Finding a job and working in Japan

Updated 2024-02-27 06:27

Thanks to its unique culture and developed economy, Japan has always been a dream destination for many of us. However, it might take time and a lot of effort for foreigners to find a job in Japan, especially in the current economic crisis. Luckily, it is far from impossible if you are well-prepared. In this article, you will find helpful tips to help you plan your move to Japan.

Understanding the job market in Japan

In 2023, with a nominal GDP of about 4.410 trillion dollars, Japan ranked 4th in world power behind the United States, China, and Germany, one position lower than the previous year. However, the country's economic activity post-pandemic has picked up, with an unemployment rate remaining at 2.5% in November 2023, marking the lowest joblessness since January. The jobs-to-applications ratio for November 2023 stood at 1.28, indicating that there were 128 job openings available for every 100 job seekers.

The job market in Japan is well-known for its intense competition, which can pose challenges for job seekers, particularly those who need to be proficient in Japanese. Many Japanese companies highly value traditional principles like loyalty, teamwork, and commitment, often giving preference to candidates who have graduated from prestigious universities. 

Recently, to address the country's labor shortage, the Japanese government has implemented policies to attract more foreign workers in various sectors, such as technology, finance, and hospitality. 

Despite the government's recent push, breaking into Japan's job market as a foreigner remains daunting. Securing employment requires careful consideration of numerous factors, overwhelming the entire process. Therefore, adequate preparation is crucial to increase the chances of success.

The most dynamic regions for prospective expats in Japan

Unsurprisingly, Kanto is one of the most dynamic regions in Japan, driven by the attractiveness of the megacity Tokyo and Yokohama, the second most populous city after Japan's capital. Kanto attracts job seekers, companies, and investors alike. The region is driven by tourism and the service sector. 

Tokyo has emerged as the leading city on a fresh ranking of the world's most affluent cities for 2023. The New York metropolitan area and Greater Los Angeles secured the second and third positions, respectively. Tokyo boasts an impressive GDP per capita of $2.05 trillion.

The Global Power City Index (GPCI) 2023, released by the Mori Memorial Foundation Institute for Urban Strategy, assesses and ranks the world's major cities based on six key factors: economy, research and development, cultural interaction, livability, environment, and accessibility. Tokyo remains the third most influential city, just behind New York (2nd) and London (1st).

The Top 100 City Destinations Index 2023 also named Tokyo the fourth most attractive city in the world, just behind Madrid (3rd), Dubai (2nd) and Paris (1st).

Further south, Kansai is also driven by vital tourism, thanks to Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, the three most populated cities in the region. This axis is called "keihanshin". Still, more in the south, Fukuoka is causing Kyushu to shine. Fukuoka prefecture accounts for 40% of the region's GDP.

The most prominent sectors in Japan

The service and industrial sectors remain the best sources of employment in Japan. Among them, we can identify the high-tech professions that require both skilled and highly qualified personnel in fields like engineering, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, data analysis, marketing, finance, banking, insurance, heavy industry, etc.

Conversely, the pandemic has aggravated the demographic crisis. The consequences for the Japanese economy are severe. Fewer workers means fewer assets to support the country, which affects the Japanese healthcare sector, where more and more caregivers are needed to help the elderly.

Sectors in Japan that are particularly looking for foreigners

For years, it was assumed that foreigners could only be language teachers, especially for English. Language schools recruited "private teachers" in droves, who worked with a simple "baito" (small job). These teachers, often on a Work Holiday Permit (WHP), student visa, or spouse visa, did not always have the required teaching skills. This was a popular option for foreign private English or French teachers seeking jobs in Japan, but those days were over. 

Language schools now require a good university degree (native or bilingual English, higher education, language degree, teaching, etc.) before hiring, and do not hesitate to have several interviews and tests to check the candidates' skills (e.g., Rosetta Stone company).

Not surprisingly, tourism is a significant source of employment for foreigners, with activities linked to translation, interpreting, events, entertainment, culture, catering, and hotels. In that sense, all tourist destinations are constantly looking for foreigners.

Do you dream of an artistic career in Japan? Try your luck in modeling and/or entertainment. Just like for private tutors, it was believed for a long time that being a foreigner was enough to make it big in Japan (few foreigners, therefore rare). The reality is much more complicated. Being a model is a real job, like teaching or translating. Like you, thousands of foreigners are on the market, hence the very tough competition.

Job search in Japan for foreigners

Internet and social media

When looking for job opportunities in Japan, you can find various job boards on the Internet, like, catering to your needs. Some job boards are more reputable and effective than others, depending on the specific area of interest. 

Besides, social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook are also places where you can find many related job postings. Building an attractive personal page for employers will increase your chances of being hired.

Institutional organizations

Seek information from international institutions and organizations. Foreign Chambers of Commerce and Industry in Japan provide a lot of helpful advice to start your research from abroad and to pursue once you are in the country. They will often put you in touch with professionals and organize events through which you can build a professional network. You can also seek information from other professional programs, such as the JET program.

University and language schools

If you are a university or language school student, you can take advantage of their network. Many of them have job offers. Most schools also help job seekers write a CV and cover letter, prepare for a job interview, etc.


Make sure to use your informal and professional network. Take advantage of the first days of your arrival to make contacts. They may be helpful to you later on. Former colleagues or superiors in your home country can help you even from a distance if they have connections in Japan. Again, speaking Japanese will allow you to contact more people. You will have more information and more leverage.

Hello Work in Japan

If you already reside in Japan, Hello Work is an accessible and valuable employment service the Japanese government provides to help you find a job. The jobs can be full-time, part-time, or temporary, primarily targeted towards people who find it difficult to get a job.

Hello Work in Japan offers various features and services to support your job search, including English support and visa assistance for foreigners. Utilizing these services can enhance your job-searching experience and find the best opportunities that suit your needs.

Check the document Checklist for Foreigners Using Hello Work mentioned at the end of this article for more details.

How to apply for a job in Japan

The CV and the cover letter

The Japanese CV is very codified. It is a form that can be bought in a mini-mart. You must fill it in by hand and paste your photo onto it (even for a small job). The same goes for the cover letter. Everything must be handwritten. The job application is sent by mail. Some companies in the service sector (especially international ones) are gradually changing and now accept the more personal Western CVs typed on a computer. Applying online has also become widespread, especially on certain job websites.

The job interview

Here again, everything is codified. The dress code is a dark suit/white shirt, except for a baito (small job). Candidates are interviewed by several recruiters in turn. Interviews can be held individually and/or in groups. Some companies even offer "discussion groups". Candidates discuss a topic chosen by the recruiters, who watch them interact. The objective is to observe how candidates position themselves in the group. Like the dress code, this type of interview is more suitable for candidates looking for a regular job (seishain).

The value of qualifications in Japan

Japan is an ultra-competitive country where promoting high diplomas and reputable institutions is the main priority. This system significantly impacts the Japanese, who are in a hurry to enter the workforce as soon as they graduate. The last few years of university are devoted to the search for a job. Japanese students seek a maximum of job interviews to be hired. There is no question of taking a gap year. The practice is still badly perceived by recruiters, who would only see it as a chronological loophole in the CV. In short, you must pursue higher education until you find a job in Japan.

This will help you convince the recruiter, especially if you have a university degree. It's even better if it comes from an internationally recognized institution.

Japanese language level

Your Japanese language skills will affect the job openings you can apply for. Have you taken your JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), the international Japanese language exam? It is divided into levels: level 1 (N1) corresponds to a bilingual level. The N2 is the advanced intermediate level, and the N3 is the intermediate level. N4 and N5 are for beginners. Part-time job offers are generally less demanding regarding the language level. An N3 or even N4 is more than enough. Some people even find a job without speaking Japanese, but for a permanent job, the N2 is a basic level. Some companies even ask for N1, but if you want a permanent contract, you should have at least the N2.

How to obtain long-term professional visas for Japan

Work visas

Five main categories are concerned with work visas for Japan

  • Humanities/international services;
  • Engineering;
  • Transfer;
  • Skilled labor (3 to 10 years of experience);
  • Investment.

Besides, specific cases include diplomats on a mission, professors (research, teaching, etc.), artists, missionaries, legal professionals, medical professionals, and researchers. 

To fill the labor shortage, Japan has created a new visa that is less stringent in terms of skills: no need for higher education or to speak Japanese well, but this visa is quite controversial because it is less protective than the others.

The student visa and the WHV

Both student visas and WHV allow you to work up to 28 hours per week. However, some professions are strictly forbidden to holders of these specific visas (nightlife, bars, lounges, etc.).

If you want to find a job in Japan and immigrate permanently, you will need a permanent position (seishain).

If you want a small job in parallel to your studies, to increase your WHP budget, or to discover the Japanese job market, a baito is enough. Some people even take advantage of their study visa or their WHP. Even if they work part-time, they can apply for jobs in the sectors where they graduated. This allows them to convert their visa into a work visa. 

However, this is impossible if you're in Japan on a WHV. Your WHV cover letter should also specify what you will do when you return home and what you learned in Japan. Show that you have understood the purpose of this visa.

The spouse visa

It is also possible to work on a spouse's visa, with no restrictions on working hours and without having to be attached to a particular job sector.

Employment contracts in Japan

Working in Japan can be overwhelming, especially when understanding the various types of employment contracts and terminologies. It's no surprise that navigating through this maze can be confusing for newcomers.

Below are some common employment contract types you may encounter when working in Japan for both full-time and part-time jobs. 

Permanent contract (seishain)

A seishain is a permanent company employee entitled to full benefits, including wage increases and a yearly or twice-yearly bonus if offered. 


  • It provides stability as you are more complicated to dismiss, and there is no fixed end date for your employment;
  • It can be advantageous outside work, such as when applying for bank loans or rental properties.


  • Depending on the industry, you may be expected to take on more responsibilities and tasks compared to contracted or short-term employees; 
  • Your work may include mandatory overtime or additional duties.

Short contract (keiyakushain)

A keiyakushain is a contract worker directly employed by a company. Usually, they have a fixed-term contract that can be extended if both the company and the employee agree. 


  • As a keiyakushain, you receive similar benefits to permanent employees, like annual leave, health insurance, and pension coverage;
  • You can choose not to renew your contract when it expires.


  • It lacks stability. The company can end your contract when it expires;
  • In most cases, you may earn less than permanent employees and not receive company bonuses.

Starting as a keiyakushain is common in other sectors before transitioning to a permanent position. Therefore, it's often considered necessary for career development in a specific industry or company in Japan. 

Temporary employee (hakenshain)

This is the equivalent of a casual employee. Companies subcontract the recruitment to an agency. An advantage for the company is that it can fire the employer anytime if the latter isn't the right fit. The disadvantage is that a temporary worker costs as much as a permanent one, partly because of the fees paid to the placement agency. For the employee, this type of contract remains a precarious one.

Part-time employee (arubaito)

This is a small job. Many Japanese students have an arubaito (from the German language, contracted to "baito"), to pay for their studies and/or make ends meet. Many foreigners are also hired in baito jobs. The advantage of baito is its flexibility. You can choose your working hours, and work a few hours a week. In practice, many people combine baito with full-time work like permanent employees, but without the benefits.


It's challenging to find internship opportunities in Japan. The country does not have the culture of internship that can be found in the West. There are two types of internships: short-term (a few days to a week) and long-term (1 to 6 months).

Stay motivated and be patient

In any case, stay motivated and be patient. Finding work in Japan can take time. Some people get there quickly; for others, it takes much longer. Do not lose your self-confidence, and persevere.

Before moving to Japan, take the time to assess your academic level. Do you speak Japanese well? What about English and/or French? If you need to upgrade your language skills, do not wait any longer. We cannot stress enough the importance of mastering Japanese. If you are not yet in Japan, take the opportunity to work seriously on the language.

Mastering Japanese ideally is not enough anymore. Thousands of foreigners speak like you or even better than you. Take the recruiter's place and ask yourself why you should be hired. Draw skills from all your professional and non-professional activities (association work, sports, etc.). Enhance your CV by highlighting your know-how and interpersonal skills. This task seems more difficult to complete on the Japanese CV, but it is possible. Show your interest in the job, and boast your desire to contribute and to learn continuously.

Be prepared for potential shocks. Living in a foreign country can be wildly overwhelming when the host culture differs significantly from yours. Looking for a job is already stressful. It can be even more so abroad. Do not be afraid to seek help.

What if the job takes a long time to come?

Go beyond your first few failures. Recharge your batteries and apply again. If you have identified the problem (lack of Japanese language skills, for example), work seriously on it. Enroll in a language school if your budget allows, or use private teachers (online or in person). 

There are many ways to improve your Japanese level. In any case, make the necessary adjustments before applying for more jobs. Work on your weaknesses and emphasize your strengths to maximize your recruitment chances.

And most importantly, believe in yourself. You know why you came to Japan; it is up to the recruiters to discover your full potential. Don't forget! Moving abroad is also a great adventure in life.

FAQs about finding jobs in Japan for foreigners

Can I find a job in Japan from abroad?

It depends on the positions you are searching for.  Although some jobs offer visa sponsorship, usually, it is difficult to get a job in Japan when you are not yet in the country. You can start your job search with visa sponsorship at home, but it will be more challenging. 

Being on-site will give you more confidence and reassure your employer since they must sponsor your work visa. It's a good idea to show that you are already in the country and ready to take on the job. This way, you will have the opportunity to meet your recruiter and show your seriousness and autonomy.

The recruitment process is long and may consist of several individual appointments or group interviews. Being in Japan shows that you are available immediately, which can be a plus as a candidate. 

Can I work in Japan without speaking Japanese?

Yes, you can. Many international and Japanese companies communicate in English with staff members of different backgrounds & nationalities; and many companies do not! So, opinions about working in Japan without speaking the language are mixed. 

Firstly, remind yourself of the purpose of your move to Japan. Do you want to stay in Japan for a long time or not? If so, start learning Japanese as soon as possible. Speaking English won't be enough. 

Even in Tokyo, you will quickly find yourself stuck in an English few understand. Even if you work for an international company, you won't be at work 24 hours a day. How will you fit in if you don't speak the local language?  

Do your best to learn written and spoken Japanese, and don't forget about kanji. If Tokyo transcribes many words in the Latin alphabet (in transportation, for example), everything disappears when you move away from the capital. Even in Tokyo, everything is naturally written in kanji.

Is it possible to find a job in Japan without a degree?

It all depends on the kind of job you are seeking. The requirements will be less stringent if you seek a baito or a minor job, but it may be more difficult if you desire a permanent job. 

As mentioned before, the Japanese job market is very competitive and even more so since COVID. The company that hires you on a permanent contract sponsors you, so they need to have a guarantee that you are a good fit. The first way to reassure them is to show them you have relevant work experience.

Office work typically requires at least ten years of experience, whereas positions involving language skills, such as translation and interpretation, necessitate at least three years of work experience. A certificate of employment might be required to verify the number of years worked (source:

Useful links:

Jobs in Japan

Checklist for foreigners using Hello Work

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.