How to Get a Job in Japan

The way I figure it, jobs in Japan fall into seven categories:

1. High-level corporate
2. Technology
3. Sales and Recruiting
4. Teaching English
5. Washing dishes

Actually, I had seven in mind, but it was late at night when I started this and then I fell asleep on the floor with a glass of white wine and some Calbee’s potato chips, so I ended up typing something like 6. Mmmy handss are alllll greasy and 7. I’m sooo sleeepyzzzzz . . . So apparently now it’s only five.  Maybe I’ll edit this later.  Anyway, I’ve got a mess of tiny, tiny chips to vacuum up, so let’s not get stuck on the details.

How I got a Job in Japan

First, let me tell you how I ended up working in Japan.  See, back in the U.S., I had this swanky corporate gig, with a big office, a desk with two computers, and a phone with all these buttons that lit up.  The high point of my day was pretty much going to Starbucks.  That’s known as an “off-site meeting.”  Then the economy went to hell, the company’s stock crashed, and since I was bored anyway, I thought, Great, why not get the same job in Japan?  “Salaryman” has such a glamorous ring to it.  So I sent off a few resumes, and Boom, immediately landed a slew of videoconference interviews.  They all sounded good.  Work in Roppongi, live in a nice apartment, make a lot of money.  I’m a big fan of money, as it allows me to do things like buy cars, stylish clothes, and eat.  But I also kept hearing something that sounded ominous.

For my first interview, I wore a red tie and sat in this giant videoconference room in L.A. that the company had rented to talk to me.  I figured red would show up better on screen.  Then from somewhere on the other side of the Pacific ocean, three serious-looking Japanese people in suits appeared on the TV and asked me questions.  At one point, the interviewer said, “Are you familiar with the phrase, ‘work-life balance’?”

“Of course,” I replied.

“Well, we don’t have that.  Work is our priority.

“That’s fine with me,” I lied.

After that, I wore a blue tie.  But no matter what color I pulled out of my closet, the same theme kept emerging.  And since I’d already had my share of stressful jobs, I was starting to think more along the lines of, Come to Japan and work in a surf shop.  You know, listen to the waves while showing college girls in bikinis how to wax boards.  I mean, who wants to wear a suit and sit at a desk all day?  That sucks.  Nobody’d be able to see my washboard abs.  So that avenue didn’t really seem like it was panning out.

Screw it, I thought, I’ll just go teach English.

I did of course consider some of the other available options.

Technology Jobs in Japan

If you’re a programmer for a language in demand, or you have some other specific technical skill, there’s a reasonable chance you can land a job in Japan.

Here, the need is often for someone who speaks English, and enough Japanese to get by.  Japan already has plenty of programmers.  Tech jobs for foreigners are often in international companies, where they need someone who can communicate with their counterparts in English, possibly provide tech support in English, and also speak enough Japanese to get along in the office environment.  Nobody wants you to put the coffee scoop into the tea pot.  Japanese people hate when that happens.

I never really considered this option, since in the past I’d been a programmer in the States, and I knew what that entailed.  It’s just like the swanky corporate job, only with less money and more time hunched over a computer screen.  More mousepad, less bikinis.  So that was definitely out.

Recruiting and Sales Jobs in Japan

This is what you do when you’re done teaching English.  You recruit other people to teach English.  “Training” may also be part of the job, which is where you take a group of jet-lagged college grads whose last job was scooping ice cream and explain to them the intricacies of teaching English in a day and a half.  Poof, now you’re qualified—good luck!

Recruiters may also fill other positions, working on commission.  Textbook sales is another variation on this theme, as is importing used cars to Okinawa and selling Chinese Rolexes on the street.  These jobs are generally not available from overseas, and most of the people who do them seem to wear faded suits and sweat profusely.  I don’t like to sweat, as it messes up my hair, so I ruled out this category as well.

Washing Dishes in Japan

If you’re from some place like Britain, you may be able to get a Working Holiday visa in Japan.  For other nationalities, a Student visa will allow you to work part-time.  There are plenty of foreigners schlepping tables in restaurants and manning the register of the neighborhood convenience store.   I briefly considered enrolling in a language school full-time, particularly one near the beach so I could work in a surf shop, which would have been sweet.  But when I looked at the cost of language school, it was like paying money to come to Japan, rather than making money.  And that didn’t sound good at all.

So teaching English it was.

How to get a Job Teaching English in Japan

This is a very simple process involving only two steps:

1. Have a Bachelor’s degree or higher
2. Be from a country other than Japan

Speaking English, surprisingly enough, isn’t actually a requirement, which is blatantly apparent when you see some of the English teachers here.  So while those two things are actually enough, let me give you five more you might want to think about:

3. This isn’t really a “how to” item, but it’s certainly important to keep in mind.  And that is:  Have a plan.  Yeah okay, I know I’m not exactly the best person to give advice on this.  Again, details.  Anyway, think about what you’re going to do after teaching English.  Because there’s very little chance for advancement in Japan, and many people get stuck with a meager salary that only affords enough money for potato chips and wine.  Not to say that Calbee’s black pepper chips aren’t great with chardonnay, because they are, although not as much as the limited-edition hot-and-spicy chips were.  Jeez, excuse me for a minute while I run to the convenience store.

Okay, I’m back.  Thanks for waiting.  So while it may sound like a great plan to come here, teach for a year, and then find a better job, the reality is that there’s not that many “better” jobs out there.  Lots of English teachers float along for years, not really going anywhere, while going back home becomes increasingly difficult.  “I taught Japanese kindergarten for five years” does not look that impressive on a resume.  So have a plan—some plan, any plan, some goal.  Failing that, hey, start a blog.  Now there’s an original idea.

5. Get some other qualifications.  TESL certificate.  TEFL certificate.  Some other acronym nobody’s every heard of, anything.  Get something on your resume that every other foreigner doesn’t already have.  You can pick these up all over the place.  Take a real class, an almost-real online class, or make something up yourself.  You are your own certifying authority.

6. Visit Japan.  The days when you could just fly to Japan and go door-to-door looking for jobs are over.  But being able to say that you’ve visited Japan goes a long way in convincing people that they should hire you to move here.  Just saying “I watch a lot of anime” probably isn’t going to cut it.

7. Get some foreign-language teaching experience.  Tutor someone in English through Skype.  On a resume, that becomes “Instructed EFL classes for international students studying abroad.”  Teach your three year-old niece how to count to five in Japanese.  That’s “Experienced in early childhood education methods and principles.”  God gave you an imagination for a reason.  Who are you to argue with His wisdom?

7. Look good.  It doesn’t matter what race you are.  Even nationality isn’t that important, although the more Asian you appear, the better your English will need to be.  If you’re a white Australian guy who just woke up from under a pile of Foster’s cans, eh mate, your English is fine.  The key thing is, look like a real adult.  Get a haircut.  Buy some granny glasses.  Wear a suit.  If you’re doing a Skype interview, at least wear a suit from the waist up, and hope that nobody asks you to stand and do a demo lesson.  There are some things interviewers do not want to see.

What Japanese Interviewers Want

An interviewer’s job is pretty straightforward.  The number one thing they’re trying to weed out is flaky people.  Nobody wants to 747 your ass all the way to Japan, get you set up with an apartment, a train pass, and a group of students, only to have you decide three months later that Japan isn’t the heaven you dreamed it’d be.  This happens surprisingly often.

They also want people who are “flexible.”  You’ll hear this in Japanese interviews all the time.  Now, you may think that word connotes the ability to adapt to changing situations.  Shows how much you know about “English.”  In Japan, that word actually means, “Do what you’re told.”  So that’s kind of the opposite.  Employers want someone who’s going to show up for work early, every day, do the job according to procedure, stamp the proper forms, and not mix the plastic bottles in with the aluminum cans.  Then late on Friday afternoon, when you’re planning to fly to Korea for the weekend, your boss will say, “We need you to work this Sunday.”  See, that’s where the flexibility comes in.

There may also be a nominal requirement to actually display some English ability in the interview.  Sometimes there’s a written test where you’ll have to spell “broccoli” or explain some grammar point.  Successfully doing so will only demonstrate that you are in fact not qualified for the job, since no native speaker actually knows what a gerund is.  Should it come up, just laugh loudly and then chuckle something about nouns under your breath.  I mean, that’s why we have Google; so we don’t have to learn stuff anymore.

Finally, an interviewer may want you to demonstrate that you can, in fact, do the job.  Shocking, I know.  You’ll be glad you wore pants at this point.  The art of the demo lesson is a whole other subject, but let’s just say that for the most part, teaching isn’t really that complicated.  You stand up,  say some stuff, then ask the students to do something.  It’s more like playing darts than it is chess.  Anyway, you’ll be fine.

Job Search in Japan

Before you can get an interview, of course, you have to find a job in Japan.  That’s where the internet really shines.  You can thank Al Gore.  Here are some sites that will help you land your dream job in Japan:

1. JobsinJapan  Love this site. It’s got a ton of position listings, and doesn’t make you spend hours grinding out an online resume before applying. Just upload a PDF highlighting your best points, set alerts for jobs matching your interests, then sit back and wait for the offers to arrive. Online since 1998, and just keeps getting bigger and better.
2. JREC-In  If you’ve got a Master’s degree, a few published papers, or a Doctorate, this site is your best friend. Welcome to the exciting world of Japanese academia, Doctor.
3. GaijinPot  A consistent resource, with a lot of position listings. You have to use their format, which is a bit of a drag, but some of the jobs I’ve gotten in Japan have come from here.
4. O-Hayo Sensei  The site design’s straight out of 1985, but it does list some good teaching jobs.
5. Career-Cross  Can you actually speak Japanese?  This is a great site for people who want to work in bilingual jobs.
6. Daijob  Have you passed the JLPT level 1?  If so, then this site lets you compete with native Japanese people for that Mechanical Engineering job you always wanted.
7. Craigslist Tokyo  Has anyone ever actually gotten a job off of Craigslist?  Somehow I kind of doubt it.  But like the Casual Encounters section, it’s interesting to visit Jobs just for the sheer randomness.
8. My Shigoto  Never fails to remind me of My Sharona, but that’s just a happy coincidence.  This is a job-listing aggregator site. The layout looks like a dog took hold of the Wanted section of the newspaper and somebody threw the remaining shreds in a bucket, but there are a ton of positions if you’re willing to sift through the listings.

Welcome to Japan

And that’s about it.  Nail the interview, get yourself a one-way ticket, and it’s sayonara everything you never liked about your home country.  Soon you’ll be going to maid cafes and drifting cars through Shibuya on a daily basis.  Then you have a whole new country where everything’s perfect, at least for a couple weeks.


436 Replies to “How to Get a Job in Japan”

    1. Oh yeah. Pretty sure that’s what I was typing when my hands slipped off the keyboard from all those delicious chips.

      1. Hello ken.
        Omg can I just say I died laughing at this resume of yours ( not CV), but essay, and from the looks of things trying to find a job is only going to get harder for me and trying to get a visa.
        Firstly I wanted to ask if there are jobs for people only wishing to stay around 7 months and not a whole year in Japan.
        To explain my complicated ass situation. I am a Congolese born female and will be turning 21 this year ( hakshuu-yay). Although being Congolese I’ve lived in south Africa for 15 years; so all my life, and as south Africa qualifies for the jet programme I’m going to change my nationality( for other reasons as well but I don’t want to bore you). I speak French,English, Afrikaans , Lingala ( Congo) fluently and I’m writing my Japanese jlpt 4 ( sadly so) exam this year. I’m doing a Ba/LLB law degree and my ba degree ends this year. So next year like most people bored with school I’m taking a gap year 6 months in france and about 7 in Japan so I’m hoping to leave here around Jan 2016-Aug 2016, and the jet programme requires a year so I was wondering whether I could get a company to sponser my visa or would I have to soldier it alone. Haha also I work at a preschool ( kindergarten for you) pro bono, so I understand the sheer torture it can be at times. I hope my nonsensical talk did not steer you from the questions I posed, hope to hear from you.

        1. If you can become part of the British Commonwealth, I believe you can get a working-holiday visa. I’ve met people here working in conversation cafes, and even as bar-tenders, without any contractual constraints. The Jet program’s probably not going to work out, but if you can secure a working-holiday visa, I’d say you’d be in pretty great shape.

          1. Hi Ken. I am an Indian Mechanical Engineer willing to immigrate to Japan and find a job there. Please give me a few tips like how hard/easy it might be to get a job, the pre-requisites etc.

        2. Hi Loretty,

          I did a quick check about visa requirements for South African citizens in Japan. Warning – I’m not an immigration expert, so do your own checking as I may be mistaken!!

          There doesn’t seem to be a Japanese working holiday visa for South African citizens where you can arrive and find work as you like. Also, there doesn’t seem to be a temporary entry permit for South African citizens where you can just arrive at the airport be granted entry for a holiday.

          There is a temporary entry visa for South African citizens for the purpose of tourism. You have to apply in advance with proof of airline flights in and out, plus a detailed itinerary and proof of hotel bookings. Only take this option if you genuinely intend to go sightseeing.

          South African citizens can also be granted work visas with proper documentation, qualifications and a sponsor. For English teaching, I doubt that a language school would sponsor for less than a one year contract. The JET Program is in my opinion by far the best deal – compared with a language school you teach a fraction of the hours, get paid more, have more vacation time, have expense paid training trips and conferences and so on. The downside is if you have a position where you go to a different school with different classes and different teachers every day, which can quickly lead to JET fatigue.

          1. I would like to start by saying that I appreciate your delivery. Impressive. Now onto my question. I know that artists are as easy to find in Japan as a Starbucks is in Seattle, but what of that market? I am an Author, Artist and Storyteller. I have done voice-overs, casting work and I have spent time in Yokosuka when I was in the Navy.

            I long to return and my heart is still there. I miss the exclusive McDonald’s Teriyaki Burgers the most truthfully, but to see Tokyo Tower during a full moon in person… man, I could get into that again. I am a think tank storyboard artist as well, so again – How much of a shot would a person have to land an art or art-linked career in Nippon?

            1. In short, she just needs to get a full-time job. Having a university degree is almost certainly a requirement. The company that hires her will take care of the visa. I’d suggest applying online through all of the major job sites. Eikaiwa, kindergartens, and the public school system are all options.

      2. Hello, I’m interested in Japanese culture. And it’s my dream to live in Tokyo. I want to start a business there. I’m debating whether I should do fashion or restaurant. I was thinking whether I should be a cook and own a restaurant or own a fashion store. I know that they get inspired by our American cultures in food, music, amd fashion. And I would like to bring our traditions there. I know it’s going to be a challenge but I’ll do what it takes to achieve my dream. And I would like to know the basics in what I need to do and how to achieve it. Advice?

      3. Hello sir I am sorry if this is a question you already answered but I am a welder and bladesmith would it be possible to get a job in that I’m not very good with technology thank you

        1. Hi there,

          I get quite a number of similar questions, and the only thing I can say is, you’ll need to find a company to sponsor your visa. You might try to come over as a laborer on a work visa, and then try to make some contacts in your field of expertise. That would at least give you a foot in the door.

          Best of luck to you.

    2. Also,the service industry. Probably makes up a large percentage or employment for non white and Japanese people these days.

      Construction (demolition, laborers, painters, all the trades like welding, sheetmetal, automotive mechs etc)
      Hospitality and Hotels (bedmaking, cleaning, bell, front desk)
      Factory (assembly, detailing products after machining, quality assurance, food processing, painting, sorting and packing,) basically any job an educated Japanese doesnt want to do that is very menial
      Drivers (starting to open up)
      Forklift drivers, warehousing
      Automotive sales overseas
      Fishing and shipping industry (mostly processing, but have know filipinos that worked on transport ships)
      Programmers/coders of all developer languages and gaming
      Travel agents (falls under hospitality)

      and the list goes on. Once your in Japan you will find what is posted and more

    3. Hi
      I just arrived Japan and my experience for hotel management, property managment and tour guidance. Speaks Arabic, Italian and English.
      Want please to know first how to get a job suitable for my experience and where I can get Japanese scholarship to learn japanese.

    1. I second translator. Any white person (and I’m not saying that I look white here) who knows good amount of Japanese and thinks they are good enough always mentions they dream of quitting their ALT job to become a translator.

      1. Nice work if you can get it. I mean, I guess “Japanese Ambassador to the U.N.” is a good job too. Achieving that level of Japanese is no walk in the park, and while it may be every English teacher’s dream, I don’t see many people actually working as translators. Still, hmmm, Ken Seeroi, Translator for the U.N. . . . it’s got a nice ring to it.

        1. “I don’t see many people actually working as translators.” I think that’s because 1. it’s freelance work 2. volunteer work 3. no one wants to talk because they charge an absurdly low or high amount and they don’t want you to steal it. If only would Japanese people take English seriously, there would be less humorous and badly translated signs everywhere. But then again, where’s the fun in that!

          How about farm workers? No pay but you get food and lodging.
          Acting or modeling? Any relatively decent foreign looking person with a big smile probably have a good chance of making decent money than to do the same thing back home.

          1. Every day I walk around with a big smile waiting for people to hire me, so I’m sure my big break is just around the corner. Just gotta figure out which corner that is.

          2. Hello my name is Nama i am a Cameroonian i will like to come and teach english or french in Japan or i can also be a translator i will need to know more about this thanks while waiting for your response,

      2. Another source of work that does not require hitting the books at all is…product testing work.

        Fetitch Jobs actual & recent examples:
        * Cigarette smokers group interview
        * Australian ladies group interview on Japan whaling!
        * Ladies smelling fragrances near Oji park
        * Africans wearing a pulse monitor on your wrist and swinging your arm
        * Product Testing car navigation system
        * Modeling TV work Eating rice at a restaurant
        * Home testing cosmetics
        * web survey on smartphone usage

        Typical Requirements:
        * citizenship
        * gender
        * ethnicity
        * age range
        * Usually no Japanese requirement

        If you don’t qualify for the active jobs, sign up for the job mailing list and follow me on twitter @usguyintokyo Will follow back any foreign person living in Japan

        This work is VERY popular. Why? It’s not English teaching.

          1. Yeah, honestly, I keep getting (through an acquaintances job platform) notifications about product testing work related to beard grooming. Can you grow a beard, and typically, are you white? seem to be the only requirements….
            Everyone reading these fantastic posts, come join me in Shanghai. There are many of us Asia-philes who secretly love and prefer Japan, but don’t want to limit ourselves to teaching English..though even teaching English here typically nets you $30-40 USD an hour as opposed to Japan’s ridiculously low wages ($10-20 an hour) and high cost of living….Wait, why do we love Japan so much? Oh, right, the women……plenty of Japanese girls in Shanghai, but they tend to be married to guys cheating on them each night with the other male staff :'( makes it easy to pick up married ladies, though…
            Not particularly into the whole “white guy used as revenge sex object” thing, I’ve luckily used my language skills to find a lovely, desperate to get married fast Nagasaki girl through a dating app.
            TL;DR: Come to Shanghai, and you’ll be welcomed into the the Japanese expat community as global anomalies (to the extent that Japanese people actually welcome anyone with more than a polite hajimemashite and maybe some nightly drinking, which never proceed much more deeply than that).

  1. 100. Media
    I’m not sure what exactly I should call it but I know a few people who work as model, voice actors or are even on TV. Others are journalists. Not very common, but there are people like that! ^___^

    Great blog post, very useful for anyone who’s interested in coming to and working in Japan! 😀

    1. There is a fair amount of this type of work, but it comes with a caveat. And that is, that it’s almost always piecemeal. There are a ton of little gigs you can do around Japan that pay fairly well, but while making $100 an hour may sound great, the reality is that it may be the only thing you do that day. You spend three hours commuting, an hour getting ready, and an hour working. It’s still a great job, but unless you’re doing it a lot, you need another job.

      I once had a gig that paid me $400 an hour, but I could rarely take the jobs, because they were always during the day. But I do have high hopes that in the future, the Japanese will invent longer days.

    2. Actually, I have a dream of doing some B-acting in Japan. Some random white guy in a commercial, crappy comedy show, or even a foreign villain character. I would do any shameful acting job that was not gay. Which is fine since they don’t have gays in Japan yet.

    3. I am a model actor. Its not steady income and there are too many people doing it freelance. If you can find a n agency that will give you a contract here or in your home country then occasionally visit Japan that would work. Or ifyou are an entertainer. Ckown singer musician like lounge singing you can make some money but would orobably need other work. Writing forget about it. Everybody wants to be a wroter except usually it doesnt pay. There are plenty of freelance translators butthe work is stressful. Also there is another job as a proofreader. It can sometimea pay well bit ive been here for 13 years and never found one. I yried freelance graphic design forget that japanese dont care about their website and if they do plenty of japanese will do it for 10 an hour. Its really hard to find work here so much so that i am trolling articles about how to find a job in Japan. Running a business is extra difficult here as well. The other job is wedding ceremonies. Your a fake priest who does 15 minutes weddings in Japanese for 129 us each wedding. Its seasonal work but you can makea living. Visa will be the difficult pary . Marry a Japanese woman then try to get permanant visa then divorce. Thats a 10 year investment. I would say come for vaction and stop fantasizing because its really hard to go back with a resume that reads gaijin model in japan for 10 yrs. Dont get me wrongpeople will be jelous but they wont hire you.

      1. Your attacking it from a Japanese perspective, and your correct, as a gaijin there isnt really much there for you locally supporting the Japanese, they will just find another Japanese, disqualify your work, or copy what your doing. You have to bring the outside to you. Allot of Japnaese are just now, (or have just put it off as long as they can) figured this out, because they dont speak native English, Chinese, Italian etc, have awkard social habits and phobias about foreigners. . How many uninformed but so eager to know about Japan, people do you see online? The number is too big. How many gaijin are coming in droves into Japan everyday?Just take a walk in Ginza or any tourist destination. There are business that are exploiting that niche, and business supporting those businesses (B2B) So a website services dedicated to that niche is in demand, as well as transport, lodging, meals, tour guides, etc

        If your going to just see the world through the locals view and be a “wedding minister” or some other ridiculous shit, then expect Japanese to laugh at you. You have to outwit them and use their ignorance and xenophobia against them.

        Your right about the gaijin model or eikawai gig, nobody going to hire you back home with that, its why I never chased it, and I think thats probably the reason you see allot of the drama and dumbshit you see in that community. You might get hired in China or another nearby SE country, but then what?

        The downside is working in Japan inc can be the suck but if you got a plan when to exit it, and keep at it, youll be in a good position when you want to leave

        1. “Marry a Japanese woman then try to get permanant visa then divorce. Thats a 10 year investment.”

          I forgot to add this one. I wouldnt recommend that for many different reasons. Firstly, immigration isnt dumb, they know all to well about this scam. Second, some Japanese women might be desperate to fill their love vacuum with a gaijin, but they also are keen on the fact you need a visa; however, youll still find the occasional one that will fall for it. Third, its kind of a social taboo to get divorced in Japan, with halfu kids, so your just making more problems

          Instead of bringing all that selfish drama, improve yourself and get the skills needed to succeed. Its like anything else in life, skills talk, bullshit walks. If you can walk over to a server config it or a network, router etc, you either can or cannot do it. Japanese know this and just watch you, and if your a doer, they put you to work, if your a bullshitter then they make you do bitch work.

  2. I’m always kind of surprised to hear about people who move to Japan without ever being there before. Like, I get it if you’re from an impoverished nation and trying to improve your standard of living, but I’m not sure why someone wouldn’t consider taking a trip to Japan before moving there.

    Then again, I’ve never seriously considered moving to another country, so maybe I don’t know what all is involved..

    1. I’d visited Japan seven times before I finally moved here, and still I was completely unprepared. But a lot of people come here cold turkey. I mean, flights aren’t cheap, so I understand that. Still, Japan’s a hard place to wrap your head around just by looking at it on the internet. Don’t believe anything you read. Except here, I mean.

  3. Ken,

    This was a CM… no doubt and so informative too. Hey, I hear there’s a lot of work in anime too; you ever thought about being a Voice Actor….hmmmm! Great work again and a wonderful read!

    1. You mean like Bugs Bunny or Porky Pig? Yeah, I could do that. I can make a really funny elephant noise. It’s just that teaching English is so comfortable. I even take naps at my desk. Guess I really need to buy another jar of of instant coffee.

      1. Wait, you got that all wrong Ken, that’s American cartoons not Japanese Anime, they’re much more sophisticated in Japan… Can you do a Squid or Octopus? No Really, with the new licensing structure the anime industry is setting up to quickly get products licensed for the US, they have loads of voice actors that work in Japanese and then on the English version and they end up hiring Americans here thru Funimation, because they couldn’t find many people in Japan that can do the work. Some of these people have become comicon regulars and stars here in their own right and were hired to do the latest Japanese inspired anime developed here in the US – the Avatar series.

        ALSO, with your writing talents, you could turn that into a writing career… they used 27 writers on the “The Last Airbender” and most of those are getting involved in the latest avatar – “The Legend of Korra”. You could do voice acting, both in Japanese and English and be a writer also, a TRIPLE-THREAT!! BTW, some of the guest voice actors have been people like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie and a host of other sorta famous people, so you get to meet an interesting bunch of people too. You like Homer Simpson don’t you; maybe you could do voice-overs in Japan for their subs….hmmmmmm! I see you more as a Moe Szyslak than Homer though… lol!

        BTW, the Simpson’s voice actors get 300k per episode now!!

        1. I think you pegged me right, Bud. Moe Szyslak would be a good fit. 300K per episode? Hmm, maybe I do need to look into this a bit more!

  4. When I get there by Feb. ’14, I already have a 3-year contract job waiting. This means I don’t have to job-hunt anymore. However, if my contract ends & Japan turns out to be my cup-of-tea, I will forever be indebted to this article. Hilarious and informative, like always (*_*).

    1. Wow, happy Valentine’s Day! That’s excellent. I remember when I first got here. Everything was neon, miniskirts, and ramen shops. Ah, memories. Well, now’s the time to start working on that plan . . .

      I mean me, actually, not you. But you too!

      1. Hope to bump into you when I get there. If it’s on V-day, I’ll buy you honmei-choko, I mean beers ;p. But how can I spot you? There’s just a lot of bubbly pink-cheeked babies all over Japan!

  5. Really liked this piece, Ken! Everything you wrote struck home for me as I’ve just gone through the process of landing a job in Japan recently. You speak truth!

    I’ve been in Japan now for just over 4 months (time flies!) and I think one of many surprises is that alcohol is so cheap and easily available! I don’t know what it’s like in other countries, but in my home country Australia, it’s definitely not like this. Plus in Australia, we’re not allowed to booze out in parks.

    Something else that’s interesting that I’ve noticed is that when I’m dressed in a suit for work, nobody questions that I belong here, even if I can’t speak Japanese. But once I go out in casual clothing and state I can’t speak Japanese, they assume that I’m a student. Guess the suits make me seem older than I am!

    You’re also right about the lack of career advancement after teaching English – aside from what you already mentioned, recruitment. Though the company I’m working for does have further opportunities in management and marketing..

    Out of curiosity, when you came to Japan how long were you planning to stay for? People keep asking me and originally the plan was 1 year, but maybe 2 years wouldn’t be so bad…hmmm, decisions.

    1. Yeah you know, I don’t really think I had a plan. I figured I’d stay a year, and then something better would come along and I’d play it by ear. Become a movie actor or a yakuza or something. But that never happened, and then I got a few more jobs and moved a few times and every year I wonder, Will I stay another year? Will I stay forever? Will I move to Thailand? Meanwhile, Japan’s so busy, you know? Like your mind is occupied with a million things, and if you spend time actually studying Japanese, then you’re even busier. So I didn’t have a plan, and I still don’t have a plan. Jeez, okay, tomorrow I’m making a plan. Or at least the day after that, definitely.

  6. I would like to add in here that tech jobs are actually not paid very well. Especially if you come fresh from university.

    I mean in other parts of the world you are proud of your graduation from an ivy-league school, and companies are offering you decent salaries – even though the economy isn’t doing so well.

    But in Japan, you’ll probably make more teaching English than writing software. Especially, but not only, as a fresh graduate.

    1. I’d have to agree, especially if you work as an ALT or a JET. Although you’re technically “at work” all day, you may only teach two or three classes in a day, which can mean over $30 an hour for the time actually spent “working.” A tech job might make more money overall, but being chained to a desk for eight hours is a hard bargain.

      1. If you have the IT skills then the salary for programmers is much better than for English teaching. And the job isn’t soul sucking and mind numbingly boring. Most people in IT work, love IT (see what i did there). Although not having students to date is a big downside 😉 OK the real big downside is Japanese bosses and their spirit crushing ijime. But that goes for English teaching as well.

        i’m getting ads for programmers and video CG designers. fulltime stable jobs with only conversational Japanese requirement. All of these jobs are in Tokyo

        Personally i like programming. And English teaching doesn’t seem so glamorous. And if there is no motivation beyond pay, i’d join a union. Have some fun people 😉

    1. Yeah, sorry about that. If I didn’t have the captcha, the spam would overflow my MacBook and fill up my apartment. The whole tech side of blogging is less than great. I blame Bill Gates. My next big thing: mailing out paper newsletters. I’m sure they’ll be a hit.

  7. 8. The OTHER jobs for foreigners(or the jobs for the “other” foreigners). You know the jobs non-English speaking immigrants to Japan usually take: factories, hostessing, driving a taxi, that sort of stuff.

    1. Ah, great point—the silent and overlooked majority of foreigners who aren’t from places like the UK and US. Funny how little attention they get . . .

  8. Love how a lot of the initial exposition is a beleaguered roundabout way of saying you didn’t really NEED to be an English Teacher, but you CHOSE to be! A bit of a wink wink to those of us in the know!

      1. I work for a proper Japanese company so it’s fascinating to me that this underclass of English teachers who blog exists. I’m glad I came across it!

        1. Well I guess someone’s gotta represent the underclass, be the voice of the great unwashed masses. Although I did manage to take a shower last week, so I still consider that nominally “washed.”

          I’ve also worked for two Japanese companies. Not sure how proper they were, but there were plenty of Japanese folks everywhere, that’s for sure.

          Now I don’t want to say “never again” but, uh, never again. The hours versus the salary just didn’t add up. Making the equivalent of $36,000 a year for 10 hours of teaching English per week, versus $60,000 for 50 hours of sitting at a desk . . . well, I’m not real good with math, but maybe long division can determine which is better. I really gotta get one of those calculator watches.

          1. So true! It gives you plenty of time to write all the great articles on this blog which is great. I must admire someone who throws away their career and future to focus on the now. That’s something I wish I could do, but between being a blue collar worker, raising a family and socializing with my Japanese friends, that’s gonna have to remain a fantasy for now.

  9. Hmmm. I’m graduating from my school in Kyoto and heading to Tokyo for around six months starting in march. So looking for some kind of job is going to be necessary, although partially I will just be looking after my poor GF who will be starting out at her new job. Lots of unpaid overtime apparently. Great.

    So, the problem is that I realised some time ago that even having very good Japanese doesn’t necessarily mean you will have tons of good jobs thrown at you. This came as something of a shock, after being spoiled by life in Australia where even dish washers have it great. Through some connections I have a couple of good gigs at some kindergartens, but moving to Tokyo I will know nobody.

    I might try some translating/interpreting work, but I swear to god I will walk out the door if they ask me what primary school I went to, sniff at how long I was in school, or try and pay me two thousand yen an hour (or less!).

    1. I doubt you’ll have any problems finding jobs in Tokyo. There are tons of them.

      The challenge is finding steady work at a good pay. You can usually find piecemeal jobs that will pay around 3000-3500 per hour, which sounds like a lot. The problem is that if you only get two of those a day, for an hour apiece, and they’re in opposite sides of Tokyo, you’ll spend all day and only come home with 6000-7000. On the other hand, if you can find a job that pays you 2000 per hour for 8 hours of work, that’s a lot more, and you don’t have to spend hours on the train. (Train time is a really big deal in Tokyo.) So hourly wage can be deceptive, is what I’m saying.

      As for qualifications, where you went to school, how good your Japanese is, a lot of the time it just doesn’t seem to matter. For translating and interpreting, I’m certain your Japanese will need to be top notch. But for teaching at a kindergarten, it might not make a bit of difference. Anyway, good luck and have fun! Remember, it’s supposed to be fun, right?

      1. I get 5000 yen per hour and 8000 yen per hour for my current gigs, both in two hours blocks once per week. It’s pretty good, but then I don’t think I would have gotten them if I didn’t speak good Japanese and have some good contacts. Even my good translating work has come from contacts via professors. Searching out companies online resulted once in a pretty bad experience where a woman tried to pay me a thousand yen per hour and then passively aggressively abuse me at the same time. So yeah, seems to be that who you know is pretty important for the good jobs.

        1. Wow, that’s really good money. Is that for translation/interpretation? There are certainly good situations out there, if you have the talent and patience to search for them.

          1. No that’s for Kindergarten work, but I got them thanks to the previous guy going back home as opposed to any formal application process. I recently had some work that probably ended up coming in at the same for some translation stuff, but that was a once off. ><

            1. Man, fifty and eighty bucks an hour for teaching kindergarten in Kyoto is a sweet deal. You sure you want to move to Tokyo? The city is like a vortex that sucks everyone in.

        2. Well sometimes i make 90,000 yen for 2 hours work modeling but then i may only work 2 days the nwxt month doing a saigen drama for 12,000yen for a whole day. The priblem in tokyo is getting steady income you can live off.

  10. Loved the article.

    One theoretical question, lets say I find work as a language teacher. How big is the chance to enroll and study in japanese university (that is, if they have courses in english) later on and clean toilets as a partimer?

    1. There are Japanese universities with courses in English, so I think enrolling in one would be possible.

      If you’re a language teacher, your Instructor visa would limit you to jobs related to Education, so your lifelong dream of cleaning toilets in Japan is probably out, along with any other labor-related job. On the other hand, if you came over on a Student visa, then you theoretically could, but then you probably couldn’t work as a language teacher. Guess you’ll have to choose which path best suits your long-term goals.

      1. Giving up on a ‘lifelong’ dream is out of the question, so those toilets better be filthy and ready.

        Thanks for your answer, and if I ever get to japan – beer on me.


    2. Lemme comment here as a person who is attending a Japanese university. You can work as a teacher while on a student visa, it’s just that you are legally restricted to 20 hours a month I think. The reality is though that there is a lot of work which can be done for cash in hand so you can get a bit done while studying, just not necessarily enough to pay your fees unless you live very cheap, and work a lot.

      I know a guy here in Kyoto who is from the states, and he worked for a few years teaching first, saving up like crazy. Then he got into the same school as me, and managed to get some exemptions from student fees on account of having low income. There are ways and means.

      The biggest question is… why would you want to enroll in a Japanese university? I attend a top state school, and I can’t say it compares favorably with a third rate university in an English speaking country. There are some good scholars. Some good facilities. Some good libraries. But you need to understand that high education here is largely a kind of filler in between the exams for getting into somewhere prestigious, and the exams for getting into a company later. The teachers pretend to teach, and the students pretend to learn. The system is made for the Japanese system, and that system is still largely closed off to the outside world in terms of behavior, standards, etc.

      If you come from a developing country and can get Japan to pay you to come with a scholarship (or your rich parents), it can be a semi-reasonable choice I suppose. Myself I do graduate research in something Japan related, but after experienced university here on exchange I planned from the beginning to only do a masters before going to do a PhD back in an English speaking country. Otherwise I would just be throwing my career away.

      I don’t want to discourage you from coming to Japan. You can have a lot of good experiences. But I can say for sure in my own case that it was my undergraduate experience in an English speaking country that changed who I was and set me on my future course. Get a quality education first if you can. It is really important. -Then- come to Japan.

        1. I agree with Urashima up there, I think that education from the US (can’t speak for other countries) is far better in quality than the ones typically found in Asia (Japan and China). In Japan, I heard it’s quite normal for university students to goof off for their university years and use it as their last four years of freedom before becoming a shakajin (member of society). The tuition in the USA may be expensive, but after experiencing schools in China and Japan–I realize you get what you pay for.

          I think grad school in Japan would be an excellent idea. If you find a good mentor professor, there’s a real opportunity to learn something you could never get at home.

          I recommend the MEXT scholarship if you haven’t heard of it already. It’s a scholarship that is sponsored by the Japanese government for foreigners, and it basically pays for everything. Free tuition for bachelors or masters (and ph.d if you want to continue), and a monthly stipend equivalent to a salaried worker. It’s a pain to apply, but if you get it–it’s the chance of a lifetime. Few countries offer scholarship deals THIS good.

          Anyway, good luck!

          1. It’s been a while, but man, really, thanks a lot for the link, I am bad with searching information (we all have our little complexes) so it’s a great help!

      1. Excuse me brothers..plz help me to find a job in japan …i want any job in japan….i m tired now to find it…can u do something..i nneed help of someone really this time

        1. I understand that feeling. I think a lot of people wish they could work overseas, including most of the population of Japan.

          You’re probably going to need to include some experience and qualifications, however.

  11. gosh, jobs in Japan from the US seems terrible, the world is split in teaching, washing disshes, or already having set a carrer and working in big company, never saw a american with a normal job, you know those jobs that average joes got. I’m glade things are way different here in Brazil, 愛知へ here we go

    1. There’s something about the Japanese mentality that makes working here much harder than it has to be. Japanese folks value hard work, so if it isn’t hard, they make it hard. It’s weird, but they really seem to get off on rushing around trying to do everything to the maximum extent possible. The idea of chatting at the watercooler and enjoying your time at work is, well, foreign.

      If you’re moving to Japan from overseas, your best bet is to find a job tailor-made for foreigners. The JET program springs to mind, where they bring over fresh-faced college grads and set them up teaching fifth graders for a couple hours a day and otherwise updating their Facebook pages. Those kind of jobs, while not exactly career-potential, are a good way to while away a few years in Japan. But other than that . . . real Japanese jobs at Japanese companies, yeah, I’d say terrible.

  12. “looks like a dog took hold of the Wanted section of the newspaper and somebody threw the remaining shreds in a bucket” – says the greasy-fingered guy in a Calbee-induced stupor!
    A fair point though, so I’ve just updated the site a bit to make it a little less messy and a lot better on a mobile device. Feel free to re-critique – and don’t hold back this time 😉

    1. Oooh, I would write such a witty and scathing reply if my fingers weren’t so greasy. So okay, yeah, touché. That’s French. It means something, but I’m not sure what.

      Anyway, you know I was just funning with you. The site (before and now; I’m not really sure what’s different) looks fine. I like the fact that the most recent information appears on top, and that the interface is simple. See how easy I am to please? Now if you could just get me a high-paying job where I don’t have to work too hard, I’ll be happy. Ah, good ol’ America, how I miss you.

  13. I will be graduating in December 2014 with a bachelors in Construction Management and a minor in Japanese (4 years). I’ve visited Japan twice for a couple weeks each time (Tokyo both times) and I really want to live in Japan. With the 2020 Olympics being there, I would think that I could find a job. Is teaching really the only way to get over there? I’d like that to be a last option. What would you suggest?

    1. Good question. And let me answer your question with a question. I really hate when people do that, but oh well. Sorry in advance.

      So what need would you be filling? Cause that’s what you’ve got to answer. What positions exist in Japan that Japanese people can’t do? What need do they have that would require immigrant labor to fill? Such jobs are usually either for unskilled workers who will work for lower wages than nationals, or for immigrants with very specialized skills that native workers can’t do.

      If you have a specialized skill that a Japanese company needs, then you’ve got a good shot. But be warned, just speaking English may not be that much of a plus. Plenty of educated Japanese people can do that. Don’t forget that most of the population has had eight years of fairly intense English education. They can’t speak worth a damn, but if the need arises their company will send them to English class for a few months until they can manage it. I teach a lot of those classes.

      I’d also like to mention that teaching English may not be your worst option. Okay, eikaiwa is probably near the bottom of the list, but there are plenty of other teaching jobs that are actually pretty good. It takes some time and effort to compete with others (i.e., me) for those jobs, but if you land a good job, it may be a whole lot better than working in an office.

      So what would I suggest? Hmmm. Oh boy.

      Okay, let me level with you, and I know I shouldn’t say this, and I know you don’t want to hear it, but here goes: Japan is not a great place to work. Actually, it’s pretty terrible for a lot of folks. I’d be negligent if I didn’t tell you that truth.

      Japan is a great place to visit. That’s because everybody works so hard, to ensure your visit is marvelous. So you want to be on the customer side of the transaction, not the worker’s side. My advice would probably be to look somewhere other than Japan. See, I told you you didn’t want to hear that.

      If you do come here, and you don’t want to teach, I’d advise you to hit the job boards hard, send out tons of resumes, and hold out for a good job, preferably with a foreign-based company. You should also take note of the jobs that are in highest demand. You may want to fine-tune your skill set, by taking other classes or getting further certifications, so that you can apply for those high-demand positions.

      1. Thanks for being honest! I do speak decent Japanese (4 years in college) so I would hope that would help. Let me ask you another question. How might I go about getting on board with foreign companies already in Japan?

        I’m not looking to become rich in Japan. I’d like to live there and have a chance to contribute to society and be able to provide for myself and the lady. I have a future wife (who is much better at speaking Japanese) who I would take with me. Are there age limits for becoming a teacher?

        I love the culture and being there just made me want to live there even more. I guess in any country there should be natives who can handle most any job position, of course there are exceptions.

        The States are becoming increasingly less appealing to live in (still a great place) and I don’t want my 日本語 to go wasted. Love the blog, you make me jealous haha.

        1. Not sure where you are in the states but many multinational companies will look for Japanese speakers in the US because they need someone that can work with their offices in Japan. It’s a good way to start and eventually get yourself relocated. With your construction background, there may be some natural connections; does Komatsu have an office near by or Hitachi heavy industry?

          If you go to Japan and give it a go; I’d stick to multinational companies or Japanese companies that are looking to go multi-national like Uniqlo, Rakutan, Softbank, etc. It’s slim pickings but persistence can pay off.

          Another option, China. China’s doing big business with Japan, even through they publically hate each other. They are frequently hiring Japanese speakers to make in-roads. Many companies in China speak Chinese with English being a strong second language. If you know English and Japanese, you could find a sweet setup….although living in China (not a fan myself but your mileage may vary).

          1. I agree with what Ken said whole heartedly about working in Japan: It’s not a fun place to work. Get ready for crazy overtime and selling your soul to the company–and for no extra money. The main reason I left Japan, actually, is because I didn’t want to deal with the work ethic.

            Since Timo brought up China I’d like to share my two cents. I came to Shanghai on a whim looking for a job (not very smart) and honestly didn’t know how to go about searching for a job. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my Japanese skills were crazy high in demand. In Shanghai it’s easy to find a Chinese-Japanese speaker, but an English-Japanese one is extremely rare (and if you can speak Chinese, you’re gold). I had 5 job offers after one week of being here, and by the 2nd week I was employed at a new company. Shanghai is full of Japanese companies and has the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. You will not forget Japanese here.

            On the other hand, due to the Senkaku island hoo-ha a lot of Japanese companies are pulling out of China and the job opportunities are decreasing. Japan is looking to Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia etc… instead for investment opportunities.

            Also, the pay here is not as good as the USA. The average salary of a full time employee in China is about 5000-7000 RMB (800-1000 USD a month). Of course, the Japanese speaking foreigner will make double that, but if you’re looking for big bucks then I don’t think China can provide that.

            Plus, you’ll live in China. China isn’t an easy place to live in, and from the sound of your post it sounds like you want to go to Japan mainly because, well, you want to live in Japan. Anyway, finding an English-Japanese speaker here is tough. I’m actually looking for someone to replace me at my company and I can’t find anybody.

            Good luck in Japan! I’m sure you’ll find a job, English teaching or not 🙂

        2. Yeah, I can understand where you’re coming from. Those are some of the same reasons I don’t go back to the States myself.

          As for getting a job, I’d say applying online is one of the better options. Networking doesn’t seem to work as well in Tokyo as it does in the States, and the vast majority of jobs are in Tokyo. People are quite busy, and it’s not in the culture to help out strangers, or even friends. In some of the smaller cities, networking seems to be marginally effective. But that’s just my own experience. I’m sure there are success stories. Going door to door is virtually guaranteed not to work, from what I’ve seen.

          I also agree with TimO that you would do well to look into firms that do business with Japan, even if they’re not based in Japan. There aren’t a lot of those jobs, but who knows, you might get lucky.

          I don’t see any effective age-limits on teachers in Japan. I know several guys in their 50s who work here just fine.

          1. Still need a secretary? Because unless I find a job that’s what I’ll be doing. What makes me a different candidate from the rest? Nothing! ha ha ha. Oh god.

            1. I’m now thinking more along the lines of a butler, or better yet, a sexy maid. Duties will include brewing up strong coffee, sweeping beer cans into corners, and telling me how fabulous I look at all times. I’m considering outsourcing part of this to India.

          2. I have to say that from my experience, networking is WAY more important in Japan than in the USA, and hugely vital in Tokyo.

          3. Hi Ken,

            I’m a Uganda…which fortunately makes me black but with British education.
            Just wondering whether u have ever bumped into a black man esp from Africa, teaching in Japan.
            Oh BTW I very much like the way you write.


            1. I’ve known a few black English teachers here, but none from Africa. I know a white guy from South Africa—does that count?

              The phrase “Native English speaker” should be near the top of your resume (assuming you are). I’ve interviewed tons of English teachers, and for me, that’s the most important factor. Your work ethic and personality are also of paramount importance. I don’t place any particular importance upon your country of origin, and as for you skin color, I could care less. But again, that’s just me.

  14. Hi! First off, I love your blog, it’s so blunt and straight 🙂
    About the certification, are you being serious when you say even online certification is acceptable? TEFL certification is expensive, but there’s a deal on groupon- how legit does your certificate have to be to get your foot through the door?

    1. Yes, I am actually. I know I write a lot of off-the-wall stuff, but this is for real.

      Flip the situation around and think about it. Picture you’re an American, in the U.S., interviewing Japanese people. You need a Japanese teacher. So someone walks in and they look Japanese, and they can speak Japanese. Already, they’re about 80% there. So you ask them for a demo lesson, and they do a good job. Now they’re at 90%. On their resume it says they have a Language Specialist certification from the Japanese Institute of Educators. You ask to see it and they show you a large paper printed in Japanese and affixed with a gold seal.

      See what I mean? It doesn’t matter what that paper says or where it’s from. The fact is that most Japanese people wouldn’t know the difference between Columbia University and the University of Arkansas, much less what any of these certifications are.

      Now, bear in mind that you may be interviewed by a “foreigner.” That is, someone from Canada, France, Australia, or wherever they’ve got a lot of black and white people. That person may actually know the difference between their ass and a hole in the ground, but maybe not, and anyway, who really knows what half of these certifications are or how you got them?

      You should also bear in mind that half the places interviewing you are also pretty sketchy. What do you know about them? How do you know a good eikaiwa/school district/university from bad one?

      Of course, there are some jobs that have specific requirements, a Masters in TEFL or a CELTA certification. And having those things will help. But if you’re just trying to get over here and get your foot in the door at a normal English-teaching gig, you actually need very little.

    1. It’s my new hair style. I’m sporting a perm for 2014.

      Yeah no, getting a job as an ALT is a breeze. The challenge is getting a good position. Basically, there are a number of companies that will hire you as an ALT and place you in higashi bumfuck, and take a third of your salary. Those companies are just the middle-man between you and the school board. The trick is to get hired directly by a local school board. Unfortunately, the damn middle-man companies are already in place for the majority of school boards (and universities as well). So you can get a job as an ALT, but somebody else is going to be taking a big cut of your paycheck.

      1. Higashi bumfuck, huh? Even if you apply to an ALT position that says Tokyo?
        Reading through your blog, the work environment in Japan sounds grim indeed. How much better would it be exactly, to work for a foreign company?
        I realize I keep bombarding you with questions (sorry but not sorry?), I honestly just want to see the world outside of the U.S.and I’m trying to figure out the logistics. If I have a chance of building a career in Japan, great, or I’m gonna have to go back to the US in a year and start applying to grad school because that’s what people do when they’re bums, right?
        I might just have to live vicariously through you 🙂

        1. Wow, so many good questions. Okay, a few more thoughts.

          Yeah, if you apply for a job in Tokyo, that’s what you’ll get. Bear in mind, though, that saying “Tokyo” is like saying “California.” You could end up in San Francisco or in Bakersfield. It’s a huge place, is what I mean. I’d also seriously consider if you really want to live in Tokyo. It’s a great place to visit, but a really hard place to live.

          As for working in Japan, okay, I’m just one guy, so don’t take what I say as the Word of God. I’m merely trying to give a realistic portrayal of what you might expect here, based upon the experiences of myself and others I know, plus my laser-like powers of observation. Overall, I’d say that yeah, working here is pretty bad. Even if you can find a decent job, your chances of promotion or future opportunities are often zero. Even less than zero, actually, since many jobs come with a built-in contract limit of somewhere between 3 and 7 years, after which it’s sayonara. Japan is really set up for foreigners to come here for a couple of years, and then get the hell out. That’s the way I see it.

          I know a few people working for foreign corporations, and those places are, well, weird. Basically, the home office in Dueseldorf or wherever sets up a company here that looks like a normal company, and has all the normal company rules. But because it’s in Japan, all the people running it are Japanese, so that makes it weird. The Japanese people will all work until midnight, and the foreign staff will all try to leave around 6 p.m. There may even be different contracts depending upon whether you’re Japanese or not, so that two people doing the same job receive different pay and have work conditions, with the worse conditions always being applied to the Japanese nationals. Japan is the only country I know of that discriminates against its own people.

          Now let’s talk overtime. In Japan, if you work over 40 hours a week, by law you’re entitled to overtime, same as in the U.S. At one company I worked for, they were quite clear–no working over 40 hours. That sounded great, until someone from HR explained to me that I would have to punch out every day at 5 p.m., at which point I was “free” to continue working. And since I couldn’t possibly complete the mountain of tasks piled on my desk every day, I would up working late every night and on weekends for free.

          So I guess I’d say that, in general, foreign companies are structured to be decent places to work, but that, depending on the management, things may go very differently than intended.

  15. I’ve actually been putting off finding ALT jobs and applied to some positions at international hotels instead. It’s definitely a stretch, but let’s see how that goes. I know it’s common for people to wanna live the fast life in Tokyo, but Naha actually sounds pretty attractive. Don’t ask why.

    Honestly, the working conditions don’t scare me as long as I have enough money to eat at the end of the day. As crazy as this sounds, my real fear is coming here for a year or two and not improving my Japanese. To give you an idea how crazy I am for this language, the two years I spend in college learning Japanese were valuable just for the immersion experience. In terms of grammar, most of the vocab, and even most of the Kanji, Genki I and II taught me what I’d already self-taught myself in high school in less the time. Funnily enough, when I ask myself “why Japanese?”, I don’t have a real answer. It could have just as easily been Quenya. I mean, they’re equally as useless for someone living in the U.S.

    My other fear is- and I know it could just be a result of fear mongering – how accepted will I be here, really, as an Indian? There’s always an tiny, nagging voice about how my skin color will be seen in different countries no matter how attractive I am. Oh well. At least “I know how to make curry” might make for a good conversation starter.

    Ummmm, this got horribly off topic, didn’t it? My final question for you, I promise: How did you manage to stay in Japan for 10 years when the system says you should leave after 4-7?

    1. I haven’t been here quite that long, since I went back and forth a lot during “the early years.” This is currently year six of living here continuously. Still, it seems like a mighty long time, especially whenever I visit the U.S. these days. It’s like that country’s been taken over by a race of mutants.

      Anyway, let me clarify what I meant . . . it’s not uncommon for contracts to limit the number of years you can work at a place. Many direct-hire ALT and university jobs (some of the best jobs in Japan) have such contracts, so that once your time is up, you’re out the door. That makes life here quite unstable, as I’m sure you can imagine. Other jobs, such as contract ALT, eikaiwa, and some corporate gigs, have such poor working conditions or pay that you probably wouldn’t want them for longer. Either way, you can stay indefinitely, so long as you’re okay with having to start over at a new job every few years.

      As for being Indian, I am certain you’ll receive different treatment than I do as a white person. Whether you’ll view that as good or bad, I can’t say. I have friends of “other” races here, and I must say I rather envy the way they don’t get singled out, so I actually view not being white as a plus. But then the grass is always greener, you know.

      Keep on studying Japanese, especially reading. That’s what really pays off in the long run. Well, that and listening, speaking, and writing. Ah, just do a lot of everything!

      1. On being taken over, it’s one growing reason I want to leave the US now:

        Japan is wonderful, hopefully it will stay that way.

        Anyway, I’m 31 and I graduated with a master’s in HR a few years back but never landed a role that I could grow in, in the States. So I am thinking about leaving but I worry if Japan has an age limit for English teachers; I didn’t learn Japanese, only some Spanish. A prior post suggested this is not the case, but I sense in other countries there is an age limit. I don’t want to find myself without work at 40 to 50 something and back in the US without much to my name; not even contributions to Social Security in a dead-end US administrative role.

        Do you know of 40s+ foreigners having to return after the 7 year mark. And what happens if I return to the states and just turn around and re-apply to another teaching role for another 7 years? I would be older, and maybe not attractive to hire vs. fresh college grad?

        Thanks for your time/feedback!

        1. There’s no practical age limit in Japan, so you’ve no worries there. I’ve seen people come here in their 40s and have no trouble getting work, if they have solid qualifications.

          Some other things you mentioned, however, do seem problematic. Like “hopefully it will stay that way.” You probably don’t need to be Nostradamus to see the writing on the wall. Japan has changed at a rate that’s comparable to the U.S., and I expect it’ll change a lot more in the future. Whatever wonderful image of “Japan” you have, it’s already moved past that.

          Naturally, coming here when you’re 20 is one thing, because you can screw off and still go back to the U.S. and you’re only like 25. But as you get older, you face a tough choice. Return to the U.S. when you’re 40 and try to get a job, or stay and face the coming economic crunch and buckling of the Japanese Security System.

          Much as I like Japan, I think we have to recognize that, in moving here, you’re not exactly catching a rising star.

      2. The 5 or 6 year mark is where most decide to stay longterm or leave. We went back to the US for a year around that time. The econiny was bad and since all i did was acting here and jad a fegree and hardly any contacts and was needy people wouldhireme and so called friends avoided me because i was looking for work as was everybody else.i was both over and under qualified. We eneded up coming back. We had a daughter and she just went back to her kindergaryen and ny wifes job had an open door policy upon her return. I guess what im saying is its time to make thechoice. We bought a hoise so were stuck here. But everyday i am looking for work for 13 years. Its exhausting.

    2. Naha is a great choice. I worked at a hotel there for a year and loved it. Working conditions were super relaxed and pay was decent. I found my job through “Hello Work” but I had a student visa that allowed me to work 30 hours a week. There are a lot more Indians in Japan these days especially in Tokyo — not so much in Naha though.

      1. That’s excellent feedback. Thanks for the input. Naha here I come. Now all I need is a visa that allows me to work in the hotel industry . . . guess it’s back to school!

      2. Thanks for your comment!
        What a coincidence. I was actually looking at the hotel business in Naha since it’s an international industry, but it’s a long shot. Why on earth would they hire me from overseas when they have perfectly qualified individuals in the area already?
        But I just KNEW it, there’s something about Naha that makes it seem like a good place to live. Is there any big reason why you decided to leave?
        I’m guessing you’re fluent in Japanese to have been able to find a job through “Hello Work”.

  16. I will, whether I get a job in Japan or not 🙂
    SIx years is definitely a long time, especially with all the instability you’re describing…must take guts.
    Thanks for answering all my questions!

  17. isnt it that most people choose teaching, because thats the only chance they got to come to anime wonderland?
    and how many complain later? then in the end, most come for a good time, not a long one…
    what people should bring is time and patience… it too me nearly three years to get a job here… and what most forget is that they need some qualifications to get a visa, so dish washing and whatever isnt even a possibility, unless they go the marriage route (probably not the biggest problem, since most rely on a partner anyway)…
    also, many people forget that they might not live in tokyo or osaka, because they get placed somewhere else, for example…

    and for the indian guy, i had different experiences… first, of course everybody assumes youre in the it-business… second, japanese do mind skin colour…

    what i found to be most important is experience and that you like what you do… that convinces japanese companies more than anything… enough experience (preferably a more or less rare job, of course) on your cv, makes people listen.. then you have to convince them that youre made for that job… many japanese work in companies that they like and japanese employers love that, because they can be sure that the employees do there best to make the company better… japanese is a big plus, of course… but i got to say, that my japanese isnt bad (or maybe even good), but im not fluent at all…

    i would rather recommend doing what you like to do, before you work somewhere and regret it eventually… its sure not the easiest way (for me its been three years and over 2000 cv), but im sure it pays off… and youre not stuck in a teaching job, with little chance to get a better salary, or a better job and you dont have to change your job too often…

  18. Some questions:

    1} I am 36 yrs old and currently studying my HSC (Higher School Certificate – Grades 11 & 12). What would be the best degree to study at Uni to increase my chances of landing a ‘good’ job in Japan?

    2} How much harder is it for a woman to get a job in Japan?

    3} When it comes to immigration, how much of a disadvantage is it to have four children and an ill husband? Is it worth pursuing my dream or is it a lost cause?

    Thank you for your time!

    1. Hi, thanks for asking.

      So, I’d say that a degree in almost any Liberal Art would set you up well. Something like English or TESOL would stand out nicely on a resume.

      I don’t think being male or female makes any difference when it comes to teaching English. Looking professional is the most important thing.

      As for emigrating with a family, I suppose that getting your children into school here would be one of the main challenges. I’m thinking an international school, and that probably takes some cash. From an employment perspective, I don’t believe an interviewer can ask if you have kids, and your husband’s medical status won’t come up. But in terms of Is-this-realistic? or Is-this-a-good-idea?, I think that’s where you’re going to have to spend some time thinking. But most dreams are achievable if you’re willing to work for them. Ganbatte!

      1. Thank you very much for your reply. Hard work is one thing I am very good t. You have set my mind at rest.

        Thank you for your time.

  19. Hey thanks again for this post and the links. I had known about gaijinpot but not the others. My SO got a job as a consultant with a gaishikei recently, and I want to be around in Tokyo at least for the next looking after her a bit before moving on to PhD. Problem is I’m too old now for a working holiday visa, so its either a tankitaizai visa (I can use my UK passport for six months apparently) and no official work ;-(, or a shuro visa and get to enjoy full time office life. I’m thinking about the second choice just for the money. Probably in-house translating. Well see how long I last.

    1. Well, there’s always the nuclear option, right? I mean, you get married, and Boom! all your problems disappear.

      1. Hehe. Well she is Chinese not Japanese, but actually it might help because if your spouse has a 就労ビザ then you can get a “spouse visa” or something such.

      2. Oh Ken, ‘the nuclear option’ you’re so romantic… If it wasn’t for all the elegant creatures you regularly mention while visiting drinking places, I would think you have been nuclear-ka-boomed yourself already.

        1. It’s the last great frontier. Like the Arctic. A vast, frozen landscape upon which nothing can . . . wait, that doesn’t sound any better. Yeah, maybe I just need to romance up my environment a bit. Like with some red wine and candles, or a video of a fireplace or something. Anyway, let me polish off this malt liquor and then I’ll have a think about it.

  20. Do you think while gazing at a half empty malt liquor near Tokyo, sometimes?
    Maybe I can help you elaborate a master plan about making your environment more velvety.
    Not for me, I mean. I don’t drink wine, I like the city sodium street lights better than candles and I prefer to look at marriage the same way you’d look at the Artic… from far away. No, not for me, but for other heel wearing animals, you know. Not that i think you need my help – I’m sure your impressive chopstick and drinking skills are more than enough to catch any bird you wish. I was just thinking, as you suggested you might need to reformulate your thoughts about engagements. You know. With the distance. I thought maybe I could add my thinking power to yours.

    1. Gazing up at the sodium lights while drinking a couple of tall cans of malt liquor actually sounds awesome. Pretty sure that would adjust my master plan a bit, as well as my attitude. Although it looks like I’ll be taking a break from Tokyo for 2014 . . .

      1. Well.
        (This perfectly British introduction has nothing to do with watching my fair lady last night – this is just how I speak English).
        I am chasing sodium shades in Tokyo most week end, hence my suggestion.
        See, I’m somewhere in the middle, between the city and the sea just before the chain of mountain, at the big snowy mountain turn right, dodge the bear waking up (back up slowly, do not run): when there’s no more sodium light, only naked trees and weird Japanese animals running among them, you are close. You will easily recognize me: I am the girl with two arms and two legs, no sense of colour coordination and who is sarcastic without wanting to.
        Now, if you receive so many invitations to share a drink (and that was a mother-f-word-ing huge social effort for me, I don’t do alcohol, I don’t do ‘sharing a drink’, I do coffee and my book) that you just don’t have the time for mine, I will not be offended.
        ‘course not.
        I’m not that type of person.
        At all.
        No, no really.
        I assure you.

        1. Coffee and a book sounds lovely actually, since I’m making an effort to reduce the amount of alcohol I consume. In fact, I haven’t had a drink since lunch, so there. However, there is the issue of geography, as I will be absent from Tokyo, though not Japan, for some time.

  21. There are extras or acting jobs that pop up frequently – for those who need to supplement their fairly average teaching pay in Tokyo. ie post the usual Eigo job openings but sometimes in the forums there are some interesting extra work on TV shows and even an Opera extra. An extra requires no Japanese knowledge.

      1. Ohhhhhhh (note the French exasperation aura around the 7th ‘h’ ).
        You win, I give up. I won’t even ask where you are.
        Nevermind. I can make conversation with my imaginary friends, the cat is very hugable and at least I can order my coffee without giving a damn about what you might think.
        Let’s never meet sometimes.

        1. Sorry, you know, I don’t meet people as often as I probably should. Since moving to Japan, my normally outgoing nature has become subverted, and I’ve acquired a strange wariness towards new people, ginko trees, convenience store yakitori…it’s something I need to work on.

          1. Sure. You work on that.
            On my end I’ll work on convincing myself I’m worthy of being met.
            Scrap that. I’ll work on convincing myself I’m worth something full stop.
            Where’s my tea? Oh here. For a second I almost panicked.

  22. Hallo, I had a lot of fun reading you guys, and I would love to land in Japan, even when my chances are to die by chips/snacks overload (not sure if by hash/weed there would be possible). So as Spanish software developer with a masters degree, what do you think about?? Hope to get an apartment there is easier than in Berlin (Also german looks pretty difficult to me). So I got tired of Europe and want some exotical, different stuff but with people crazy about technology inside, right?? Danke und gruße

    1. Getting an apartment shouldn’t be a big deal. But you may want to visit first to be sure that people are as “crazy about technology” as you want. That may have been true in like 1985, but now the most advanced technology you’re likely to find is probably coming out of the U.S. or Korea.

      1. Mmmm Korea, I still remember my Hapkido lessons in Spain, maybe it’s time to kick some asses there. Is there any ruleof7 about Korea?? I’ll start to reaearch right now as it looks more straightforward than trying to get in order all my documents here (even being European citizen) Do you know if they have got sunflower seeds there? As an addict I find it complicated to get them outside Spain.

  23. Heya Ken.

    First of all thanks for the funny and great post.

    Secondly, I do have questions regarding going over to Japan. I hope you do not mind responding to them.

    1. I am 30 (might as well be 31) this year and I have little work experience prior. I earned my CELTA last year, and my degree is on its way to me (distance learning). I do have a provisional letter stating that I have graduated through distance studies from an American university. How big are my chances of landing an actual English teaching job? I am Asian (Singaporean, to be exact) and my level of English is definitely native level, but I have, as yet, no way to prove that. I graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (Psychology & Sociology) by the way.

    2. I learned some basic Japanese on my own and probably need to actually take JLPT N4 to show off some results, but otherwise I can communicate, if in a broken way, to Japanese and be understood at least half the time. I can also understand spoken Japanese, though not if it is too fast or has too many words I might not understand. Will this turn up in an interview for an English teaching job?

    3. Where would you recommend to look in terms of ALT job positions? I would rather try and skip the middle man companies, but you said that is damn near next to impossible now. Are there ALT positions OUTSIDE of Tokyo? I am looking to live somewhere suburban or semi-rural where the cost of living is not high, in the long term. Will being an ELT work for that? My main aim is to get out of Singapore (welcome to the other place where the country discriminates against its own citizens as a supposed “first-world” country), and live in Japan where I can be immersed in the culture but not in the absurd working and living conditions you and others have mentioned in bigger cities like Tokyo, which might as well be a metropolis anyway.

    4. What kind of online sites or where in Japan (semi-rural, suburban) would you suggest I look for ALT jobs in? I understand that getting a working visa from non-major companies, especially ones outside of the major cities, could be a big problem. However, that is about the only way I can see myself heading there now, and trying NOT to live in a major city like Tokyo.

    5. You mentioned that being an ELT is NOT a long-term consideration. Someone else said the exact same thing from other sites that I know of. With my sociology studies, I would hope to land a job in that sector in the long term, but I also understand that the term is vague and the area is not well observed in Japan outside of certain sociological associations, and I have my doubts as to where they even operate. Would it be possible to land a job in the education sector trying to make a change, for example curriculum development in English, or research in English, or the like? I know this is a bit far out, so it is ok if you know nothing about this and skip this question.

    Many thanks! I hope you will be able to take some time out to help me with this, and I am sorry for posting so many questions at once.

    1. Oooo…lotta questions. It’s like an essay test. Let’s see how well I do here.

      1. Your chances are great. If you have anything that looks like a bachelor’s degree and you can speak English well during the interview, you can probably get a job.

      2. Most places will throw some Japanese at you during the interview, just to mess with you. Speaking Japanese will help you understand important workplace issues like not to put your lunch in the fridge, or why we can’t take out the burnable garbage except on Wednesdays. So it’s not really an issue, is what I’m saying. As long as you can show up on time, look presentable, and teach something resembling an English class, nobody actually cares what your Japanese is like.

      3. Okay, this is the important part. First of all, good choice on deciding to be an ALT, and yes, there are tons of position outside of Tokyo. Every small town in Japan has got some English teacher riding his bike through the rice paddies on his way to teach hordes of little barefoot Japanese kids.

      And yes, life in the sticks avoids the high prices and stress of Tokyo, so good choice there.

      But…I think you should be focusing on the middle-man companies (派遣会社). The ones that hire you, take 30% of your salary, and send you off to work in a school. There’s a few reasons why you’d want to.

      First of all, such a company can help you get situated over here. They can set you up with an apartment, a cell phone, and the all-important visa. They’re also the easiest way to get a job over here, since they have a vested interest in providing warm bodies to employers.

      Companies like that have much lower standards in interviews. School districts hiring directly can take their pick of seasoned instructors who already live in the country. The middle-man companies just want somebody who’s not going to flake on them.

      This is also the point at which your race and nationality might be an issue. School districts that hire directly will require job experience as an ALT. Beyond that, they’ll probably be preferential to people from the big English speaking countries, like the U.S., England, Australia, etc. If you looked Asian and were from, say, Canada, interviewers would probably not give much thought to your English ability. But looking Asian and being from, well, Asia—now they might have a concern. So the bar could be higher, simply because of your race. I’d suggest wearing a blonde wig and changing your name to Biff.

      Again, the middle-man companies avoid all that issue. They don’t care much how you look, so long as you’re breathing and can sign a one-year contract. So I’d go with them, get over here, do a year, and then start looking for something better once you’ve got experience.

      4. As for sites, I don’t have any secret Japanese job search sites that I didn’t include in this article, so I’d scour those listings first. You should know that the school year starts April 1, so the months leading up to April are when there are the most listings and you need to be searching hard.

      5. Yeah, it’s not a great long-term plan, honestly. But neither is it the worst job in the world either. And there are other opportunities in Education, in curriculum development, textbook sales, all kinds of stuff. I’d say get over here first though, any way you can, and then start looking to branch out.

      Hope that helps. Good luck!

      1. Thanks a lot Ken! I will be sure to take your advice into account while I look for ALT positions over in Japan. I applied to several openings thanks to GaijinPot already, and will of course be scouring the rest of the resources that you and others have so kindly provided. I will be taking the Certificate of Proficiency in English exam this June, if I do not get a job over in Japan by then, so I hope that certification will be a bigger help against discrimination (because we got to admit it exists, unfortunately) in employment.

        Good info on the ALT middle-man companies though, I will definitely be sure to look for them more now and check out such listings. Once again, many thanks!

        1. That’s great. Go for it and don’t get discouraged. Looking for a job is hard and depressing work, but (and I hate to say this) just take anything, get that visa, and get over here. Once you’re in Japan, do a good job, complete your contract, and then find something better, if you need to. Good luck!

      2. This is quite encouraging, Ken. Thank you!!! I’m from China and just quit my job in order to move to Japan to be with the guy I want to be with. I’m a journalist and was working like cracy at an English daily newspaper; I have a Masters in the communication area (in English), but I don’t have any certificates in English proficiency and teaching. Besides, I only started learning the kanas last month. I saw all the English teaching positions ask for native speakers. I’m not one, but I think I can teach well. Do you think I may have a shot? And those terms you mentioned, JET, ALT…etc. I was exactly planning to knock the doors one by one while visiting Japan for a month. Thanks again!

        1. Absolutely. With your background and a Masters in Communication, you’re well positioned. I’ve known several people from non-Western countries who worked quite successfully in Japan. It really comes down to your spoken English. And I don’t necessarily mean accent. It’s just immediately apparent when somebody has a natural command of English. There’s a flow. It’s not too fast, and you don’t seem like you’re trying to impress anyone. You’re just speaking it as your native language. If you can do that, then it won’t matter much where you’re from.

          Knocking on doors though…hmmm, that kind of went out about the time Al Gore invented that thing, uhh what’s it called…oh yeah, the internet. Get a Japanese address and phone number on your resume, and start applying for jobs online. Good luck!

  24. Hi KEN,
    I have a serious question, I have a wife working and living there in JAPAN for 16 years. We are married here in philippines 2 years ago, She has a permanent VISA, my question is, Is there any possibilities that we can be together there in JAPAN? Does the embassy or Immigration can give me VISA to work there? Thank you….

    1. Wow, I completely don’t know. I believe, for no good reason, that if you’re married, you should be able to get a visa as well.

      I think you would go to Japanese Immigration and get a form. Then you’d probably need to complete that and provide a copy of your marriage certificate. So I guess I’d start with the immigration bureau, and see what they say. Wish I could be more helpful, honestly.

  25. My girlfriend lives in Japan Sapporo Hokkaiko she is Japanese we met in Australia and I am English, I would like to go to Japan next year to be with her. What is my best option, maybe working holiday visa and which time of year is best to look for work.

    1. I believe that British citizens can get a 1-year Working Holiday Visa, and if so, that seems like an excellent option.

      While some jobs are available year-round, most companies start their new year on April first, so the best time to look for work is in the months leading up to that, even far in advance. I’d probably start looking in November, and then get serious in early February.

  26. Hey so I’ve always wanted to teach English and I was wondering if you think I would be an eligible candidate for a job in Japan. I’m a College student majoring in foreign languages (specializing in Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Russian) and minoring in teaching English as a second language. In middle school I taught English at a summer camp in Slovakia and have had countless tutoring gigs for Japanese. I am currently studying abroad in Kyoto too. So yeah just curious, I heard that a lot of companies are getting a lot more difficult to get into because of all of the flakes so I was wondering if I had a shot, though translating wouldn’t be bad either.

    1. You sound pretty good on paper, so let’s get a few more specifics. First of all, visa. What’s that like? Some student visas allow you to work a certain number of hours per week (I think). Any company that hires you will want to ensure you can work legally.

      Next, are you over 20? Because that would help. I’m not sure what the law is, but my sense is that being under 20 would make you less desirable, especially for teaching adults. On the other hand, you might look good to a kindergarten, so maybe that’s an option.

      Then there’s the issue of how long you’re going to be in Japan. Most places are going to want you to stick around for a while. A year or two would be a good time-frame.

      Next up, bachelor’s degree. Do you have it? Because with it, your life’s going to be a whole lot easier. Without it, uh, harder.

      Lastly, what’s your country of origin? You’ll be better off being from New Zealand than, say, the Philippines. Not that one country speaks English necessarily better than the other, but that’s just the way it works. Maybe they’ll want you to regale them with tales of sheep or something, I dunno.

      That’s just some stuff off the top of my head. There are certainly jobs out there, everything from conversation cafes to private tutoring gigs. So do some searching, stay positive and, you know, 頑張って. Smiley face.

      1. I am a United States Citizen, just turned 19, in my third year of college (don’t have a B.A. yet), and looking into getting TEFL certified. I was thinking about going through something like Jet or Interac after I graduate next year or do you think it would be better to try to get hired privately?

        1. If you can, I’d do the JET program, for sure. That’s a pretty good gig. The salary and working conditions are eminently reasonable.

  27. Hello Ken,
    I’m from Soutern India with Bachelor’s degree in computer science and 1 year work experience in a IT related MNC. I got bored of that job and resigned it to complete JLPT levels. Right now I have completed JLPT N3 level and looking for a job which has opportunities to work in japan. As an Indian, it’s really hard to find any chances of working in Japan other than IT!
    I know that I won’t have much of a culture shock when I come there, as I have learnt a hell lot of things about their culture because I just love it! I have applied to many postings in gaijinpot and other sites from IT positions to even teacher jobs(my medium of education was English for 16 years including university).
    Coming to my main question,
    – which job do you think is suitable for my profile till now?
    – I’m also considering to take up TEFL online certification. Will it be helpful for a non-native english speaker like me?

    Also, unfortunately I don’t have enough finances now to take a trip to japan and get to know the situation.

    1. Since IT and English are both valuable commodities in Japan, I’d say you’re off to a great start. What field do you want to work in? That’s question one.

      If you want to teach English, your opportunities may depend upon how good your accent is. You’ll be competing for jobs with people from England, Australia, and the U.S., so sounding like an interviewer’s idea of a “native English speaker” is quite helpful. Your grammar, judging from what you wrote, looks fine. And yes, I’d say having a TEFL or TESL certificate would be a big plus, so definitely get that.

      As an aside, when you say you love Japanese culture, that’s great. I do too. But in terms of culture shock, it’s probably not going to come from the things you love. So how well do you know Japan? Can you name ten things you absolutely can’t stand about the country? Anybody who lives here can rattle off a list immediately, I promise you that. So just be prepared for the bad as well as the good is all I’m saying, and you’ll be fine.

    1. No need for e-mail; I can answer your question right here. You’d need to get a company to sponsor you for a work visa. That means you’ll need to find a company that wants to hire a person with your skills and abilities. Those skills would typically not be available in Japan, which is why they’re importing help from overseas.

      So bottom line is, find a company that needs you, and they’ll sponsor you for a work visa.

      I believe that United Kingdom residents can also get a Working Holiday Visa, which is good for one year, so if you’re from England or New Zealand or such, you could be in luck that way.

      1. Frenchies can do so too. Maximum of 100 working holiday visa delivered per year, but never reached that number. Need to prove you will not only work but visit, but once in nobody cheks that.

        Oy Ken are you sleeping? Are you in love? Are you too drunk to type? We’re waiting for a new post yo (is this an English yo, or a Japanese よ, I’m not sure).

        1. I am sometimes sleeping, yes. Frequently in love as well. Too drunk t type? Not likerly.

          In one of my trademark changes of livestyle, I’ve been trying to eat right and get some exercise, which seems to have taken time away from sitting around drinking, eating chips, and typing up stories. Don’t worry, I’m sure it’ll wear off soon.

    2. Rafi,

      Better think twice about going to Japan; they don’t like Muslims there much (even less than Christians) and allow the police to spy on them legally. There is less than 110,000 Muslims in Japan according to the Islamic center, which only 10% of those are actual Japanese citizens. Halal food is almost impossible to find except in Tokyo, so you better get used to eating native foods also.

  28. …hello man, last year I was in Japan for few months (the ones that a tourist can stay…). I did a lot; you know from going to the Northern point of the Country to almost down South, by Train, bus, car and bicycle; in fact I used the bicycle a lot, (a good Italian one) mostly in the big cities, like Tokyo (I d put around 10-25 kms each day so imagine that I visited almost all the areas of this city), Sapporo, Kyoto, etc. Mainly I divided my visit there between trying to “open a door” to show my work (Im a Surfboard builder and designer for over 27 years), surf, music, old motorcycles, Karate and of course all the “vibe” of ancient Japan I could found.
    All without speak Japanese. My mother language is Spanish, but I know English and can understand perfectly well Portuguese…I tell you that the Japanese do not understand English…even the guys that are in the trading business with boards from California; so at that point a guy helped me with the translation.
    Anyway, my point is that is very difficult to obtain a job for the people that is not NATIVE from an English speaking country (due to the necessity in the late 70s/early 80s to have English teachers there; hence the gov agreement); you know a few months is not so much to make contacts, etc you need more time (and know Japanese to go more in deep or go depth) and that time comes only with a “long” Visa, but that kind of Visa is only possible for those Countries, as you know, because you are one of these Citizens.

    -When I do check some blogs (in English or Spanish) about working in Japan, always talking about the same type of jobs, as you mentioned previously, why not try other stuff? is it so difficult? or do you need and advanced knowledge of the J language to try these other routes?
    Why not in other nice places like in beach towns? or small islands like Shikoku? Is that possible?
    Where to look to start searching for opportunities in these other places?
    I know that is difficult due to the visa problems…even the Brazilians, Koreans, etc that work in the small town factories without understand the language have their opportunities; I do not know how they find these jobs there…ok, its only 1800-2000 Dollars by month but the inland is very cheap (you can hire a house-not an apartment- with garden for 600 Dollars, etc so a cave is even cheaper)
    By the way how the Nigerians and people from other African countries does? I mean, at least in Tokyo I saw lots of these people and all lived there…I understand and know about the scholarships for some poor African countries that the Japanese Gov has but how about all the other guys running around? Man, some even work in Kabukichou! (what happened with the Yakuza? how the guys can work there? I wonder)

    –so I m learning the language, and I want to try to live there not for the money but for the pace, places and that they achieved a great mid class society (mid class for the world STD, I think mid class for the US citizens seem like working class in other countries…)

    -I m in Uruguay S America, by the way is the longest destination (and more expensive; even more due the exchange–ticket, live there, food, etc) between 2 capitals, about 35 hours fly.

    1. Opportunities for “regular” jobs in Japan might be found through employment services such as Hello Work. But you might have already answered your own question. While it seems like a good idea to go around to the surf shops and look for work, can you get it? Maybe, I don’t know. My sense is that you could spend months and all of your savings trying to find a company that would sponsor a visa for you as a surfboard builder, without any luck. I doubt that even a good command of the Japanese language would help much. That’s why so many people use the tried-and-true method of teaching English, if they can.

      And yes, there are some people from Africa, the Philippines, and other non English-speaking countries working in nightclubs and such. Some are probably students working illegally, while others are married to Japanese citizens. Either way, considering that Tokyo has a population of 13 million people, there are relatively few folks getting by like this.

      1. After looking at the Seishain situation (pay rates, work hours), I am pretty much feeling like I should teach English or face going crazy. I never expected that this would be my best choice after learning the language and graduating from one of their unis.

        1. Heh, now there’s a cautionary tale. Me too. I’ve got an advanced degree and years of corporate experience, and the best job situation I’ve found in Japan is one where I teach 8 year-olds how to say the names of fruit. It’s “orange,” you little bastards, not “orenji.”

          Come over to the dark side.

  29. Hello Ken and everyone thank you for all the great info I learned a lot by this site. Which jobs in your opinion pays well in Japan?

    1. Well, there’s every kind of job here, for every kind of pay. The only thing I’d like to mention is that you need to be careful in determining how much you’re actually making.

      For example, it’s not uncommon to see an English teaching job that pays 3000 yen per hour. That looks pretty good. But then the class is only 50 minutes, so you really only get paid 2500. Then you’re expected to show up fifteen minutes prior and stay ten minutes after, so your time on site is really an hour and a quarter minutes. Plus you have to ride the train an hour each way to get there and back. When you factor those things in, sometimes a job that looks profitable on paper isn’t actually as good as it sounds.

  30. As for the option of having no degree…3years of job exp and a japanese company sponsor, is that really all that is required to be able to move to Japan?

    1. I’ve always heard that you need a degree in order to work in Japan, but perhaps that’s just for teaching English. Certainly, if you had a company willing to sponsor a work visa, that would help a lot. What type of work are you thinking of?

  31. I am thinking of the work related field of manga/anime. I plan to work in an american manga/anime company based in california(since I live in CA) for some years and try to get sponsored by a company overseas hopefully in later years.

    1. That could work. Probably a good idea to get a degree, no matter what you want to do. But far from me to be the voice of reason.

  32. No doubt a degree would help, after I gain the work exp needed If I cannot get a visa I will go for a degree. Thanks a lot Ken for sharing your thoughts and time I am sure you have many things to do.

  33. mr. ken im studying IT in distance education program. i want to work in japan. can i get a job with dis edu degree?pl i need your advice. can u help me? i will wait for your advise. please help me and my friends.

    1. Well, I’m no expert, but I believe you can get a job with a distance-education degree. These days, the difference between an online degree and one gotten by sitting through years of classes is becoming a non-issue. I am certain that most, if not all, degrees will soon involve a large online component, just like all other areas of our lives. Is that really a good thing? Yeah, I guess that’s another matter. Anyway, yeah, I think a degree is a degree. Tell Japan that Ken Seeroi said so.

  34. Hi Ken. Great blog!
    I am a Filipino working as a teacher. I consider myself a minority : non-native English teacher with brown skin and black eyes. I guess, because unlike most Filipinos here, I can actually spell. (No, not broccoli. An alt dispatch company asked me to spell “Wednesday” on Skype! )I am the only Filipino in my branch of 40 something teachers, who’ve mostly been here for years and pretty much jaded about their job.

    I’m too educated for my own good, I think. I studied here, in Paris, and went to an American culinary school and passed some tests for US certification. Back home, before I was an aspiring chef, I was an account manager selling IT services to European companies, working for big name companies and getting money for speaking 2 languages extra on top of my own. But I didn’t mind so much: I could roll out of bed and wear slippers to work or cross-dress if I wanted to. Now fast forward to Japan, it was tough finding a job. It wasn’t my abilities either : Japanese are quick to judge my skin color. After 1 year of being here, I did manage to land 2 office jobs, one data-entry job for a shipping company and a telemarketing job for a financial company. I quit both in a month. I found that I could not enter data from 12pm-9pm at night everyday (including Saturdays). As for the telemarketing job, they intentionally “misinformed” me about the job. The title was “business development consultant”, and then it turned out I had to generate my own leads by cold-calling. I know, excuses, excuses! But i was willing to try anything – I even tried factory work. I ended up quitting in two days. It was a back-breaking work that earned me pennies per hour. I guess I wasn’t as hardcore as I imagine myself to be.

    So I turned to culinary and decided to try it out. I went to school after all. But in Japan, kitchen is the realm of males. And unlike in the Philippines (and maybe in the US too), where they really train you to cook, you have to start off washing dishes. I interviewed a sous-chef and a chef, and they began by sweeping the floor or doing the dishes. No wonder it’s usually males! One did the dishes for ten years before he was allowed to cook. I’m sorry, but I found that a waste of my time. I didn’t go to a culinary school to do the dishes only, and for a pittance! I earned 950-1000 Yen per hour. Plus, being non-Japanese and female was detrimental to my career. After a year of balancing two jobs, I got sacked at both.

    So I turned to teaching. Teaching in Japan, well.. I dedicated one complete post on my blog Why One should not be an ALT. I will not bitch about that here, lol. Luckily, for me this year, I got accepted at my current eikaiwa, which I find way better than being an ALT. I earn 25-30$ an hour – which isn’t bad, compared to my other gigs. And if work a lot of extra hours, i can probably make $3k a month, which I could never really make with my data entry or kitchen jobs.

    I didn’t want to become a teacher, you know, but I can’t put up with the other “Japanese” sh*t , the hierarchy , the bowing, the blind obedience to imperial kaisha. Eikaiwa forms a shield exempting people from super rigid Japanese rules. And the management helps : if the management is 50% foreign, then at least they’d understand why you don’t talk in a high-pitched voice, even if you’re a woman. Yesterday, I got evaluated (you know they have cameras and mics in the rooms to spy on you) and asked the student to assess me. I thought everything was going well – I try to be professional and focused all the time. the student had nothing bad to say about my lesson, but she complained I didn’t “smile” enough. My manager also said I needed to increase praises. Now I kind of understood why my co-teachers are jaded: English teaching in japan is like a hostessing job, where I need to smile and say “good job” every 5 seconds. No wonder Japanese don’t really learn English. We give them what they want, and all they want are smiling idiots who will massage their egos. Now I know better and I will adjust my expectations accordingly (for 25$, yes!). I guess it’s a matter of adjusting our expectations. And when I do, maybe I can even enjoy it. I am still hoping to get a part-time baking job somewhere,even for a 9$/an hour, if i get to actually bake cakes. It’s something I like to do and also something to fall back on, when I get tired of smiling and praising my “smart” students.

    To all those with positive ideas about working in Japan, research first. They don’t believe in work-life balance. Back home, I worked hard and partied hard on weekends. I would go to the beach and surf my heart out. Here, in order to do that, you have to shell out $ 200-300 at least – but I don’t get to do that because I WORK weekends. Also, remember that they will discriminate you, for being a foreigner, for being unable to speak perfect Japanese, for being a woman, for being from Osaka (my husband is from osaka and they asked him to change his accent), for being not kawaii enough. And if you’re a woman, Japan has a very backward attitude toward women. Think again. There are better places in Asia where you earn less but you get also get to do what you love to do most – with very minimal cost (80$ in the Philippines would get me a hotel+food+transpo and quality waves). Meaning you don’t have to work so much to afford what you like to do. If the you think it’s a fair trade off, then go for it. I think we’re staying until our free lodging expires. Then it’s time to pack-up and move somewhere else.

    1. Thanks for a great comment. I agree that most people are starry-eyed when they move here, having heard years of propaganda about how wonderful and polite Japan is. It’s certainly a country with good and bad, and if you’re here long enough, you will experience both. Being a non-Japanese female certainly seems like an additional challenge. But personally, I haven’t found being a white male to be all that great either.

      Most English teachers—and I think you and I are both in this boat—start off wanting to do a good job, only to realize that “fun” is primary criteria that students and employers judge you on. There’s a lot of attention paid to smiling and praising, while curricula and instructional design—well, what’s that?

      It seems that most people who can leave Japan ultimately do, which is a shame, because a lot of folks worked hard to get here. Rather than learning English, it might do Japan some good to learn hospitality. And not that omotenashi stuff either. Actually, Starbucks does a good job. Maybe we just need more Starbucks.

  35. Hello, that article was a very nice read and pretty informative. Although I would really appreciate it if you could help me solve this conundrum. Ok, here I go —

    I am from Bangladesh and I want to be an English teacher in Japan. I already have a 120 hours TEFL certificate, a Bachelors in Business Administration from an Australian University, an Advanced Diploma from an Australian College and IELTS band of 7.5. Furthermore I have studied in English medium schools since I was in Kindergarten, as well as living in Australia for 8 years, although I don’t have an Australian passport. Also, I am confident in my fluency, besides having a neutral accent which is definitely not an Indian accent.
    So my questions are –
    Is it impossible for a non-native speaker to find a job as an English teacher in Japan?
    Will it be better to go to Japan on a student Visa and try to find a job instead of applying online?
    Have you seen any non-native teachers from India, Bangladesh, Phillipines teaching English in Japan?
    Can you please tell me how and where to look for Jobs if I were to land in Japan without a a pre-determined Job?
    Also, what exactly are these “middle-men” companies you speak of? Will they be able to help me out? How do I seek out these companies and get in touch with them?
    Also, is it better to just walk into a Japanese school without an interview appointment or do I have to always apply online? I mean, the moment I describe myself as a non-native, they will just chuck my resume in the bin? So how can I get past this issue? As if it were door-to-door I m pretty confident that I could impress and bluff my way through but if they don’t even call me after I apply online, how am I supposed to achieve that?

    1. Thanks a lot for your comment, and let me try to give you some quick answers:

      >Is it impossible for a non-native speaker to find a job as an English teacher in Japan?

      No. And let’s put to rest this idea of “native” and “non-native” speakers. If you speak English, you speak English. Don’t let people tell you that your English isn’t “native” English. I mean, all those people from England sound pretty weird, and they think they’re actually speaking correctly. Piffle to that.

      >Will it be better to go to Japan on a student Visa and try to find a job instead of applying online?

      Trying online costs you little, so I’d try that first.

      >Have you seen any non-native teachers from India, Bangladesh, Phillipines teaching English in Japan?

      Bazillions. That’s a lot.

      >Can you please tell me how and where to look for Jobs if I were to land in Japan without a a pre-determined Job?

      Okay, the main problem is the visa. If you have a work visa, you can get hired. But who’s gonna sponsor you for that? Somebody has to sign off on the paperwork, and that’s the challenge. And it’s not an easy solution. Everybody here struggles with it. Don’t count on Japanese people to provide assistance out of the goodness of their hearts. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you do.

      >Also, what exactly are these “middle-men” companies you speak of? Will they be able to help me out? How do I seek out these companies and get in touch with them?

      Many businesses and schools utilize “middle men” (派遣会社) to provide them with teachers. Berlitz is an example of one such company. They do in-house classes, but also outsource, sending dispatch teachers to companies, for which they receive a substantial fee. Interac does this for businesses and schools.

      >Also, is it better to just walk into a Japanese school without an interview appointment or do I have to always apply online?

      I’d say apply online as much as possible. Your chances of just walking in to a Japanese business and being well-received are extremely low. Japan’s not exactly known as The Land of Smiles.

      >I mean, the moment I describe myself as a non-native, they will just chuck my resume in the bin? So how can I get past this issue?

      I’d encourage you not to describe, or think of yourself, as “non-native.” You’re not Japanese, and that’s what really counts. Highlight your Australian education and the time you spent there.

      It’s by no means easy, no matter where you’re from. But others have done it, and you can too. Good luck!

      1. Thanks for the reply Ken. I have been busy these past few months with online applications for jobs in China and Japan. Unfortunately, out of all the resume’s I sent out, only 2-3 places answered my pleas. In Japan only Gaba seemed a bit interested in me, however, after successfully passing the first skype interview, they held a 2nd interview and then rejected me. So I am thinking of applying for Japanese universities and hopefully if I am in Japan, then they would be more eager to offer me a job as they won’t have to deal with the sponsorship stuff? Does this sound like a plan? or am I in fool’s paradise? BTW I am a “KURO” Gaijin. Does being Indian looking hold you back during interviews?

        1. Hey, congratulations on getting as far as you did. Okay, here’s what you do.

          Wait until the last week in February. Then apply to every company you can find, even the ones you already applied to. Those companies are trying to fill positions that start on April 1, and if they don’t have somebody by the end of February, they’ll be in a panic. Whatever standards they started out with are going to be a lot looser. Don’t forget to look for ALT jobs as well, and for places outside of Tokyo. You can do this.

          I don’t think it’s your kuro-ness that’s holding you back. It’s rather that you’re from a country that’s not considered to one of “native English-speakers.” So yeah, your English will need to be more convincing than if you were from like Canada. It’s just screwed-up thinking, really. For some reason an Indian accent isn’t acceptable, but, say, an Australian accent is. But that’s why Chinese people can be sushi chefs in the U.S. easier that I could, so whatever.

          At any rate, there are plenty of English teachers from “other” English-speaking countries, and teachers of every color. So I’d say you have a good shot, if you time it right.

          1. Thanks a lot for the prompt reply and sound advice. I will give it a shot then. Trust me, I don’t have an Indian accent and this along with my western mentality after spending so many years in Australia makes me a misfit in my culture. I have lost touch with my family, friends and the way this country is run. You just can’t fathom what its like, to smell the garbage everyday, blackouts, mosquitoes, traffic jams, social bindings, being tactful every second, trying to suck up to your boss and always calling him “Sir”. Truth be told Japan’s my last choice, if I had the funds or means, I would try for Australia again, or Canada, USA(not UK). The reason for choosing Japan was, I think its the closest thing to the West Asia has to offer, plus I have always been fascinated by the Jap culture.

  36. I read through as much of the comments as I could stomach. The Gaijin Ghetto is is strong still I guess… I can’t say that I blame people for sticking to it. depending on the day, I swing between wanting to move back to JPN and call the thing quits for now and just looking for a Job at a Japanese branch office in Hong Kong. I lived in Japan for a year in high-school on academic exchange and I’ve been trying to find a way to get back since. I though of going there for undergrad but I decided instead on getting a degree from a university in Hong Kong. As much as I miss Japan I’ve started to realize its poisonous in large doses. I might take the cool-aid (does that count as a mixed metaphore) but I hope I don’t. まあ〜でもさあ〜日本語を忘れる事が全くだな〜


    1. I think that’s everybody. Every day I wake up and think, Man, I ought to do something else with my life other than just Japan, but then I go to Denny’s and have a grilled fish and scrambled egg breakfast with some miso soup and think, No way I can leave this country. Oh, why does Japan have to be so delicious?


  37. Hi Ken,

    A very nice and informative article. I am an Electrical Engineering (Telecommunications) student at a premiere institute in India. I would be finishing my undergraduate studies next year. This year i did a three months internship at a research university in Japan and i must say that they were impressed by my work. I absolutely loved Japanese culture and their way of living. I would really like to work in Japan but i cannot understand where I stand right now since I am yet to finish my degree. I have 15-16 years of English experience and know some basic Japanese. What should my approach be if i wish to get a job in Japan after graduation ? Thanks in advance !!

    1. It sounds like you’re off to a great start.

      I would spend some time looking through job sites to see what types of Electrical Engineering jobs are available, and maintain contact with anyone you met through the research institute.

      Probably the area you’ll want to shore up the most is your Japanese language ability. To work as an engineer here, it would be tremendously helpful if you could read and speak Japanese fairly well. So I’d invest a bit of time in that. Good luck!

      1. Thanks Ken for the prompt reply. Yes you are right, i do need to improve my Japanese language skills. I however had a more important doubt. Would it be difficult for me to get a job there straight after completing graduation ? Should i first spend a year or two, in some company and then try for a job there ?

        1. That’s a good question. So, in famous Ken Seeroi fashion, let me answer it with another question: Why does a Japanese company need you, instead of hiring a Japanese person?

          Naturally, having work experience is a big plus. But my sense is that if a company has a need that can’t be filled by a Japanese person, then it’s a pretty specific niche. If you have a skill they need that badly, they may be willing to hire you just based upon your ability alone.

          I’d certainly submit resumes for some jobs that look suitable. Applying costs no more than your time, although it is a pain in the butt. If I were you, I’d hedge my bets, by applying to jobs both in Japan and India.

  38. First of all, thanks for the invaluable article! I have been in Kodaira, Japan (about 40 minutes from Shinjuku station) since last September via academic exchange, and actually, our school year just ended a few days ago! So this being my last year of college, the next step for me is to return to my home institution and officially graduate! During my time here, I have come to develop a deep affection and appreciation for Japan and believe it or not, I feel as if it actually surpassed all of my expectations!

    So now, while that I’m still in Japan (till the beginning of November), I want to secure a gig that could support a longer-term stay in the near future. So now I’m doing a little bit of a 就活 and looking at international companies, foreign-friendly Japanese companies (like Rakuten), the JET and other ALTs, and eikaiwas. Suffice it to say, for me, flexibility is a must! Also, although I would prefer to remain within the vicinity of Tokyo, I guess Saitama and Chiba wouldn’t be too bad either. Do you have any suggestions on the best way to go about making this happen without hitches, or am I just drunk with delusion? Thanks!

    1. You are drunk with delusion. Also known as optimism, but that’s okay. A couple of years working here will cure that. No, seriously, I think it pays to be selective, and to explore companies both inside and outside of Tokyo. Being a JET or an ALT would be a good gig, as would a job at an international company. Apply to a lot of places, line up a bunch of options, and then take the best one you can.

      More importantly, though, don’t suffer at a job if it doesn’t work out. Work at a place for a while, and if it’s good, stay. But if it’s not, look for something better. There’s a lot of jobs out there.

      1. Also, make sure you don’t take a companies word at face value here. Just because they -say- they will treat you well, or that they are “international”, or that your working hours are 5 to 6, doesn’t mean that is the reality. In Japan the individual is in a very weak position vs the company. They can screw you however they like, contract be damned.

        Be aware that Japan can put on a good face to foreign students and visitors, because they are “guests” and are treated accordingly.

        Watch this clip from peepshow.

        OK, so inside is what working life in Japan is for some people. And I am Super Hans. My partner just got told she will be sent off to the countryside in a few weeks for a three month project. Working night and day. No weekends. No access to the cafeteria. No time to cook or place to do it either. No time to eat out. Three months of convenience store food basically. It’s kind of at that point where I’m saying to her… if you feel like you are going to literally fall over and die of a heart attack, maybe you should consider actually quitting? She only started out there earlier this year… And yep, they will promote themselves as “international”. Etc. etc. Heck, they are a Japan inc. version of a major U.S. IT corp.

        Anyway, just be careful out there.

  39. hey ken! very nice articel!,ahm… can you give me some possible work that i can had in the future? im already a japanese national, and i admit that im not fluent in nihonggo, i have BS degree in tourism and am planning to work and live in japan.

  40. Hey Ken, here is a question I thought I could throw your way.

    Through a bit of luck I’ve made some good contacts, and may well be able to land a 就労ビザ without actually becoming an English teacher or a 正社員. I’d be free a bit of the time to be working other jobs though. So… can I work multiple places while I have a 就労ビザ, or does the viza link me up to the specific work-place? Do secondary jobs have to be under the table?

    Also, can you write an article some time on paying taxes in Japan? Because I have noooo idea how all that works. ;p If you do this I will buy you several cheap drinks that can be surreptitiously consumed by a local riverside area.

    1. Hey Danchan,

      First of all, that’s great news. If you can get any kind of work visa for this country, that’s awesome, and not being tied to teaching English would be beneficial. (Although it’s certainly not the worst job one could have in Japan, by a long shot.)

      Now, I know precious little about visas in Japan, but I can share my experience.

      After I quit working at my first job, I still had two years left on my visa, so I just freelanced teaching English anywhere I wanted. This seemed to pose no problems. So I believe the visa is not tied to a specific workplace, at all. At least mine wasn’t.

      (As an aside, I’ll note that many visas, if not all, are limited by type. That is, if you get an “Instructor” visa, you can’t go work in an izakaya. For that, I dunno, maybe you need an “Izakaya” visa? Actually, I don’t know what that’d be.)

      It’s also not uncommon to work more than one job, again with no problems. I know folks who work half a dozen different places simultaneously. It sounds like a lot, but you might only work an hour or two a week for each place.

      As for Japanese taxes, the easiest way is to have a primary employer. They’ll then file your taxes for you, including income for any secondary jobs you have. If you don’t have a primary employer, then you’ll need to do it yourself (which I think isn’t hard) or hire a professional, sort of like the Japanese H&R Block. I’m lazy, so you can guess which way I went.

      That’s about all I really know. Feel free to add on more if you know more.

      1. Thanks for the information! Yeah I though it might be something like that. We shall see how it goes. As for the English teaching, I don’t mind it at all. I’ve seen enough here now to know that the “higher tier” jobs are not necessarily more enjoyable. But I also don’t want to be doing it 9 to 5 if at all possible. So fingers crossed I can get this deal worked out. I’m also looking at copywriting/English checking. Seems like lower stress so I could probably manage it full time.

  41. Hello Ken,

    You are indeed a very kind and patient gentleman, trying to help out everyone at the cost of your precious nap-time ^^. Thanks for all your generous support and encouragement to all the job aspirants here. It’s a great blog!! Very informative!!

    Well, I am also one from the same clan of Japan-lovers who looks forward to a career in Japan. So here I present a new case study for you…^^

    Indian (born ‘n brought up in India), 42/single, Master’s (IT), Certified Project Manager, Certified IT Service Manager, Certified TEFL and Business English Teacher, Trained in Tertiary Teaching & Learning (Australian Grad. Cert. Course),
    IT Lecturer for Australian Universities in Vietnam and China (6 years); IT professional, consultant, developer, project lead (5+ years); ICT and English Teacher (general English, English for academic purposes, conversation etc.) (8+ years)
    • English – native (yes, I grew up in an Eng. speaking family, My schooling, higher studies, professional experience were all in English medium), …… Accent – neutral / no MTI etc. / slightly British (London accent) – already validated by my Western expat friends, Japanese friends and hundreds of Asian students – so no problem there!),
    • Japanese (my weakest point at the moment – lazy me!!) – Beginner (survival level!) – learning.
    Friends in Japan:
    – Have a few very good friends from Kyushu and Fukushima. Most of them were expat Japanese Language teachers in Ha Noi, where we met. Some of them are still very close friends of mine, sharing everything from personal problems to sociocultural issues etc. They are indeed very nice people.
    Japanese food:
    – I lost my heart to it, literally, from the moment I tried it for the first time in a Japanese restaurant in Vietnam. I still miss our home-made Japanese food parties at my place in Ha Noi in the weekends. My Japanese friends used to cook and I was their cooking-assistant …. LOL

    Well, that’s me in a nutshell.
    Now, do I stand any real chance in Japan??? I know it’s a kind of lame question. So let me try to be more specific.
    At my age (42), I might not be the 1st choice as an IT professional (Animation, Game developer etc.). Besides, my poor Japanese (language skill) is a big impediment. Recently I was approached by some Indian head-hunters for IT positions in Japan. In the end they backed out because I am still not JLPT qualified (up to a certain level).
    I love teaching and have had a very pleasant and successful international experience as an educator in China (4 years) and in Vietnam (2 years). I was primarily teaching IT subjects, often helping students with their English lessons outside of the classroom. In S E Asia it’s virtually impossible for a non-native, non-Caucasian English Speaker to get an English Teaching job, however qualified he/she might be. Unfortunate!

    Q1: Do I stand a chance as an ICT teacher in schools (do they really teach ICT in English??)
    Q2: Can you suggest a few reliable “middle companies” whom I might approach for teaching jobs (ICT, Eng, Corporate Training etc.)?
    Q3: Can I become an IT lecturer/faculty in colleges with just an MS degree and 6 yrs of lecturing experience? (I think, they will ask for PhD … In that case, are there colleges and universities in Japan that offer the option of a work-integrated PhD to foreign students?) Do you have any knowledge about any such academic establishment anywhere in Japan?
    Q4: Is there any “middle company” who hires for university/college teaching positions (IT, Computer Science etc.), like in China?
    Finally, Q5: Any tips on how to lure the recruiters (from Japan) to talk to me (on Skype/ Phone etc.)? I am afraid, the moment they will see another Indian applying for a teaching job, they will probably reject my application straight away. Sorry, but it happens in certain Asian countries. I am confident they will feel more assured after they talk to me.

    I am aware (and I have been alerted about it too by my good J-friends) that working in Japan is not that easy as one might think it is. Then again, I want to feel how tough it really is! I have successful experience with Indian, Chinese, Viet and Aussie managements….. Now waiting to take up the Japan challenge!!

    I would really appreciate if you have some valuable suggestions for me.
    Thanks for reading, Ken. Have a nice day!

    1. Wow, a lot of very detailed questions. I wish I were more qualified to field them, but I’ll give you my take.

      I’ve seen a number of Indian and Middle-Eastern people teaching English here, and it certainly seems possible. You’ve got amazing qualifications, so I’d say you look like a good candidate, at least on paper.

      One thing you might want to reconsider is your specialty. You seem geared towards technical training, while Japan has a big market for conversational (non-technical) English. Many people just want to learn how to converse with strangers, and to have fun, both of which are somewhat rare in Japan, in any language.

      Your number one biggest challenge is simply getting here. If you can get that first job, and get into the country with a teaching visa, then everything else will be simpler. With that in mind, I’d encourage you to just apply for a ton of jobs between October and March.

      Once you start looking for jobs, you’ll quickly see who the big employers are. I can’t recommend specific companies, because some people like a given company, while others hate it. A lot depends on where you get dispatched to, and who your manager is. And yes, there are companies that serve as middle-men for universities. If you have a Master’s Degree, you can work as a university lecturer, at least for ordinary English courses.

      Good luck. You can do this.

      1. Thanks Ken, thanks for your tips and advice.
        I will keep trying to knock on the right door at the right hour.

        Yes, you are right. I am desperately looking for my first job to get shipped to Japan with a teaching visa. I would love to teach conversation, which, by the way, I am still doing to some of my old Vietnamese students and couple of Japanese friends via Skype. I know how to make them talk and to keep them engaged in a productive conversation for hours. Sure, that won’t be much of a problem for me.

        The only challenge for me right now is to convince those recruiters and English schools. Need a bit of luck there, I reckon. Let me see how things go.

        Thanks for your encouraging comment, Ken. I appreciate it.

  42. Hi Ken,

    First off, let me say I really enjoy reading this article, it’s very informative and funny!

    I do need a bit of your advice though, and hope you don’t mind. I’m a degree holder in Business and with a few years of working experience. Currently looking for a new start and teaching in Japan seems like a good fit…at least at the moment.

    What I’m wondering is, does having the ability to teach 2 languages an advantage in applying for a teaching position? I’m pretty well-versed in English and Chinese. I understand Japan and China isn’t really on good term because of past history. Is it a selling point or a killing point to mention that I am able to teach both languages in my CV? xD

    Many thanks in advance!

  43. Hi KEN! I’ve been reading some of your very helpful advice regarding working and studying in Japan and I would like to ask you something specific:
    Is there any chance for a European citizen like me and most specifically a Greek to pursue a scientist career in Japan as a researcher? The subject of my studies is Molecular Biology and Genetics and I am 24 years old. I am considering of obtaining a PhD course soon would it be smart to do so in Japan?
    I am asking such thing cause from what I’ve learned so far in general is that the most successful jobs/careers in Japan are IT technologies and interpreter-teacher. Thank you in advance Ken!!!

    1. Absolutely, you could. Japan has a relatively robust, if somewhat isolated, scientific community. I mean, they’re light years ahead in the important field of electric toilet seats.

      But you know, I take questions like this pretty seriously. I mean, if somebody asks, “Should I teach English in Japan for a year?” I always think Hell, sure knock yourself out. Assuming you live to be 86, then spending 1/86th of your life screwing off in Japan’s no big deal.

      But getting a PhD is heavy, and in as far as anybody’d be insane enough to actually listen to my advice, that advice would be to pick the best school, offering the best terms, for your field of study. If that’s Japan, then great. But I’m not sure I’d decide to get a PhD in Greece just because I like olives and hairy women, if you get what I’m saying.

      1. Got your point KEN and thank you for your advice in general!!! I appreciate that you are always giving your point of view for things asked here and for the PhD I asked you you just couldn’t be more precise! It’s totally a heavy duty and very demanding! I am gonna ask my professors about the University of Tokyo, it is ranked as Japan’s best University and world’s top-class also! gonna see and get sure if it also stands out in my research subject and if it’ll prove a smart choice for me then I would definitely try it! thank you again buddy

    2. If I may butt in the conversation – Sylver, you might be interested in googling Monbukagakusho scholarships. They are national scholarships offered to Master’s and PhD students who want to carry out their degree here in Japan. However, I believe the initial screening is through the Japanese embassy in your country, and they will assess your Japanese proficiency/interest in the culture, which might (or might not) be an issue.

      Otherwise, for EU citizens like yourself there are two fellowships that you might be eligible for:
      – VULCANUS, for industrial training and cooperation
      – MINERVA, but I think it’s more on the social sciences/policy side and you might have to be a little more senior than what you are now

      Finally, the final (and possibly best) option, is to do your PhD anywhere you like, strike up an academic collaboration with a Japanese centre (it seems to me that molecular biology is quite popular here) and then apply for one of the JSPS fellowships after you become a doctor

      1. Marco your butting in should be a MUST my friend!! Yeah I know about the MEXT scholarship it’s very opportunistic for the ones who get it! What I wasn’t informed about are the VULCANUS and MINERVA programs that allow you to actually work in Japan! The VULCANUS stuff looks kinda interesting! thank you for that! I will ask my professor! Finally, the last urge of yours concerning the JSPS fellowships is by all means the smartest choice for someone like me who is out of the of the ordinary! I would love to do my PhD in Japan but regardless, that could ‘save’ me from getting old and not having managed to taste things I love 😀 thanks 😉

  44. Hi Ken,

    Just got back from Japan and would like to work there – preferably doing something in line w my degree. I’m Australian, 26 and have a Bachelors degree in Commerce – with some HR/consulting experience (part-time work while attending law school). I will graduate from law school here (in Sydney) in June 2015, at which point I would like to make a move to Tokyo.

    Obviously looking for work w a firm that has a Japanese office would be an ideal way to do that, but my experience w these types of outposts is that they can often take a long time to set up. As an Australia, I can get a one year holiday working VISA, so I figure I might just be better off coming over (with my girlfriend) and teaching English while I look around for a corporate/legal gig somewhere.

    I’m a decent network-er – not that i have any idea how this works in Japan, but presumably the principles are the same – so I’m assuming I could I work through a language centre (or wherever, really – anywhere where I can talk to people) to try to get some interviews for English speaking corporate gigs. In saying that, I have no idea how willing a Japanese company would be to take on an Australian grad. with v little grasp of the language. However, I can see – from the links provided – that it does look as though it would be easier to pick up a corporate/legal job if I were already living in Japan – assuming I could pick up some ‘business’ Japanese whilst looking around.

    Anyway, I guess I’m just asking for some advice. Seems, from your article, that you would have been fine landing a corporate gig had you been okay w the work/life ‘balance’ (which is totally understandable, and I’ll probably be the same in 5 years). But as someone whose never really had to work full-time (obviously wouldn’t be saying that in my interviews/on my CV) I would be okay w working longer hours as long as I could get paid a decent wage.

    Let me know what you think.

    Even if you don’t reply to me, you’re a legend for doing this whole thing, Thank you!

    1. Hey Michael,

      Well, you’re definitely following a well-trodden path. Lots of folks have moved to Japan with the same thoughts as you. Results are mixed, to put it mildly.

      Advice, well, it’s cheap, as they say. But here goes.

      First of all, I wouldn’t spend a minute working on “business” Japanese. Just acquiring the ability to communicate at all will put you ahead of ninety percent of the people here. Remember that every single Japanese person is at least six to ten years ahead of you in language learning, so there’s very little chance that your Japanese will surpass their English, particularly for people who work at the professional level. Studying Japanese is largely a hobby.

      I’ve heard people say that networking in Japan is important, but for me, compared to the States, it’s not very effective. People in the U.S. seemed willing to recognize potential, whereas in Japan, they really want qualifications. No one wants to take a chance on an unknown quantity. So I wouldn’t count on being able to find that golden opportunity here. You get a better payoff by searching online for better and better jobs.

      So if you come here, my advice would be to hit the ground running. Don’t expect anyone to “hook you up.” Those days, if they ever existed, are over. Find something that will bring in a paycheck, and then immediately start looking for something better. Having a ton of good qualifications would help. Otherwise you’ll just end up teaching English at a conversation cafe for a year before packing it in and heading home. It’s a well-trodden path, as I said.

      You might also want to consider what it’s going to take to establish a life here, in terms of money and time. Add up the costs of renting a decent-sized apartment, heating it, and buying a washing machine, fridge, air-conditioner, TV, and maybe a bed. It takes many people years to get back to the standard of living they had in their home countries, if they ever do. Just one more thing to think about.

    2. Hi Michael. I think that’s some good advice from Ken as usual, and I’ll add my two cents as I’m an Australian living in Tokyo myself.

      You might well have a good time in Tokyo or Japan in general. That depends a great deal on how you get along with people in general, your outlook, and some luck too. But money is a big part of that, and money is harder to come by in Japan for a young person than it is in Australia.

      Actually, according to recent statistics, Australia is one of the few developed countries in the world which has had real wages -rise- over the last few years. It’s been sliding around the world, and Japan was precarious to begin with. Just as an example, but right now, about a third of young people are working so hard at so-called “black companies” that they are developing issues with both their mental and physical health. My own partner is still working right now at nearly midnight, and she started work at 9:30 this morning. Its a little unusual for her (she usually gets back home by 10:30pm), but not at all unusual for many of her coworkers. People literally die from overwork at quite a high number, but like statistics for rape the true extent of what is going on is hard to ascertain for a variety of reasons.

      Yes it’s not all ice cream and lollipops in Australia, and it’s not all doom and gloom in Japan, but you have that extra dimension of economic hardship to take into consideration. Nobody is going to roll out the carpet for you, and English teaching, while it -can- be rewarding, is also largely dominated by exploitative corporations making you slave under terrible conditions. If you don’t have a highly desirable skill, or some really good credentials, don’t expect even as much money as you might get in Australia without a degree. What you think of as the minimum wage at home is close to a salaried income now for many young people here. It is pretty darn tough.

      On the other hand, if you only want to come for a few years, have a plan for what you will do when you go back home, have some savings to help will help you move, and can finesse a half-reasonable job (no small task), then you might really enjoy Tokyo. Shimokitazawa is amazing.

  45. Hi Ken, nice blog (Y). I am an Indian undergraduate student in my final year at college. I wish to apply for an internship of about 8-12 months in Japan once my college is complete. I did an internship in Japan last year but that was for a period of 3 months. The experience was wonderful and i would love to stay and work in Japan for a longer time. I am doubtful whether it would be difficult to get a visa for 1 year provided someone accepts me for an internship. Btw i am an IT guy so i would be looking for a software intern. Also i do not expect an unpaid intern as i need to make both my ends meet.

    I am not sure how helpful this experience, if i get an intern, would be in getting a job later ? Can you please shed some light on how good the idea is and how difficult would it be to implement it.

    1. To add to the original comment, i come from a well known Indian college, and therefore I did not have much problem in getting an Internship earlier. Now my skills have improved a lot, so i expect that i do stand some chance. I can get a job in India but this is a point in life when i would like to have great experiences and living in Japan definitely tops it. Thanks in advance and waiting for the reply !!

      1. I’m certainly not an expert, but my impression is that it’s not easy to convert an internship into a regular position. I am positive that having worked in Japan looks good on a resume (at least in Japan), so to that extent an internship is worthwhile.

        I think if I were you, I’d apply for regular jobs with companies. Having a degree in IT, and previous internship experience here, you’d stand a good chance of getting a regular position. Then you could stay as long as you like. Why not pursue that?

        1. Thanks for the reply Ken, i would love to have a permanent position right from the start but there are a few problems. Firstly i will need an entry level job (i.e jobs for people graduating from college) for that. I am not sure how many entry level IT jobs are available for foreigners especially when i do not know Japanese and am not currently residing in Japan. Do you think i stand much chance in such a situation.

          If yes then how should i approach this. As of now the only places where i see genuine international openings are Glassdoor and Linkedin. Sites like gaijinpot etc that you mentioned really have tons of jobs but it seems that almost all of them require business level Japanese or currently residing in Japan condition.

          1. I think the fact that you don’t live in Japan is a legitimate problem. Employers really want to see that Japanese address on your resume. So any way you can get to this country is going to give you a boost.

            As for not speaking business-level Japanese, I’d view that as less of a problem. Many places have that as a “requirement,” but the actual level needed is far lower. Otherwise no one would ever work in this country.

            If I were you, I’d work on acquiring basic conversational Japanese ability, and that will be sufficient for many interviews. If an employer is listing a job in English, then Japanese ability probably isn’t their main concern. In fact, they might place more emphasis on your ability to communicate in English.

            So how much of a chance do you stand? Well, looking for a job always sucks. But you seem like a bright guy, and you’ve got a degree in IT, so that sounds like a great start. Now you just need to pick up some basic Japanese. And get your ass over here.

  46. Thanks Ken for the suggestions. Its very nice of you to take time and explain these details to people who need help in this regard. Somehow i could not reply directly to your comment so i am replying here.

    So it seems that being in Japan is the biggest thing which increase the chances of getting a job there. This was the reason i was thinking about the internship option because this is the most suitable option for me to land over there in the first place (under the assumption that getting an intern would be comparatively easier). And may be i can then try and apply from there. If i get a job well and good and if i do not then i still would have gained technical experience and added something to my resume. Since it is my first year after college, i think that at this point of time i am in a better position to take more liberal or say a bit carefree decisions then i will be 5 or 10 years from now. Thanks !!

  47. Wow, great article. Really enjoyed skimming through the comments as well.

    I’ve been putting some serious thought into doing this thing. I’ve recently graduated college in the US, and my wife will be doing so in the coming year.

    I got two questions for ya when you have the time.

    1. How are the work hours for these jobs? I understand corporate work in Japan seems to be a nightmare but does teaching really compare to that in hours spent at work?

    2. Do you think it would be possible for both my wife and I to nail teaching contracts while living together near our respective schools? I understand that this could be incredibly situational. Just wanted to know if you have ever heard of something like that before.

    1. I have two answers for you. They may not be perfect, but hey, at least they’re answers, right? Just say right.

      So 1. Broadly speaking, Japanese people have a different approach to work than that of Westerners. In the U.S., people say, “I work to play,” meaning that working enables you to pursue, after work, the things that you really want to do. No one in Japan’s ever thought like that. Work is just what you do. After work? What’s that?

      Now, do teaching hours compare? Well, it pays to bear in mind that seven hours of pushing a mouse isn’t the same as seven hours standing and talking. And to teach even remotely well requires a lot of up-front planning and back-end record-keeping. Three hours a day is about all I feel comfortable with these days. Any more and I start thinking about getting a job on a fishing boat.

      2. I’ve worked at eikaiwa with couples who were hired together, so I think it’s definitely do-able. But you’re probably going to teach a whole lot more than 3 hours a day. Well, there’s always fishing.

    1. I believe Japan issues visas for jobs that can’t readily be filled by nationals. So if there weren’t enough Japanese dental professionals, then someone such as yourself would be in demand.

      I’d think the challenges would be first, the language, and second, getting the necessary certifications. Enrolling in a Japanese dental school might be one approach.

  48. Hi Ken, I just got a few questions.
    1. Is never having visited Japan a deal breaker for getting a job? I tutored undergrad level philosophy, have TEFL, tutored my younger brother Japanese, taught SAT writing and reading section etc, etc. But I have never visited the country (I had the opportunity to go, but I ended up hurting myself during Judo-related activity and spent the money and the time going through physical therapy).

    2. I am an American citizen but am ethnically Korean. I follow international news as best as I can, and as far as I can discern Korea and Japan are not exactly chummy with each other. Will my Korean background be counted against me? And as far as racism concerned, will I be pelted insults and looked on with suspicion as soon as they realize that the “American” English teacher has the last name of “Kim”?

    3. I have never taken a JPLT test, I studied Japanese for 3 years. Will that also count against me when applying to English teaching job.

    1. Hi there, thanks for your questions. Here’s what I’d say.

      1. Nope. Your qualifications sound fine, and not having visited isn’t that big of a deal. I’d bet more than half the people who move here for work have never even set foot in Japan before.

      2. Nope. Many of the happiest folks I know here are Asian-Americans. You won’t stand out as much as white/black people, and you won’t be annoyed to death by years of “wow, you can use chopsticks,” and “Hey Joe, let’s speak English.” When a conversation starts, you just need to say that you’re American and everything will be fine. Not perfect—I mean, there’s still racism—but fine enough.

      In terms of jobs, although it helps to look like Biff the quarterback, there are plenty of Asian-looking English teachers, so clearly people can deal with it.

      3. Nope. Most non-Japanese people speak little Japanese, have never taken the JLPT, and pretty much suck at all things Japanese. Ironically, Japanese people love that, since it reinforces the fact that nobody else can do what they do.

      4. Good idea to avoid Tokyo. Tokyo has the most jobs, but the most competition, and the highest cost of living. There are plenty of jobs in other cities. Initially, I’d say take a job in Tokyo if you have to, but do so with the plan of staying one year and getting out. You can probably survive a year, if need be. Probably.

      Good luck. You can do it.

      1. Aw shucks that’s no problem, when I was in college, my room mate that I have lived with for two years thought I was half white. I work at a medical office and half the Korean patients that I help automatically assume I am non-korean or non-asian. And in terms of language, wow that sucks. I want to hold a reasonably intelligent conversation in Japanese :/ I guess the fact that I am bilingual and can generally pick up language quickly will not help. Maybe they will feel better when they realize that my Judo skills are an utter mess and a middle school Judo player can wipe the tatami mats with me. And I am guessing the media over-inflates the Anti-Korean sentiment in Japan? A lot of articles I have read so far make it sound like being Korean in Japan=automatic lynching mob. And thank you for the encouragement,

        1. There isn’t a whole lot of overt racism in Japan, but what little there is seems to be directed at Korean and Chinese people. If you stay around long enough, you’ll also discover that a whole lot of “Japanese” people have ancestry from those countries. Subtle racism, well, that’s another story, but if you make it clear that you’re American, you’ll largely be accepted as such. And by virtue of the fact that you look Asian, you might have it easier than other Westerners. You know, yellow privilege and all. Anyway, I wouldn’t worry too much. Just get a U.S. flag tattooed on your forearm and you’ll be fine. Or maybe Canadian. Yeah, a maple leaf would probably be better.

          1. Ahhhh the good ol’ subtle racism. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) I have been dropped on my head one too many times during Judo, so I have lost all form of intelligence/sensitivity, so those will go right over my head. I guess this also means I should try not to use too much Korean (not that there will be many opportunity to use my native tongue/first language anyways). What are some form of subtle racism that you have encountered? …. I might need a few examples to look out for given that I am not the brightest bulb in the closet.
            Also, wouldn’t my biligualness (is that even a word?) work toward a plus as well? I heard that K-pop and K-drama have some degree of popularity in Japan.

            1. In terms of Japanese racism, you don’t need look much further than Miss Universe Japan.

              For a long time, Japan has confused the concepts of nationality and race, as though being Japanese equaled looking “Japanese.” (To be fair, when Westerners refer to “Japanese,” they often make this mistake too.) What’s really happening is that a lot of “mixed-race” Japanese people cover up their backgrounds to avoid discrimination, and so “pass” as Japanese. Lot of quotation marks being used in this country.

              But that being said, in general, Japanese people are often tolerant of immigrants. They just don’t think you’re they same as they are. Something has to be, you know, different. And people will explore that. So if a person knew your background was Korean, they might really want to ask, “Do you like kimchee?” But that’d be too obvious, so they’ll rephrase it as “Don’t you find Japanese food bland?” And after you hear that fifty times, you might start to realize, Oh right, they’re only asking that because of how I look.

              Hey, it’s not the worst thing. It’s just a thing.

              Jumping topics, Yes, I am firmly convinced that being bilingual is an advantage for a language teacher. As far as K-whatever being popular in Japan, ah, I’m less convinced. I mean, Americans like Mexican food, but that doesn’t exactly translate into welcoming Hispanic immigrants, if you know what I mean.

  49. One more thing, and my sincere apologies if I am being annoying.

    I am looking to teach/work outside of the Tokyo area. I guess I just have a hipsterish mentality and I want to avoid the place that EVERYONE wants to go to. Maybe Osaka or Fukuoka (a boat ride away from Busan sounds pretty attractive to me). Will it be easier or harder for me to find positions outside of Tokyo?

  50. So what am I doing wrong??? I get that skype interview but a few days later I always get this replay :
    “We regret to inform you that we have chosen to pursue other applicants for what limited positions are available. Your understanding is greatly appreciated.

    Best of luck in your future endeavors.”
    I wear a suit. (I even wear pants) I wear my glasses. I try to be super flexible but always the same response.

    1. That’s tough. I can only say that looking for a job really sucks. Japan’s not a particularly easy place to get a job. You feel like the last girl at the prom waiting for somebody to come up and ask you to dance.

      If you’re sure that you have good qualifications and look the part of an English teacher (including speaking un-accented English), then it just comes down to a numbers game. At least it doesn’t cost much to play, other than your time and self-esteem. Don’t worry; we’ve all been there.

  51. Hey, i am indian citizen doing law degree from indian college. However i am looking forward to work with a japanese law firm after graduation and settle in japan. Do they hire indian lawyers? Do they provide with accommodation and help with visa?

  52. Hi Ken,

    Love the site, I’m currently looking into possibly relocating to Japan to work as an American citizen. I actually grew up there, completely native in both Japanese and English. But. I don’t want to teach English. I do work for a Japanese company here in California but don’t really want to work for them over in Japan soooooo just curious as to avenues to get hired over there that would sponsor a visa!! I could ask my mom to sponsor me, but I feel like it would be easier to just get sponsored on my own.

    1. If you’re fluent in both languages, then you definitely have an advantage. What field do you work in? If it’s something like IT, where there’s strong demand, then you should be able to land a non-English-teaching job. Although I gotta say, it’s certainly not the worst job you could have here, all things considered.

      1. Hey Ken, I work in Sales for a tech/electronics company. Would love to work in Japan but I have no idea how!! Most of the “sales” jobs are pretty low pay over there. I’m trying to get noticed as a foreigner that can speak both, since I think that will give me the best odds. Gaijinpot and the like usually post pretty low-paying jobs, definitely don’t want to relocate for lower pay…

        1. I think I’d check out daijob if you’re bilingual. Lots of stuff there for people who can speak both languages. And contact head hunters. If you’ve got good qualifications, they’ll pump you up to their clients.

          1. Hey Ken!! A year and a half later!! Sorry!!!

            How do I find head hunters??? Not sure who/what to search for. Thanks!

  53. Hey there ken!

    I am 15 years old and have a Philippine nationality and have fluent English speaking ability. I know I am very young but i plan to go to a Japanese Language school for 2 years (already in contact with them). After mastering Japanese, I will try to apply for a scholarship in one of the universities at Hokkaido. My question is, will a lot of jobs take me for being Filipino when the time comes? Also, will there a lot of part-time jobs available while studying at a language school? (i will be 16 by that time).

    1. Well, according to exactly one Japanese person I asked, it is legal for 16 year-olds to work. Now, what happens after you get out of school, that’s a harder question.

      Certainly, there are people of other nationalities working here in Japan, and if your Japanese is good, then you should be able to compete in the working world. I think a lot will depend on what field you go into. If it’s an industry in high demand, then you’d have good prospects, especially since you’ll be multi-lingual at that point.

  54. I love your writing style, sir! haha. It’s a great article. BTW I have gotten 3 jobs off of craigslist with other offers 😛

    1. Craiglist is good for all kinds of jobs. I’ve never gotten one using it, but I’ve certainly thought about it. Maybe something to explore in the future.

      1. my first job in the bay area was from craigslist. The place was off of market and 6th and honestly, it was one of the better jobs I’ve had in my career.

        You just have to filter out the headhunters, the training programs, and a lot of young start ups that are looking to get people to work for free. Then, you’ll see some really good opportunities.

  55. Hey Ken, how’s it going?

    So I’m a 19 year old Indian guy, but I was born and raised in America: I’m not really even fluent in Hindi. I’ve always been fascinated with the Japanese culture (not anime if that’s what anyone’s thinking), but I’ve never really had the guts to just hop up and do something as bold as moving to a new country. I’m currently a rising sophomore at a somewhat reputable state college, pursuing a Computer Science degree, and I’ve been considering going to Japan for a year or two, after I graduate, and teaching English, or something among those lines.

    I figure it would be a good experience, and I’m still not too sure what I want to do career-wise; I love computer science and programming, but at the same time, being a doctor sounds like quite a lucrative/fulfilling career. I figure that applying to medical school in my junior year (like people traditionally do) isn’t the best idea since I’m still hesitant, so I want to take some time off doing other things to kinda figure it all out. Being an Indian in America, my mom is always pushing things that pay well and are very prestigious, but I don’t really care about all that. I’d much rather have a simple life doing something I enjoy for a living.

    I have a few questions for you about your big move before I further entertain my own thoughts about doing this after graduation.

    1. What made you want to move to Japan? You say you had a nice corporate job, so what made you want to give that up?

    2. Do you speak fluent Japanese now? Did you when you moved?

    3. Do people ever make you feel like an outsider or that you don’t belong there?

    4. Do you ever want to come back to the US?

    If you’re comfortable answering this one, I’d appreciate it. I understand if you choose not to since salaries are generally “taboo”.

    5. What was your salary in America, and what is it now?

    I have some questions about getting a job in Japan, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it 🙂

    I’m sure you’re a busy guy, so I’d appreciate any feedback!

    1. Hey Lance, thanks for the questions. Let me see if I can give you some succinct answers.

      1. I was always interested in eating healthily, and got somewhat conned into believing that the “Japanese diet” was the healthiest on the planet. Granted, it’s not bad if you eat like a 90 year-old lady who spends all day long hoeing daikon and picking cabbage. Perhaps less so if you eat like a 30 year-old salaryman whose primary source of nutrition is 7-11. But whatever, I took a trip to Tokyo, and after exactly one week, decided it was the best place on earth, and moved there. And it was, for about two weeks. After that is when life became, um, interesting.

      Why I left my job in the U.S…. well, frankly, I’ve always believed that life is a one-time shot, so what the hell, you might as well do all the crazy shit you ever dreamed of. Like at that time I literally had a girlfriend who wanted a house with a white picket fence, but I just wanted to live in a van down by the railroad tracks, so I guess leaving it all wasn’t a big deal. Probably should’ve stayed with her actually, cause she was stacked. Ah, jeez.

      2. Yeah, but it cost me a decade of my life, in which time I could’ve done a ton of more useful things, like sewing quilts, cobbling shoes, or getting a Ph.D. in Amish Studies. When I moved here, I had a basic grasp of Japanese, and that’s actually more than you need. It’s not like you speak better Japanese and Japan gets better.

      3. Yep. Every single day. But what’re you gonna do? Plastic surgery here I come.

      4. Nope. I don’t know where the best place on earth is, but it’s pretty clear to everyone that the U.S. isn’t it. Oh, except for Americans.

      5. Something tells me the internet isn’t the place to post my salary history, but I’ll say I made a pretty wonderful amount of cash in the U.S. Then it took me years of hard work in Japan to claw my way back into a remotely comfortable life. Like it took me a year and a half just to buy a bicycle, and six years before I acquired a bed. That’s a lot of damn time to sleep on the floor, let me tell you. My neck’s still sore. But now, I’m actually doing okay. Most people, honestly, give up and go home before getting to this point. Why I didn’t, I’ve no idea. Chalk it up to idealism and stupidity, I guess.

      But yeah, come here for a year, year and a half, and you’ll have a grand time. I mean, you’d might have a better time in Amsterdam, or Vietnam, or Brazil, but hey, at least you can see some rebuilt temples and Koreans dressed up like geisha. And Japanese people will treat you okay, as long as you speak absolutely zero Japanese.

  56. Hey Ken, I have lost my hope finding a job here in Japan. I always get the response “best of luck in your future endeavors” sentences in my inbox. It seems Japan is not a returnee friendly. Well I can’t blame the system here, my Japanese language level is just basic-conversational, not a Native English speaker and not a caucasian. In short I’m a half-Japanese that can’t speak Japanese and English is my 2nd language. I took the TOEIC test and got 850 and I thought it is good enough to help me find a job here. Now I’m thinking to return to my country and resume my college studies but I really love Japan, I fell in love in Japan, I want to work here and live here and I don’t want to return to my home country if possible. Please enlighten me and share your opinion about my situation. I need an idea or plan about my next move but I can’t think any of it.

    1. Hi Justaboy,

      If I can jump in, and if your Japanese is just conversational but your English is obviously much better, I would recommend finishing off university education to graduate school level in English. It will be a basis for employment anywhere, including Japan. You have many years ahead, which can include time in Japan, but educational qualifications are your first priority.

      1. Well, I’d just add that the phrase “I really love Japan” stands out as a red flag. You know, not to get overly philosophical or anything, but being crazy about something—a person, a job, a place—is usually in inverse proportion to how well we know it. I mean, Japan’s a fine spot, but like everywhere else, it’s got it’s share of problems.

        Racism, or more correctly, the constant refrain that “We’re-Japanese-and-you’re-not,” tops the list. That thinking has been holding Japan back for years, and if you’re already feeling pressure because of some language and racial issues, you’d certainly feel it more if you lived and worked here.

        Really, there are a lot of good countries in the world, and I’d broaden my search. Japan just has great PR. And the food’s pretty good. But a whole lot of people who worked hard to get here end up leaving, so bear that in mind.

        1. As Ken says really. I’ll be leaving in a few months along with my Chinese partner, and we are both graduates with masters from one of their top tier universities. It’s easier to like a country from the outside, or if you relate to it from a position of privilege (such as being an English speaker). Certain dirty truths about here aren’t going to be broadcasted about within the broader society, even if everybody knows the score. That knowledge is even harder to come by out of country. One example: major corporations can flagrantly break the laws of the country, ruining the mental and physical health of the people. Working hours a day for free on top of your regular hours. Verbal and physical abuse? Lies to graduates about company benefits that evaporate after they hire you? All too common. And who has your back? There are a few brave young lawyers, but the establishment is basically a single party for 70 years. Not exactly a vibrant civil society. If you are smart, can read between the lines, and watch out for opportunities, I think you can be a success. But you need to work hard and watch your back.

          1. DanChan, that’s some bittersweet news.

            Bitter, because I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you through this site, and sweet because I really think you’re doing the right thing.

            Over the years, I’ve seen everyone who can leave, leave. Well, rising sun, setting sun—guess the flag works for both.

          2. Great article as always Ken!

            And really liked your comment Danchan, was actually planning to write the same stuff at some point, except the part about leaving Japan in a month.

            Yeah, many companies in Japan like to break the law on a whim, not only the major ones. That was the first thing that surprised me when I first came to Japan. I remember having an interview at one Japanese company, where one of the interviewers mentioned that their employees usually work about 200 hours of overtime per month, on top of their normal hours. Decided not to take that job. It was a company that makes games and commercials btw. Just recently found out that, by Japanese law jobs connected to design, fall into a special category different from other job types. And laws that apply to other jobs types, don’t apply to it, meaning that employers can legally do whatever they please to their employees without any punishment. The the job types that I know, that fall into that category are, or at least the ones that I know are, game designer, web designer, graphic designer, CG designer and a few others that I can’t remember. That’s one of the reasons that the number of the so called black companies, is rising. Because employers can do sh@t to their employees legally.

            A bit negative comment, but just wanted to share some info.

  57. Hey man, I love your stuff!

    I’m a 23 year-old programmer and I was thinking maybe I should get a job in Japan. Y’know, apart from the sex industry, the herbivore men, the bullying and all the shit like that, the place sounds nice.

    The problem is, I’m self-taught. I have no college education and have instead learned college-level computing by myself. I know you were once a programmer too, dealing with database stuff from what I read. I do web applications and also system programming using C and, more recently, x86-64 Assembly in Linux. I love computers like that.

    I also enjoy dealing with some artistic fields, mainly music production and game design. I was reading somewhere maybe Japan’s got some kind of indie game industry, I don’t know? ‘Cause I’ve been noticing a lot of untranslated indie games coming from Japan. Maybe you know something about this?

    My question is, does the fact I’m self-taught instead of college-educated hinder my ability to seek a job in Japan? And how much Japanese do I really have to know? I don’t really mind learning the language by myself, at least from the early to mid stages, I’ll certainly need to come up with some way to get a teacher or something later on…


    1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe you need a 4-year college degree to get a work visa in Japan.

      Myself, although I started out majoring in Computer Science, I eventually switched and got a degree in English. Did it hinder my ability to get a job in the U.S.? Probably. I got pretty lucky with my first couple of gigs—personal contacts help a lot—and after that my resume was strong enough to work pretty much anywhere I wanted. Not that I’d recommend that as a course of action, however.

      As an aside, I’ll note that skills like programming (and probably language acquisition) seem to be innate for the large part. You’ve either got it, or you don’t. I’ve known many programmers over the years, and it’s really a personality type. The ability to sit for hours solving some inane problem is not just something one can acquire in class. Some of the very best programmers I’ve known have been self-taught.

      As for how much Japanese you need to work in Japan—I really wouldn’t waste my time. The reality is that you need very little for very many jobs. I’d concentrate my efforts on getting a degree first.

  58. Hi Ken.

    Your blog is amazing, you should really try publish books, I believe that the world needs more writer like you.

    Reading your articles really got me thinking about what the real Japan could be. And I am in kind of delicate situation now. So… Can I ask you about giving me some advice? I know that you probably may be sick of answering similar questions but I really don’t know what should I do.

    I am white male, aged 23. I have the opportunity to receive the Japanese government MEXT scholarship as a non-degree student (although I really haven’t got much time left to pass the needed documents because of my hesitation) . My field is history. They give you a monthly stipend of 143 000 yen (is this enough for a modest life?). The specialization lasts for about 1,5-2 years. I know that I can’t do anything with history if I want to stay in Japan, so my only chance may be the English teaching. I am not a native speaker. I didn’t went through education taught in English – one of the main requirements I’ve seen in the job descriptions, besides being native speaker. I don’t know if my English is decent enough, never got a real opportunity to practise my spoken skills but I hope that it will do. I was taught about gerunds and stuff, though 😀

    The holders of that scholarship will receive student visa, which means that part-time working will be allowed. Do you think that is possible for a international student to find a part-time English teaching job while attending the uni and after he graduates to switch to full-time and acquire a working visa from his school?

    You said in one of your comments that it’s good for a person to have a plan and a reason as for why he/she wants to go to Japan. I couldn’t agree more with you on that. Well, my country really sucks, there are almost no good job opportunities here. I guess that if I don’t try my luck with the scholarship I could easily miss my only chance of living “decent” life. And of course, visiting Japan, which is one of my dreams. I’ve read some of your articles and they really got me thinking about what I could really expect from the country. And I am kind of confused. But “it’s better to burn out than to fade away”, right? If we don’t risk we don’t win.

    I hope that I wasn’t insolent.

    Take care.

    1. Thanks very much for reading. I appreciate your encouragement.

      Far be it from me to give advice, but since you asked…the short answer is, Yeah, you should apply for the scholarship. Now, that still leaves you with three, uh, challenges.

      First, money. Is that “143 000 yen” after taxes? If so, then yes, you’ll be able to survive. If no, then you got a bit of a problem. It would help a great deal if the school you’re interested in provided some dormitory-style accommodations. Also, bear in mind all of the start-up costs associated with moving, from airfare and train passes to buying a futon. That stuff adds up. Also, you know, if you go to Disney Land, you want enough money to ride Space Mountain, otherwise it’s gonna suck, and that’ll be your situation in Japan. So money, yeah, it helps to have a lot of it.

      Number two, working. Well, you said you’re “white,” so that’s good. I hate to even say it, but race is reality in Japan. If you have a reasonably good English accent, then you can probably work somewhere. If not, then work damn hard to improve your accent. Watch a lot of movies and sing English songs or something, I dunno. Long term, if you make it through two years of school, plus two years of teaching experience, then you can probably get a permanent job somewhere. Did you say you have a bachelor’s degree? Because that would really help (and possibly be required, I’m not sure).

      Okay, last one: life plan. This is where it gets tricky. So you move to Japan, live like a beggar for two years while everyone else is out having fun, slave away at sucky teaching jobs while also attending school, and along the way learn that Japan, just like your home country, has plenty of problems. And then school ends, and where does that leave you? As a non-native speaker, you’re at a permanent disadvantage in the English-teaching business. It sounds like you’re setting yourself up to be permanently broke and slightly lonely in a foreign country that’s not exactly welcoming to immigrants. A whole lot of people find themselves in that situation, and a whole lot of people go home.

      So if you come here, you’ve gotta have a better plan than that. I don’t know what that is. Once in a while I’ll see a Western dude riding a unicycle for crowds or trying to sell hot dogs on the street. Those don’t look like great plans either, but hey, props for trying.

      Forget what you’ve seen on TV about the glamour of Japan. If you were thinking about moving to Mexico, would you be as willing to accept these conditions? Because actually Mexico’s a pretty nice place. Just saying.

  59. Hi, I would like to move to Japan in about a year and half to two years and live there for a couple of years. I have been doing my research and it seems the easiest job to get is an english teacher but I don’t have a degree. I was wondering if you have any knowledge of programs or courses I can take while still in the states that could be completed in about a year that would aid my job hunt. I also have about 5 years of direct sales experience.

    1. Thanks for the question. I don’t know any specific programs, but it sounds like you’re going to want to get a bachelor’s degree before coming here. You may want to extend your timeframe a bit.

  60. Hi Ken, interesting post… maybe it’s the Sapporo i just drank while contemplating going out and experiencing some culture on a fairly warm Tokyu afternoon.

    Sorry if I missed it (thank you Sapporo) – are you teaching English? What’s your advice for someone who wants to continue to work in IT… I’m a solution architect working in Singapore but looking for variety in my life (read: looking to work in different countries). And perhaps look at some long term options since SIngapore isn’t the easiest place in the world to do a lot of things which are important enough to me – such as buy an apartment, car, raise a family etc. Appreciate your reply 🙂 Cheers!

    1. Yeah, I’m still teaching English. I believe I’m just about the only dude in Japan whose childhood dream was to be an English teacher. That’s true too, and only shows the importance of being careful what you wish for.

      With your skills, you’d have a reasonable chance of getting a job in Japan, and I was going to encourage you until I read the end of your message: “…buy an apartment, car, raise a family etc.” Then I was like “Ooooh.” Literally, that’s what I said.

      ‘Cause when I think IT, I think Tokyo, and that’s about the worst place in the world for the three things you just listed. So I guess here’s what I’d say—you can get those things in Japan, but you’d be well-advised to look at smaller, more laid-back towns. There’s still a demand for IT, albeit not as much. If you can swing a job in one of those places, then yeah, you might do pretty well here. But careful what you wish for, hey.

  61. Hi Ken. Loved this. Had me laughing the whole time.

    I lived in Osaka for three and a half years, hold a Diploma in Hotel Management (from a special training college in Osaka) and worked part time at Hankyu Hotel during my internship period (also did some serious time doing the graveyard shift at Shinsaibashi McDonalds). It didnt take me long to discover that those were not the kind of hours I wanted to do.

    Ive been back home for six years now, but I would love to return to Japan and teach English. Is holding a degree mandatory? Will a TEFL Certficate suffice?

    Appreciate your advice.

    1. That’s a good question. Now, what I’ve heard is that you need a bachelor’s degree. But what about this “Diploma in Hotel Management” from Osaka, of which you speak? Now we’re out of my depth (which, to be fair, isn’t very deep.) You probably need to talk to somebody in some Labor or Immigration bureau or other.

      But in general, I think it’s a great idea to come here and teach English. I hope you’ll take whatever steps necessary to make that a reality.

      1. Hey Ken, some great belly laughing reads in this blog…

        My wife wants me to try live in Japan for errrr a year, but I’m like 45 and thinking most of these english schools seem pretty dodgy as in doggy style you right up the clacker! Im from Australia have a degree and have been offered a job with a company called Seiha! Say what?

        Someone recommended ECC? any thoughts?

        I just want to go skiing in powder for a season and then maybe head down to some beachy place where I can surf…. but hey I will need to get some sort of income. Visa won’t be a problem as I’ll have a spouse visa!

        Any recommendations.

  62. hello Ken,
    please i wish to ask this question. i have taught English in China for 5 years. Am a cameroonian and i`m back home now . i want to travel to japan with a business visa . is it possible for me to get a teaching job and change of visa ? i will be glad to hear from you Ken .

    1. Will it be possible for you to get a job? Hmmm, Magic 8-Ball says “Future Uncertain.” From what I’ve seen, it’s pretty hard to pound the pavement looking for jobs. You’d get a much clearer picture by replying to online jobs and seeing what types of responses you receive.

      As for changing the visa status once here, I believe you can do that. Now, let me quickly add that I barely know what’s going on around me in my own life. What’s this letter in the mailbox? Does it have any red ink on it? No? Eh, probably nothing important. That’s part of the fun of living in Japan.

      But I’ve certainly changed my visa status several times, without leaving the country. It’s my impression that if you have a company willing to sponsor you, then pretty much everything will work out at the immigration bureau.

  63. Hello , Ken-sensei! I recently stumbled upon your articles, and I must say they are brilliant!
    I’d be glad if you could tell me what you think of my future plans of moving to Japan.
    I’m an Indian student, fluent in English and majoring in Economics, and I’m going to take my JLPT N2 exam this December. I’m also planning to apply for a one-year Monbukagakusho Japanese Studies scholarship once I have my bachelor’s degree in hand. I really want to live in Japan and work as an interpreter after Monbukagakusho; so how attainable do you think my goal is? I’m especially worried since I do not have a technological background (though I’m willing to learn whatever is required).
    Thank you for reading!

    1. Your plan sounds good, and you’re taking all the right steps. My only question is: why Japan?

      I met a young guy here from Nepal who told me, “Honestly, I didn’t want to come to Japan. I just couldn’t get a visa for the U.S.” And that made sense to me, since Japan’s not exactly the land of opportunity. It seems more like a back-up choice, unless you’re wide-eyed about karate or manga cafes or something. So how about you?

      1. Sorry for the (very) late reply!
        Well, I’ve been obsessed with everything Japanese ever since I read Memoirs of a Geisha, and it was then that I made up my mind to settle there. But now I’m having second thoughts about how enjoyable my stay will be, if I ever land a job there. My personal interactions with Japanese people here haven’t been all that great, to be frank, because I thought they were polite but a little standoffish at the same time. Though the people I met online were great. After reading your views on Japan, and a million others with similar views about how Japan is not all it’s made out to be…I am still fascinated by Japan, but yeah, I think I have a more real picture now.
        Anyway, I don’t see myself living here much longer, so I think I’d still prefer to move to Japan.

        How do they treat Indians over there? BTW, I’m not fashion-conscious at all like Japanese girls, neither do I like talking about silly stuff much. Though that might have to change.

        1. There are certainly a ton of Indian people here. Maybe even more than white people. Come to think of it, that may finally be my answer to, What surprises you most about Japan?

          Anyhow, my impression, having seen many and spoken with a few Indian folks, is that they’re pretty isolated. They seem to largely keep to themselves and not assimilate much into Japanese society. I suspect—and of course I could be wrong—that they are clearly “foreigners,” and so kept at arms length, but don’t receive the corresponding bump of being “Oooo, so exotic” that white and black people do.

          There seem to be a lot of Indian people working in the food and beverage industry. And in general, they look fairly happy. I’m almost certain you wouldn’t get the same treatment that I, as a white person, receive. And that could be good or bad, depending upon your perspective.

  64. Hello Ken,
    I love your blog, and appreciate your effort to answer all the questions from the helpless people (that’s including me!) about Japan. I’ve read so many blogs and by far your blog is my favorite and THE BEST!
    It’s so informative, and so funny!

    So, like others, I have a zillion questions, but will keep it short (as possible).
    Here goes- and thanks in advance!

    A little background:
    I’m mid 30’s, asian female, lived in the U.S. for over 20 years, got schooling there and speak fluent English.
    I worked in New York for 10 years as a graphic designer (before coming to Tokyo), and have a master’s degree from a top school in the U.S. and a TESOL certificate as well.
    I met my current boyfriend who is Japanese in the U.S. – he moved back to Japan, and after several years of long distance relationship, I came here with a tourist visa hoping to find a job and live with him.

    However, after a couple months, this ‘hoping’ to find a job, is not really working out well.
    It’s so much harder than I had imagined, and without Japanese speaking ability, like other foreigners, my options are very limited – lucky if I can find an English teacher job.
    With my age (I know Japanese prefer younger people) and being an asian female, despite the fact that I hold a TESOL certificate (and teaching experience) and a master’s degree, to land an interview is very difficult- let alone I don’t have a proper visa already but a tourist visa.

    I know, everyone asks me, why don’t you just get married with your Japanese boyfriend (right now), but it’s not so realistic at this moment. We do plan to get married in the future, but he doesn’t think it’s a good timing because if we do the paperwork now just for the visa, then later on, if things get bumpy we will look back and find fault from this – we never know, and we don’t want to rush things.

    It’s starting to get long, so getting to my question:
    How much chance do I have getting a ‘proper job’ that’s related to my current career – graphic designer or in a creative field- in a foreign company in Japan with my background? (and yes, i would need a visa sponsorship).

    and how much chance do I have being an English teacher here in Tokyo?
    And which do you think would be easier for me to land?

    I only have a month left here, and I’m planning to go back to the U.S. afterwards, and will keep searching and applying from there.

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Wow, you really know how to butter a guy up. I’m like a big tub of movie popcorn. Mmmm, so slippery and delicious…

      But, you know, if there’s one person who shouldn’t be giving advice, it’s probably me. I mean, you really want to go down the road I did? Okay, I’ll take your silence as a yes. So here goes…

      I’d say your biggest barrier is getting that first work visa, which will allow you to stay in the country for a while. Companies are pretty reluctant to hand those out to tourists, which is why flying into Narita and hoofing it around Tokyo looking for a job may not be the best plan.

      But once you have any kind of work visa, then you’re here. After you’ve got that, plus a Japanese address and phone number on your resume, you’ll stop getting tossed immediately into the sayonara pile.

      However, off the bat, it’s probably a lot to ask God to deliver a sweet creative job into your hands. Might as well ask Santa for a pony while you’re at it. So I’d go for an English teaching gig. Age is absolutely not an issue; don’t get that into your head. Nor is your race, assuming you speak gud English. Of course, prime job-hunting season is in the period leading up to April 1, so you’re working against that right now. Ah, fate.

      Whatever. Here’s what I’d do. Apply to every full-time job you can. Take anything that offers a visa. With your qualifications, you might just luck out. Failing that, retreat to the U.S., then apply online, in the November-March hiring season. You will get a job.

      Once you’re here, work ruthlessly at getting a better job. That’s when your educational background and qualifications will really come into play, since everybody else is doing the same thing.

      As an alternative option, you might consider doing a “visa run,” where you pop over to Korea or somewhere for a couple of days, and then come back in on another 90-day visa. Just a thought.

      Let me know how it works out for you. And don’t get married yet. That’s what I’d say.

  65. Hello Ken,
    Thank you so much for your reply!
    I really appreciate it.

    You are not a popcorn….and I didn’t butter you up – it’s just the truth, you know!
    This is really THE ONE BLOG I found that is very helpful and you sincerely answer all the questions (with humor!).
    If I land a job in Japan, I want to thank you and treat you a glass of beer! (or buffalo wings, or a slice of pizza, you name it!)

    Thanks for your advice – I can kind of see a hint of light from this dark tunnel.

    And I won’t get married yet!

    1. Yeah, thanks for not getting married before we get a chance to hang out slamming down that beer and pizza.

      Seriously though, with your qualifications, you’ll be able to land a job here. And then you can start living the dream… I mean, just ask any Japanese person, and they’ll tell you their job is to work in this country forever. Ah, pretty sure that’s right.

  66. Hello, I’m interested in Japanese culture. And it’s my dream to live in Tokyo. I want to start a business there. I’m debating whether I should do fashion or restaurant. I was thinking whether I should be a cook and own a restaurant or own a fashion store. I know that they get inspired by our American cultures in food, music, amd fashion. And I would like to bring our traditions there. I know it’s going to be a challenge but I’ll do what it takes to achieve my dream. And I would like to know the basics in what I need to do and how to achieve it. Advice?

    1. Not sure how inspired anybody is by America any more. You may want to double-check that assumption.

      So my advice would be to take a quick trip here and scope it out. But there are probably a lot of nations where it’s easier to start a business. Including the U.S.

  67. VE8Z
    Hey Ken, thank you much for the post, its very helpful.

    I am curious in starting out as a teacher in Japan, not quite sure exactly where, and I don’t know what success I would have either as I am a 19yo with currently one year of teaching under my belt.

    I know that becoming an English teacher is the small door that the boot should be going into, but I was wondering if you know much about the interest base of technological classes. I teach robotics you see, so I was wondering if that little factor might have a way of helping my out if I were to take the leap.

    I also don’t have much college under my belt, so i know that is quite a bit of a ding. However I am hoping that experience, awards, and accolades presented by my state might be of help.

    Please give me you two cents.

    1. Technical English, Business English, English for Small Children and Rodents…any kind of speciality is helpful. My two yen would be to get that degree first, ’cause you’ll need that to work here. Once you’ve got that, I think doors will open for you.

      1. Hi Ken.

        Have a quick question for you, or maybe two. Out of all the companies, that you have worked so far were you a 正社員 or 契約社員.
        Also, what sum of money per month, do you think is enough to live comfortably in Tokyo? Just curious.

        1. I’ve been both 契約社員 and 正社員 (contract employee and permanent full-time staff). Although “permanent staff” has a nice ring to it, sometimes the work conditions are better for contractors. That’s just my experience. Like everywhere, there are a million permutations to the work situations. And now I’m trying hard not to rhyme that with frustrations and masturbations, among other terrible options. Ah, but I digress.

          As for how much it costs to live in Tokyo, okay, that’s a pretty great question with a slightly complicated answer. Let me write a full-on post about it.

  68. Hello Ken,

    Thanks for your great blog.

    I’ve been in Tokyo since last January, on a Student Visa at a language school. I have investments back in my country that pretty much allows me to live here and pay all my expenses without much hassle, and thanks to Internet, taking care of them from here is possible. These nine months here were very enlightening: you end up learning that the great things weren’t that great; and that the bad things sometimes are worse than you previously thought. Even so, for a numerous of reasons I’d like to live here for a few more years, until I could decide whether it would be worth to settle down here and… that’s when I arrive at the issue: Visa.

    As I have a fairly good financial condition, there is no need to strain myself in order to keep a Working Visa. I considered attending a 大学 or 専門学校 just for Student Visa so I could stay here for a few more years, but I wonder if there wouldn’t be a better way? (And nope, not marrying).

    Thanks again for your blog!

    1. Thanks for reading and writing in, Nick.

      There are a few options. I’ve got a friend who’s well-off, which enabled him to start his own company here (at least on paper) and then self-sponsor a visa. He’d been in Japan for several years already, and paid a lawyer to set the whole thing up, so it’s possible, at least in theory. That sounds like almost as much trouble as getting married to me, but if you’ve got the means, it might be one way.

      Another thing you might keep in the back of your head is simply making friends with somebody who’s got a business. They could put you on the books, nominally pay you, and sponsor you for a visa. It’s good to make friends.

      Going to school’s certainly one choice, as is a Working Holiday Visa if you happen to be from a country (such as the UK) where you can do that.

      Worse comes to worst, I suppose you could get a job (shudder). The first year you’re here, you’re likely to get a 1-year visa, and when you renew, probably a 3-year. Once you’ve got the visa, you can pretty much do as you please. Let me know how it works out for you.

  69. Hi Ken.
    Brown Barbie here.

    I had never dreamed of a Japan life but I landed myself a Japanese man.

    (Admit it, you judged me up to this point. Lol)

    I am a university graduate and a professional, got assignments in Japan for months, and went back home after the deal is over. If not for the money and the chance to go travel around Japan, climb mountains (solo!), I wouldn’t say I prefer Japan over here. I get paid cheap here but the beach is 2 hrs away and I could own my place and buy my car soon enough. The traffic and corrupt government is something else.

    He invited me for dinner, and then one dinner turned to a lot of meet-ups after (some details are meant for more than a Calbee and A glass of wine.)

    Since I’m back here, everything has been long-distance. He visited me once-he hated the traffic and the heat but enjoyed all the other girls in bikini. Cashed-out my vacation leave to get him to an exclusive place.

    I might be nuclear bombing myself soon as he asked me to move in.

    Being the brown barbie who looks like a kid than a professional, I may be bracing myself for a tougher set of prejudice. Let’s face it, there exists a concept that brown skin + japanese = club girl who’s in for the the japanese money. Well, being a woman in a man’s field prepped me up for that but sometimes, I just don’t kiss ass when I’m not meant to so I might be throwing in an occasional bitchy look to judging scoundrels. Or for fun, dress up like a bitch fawning over my man. But then this obvious prejudice does and will affect my “career” choices.

    However, he cannot afford me to just stay at home, wear cute dresses (or none), cook bento, and be his wife-in-demand because he’s our typical salaryman.

    For love, I might end up cleaning asses, or teaching english -not equating both and not meaning to degrade the other. So here’s to saying goodbye to the possibility of my own house and car. I’m keeping my retirement savings, though.

    If I do end up flying my ass over there, if it isn’t much of a bother for you, can you hook me up to your english teaching gigs?

    1. Wow, that’s an amazing story. You’re embarking on a really big adventure. Ah, you won’t need any of my help to find an English-teaching job. Once you’re here, if you’re positive, well-spoken (and it seems you are) and possess a Bachelor’s degree, you should be able to find something and work up from there. Good luck and keep me posted.

  70. hi…
    I’m an Indian.. and currently doing my college for bachelors degree in computer science engineering…

    i always dream of living and working in Japan…

    can i get job…?

    thanks in advance..
    sorry for my bad English…

    1. Really, the discussion has to begin with what skills you have. And then why a Japanese company would need to hire you instead of a Japanese person. It would help a lot if you had some technical or medical skill that was in high demand.

      1. thanks for your reply…
        actually I am learning app development
        i have good knowledge of programming
        so my app development skills and
        programming skills help me to get job

        1. That will definitely help. Also, try to get as much work experience as possible and beef up your resume. And make sure to keep working on your language skills, both Japanese and English. Best of luck.

  71. Hi there, so last night ive been reading your blog and all the comments for like 2-3 hours on my little phone screen. Now im on my pc and would like to share my situation and questions while asking what your thoughts are and perhaps some advice. So, here i go…

    Im 19 years old, from the Netherlands and done with highschool. After highschool i took 1 year off doing nothing because i didnt know what job or studie i wanted to do. That year is soon coming to an end, which means i need to choose a studie/university to go to. But as you can imagine, just like many others around my age, i still have no clue what to do. I just know that i want to do something i like, the pay comes second(unless the pay is HUUUUUGE, well you get what im saying).

    Meanwhile, i am seriously considering about living in japan. Since i have never been in japan before i cant be sure if everything will be as great as i hope it to be, but the food, nature, buildings, history, outgoing possibilities/nightlife, and the anime-like art are things im interested in, to say the least. I cant tell if i will enjoy Japan as much as i hope(pretty sure thats a no), but i am at least convinced im not doing this on a half-hearted whim.

    I want to experience Japan as an integrated(at least to some level) person, with that i mean, doing the same things as Japanese people of my age do. I dont want to come to Japan for a few weeks vacation, and staying in that western vibe you know. It’s a vacation, so you visit some ramen shops, some maid cafes and temples,then you go back to your hotel and think about what kind of shop you wanna visit tomorrow. All the while not having done any real “japanese-stuff” yourself/with someone from Japan. For instance, going clubbing or just going out for drinks with a group isnt really something you do that easily when you are on vacation. The view i have, of how people spend their days on vacation, visiting a foreign country: Wake up in hotel, spend day visiting tourist spots or just exploring the town or city, go back to hotel, sleep in hotel. I dont see how you can actually enjoy japanese lifestyle that way.

    I guess the perfect thing would be to have a group of japanese people around my age to go out with and show me Japan. Anyway, visiting tourist spots isnt a bad thing, but this is just scratching the surface of japan. Taking into consideration that i want to experience japan in its entirety, like normal everyday life, going out with people of my age, go to festivals, watch firework events etc. i came to the conclusion that i need to actually live in Japan for a while, get to know some people to go out with and get a job so i can prevent myself from dying from starvation, in a carton box, on the street, with no one there to care.

    While it’s nice to have a desire to do something like living in Japan, im pretty sure it is not that easy. First i thought about working in japan and living there for like, forever, but i hate working(yes, your typical lazy youth stereotype right here), and seeing how it is to work a serious job in Japan(if you can even get one), no thank you. Besides, if something goes wrong or you just want to go back to your mama in your home country, you will want to be able to get a good job back home. I dont want to mess up my future here, by going to Japan, then come back because i didnt like Japan as much as i expected, or i just got tired after a few years, and not being able to get a job i like here.

    So here is what i am thinking: I want to do a useful studie, one which i would normally choose if i were to just stay in the Netherlands, but i was wondering if there are any studies that will also do me good in Japan. (im not into the technical stuff or biological stuffs, my profile at highschool was Economics and Society)

    I want to live a few years in Japan, since living in japan forever, a full serious life, involves a serious job, which that sucks, especially for a foreigner as i conclude from your article(and some random browsing the internet). I will eventually go back to the Netherlands, but i need a job that can provide me with enough money to live a normal life in Japan, and hopefully some working experience in Japan, which i can use when i come back to the Netherlands.

    For instance, an International Business and Management studie, you can get a proper job with that here, but is there in Japan any workplace that lets a foreigner, just out of the university, fullfill a proper job in an area like that? Because if i just work the register at a shop, or wash dishes for 4 years, and come back to the Netherlands, i will have no working experience in the area of my studie, and i will be 4 years older. I think it will be hard to get a good career after that, after all, if i stayed here, i would have finished my studie, and got a job that fits the studie ive done right away. Companies will take you in and you will slowly get experience which means you can get higher up. But doing a studie here, then going to japan just doing a simple job to provide enough money for the living cost, then coming back after 4 years, looking for a job will be hard. Because there will be people your age, that already have 4 years of experience, guess who will be hired for the job?

    In short, the main thing is that i dont want to damage the life i can have here in the Netherlands, but i do want to live a few years in Japan.

    Thats why i am thinking of doing a proper studie, which is not chosen for the reason of getting a job in Japan, but with the idea of getting the job i want here in the Netherlands. After my studie i will probably be around 24. Then i want to go to Japan for a few years(lets say 4 years), and i will need a job there. Is it possible for foreigners, that just got out of the university, to get a proper job? First i thought any job in Japan would be fine, like washing dishes at a ramen shop 5 days a week 8 hours a day, or working in some other shop, as long as i could get sufficient funds to live normally and go out with people i meet.

    But as i said earlier, the big(and probably only) downside of living in Japan for 4 years, is that when you come back home, you have “wasted” 4 years of your life(just like this 1 year i took after highschool), because you have not gotten any work experience in the area of what you studied. I did pre-university education, so if go to an university and i can finish a bachelor, which is 3 years, and then a master of 1 or 2 years, i will have quite a high education(i think?). With that it should be possible to get quite a good job, or at least a more than decent one i guess.

    I’d hate to make the wrong decision and accidently throw away a great future i could have had, thats the thing i am afraid of. Im afraid of going to Japan for 4 years while believing i can still have a good career/life/job when i come home, but then when i come home realize that these 4 years away in Japan made a huge impact on my life and possibilities here at home. Afraid that i will end up thinking: God, if this is the effect of those 4 years away, i wish i hadnt gone.

    It feels like, going to Japan for 4 years after my studie, could be the biggest mistake of my life, and will influence the rest of my life in a negative way. But still, i am interested and drawn to(at least some aspects of) Japan. The language, the food, the anime industry, the history and the nature, just to name a few things. If i dont live in Japan for a while when im still young, and enjoy the country and go crazy in the weekends, enjoying the night-life, going out drinking with friends etc, then im pretty sure that, having not gone to Japan and not knowing how good or bad it could have been, will end up being one of my biggest regrets in life.

    Besides, just going to japan on vacation is ridiculous, i mean, i cant learn how to properly eat with chopsticks in such a short time now, can i?!

    Best regards, loved the article!

    1. Know what I like to do on a Saturday morning? Give you one guess. If you thought Sit on my ass at Starbucks, drink a ton of coffee, and tell other people what do do with their lives, then whoa congratulations, you’re a winner.

      But yeah, I’m kidding. Seriously, it sounds like you’ve thought this through very well, unlike um, some people who just randomly wound up in Japan and now are doomed to spend their days at Starbucks. So yeah, you’re right. The big challenge with coming to Japan is that it competes with everything else you could do with your life. It’s the classic choice. Marry your high school sweetheart or date the entire college cheerleading team. Buy a sensible house with a vegetable garden out back or sail around the world on a pirate ship. One of the wisest things I ever heard, and you should tattoo this on your forearm, is: Making choices is the hardest thing in life.

      There’s nothing more difficult, because gaining means also losing. But okay, enough bottle cap philosophy. Here’s what you should do. Finish your undergrad. That’s number ichi. Then come to Japan for one or two years. Then go back and get your Masters. You won’t be appreciably older, and you can spin the time you spent working in the steamy ramen shop as some sort of “international cross-cultural experience.” Don’t come for four years. That’s way too long, and all the fun happens in the first two anyway. You need to leave before you figure out what’s really going on here. I’m serious too. You don’t want to stay around to see how the movie ends; it’s not pretty.

      p.s. Star Wars, very disappointing. Should’ve left in the middle.

  72. Hi Ken, thanks a lot for the info. But I still have a few questions. Here’s my brief situation. I’m planning to work and live in Japan but my country is not an English spoken country. So here’s my questions:

    1. Can I still apply as an ALT? Because many job openings has “Native English Speaker” as a requirement.

    2. In the post, you said that “Having Bachelor’s degree helps”, Is it only degrees around education? My degree is Information Technology

    Thanks in advance

    1. Okay, good questions—let me try to give you my version of answers.

      1. Yes, sure. I’ve known ALTs from countries where English wouldn’t be considered a first language, like India, the Philippines, and the Ukraine. Personally, I find the notion of a “native language” to be a bit specious.

      2. A Bachelor’s Degree is a requirement for most (possibly all) language teaching jobs, however you don’t necessarily need to have a degree in ESL, English, or Education.

      Now, the above being said, please understand that you’re in a competitive situation. You have to have a better resume, and interview better, than everyone else applying for the job. Having a degree in an ESL-related field helps a lot. Being from one of the major “English-speaking” countries (U.S., England, Australia, etc.) helps a lot. Having ESL-teaching experience helps a lot. Already living and working in Japan helps a lot. Being white or at least black probably helps too. Even having a Western-sounding name helps. Is it fair? Nope. But that’s the country you’re coming to, and those are the people you’ll be competing against, so be prepared.

      You also need to seriously ask yourself if your English is good enough. Interviewers are looking for accent- and error-free English.

      Looking for a job always sucks. It’s depressing and you’ll face a lot of rejection—everyone does. But there’s great and increasing demand for English in Japan, and all those teachers have to come from somewhere. Keep at it and maybe you’ll find a good situation here. I sincerely hope you do.

  73. Hi Ken, Thanks for putting the effort into this. May I ask what job you actually perform? When you landed those early corporate interviews back in the US, were the interviews in English or Japanese?

    I am located in a small city in Kyuushuu (can’t network) and have a permanent visa. I am well educated (Masters, prestigious universities etc…) but I’m one of those people who can pass N2/N1 but can’t really talk at all. Nonetheless, I’d like to get a corporate job in one of the big Japanese cities. Do you know of companies that would conduct interviews in English and would potentially be interested in a mediocre Japanese speaker? Ideally I’d like to be based in Japan in a position with a bit of international outlook. Doing business between Japan and China would be most ideal. Cheers, John

    1. Hey John, I’ll defer the first question on the grounds that it seems like every time I get something nice, someone else comes along to take it away. Damn you Amy Smalls for taking my two-scoop ice cream at the age of six. Okay, now that I got that out, I will say that I teach English, which is all I really wanted to do in life anyway.

      Gotta go eat dinner here in a sec, so I’ll just add that the interviews were always in English, with a rather perfunctory Japanese portion designed to ensure I could properly say ohayou gozaimasu and otsukare sama desu. Beyond that, I don’t believe they gave a darn about my Japanese ability.

      I’ll try to edit this later, so my apologies for the brevity.

      Okay, where was I? Man, pan-fried buri with ginger, that was delicious. So anyway, yeah, I don’t have any specific leads. I just sent out resumes to head hunters and anybody that looked good on the Daijob site. I had a pretty great resume at the time, from my experience in U.S. corporations, so that helped.

      For the type of jobs I was applying for, I believe the cachet of working in a big American company was a major plus. Doing the same thing from a small town in Kyuushuu, even being the same exact person, would be a far greater challenge. Pretty sure that doesn’t help, but it probably needs to be said. Nonetheless, with your skills, you can certainly land something good if you’re persistent. Keep hope alive, that’s what I always say. Well, not always, but still.

  74. Hey Ken,

    I am a 22 year old Portuguese-Brazilian with a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree, double-diploma (half of my undergrad was done in Canada, the other half in Brazil). My Japanese level is probably N3, I can’t say for sure because I haven’t taken the exam. I’m fluent in English, although it might not look like it cause of my poor writing skills. Gotta trust me on this one.

    I was thinking about going to Japan on a student visa — studying Japanese full-time for approximately one year. This would probably get me to N1 level. After finishing my Japanese studies, I’d search for any job I could get (that pays enough for me to survive). I’d have to change my visa status while living in Japan, in this case; don’t know if it is possible, but it seemed like the best alternative.

    I don’t have any experience in teaching English, but I’ve taught Portuguese to foreign students during my undergrad period in Brazil. I also worked as Teaching Assistant for Biophysics from 2013 to 2015. I have lots of experience in Pharmacy and Research, but I’m not that interested in applying for a Master’s in Japan or anything like that. I’m sure I can’t practice Pharmacy in Japan as well, so… Yeah.

    Does my plan make any sense? I would very much appreciate your insight on this.

    Thank you for taking the time to answer all the comments and for putting all this amazing content together!



    1. As a one or two-year plan…okay, not bad…

      Before I forget, I should mention that I had a friend from Spain who found a job (albeit not a very good one) teaching Spanish to kids. There is demand for languages other than English, is what I mean.

      But back to the plan, yeah, sounds pretty okay, but I kind of feel I’m missing something. So you’ve got this great career in pharmacy lined up. And you’re interested in Japan, but you don’t really want to stay here long-term, is what I’m gathering. So why invest a year of your life learning Japanese?

      Cause here’s what I’m seeing. Here’s my man Luis, he’s got enough cash to attend school full-time, so he comes to Japan and spends a year slaving away in classrooms, doing homework, spending hours and hours trying to master the language of a country that is itself racing to implement English as a second language in advance of the 2020 Olympics. After which he’s going to get whatever job he can scrounge up for a year before going back to be what he really should be, which is a respected professional. That’s option A.

      Option B is using that same money to travel through all of Asia, hanging out on beaches and living it up for a year or two.

      Like I said, maybe I’m missing something, but it’s hard to see why you’d spend so much money and life energy on Japanese. What’s wrong with Tagalog?

  75. Hi there, thank you for the great article. 🙂 I read some of the comments here and they are really inspiring.
    I am also interested in getting a job in Japan.

    I live in Iceland, however I am fluent in English. I am a citizen in Iceland but my nationality isn’t Icelandic. I am getting my BA degree in Japanese language and culture as my major and in philosophy as my minor in this autumn. I have decided to apply for 1year master degree program in Entrepreneurship because I also have background courses done in business major and psychology major. If I don’t get into entrepreneurship master degree course then I have decided to apply for master degree as a translator, which I have better chances of.

    What I want to know is what kind of degrees are they looking for when they are hiring an employee for usual secretary works or as company staff? I have experience in secretary work as well as working as a waitress. I do not mind working either jobs, but for a better salary I would like to work in a company.

    In your article you mentioned that you had experience working in a company before you applied for a job in Japan. If I may ask, what kind of degree did you have? And how many years of working experience? Do you have better chance of getting a job in Japan if you have lots of experience beforehand? I am kind of nervous about this, but I really want to go to Japan as of right now.

    I am sorry about the long question. Thank you so much for this great article. 🙂

    1. And sorry for the delayed reply.

      Welcome visitor from Iceland. How’s the whole Viking thing working out for you? Love your horned helmets, by the way.

      So to answer your questions, I’d say that to get a job in a company, you’d do well to have a degree in a specific field that the company needs. That is, if they need programmers, or Japanese-Icelandic translators, and you have a degree in said field, then you’re sitting pretty. If you just want a general job as, say, and admin assistant, then yeeeah, you’re going to be competing with every Japanese person, and that’s not good.

      There’s also the whole visa thing. To obtain a visa, you need a special skill. There’s not a lot of Waitress visas, is what I mean. Some folks come for school (Student visa) and then work part-time in a restaurant, so certainly that’s an option.

      In my case, I had, let’s just say, “a number of” years working in U.S. companies, and managed to con an unwitting university into giving me some sort of Master’s degree in a vaguely communications-related field. All of which set me up well for being an English teacher, if not much else.

      Now, do you need a lot of experience? Ah, probably not. To be a teacher, hell not. Does it help? Sure. Everything helps.

      Having a degree in Japanese Language and Culture sounds good. Being fluent in English, plus some other language…also good. What you need now is that special skill, something companies in Japan are searching for and only you can provide. I kind of think Secretary or Waitress aren’t it. Teacher, translator, butcher, baker, candlestick maker…yeah, maybe that’s the way to go.

  76. Hello, Ken!

    I suppose I’ll be adding to the sea of questions for you here (sorry!).
    Like everyone else here, I’ve decided after a good year of planning that I’d like to live and work in Japan starting out as an English teacher. I have a high school diploma, and I’m currently enrolling in a local technical college for a BA in Marketing (I just went with something that offered online courses as I work full time + overtime). Just wondering if online degrees are acceptable for applying for a working visa? (Madison Area Technical College is the one I’m going with)

    One other thing that makes me hesitant is that I’m 36 years old right now and I’m not looking at heading to Japan until maybe after 40, at least if the accelerated program I’m going for doesn’t shorten that window at all. By that time will I be considered too old?

    The last thing is that I do have quite a bit of money saved up so far and I have conversational Japanese, but I’m still working on improving my skills. I’m in the US, unmarried and without children if that makes any difference at all. Do you think that this would be doable for me at all?

    Sorry for all my rambling questions, and thank you so much!

    1. Beth, I think you’re going to be perfect for Japan.

      The age thing isn’t a thing. The average age of English teachers here could well be 35. I know several folks in their 50s, and they seem to get jobs galore just fine. It might well be an advantage to be a bit older.

      As for online degrees, that seems to be the trend lately. Many people have them, and I expect the numbers to increase rapidly in the coming years. As long as you get a diploma from an accredited school, you should be in great shape.

      More than anything else though, I’m glad to hear you’re moving here with a good cushion of cash. That’ll make a huge difference. Keep socking away dollars. They’re worth a lot more than yen right now.

      1. Sorry for my late reply, and thank you, Ken!

        One last question for you; Regarding online degrees, I’ve noticed that some accredited brick and mortar schools have online classes as well. Would the university’s online classes also count as being accredited? And would you happen to know where to direct me to any listings of which online schools have accreditation that is officially accepted by Japanese immigration? Reading around I’ve noticed a lot of people commenting on some accredited schools not being accepted by Japanese immigration.

        Again, I want to thank you so much for all of your help. This has been a very informative article!

        1. And sorry for my late reply as well…

          I haven’t heard of accredited schools not being accepted by immigration. That certainly is a concern. Honestly, I have no idea how you’d check that. Most of the government and bureaucratic stuff is beyond me here. Of course, it’s beyond me in the U.S. as well.

          I do know several people working here with online degrees, so I don’t think that’s the deciding factor. Certainly, the number of schools that don’t offer online degrees is decreasing rapidly, and I’d be surprised if it didn’t approach zero by the end of the decade. Not that Japan’s keeping up with any trends though.

          Sorry if that’s not much help…

  77. Hello, ken
    I’m Sujata, and I’m 17 years old, it’s like my dream to go to japan and work there. Since I was searching through the internet that what type of jobs are there in japan that I can do, I saw your article, it’s really nice. Now I know that there are various types of jobs I can do in japan.
    I really want to settle in japan.And as soon as possible.As now I’m a university first-year student and planning on doing a major in psychology. From your article. I have got a liking towards the teaching profession. I’m really confused about what should I do now should I leave my course and instead of it do a Bachelor’s degree.
    please help me. Sorry to disturb you, and thank you, I’m waiting for your reply, please reply.

    1. Hi Sujata,

      Thanks for writing. Just to clarify: in order to teach English in Japan (if that’s what you want to do), all you need is a Bachelor’s degree, in any subject. Of course, having a degree in English, TEFL, Education, Linguistics, etc. is preferable, but many folks teach with other degrees.

      Psychology has always interested me (along with Sociology), and if that’s where your interest lies, I wouldn’t hesitate to pursue it. Just make sure you get a Bachelor’s degree.

      The question, for me, would be: what do you want to do long-term? Also, I wouldn’t base everything around Japan. You may find you don’t like it after all, and want to go somewhere else. You might want to pursue a degree in a subject that gives you a variety of options.

  78. Hello there Ken!

    Please forgive my abundances of questions I am about to ask.

    I don’t really plan to land a job in Japan one day, but I have always been interested in studying aboard there ever since I was really small. But if I could obtain a job there, it would be pretty cool. I am an undergraduate Hispanic-American student studying law and with a double minor in Spanish (Ironic right?) and Business. Also, I am studying Japanese (Since I want to be able to communicate with the host family I am going to live with). Is it possible to land some job with what I am studying?

    By the way, my friend wants to teach English in Japan! I’ll be sure to let her know about the resources you provided to find a Job there!

    Thank you,


  79. I am former law enforcement and have lived in Japan when in high school, studied martial arts etc….and am wondering if there is a specific interest in hiring a person with my qualifications, even if it is to teach at Police Academies or at some other government level?? If not, then I need to consider some other “back up” plans even if it is to teach at a college level or “other” level.
    Thank you all for such an outstanding webpage and interesting questions.
    Best regards,

    1. Hi John,

      Speaking in really broad terms, Japan doesn’t seem to have much demand for any profession other than that which deals with the English language. Anything to do with English and everybody’s on board.

      Maybe it’s possible to get here first, teach English, and then transition into something like teaching law enforcement techniques—in English—to police academies. But it’s probably more likely that you (like many others) would simply end up teaching English. Not that that’s a bad thing.

  80. Hello Ken,
    Here Sujata,
    Thanks for your reply and sorry for my mistake.What I meant to ask was should I continue my current course or have a degree in English. This was my Question.
    but as you said that degree in any subject is ok.
    I know that you are tired of answering the same type of questions again & again.And I’m also going to ask you the same questions but I’m really confused with it and I don’t have anyone to help me .Sorry in advance for the questions and I hope you will reply to them.
    1) As I’m an Indian and English is not my native language would there be any problem with me teaching English in japan.
    2) About the TEFL course as I’m a non- native English person do I need any special education to do this course.
    3)As for doing TEFL from where should I do it .which is the most recognized institute for doing it.Are the online courses reliable? what type of courses are there? And can I do it along side with my graduation?
    4)As I want to teach for junior or senior high students.Is there any age criteria for it.Do I need any other qualification for it other than degree & TEFL?
    5)What about the experience. Should I first teach in India and then apply in japan or is it ok. Because in India if I have to teach for secondary or college students. I need either a B.ed or M.ed degree for it. and it can be only done after graduation. And if I have to do this then it will take more time for me to come to japan .But as I mentioned before I want to settle In japan as soon as possible.
    6)As an after plane. I’m thinking that after teaching in English,Doing something in the field of psychology. Is there anything I can do in this field.Please tell me.
    once again sorry for asking you so many questions and I hope you will answer them .Thanks in advance.

    1. Yeah. That one is tripping me up as well. Seems like there is no good answer on the Internet for non-native English teachers getting jobs in Japan. I am on the same boat as you, being an Indian and en route to be getting a BA in English Lit.

      What I don’t know is, is that enough to get a job in Japan? Or maybe TEFL/TESOL will boost up my chances? What kind of jobs can I expect with and without TESOL/TEFL? On a slight tangent with that, how much do my chances go up if I am open to jobs in the boonies (if there are any jobs there). What if I get a Masters in English Lit? Do I get a better job like teaching in college or Universities? or am I being plain overqualified for the pay to effort ratio? What if I teach some specialized courses, like, Business English? Does it make me more marketable?

      As for another whole different can of worms, do people from non-native countries stand a good chance of getting a job? I mean, the internet is absolutely awash with discriminatory stories of Westerners(full points if you are blond, blue eyed) getting ‘priority’ and ‘privileges’ and everyone else, the proverbial kick in the oshieri. The truth of that? I am asking you, Ken. Add to it the fact that I don’t think my finances would allow me to travel there and plop down interviews. Hell, do they even allow non-natives for the mythical Skype interviews?

      What if I learn Japanese over the course of my stay there+whatever I have learnt though my (in)frequent study of Japanese? Do I get some extra marks? Or maybe I can switch to translator/intrepreter job?

      Heck, Ken, why don’t you do a full article about non-natives teaching in Japan? With your trademark irony and sarcasm of course, it just won’t do without that. There is surprisingly very few actual, informative articles with people who have faced the ground realities and are not just talking about JET. Oh yes, back where I come from, JET isn’t a thing anymore, since 2007 I think. And no, Jvloggers aren’t exactly very…trustworthy is a strong word, so I’ll use ‘confidence arousing’ instead.

      Also, where do you see the English teaching Job markets in Japan going in lets say…2019? or just after the fevered climax of 2020 Olympics?

      Dammit. Just when I thought I don’t have to wear pants for the Skype interviews(If there are any for me), you break my heart.

      1. You certainly bring up a number of pertinent questions. It’s probably post-worthy, but eh, I’m kind of lazy right now, having just finished consuming a massive stack of English muffins, so I’ll just lay here on my stomach and casually try to type on the floor.

        >>being an Indian and en route to be getting a BA in English Lit…is that enough to get a job in Japan?

        –>Maybe, but you’ll face rather steep odds.

        >>Or maybe TEFL/TESOL will boost up my chances?

        –> Yes. Everything helps

        >>What kind of jobs can I expect with and without TESOL/TEFL?

        –>Same kind, only now you’ve got a better chance of landing them.

        >>On a slight tangent with that, how much do my chances go up if I am open to jobs in the boonies (if there are any jobs there).

        –>There are many jobs in the boonies, but your odds remain about the same. Big city=more jobs, more competition. Boonies=less competition, but fewer jobs.

        >>What if I get a Masters in English Lit? Do I get a better job like teaching in college or Universities?

        –>You need a Masters to teach at a university, but I’d be hesitant to get one in your position. To be frank, I don’t know anyone who isn’t white at the university-level. I saw a black guy apply for a job once, but he didn’t get it. I’m not saying it’s a good thing, or the right thing, but that’s the way it is here. My feeling is that an M.A. isn’t going to compensate for your skin color. Sorry, but I didn’t make Japan this way.

        >>What if I teach some specialized courses, like, Business English? Does it make me more marketable?

        –>Definitely, any specialization you have gives you an edge.

        >>As for another whole different can of worms, do people from non-native countries stand a good chance of getting a job? I mean, the internet is absolutely awash with discriminatory stories of Westerners(full points if you are blond, blue eyed) getting ‘priority’ and ‘privileges’ and everyone else, the proverbial kick in the oshieri. The truth of that?

        –>Absolutely true. “Japanese” people get priority in Japan for everything (yellow privilege), except English teaching jobs, where the ranking goes White, Black, Almost-white, Brown, Asian.

        –>Now, that being said, what “White” is is debatable. A Chinese guy from China is Asian. But a Chinese guy from Nebraska could easily be considered “white.” It gets weirder. Sometimes “Japanese” people who were born and raised in the U.S. get classified as “Japanese.” The whole thing makes no sense, but there you go. Much of it comes down to how good your English is, what color your passport is, and how you look and act, including body language. I’ve known several folks who passed as Americans because they emigrated there, got the passport, and then came to Japan as, essentially, “white” people.

        >> do they even allow non-natives for the mythical Skype interviews? –> Sure, but it would help if your name was something like “Bill Jones.”

        >>What if I learn Japanese over the course of my stay there+whatever I have learnt though my (in)frequent study of Japanese? Do I get some extra marks? Or maybe I can switch to translator/intrepreter job?

        –>A little Japanese is useful, and in terms of marketability, it would give you a slight edge. But your efforts might be better spent getting a CELTA qualification. As for translator/interpreter, If you’re talking Japanese to English, you’re facing insanely long odds. There are lots of people here who grew up speaking both languages. Maybe Japanese to Indian? Although I kind of think that English would still be the lingua franca between the two countries.

        >>Also, where do you see the English teaching Job markets in Japan going in lets say…2019? or just after the fevered climax of 2020 Olympics?

        –>I expect a strong and increasing demand for English in the foreseeable future, particularly specialties such as Business English and English for Young Children. In addition, I’m entirely certain that Japan will become more international and that visitors will need less and less Japanese as the population gets used to interacting in English with tourists (including those from China). All the more reason not to study Japanese, I suppose.

        1. @Ken

          ‘Sure, but it would help if your name was something like “Bill Jones.””

          –> My name is hella weird. Wait, do they actually allow someone to anglicize their names for interviews? Won’t it be a problem when they come to know it actually isn’t my real name? Do they actually do that? Won’t it be considered fraud?

          Just as I write this, I am slowly realizing that particular comment of yours might have been sarcasm, in which case…oh dear, I am in real trouble.

          ‘Maybe Japanese to Indian?’

          –> I’d do that but there is no ‘Indian’ language. Holy hell, India has 780+ languages used inside it. Most of the times, Indians use English as lingua franca to talk to people from their own country. So, I don’t see that option being too viable.

          1. Thanks—seriously—for educating me on the languages of India. I never thought about it, actually, so my bad.

            As for the name thing…although I meant it a bit tongue-in-cheek, I wasn’t merely being sarcastic. There are a lot of people from Asian countries (especially China) who anglicize their names simply for convenience. A friend of mine has one name on her U.S. passport, and a completely different (and much more Chinese-sounding) name on her Chinese passport.

            Now, how far one should go with that—and at what point it begins to amount to fraud—I’m not really sure. You said your name was Debarun Joardar… It seems like if you called yourself Darren Jordan or something similar, then you could legitimately defend modifying it on the grounds that it’s simpler for everyone.

            I also know a number of Japanese people who anglicize and simplify their names. Although I’m in no way pushing you toward doing this, since the point came up, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea.

          2. @Ken
            Ah, I see. But how would one even ‘anglicize’ their names, which is basically changing it. Passports and stuff would be made from the documents we already have, also the employers would check the transcripts of our degrees and stuff. So, how exactly can anyone get a passport with a different name?

            I am in no way attacking your friend, just curious to know stuff that’d make my life easier.

            1. It seems to me that there are two ways. One would be to simply put your “new” name atop your resume. A great many jobs don’t ask to see any official diplomas, passports, etc. until they’ve already decided to hire you, at which point you simply mention that your “legal” name is slightly different. I don’t see this as much different from someone whose resume reads “Chuck Jones,” while their passport officially says “Charles Michael Jones III.” And at that point, if I were hiring you, I wouldn’t care one whit.

              The other way, and this is what I assume my friend did, would be to get a legal name change. That’s easy enough to do in most countries, including the U.S. and Japan. Depending on how much you like your name, that might be a bit much just for the sake of getting a job, however.

    2. Holy smokes, lotta questions so early in the morning. Let me fire off some half-baked answers while I eat this stack of English muffins.

      1. Technically, no problem. But remember, you’re competing for jobs with people from around the world. 90% of the jobs go to folks who come from countries where the perception is that English is a “native” language. I don’t personally buy in to the notion of a “native” language or “mother tongue,” but that’s another argument. Anyway, that leaves you competing for the remaining 10% of jobs with everybody else here from “non-native-English-speaking” countries.

      2. If you can understand English well enough to take the course, then I’m pretty sure anyone can take it.

      3. TEFL/TESOL/etc. qualifications range from intense, valuable courses to meaningless wastes of time and certificates not worth the price of the paper their printed on. I found this link with two seconds of googling, so maybe it’s a bit helpful:

      In short, you could easily do an online certification course in addition to your current studies, but it might not be worth much. On the other end of the spectrum, a CELTA certification would be extremely valuable and give you an edge in the job market. However, it’s going to take more time and money. Given your situation, it might be a good investment.

      4. Nope, pretty much anybody under about 55 can do it, and there aren’t any particular requirements beyond a bachelor’s degree.

      5. It’s all about the resume. What teaching experience do you have? Most folks applying for jobs here have a long list of schools they’ve taught at. So you’re going to want to have something similar on your resume in order to compete for jobs. It could even be informal teaching. But “spent the last three years as a fry cook” is a phrase you might consider omitting.

      6. I don’t have a very good feeling about that, to be honest. An Indian psychologist in Japan…yeah, I dunno. What’s the demand in India for Japanese psychologists? My guess is that it’s similar.

  81. Hello Ive found your website & think its really cool that you offer free services & info 🙂 Ive been searching for sometime now since im thinking of moving to Japan. My situation is a little strange because i am a Japanese citizen (dual nationality) but I dont speak Japanese ! Ive lived in US & Canada most of my life-so my schooling was in english. Now I want to move to Japan & know about my other heritage & the life over there. My questions are 1. Is there any benefit of being Japanese when it comes to tuition or colleges (if I decide to do a second degree, post graduate or even learn Japanese)? 2. Is there any government financial aid or employment assistance for locals while I find a job- preferably in my field (graphic design) ? Are there jobs other than teaching english that require english speakers ? banks or hospitality customer service ? 3. Ive never been to Japan so I dont know which place is the best for me, id prefer a big city but understand the costs are higher -any info on how to pick the right place ? 4. Any other info/resources that might help me start my life in Japan would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Thanks for visiting! All good questions, and let me just start by saying that one of the challenges of living here is locating information. For questions 1 and 2, I simply don’t know. I’ve heard that there’s something called a MEXT scholarship, but that’s the extent of my knowledge, that such an acronym exists.

      Are there jobs for English speakers besides teaching English? Absolutely. Of course, flip it around. If German graphic designer went to Canada, spoke German, but no English, what job could he or she get? Add to that the fact that a great many Japanese people already speak a high level of English, and you’ll start to see why so many foreigners here opt to teach English.

      It’s never easy to get a job, since you’re by default in a competitive situation, but at least you don’t have to worry about getting a work visa, so that’s one good thing.

      For numbers 3 and 4, I’m going to say that you seriously need to take a trip here and spend some time traveling around. Japan varies significantly depending on region, and you’ll undoubtedly find some appealing and not-so-great stuff as you travel around. If you look “Japanese,” that will also influence your experience. If you do come, please let me know how it goes!

  82. Good day! I am Rei. I find your blog very useful and funny.

    May I just ask what is your nationality? I am a Filipino student taking an Architecture program. I want to work in Japan because I might stop my studies. Can you help me with what type of job I can possibly obtain in Japan and how? I am flexible with whatever job it is, may it be teaching English or washing dishes. I am really looking forward for your reply. Thank you!

    1. Hi Rei,

      I’m glad you enjoy my writing. As for jobs, I don’t have a lot of insight, other than to say that I see a lot of Filipinos in Japanese language schools, and also there are a number of Filipino bars where women work as hostesses. It doesn’t seem like a career you’d want to hang your hat on, but that’s not for me to say.

      How one goes about getting a visa for such a job, I unfortunately don’t know.

      I sincerely wish you all the best.

  83. Thanks for the informative article.
    Question: I do not have a university degree. I have a college one with honours and a few years of experience helping people(intermediate and advanced level) improve their English, teaching informally in a sit-down class style, and accumulate a bit of experience in video-chat teaching through Italki.
    Do you think this real world experience would trump the arbitrary bachelor’s degree they ask for and land me a job through JET and/or another decent company?

  84. What exactly was your first job?

    I have a dream of working in Japan but it seems like it will never come true. I only possess a Diploma degree (college level) so teaching English seems out of the picture. I’m getting closer to 30 so seems like my dream is dying or just plain dead.

    I guess I could save up for a couple of years and get a labour/dish washing job and work in Japan for a year just to experience it.

  85. Many filipino work in the ryojin home industry, helping old people out like washing them and keeping them entertained. You see those jobs allot, there are agencies in Japan that will place you there. Additionally, many filipinos work in bento making companies, as well as other nationalities. You have to go through an agent, there are many. Japan make products that require intense concentration and attention to detail, it must be perfect. This requires lots and lots of labor, most of it is not automated.

    Japan is an inside game. It means your usually introduced to a company by an agent, or know somebody that knows somebody. There might be exceptions, but from what I have experienced, they do not like direct contact. Ive tried it and been yelled at for “shitsurei” behavior, meaning I broke the rule. You can send out hundreds of rerikusho (resume) and get no reply. Its kind of a vetting, or making sure the gaijin is safe. Its also part of the dependency syndrome that Japanese are so fond of. This means you belong to somebody else; they control you. They can ask you your age, nationality, gender, marriage status, number of kids, etc also, and use that to exclude you. No, they are not collecting data for tax credits )

    Some Japanese language schools might introduce you to work. There are many agents, some online, some have offices, that introduce. Hello Work is a type of government sponsored introduction service.

    Japan still has a very family type of atmosphere at work, Youll be talked to like a parent talks to their child. Its a way to keep you in control, keep you dependent on them, in return they provide your work, visa , pay etc.

    Short term, the new gaijin just laps it all up, making excuses for it, and all is good. Japanese arent going to let you off that easy, though, and soon youll get to experience all sorts of fun and games.

    My advice would be to find a place where there are many gaijin, but managed by Japanese. That way you wont get swallowed up by it all, and can connect with others like you.

  86. Hi Ken, I’ve asked questions here some months before. An update: I’m in Tokyo now, studying Japanese and working part-time at the school, and about to apply to a CoE in the category of “humanities and international services”. First of all, I must ask if i can buy you a beer and catch up. So how can I find you in the city? I’ve been going everyday to the same metro station where you punched a yakusa since I got here.
    Ok second question, now that I found an employer, I was told to pay about 60k yen for the administrative solicitor 行政書士’s service that basically consists of writing up a “letter of reason for employment” and going to the Immigration office for four times to either submit or pick up the docs. Such a bummer. So I wanna try to do it myself and save those bucks. Seems to me the employer isn’t sure how to make my case sound convincing since I don’t speak Japanese, so they leave it to the “solicitor” to decide what position and work contents I would be assigned to – on the paper. Based on my background I think I fit into the publicity/research/copywriting/journalism fields, but again, my employer thinks it’s not convincing to the Immigrations that I can do these tasks without knowing Japanese (although to a great extence I do can, with only Chinese – my mother tongue; p.s. my English is simply useless there and everybody tends to neglect or ignore my expertise/skill sets/experience, bummer). I was strongly advised that the Imigrations would make a judgement only upon what will be written in the letter, if I write it myself, my application might be rejected, thereby I should pay that specified “solicitor” to do it. Anyway, I looked up the bureau websites for requirements or guidelines, they sound confusing. Do you know about this kinda stuff or anyone you know that may know it? Hope to know what you think. Thanks!
    p.s. Don’t forget the beer thing.

    1. I know what you mean; I hate spending money unnecessarily. And yet, in this case, it probably makes more sense to hire the solicitor, or scrivener, or whatever he/she is. There’s a lot of bureaucratic things in Japan (like anywhere else, I’m sure), and the chances of you being able to do it successfully yourself are probably not high. I’d pony up the bucks.

      I don’t live in Tokyo any more, although I appreciate the offer to grab a beer. Good luck with the visa stuff, and let me know how it works out.

      1. Ok, now I feel better. Today I was told to either follow the “company rule” or get out of there. I argued, some tension occurred, then in conclusion the management stressed that I should and ought to and must do as others do instead of making requests even before joining the firm. Good part is that I only need to pay after obtaining the visa and the company will try to cut a better deal with the “solicitor”.

        1. Here’s a rule I’ve followed for years, which has served me well time and time again: whatever Japanese people say, I do. Don’t order the oysters—Okay, I’ll have a cheeseburger. We should run for the train—Great, let’s get some midnight exercise. You shouldn’t give leave the bar with that tall girl with the big feet—ah jeez, but she’s got such strong hands.

          It took me a while to understand how much I didn’t know here, but there’s really a lot. Japanese folks have been doing this their whole lives, and it’s their country. They may only be right 51 percent of the time, but that’s good enough for Vegas. Smart money says, do what they tell you.

  87. Hi!
    I wanna come to Japan on a 3-month entry visa and look for a teaching job while I’m here. I have a bachelor in English, TEFL, Cambridge and 2 years teaching experience. I’m European, but not English native speaker.
    What are my chances? How will my life go in the next 3 months (aka. visa, finding apartment, starving to death)?

    1. Sorry for the late reply. Beer, chips, women…I’m sure you understand.

      So if you get a job, are you planning to stay for at least a couple of years? As opposed to, say, just working for three months and then heading back home? Most companies will want a one-year contract.

      Why come to look for a job, when you can just apply online? Even if you’re here, you’ll be applying online. The odds of walking into a place and getting a job, or meeting someone at a networking event (i.e., bar) are on par with walking into a bank and talking them into handing you money.

      Your qualifications look great. How’s your accent? If you don’t sound like Schwarzenegger, you should be able to line up a job prior to arriving, and thus avoid starving to death. Otherwise, I suggest running for governor of California.

  88. I want to move to Japan and I am a trade worker, automotive painter with 20 years in that trade. I have found some jobs listed but the easy answer for ppl to tell me is their are no jobs. I wanted you take on it as auto are used all over japan and ppl wreck and fix them. Thanks!! Im a Caucasian US Citizen and vet.

    1. I feel you, I really do. And maybe some day in the future, there won’t be nations and passports, and people can just freely move and work anywhere, like in the EU. But then some nation probably wouldn’t like that setup either, so oh well.

      But as it stands, it’s going to be hard to get employment in Japan unless there’s a labor deficit in your particular field. Are there not enough automotive painters in Japan? I don’t know. But that’d be the question.

  89. Its been my dream to move to Japan but im not sure how I should get started due to many problems,
    So im currently 19yrs of age and I was born in Hong kong, But when I was little I moved to the UK and acquired a UK citizen passport. So lately I’ve been trying to apply for a working holiday visa in Japan and the immigration department is taking in applicants on the October 10th, but now im stuck on looking for a employer to employ me to work in Japan and also I need a place to stay, Also its a shame Im a dropout and I only have a letter saying from my old school in the UK that I’ve graduated in 5th yr High school. I don’t have much crazy skills except for, Working in a kitchen,waiter also I can speak Cantonese mandarin and pretty fluent in English but I can’t read/write Chinese and I know how to listen to the Japanese language due to ANIME!!
    I really need ur opinion/tips if I should go back to studying and get a high degree on whatever and look for that option in Japan. But to be honest school isn’t really my thing would it be possible to be a some sort of kitchen trainee as an option? cause from the websites u posted the jobs are mostly (Teaching,Office work,I.T etc.) Im pretty sure my qualification is no where near those things cause my test results we’re all pretty garbage lol.
    Would love a reply on what step I should take in order for me to get a chance to work in Japan! Thanks!

    1. I know what you mean—school wasn’t my thing either. It took me well into college to figure it out. But here’s what I came up with, and maybe it’ll help.

      School’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s oceans of shit that sucks, doesn’t make any sense, that you’re opposed to, whatever. Maybe it’s coming from a teacher, your boss, your wife or husband, City Hall, a language with 2000 insane characters, doesn’t matter. You’re going to be presented with shit to do, that you don’t want to do, forever.

      Near as I can figure, there are three responses to this:

      1. Don’t do it, or do it grudgingly. Drop out of school, quit your job, or do it as miserably as possible. This will ensure you stay a wage-slave living in a shitty flat for life. Being in Japan isn’t going to improve the situation.

      2. Nut up and do the shit you’re supposed to, even though you don’t want to. Show up to work/school on time, sit in the front of the class, take notes, do what people tell you, and work through the system. This will get you degrees and promotions, and some day you’ll be a manager of something and be able to buy stuff you want.

      3. Do the shit you don’t want to do, with a smile. Do even more shit than you’re supposed to. This is what leaders do. Martin Luther King. That dude didn’t have it too easy, but he pushed through. Or look at Richard Branson. He’s got like a thousand companies and you can bet he’s dealing with massive shit all the time, but he laughs and plays it off like it’s easy, and people think it is. So they want to be around him, work for him, and make him money.

      Moving to Japan isn’t going to fix any problems. It’ll be fun for a while, like everything new, but eventually it’ll present you with a huge amount of new terrible shit.

      So what I’m saying is, get back into school, and just do the shit you’re supposed to do. Actually study and try. It takes practice, but it gets easier.

  90. So Ken i dunno if you remember me and i’m sorry i’m bothering by facebook again…erase that cause i’m bothering you on the blog now… But if you can answer me this one thing i’ll be very happy.
    So i know like you say that if i someday enter Japan i’ll be teaching english lessons somewhere with a temporary working visa…
    However, IF i can get a master’s degree in Japan which of the following do you think looks better in the curriculum?
    Something like technologies and science of the environment (you know, like renewable energies or sustained urban planing) or something like geology and mining (like a engineering course on resources or resource management or something to do with oil reserves)?
    I’m asking you this cause i saw a lot of master degrees for this in internacional course from Japan and since you live there you might have some clue what works better. Answer when you have the time

  91. Hello. I’m Amy. And I’m 15. I’m seriously thinking about going to college in Japan and happened to stumble upon this website. My question for you is, is it easier to get a job in Japan when graduating from a Japanese universitiy or is it easier to get a job in Japan graduating from an American university?

    1. Hi Amy,

      I hate to give you a non-answer, but it’s probably going to depend upon the type of job you’re looking to get.

      That being said, unless you speak Japanese at a high level, most jobs you’ll be applying for will place value upon your ability to speak English. In that case, you’d probably be better off graduating from an American university.

      Actually, now that I’ve thought about it for more than two seconds, I’d say that in the the vast majority of cases, you’d be better off with an American university.

  92. Hi Ken,

    I have a friend here and he asked me to go in Japan to work. But the work she offered me is not what I like to do although I know who to do it. Its a work as a staff in Sheraton Hotel. I am a graduate of Information Technology. And I have experienced already almost 5 years in IT.

    I would like to ask on you if it is easy to find an IT job there after the 2 years contract if I am going to accept the offer as a staff in a hotel? I know if your are fluent in Japanese writing and reading, you will be very acceptable for most Japanese companies, right?

    What I am planning is, I will accept the offer and then after two years, I will look for an IT company to get another job. Is it working good that way?

    Thanks and I appreciate so much when you reply.

    1. Hmmm, tough question. On the one hand, having two years of hotel staff experience on your resume isn’t going to look very impressive to IT recruiters. On the other hand, hey, it’ll get you to Japan, which I assume is a goal of yours.

      To answer your second question, Yes, being fluent in the language of the country you’re working in is always desirable. Depending upon the position, it might, or might not, be a requirement. Searching the job ads will give you a sense of how many jobs really demand it.

      Beyond that, my suggestions, in order, would be:

      1. Apply for IT jobs now. Work with a recruiter if possible.
      2. Take the hotel job if you have to, then apply for IT jobs while here in Japan. Break the contract when you get one. You should not feel bound by the contract.
      3. Complete the contract, and begin looking for other jobs 6 months before it ends.

      Good luck! Ken Seeroi’s rooting for you.

  93. Greeting from Singapore!

    Hi Ken, your post is really informative and entertaining me at the same time.

    Actually, I never had a thought of working in Japan until recently. My boyfriend was head hunted by one of the recruitment agency in Japan, which was a job offer from Rakuten as a software engineer with an attractive package. He has yet to go through the interview, but that is the point we came up with the thought of “why not working in Japan since he has the opportunity?!” Unfortunately, I will not be able to get visa sponsored by Rakuten since we are not married (we are in de-facto relationship).

    Therefore, I start digging research to have more information on it. I never been to Japan, oh yes! I did, if Narita Airport also considered as, then yes. I would like to travel to Japan for holiday, but working? nahh.. not really until my boyfriend get the job offer. Okay, let’s go straight to main point:

    First of all, Japan definitely would not be the final destination for both us. We like to travel and explore, and we do love Japanese culture, especially FOOD!! But it will not be the ideal place for us to set up “home”. In fact, my boyfriend would want to get PR in Australia. Oh yeah! I forgot to mention that we are Malaysian. I have just graduated from United States (BA), and now working at Singapore. Well, I actually had his companion during my study in the states, and now both of us are working in Singapore.

    So now this is the problem, I do not have any job offer from Japan (okay, I’m lazy to apply online..oops). Mainly is because other than English teacher, most of the jobs do need certain level of Japanese (I know little, where is almost = 0). I wish to work on something that would look nice on my resume. Well, no offense, but “English teacher for kindergarten or so on” really won’t look fascinating on my resume. Hmmmm… Assuming that I got a job offer and we went there to work, we also plan to work about 2-3 years maximum then hop into another country.

    Oh ya, we are multilingual (English, Chinese, Malay, some other dialects. unfortunately we do not know Japanese). Will this help to get job in Japan? and I work with Japanese company (marimo co., ltd) before

    My question is, should we go for it (assuming I got a job offered in Japan)? or we should just focus on our original plan, which is get a PR in Australia and residence there?

    1. Greetings! Thanks for writing in.

      Boy, tough call. My first thought was, Yeah, if your boyfriend can line up a job here, then go for it. Come to Japan for a couple of years, then apply for jobs in Australia.

      But then, I don’t know—what would you do? You didn’t mention what your field is. Generally speaking, the best ways to land a job in Japan are to a) Have a technical specialty b) Speak Japanese and have a technical specialty or c) Teach English. So that might present some problems for you.

      The other thing that troubles me is that you could mess up your life plan by coming here. Maybe you’d have kids (assuming you don’t now). That could make it hard to leave. Maybe one of you would really love your job, and then not want to leave. Or (much more likely) one of you’d hate your job, and then want to leave before being able to add the work experience to your resume. Or one of you might just simply hate Japan.

      So you really need to get two good jobs, and keep them for 2 or 3 years, and both be happy here, in order for the plan to be a success. That’ll be a challenge in a country with a terrible track record for work conditions and an ineptitude towards interpersonal relations.

      So, part of me thinks, if you want to move to Australia, then hey, why screw around? On the other hand, ahh, good job, that’s hard to pass up. Like I said, tough call.

      1. Thanks for the prompt reply.

        Oh yeah.. I am major in International Business and Management, Minor in Economics. Currently working as a social media marketing, but previously had 2 years of working experience in real estate industry, which included the Japanese Company (Marimo Co,. Ltd). I can understand and speak super little Japanese and that’s it. English teacher will be my last option as I just graduated and started my career, I wish to do something that looks nice on my resume. It’s important for me to build my profile in these few years. (I am 23 years old)

        Will it be easier if I have some connections? As I mentioned above that I worked in a Japanese company before. I am actually contacting back my ex-colleague who is a Japanese, he is a branch manager in Tokyo and Yokohama of Marimo Co,. Ltd
        Would it be helpful if he introduce me to work in any of his connections / companies in Japan?

        I am too young to have kids, at least not in these few years. And both us just wanted to stay there for 1-3 years then move on to other countries.

        Like what you said, tough call.
        To go:
        – Why not just get a PR in Australia. Since that is the place that we really want to settle down.
        – original plan may be postponed or messed up

        Not to go:
        – such a waste for a great opportunity
        – will we be regret in the future

        arrrhhhh… Maybe I should apply for the jobs first. To go or not, decide it later.. haha!

        1. Hi Lingxing,

          I am bit out of time so I have to be short. There are some extra things that need to be considered:

          1. In recent years, getting PR in Australia has become very difficult when you don’t have already a job or close family in the country. In the Australian immigration process, people in this situation have the lowest priority in PR application processing. Which means it’s practically a lottery

          2. Rakuten is actually one of the best Japanese companies to work with it. They strive hard to have more “international” and less “Japanese” culture

          3. In view of 1, I would say that if you guys want to move to Australia, the best way would be for your husband to get a job in Australia even before having PR. And for that purpose, having exceptional qualifications and experience does help – and Rakuten can help your husband to achieve that, although it’s by no means the only choice (in fact, have you looked at Rakuten Singapore? They are providing some nice opportunities, especially for those who have Singapore PR)

          1. Hi Demo,

            Thanks for the reply, was quite struggling.

            I know that getting a PR in Australia is quite tough nowadays, but my boyfriend has a good profile and his field is quite demanding there. But we have not really started to look for a jobs there. That’s why we are considering to move to Japan first or straight away aim for Australia (will look for job and sponsorship)

            We do know that Rakuten is one of the best company to work at Japan, and no doubt that it is a great opportunity. He is the one who got the job offered, yet I have not even found one. Currently I am based in Singapore, but most of the jobs in Japan require that the applicants need to residence at Japan while applying for jobs. That’s a bit tough tho.

            Oh ya.. Rakuten Singapore ya.. My boyfriend actually getting many good offers from big companies continuously, and he once worked in MNCs as well (He is focus on startups in these few years). Therefore, his has a good profile (he been worked for many years, I am the freshgrad), that’s why he got head hunted by Rakuten. However, to relocate? We have too many concerns. Especially me, I do not want to go for English teacher. Unlike my boyfriend, I do need to build my profile in these few years as I am just a freshgrads.

          2. I see.

            Well, to be honest, if I was your husband, I would first try to look for jobs directly in the country where I want to be – in your case, Australia. Depending on his skills this might not be that hard. Engaging an Australia-based, IT-focused recruiter is a good option. After starting working in Australia, he should be able to apply for sponsored PR with good chances of success within 2 years.

            If he thinks he still needs to upgrade his skills before getting a job in Australia, Rakuten would be a good option. But I am sure Singapore also has many learning opportunities for people with his qualifications.

          3. I’m assuming that you have checked out current immigration guidelines for Australia. I’m Australian, but not an expert on immigration rules.

            However, it’s my understanding that you can’t apply directly for permanent residence – that comes after living in the country some time.

            What you can do is apply for a work visa, and you don’t need a job offer to do so. You lodge an Expression of Interest on-line with Australian Immigration with all sorts of details relating to type of job, your age, education, experience and English ability. They have a point system, and if you have enough points you are eligible for a work visa in your stated field. But you have to get an offer from the Australian Government – there are quotas and I assume a queue, so it’s better to apply sooner rather than later.

            If you get offered a work visa, I’m not sure how it works from there, whether or not you have to line up a job before coming.

            But if you come, welcome to Australia! Australia is actually more ethnically diverse than the US, but multiculturalism works in the land of Oz most of the time (not always, unfortunately).

          4. Hi Demo,

            Yup. We understand that, but thinking the sequence.
            First go Japan then Australia, or focus on finding job in Australia (he is too busy on company projects recently).

            But I guess it depends on me now. If I could find a job in Japan, then we would relocate to Japan for few years. Else we will stick to our original plan and start looking for job in Australia in coming year.

            However, is it possible to get a job in Japan without knowing Japanese? Even though I have been worked in Japanese company with Japanese before, but we communicate in English.

            Moreover, when I tried to apply job online, most of the requirements were “Residence in Japan currently”. Will they even consider me when I’m actually outside of Japan??

            Thanks for you advise~ do help me a lot. =)

          5. Hi Veejay~!

            Yeah!! If we decided to just go for Australia, definitely we would get a job and visa sponsorship first~ Not going to apply on our own yet, even though my boyfriend has more than enough points to apply himself.

            Oh ya, my boyfriend and I haven’t married yet, is it possible for us to apply the visa together as de-facto relationship?

          6. Yes, I think it is possible for one of you to be recognized as a partner by Australian Immigration, though not married, (but I am not an expert, so please seek qualified information).

            If you want to permanently settle in Australia, it’s best start as early as possible while you are still young and earning two incomes (before you have children) due to the awfully high prices of houses and apartments. I don’t know if this state of affairs can continue, but at the moment it is prohibitive for young singles and families.

          7. Hi Lingxing,

            From my knowledge, it’s very hard to get a job in Japan without speaking Japanese (JLPT N2 or better). It’s like trying to get a job in Singapore without speaking neither English or Mandarin. Basically, the options for non-Japanese speakers that I can think of are:
            – English teacher
            – Trainee programme (generally for high-demand professions like farming, caregiving, nursery, manufacturing, etc.)
            – Superb well-qualified PMET (like your husband)
            – University research scholarship (like those from JICA)
            – Opening your own business

          8. Hi Demo,

            Once again thank you for replying me~!
            Really helpful.

            Let’s say I am willing to work as English teacher in Japan, what are the platform that I can apply through online?

            I have tried few website (daijob / gaijinpot etc), most of the job require that the applicants have to be residence in Japan currently. That is why I cant apply on the website because I do not meet the requirement.
            I could change the country of residence, but will that be fine? I afraid this will be giving false information and would have left them a bad image.

  94. Hey Ken! I just recently found your site and I have been loving every minute reading all your posts.

    In the past, I never thought of working overseas in a new country, but all that changed when I landed my first job (which I thought would just be a 1 year job and look for the next) as a tutor for a company. I ended up with ELL students and I have really enjoyed the time I’ve had with them. To make the long story short, I’m starting to open up and look at other options, especially teaching English in Japan. Now I haven’t been to Japan, but I’m trying to make a trip there before making my decision on whether I would like to teach there.

    Anyways, because of all this change of thought that I’ve had in the past couple of weeks, I was thinking about getting my TEFL certificate. As you say in this post, it would increase my chances at getting a position/job in Japan. I was wondering what kind of TEFL certificate you got since I was doing some research on it and everyone is telling me different things such as get the cheap one or get the expensive one.

    Thank you for the great posts and I hope to read more of them in the future!

    1. Heh, I’d say my TEFL certificate that falls somewhere in the middle. It took about two weeks, going to class every day, and cost a few hundred dollars. I’ve got a variety of other, similar certifications in various Education-y things as well. All that stuff helps.

      But here’s the deal. There are basically two kinds of companies. One that actually cares that you graduated from Stanford with a 4.0 and have a legitimate TEFL/TESL qualification, and another that’s fine with your BA from Trump University and the TEFL certificate you picked up online over the weekend and whipped up on your dot-matrix printer.

      Personally, if I was in your shoes, I’d get a CELTA certification. It’s a legitimate program, looks good on a resume, and some employers will actually care. Plus, hey, maybe you’ll actually learn something. Now, there’s a thought.

      1. I was actually looking at the CELTA certification too as many people were also bringing that up as a good program to get into. Plus learning something is a positive! I’ll need to raise some money for the certification, but I hope it’ll be worth the save once I’m able to have enough for the program and the visit to Japan.

        Thank you for the prompt reply Ken!

  95. Hi Ken,

    Your article couldn’t have come to me at a better time….although that’s more Google than luck 🙂 was a very entertaining read! I am an Indian national who wants to join her husband in Tokyo and is going through this futile effort of looking for job in Tokyo while still working in India. I have an MBA and work as Marketing Manager specialized in campaign management and analytics but the language constraint has pretty much rendered me unemployable in Tokyo. Will be great if you can help me with some suggestions on how best to proceed.

    1. It sounds like applying to international companies could be an option for you.

      Of course, we have to be realistic. By and large, to work in a Japanese company, you have to speak Japanese. It would help to be Japanese. The exceptions are in fields where you can do something that few others in the country can do. Usually that means a technology field or teaching English.

      Looking for a job is hard, and you might have to take something outside of your field. But at least you should be able to get a spouse visa, so you can enter the country and start looking for work here. I think if you’re persistent, you’ll be able to find something.

  96. Hi,

    I have a Ph.D. in Physics with couple of years of Physics teaching experience at community colleges in California. I am originally from Sri Lanka ( country of citizenship ). I am looking for a fresh start, personally and professionally.
    What sort of opportunities do I have in Japan ?

  97. Hi, thanks a lot for your honest article about jobs in Japan and of course I have some questions for you 🙂

    I am currently 19, citizen of Slovakia and I am currently studying in a university in Slovakia for Translation and Interpretation. In about two and half years later I will get a bachelors degree.

    I consider visiting Japan at first, but based on its pros and cons, I do actually consider living there.

    I am fluent in English and I aim to learn japanese in a few years to come. Unfortunately, my country is not included between countries, from which they consider to accept people for the JET programme.

    My aim of work is of course Translation, with Interpretation, Teaching and some tourism jobs just aside.

    Also, Im thinking of having a family there and even if it seems very odd at first, Im thinking about my future and I dont see much of it here in Slovakia…

    And my question is : Is it possible for me to get in Japan, reside there and get these jobs (especially translation) and if yes, where should I start.

    Thanks a lot for your response! 🙂

    1. Man, that’s a tough question.

      First of all, dude, congratulations on setting yourself up for success. Getting a degree in Translation and Interpretation is impressive.

      Now, could you get a job in Japan? I’d say that if you could master Japanese, then yeah, you could get a job doing translation/interpretation. A site like Daijob would be a good place to start.

      The bigger question is, should you? Learning Japanese will take a good bit of time, and is mostly useful in only one country. A country, it’s worth noting, you haven’t ever been to. You could spend a really long time getting yourself set up to live here, then finally not like it very much. You wouldn’t be the first.

      I’d hate to see you place a heavy bet on such a big unknown. If I were you, I’d try to find a way to travel to a bunch of different countries, and then decide where you really wanted to live. I’ve known Westerners to move here from other Asian countries, spend a year or two, and then turn right around and move back to Vietnam, Thailand, or Korea. Japan’s not always the best fit for everyone.

      If you’ve read much of this blog, you know I talk a lot about opportunity cost. What else could you do in the time it would take you to master Japanese? Get a Master’s degree? A doctorate? Become an M.D.? A tour guide? Programmer? Stock broker? I don’t know, but you should consider skills that are useful anywhere in the world. It seems kind of a risky proposition to go with Japanese.

  98. Good day! I really find your post really helpful. I really want to work in Japan too. But I’m having quite some problem here..

    I hope you can help me with my question.

    I would like to acquire a type of visa for me and my son wherein we can stay in Japan for at least 2-3 years. I need a visa that will let me work in Japan and a visa for my son where he can study at a nursery in Japan. My son is only 1.yo. I’m a single parent but I graduated with Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology. But I wanted to take a different career path when given a chance to work in Japan.

    My mother, who lives in the USA, would help me and she will shoulder all the financial needs including apartment rent, utilities, tuition fees for my son; everything that we need until we can settle down and once I get I stable income. In 2-3 years hopefully we will follow my mother in USA too. She wants me and my son to stay in Japan while we wait for our time to go to America.

    Please give me any advice to what kind of visa should I apply for me and my son. We are from Philippines. We’ve never been to Japan.

    I can’t leave my son in our country because no one can take care of him and also he’s still a baby.

    Thank you so much and more power to your company!

    Best Regards,
    Maika San Pedro

    1. Dear Maika,

      It’s always been my understanding that you first get a job in Japan, and then the company provides a work visa, not the other way around.

      Three viable employment options that come to mind are:

      1) I.T., since you’ve got a degree in it
      2) Health care for elderly and disabled persons, since there’s solid demand for it
      3) Teaching English, since your English seems quite good

      Now, whether or not you could actually get a job is a different matter. You’d need to submit some applications and see what the responses were. Assuming you got a position, the employer would ensure you got the appropriate visas.

      Best of luck to you.

  99. Interesting post…and most of all, very funny ^^

    Just wanted to add my two cents, because I’m currently thinking of going BACK to Japan this time to find work and stay a couple of years.

    For many of the people who are thinking about moving to and working in Japan, I completeley agree you should first get a taste as a tourist, get to know the people, the prices, the toilets…

    And, for the first time in human History, it is cheaper than ever to travel very long distances thanks to the airplane. I’m checking out a $350 one-way ticket from Madrid to Tokyo via a renowned russian plane company (not sure if you can post company names, so I’ll leave it to you to make the web search 😉

  100. Ha ha ha Ken – I almost fell off my chair while reading your very funny write-up. I’ve spent a year in Tokyo (Shibuya) in the past and yeah I know Japan is such a beautiful country. However these days I am into executive recruiting was wondering where to find a reliable email directory of Japanese companies where I can approach them for any of the requirements for skilled IT professionals from India.

    1. Bit outside of my area of expertise, but perhaps one of our other readers will have some leads. Best of luck to you.

  101. Good post m8, lol i’m laughing hard
    BTW is it spartan enough to buy meself a plane ticket with visitor visa and hoping to get a crumble piece of ordinary jobs in Japan by knocking each doors possible?

    TBH i’m not that confident with my own resume, i effing fail my college degree yo (gotta choose between my job and college that time) and everything seems “bachelor degree” right on my face. Izzit rly that hard to get nasty uh.. i mean normal normal normal jobs there without a “bachelor degree”??

    and last, what should i put on my resume just to convincing them (interviewer) that i can do the job?
    rawk m8! thx for reply if you mind

    1. I believe—and bear in mind that I’m far from an Immigration lawyer—that the education requirement depends upon what job you’re trying to get. For a working visa in most professional or semi-professional positions, like Programmer, Recruiter, or English Teacher, you’ll need a Bachelor’s degree. My understanding is that having a degree is a requirement of the Immigration Bureau, and not at the discretion of the employer.

      If you’re from the UK or a similar country, you may be able to work for a year on a Holiday Visa. I’ve known bartenders and chat cafe teachers here on those visas, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t have degrees.

      A Student visa, which allows you to work part-time, is also an option. Japanese language schools certainly get some customers that way.

  102. Just discovered this website (I know, I know, I’m late to the party 🙂 Great stuff!! Thanks a lot for all the info! I truly enjoy your writing and it brought me comfort (well … … it kinda made my day really…) to discover that I am not the only person on this planet to pair wine with chips \o/

  103. hi Ken, I have spouse visa, living close to kyoto. I could not get job because i can not speak japanese though I am graduate, can speak english(not native speaker). May be after few years,i will get good jobs, as i will improve japanese language. Now i have decided to work in those sectors where japanese language do not needed like factory or others. please can you help me, guide me : how to get job those sectors? any sites, agencies??

  104. Hey!

    So basically I’m looking to possibly taking a semester off college at an American University and finding temporary work in Japan to support myself (not looking for unpaid internship like U.S. embassy one) for a period of 6 – 8 months before returning to America. I guess I’d like to know:

    A) Is this realistic?

    B) Are there English teaching opportunities that would allow that timeframe?

    Most schools wouldn’t take for less than a year, I’d figure but thought I’d ask. I studied abroad in Chiba prefecture last summer and am still in contact with my host family as well as several friends who live in the area, but these are also all students at University. Would employment be easier outside of Tokyo, for example if I decided to go back to Chiba or an adjacent prefecture? My Japanese is survivable (not JLPT 1 but hoping to get there), what opportunities do you think would be available? I’m not necessarily attached to Tokyo and would be willing to work in countryside regions should work be available.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hey!

      Okay, this sounds like a visa issue. I’m not an expert on the subject, but my understanding is that you’ve basically got three options:

      -A 3-month tourist visa
      -A 1+ year work visa (also requiring a Bachelor’s degree)
      -A student visa, which means you’re enrolled in some sort of school here, and can work a limited number of hours per week

      So based upon what you wrote, it sounds like it’s option 3, although that’s likely to cost money, rather than make it. Still, depending on your finances, it might be a good choice.

      I don’t think it’s necessarily easier to get a job one place or another. There’s a ton of work in Tokyo, but also a ton of competition. And it’s expensive. Living in a smaller city or the countryside isn’t a bad idea.

  105. Hello Ken, very interesting read.

    I’m a 21 year old Australian, currently unemployed, bored out of my mind… I’m going to Japan alone in October (first time) to try and get a job and having a nice time in Japan.

    The only past employment I have ever had is fast food, finding a job in my state (even country) is hard enough right now. I have no degree but I have my TEFOL / TESOL, I have been self studying Japanese for 2 years now preparing for my move. I have been saving up a reasonable amount of money (around about 8 – 10k) to live off if finding a job is difficult. Would it be hard finding an English teaching job without the bachelors? Will I have a difficult time in Japan by myself? in terms of accommodation what do you recommend for a first timer? If there is anything else you would think to tell me I would kindly appreciate it.

    Thank you very much if you see this and respond.

    1. I don’t know this for a fact, but I’ve heard you need a bachelor’s degree in order to teach in Japan. Not having one may impact the all-important visa that you get.

      In terms of accommodation, I would suggest a share house. Sakura House might be a good place to start, and you could make a few friends and contacts for potential employment.

      You’re wise to move here with a cushion of savings. I’m glad to hear you’ve got that sussed.

      I think you’ll be okay by yourself. Speak English and you’ll make a lot of friends.

  106. Hey Ken,

    Great post! I’ve been trying to find job opportunity there but dang, in the economy we are at right now, it is really tough. I have Masters and about 5 years working experience in business management (performance analysis, planning, a little bit of corp strategy and governance, stuff like that. Dont really know where this “expertise” falls really). Any pointers on how to vamp up my resume to attract the eyes of recruiters there for a person who has enough japanese for tourist level (been there three times, went by just fine) but dont think it’s good enough to be at “basic conversational” level? Also, doest the JPLT really worth it?

    1. Hey there,

      Thanks for the comment. Getting someone to hire you from overseas is pretty hard. You’ll have to tailor your resume for the jobs you’re applying to.

      I wouldn’t worry about your level of Japanese ability too much, partly because it’s so hard to improve. In the years you would take getting better at Japanese and trying to pass the JLPT, you could almost certainly acquire a number of skills and certifications that are far more valuable to employers.

  107. Hey!

    Great write up, and pretty informative. Much appreciated!

    I have a question though, which I’m not sure you’d be able to answer, but seeing as you were talking about IT in JP, you might?

    I just got my B.S. in IT/Information Security recently, and I’ve also been dating a JP female for 8yrs or so now, which means I’ve definitely been there quite a lot (Tokyo/Utsunomiya areas).

    My question is, how high is the demand for someone in IT (non-programming/software engineering) which focuses more on server/network/system/security administration, or even desktop support tech? I speak very basic JP, just enough to barely get back in a normal conversation (1st grade level maybe? haha), but went to school for “that side” of IT.

    Ultimately, I would definitely like to move to JP to be with the gf, but am kind of at a loss on knowing just how possible it is, and how much of a demand I would be.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!


  108. Hi Ken,

    Thank you for the post it is really helpful. But my situation is a bit different. I am a native japanese (grew up here) but went to Philippines for 14 years to study. I have bachelor of science in IT and worked at a big international telecommunication company for 2 years. Just got back from Philippines last January. I dont know where to start really, Im japanese but Im more fluent in filipino/english now. I really want to continue my career in IT industry but haven’t start looking yet. Are there IT companies here that use english as their means of communication? Or is it hard to find corporate jobs without studying nihongo

  109. Hello,
    So let me get this straight…All i need is a bachelor of english and i good as hired teaching english?

    I just chanced upon this site, and the idea is interesting. I’m a native born american from NYC. I work as an NDT tech, and im bored with it. This teaching people how to speak, read and write english sounds like alot of fun! I am single, and ready for some adventure and new experiences:) i left my email addy with you. would greatly appreciate some one-on-one.

    1. If you don’t have a criminal background, then congrats. You are now qualified to be a dancing monkey in Japan. However, as with most jobs that have low requirements, you can’t expect much. The English “teaching” jobs in Japan are, on average, awful. Employees are overworked and treated like disposable animals. And they want you to be an entertainer, not a teacher.

    2. Yes, you good as hired teaching english. And any Bachelor’s degree will do.

      Feel free to post further questions here, and I’ll try to answer them as time permits. One-on-one consultations for prospective English teachers isn’t really a service Ken Seeroi provides. But I dunno, maybe I should set that up as a business.

      1. thank you Ken,
        As for the first guys response; all the best learning is through entertainment. At least that’s what socrates said long ago. And if you love what you do. its never considered awful.
        Back to you ken…So any bachelors will do aye? that’s great news, because my degree is actually in physical science. I have taught english to russian families in seattle. And i think i have a knack for it.

  110. “Drifting cars through Shibuya on a daily basis” really is sweet. I’m surprised the Japanese government doesn’t do more to promote this perk of residency.

  111. Hi! I would like to ask is it possible to get a part time job in Japan without working visa for jobs like dish washer or in mart?

    1. Generally no. Businesses don’t want to take the risk of hiring someone without a visa, and there are usually high school and college kids willing to do such jobs, not to mention all the foreign people here with legal work visas.

      Your best bet is probably to get some type of a visa–student, marriage, working holiday. Working illegally in Japan doesn’t sound like a real winning plan.

  112. That is a very informative article. Thank you.
    Could you help me understand the need and proficiency level of knowing Japanese language for securing a non-teaching professional job (non-dish washing) in Japan? What certification is mostly recognized by Japanese organizations for language proficiency?
    I am looking at some courses which provide a JLPT N 5 to 1 certification and then there is another course which gives a C-JAT I to V.

    1. A JLPT 1 or JLPT 2 certification is valuable for most non-native Japanese people to possess, for teachers and other professionals alike. It’s a feather in your cap, although how important that certificate actually is depends entirely upon the individual company and position.

      It’s also probably worth mentioning that if you can actually speak, read, and understand Japanese, it matters a lot less what certification you have. Walk into an interview speaking amazing Japanese and nobody’s going to care that you bombed the JLPT 5. Which is to say that the test, like any test, doesn’t necessarily equate to real world ability.

      On another note, my opinion is that the need for Japanese is waning, largely because Japanese people are rapidly getting more exposure to English, and are getting better at it. An increasing number of Japanese workers possess at least a fundamental level of English. For you to progress beyond that in Japanese is likely to take quite a while. With that in mind, I wouldn’t “wait till my Japanese is better” to start applying for jobs.

      1. japanese companies hire by skill and experience, as they do everywhere else… as ken said, as long as you can communicate during the interview, it should be fine… for most, japanese isnt that neccessary, for a few its crucial…

  113. Ken, I am a director of digital marketing for an international company. Are these types of jobs available in Japan? Thanks for your time.

    1. Well, let me ask: Are you interested in expanding your current company’s reach to include Japan? Or are you looking to jump ship and get a job with an international company operating in Japan?

  114. Hi Ken,

    Many thanks for your informative post which is pretty useful for those who are about to settle down in Japan. I’m 23 years old and I just got one full Master (in International Relations) scholarship in Beppu, and one Bachelor scholarship (in Global Business) in Tokyo. The point is I’ve completed a Bachelor degree in my home country, so I may be interested in the Master degree. However, as the Master Degree is taught in English, and my Japanese ability at the present is around N2. Therefore, is there any chance that I can stay to work in Japan as a teacher after graduation? Of course, I have around 5-year teaching experience in my home country.
    Moreover, in case I am not qualified for a teaching position,will a Master degree or a Bachelor degree give me better chance to stay and work in Japan after graduation? I’m afraid that a 2-year program of the Master Degree may not give me sufficient time to experience or enjoy my Japanese ability.
    Thanks once again for your information. Look forward to hearing from you soon.

  115. HI Ken,
    I don’t know if you’ve been hired yet but I’m willing to give you a contract job. Opportunity might be on-going as my own personal Japanese consultant. I am a Canadian citizen living in Montreal and I need someone such as yourself to get me to Japan, get an apartment, and get a job (teaching English to start is fine), etc… I am too lazy to do the leg work myself so I am willing to pay you to do everything for me from A to Z. Let me know if you are interested and we’ll take it from there.


    1. Hey thanks, I appreciate that.

      So a couple of things: first, you’ll need a work visa. If you go the English-teaching route, you can simply interview with one of the eikaiwa or temp worker companies that places teachers in Japan. If you get hired, they’ll take care of everything, including an apartment, bank account, registration at city hall, etc. I guess I could write your resume and interview for you, à la Cyrano de Bergerac. They probably wouldn’t even notice if you looked a bit different when you showed up.

      Secondly, you really want a Japanese person to take care of all the official life stuff, not me. I suspect Canada’s pretty much the same—an immigrant speaking with an accent will get a very different reception than someone who looks and sounds stereotypically “Canadian.”

      The other problem is that I do have a job, which leaves me scarcely enough time to run my own life, much less yours. You’d do well to find someone with effloads of free time, like maybe a person living in a manga cafe or a housewife would be a good choice.

      Thanks for the offer though. Maybe after I retire…

  116. Hi Ken,

    I’m a 22 year old Mechanical Engineer from the Philippines working in a japanese company here. My dream is to live in japan and eventually work there. Since i dont have much experience in the field because i just recently graduated. And also my japanese languange is bad but im willing to dedicate my time to improving it.
    Could you give me any tips? And do mechanical engineers get jobs in japan?

    1. Hi John,

      At 22, you’ve got a lot of options. It’s great that you’re motivated to try new stuff. So working backwards through your questions, I don’t have any particular knowledge about mechanical engineering in Japan, although I’m sure there are plenty of people doing it. Whether or not Japan has a need for overseas labor in the field, I don’t know, but a search through the job websites would probably give you a good sense.

      I do kind of worry when I hear folks saying they’ll devote time towards improving their Japanese. I mean, it’s not necessarily the best gamble, you know? For starters, it’ll take you years, and then it’s only useful in Japan. And after all that, what happens if you get stuck in a bad job here, don’t ever get a job here, or flat out don’t like Japan once you’ve lived here a while?

      Please understand I’m not trying to be discouraging. I just want you to evaluate all of your choices. Leaving your home and living overseas—anywhere—is kind of a major step.

      But let’s say it would take you three years of hard study to get decent at Japanese. Is there anything else you could pursue for three years that might have a bigger payoff? Where else could you possibly work, even right now? Singapore? Hungary? Portugal? I don’t know; I’m just throwing out options, to be sure you’ve thought about them.

      Now, if you are set on Japan, that’s cool too. I’d say to devote some time every week, or even every day, towards trying to get here. Are there any online groups of Filipinos living in Japan? Are there professional Engineering organizations you can contact? Talk to the Japanese people in your company. Are they friendly and helpful? If so, then maybe they can assist you. (If not, then you might want to consider if these are the kind of people you want to be surrounded by.) If you really want to get here, you probably can. Persistence goes a long way toward achieving goals.

      Best of luck,


    2. Hi John – Can you do a master degree in mechanical engineering in Japan? Many Japanese universities now offer places in degrees to international students. Theoretically the course may be in English, but in fact lectures, seminars, etc are still conducted in Japanese, so you need to work on that. You may be able to get a scholarship from a variety of sources – your government, the Japanese government, the university, a company. Once you graduate with a Japanese degree, if you have competence in English, Japanese and your own native language, you will be quite employable by a Japanese company that has dealings with the Philippines. The last semester of the master degree course in Japan is pretty much “job hunting” time, with many companies making presentations at each university.

      1. Hi John (again) – I’m sorry, I missed the bit that you are already working for a Japanese company. Is there any likelihood that someday you can use that company to work in Japan (at least part of the time)? Would that company ever sponsor you for further study in Japan? Apart from that, studying hard on your own and getting JLPT 1, 2 or even 3 might convince them that you are serious about improving your Japanese skills.

  117. Hey, a beginner here. I wanted to go to TUJ for college so I could achieve my Bachelor’s Degree and have the experience of being in Japan before searching for a job there. The only thing in the post that wasn’t clear to me was the Bachelor’s Degree. When you say that, do you mean any old rinky dink Bachelor’s? Or does it need to be specific to teaching, especially as an ESL? I’m sorry if this is a ridiculous question, but TUJ doesn’t offer anything like that besides on their main campus in Pennsylvania, and they don’t offer the 2+2 program so that I could reside in Japan for a bit while aiming for those classes.

    1. Hi, thanks for the question.

      So yeah, in order to get a visa, a Bachelor’s degree from the College of West Bumkinstein will suffice, regardless of major. Of course, if you want to teach English, a degree in a related field would be more attractive to employers. That being said, if you’re young and from some place where English is considered a “native” language, you can probably get by with a degree in any damn thing.

      I don’t really know about Temple University of Japan, so you’d have to check with them regarding the programs they offer. I would, however, counsel you to avoid putting all your eggs in the Japan basket before knowing what the country is really like. There are a lot of wonderful spots in the world, and if you like traveling, you might want to set yourself up to see a number of them, rather than pinning all your hopes on one. Keep your options open, is all I’m saying.

    2. Temple University is a fairly well-known American university in Japan, and going there in the U.S., then doing a year or two at one of their schools in Japan would do you wonders for living in Japan in the future.

      The good thing about that option, as opposed to going to any other university, is that you can get to Japan before you graduate. That will give you a better idea of what you’re getting into. You might decide that Japan stinks and it’s best to get back home.

      There are many English-teaching jobs available. Most employers are looking for educated native speakers of English, but even that isn’t necessary for some places. If you do a degree in something related to language, like TESL, Linguistics, etc., then you’re pretty much guaranteed a job, and the better schools will prioritize you. If you have a different kind of degree, that’s fine, but you won’t get the better jobs until you’ve gained some teaching experience, unless you get accepted into the JET Programme.

      Just study what really appeals to you now and get your degree. If you don’t really care what you study, then do something related to language.

      However, there are lots of jobs in Japan for foreigners if you can program apps or even manage a company. Lots of companies looking for localizers for games too. So if you’re into video games, keep it up. You can get a job writing the English version of Japanese apps and games. Of course that’s going to assume some pretty decent Japanese language skills.

      Which brings you to another option – majoring in Japanese at university. That gives some people a huge boost to have the basics down before they get to Japan. I’ve seen a couple of people really succeed in Japan by having done that.

  118. Hey, nice to type to you! I have a few questions about things involved in moving to Japan.

    So basically I’m a 19 year old Australian girl who has nothing other than my intense love of Japan and it’s people/culture (when I say nothing I literally mean nothing, I didn’t even finish high-school) but my dream is to move to Japan, I want to go over there hoping to get my foot in the door with teaching English for a while to get used to my completely new life away form everything I know and then eventually do… well anything really, retail assistant or just a checkout chick is fine (My dreams are incredible, I know) but that’s truly all I want, my actual question is how exactly do I take the first step? Is it possible to go over to Japan just on a tourist visa to try and upgrade to a work visa once I find a company over there willing to hire me and sponsor my visa? Or is it honestly better to try and find someone willing to employ someone who doesn’t yet live in Japan but 100% plans to? Is it even possible to go over on a tourist visa then change it for a work one if I find a job? Some websites I’ve read have said yes and others have said no and I’m not sure exactly who to believe considering they all seem like credible websites… Also I tend to browse GaijinPot but almost all say “must currently reside in Japan” so I assume I will need to find a place to live there first and then find a job, which I’m very willing to do its just I wasn’t sure what the best way is, if you could help me out I’d appreciate it a lot, thanks 🙂

    1. You can just go to Japan on a tourist visa and look for a job, however that would be somewhat illegal, considering a tourist visa is for tourism, and essentially you are telling the Immigration officers that you are entering the country for that purpose. Assuming you can find a job (kind of hard if you don’t have a visa that allows you to work, and if you don’t have a degree yet), then you’ll have to figure out what to do about your visa. Chances are very high that a company will not hire you without a proper visa because it can land them in trouble and of course they can’t trust how long you’ll stick around. Some companies can help sponsor your visa, but they’re probably not going to do that if you don’t have a degree. That goes for even menial jobs. It’s not just the companies expectations that you should have a degree, but the Immigration office probably won’t issue you a visa if you don’t have a degree, although I know someone in Japan from another country who has no degree, yet has been able to get a 3-year visa. I think his case is very rare. Your best bet is to go to university and get a bachelor degree before heading to Japan. You want to be educated anyway, don’t you? You really don’t have any good prospects without a degree in Japan. Also, it reflects badly on a company that helps you get a visa if you only have a tourist visa. Not only does it make you a liar by saying you were here to travel, when you were actually job hunting, but it makes the company look bad too, because they’re helping someone who deceived the government. A lot of companies will refuse to do it even if it seems possible and they like you. It will damage their reputation, especially if they’re a company that hires a lot of foreigners. So, yeah, suck it up and get your degree. In your last year, apply to the JET Programme. If you get rejected, apply to the eikaiwas that hire from overseas. They’ll take care of your visa, and legally. Then you’ll have your foot in the door of Japan and figure it out from there.

      1. Ah, I completely understand that. Thank you for your comment and helping me see what seemed like a somewhat simple task in a different light. Your right though, illegally is not the way I want to do it. I’m honestly determined to do it and I want to do it right and as properly as I can as to not cause myself problems down the line or cause anyone or any company trouble. Also you say ‘suck it up’ as if I was complaining about not wanting to do a degree, I know I didn’t mention it in my original comment but going back and at least getting a Bachelor in teaching is something i’m very willing to do if, like I said, it means making sure I’m doing it the proper way. I know doing so will also make it easier for me to find a job there as I said a lot of them have a requirement of some kind of degree. I will take your advice on board and use it wisely to further my future 🙂 Thanks again

    2. I think the first step for Anita would be to read everything Ken has written on this blog. Hopefully your intense love of “Japan” will evolve into an open eyed understanding of the pros and cons.
      I will note that there are tons of Australians in Niseko and the ski resorts there are always hiring seasonal workers. If you have a return ticket to ‘your home country’ on a specific date, Japan is a lot more likely to let you in.

      1. Hi, thanks you for commenting and leaving feedback!

        Yes, I did in fact read everything on Ken’s blog. I know my generation has sort of a bad stigma for short attention spans but I really did read it all, otherwise I wouldn’t have commented. I do know there will be cons as well as pros to working and living in Japan and it’s something I have no experience in whatsoever considering I’ve only ever been there to holiday but I am deadly serious when i say I want to l’ve there and make it work for myself no matter what I need to do to prepare for it. Maybe I came across as arrogant about it in my original comment and If I did I’m sorry and that wasn’t my intention but I’m more than willing to listen ask question to people who do have experience in doing something like this. Honestly that sounds like a great idea that I will definitely keep in mind, maybe going there to work for a short while first before coming home again will open my eyes to see all the real pros and cons first hand and experiencing them for myself rather than just reading about them. Also yes, I also hope my love of “Japan” will help allow me to see everything in a different light and help my resolve to make a big a change as this work for myself.

    3. Hi there, Anita,

      Thanks for typing in. It’s clear that you’re not the only one dreaming of a life in Japan.

      I’d say you have a real Japanese way of thinking, in that there are a million 17 year-old Japanese girls whose only dream is to one day live in a wonderful place like Australia. It’s funny how the world works.

      Anyway, sounds a Working Holiday Visa would be a great fit for you. Check it out:

      1. Hi Anita – The Working Holiday visa is the only legal way that you will be able get work in Japan, but it’s a great way experience the country and also get a dose of reality at the same time. But if you seriously want to get a visa to do something like teaching English in Japan for any length of time, you’ll need to finish high school, then get a qualification (usually a university degree). Plus a fair amount of Japanese study – not just what you can pick up in conversation.

        1. Hello VeeJay, thank you for your response!

          Yes as it seems a lot of the responses to my question ring the same, to try out a work visa to get decent experience of working in Japan and I do honestly believe it’s a great idea that I really hadn’t thought of. Yes I do understand I will need to go back and finish school and get a proper degree if I want to really work in Japan permanently, which is something I am more than willing to do if it helps me find a job in the long run because I know as of right now I have no work qualities other than the fact I can speak fluent English and basic Japanese which I know is far far far from good enough to get my final goal rolling. I am starting Japanese study at the beginning of this year so at least I’m on the right track in that regard but I do understand I have a very long way to go before I can really achieve my dream. Thank you again very much for your comment 🙂

      2. Hello Ken, thank you very much for responding!

        Hearing something like ‘having a Japanese way of thinking’ makes someone like me who wants so badly to fit into Japanese culture as best I can, oddly happy so thank you very much for that. Also yes one of the previous comments said a very similar idea of doing temporary work in Japan to get my bearings on how it all works, and it is definitely something I want to try. While my end goal is to be able to work in Japan permanently and not temporarily, I think getting some base experience working in Japan can do no harm. Thanks again for replying and for writing an entertaining and interesting to read post 🙂

  119. Hi Ken, my name is Shoi
    I’m a half Japanese who started studying in the Philippines starting grade 6 until college which I just graduated last April. I took a business-related course and my Japanese is still native(in terms of speaking that is). When it comes to writing or reading I’m far better off with English and I can speak English too. Fluent? Maybe, but definitely not native. I just turned 22 last month and my question is, what are my chances of me landing an English related job in Japan?

    1. Hmm. Probably pretty good, but it might take some work. I’ve met a few Filipino folks working as English teachers here. The fact that you speak Japanese well is a big plus.

      The question is, How to get a job? In my mind, the first thing you want to do is send out a ton of resumes to every place on the job boards. It’s not easy to get a position that way, since you’re competing with everybody else in the world, but still, it’s possible and it doesn’t really cost you much. It would help if you could get some resume-worthy qualifications (CELTA would look impressive).

      The alternative is to find a different job in Japan, and then once you’re here, move on to teaching English. Now, I don’t know what exactly that would be, or if it would suit you, but there are Filipino people working in health care, ship-building, and construction. Perhaps that’s an option…

      It’s always easier to get a job once you’re physically in a place, so the employer doesn’t have to hire you from abroad. If you can get here—not as a tourist, but working and living in some capacity—that would help.

      1. Yeah actually… I am already here. I have a house here now living with my Japanese side grandparents. And I did apply for a job once through “Townwork” to this eikaiwa thing called “peppy kids club” or whatever that was. After that they called me and told me to send my Japanese resume(rirekisho) in handwritten. Only to get turned down a week later and boy was that depressing 🙁 the fact that a single letter telling me I wasn’t hired almost brought me man tears. Anyway thank you for answering my question, I will look into that CELTA. I’m really desperate for a job right now 🙁

          1. Hi Shoi – You do need to go at it harder with more job applications, and not get upset if an application gets turned down. Just say it’s their loss to lose such a great candidate. Your not looking like a stereotypical “foreigner” and being a second-language speaker might work against you in some quarters — but you are better off working for a more enlightened employer. You say you have a business degree. Are you not interested in applying for business related jobs?

            1. Business related jobs here in japan? Not sure about that 🙁
              But first thing first i need to get a driving license first. I cant do anything without a car or a motorbike lol
              Got to do some part time to earn some money for that too… Jesus lotsa things to do. Anyway Happy new year!

              1. Hi Shoi – I sense that there’s a block in you, that you don’t want to become part of Japan’s salaryman culture, and that’s why you aren’t applying for business related jobs. Is that right?
                You need to sort things out about who you want to be and what’s your idea of a career. Asking yourself where you want to be five, ten and twenty years from now, and what do you need to do to get there may be helpful.
                By all means get that driver’s license, but don’t use it as an excuse – you can get around on public transport, a scooter, even a bicycle. And virtually every restaurant/izakaya/convenience store is hiring part-time staff. The pay and hours aren’t great, but it’s money now, not the rest of your life. Ganbatte, ne!

                1. Your words really hit me. You’re partly right about the block and yes I admit I have that side of me. I’m actually planning on inquiring this Toyota’s job deal ( the free apartment and other stuff sounds too good to be true… (expecting it to be hella physical labor) I think I’m gonna give it a try to get a boost on the money.
                  And thank you so much for your wise words. I’m glad I’ve read it.
                  And one more thing, what do you think of the job? The link I sent you?

                  1. Hi Shoi,
                    It looks like it’s a recruiting company, DPT, doing the employing – you could do a web search on them to check them out. I don’t think the accommodation part is too good to be true – you get your own room , so you are independent, but it will be in a block with lots of other folk like you, maybe away from city pleasures. The work is car production line, so repetitive, maybe noisy or some other hazards – I doubt too physically strenuous, but I could be wrong. If it’s Toyota, I’m sure it will be best practice, but still an industrial job (which is why they are always looking for workers). I worked for a while in an industrial job making steel pipes when I was about your age. It was just for the money, and definitely not something I’d ever want to do for long, but all in all a worthwhile experience.

        1. I feel ya—rejection’s hard. But really, for every one job I’ve gotten, I’ve probably had to send twenty resumes. Maybe more. Looking for work sucks.

          Whenever you’re competing for a commodity, you’re likely to lose more than you win. The only solution is playing the numbers—just keep pulling that slot machine lever until something hits. You can take a small bit of consolation in knowing that it’s basically free.

          Keep trying, don’t think it’s just you, and don’t let it get you down. You’ll get something eventually. And then you’ll long for the days you were unemployed. Smiley face.

            1. It sounds suspiciously good. I’d suggest asking some of the Japanese folks around you what they think. I don’t know if the grandparents are the right ones to ask, but you need to get some serious advice on this one. Manual labor and factory work could be okay, but you need to make sure it’s safe and that morale is good.

              And most importantly, be sure you can quit if you need to. A lot of contracts have a clause allowing you to quit with one- or two-months’ notice, which is usually fine. Just don’t sign a contract binding you for a long period of time or containing some monetary penalties for leaving early.

  120. I’m currently 30 (31 in July) and would love to live and work in Japan but I don’t have a Bachelor’s Degree, not any kind of money or employment history.

    What I want to know is it possible for me to completely turn my completely failure of a life around, get a low paying job to fund a BSc (Hons) in Computing & IT from the British Open University, and learn other things like HTML, SQL, JavaScript, Python, etc.

    Then move to Japan around 40 (or before I turn 40)? Or is this just wishful thinking on my part?

    1. You can absolutely do it. Let’s talk about this a bit more, starting with what country you’re in. Are you married, single, have kids? Do you live by yourself or with others?

      1. I’m currently living with my mother and am single.

        I’m in the UK, so I know we have the Open University here which does BSc degrees; I doubt I’d get accepted into a regular University being 30 and having no A-levels or employment history in leiu of A-levels.

        I did fail one of my college diploma courses back in 2007 relating to computing, but I did pass (another two spanning over 3y) so I’m a little unsure if I have to do that again (2y) before progressing onto a BSc (3y) or if I could just go into a BSc as a slightly blank slate and learn stuff as I go along.

        I wouldn’t be able to apply this year at the moment due to lack of around £20K and enrollment is in in March I believe.

        1. how about:
          – set up a daily working space at home where your mum can see you. She will be happier seeing you trying even if nothing succeeds for a while.
          – start with the free online classes offered by big-name universities (I know Stanford has some, for ex.).
          – go cold turkey on your single biggest time-wasting habit (like watching tv or something), and use that time instead to pursue a hobby like Japanese study.
          – read Ken’s blog carefully and think about whether it would really be easier to succeed in a foreign country than your own country.
          – keep trying – gambatte!

          1. Hie Ken. I am a Zimbabwean
            I have a Mobile and tower crane operator`s licenses. How can I apply for any of the two jobs in Japan

            1. Thanks for the comment.

              While I don’t have any direct experience with Japanese construction work, I’d venture to say that two challenges you’ll face are 1) getting a work visa and 2) learning the language.

              One thing I see people doing is coming here on a student visa. You enroll in a language school for a year, which (I believe) enables you to work at a part-time job. Then during that year, you search like mad for something more permanent. Or someone to marry.

              Frankly, both routes seem like high-cost, low-percentage strategies.

              I’ve also read that Japan scouts workers from overseas, often in southeast Asia, to find cheap foreign labor, although reports are far from heartening:



              I’d be interested in hearing from someone with actual experience in manual labor in Japan.

        2. Thanks for the reply. Why do you feel you have a “failure of a life?”

          From what I can tell, you don’t have any kids. That alone will make it easier to change your situation.

          It’s also great that you live with your mom. You’ll be able to save money much easier that way.

          At 30(ish), you have plenty of time. I know folks who’ve moved to Japan in their 40s, 50s, and beyond. So you have that going for you too.

          I can understand your disappointment at having failed exams, etc. I think I’ve failed in just about every category there is in life. I’m currently waiting on God to invent some new categories so I can fail those too.

          How much debt do you have? How much savings? Do you have a job now, and if not, what was the last job you had?

          Let’s talk about this a bit more.

          1. I failed a Computing Diploma course back in 2007 and have done nothing with my life in the last ten years. Either working or computer related, like setting up RAIDs, learning to CISCO network, etc.

            I’ve done some voluntary work since 2009, but never any kind of actual, paid employment for 37 hours a week, 52 weeks a year.

            Thankfully I don’t have any debt (yay!), but I have zero savings either.

            I’m just a little worried that trying to apply for a job in Japan when I’m 40 means “I’m past my prime.”

            1. In some ways, you’re in pretty great shape. By 30, a lot of people (possibly the majority) are heavily in debt, and often struggling to raise children. You may not have accomplished everything you wanted, but you also managed to avoid some of the shit that could majorly fuck up your life. Frankly, I’d call that a win.

              40? No way is that too old. Interviewers sometimes favor applicants who are a bit more “mature,” since they’ll mistake you for someone experienced and actually responsible.

              At this point, it sounds like what you need to do is take some incremental steps toward both getting a job and getting back into school.

              Life’s all about routine. Get up at a consistent time. Make your bed. Brush your teeth—that kind of stuff. Then devote an hour a day toward researching scholarships, determining what kind of program you can enroll in, how much it would cost, etc. Then take a break, get outdoors for a bit, then spend another hour looking for work, applying for jobs, writing a resume, etc.

              I’m thinking like just 2 hours a day, but every day, steady, until it becomes a habit. Most success seems to involve simply sitting down and doing the work, for a little bit each day, chipping away at a big task.

              I guess that’s how I’d approach it, but let me know if I’m missing something.

  121. I have actually been studying Japanese for two years this July, though speaking and listening aren’t my strongest points at all.

    I do better on the reading and typing front.

    I’m probably at a rookie->novice level if anything.

    Haven’t taken any of the JLPT’s either.

  122. I’m still shocked that I was shortlisted for the JET Program. I thought I bombed the interview, given that I stumbled over a question about having 15 minutes before class to create a lesson on numbers using a deck of cards. I still have no idea. Plus, I completely failed the Japanese language component, which I was told had no bearing on the interview itself but was humiliating, nonetheless.

    Though, I did look nice, I guessb I wore a suit (a dark blue salaryman suit, newly purchased from Kohl’s for the occasion). I also have a degree (in English, nonethless) & can fluently & articulately speak English. Plus, I’m white. So, I suppose that makes me qualified, after all. I shouldn’t have wasted so much anxiety over my performance during my interview.

    I may have also displayed my “flexibility” by declaring no preference for my placement location & repeatedly stressing the point that my time in Japan will be as much an education for myself as for my students. I guess that means I should prepare to put my nose to the grindstone. By the end, I may have a much shorter nose but it was too long to begin with, anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *