Requirements to Work in Japan (With Job Opportunities)
If you enjoy Japanese culture and want to live and work in the country as a foreigner, learning about what it’s like to work in the country is a good first step. The work culture in Japan is different from the work culture in western countries, so educating yourself about what it takes to work in the country can help you acclimate successfully to life in Japan. Learning about what the work culture is like, how to find a job, and what jobs are in-demand for foreigners can help you prepare for your career abroad.
In this article, we explain what it’s like to work in Japan, address the language requirements, outline the steps for getting a job, and offer some considerations for job opportunities and places to look for employment in the country.
What it’s like to work in Japan
Understanding what it’s like to work in Japan can help you assimilate into the Japanese work culture. In Japan, work days tend to be longer than they are in western countries. While labour laws state that 40 hours per week, plus up to eight hours of overtime, is the maximum for the working week, it’s common for Japanese employees to work 12-hour days. Culturally, there’s a strong emphasis on collaboration and having a diligent work ethic. Many employees in the country see their colleagues as extended family, so spending time together after work is socially acceptable and often expected.
The standard work week in Japan is Monday to Friday, though this may vary based on your industry of employment. Self-employment is somewhat uncommon in the country, though it’s becoming more popular. Since Japan has a strong collectivist culture, it’s more typical for employees to work for a company and collaborate closely with their team members. Additionally, employees in Japan often stay with the same company for their entire careers, so employers spend a lot of time getting to know candidates before hiring. This is to make sure they’re a good fit for the company.
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Language requirements for working in Japan
English fluency isn’t common among locals in Japan, though it may be more likely in urban areas. In general, it’s a good idea to learn the language if you plan to live and work in Japan. Not only does knowing Japanese make it easier to find a job in the country, but it can also make it easier to navigate daily interactions. Before you commit to working in the country, consider taking a course and practising your conversation skills with other Japanese speakers. Since Japanese is often challenging for non-native speakers, prepare to invest some effort into learning the language.
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How to get a job in Japan
Here are some steps you can follow to help you get a job in Japan:
1. Understand the eligibility requirements
The job market in Japan can be competitive, so make sure you know the eligibility requirements for a position before you apply. Many employers require candidates to have a university degree or a minimum of 10 years of experience in their career field. Additionally, unless you plan to work for a multinational company in Japan, being proficient in Japanese is a typical requirement for employment.
A potential employer may require you to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test to assess your level of fluency. The test has five levels and level 1 is the highest. Most employers expect candidates to pass level 2 of the test as a minimum requirement. Along with these requisites, expect to submit a list of professional references and documents demonstrating your employment qualifications as part of your job application. Employers are thorough in assessing all aspects of a potential candidate, considering their personal qualities along with their work credentials.
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2. Know how to explain your qualifications
Similar to the process in western countries, job candidates go through the stages of submitting a CV, writing a cover letter, and completing an interview when applying for a job. Following these steps allows candidates to express their qualifications to a potential employer. Although the steps are similar to the western job application process, the Japanese style of resume has several key differences and job interviews have some culturally specific expectations. For example, a typical Japanese resume is a handwritten document. It includes two parts that cover your personal and professional attributes. You may also include a photograph of yourself.
When attending an interview in Japan, expect a highly formal setting. It’s customary to arrive five to 10 minutes before the interview, and it may be considered impolite to arrive late or too early. When dressing for an interview, you’re expected to wear formal business attire. A typical interview lasts 30 minutes to an hour, although it can be as long as an hour and a half. Additionally, most interviews involve a panel of interviewers rather than a single one. This style of interview allows the interview team to learn about your personality along with your work credentials.
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3. Find job opportunities in your preferred field
After learning about the eligibility requirements and the stages of applying for a job in Japan, start researching career opportunities. It’s often easier to access employment if you already live in the country. This is because it’s expensive for Japanese businesses to assist foreign employees in relocating to the country. You may be less likely to be considered for a position if you require your employer’s assistance when relocating. For this reason, it’s common for foreigners to start as English teachers in Japan to establish themselves in the country and its culture before seeking other opportunities.
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4. Learn about what visa you need
To live and have a job in Japan as a foreigner, make sure you get the right type of visa. There are many types of working visas that correspond to how long you’re staying in the country and what type of work you do. It’s typical for your employer to be your visa sponsor when you get a job in Japan. When you get a job in Japan, your employer completes an application on your behalf to help you acquire a Certificate of Eligibility. Once you have this certificate, you can apply for a work or long-term visa.
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In-demand industries for foreigners
Some industries may be more accessible for foreign employees than others, and understanding where you can apply your skills in the country can help you find opportunities that align with your career goals. While expatriates can find work in almost any sector, here are some industries that may be in demand:
- Teaching: Many foreigners move to Japan to teach English or another language. Schools in Japan value language teachers who are native speakers of the languages they teach, and there are opportunities to teach at different levels, from young children to adults learning English for business.
- Hospitality and service: The hospitality and service industries may prefer to hire foreigners who are fluent in other languages. The demand for individuals fluent in English or other languages may be higher in areas where tourism is popular to accommodate those visiting from other countries.
- Technology and engineering: The technology industry is one of the biggest sectors of the Japanese economy. If you have skills in technology development, computer engineering, or robotics, then you may have valuable assets for a career in Japan.
- Interpreting or translating: Being fluent in Japanese and English or another language can help you get a job as a translator or interpreter. You may translate written materials into different languages or provide translation services to facilitate communication between individuals.
- International business: If you have business experience, then becoming a business consultant in Japan is a feasible option. You can bring your foreign perspective to discuss opportunities for Japanese businesses to collaborate with multinational companies.
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Where to look for work
Knowing where to look to find jobs can help you identify opportunities in Japan. Here are some considerations for how to find a job abroad:
- Build a professional network. One way to access job opportunities is through developing your professional network. Since the workplace culture in Japan emphasizes close relationships between colleagues, it may be easier to find work by developing connections with others.
- Search for jobs online. Another way to learn about job openings is to look online for positions. Use job boards or look at the websites of companies you want to work for to learn about openings.
Pursue an internship. If you’re a current student or recent graduate looking for a job in Japan, consider starting as an intern. Working as an intern in a Japanese business may lead to a full-time position when you finish the internship.