Japan is an amazing country with a vibrant culture, history, spectacular food, and breathtaking landscapes. Not only is it an awesome place to visit as a tourist, but it’s also a wonderful place to live, work and experience life like a local. So how do you find work in Japan as a foreigner? What kind of jobs can you do? Do you have to know Japanese? How long will it take to find a job? If you are wanting to find work in Japan, these are questions you might have.
At Stepabroad, we help Canadian youth with everything they need to know to find work in Japan. We are a Recognized Organization of the Government of Canada, meaning we are a trusted provider of travel and work abroad support services for Canadians. Not only have we helped many Canadians find work in Japan, but we have also done it ourselves! I’m a Work & Travel Advisor here at Stepabroad. Originally I’m from Ontario, but before joining Stepabroad I lived and worked in Japan for six months. It was an absolutely incredible experience!
My experience in Japan was all possible thanks to the Japan Working Holiday Visa. This visa gives Canadians the opportunity to experience living and working in Japan without the complicated process of finding a sponsorship offer. The working holiday visa allows you to travel to Japan and look for a job when you get there. You don’t even need to know how to speak Japanese (although it definitely helps). The visa is available to youth between the ages of 18 and 30. There are a few criteria you must meet in order to get the visa, but I’ll share more on that later.
I arrived in Japan in October 2018 and went straight to a place called Niseko on the north island of Hokkaido. Not only is it one of the best places in the world to ski (it gets a whopping 14 meters of dry powder every season), but it’s also one of the best places to find work without knowing Japanese. This is because the ski resort is an international destination welcoming tourists coming from all over the world. Therefore, the resort town is always in need of English-speaking staff.
Through a connection with a previous workmate, I was able to get a job at a boutique hotel lined up before I arrived in Japan. The job was an incredible opportunity. Not only did I get to work with amazing and friendly local Japanese, but with people from all over the world. On a daily basis, I had meaningful interactions with the hotel guests. They came from all corners of the globe to vacation in Niseko and were always really happy to be there. They would be grinning from ear to ear on their way in from the mountain, asking what restaurants had the best food (answer – all of them!) and wanting to find out all they could about the area.
After the season ended, I spent two months travelling around the country. I went to the big cities everyone thinks about when they visit Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. Along the way, I took in a mix of big-city attractions, historic buildings, temples, natural landscapes, and of course, those awe-inspiring cherry blossoms.
Working in Japan as a Canadian can be tricky as most of us don’t speak Japanese. Being able to speak the local language significantly increases your chance of finding a job. However, there are still opportunities available that require minimal levels of Japanese. The most common jobs in Japan that are open to foreigners are the following:
This is by far the most popular type of work available to foreigners in Japan as there are almost always jobs available. A bachelor’s degree (in any field) is required to teach in schools. If you don’t have a bachelor’s degree, there is also work available where the only requirement is that you are a native English speaker. This is for positions where you provide tutoring at after school programs and conversational English lessons with adults.
Japan is experiencing a labour shortage in the hospitality industry. More and more businesses are accepting foreign staff to fill these shortages and serve the tourists and business travellers. This includes work in hotels, restaurants and cafés in busy tourist areas where English is used more frequently.
Large retail chains and other businesses in tourist areas also need staff who are able to speak English. However, having conversational Japanese would typically be required for most positions so you can assist local Japanese customers.
Japan’s ski resorts are known for having some of the best powder in the world. Many of these ski resorts cater to foreign tourists so businesses need to have English speaking staff. You don’t have to be a ski or snowboarding expert to work at the ski resort. Many working holidaymakers choose to work at ski resorts for the opportunity to learn the sport, make some money and travel around Japan in the spring after the ski season.
The ski resorts offer a wide array of work. While there are specialized positions like ski instructors and rental equipment technicians, many of the positions are in hospitality. If you have experience working in restaurants, hotels, kitchens or guest services, this might be the right opportunity for you. Are you interested in getting a job at a ski resort before you even leave Canada? Our Japan Ski Resort Program might be just what you are looking for!
A big difference between working in Canada and working in Japan, other than the language, is the work culture. Japan has a much more formal culture. People are always polite to each other, but hierarchy and respect go hand in hand. People do not speak against their superiors. It would be hard to find a Japanese co-worker who says ‘no’ to anything. At work, it is expected you greet someone with a formal greeting and always refer to them by their correct title, Mr. or Ms. The use of first names is not common at Japanese workplaces.
Work attire is also much more formal. This can depend on your job, but you should always look presentable. For men, facial hair is frowned upon and women are expected to have their hair perfectly pulled back. Visible tattoos and piercings are a definite no-no.
The most common way to be paid in Japan is monthly, with cash. Employees are given an envelope of cash at the end of each month which you then have to deposit it in your bank account yourself. This is something to keep in mind for budgeting as you will not receive any money until one month after you start working.
The social aspect of the work culture in Japan is very strong. Coworkers often hang out together after work, usually going for drinks or karaoke. While it is certainly not required, it is expected to go along if you are invited. This is a great way to build relationships with people and to learn a lot about the culture of Japan outside of work.
There are job opportunities for foreigners in Japan if you know how to find them. There are several sites that focus specifically on jobs for international workers that have varying levels of Japanese fluency. Employers that post on these websites are experienced with hiring foreigners and expect that applicants usually do not speak Japanese.
Be sure to start your job search by being open, flexible and managing your expectations. Imagine the difficulties a Japanese person would have finding a job in Canada. Finding a job in a foreign country is not as easy as finding a job in Canada. This is why it is important to consider lots of different types of jobs. Apply to as many positions as you can to increase your chances of getting an interview.
It can be difficult figuring out where to start your search, in almost all cases, you will not be considered for a position until after you have arrived in Japan. At Stepabroad, with our Send Off and City Packages, we provide the resources you need to help you find a job faster. We go over which industries are easier to find jobs in and which websites are best to help in your search. With our Ski Resort Package, we secure a job for you before you even leave Canada!
You don’t need to be able to speak Japanese to enjoy a working holiday in Japan. I didn’t when I arrived in Hokkaido, though it certainly does help. Being able to communicate on a basic level will give you more chances to interact with locals and experience Japan’s culture.
Not all jobs require a Japanese speaking ability but you might see some postings that request an N3 or similar ability. This is a standardized Japanese fluency level on the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). The JLPT evaluates and certifies the proficiency in Japanese of non-native speakers. It assesses not only your knowledge of Japanese-language vocabulary and grammar, but also your ability to use this knowledge in actual communication. N1 is the highest level you can attain, while N5 is the most basic.
If you want to start learning Japanese or brush up on your skills, Stepabroad offers 4 weeks of language lessons as part of our City Experience program. You will be enrolled in a Japanese language course at your appropriate skill level. Class sizes are kept small and you can choose to take your lessons in Tokyo, Kyoto or Fukuoka. There are even fun cultural experience courses where you learn about manga, tea ceremonies, calligraphy, cosplay, and more!
Living in Japan sounds awesome right? So how do you go about getting the working holiday visa? Luckily it isn’t as complicated as a regular work visa where you need to get sponsored by a person or employer. There are a few requirements you must meet in order to make sure you are eligible. Once you know you are eligible, you are required to correctly fill out the application forms and attach supporting documents.
To submit your working holiday visa application, you must visit the Japanese embassy or consulate in your jurisdiction. These are located in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver. It is important to note that the entire application needs to be done in a very particular way or your visa will not be approved. It can easily be denied for a simple error or if you worded something incorrectly. This may mean several delays and trips to the consulate to get it right.
Does this process sound confusing? This is where Stepabroad can help. we have done working holidays in Japan and know all the ins and outs of applying for the visa and ensuring it gets approved. If you need help with the visa application and feel you would benefit from helpful information for finding jobs, housing, setting up your health insurance, phone plans, banking and more – then our Japan Send Off Package is for you! We walk you through the entire visa application process step-by-step in our one-on-one visa consultation and review and revise all of your supporting documents to ensure they are filled out correctly.
The Japan working holiday visa is available to anyone who meets the eligibility criteria. Here is an overview of the restrictions of the working holiday visa:
Now you know about the visa to get there, but what do you do once you arrive? What do you need to do to get started? How do you find a place to live, set up your bank account, health insurance, and taxes?
It can be overwhelming to move to a new country and try to figure things out on your own. Not only do you have to look for a job and a place to live, but you also need to get a phone, a bank account, and insurance. There might be an infinite number of questions you might have before you depart – and even some things you didn’t know you needed to know.
With all of our programs, we provide the necessary visa assistance to get you on your way. Then we go over all the important information you need to know before you leave Canada.
With our Japan Send Off Package you are assigned a personal Work & Travel Advisor who provides assistance in a one-on-one orientation prior to your departure. They are also on hand to answer any questions you might have along the way.
Our Japan City Program provides all the same pre-departure support as our Send Off Package, with additional support once you arrive. The team at our partner schools in Japan are on hand to provide a welcome orientation, translate your resume into Japanese, and assist you with filling out government forms. They also offer invitations to social activities and outings with other students so you can instantly make new friends. Plus, your accommodation in Japan will be arranged before you arrive.
Our Ski Resort Program is slightly different than our other Japan packages because we directly assist you in landing a paid job in Niseko, a world-renowned ski resort before you even depart Canada! All positions come with subsidized accommodation, season lift pass and much more.
At Stepabroad, we are here to take all the stress out of planning your working holiday so you can focus on having an amazing adventure in Japan!
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Farren is a Work & Travel Advisor at Stepabroad and is obsessed with travel (we don’t blame her!). While circling the globe for the past six years she did three working holidays – in Australia, New Zealand and Japan. Now Farren loves helping fellow Canadians also experience this amazing world and all the opportunities it has to offer!