see what people are saying about a specific company. But looking up every company that you plan to apply for individually could take ages. But there are other hints as to what kind of company you are applying for, that you can glean directly from the job posting itself. If you avoid job postings including the following three phrases, I believe your chances of accidentally joining a black company will hopefully go down. 

1. A job posting promising everybody an interview, regardless of their application documents (面接確約, mensetsu kakuyaku, and variations thereof). If the company has allocated the manpower to meet EVERY. SINGLE applicant, then it probably means that they have an incredibly high job turnover rate. Chances are very high that this will be a black company with all that entails, including unpaid overtime, mandatory quotas and all that.

2. A job posting where the academic record does not matter (学歴不問, gakureki fumon). While – or maybe because – Japanese companies usually tend not to place a huge emphasis on an applicant’s major, as long as they graduated university, this one should still be a red flag in most cases. A listing like this will usually be for a low paid job where you are going to be entirely replaceable by the next candidate and turnover will be high.

3. Finally, we have urgent hiring’s (急募, kyuubo). Sometimes, these come due to someone leaving suddenly for reasons not related to a company’s “blackness”, e.g. due to becoming pregnant or something similar, in which case these might actually be a good way to find a decent position. But in most cases, it is a good idea to ask yourself why there is a need to urgently hire someone in the first place. In most cases, it will probably be a company with a high job turnover rate, looking for their next victim. 

Navigating the job market in a foreign country can be extremely challenging. But avoiding the above three phrases should help you weed out a good portion of the bad apples that can be found on the Japanese job market. I hope that this has been helpful to you. Until next time and take care!

Another Look at Job-Searching Websites in Japan

Today I thought we would take another look at job searching websites. I had an article about looking for jobs in Japan on here before, where I introduced a few websites. Today I thought we would take a closer look at a few select websites. The effectiveness of such websites will vary from person to person, so please don’t take these as my definite recommendations. If you are looking to get hired in a specific field (IT for example), then you might want to look for a website that specifically caters to the IT industry. But if you are looking for general job offers or simply have not decided which industry you would like to work in, then the following websites are definitely a good place to start. 

1.           Indeed (インディード) → https://jp.indeed.com/?r=us

First and foremost, yes, Indeed is a Japanese website (or rather, you need to use the Japanese version). If you are looking for jobs in Japan, Japanese Language skills will almost certainly be required, so expect available job offers to be in Japanese too. Indeed is a useful website, more of a search engine, really, that allows you to search with keywords, by salary and much more. It will then search other websites for available positions matching what you put in and will display them in a fashion akin to search engines that we know and love. While you can register and upload your CV and other documents to Indeed, it is almost not worth it because the job that you are interested in is most likely not offered by Indeed, but by a different website. Instead, think of Indeed more like a website akin to Google’s search engine, just limited to job offers.

2.           Daijob (ダイジョブ)→ https://www.daijob.com/en/

If you are looking for English-speaking jobs, or at least want the searching and application process to be in English, you are most likely going to come across Daijob. As mentioned in my earlier article, Jobs that do not require any Japanese language skills are most likely going to involve English teaching, so if that is not up your alley than you are going to struggle to find work if you cannot speak Japanese at all. If you can speak Japanese but are just not confident enough yet to search and apply for work in Japanese, then Daijob might be the right place for you. Having said that, even though the website is in English, many jobs still require you to have Japanese Language Proficiency (JLPT) of at least N2, often N1. Some jobs are even targeted at English-speaking Japanese, rather than Japanese-speaking foreigners for some reason. But in general, you will be able to find many companies looking for foreign talent on Daijob.

3.           Everything else

There are numerous websites offerings jobs, companies post jobs on their own websites, advertise them at job fairs and so on and so forth. Do not think that nothing is available for you, just because nothing comes up on Indeed or Daijob. Networking is important, if you know the right people at the right time, getting a job might be a breeze for some people. Be flexible, keep an open mind and most importantly: do not give up. If you can’t find a job in Tokyo or Osaka, maybe try searching for a job in the countryside. If you can’t land an IT job, maybe think about starting with normal office work. Wanting to work in Japan and then expecting conditions to be the same as in one’s home country is a dangerous path that leads to drinking strong zeroes and posting snarky comments about Japan on social media.

Entering Japan during the Pandemic (as of the 29th of September 2020)

Instead of my usual “guide-like” blogposts, I thought I would post some recent information that is also relevant to working in Japan at the moment. Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, travellers from almost all countries around the globe have been refused entry into Japan until recently. Starting in August, the government introduced a new scheme called “Residence Track”, which allows people from certain regions (at that time only from south-east Asia) to enter Japan, provided they pledge to uphold guidelines given to them to prevent a possible spread of the Coronavirus and quarantine for 14 days upon arrival into Japan.

Recently a new prime minister took office and one of the first measures he decided to enact was to extend this scheme to travellers from countries all over the world, starting October 1st  2020. However, this does not mean that everyone can suddenly enter the country. Rather, Japan will hold talks with individual countries and if an agreement for mutual entry into the respective countries can be reached, the Residence Track scheme will take effect. Of note, the Residence Track system only applies for mid to long term stays, generally speaking stays that are longer than 3 months. If you are planning to come to Japan with a tourist visa you will not be able to enter the country for the time being.

While this most likely will mean that most people will not be able to enter Japan starting from the 1st of October, it means that there is movement towards opening the country back up for people that want to work, want to come on business etc. If you have been waiting to be able to enter Japan for work or a similar purpose, you might not have to wait much longer.

Information is somewhat scarce at the moment, on what you have to do to enter the country. Based on the information from countries that were allowed to use the scheme from August (Thailand, Vietnam etc.), you will most likely need the following.

1.           “Residence Track” document outlining the conditions that you have to adhere to while you are in Japan, with a pledge to follow the guidelines signed by you and the company that is going to employ you
2.           A negative PCR test (not older than 3 days at the time of visa application)
3.           Most likely you will also have to fill out various questionnaires, asking about your recent travel history and whether you were in contact with an infected person etc.

Please inquire with a Japanese embassy near you about what documents you specifically are going to need if you want to enter Japan. Depending on the country you are in, the required documents may change. Once you submitted the above documents at a Japanese embassy, you will then be able to apply for a visa for Japan. Once you arrive in Japan, you will most likely have to take a PCR test again, fill out more forms and questionnaires and most likely you will be questioned by quarantine and immigration agents. It sounds like quite the ordeal, but from what I have been hearing people are taking only around two or three hours to pass through quarantine, immigration and customs, which is not significantly longer than it took to get through immigration in non-corona times. 

Once you made it through immigration, you are prohibited from using any public transportation (trains, busses, taxis etc.), which means it might be quite troublesome to get from the airport to wherever you want to go. Your only real options are renting a car or getting someone to pick you up, so I advise that you ask the company that is going to hire you to send someone to pick you up at the airport. Once you managed to leave the airport and arrived at your living arrangements, you now have to self-quarantine for 14 days. Going by hearsay, the quarantine is not very strict, no police will show up and check on whether you are actually quarantining or not. You are probably good to go to a local supermarket, but I would still advise that you avoid using public transport, just in case. Once the 14 days have passed you are now free to go about your business as you please and can begin exploring Japan to your heart’s content in your free time.

I have not personally experienced this process, as I have stayed in Japan during the whole corona period so far, so I hope you will excuse my relying heavily on information from third parties and hearsay. Nonetheless, I hope that this was useful to someone out there. Take care.

An introduction to Job-Hunting websites in Japan

Living in Japan can be pretty expensive. If you want to stay in Japan for an extended period, living off your savings can become pretty expensive pretty quick. Also, for most long-term visa, getting a job is a prerequisite before you can even apply. Even if you are just a student you may want to look into ways of doing part-time work, among students eating out and partying are pretty common and both of these can become costly, especially if you are in a city like Tokyo. 

But how to look for a job in Japan? Part-time work is usually easy to get if you want to be a waiter you just bring your resume, have a short interview and often will be hired on the spot. Being a waiter might not be terribly exciting and the hours can be off-putting. Other part-time work can be found through internet websites or magazines, though expect this information to be mostly in Japanese. In this article, however, I am not going to be talking about part-time work, this article is about how to find full-time positions. In most countries, if you are looking for a job, you will most likely do so via the internet and that is no different in Japan. Many websites exist, that offer job information and other services. Often these websites are hired by what are called “Staffing Agencies”, an article on these can be found HERE. First, let’s have a look at some of the English offerings (by no means am I going to provide extensive lists here, just a quick overview of what kind of website you can expect).

English Websites

Examples: GaijinPotJobs, Daijob, JobsInJapan

If you are not yet comfortable enough with the Japanese language to search for a job with it, then there are options available to you in English. But, and this might be a big but, if you are looking for a job in Japan in English, chances are that you are going to be offered mainly English teaching positions. Teaching English in Japan is a can of worms that I am not going to open, just hop onto YouTube, Reddit or other social media and form your own opinion on whether teaching English is for you or not. The trouble with English teaching positions is that, unless you are from a country were English is the official language (e.g. the UK, Australia, the USA etc.), you are not going to be eligible to apply for an “Instructor” visa that allows you to teach English in Japan. Even if you are from an English-speaking country, be aware that the teacher market is pretty saturated. In any case, it might be best to not rely on English teaching as your sole ticket into Japan.

If you speak Japanese (Japanese Language Proficiency Test N2 and upwards), another position that will often be available on these websites is that of translator/interpreter. If you are interested in Japanese pop-culture (Manga, Games etc.), then this might be for you, as companies such as Square Enix or CyGames are often searching through these websites. Positions like this are often contract-based (with 1-year contracts being the norm) and being a translator is not the greatest long-term career perspective, but it might be a good first step on the Japanese job market.

Obviously, other positions are available, but English teaching and Translation will be the two most common on these English sites targeting foreigners. 

Japanese Websites

Examples: Indeed, MyNavi, RecruitNow

If you read Japanese, there are many, many more websites and services available to you. Of course, there are also job ads for the aforementioned translation or teaching positions (just the ad itself might be in Japanese). Also, everything that you can think of from sales and marketing to IT or manual labour, everything will be available. However, even though the number of available jobs in much higher, of course, you are competing against Japanese people now, so the number of applicants for a position will be much higher. Also, language requirements will usually be at least N2 (or simply say that they expect you to be “fluent”). Although none will outright state this, many job ads will be limited to Japanese people only so even if you apply you will never hear back from them. Some few ads will contain lines like “foreigners welcome” or require that somebody be a native speaker of English, but they will be far and few between. Just get used to the reality that you are probably going to have to take a “carpet-bombing” approach and apply to as many jobs, that looks halfway decent, as possible and then wait and see who gets back to you. Cherry-picking is probably not going to get you very far unless you have especially sought-after skills or experience (usually Language skill alone is not enough). 

If you sign up for a job-hunting website, chances are you are going to get “scouted”. Usually, this means that someone sent you a copy-paste message, introducing their job ad and inviting you to apply. While I am not 100% sure how exactly they determine who to send these messages to, if it is even a person who decides or some algorithm, this usually does not mean anything. You will get a template message stating “that they had a look at your profile and think that you are perfect for the job”. But I have received these messages even on websites where I registered with a blank profile, so most likely they have never actually looked at your profile and are just sending you this message to fulfil a quota. Another one to be careful of are companies that promise everybody, that sends them an application, an interview (look for this word: interview guaranteed, mensetsu kakujitsu, 面接確実, or something similar). Usually, these are so-called “black” companies (a term used to describe companies with a reputation for bad working conditions) which have a low job-retention rate, e.g. people quitting or getting fired all the time, looking for their next victim.

Facebook, Magazines, Direct

Last, but not least, there are some alternative options available online as well. Many companies operate Facebook pages where they share job information and receive applications. Most of the time, these are smaller companies with a very specific audience, for example, companies looking to hire workers from south-east Asia for farming work. If you are a University-graduate who speaks fluent Japanese, you might not need to search for Jobs on Facebook, but if you are a student looking for part-time or holiday work, if you are on a Working Holiday and looking for work, or if you are simply looking for something a bit different (such as being an extra in Japanese movie production in Hong Kong, just one example I found on Facebook), then Facebook might be for you.

Though old-fashioned, magazine ads are still a thing when looking for a Job in Japan. In Japanese, the Magazine “Town Work” is still available at almost every major train station and usually has information on available part-time jobs in a given area (a website by the same name is also available. Other than that, magazines such as the Japan Times or the Yomiuri Shinbun (English version) also carry job ads, so it might be worth looking into these.

Finally, if you already have a good idea of what kind of work you want to do, it might be easiest to skip all the trouble with the above job-hunting websites and simply apply directly through the website of a company. If you go to a company’s website, they will usually have a dedicated page with information on recruitment (saiyou, 採用) where you can apply directly. Just note, that companies tend to not list all their available positions here, and information here is more often than not only aimed at 新卒 (shinsotsu, newly graduated university students), with the company looking to fill their other positions through the aforementioned job-hunting sites.

I am going to stop it here. Looking for a Job in Japan can be a very tough and sometimes very frustrating affair. Unless you hold a very specific skillset expect to be ignored and rejected often. And while that is the reality, if your dream is to work in Japan then do not let the above discourage you! If you want to do it, then it’s definitely possible. 頑張りましょう。