Finding a job in Sendai

Updated 2024-02-28 09:33

It is known as "the city of trees". Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, is also the most populated city in the region. It gets its nickname from its main street, lined on both sides with large trees. In its plan for 2030, Sendai aims to make more room for nature for a green and respectful ecosystem. The city also promotes multiculturalism through intercultural exchange programs. Dynamic, the city attracts many companies for a lower cost of living than in Tokyo. Why not work in Sendai? Here's a practical guide to settling down and finding your dream job.

Mapping Sendai


Miyagi Prefecture is located in the greater Tohoku region, north of Honshu, Japan's main island, and overlooks the Pacific Ocean. As of December 1, 2023, the population of this prefecture was estimated to be 2,262,002 individuals. This represents a decline of 84,851 people compared to the estimated population of 2,346,853 before the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 1, 2011.

Sendai is Miyagi Prefecture's capital and the most populated city, with 1,063,262 inhabitants by March 31, 2023. The other major cities do not exceed 150,000 inhabitants. Ishinomaki, Northwest of the coast, has 135,806 inhabitants. Osaki, inland and further North, has 124,776. 

Sendai City

The most crucial city of Miyagi prefecture, Sendai, is also the central city of Tohoku. It is divided into five wards (ku): Aoba-ku, Izumi-ku, Miyagino-ku, Taihaku-ku, and Wakabayashi-ku. 

By January 1, 2024, the population of Sendai City is estimated to be 1,097,620 people. The population of each ward has been increasing steadily since the 1990s. With 314,873 inhabitants, Aoba-ku is the most populated. The second is Taihaku-ku, with 237,305 people; the third is Izumi-ku, with 208,601 people. 

The 40–49 age group constitutes most of Sendai's population (157,686). The 50–59 age group is followed by the 30–39 age group (152,964 and 131,406, respectively) (source: Sendai City Official Site).

By April 30, 2023, there were a total of 14,540 foreigners residing in the area. China secured the top spot with a population of 3,869, followed by Nepal with 2,074 people in second place. South Korea claimed the third position with 1,817 individuals, while Vietnam ranked fourth with 1,789 people. Remarkably, the combined population of these four countries constitutes a significant 65% of the total foreign population. 

History of Sendai

Miyagi Prefecture

Sendai has long been called "the city of trees" or "the Green city" because of the many parks that structure the city. Sendai is also the urban economic center of the prefecture. 

Historically, Miyagi has been devoted to agriculture and fishing. The prefecture borders the Pacific Ocean and specializes in sea and soil cultivation. Much more recently, the prefecture's coast was partly hit by the great earthquake of 2011. This was followed by long months of reconstruction. The Miyagi coastline and Sendai, the capital city, have long since recovered their stature.

Miyagi, on the way to a multicultural society

In 2007, the prefecture promulgated an ordinance that pledged to build a "multicultural society" and provide a "safe and pleasant environment" for foreigners — a first in Japan. 

The Miyagi International Association (MIA) created the Miyagi support center for foreign residents. Available in 13 languages, it assists new arrivals (administrative formalities, housing search, etc.). From health to finding a job, school, or university, MIA helps foreign residents in all areas of their everyday life.

The most prominent fields of Miyagi Prefecture

Miyagi Prefecture is blessed with abundant resources from the sea, mountains, and land, making it a prime agricultural location. It boasts one of the highest proportions of large rice paddy fields in the country, and its favorable climate and geographical position are ideal for horticulture. 

While rice production, featuring renowned varieties like Hitomebore, Sasanishiki, Date Masayume, and Kin no Ibuki, remains a priority, the prefecture is also dedicated to expanding the cultivation and sales of horticultural products, particularly strawberries, bell peppers, and other vegetables. 

Additionally, Miyagi Prefecture takes pride in promoting the Sendai Beef brand, the only beef brand in Japan that requires the highest possible meat quality grade of 5. 

The prefecture is home to various industries, including petroleum, paper, and steel, in its waterfront areas and processing and assembly industries, such as electronic components and automobiles, in its inland regions. 

Furthermore, the prefecture has a thriving food manufacturing sector that utilizes a diverse range of locally sourced ingredients.

The prefecture's economy is based on several significant pillars: services, industry (factories), construction, real estate, sales, and the public sector. 

The nominal gross prefectural product for FY2021 reached 9,649.6 billion yen, reflecting a 1.8% increase compared to the previous year. In real terms, the total assets amounted to 9,464.1 billion yen, showing a growth of 2.2% from the prior year. 

The tertiary industry accounted for the majority, with 74.5% of the total, followed by the secondary industry, with 24.3%. On the other hand, the primary industry contributed only a small fraction of 1.2% (source: Miyagi prefecture economic calculations for 2021).

Miyagi, a welcoming land for international companies

To attract foreign companies, Miyagi has launched "Invest Miyagi". The benefits of this strategy include lower costs than in Tokyo (office rental, etc.), a lower cost of living, and infrastructure connected to other regions and the world (Sendai has its own international airport). 

Miyagi is also home to qualified professionals. Sendai is home to Tohoku University, one of the most renowned universities in Japan. The prefecture hosts leading R&D groups. It invests in innovation to build the "Miyagi of tomorrow".

Miyagi's major companies

Miyagi attracts large companies with subsidies and other facilities, has reduced taxes in "special zones", subsidies for factories and R&D companies, etc., and it works. Toyota Motor Corporation and Panasonic Corporation joined forces to create Toyota Motor East Japan, a factory manufacturing automotive batteries. 

Miyagi wants to become a new production base for semiconductors, which are indispensable materials, especially since the health crisis. Tokyo Electron Miyagi, a semiconductor specialist, has established its production and research center in Miyagi. On the research side, Philips Japan has also set up a shop in Miyagi.

The growth sectors in Sendai

Sendai City, also known as the "academic city", is one of the country's top hubs for developing skilled professionals. Numerous companies have chosen to establish their presence here to tap into the pool of exceptional talent.

The city's commitment to open innovation, spearheaded by the globally renowned Tohoku University, and the introduction of cutting-edge research facilities like the next-generation synchrotron radiation facility have attracted a cluster of R&D facilities. This paved the way for creating research complexes and fostering collaboration and innovation.

Moreover, many companies are drawn to Sendai City due to the opportunities presented by the Sendai City Earthquake Disaster Reconstruction Plan. They see it as a chance to secure office space and diversify their risks in the face of natural disasters or infectious diseases. Additionally, businesses value the city's focus on business continuity planning.

Notably, Sendai City is already home to several foreign companies, including Amazon Japan G.K, Ericsson Japan Co., Ltd., and Philips Japan Co., Ltd. These companies have recognized the city's potential and have chosen to establish their presence here.

The start-up visa has also been introduced in Sendai City to promote business start-up activities among foreign nationals.

Sendai's economy in figures

In Sendai, the Gross Municipal Product for FY2020 comprises various economic activities. The tertiary industry holds a significant portion, exceeding 80%. Wholesale and retail trade contributes 18.2%, real estate accounts for 12.5%, and professional, scientific, and technical support services comprise 12.6%. 

There have been some changes when comparing the composition ratios between FY2011 and FY2020. The share of manufacturing and construction has increased, while the wholesale/retail and information/communications shares have decreased (source: Overview of Sendai City economy).

R&D in Sendai City

This is good news for foreign engineers, researchers, and those who wish to study in Japan

Tohoku University Aobayama New Campus will open Japan's first 3GeV high-brilliance synchrotron radiation facility in 2024. This facility, known as NanoTerasu, will be much brighter than the current most potent synchrotron facility, "Spring-8", specifically for soft X-ray spectra in Japan.

By analyzing the chemical reactions and changes in protein and other catalyst materials, surface analysis of materials is expected to contribute to developing new medications, high-activity catalysts, and other materials. Magnetic and spin analysis will also be crucial in researching and developing magnets and spintronic devices (source: Invest Miyagi).

Sendai: The socio-economic vision for the future

Thanks to Tohoku University, Sendai attracts a young and dynamic population. With demographic challenges and environmental issues, Sendai City Hall has built a new plan: "Greenest city", or how to make Sendai a green and innovative city. Ecology here is much more than just the preservation of the environment. 

Through the jobs of today and tomorrow, the city wants to build a "green" ecosystem: nature is more present and respected, multiculturalism is also better respected and protected, children are supported so that they grow up in a safe and pleasant environment, and the local economy is dynamic and open to the outside world. 

Many jobs will be available in the Greenest city in all fields – health, personal assistance, medical care, construction, real estate, sales, environmental protection, research, industry, electronics, etc. Sendai includes preserving mental health as a goal, along with the others. The city intends to create a peaceful environment based on exchanges between the various communities. This will attract many foreign workers who dream of a career in Japan.

Sendai's assets  

Want to work in Japan? Why not choose Sendai? The vast majority of foreigners choose Tokyo. It is an understandable choice, especially for a first move abroad. They think they have more chances of finding a job in the capital. The presence of many other foreigners can also be reassuring, but in terms of employment, the competition is potentially more intense. 

The cost of living is also higher than in other cities. In Sendai, rents are cheaper. Companies are very present. The University of Tohoku has an influence far beyond the city's borders. Sendai can be an excellent choice, especially if you seek an engineering, research, services, or teaching job.

Finding a job in Sendai

As in other countries, the health crisis paralyzed the Japanese job market for a while. Things are slowly picking up, but there is a before and after COVID-19. Your job search methods will differ depending on the job type you are looking for.

Small job (baito)

For jobs, not much research is needed (usually). Many convenience stores and stores have "boshuu" (recruitment) signs. Just call the number listed to apply for the job. There is no need to go into the store. You have to follow the procedure indicated. You can find other advertisements on the Internet (Craigslist, Baitoru, etc.) or in classified magazines at train and subway stations.

Open-ended contract (seishain contract)

Things get more complicated if you are aiming for an open-ended contract, but don't panic. The key is to go in well-organized. This contract will open the doors to the work visa for Japan

Companies will not sponsor you for a small job. Thousands of others like you can do the job. It's different with the seishain contract. Ask yourself what would make a company hire you. You will be competing with other Japanese and foreign graduates. Many of them will undoubtedly have studied at Tohoku University. What are your strengths? 

Looking for a job in Sendai

To look for a job in Sendai, go on the Internet: general and specialized websites depending on your activity. Also, check if the company you seek to work with has a website. Knock on the doors of Chambers of Commerce, such as the Sendai Chamber of Commerce. Participate in forums, webinars, and other job-related events. Make yourself visible and work on your presentation.

Work on your presentation

Find out how job interviews are conducted in Japan. If you have studied at a Japanese university, you are likely prepared. If not, it is beneficial to self-teach (there are many books on the subject in Japanese) or join a language school specializing in job interview preparation.

Tips for living and working in Sendai 

Don't forget about the Japanese language. If you are already in Japan, take the opportunity to learn the language as much as possible. There's no miracle; you will have to revise and learn to write kanji. Being in Japan is not enough to speak Japanese. You have to practice. 

Many foreigners have an average level even after several years of immigration to Japan due to lack of practice. Do your best to practice Japanese. If you have significant gaps in your knowledge, do not hesitate to invest in a language school. Consider these years of study as a long-term investment.

Stay confident even if your dream job is slow to come. Work on your strengths and weaknesses. Allow yourself time to relax and explore Sendai and Miyagi Prefecture. If you feel a slump, talk about it with classmates and/or a health professional. Meet people. If you are shy or reserved by nature, Internet groups can be a good start.

Also, consider sports and cultural clubs. Check with your city hall for a list. You will also gradually build your new life in Japan through contact with others.

Useful links:

Sendai City Website (in Japanese)

Sendai Chamber of Commerce

MIA (Miyagi International Association)

Invest Miyagi

Tohoku University

Sendai foreigners Community

Sendai Start-up ecosystem

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