Japan has hundreds, if not thousands, of fast-paced and driven industries that keep the country going. When asking someone in Japan what their job in Japan is, you can expect the same few answers in rotation — there’s generally a handful of jobs that are more popular than the others, based on what the country needs.
And, surprise surprise — Japan’s economy is focused on service, technology and development. Can you already think of a few jobs that are in abundance? In this article, we’ll look at the most popular jobs in Japan, split into two categories: general and as a foreigner.
General Popular Jobs
“General” just refers to…well, the general public, regardless of whether or not you’re a local. Jobs in this category have vacancies probably all year round because they are in such lucrative industries that won’t see the end in Japan. In fact, some might even say the country’s economy is reliant on these industries. Let’s look at the top five common jobs you can often hear about or encounter in Japan.
I know at least ten friends in Japan who are in the beauty industry, particularly the hair business. Walk down any random street in Japan and you’ll come across at least five different hair salons.
Because the industry is so highly concentrated, there is quite a demand to fill the position holes in the salons. Whether or not you have any experience at cutting or grooming someone’s hair, you have quite a chance at getting a job as a hairstylist — as long as your Japanese ability is at a conversational level or more. The business that hires you will put you through training before sending you on your merry way to serve customers, so don’t worry about that.
Another common job in Japan is definitely sales staff — anything from sales representatives and support staff to sales managers. Japanese companies have products that they are needing to sell, whether it is domestically or internationally. Usually, if the company is looking to sell domestically, they will just hire a local out of convenience since locals are more accustomed to the local traditions, culture and customs.
For the companies that are looking to access the international market, most of the time, these jobs are with technology, automobile and banking companies. But from time to time, you’ll get openings from other industries like publishing. If you’re bilingual and can speak two languages — Japanese should be at least one of them — then you should definitely consider this job. They are known to pay well and provide stability. If you don’t have the Japanese language ability, don’t be bummed out because you still have options in the sales staff department.
Service is a huge aspect of Japan — tons of restaurants, cafes, supermarkets and convenience stores are scattered on every street in Japan. What’s more, hotels and resorts are recently booming due to the rise of tourism in the country. Because of such demand, there are hundreds of job openings in the service staff industry day in and day out, without fail.
Because Japan is primarily using the Japanese language, to be part of the service industry, you would have to be able to speak the language. A lot of the local service facilities wouldn’t need their staff to speak any other languages except Japanese, so that’s a crucial requirement.
Your bilingualism will be considered an asset and extremely useful in certain parts of the service industry like the hospitality department, especially in areas that attract more foreign guests. Hotels and resorts are the way to go if you want a notch above the rest with your multiple language ability.
Japan has a huge banking industry — due to that, they are in need of more staff to fill their position gaps in various departments. More and more locals are taking on these jobs as well as foreign staff. The bigger investment banks, especially, can afford to hire workers from overseas and provide and support their workers with well-paying roles, including positions in the IT sector.
Depending on the company, you may or may not require the Japanese language to get in. If it’s a small business, chances are, you would need to have at least basic Japanese to get by. If it’s a larger one and they’re actively seeking foreign workers, then you might not need to pick up Japanese for your job.
Japan is constantly looking to improve every industry in the country, from products and technology to medicine and science. There will always be a position open for a researcher of any type including data scientists and analysts. With this job, there are specific skill sets that are required to fulfill the roles of the job, like a strong background in statistics and computer science.
The demand is extremely high for the job of a researcher, hence many with the required skills often snag up these jobs. Bigger companies are also stretching outside of the country due to the small talent pool in Japan, so us foreigners have a higher chance of getting hired in this industry. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you won’t even need Japanese for your job!
Popular Jobs For A Foreigner
On to the next category and that is the list of common jobs as a foreigner in particular. While the first five common jobs mentioned are still considered jobs that are able to be acquired by a foreigner, those are more common for locals.
In some other fields, foreigners are the ones that bring a competitive advantage over hiring a Japanese person. Usually, these industries require constant interaction with foreign customers or require another language other than Japanese — English, most of the time.
Let’s take a look at the most common jobs in Japan as a foreigner — both that require and don’t require Japanese language ability.
First up is definitely the job of an English teacher. I’ve been there; I’ve done that. If you have at least a bachelor’s degree, you don’t need any level of Japanese or prior experience to land a full-time job here in Japan. It’s probably the easiest job to get out of them all. You can choose to teach at a variety of teaching institutions including public schools or English conversational language schools known as eikaiwa (英会話), which offers one-to-one tutoring.
However, there’s a catch: they don’t pay all that well because it’s such a crowded market. Nonetheless, it does offer invaluable experience and gets you a legitimate working visa as you live in a foreign country. Give and take, am I right?
Source: Mads Bødker from Flickr
As we all know, the tourism industry in Japan is booming in recent years — it’s picking up at such a fast pace that the locals are unable to keep up with it. That’s where the foreigners come in — travel agencies and tourism-related businesses require foreigners to fill in the roles in their companies to assist with interactions with non-Japanese clients. One common and easy-to-get role is being a tour guide.
In the case of jobs similar to these, you might be required to have at least conversational level Japanese to communicate between your company and your clients. Salaries and benefits can vary depending on your experience and skill set since it’s such a competitive market. One of the best parts about being part of the tourism industry is that you get to travel yourself!
Source: Laura from Flickr
This is the perfect job if you’re confident in two of the languages that you speak. There is quite a demand in the translation and interpretation industry not only in Japan but also the rest of the world. In Japan, the biggest industry that is in need of translators and interpreters is the gaming industry as Japan is quite well known for its animation and video games. Most of the time, game companies need their works to be tested and finalised locally before releasing it worldwide.
There are also other alternatives like freelance work and part-time work as well. Jobs like this involves assisting businessmen travelling to Japan for work or translating written works.
After English teaching, the second most common job in Japan for a foreigner is an IT professional like software programmers. That is because the talent pool among the local Japanese for programmers is small, so companies reach out to international talent pools to fill the roles in their company. That benefits us, most definitely!
The best part about this job is that it requires minimal to no Japanese language ability most of the time. As long as you have the required skill set, you’re good to go.
Last but definitely not least of the common jobs as a foreigner in Japan is engineering. In fact, its commonness comes right after the job of an IT professional. The country is reputed for its advanced engineering, and it comes in all shapes and sizes — from automobile engineering to computer engineering.
Japan is not going to stop developing its engineering industries, hence these companies are looking overseas for talented engineers. No Japanese is required for most companies — especially the bigger ones. Because these companies are looking to expand or already expanding their business overseas, you’ll be dealing with more foreign clients than local ones.
With such a wide range of common job opportunities available — even those that require no Japanese to some Japanese — there is nothing stopping you from getting a full-time job here in Japan. It’s not that difficult, especially when you know where to look for your specific skill set. Get searching and sending out your applications; you’ll be landing one and packing your bags for Japan in no time!