Teaching English is a popular route for those moving from the UK to work in Japan. Alternatively, if you have the skills and qualifications required for a job in IT, engineering, science or research, many Japanese employers will be happy for you to contribute your expertise to these developing fields. It’s a good idea for you to secure a job while in the UK before embarking on your journey – particularly if you’re not fluent in Japanese, as this could limit your options to multinational companies. Getting a position before going abroad is also important if you plan to teach English.
What work could you do in Japan?
Below is a list of the major industries in Japan – some of your best bets when it comes to getting a job in the country:
- green energy
Engineers, scientists and researchers are in demand to support Japan’s forward-thinking companies in industries such as technology and automotive. You have probably come across some of Japan’s largest employers:
If you look for a job with a company which deals with international commerce or tourists, you may be able to speak English at work. If you’re planning on living and working in the country’s largest cities, speaking Japanese might not be vitally important. Nonetheless, a relatively small proportion of the Japanese population speaks fluent English and, for most jobs in the country, you will be required to speak Japanese. It’s therefore a good idea to learn some of the basics while you’re still in the UK.
Are UK qualifications recognised?
Your UK qualifications will probably be accepted in Japan but it’s worthwhile checking with employers before applying with them. You’ll need a university degree for many positions teaching English.
Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Japan
Teaching English is one of the most common types of work carried out in Japan by people from other countries.
The Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) is sponsored by the government of Japan and employs native English-speakers to teach English in Japan. You will need a university degree to qualify for the scheme. It will help your application if you also have a TEFL qualification, though this is not stated as a necessary requirement. Carrying out a TEFL course will also be beneficial if you want to work for a reputable private language school in the country.
What’s it like working in Japan?
Working hours: Legally, Japanese employees aren’t supposed to work more than 40 hours per week, yet a long-hours culture often means these guidelines aren’t followed. However, foreign workers don’t face pressure to work longer than their contracted hours.
Holidays: You probably won’t have much time off from work in Japan: workers are entitled to 10 days of paid holiday and the average amount of holiday granted to employees is 18.5 days. In addition to this, there are 16 public holidays.
Income tax: As a worker in Japan, you will pay income tax according to your salary – starting at 5% for those earning less than 1.95 million yen, and reaching a maximum of 45% for those earning more than 40 million yen.
Your working environment will depend on the industry and company, but there are some aspects of Japanese culture and custom that might affect you wherever you work. An emphasis on group harmony and cooperation means that many Japanese workplaces have open plan offices and encourage professional discussion during worktime. You will probably be required to attend regular meetings, too. Anti-smoking laws have recently been tightened and smoking is prohibited in many, though not all, public places.
Where to find jobs
Below is a list of websites you can visit to help you with your job search.
- Jobs in Japan – lists jobs in Japan and provides information about Japanese companies. You can also look at their blog, which includes careers advice articles.
- GaijinPot Jobs – posts jobs which can be applied for overseas (including from the UK) and those which ‘accept any level of Japanese’.
- CareerCross – has job listings in Japan for bilingual (Japanese and English) speakers, as well as information for non-Japanese people living and working in the country.
- TEFL – includes job vacancies for those looking to teach English in Japan.
- BUNAC – its Work Japan programme provides employment opportunities which last up to a year and organises activities like language lessons for you to attend while you’re in Japan.
CV, application and interview tips
If you’re applying to a company located in Japan rather than a multinational company with an English-language application process, your CV and cover letter should be in Japanese. Japanese CVs commonly state age, marital status and gender, and it’s worth considering whether you’re happy to include this information.
During interviews, you should knock on the door three times before entering the room and wait until someone tells you to sit down. Expect questions based on your personality as well as how you suit the job – this ties into the emphasis placed on group harmony. You may be interviewed by a large panel.
You should do some research in order to find out other ways in which conventions differ from those used in the UK. If possible, reach out to contacts in your network who have experience working in or applying to a job in the country. Your university careers service may be able to help with this.
Work experience, internships and exchanges
Interning in Japan might help you to decide if it’s a country you would like to work in, or it might just be a way to experience the land of the rising sun while boosting your CV.
Take a look at some of these organisations to find an internship:
- AIESEC, an international work experience programme, offers paid placements – many of which are located in Tokyo.
- Internship Japan helps people from overseas in their search for an internship in Japan. You’ll find first-hand accounts of what it’s like to do an internship in Japan on the website.
- The Intern Group offers a scheme in Tokyo, in which they place interns with Japanese companies.
- IAESTE, an international student exchange programme, offers summer placements in 80 different countries – including Japan – for science and engineering students.
The main opportunities for volunteering in Japan are teaching English, agricultural development and care for the elderly. If you’re a UK citizen and you plan to stay for fewer than 90 days, you won’t need a visa.
You can find out more about volunteering opportunities in Japan here:
Do you need a visa to work in Japan?
As a UK citizen living in Japan for longer than 90 days, you will need a visa. The right type of visa for you will depend on the type of work you do and the length of your stay. You will need a professional working visa for a permanent or fixed-term role. Take a look at the advice provided by the UK government for any further guidance.
Living in Japan
Cost of living: Japan is one of the most expensive countries in Asia, so you will need to be savvy and stick to a budget.
Healthcare: Japan has good medical facilities and a national health insurance system, though you will only qualify for this if you have a long-term visa. You should make sure you have travel health insurance which covers any medical conditions you already have. The cost of medical treatment in Japan can be high – be sure to take adequate funds, as you may be required to pay for treatment up front.
Laws and customs to be aware of: Japan’s zero-tolerance attitude towards drugs have led British people in the past to be detained for having received small quantities of cannabis. Many medicines available in the UK are banned in Japan and being caught in possession of them could land you in trouble. This includes some inhalers and over-the-counter medicines. You can find more information on health issues at GOV.UK, which provides advice for travel in Japan.
Being loud or boisterous in public places is tolerated less in Japan than in the UK. The traditional association between tattoos and organised crime in the country means some swimming pools, beaches and gyms will turn people with tattoos away (though acceptance of tattoos seems to be growing).
Being gay is legal in Japan. Nichome in Tokyo and Doyamacho in Osaka are the most LGBT+ friendly areas.
Major religions: Shintoism and Buddhism.
Type of government: Constitutional monarchy.