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This Monday I wrote a post entitled 5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Major in Japanese (and 2 You Might Consider It). This post is a follow up to that. A lot of people want to know about the best ways to get over to Japan and the best ways to find a job there. In this post, we’ll be hearing some advice from YouTubers who have had some firsthand experience with the matter. Hopefully they can offer some insight regarding what you’d be getting yourself into if you decide to live and work in Japan. It seems like it mostly comes down to one single thing: motivation.

How to Get a Job in Japan

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This guy is all about motivation. And he’s right, you really need to be motivated and serious about finding a position in Japan to get one. You need to set goals, achieve them, and move ahead. A big thing that helped this guy find a job was that he was already living there when he was looking for one. And I agree, this is a big help, even if you’re just staying there on a 90 day visit.

Japanese companies will really appreciate the fact that you are serious enough to live and/or visit there while looking for jobs. It’ll really help you out. GaijinPot is also a great resource for finding jobs. You’re encouraged to apply to tons of places. The more places you apply to, the more likely you are to hear back from someone. You never know, you might get lucky.

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This guy is always super genki in his videos. He’s all about being excited and outgoing and exciting. This is especially helpful if you want to teach over there. They really seem to like teachers who look like they can make learning English more fun and interesting for the students.

It’s also pretty much essential that you have some sort of college degree. I don’t think I really need to explain why this would be a boon. This guy’s video is motivational if nothing else. Just go for it!

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This “no BS” guide seems more like common sense than anything else, but sometimes you just need to hear these things said out loud. He’s a bit more pessimistic about the prospect of getting to and landing a job in Japan, but again, the main theme here is that you need to be passionate and motivated to really get what you want in Japan. The same can really be said about employment anywhere, but this goes double for finding employment in Japan.

He’s pushing a book in this video, and I can’t comment on it, so just ignore that part. The important message to take away here is that you need to be both passionate and motivated.

Getting a Non-Teaching Job in Japan

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As he says in this video, this is kind of a hard question to answer simply. Like I said in my Monday post, if you’re looking for a non-teaching job, you need to have some sort of skill that would be likely to land you a job in your home country anyway. You just take those skills to Japan and find a job there. You could even get transferred to Japan from a Japanese company based in your home country.

It’s also very important, way more than a teaching job, to be really really good at speaking, reading, and writing Japanese. It’s definitely harder to find a non-teaching job in Japan than it is to find a teaching one.

Jobs for Students

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I’m sure some people are wondering what it’s like finding part-time jobs in Japan as opposed to full blown careers. Maybe you’re studying over there or you just can’t work full-time for whatever reason. There are plenty of odd jobs to be found in Japan from selling things on eBay, to working at a fast food joint, to doing English voice acting for language learning programs.

She also harps on being resourceful, having good Japanese, having other useful skills, being motivated, and being presentable. Really, these are all traits that anyone would need to find success in employment anywhere. They’re just things you really need to keep in mind as you search for ways to make it in Japan, even if you’re just trying to make ends meet. She also mentions how teaching English in Japan is really the entry level job for those seeking employment in Japan.

Success Story Interview

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This last video here is pretty long, and I wouldn’t say all of it is relevant, but it’s much more in depth than the other videos here. It’s just an interview of someone who landed a teaching job in Japan and his journey that got him there. Maybe you’ll find something helpful or insightful in this video, maybe not. Give it a watch if you have the time.

Quotes from People John Actually Knows in Real Life

fwiendsBelieve it or not, I actually have friends outside the internet, many of which who have lived in Japan and worked over there as well. Many have only held teaching positions, but others also have some experience with non-teaching jobs. Let’s hear what they have to say.

It’s basically just like finding any other job… put out a bunch of applications and hope someone hires you.

Note, this only applies to teaching English. I think for me, I just rocked the interview and looked into some basic TESL forms in order to put together a sample lesson. Interestingly enough, knowing Japanese was actually a bonus for me because they knew I wouldn’t have to rely on my co-workers to adapt to Japan. (Although sometimes that backfires.)

Other than that I applied to and sent inquiry letters to like, 10-15 different places. Only heard back from two. Also, having a visa and some prior experience will net you a job pretty fast, but good luck getting a visa without a job if you’re an American.

The visa thing is the most important. Also having a driver’s license if you’re applying outside of Tokyo. Obviously work experience helps and usually they want to see that you have some sort of multicultural experience so they know you’re not going to get homesick and leave randomly. “Screw you guys, I’m going home” is generally not a trait they want to see.

I’ve heard it’s really easy to find a job if you are already in Japan. Obviously it’s easier if you have a visa too, but I’ve heard about people getting visa sponsorship for part time jobs like tutoring, English teaching, and bar tending. Then while they have their visa sponsored, they look for full time work elsewhere. This is what I plan on doing once my teaching contract expires. There are a lot of full time jobs that will sponsor your visa, but it seems to be a lot easier if you’re already in Japan.

Of course, I’m talking about it being easier to find teaching work. I don’t have experience looking for any other type of work… yet.

I would like to say that unless you are with JET, coming here and teaching English is a horrible idea. Unless you plan on doing it as a stepping stone to another job outside English, but this doesn’t happen that often since most people come here with degrees in stuff that no one needs. I have met two people so far who broke out, one had a degree in economics and the other in law, they were English teachers only for the work visa and then left mid contract.

I think this is all really good advice. It’s something to think about at least. Also, most all the YouTubers up above are people I actually subscribe to, so I know they’re good reliable sources. Feel free to check out their other videos too. They’re good people.

In conclusion, the takeaway from this is that if you really work at it and stay motivated and do all that you can, you’ll make it in Japan. Making it is kind of a broad term though, and how well you “make it” will depend on your employability and your skill set. But just keep at it, and eventually you’ll find your way.


And I know I asked for it my last post, but if you have any additional advice, or have a success story to share, let us know in the comments! You’ll help out someone else and helping people will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Promise.

  • HatsuHazama

    Oh my god… what did you do to Fabio!?

    Nice article though, after all, finding jobs in Japan seems like it’s really different for each person from what I’ve seen. (And a few people I know ended up with a job in Japan… though they didn’t want one.)

  • Dy~

    good thing I decided against majoring in Japanese and am going with something a little more useful…

    lol it seems we sub to the same group of people on youtube – I’m kinda surprised you didn’t put Hikosaemon or MyArgonauts on here too

  • Sid

    Know of any non-native English speakers on youtube or not, that work in Japan?

  • Dave

    What about a freelancer job? Does it cover the visa’s requires? Is it possible in Jap?
    I’m a Comp Sci major and my options can vary from a company job to a freelance one.

    My main worry is that English is not my first language and I always read opinions and tips from Americans/English speakers

  • http://www.languageninjas.com/ Jade

    Since I’m in Jamaica, it’s how to reach Japan for me

  • Jen

    I have a question, if you actually have a teaching degree and worked as a fully qualified teacher in your own country does that give you an advantage with getting teaching positions in Japan, like could you become a full teacher in full employment instead of an assistant teacher, providing japanese ability is good too.

  • Koichinist

    “Believe it or not, I actually have friends outside the internet” LOL JOHN!

  • Mark

    You were silent on the fact that many if not most Japanese will hire someone who is White over someone who is Asian-American even though the Asian-American is far more qualified. It’s just the way it is.

  • http://www.facebook.com/joel.alexander.980 Joel Alexander

    “Obviously it’s easier if you have a visa too”

    Well, yeah. You get deported if you’re working without a visa.

  • John

    I looked through Hiko’s videos real quick but couldn’t find anything that focused specifically on the subject :(

  • John

    I’d never heard of that myself, but that’s an interesting point.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ben.schroder.167 Ben Schroder

    Great post, John, just what I’ve been wanting to learn more about. This is very interesting and makes me want to just go even more! haha

  • Kasma88

    Both myself and my fiance are looking to live and work in Japan in 2014. We’re both qualified teachers and the plan’s to work in one of the British schools. Someone I met who had worked in the one in Tokyo said they tend to interview in your native country, does anyone know if this applies to all of the British schools?

  • Shin

    I may not have seem them listed in here, but if you’re American there are a couple other ways to work in Japan:

    1. Military (For those who are looking for that route, you get to generally pick your top three bases/countries of interest, and there are a lot of military bases in Japan.)

    2. Government Job (These jobs also include working on the base itself.) They range from waitressing to management. Some are easier to get if you already live in country and/or if you have access to the base (military ID). You can look up potential jobs here: http://www.usajobs.gov .

    3. Teaching (Not teaching english in Japan – but being a regular teacher for military children. ) Almost all the bases have elementary/middle/high school and these jobs are regularly in high demand. They require the same thing that would be required for what you need in the state you live in, but come with amazing benefits. Check out dodea.edu .

  • http://twitter.com/JupeBullet Jupiter Bullet

    what worries me is I’m thinking of getting a teaching job in Japan too someday but I’m Asian, Japanese probably want at least a western guy who speaks English as his first language and that’s no me. Is it really bad to keep working part time jobs in Japan I wonder….

  • Kathryn OHalloran

    I taught Business English so being super genki wasn’t as important as being professional. If you have corporate experience in your home country and aren’t naturally outgoing, it’s a better avenue than forcing yourself to be something you aren’t.

    I actually got my foot in the door by being on time (ie. in Japan, on time means at least 10 minutes early) to my interview. Apparently all the other candidates were either late or just on time. It makes a huge difference!

  • Mao Mao

    That backfire advice about won’t have to rely on co-workers part is true.

    My labmate, one year senior above me, is assigned to be my tutor during my research student program now. I, being a total Japanese freak to the bone, kinda know already things I needed to survive in Japan, And I prefer to have my own adventures like walking and travelling by my own to explore Japan while I’m still here.

    BUT, he doesn’t think me like that, as I presume. He knows that I already knows a lot about Japan, also got to teach him to pronounce Professor McGonagall, apart from the Japanese name Makugonaguru Sensei & to dajare joke with him etc etc. And even though he is more like a friend, he is still my tutor and kinda still see me as a foreigner, & need to be help on lots of stuffs. Especially on how to get from one place to another. With the complicated setting of Tokyo buildings, which was purposely built to indirectly act as maze-like impenetrable fortress to confuse invading enemies during the war time years ago, I can’t blame him.

    And, so he felt the need to accompany me everywhere, especially if it is an important matter. Like going to the bank to pay for the entrance examination fees, the restaurant location for lab parties etc etc.

    To make things even more complicated, I usually have this not good habit of not really telling any people around me clearly that I can manage to do the tasks I’m being appointed to. AND what made it worse when suddenly Apple decided to remove Google map from the iOS 6, & replaced it with their poorly made apple map… Even the transit guide was not there, so during that 2 months hell before finally Google Map returns to iphone, I had to look at maps beforehand and print them out first, but somehow I could still managed.

    So, it is also important to really think in your co-workers’s shoes to.

  • SM

    I think this is a fair point as well. It’s interesting that none of the
    videos featured in this article are from Asian-Americans who are
    working/have worked in Japan. Which is not to say that they aren’t out
    there or are being excluded, but I’ve personally found that for whatever
    reason, the Asian-American expat experience in Japan seems way less
    pervasive, at least on the web. Might be interesting to do an article
    about what it’s like to live and work as an Asian-American in Japan in
    the future. This is a topic I’ve thought a lot about, being one such
    person myself. Does Tofugu ever take outside submissions, by any chance?

  • SM

    In my experience, several of my friends who have advanced teaching degrees started out as ALTs or eikaiwa teachers and managed to find jobs teaching full-time at international schools after finishing their initial contracts. I think there are a number of schools in Tokyo that you can apply to, and in other major cities as well. It also seems to help if you have experience and background teaching a specific subject. For example, one of my friends who has an advanced teaching degree started out as a JET, but moved on to become a science teacher at an international school. (His Japanese ability is probably high-beginner level.) Teaching at a Japanese university is another option.

  • John

    One of my friends is part Japanese, part Hawaiian, part something else and she got a teaching job over there without much problem from what I could tell. Perhaps I’ll ask her about it and see if she had any issues.

  • Chinese

    that’s because you’re white.

  • locutus

    Sad that this focuses only on “teaching” jobs. Most of the people “teaching” English in Japan aren’t nearly qualified. Being a native speaker of the language doesn’t make you qualified. I was hoping this post would have more info about non-teaching jobs, but instead it only focused on the industry that is one of the worst to work in in Japan. These “teaching” jobs offer 0 upward mobility, no raises and generally no bonuses. Add that to the fact that most of the time you are on some sort of perpetual contract and you have a recipe for disaster. Try harder next time Tofugu.

  • Jon

    Woohoo! I influenced something on the internet!

    Oh, and I have some advice for people. Do NOT forget to click the submit button on applications for stuff. My recommendation guy told me he had an extra two days to submit his, and I completely forgot to submit my part before the deadline because I had been waiting for the recommendation. So please make sure you click the submit button.

  • http://twitter.com/shollum Shollum

    Did you even look at all the videos? There is one about getting a non-teaching job in Japan. Basically, it’s the same as getting a non-teaching job anywhere else; apply like mad for positions you’re qualified for. Have an actual, marketable skill and a degree in it (sorry art majors, you are going to have the hardest time since those kinds of positions don’t open frequently).

    The only real problem for foreigners is that they have to convince the company that their Japanese and skills are sufficient (which I’ve read get called into question a lot depending on who you work for).

  • yorunohoshi

    what if you’re a software developer who speaks japanese pretty much at a native level?

  • http://twitter.com/Meroigo JOHANNES ☆ ヨハネス

    You can do your higher education in Japan and the whole 就職活動 thing will come with it, and a job will be found if not screwing up. :)

    I studied Japanese for 1,5 year in Kyoto at a language school, and then moved on to a 専門学校 in Osaka, where my second year out of three will end in March. Me and my Japanese classmates have already starting applying for jobs, and I’m CONFIDENT I’ll have a job decided at a game company before 2013 ends, and will start working there in April 2014. ^^

    I’m a white 24 year old Swedish male (English is not my native language) if that matters to someone……

  • http://twitter.com/lostinseoul Vivian Morelli

    Good post, very informative. There ARE good English teaching jobs here outside of the JET programme. Securing a job from overseas can be difficult as the options are limited. I secured a job first, came to Japan, lived in the countryside for a year then looked for a better job. I now stopped teaching English and write. I think you can find many options if you stick around longer.
    http://www.vivianlostinseoul.blogspot.jp/

  • http://twitter.com/lostinseoul Vivian Morelli

    It’s possible to freelance but it’s hard to maintain the visa, very complicated. You should come here first as an English teacher then figure it out, as it’s a big risk to come here as a freelancer first.

  • Hiro

    sometimes i find many chinese exchange students in the “Sushi” restaurant in Japan.

    and i have many friends who are from china . they say that we can actually work at the restaurant , but almost case , working in the kitchen . because of waiting on customers is little bit hard , usually the manager of a restaurant thinking that japanese service is really important with customers :D

  • Dave

    English teacher even if I’m a non-native english speaker? Sounds strange to me

  • Ruben

    It just comes down to common sense, I think
    Don’t run to Japan without money, the language skill, a degree, a place to stay,…and then cry:I need a job !
    If you prepare in your own country (maybe you find a japanese company that sends employees to japan), set goals and get a few things ready in japan before you decide to stay there forever, then it should be achievable.

  • Jon lee

    In my experience, when interviewing for work in companies, a non-native Japanese will often be asked to provide some documented proof of the Japanese proficiency. Speaking Japanese at the interview doesnt count. They want to see your certificate showing that you have succesfully conpleted a JLPT at N2 or N1.

    For folks under 25 from countries sharing an agreement (Australia, Canada, a few others) it is possible to get a work/study visa without a waiting job

  • Shin

    I also forgot to add:

    4. Contracting Jobs (There are probably a hundred companies out there that contract for the military and have jobs on international bases, including japan.) These jobs are usually plentiful in management and IT (especially IT), however they are open for other positions occasionally. (And they might be open to people other than US citizens)

  • http://twitter.com/bakedtofu Sebastian

    It’s difficult but not impossible. It is definitely a risk though because you would have to declare yourself self-employed. You would have to provide strong proof to immigration that you’re self-employed. If you don’t, you wont get a work visa. If I were you, I would get a job anywhere first to land a work visa, and then consider doing freelance work.

  • http://twitter.com/bakedtofu Sebastian

    There is most certainly a trend of hiring Caucasians over Asians. Japanese companies sure do like a tiny bit of diversity in their offices. However, this is not the case for all work fields. Fields in the IT/Engineering/Creative arts fields have a number of Asians that were born and/or raised in Western countries.

  • http://twitter.com/bakedtofu Sebastian

    http://youtu.be/EYvpHPT0ZM0

    This video by Hikosaemon brings to light the hardship he faced as a foreigner when his co-workers began considering him “one of them.” While he is not Japanese, he was very cooperative and active in his previous job that his workers saw him Japanese. This was seen as a double-edged sword. On one hand, it is great to be perceived as a Japanese in the sense the gaijin-fascination vanishes. However, as you may know, Japanese bear a lot of pressure and responsibilities at work. Furthermore, Japanese must respect & follow numerous protocols/rules (both spoken and “unspoken”). This is not necessarily a “How to get a job in Japan” type of video, but it does shed light on how it is to work in a Japanese company. I have worked in a Japanese company in the past and I can say that this transition from “colorful-gaijin” to “pseudo-Japanese” is true.

  • http://twitter.com/bakedtofu Sebastian

    why haven’t you applied to any jobs? there are plenty of companies that would be willing to hire you imo.

  • http://twitter.com/bakedtofu Sebastian

    Teaching English is definitely not the only way to work in Japan but it is the easiest way. There are plenty of English positions because teachers always come and go. Furthermore, major Eikaiwa schools continue to open schools in rural areas. Unfortunately there are no job advancements or promotions in these companies. You could however move to completely different positions in Eikaiwa companies if you have useful & indispensable skills.

    One thing I would like to add is that you do not have to go to Japan to experience working in a Japanese environment. If you do live in a major city, it is very likely that there are Japanese companies in your city. In my case, I live in NYC. Many of jobs were in Japanese companies in NYC. I found them on forums for Japanese living in NYC or through Japanese recruiting companies like Pasona. I would assume anyone else could go through this route. This is actually very helpful for your resume if you intend on transitioning to a job in Japan in the future.

    Another position that is fairly popular with foreigners is being a recruiter for major Japanese companies in Japan. They do pay fairly good only because you live on commissions. As such, the job is pretty stressful and people come and go.

    LinkedIn is a great place to get started. Don’t be shy and talk to people that either work in a company you’re interested in or people that genuinely interest you (e.g. they are following a career path that you also would like to take).

  • Jay Sanders

    My college Spanish prof was Iranian. Spanish was this second language, English his third.

  • John

    Awesome, thanks for finding this!

  • legendofleo

    “You could even get transferred to Japan from a Japanese country based in your home country.”
    I think you mean company bro.

  • John

    Haha, thanks – just fixed it.

  • Marc

    Getting a job with a Japanese company in your country (or a company with a Japanese branch) is definitely one of the better ways of going about it. You can get an Intra-Company Visa, move to Japan and, in theory, continue your job as before. It’s a good solution that doesn’t adversely affect career progression if you don’t plan on living in Japan permanently.

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    Yes, me! My native language is German and I’ve been here, working in Japan for over 5 years now! :)

    You can read about how I made it to Japan in my blog, there’s also a lot of general advice for people who are looking to get to Japan: http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/how-i-made-it-to-japan/

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    *waves* I know. I was frustrated about it, too.

    My native language is German and everybody kept telling me that it’s impossible to get a job in Japan … or a visa. But I did!

    You can read about how I made it to Japan over 5 years ago (and I’m still here) in my blog: http://zoomingjapan.com/life-in-japan/how-i-made-it-to-japan/

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    I’ve been teaching English and I’m not a native speaker of English. It’s possible, but not easy!
    I agree with what Vivian said. It’s hard to maintain the visa for a freelance job. A self-sponsored visa is easier to get after you had a proper work visa and worked for a year or more … for that, teaching jobs are the best “first step”! ;)

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    It really depends on the people!
    At my old school we hand an international team. Only two were true native speakers of English. One was Spanish, I’m German, one was from Vietnam!
    As long as they’re English ability is good, everybody has a chance!

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    We even hired a Japanese person who grew up in America!
    My old school only cared about English ability and not on race!

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    No! There are schools like that, too, but you don’t have to worry!
    At my old school we had a Vietnamese and a Japanese who was born and raised in America. As long as you’re fluent in English there WILL be schools that are willing to hire you! :)

  • http://zoomingjapan.com/ zoomingjapan

    It might be an advantage or a disadvantage. Some schools actually look for people with little experience so they can force their own system on them. More experienced people might disagree too much.
    You might have better chances at international schools with a qualification like that.
    Even university gigs might not be impossible.

    For a “real” teaching position in Japan, you’d have to get a Japanese teaching license, though.