Finding a job in Kyoto

Updated 2024-02-27 06:31

Do you dream of working in Kyoto? The ancient capital of Japan is indeed a fascinating place that attracts millions of tourists every year. While COVID abruptly halted the flow of tourists, it has gradually picked up again since the official reopening of the borders. However, visiting Kyoto during vacations and working there are two different things. How do you find a job in Kyoto? How easy is it for foreigners? How open is the local labor market? Let's look at how to get a job in Japan's ancient imperial city.

Mapping Kyoto

Kyoto is located in the Kansai region on the main island of Honshu. It is the eponymous capital of the Kyoto prefecture. Ideally located in the center of Japan, it is, with Osaka and Nara, the second-most visited tourist destination after Tokyo. 

However, the city is regularly tested, especially during the summer season. With a population density of more than 1,700 inhabitants per km², Kyoto has a population of about 1.4 million in 2024. Nonetheless, the situation is far worse in the Tokyo megalopolis, which concerns about 3,800 inhabitants per km², for about 8.3 million inhabitants in 2024.

With 11.9% of the GDP, Kyoto is the third-largest economy in Kansai. However, it is far behind giant Osaka, which accounts for 44.6% of its prefecture GDP, and Hyogo (23.8%).

A historical capital city

The two ideograms forming the city's name literally mean "capital city". This is precisely what Kyoto has been for centuries. The emblematic tourist city of Japan has been for 1,000 years the capital of the Land of the Rising Sun (until the second half of the 19th century). Today, it still carries the memory of Japan's imperial history. The city ensured to preserve the nation's heritage, traditions, and art.

However, Kyoto has not always been so-called. At the time of its creation, it was called "Heian-kyô", the capital of "peace and tranquility", but it became, on the contrary, a city defaced by wars until the arrival of Hideyoshi Toyotomi, who managed to unify the country. He is the second unifier of Japan (the first is Oda Nobunaga, and the third is Tokugawa Ieyusa). From this reunification, Kyoto, the "capital city" was born.

A patrimonial city

Even today, the ancient imperial city retains the marks of its illustrious past. One rarely comes to work in Kyoto by chance. Everything bears witness to the rich history of the former imperial capital – shrines, temples, Japanese gardens, etc. Many of its monuments are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Kyoto has over 2,000 temples, including the famous Golden Pavilion, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Visitors flock to Kyoto to discover this cultural treasure.

Since June 10, 2022, foreigners have returned to Japan, much to the relief of the city's business owners, after being deprived of tourists due to the health crisis. The ancient capital of Japan is indeed a must-see destination for tourists. In 2020, Kyoto surpassed Tokyo, which has held the top spot for the past 4 years. This is how Kyoto became the best big city in the world, as per Condé Nast Traveler, a significant luxury travel magazine ranking.

Still, living in Kyoto is hardly comparable to the tourist experience. To relocate to the ancient imperial city is to embrace a bit of its culture, and a bit of Japanese history.

The job market in Kyoto

Finding employment in Kyoto can be difficult for foreigners, especially those not fluent in Japanese. Many jobs in Japan require proficiency in the Japanese language, especially in customer-facing roles. However, there are still industries and positions where English skills are valued, such as developers, ESL teachers, or tourism workers. 

It's worth noting that the job market in Japan in general, and in Kyoto in particular, is highly competitive, and employers often have specific qualifications, skills, and work experience requirements. A relevant degree or certification, like a teaching certification for English teachers or a hospitality degree for the tourism industry, can give you an advantage as a job seeker. 

You can use many online job search websites or recruitment agencies to find job opportunities in Kyoto. Networking with locals or other expats can also be beneficial for finding job leads or making professional connections.

Can one really live and work in Kyoto?

Opinions are mixed. Expatriates who have tried the experience speak of a peaceful life outside the tourist season in Kyoto, but working is something else. The job market in Kyoto is not the same as in Tokyo or even Osaka. Job offers are rather scarce, especially for a foreigner looking for a regular job (a seishain contract). Unless you already work in Japan, are a digital nomad, or are just looking for a side job (baito), you should think carefully before settling in Kyoto.

Japanese people are the first to question the situation. Many websites list the advantages and disadvantages of living in Kyoto.


There is little information about job offers and/or possibilities to find a job, an internship, or a job. Firstly, remember that there is Kyoto, the city, and Kyoto, the prefecture. This is an element that all websites insist on as if to underline that life outside the imperial ancient town is entirely possible.

Pros and cons of living in Kyoto


Kyoto offers a unique living environment. Nature lovers, history enthusiasts, and those who seek peace will find it to their liking. Parents and children alike will benefit from a sound school system in the heart of historical sites. Kyoto is also a famous student city. Despite its past, it is far from being stuck in history.

Moreover, the past and history are part of the city's present life and meet the new economic challenges, starting with upgrading the historical sites to accommodate all populations, and there is a redesign of the transportation system to cope with the influx of foreigners during the vacation periods.

Many cultural events punctuate the different seasons. Cafés, restaurants, and other spaces are all exciting meeting points. All the conditions seem to be met to live well in Kyoto.


What about work? Of course, jobs in the tourism sector are the first to come to mind. There are, indeed, regular job offers, especially during vacations, but they are usually intended for foreigners who move to Japan on a work-study or study visa, looking for odd jobs. Life changes radically during holidays, so much so that Japanese websites list the areas to avoid for accommodation.

On the one hand, tourists support the local economy and show their interest in the culture. On the other hand, the capital of Kyoto Prefecture is too small to accommodate such a large number of people who, in addition, all tend to visit the same places. Those who live in Kyoto all year round regret the almost omnipresent noise, away from the calm that should result from visiting the cultural monuments. All these accumulated inconveniences impact living conditions there.

Transportation in Kyoto

Transportation in Kyoto, which is scarce compared to Osaka or Tokyo, is often crowded and not always on time. In 2015, the local authorities embarked on a vast project to improve the transportation network by integrating more buses with extended schedules, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian paths to ease traffic and combat pollution. COVID-19 has put the brakes on this ambitious project. The absence of tourists has put Kyoto's finances in the red, and consequently, the government's new priority has been to revitalize Kyoto by appealing to businesses and young people. Paradoxically, it was during COVID-19 that the inhabitants were able to rediscover the calm of Kyoto. The authorities still have to balance the necessary tourist market and preserve the local lifestyle.

The labor market in Japan

With an unemployment rate that remains below 3% despite the crisis, the Japanese labor market could be envied. However, be warned: behind these good figures lies a growing precariousness, which particularly affects women. The Japanese labor market remains very unequal.

Consequently, the low unemployment rate is primarily explained by the increase in precarious contracts: small jobs (baito), fixed-term contracts (keiyakushain), and temporary contracts (hakenshain). With COVID, the number of self-employed people, which had been decreasing steadily for a few years, has increased, but here again, this is more an effect of job insecurity rather than a genuine desire for non-salaried activity. It is worth noting that most people in Japan have to combine two activities for a living (a job and a self-employed activity).

To immigrate permanently to Japan, you will need a permanent job (seishain contract). This employment contract will allow you to obtain a work visa. The seishain contract (permanent employment) generally reassures the Japanese authorities.

The most prominent employment fields in Kyoto

Major companies in Kyoto

Many large companies, like Panasonic, Hitachi, IBM, Ritz-Carlton, Apple, Uniqlo, JET Program (exchange and education program, promotion of Japanese culture), Starbucks, NTT (telecommunications), AEON, and Gaba Corporation (language schools specializing in English), AIG (insurance), Texas Instruments, Line (social network, hardware development), Nintendo and the list goes on, have made Kyoto their home. These big companies operate in many different sectors. This is a good starting point for foreign talents seeking a job in Japan.

Therefore, working in a language school is not the only option for living in Kyoto. Of course, these schools are still big expat job providers, especially if you are an English teacher. However, there is less demand for French or other language teachers, but be aware that you must have an expert level, justified by diplomas.

Manga, animation, and video game professions

Animation enthusiasts are probably aware that Kyoto Prefecture is home to the famous Kyoto Animation Studio (KyoAni). The legendary studio was the target of an arson attack that claimed 35 lives in 2019 but was supported by other animation studios in the region. KyoAni has since resumed its operations and has launched a recruitment campaign between June 17 and July 13, 2022. The announcement, posted on Twitter and the Kyoto Animation Studio website, was entirely in Japanese.

Hence, mastering the Japanese language increases your chances of being recruited. More than just another line on your resume, mastering Japanese will prove your capacity to integrate. In Kyoto, even more than in Tokyo, English speakers are rare (except in the tourist and international fields). Even if they are numerous, trying to speak the local language is essential.

When Nintendo recruits

Nintendo, the historical video game giant, is regularly looking for new talent. In June 2022, it launched its new Nintendo internship program. The page of its article redirects to Careers Nintendo, where you can apply online. Unfortunately, it's about Nintendo America. The proposed positions are all in the United States. To apply on the Japanese site, you have to go to There again, almost everything is in Japanese.

Is Kyoto an attractive city for digital nomads?

Why not try your luck as a digital nomad? Since the job market in Kyoto seems to be somewhat limited, foreigners are jumping at the chance to create their own companies. Japan will soon have a "digital nomad" visa by the end of March 2024. You can wait for this type of visa or opt for other types of visa.

It is possible to immigrate to the country with an "investor/business manager" visa. This investor visa allows you to create or transfer your business to Japan. You are your sponsor and can work legally in the territory. This visa will allow you to access the status of an individual entrepreneur (kojin jigyo).

Kyoto's startup ecosystem

Kyoto has a diverse industrial landscape, including sectors like biotechnology, precision machining, robotics, AI, games, and food. The city has gained recognition for its industrial achievements, ranking 49th globally in the Hardware and IoT industries.

If you want to open a business in Kyoto, you should know more about Kyoto's startup ecosystem

The city actively supports startups through various initiatives and organizations, such as the Innovation Hub Kyoto, which serves as a central hub providing support, mentorship, and networking opportunities for entrepreneurs. 

They offer incubation programs and access to co-working spaces and organize events encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing.

The Startup Capital Kyoto initiative, a collaborative effort involving JETRO Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture, and Kyoto Municipal City, was launched to assist foreign entrepreneurs in establishing their businesses in the city, including providing co-working spaces, supporting company establishment, consultations, and referrals to Kyoto's startup ecosystem.

To further support startups, Kyoto aims to attract more venture capital firms and angel investors who can provide crucial financial backing at different stages of growth. Investors like Miyako Capital and Innovation Network Corporation of Japan are actively involved in developing the funding landscape within the city.

How to find a job in Kyoto?

Finding a job in Kyoto is not easy, but it is not impossible either. Put all the chances on your side with a well-built CV. Get in touch with organizations such as foreign Chambers of Commerce and Industry. By becoming a member, you will have access to their resources. Attend professional events. If you are not yet in Japan, start looking at job offers as soon as possible.

Consider everything else: daily life, accommodation, transportation, etc. How long do you intend to stay? Is the job you want to do in Kyoto in demand? What kind of visa do you need? Are you moving to Tokyo for an internship, a job, or a study? Answering these questions will help refine your quest and obtain more precise information.

Living and working in Japan

Japan is enormous, and choosing a place to live is only the beginning of the adventure. This choice can change as you progress in your project, but to better plan your move, start by taking stock of your situation.

What are your qualifications? Does the job you are looking for require any special skills? Do you have extensive experience? Having a university degree recognized in Japan will enhance your CV. If you don't have a degree, you can compensate with more extensive experience (10 years for a work visa if you don't have a bachelor's degree). However, a job with a degree is an additional barrier to employment. Even if this compels you to postpone your project, consider resuming your studies to make your dream come true.

Live like the locals and follow Japanese organizations' advice regarding recruitment conditions in Japan. Consider the presentation of the CV (mastering the Japanese CV), the dress code, and so on. If you are studying Japanese at school, your school may have a business course, which prepares you for the job market. Follow this preparation to be more comfortable in job interviews. Even without school, you can get professional community or recruitment agency coaching.

Learn Japanese seriously. Getting a work visa in Japan is very challenging, even more so if you don't speak Japanese. Some foreigners complain that Kyoto people do not speak enough English. Place yourself in their position and in that of the recruiters. Who should make an effort to speak the local language? Japanese tourist regions are gradually improving bilingual signage (in transportation, restaurants, hotels, museums, etc.), but don't rely solely on it. You will quickly find yourself confronted with the language barrier.

Useful links (in English, unless otherwise stated):

Kyoto migration project (in Japanese)

Job park, Kyoto Prefecture website (in Japanese)

Glassdoor (in Japanese)


Gaijinpot job listings


Kyoto jobs

Kyoto Prefecture International Center

Hello Work Kyoto (the Japanese Employment Centre)

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