Working in Japan
The job market
What are your chances of getting a job?
Foreign workers looking for a job in Japan will usually find their options fall into two categories: unskilled work and positions which require special skills, like language teachers, international business roles and technology specialists.
Japan has one of the largest economies in the world along with a technologically advanced design and manufacturing industry. You will need to make sure you're able to get a visa to cover the type of work you want to do in Japan and it's likely that you will need a high level of Japanese language ability. With little or no Japanese, your best option would be to teach English.
For all positions in Japan it is useful to have experience and in some areas getting a job with an international firm in the UK and transferring to Japan after a couple of years is a good option.
Where can you work?
- Major industries: electronics, robotics, motor vehicles, communications, food processing, chemicals, ships, steel and machinery.
- Recent growth areas: nanotechnology, biotechnology, alternative energy, digital marketing.
- Shortage occupations: there are various categories in which you can get a work visa including professor, artist, investor/business manager, legal/accounting services, medical services, researcher, instructor, engineer, specialist in humanities, entertainer or skilled labour.
- Major companies: Mitsubishi, Toyota Motor, Nippon Telegraph and Tel, Sumitomo Mitsui Financial, Mizuho Financial, Nissan Motor, Honda Motor, Hitachi, Cannon.
What’s it like working in Japan?
- Average working hours: a 40-hour week across five days is encouraged but many employees tend to work for longer than this.
- Holidays: the average entitlement is 18.5 days per year plus 15 public holiday days.
- Tax rates: the amount of tax you will pay in Japan depends on how long you've lived in the country and how much you earn. Income tax rates vary from 5% to 45% depending on the level of salary. Don't forget to check your UK tax and National Insurance position with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to ensure that you are not losing any UK pension rights.
Applying for jobs
You will need to make sure you have the correct visa to work in Japan and so you should try to secure a job before you travel. Many adverts are available via job websites and online application forms are widely used.
You can also directly contact companies that you are interested in to see if they have any opportunities and to try to build useful contacts.
A CV in Japan is known as a rirekisho. It is typically two to three pages long and includes similar content to a UK CV. You need to provide a summary of your education and details of your future career plans. Many employers provide a rirekisho form for you to complete which has various sections for you to fill in instead of providing your own CV. As well as your education, Japanese employers put a lot of emphasis on your personal attitude and qualities. Read job adverts carefully to see what the employer requires from you.
It is important to include details of your Japanese language abilities within your application, or if you're able to, write the whole application in Japanese.
Interviews are quite formal and you may have to go through a process of three or four interviews, each with a different person. Group interviews are also becoming more common. The interviews will tend to focus on how you can fit into the company and it is important that you are polite and show respect for hierarchy.
Get more applications and CV advice.
Will your UK qualifications be recognised?
UK qualifications are generally well recognised around the world, but check with the employer of the relevant professional body prior to applying for work.
Japan is represented among the members of the International Confederation of Private Employment Agencies (CIETT) and a directory of member agencies can be found at the Japan Staffing Service Association.
Sending speculative applications to Japanese companies based in the UK, as well as UK companies based in Japan, is a strategy worth considering, especially if you have a clear idea about the type of company you would like to work for.
Networking is a good way to find out about jobs. You can start networking before you leave for Japan through organisations such as:
- Hashi no Kai – a Japanese language and cultural exchange group based in London.
- The Japan Foundation (London Office)
Support is also available from the Tokyo Employment Service Centre for Foreigners.
Getting work experience
Work placements and internships
If you work for a European company with Japanese-related business, you may be eligible to apply for a place on the Executive Training Programme (ETP). This is a scheme which combines intensive language and cultural study with an internship.
You can also search for general internships in Japan at KOPRA.
The Japanese Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme is a popular work experience programme with UK graduates. It places several thousand people in the roles of assistant language teachers, coordinators for international relations and sports exchange advisors in Japan each year.
If you are a student, you may be able to apply for the AIESEC training programme that offers work, teaching and volunteer placements.
Besides the JET Programme, other English language schools that may offer opportunities in Japan include Interac and Aeon. Berlitz Japan employs teachers of various languages and has language centres throughout the country.
It is possible to get temporary or casual work in Japan but you'll need to make sure you have the right visa. If your main reason for going to Japan is for a holiday and to travel and you want to work while you're there to fund the trip, you might be able to get a working holiday visa. Otherwise you'll have to get a longer term visa and you may have to be sponsored by an employer. This could be difficult, especially if you only want to work for a short period of time.
The main areas that offer casual or short-term work in Japan are English teaching, translating, hotel, bar and restaurant work.
Gap year and volunteering opportunities
Gap year opportunities can be found through Tokyo Connections and Lattitude Global Volunteering. As with volunteering, many gap year placements charge a fee. Alternatively, you could consider organising your own gap year, combining teaching with travel, for example.
Do you need a visa?
UK citizens can stay in Japan for six months or less without needing a visa. However, this is only if you don't plan to work while you're there.
If your main reason for going to Japan is for a holiday or to travel and you wish to work to help fund the trip, you may be able to get a visa under the working holiday scheme. You must be aged between 18 and 30 to be eligible, and the scheme enables you to stay and work in the country for up to one year. A limited number of these visas are granted to British citizens each year and it is better to apply as early as possible, as once the maximum amount of visas is reached applications close.
If you want to work in Japan on a more permanent basis you will need to apply for the relevant work visa. To do this you must have a Certificate of Eligibility which is issued by the Ministry of Justice in Japan. You will need to have a sponsor in Japan (usually your employer) who will contact the local immigration office to apply for the certificate on your behalf.
Once you have the certificate you can use it to apply for a visa. There are various categories which fall under the work visa, including: professor; artist; religious activities; journalist; business manager; legal/accounting services; medical services; researcher; instructor (including teachers); engineers; specialist in humanities; entertainer; and skilled labour. You need to satisfy the requirements for the category you are applying under. Visas are awarded for periods of up to five years.
When you're in the country you will need to apply for Resident Registration at a local government office within 14 days of your arrival.
If you're not a UK national, contact the Japanese embassy in the country where you are currently living about how to obtain visas and work permits. If you are living in the UK, go to the Embassy of Japan in the UK.
How do you become a permanent resident?
In order to get permanent residency in Japan certain conditions must be met. You'll need to have lived in Japan for typically ten consecutive years or more. You must also have shown good conduct while in the country and have sufficient assets or the ability to make an independent living. Once granted, permanent residence is indefinite and allows any paid work.
Living in Japan
- Cost of living: in proportion to income, most things are comparable to the UK if not slightly cheaper.
- Internet domain: .jp
- Currency: yen (¥)
- Health: medical facilities in Japan are of a high standard. There are few British doctors working in Japan but many of the Japanese doctors will speak English. Treatment can be expensive and you'll be expected to pay in full so it's essential to have adequate health insurance.
- Type of government: parliamentary constitutional monarchy.
- Laws and customs: in general, penalties for the majority of offences in Japan tend to be more severe than in the UK. There is zero tolerance towards drug related crimes and UK citizens need to be careful as some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs in the UK are banned in Japan. You must carry your passport or residence card at all times.
- Emergency numbers: ambulance and fire department: 119, police: 110. UK citizens can also get help in an emergency from the British Embassy in Japan.
- People: Japanese 98.5%, Koreans 0.5%, Chinese 0.4%, other 0.6%.
- Major religion: Shinto and Buddhism