Internships in Japan

Updated 2020-04-10 15:25

As in many countries, an internship can be a great way into employment. During the academic year or after graduation, an internship undertaken by a student can turn into a real job. These days, this practice is so common that one might think it applies everywhere - but what about Japan?

With the increase of international exchanges, Japanese companies – and particularly the large conglomerates - have begun to offer internships. Bear in mind that this practice is far from common, however, and remains the exception today. As strange as it may seem, the general rule remains that Japan does not ‘do’ internships. 

What’s the internship culture in Japan?

In Japan, you cannot help but swiftly become familiar with the world of work via baito (small jobs). Some are accessible from high school, for example working in a supermarket, delivering newspapers, etc. At university, education intensifies, with courses specifically designed to help candidates enter the workforce. It is during these studies that students start to apply for jobs. The objective? To have a job right out of university - or even before! Internships are not really part of the standard recruitment process - no further proof of competency or suitability is required beyond the university qualification.

Along with the traditional mode of job application (a form which is filled out), the western tradition of submitting a CV is slowly taking off in Japan with certain companies. In the same way, internships are also becoming slightly more common. Note, however, that there is no Japanese word for "internship". Instead, there is talk of "inta- shippu" for "internship".

 Good to know:

While it may not be necessary to speak Japanese to do an internship in Japan, it is advisable to have a base understanding, or - depending on the company in which you want to do your internship - a level of Japanese that allows you to converse.

Which companies should you approach in Japan?

It can be a good idea to target large companies, which are more likely to take a trainee. These larger companies may be international or Japanese.

Whichever company you decide to target, you should take the time to thoroughly research the background of the company; its structure, staff and organisation. All companies have their own peculiarities, and it’s important to understand to whom you are applying.  

If you are targeting a Japanese company, you will have to speak and understand Japanese. For an international company, you will need to speak fluent English. 

Don’t forget to ask your university services whether your institution has a partnership or relationship with any Japanese universities or companies - this could reveal some good contacts.

Other avenues include associations, cooperation centres and professional social networks. As in the west, networking has an increasingly important role when it comes to job hunting and internship research. Having a profile page that is up to date on LinkedIn (or any other professional network), allows you to start building a network and making contacts. Check out associations, participate in forums and keep an eye on student conferences to meet researchers and professionals who might open their address book.

To put the odds on your side, start your internship search a good year before your departure for Japan. List the companies that interest you and include: the sector; the size of the company; the names of the directors; names of potential contacts and those you have met on social networks. 

About 2 to 4 months after the start of your preparations, send CVs and cover letters. Don’t send them too early (for example a year or more than a year before) or too late (2-3 months before the desired departure). Depending on the companies contacted, write your documents in French, English or Japanese.

Arm yourself with patience: answers are rare and can take several months to arrive. If you do not have an answer, contact the companies about two weeks after sending the application to follow up.

Internship visas in Japan

If you are a national of a free country visa and your internship in Japan lasts fewer than 90 days, you will only need your passport. 

If you are a national of a country without visa exemption or if your internship exceeds 90 days, you will need to apply for an internship visa, or possibly do your internship as part of a PVT. Be careful, however, not to do an internship that is too long - the purpose of the PVT is to travel and discover Japanese culture, not to work.

Before applying for an internship visa, you will need to obtain your Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). 

 Good to know:

The embassy may refuse you a visa if they see that your program only mentions internships, or that the duration of your internship is too long.

The internship visa allows you to stay in Japan for a maximum of one year and only as part of your internship. Applications for your internship visa can be submitted to the Japanese embassy or consulate of your country of origin. The procedure takes a while, so get ready well in advance.

As for the work visa, it is your future company that would sponsor you. The company is the link to Japanese immigration, and so you will give all required documents requested by the immigration services to your company: a copy of identity papers, diplomas, and official banking documents attesting your financial resources, etc. Before applying for your internship visa, you will need to obtain your Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). Your future company will send this to you.

Your embassy may also ask you for documents to create your internship visa (visa application form, passport, proof of accommodation, etc.).

Finding accommodation for the duration of your internship in Japan

You must find accommodation for your stay in Japan. Ask your future business as the first port of call - some companies can help you find housing. Housing will be a significant expense, especially in Tokyo. Expect to pay around 30,000 yen per month (250 euros) for a dormitory and around 60 to 80,000 yen per month (500 to 680 euros) for a single room, a shared house or a social residence. Apartments are expensive: from 80,000 yen (680 euros) for the most affordable, up to 120,000 yen per month (about 1000 euros) or more, for the most expensive.

The price of housing varies greatly depending on the sector you choose. It’s in the heart of Tokyo (Shinjuku, Shibuya) that prices really soar. Other districts a little further away (Nakano-ku, not far from Shinjuku, or Taito-ku, not far from Ueno and Akihabara) offer more affordable prices.

 Good to know:

In most cases (but not all) companies pay the cost of transportation and a daily lunch.

 Useful links:

Internship in Japan- ICCWorld
Go Overseas
Study Abroad
Immigration Bureau of Japan
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare 

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.