Want to Work in Japan? Top 10 Most Popular Jobs for Foreigners

Want to Work in Japan? Top 10 Most Popular Jobs for Foreigners

Some of us dream of working in Japan. It’s like an unachievable fantasy. What if I told you that working in Japan is not that far-fetched of a dream at all? In fact, it’s totally possible! There are more and more job openings for foreigners in Japan as we speak. Some of these jobs won’t even require you to have fluent Japanese!

Of course, if you do have a higher level of Japanese, you have more job opportunities. But don’t let that bring your hopes down. You still have options. Let’s take a look at the top 19 most popular jobs for foreigners working in Japan.

1. English Teacher

A red-haired woman teaches english.
Credit: ThisisEngineering RAEing on Unsplash

The easiest job to land in Japan for a foreigner is teaching. More specifically, teaching English. I think most of the foreigners I’ve met in Japan have been there, done that – including me. There are so many positions available throughout the country, and job postings pop up all year round. 

For this job position, you don’t need to know Japanese at all. Because you’re teaching English, your lessons are going to be fully in English. All you need is to have at least a bachelor’s degree. It would definitely help if you know a bit of Japanese, as well as prior teaching experience, but it’s not a requirement.

The downside to this is that it’s not the best-paying job. But hey, you’ll get a working visa and live in the country of your dreams. 

2. Interpreter/Translator

A speech being translated.
Credit: Aigars Mahinovs on Flickr Creative Commons

If you’re bilingual, you’ll find that it’s easy to get a translation job in Japan, especially if one of the languages you speak is Japanese. There’s a huge demand in the interpretation and translation industry. The gaming industry in Japan is huge, as we all know from our hours of playing video games and watching animation. Game companies require their works to be translated into other languages when they release it internationally. 

While there’s opportunities for full-time employment, you can also find part-time positions and contract work. This can include assisting businessmen when they travel for work and also translating written works.

3. IT Professional

Two women trouble shooting a computer.
Credit: Christina on Unsplash

After English-teaching, the IT professional job is the most common job in Japan. Positions like software developers and programmers are always in demand. The talent pool among Japanese locals for programmers is rather small. Companies are looking to international talents to fill these roles. 

You can most definitely find positions that require minimal to zero Japanese language ability. However, your options are multiplied when you can speak a bit of Japanese. 

4. Military Personnel 

A woman military person sitting on a doorstep.
Credit: Jessica Radanavong on Unsplash

If you’re American, you’re in luck. One of the most common ways to work in Japan is to be stationed at one of the US military bases in the country. Japan has the largest number of military personnel based here than in any other foreign country. Cities that have large bases like Okinawa have a large international population. Because of that, the area might be more English-friendly than other parts of the country. 

5. Engineer

A person looking at blueprints
Credit: ThisisEngineering RAEing on Unsplash

Engineering is significant in Japan, and engineer job positions are as common as IT professional job positions. Japan is known for its advanced engineering, from automobile to computer. If you’re skilled in any aspect of engineering, your chances of landing a job as an engineer in Japan is high. 

Japanese companies are looking to foreign talent for their expansion of their engineering industry. A lot of these job positions require no Japanese. In fact, you’ll be dealing with more foreign clients than local ones most of the time. 

6. Tourism Roles

a tour guide showing a crowd around..
Credit: Bernie Almanzar on Unsplash

The boom in tourism in Japan calls for demand in tourism related roles. It’s increasing so rapidly that the locals can’t keep up with it. Travel agencies and tourism-related businesses need foreigners to fill in some roles, especially when those roles involve dealing with non-Japanese clients. A common job is a tour guide. 

For these kinds of roles, you’d be required to know at least conversational Japanese so you can communicate fairly well with your company and clients. How much you can earn depends on your skills and experience, too. But the best part about tourism related roles is that you get to travel while on the job! 

7. Investment Banking

a laptop with stock measurements.
Credit: Tech Daily on Unsplash

Large investment banking companies are relocating their workers and also hiring foreign workers. Japan is an ideal place for these banks to locate. Because of this progression, you wouldn’t need Japanese language skills for this job. The banking industry also supports other jobs like IT professionals, too. 

8. Service Staff

people working behind computers
Credit: Arlington Research on Unsplash

An easy job to land if you have adequate Japanese language skills is service staff. If you’re on a Working Holiday visa or other valid visa like a spousal visa, this is an ideal opportunity. Look at the tourism industry – for example, hotels, resorts and restaurants in tourist destinations are more willing to hire foreign staff since bilinguality can be an asset to their business. 

9. Sales staff

a woman checking out at an ipad cash register.
Credit: Christiann Koepke on Unsplash

Similar to service staff, the sales staff job is also an easy job to land if you’re bilingual with Japanese. However, it’s not limited to that. Some local companies are trying to reach the international market, especially those in the automobile and banking industries. Because of that, they are opening up positions for foreign workers to assist in that reach. 

10. Modelling

Credit: Pooja Chaudhary on Unsplash

You might not think this is a possible job for most of the world, but in Japan, it’s rather easy. Modelling is more often taken as a part time or freelance job because of its instability, but it’s a job that’s extremely common and popular. Japanese companies are using non-Japanese models more and more to promote their business, so it’s in high demand right now.

The pay depends on the job, and it also depends on the frequency of jobs you get a month. Modelling agencies might provide you with a valid working visa if you’re working as a model full-time. Tokyo, especially, has a lot of modelling agencies that are foreigner-friendly. 

Which job is for you?

As you can see, there’s quite a range of job opportunities in Japan for foreigners. Everything from technical to artistic, there’s a position for you. You can browse your opportunities on job-hunting websites like Gaijinpot and Jobs in Japan, but a simple Google search does the trick, too. So what are you waiting for – get searching and applying! 

Work in Japan: Fantasy vs Reality

Work in Japan: Fantasy vs Reality

Working is a chore. Working in a foreign country like Japan sounds exciting. I bet every foreigner who’s ever worked in Japan thought that at first. What they’re thinking now is slightly different…

There’s a fantasy of working life in Japan, and it’s quite the opposite of the reality. I’m not trying to scare you away from finding a job here. But it’s best to know a few things before you commit a few years to a new job in a foreign country.

In this article, we’re going to look at 3 fantasies in comparison with their realities. 

man drinking starbucks in front of a computer

Fantasy: After-work fun

Who doesn’t like a couple of drinks after work? A normal job takes up five days a week, leaving weekends and weekday evenings for leisure. You’ve got to make the most of your free time out of work. Especially if you’re thinking about working in a city like Tokyo, you might be expecting a couple of pints of beer after a long day of hard work.

There is some truth in that. Going for rounds of drinks with colleagues is actually part of the work culture here. It’s a way to bond with your coworkers. When you build stronger relationships, Japanese people believe that the workflow will be more effective. 

If your boss joins you at the after-work drinking as well, that’s when it gets even more fun. That means that the boss will pay. Free drinks for all! 

Reality: Overtime work

Realistically, you’re not going to be able to drink every night. In fact, you might not even be able to do much at night, other than sleeping. The harsh reality is that Japan has a very tough working culture. Everyone basically works overtime. Staying overtime is sometimes required, even though it’s not stated in any contract or written document. It’s an unspoken rule. You’d have to ‘read the air’ to find out. 

Depending on your company, you might not even get paid for the overtime hours (so check before signing any contracts).

In Japanese work etiquette, you don’t leave before the boss. If the boss decides to stay till 10PM, everyone else is expected to stay till 10:30PM. That’s just how it is. Let’s hope your boss doesn’t like overtime as much!

However, I’ve heard from some friends who are not required to work overtime and it’s fine with their company. So it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

People with umbrellas leaving a building

Fantasy: Individualism

If you’ve seen or heard about Japan, you might’ve heard about their crazy fashion and perspective. Tokyo’s Harajuku neighbourhood is an outlet for the locals to express themselves and their ideas any way they like. No judgement whatsoever.

And from my own experience, this expressiveness and individualism can go beyond the neighbourhood. You see locals going out of the box in other cities, too. Many people travel to Japan to witness this unique culture for themselves. Some want the opportunity to spread their wings as well.

To be honest, it was one of my reasons for going to Japan, too. I needed to stretch my legs a bit. I wanted to explore my individuality. 

Reality: Uniformity

While you can definitely explore it during your free time, it’s not at all like that at work. The work life in Japan, and generally the cultural norm, is uniformity. When it comes to dressing, you have to look like everyone else. The dress code has to be followed. 

And it doesn’t just stop at appearance. It includes other aspects of work life. There are ways of doing things in terms of how you speak, act and react in the office. The work etiquette has a set of rules in its system, and it has to be abided by.

My personal experience with working for a Japanese company wasn’t at all like that, though. I had a bit more freedom when it comes to what I wear and how I speak. At the end of the day, it really depends on how traditional or modern the company you’re with is.

People going up on an escalator

Fantasy: Culture enriching

Moving to a new country is exciting. You’re going to be in a different environment. Everything is new. You’re going to be immersed in a foreign culture. It’s going to be like one long vacation.

On my days off where I go on day trips and sightseeing spots, the culturally enriching factor kicks in. There’s always something new to discover about Japan and its culture. One part of the country can have various cultural facts compared to another. Take Osaka and Tokyo, for example. The two are so similar, yet dramatically different in so many ways. 

Reality: Culture shock

After the holiday mood fades away, you’ll soon realise that everyday life involves stress and mundane routines. Even in a different country, you can’t avoid that. When you work in Japan, you’ll also discover aspects about the Japanese working culture – both good and bad. 

While in some countries, you don’t have to keep up with formalities in the office. When you work in Japan, they’re very strict on that. It also comes hand in hand with hierarchy. Yup, there’s work hierarchy culture here.

And it doesn’t mean age. Someone five years younger than you can have a higher status. Someone who enters the company later than you can be your boss. Regardless, you’ll have to speak to them like how you would an elderly: with respect and keigo (敬語).

Working Life in Japan

Expect big changes when you move your life to Japan, especially if you’re planning to work here. Even with these three comparisons, working life in Japan is not all bad. There are perks and advantages. And not all companies are going to be the same. At the end of the day, you’re going to experience things you’ll never be able to back in your own country. So take a leap of faith and start applying!