Jobs Exclusive to Japan and do They Even Exist?

Recently, I came upon a query from someone asking for jobs that are “exclusive to Japan”, so I thought I would write a bit about this topic. When people from “the West” or a “more developed Nation” are wanting to move to Japan, the motivation for that rarely stems exclusively from wanting to work here. Rather, people have something that they like about Japan, maybe they like Anime, Japanese history, or simply enjoy being in the country due to the atmosphere, the people and so on. There might be the rare case of a person looking to work in a scientific field in Japan, maybe linguists or other researchers that want to work on-site, so to speak. But for the most part, people want to live in Japan and having to work here is a byproduct of that. 

More people come to Japan for the delights of Akihabara than for the working culture

On the other hand, some people might feel the exact opposite. South-east Asian countries, while slowly making progress and developing their economies still often look to Japan as their opportunity to earn a lot of money. Due to the Japanese Yen being a pretty strong and stable currency, going to Japan and working in – for Japanese standards – low-pay or even minimum-wage jobs and then sending that money back to their own country to feed their families continues to be a viable option for people from some Asian countries. In stark contrast to the group mentioned in the first paragraph, this groups primary motivation is to work and make money here and they have to live here to be able to do that. 

The Japanese farming Industry relies pretty heavily on workers from south-east Asia

Are There Jobs Exclusive to Japan?

Now, I wanted to look at a few jobs that are exclusive to Japan, though be warned that I am from “the West”, so my perspective will be biased of course. Exclusivity can have multiple meanings here, so I will talk about a few different categories of jobs. Further, it should also be mentioned that the global society that we live in today has eroded the concept of exclusivity pretty thoroughly, an office job is an office job, a factory job is a factory job, and while there are of course differences from country to country, they are not enough to make most jobs “exclusive”. There might be some almost exclusive jobs, like maybe Sake brewing or other traditional Japanese arts and crafts, but again, with how connected everything is today, you could probably attend an online class and then start a business in your home country. Another form of exclusivity would be jobs almost exclusively done by foreigners in Japan. Language teaching and interpretation or Translation come to mind here, you will rarely find an English conversation teacher that is native Japanese, more often than not it will be people from the UK or America. 

If you want to be lead designer on Nintendos next console, I would say that is pretty exclusive

If we are thinking about exclusivity from another angle, there are of course brands and companies that exist exclusively in Japan. If you want to work at Nintendo Headquarters, that would be pretty exclusive to Japan, same for Toyota or other Japanese conglomerates. These big companies obviously have branches in other countries as well, but company culture in Japan is different enough that I would say that working at Nintendo Japan is pretty different to working at Nintendo America, making both a pretty exclusive experience.

Real Talk

But let us be real for a minute here, after I had some fun in the earlier paragraphs, I do not think any jobs are “exclusively” available only in Japan. It is of course entirely possible that I misunderstood or misinterpreted the query. But I believe that rather than asking yourself what jobs are exclusively available in Japan, ask yourself if there is something that you exclusively can bring to a company in Japan. Too many people believe that just by them being foreigners and being able to speak basic Japanese, companies should line up trying to hire them. This might sound harsh to some, but unless you have a very good command of the Japanese language (AT LEAST Japanese Language Proficiency Test N2 Level and being able to have a normal conversation in Japanese), companies outside the aforementioned teaching and translation industries are probably not going to be too ecstatic about hiring you. Learn the language, learn to use the language, and then think about what you can bring to a potential employer in addition to that. If your only relevant skill is “being able to speak decent Japanese”, they might as well hire a Japanese person.

A few words about homestays in Japan

For many of us, spending time in a foreign country is about getting to know the local culture, being exposed to something different from back home, meeting different people and, as a result, growing as a person, thanks to all the unique experiences that we would be unable to get if we stayed in our own backyard. I used to pretty timid and not very outgoing, but ever since coming to Japan for the first time it seemed like that has been changing gradually. Now, how much of that really comes down to being in a foreign country, and how much of that is simply due to growing older (though not wiser) is hard to say, but I still would like to believe that spending time in a foreign country helps to at least accelerate growth and development of character in some fashion. 

Japan is not known to be very multicultural, with almost 98% of the population being ethnically Japanese

The problem with experiencing local culture and getting to know people in Japan is that the country is unfortunately not very welcoming to foreigners. Not that you will be discriminated against outright or attacked due to being a foreigner, but there will always be situations where you will feel left out due to being non-Japanese. First and most obviously, there is the language barrier, with Japanese being very difficult to learn (as I keep stressing) and many Japanese people also being unable to speak a second language. But beyond that, there is also a huge cultural gap on both ends, where the Japanese side thinks that the “Gaijin” (a kind of derogatory word for foreigner) are very weird, while the “Gaijin” think of Japanese behaviour and customs as arcane. Even those Japanese that specifically seek contact with foreigners, oftentimes tend to idolize them and put them on a pedestal, which can be a very lonely existence as well. 

Which brings me to the actual topic of today’s article, homestays. As the name implies, a homestay means you will be staying at someone’s home, instead of renting your own room or apartment. What this usually means, is that you will be staying with a family in their family home. Reasons for this might be manifold, you might be participating in an exchange program, or maybe the family is looking for someone to teach English to their young kids, the list goes on. While there will definitely be an adaptation phase, where you will probably be treated in a manner that is more akin to a guest than to an actual member of the household if you manage to get along with your host family and stay there long enough, life will soon return to normal and you will be able to experience normal Japanese everyday life. 

Most commonly, homestays are done by people of high-school age, and the number of people who feel ready to go to a country as foreign as Japan before even having graduated from school will probably be pretty low. But I would say, do not let that discourage you. I was fortunate enough to be able to do a homestay during my time as an exchange student in Japan (I was around 25 at the time), and while it was a very hard year in some respects, I feel like I gained a different sense of appreciation for Japanese culture and customs. Being able to practice your Japanese and getting used to speaking it daily is just an added bonus. Due to Japan not being very welcoming, many people fall into the trap of hardly socializing with new people, spending their time instead with predominantly English-speaking friends in predominantly English-speaking neighbourhoods. I would argue, that living with a Japanese family is a good way of avoiding – or getting out of – this trap, dropping your inhibitions and becoming able to form meaningful friendships with many different people, regardless of their Nationality.