The Big 3 Jobs You’ll Do in Japan

October 18th, 2012By Category: Teaching in Japan, Translation, Work Tips

You’ve made it to Japan and now you need to find a job! Find out what are the top 3 employment opportunities for foreigners new to Japan.

Ahhhh, the dreamland of Japan. We all come here for our own reasons, but we are united in one common goal: making a living. And for most of us, that means finding a job. As gaijin though, we often find ourselves stuck. You have to know where the jobs are and you need to be willing to compromise if you want to start making money now. There are primarily three types of jobs you can have in Japan. Other jobs are less advertised, come through personal connections, or require fluent Japanese and specialized education. “The Big 3,” as I call them, offer the most employment opportunities and there is a constant need for them to be filled.

First is teaching English. No surprise here as the Japanese government is requiring students as early as elementary school to study this foreign language. Other Japanese study English for business or as a hobby. No one is better to teach the foreign language than the foreigner. It’s not hard to find job postings for English jobs, just take a look at any Japan jobs website or apply directly to one of the chains of English conversation schools that dominate the city. Applying for English jobs outside Japan is more difficult as companies prefer those in Japan with visas. Another option is try to tutor on your own by asking to teach others and word of mouth. Teaching English can be easy or difficult. Some employers just have you talk or play with students or be a human tape recorder, repeating proper pronunciation. Others want you TEFL/TESOL certified, years of experience and to explain complex grammar points. Naturally the pay varies widely as well. Teaching English is not something most of us enjoy for the long term, then again most of us won’t be in Japan for the long term either. It’s an easy job to find, even if the pay or working situations may not be the greatest. Remember that teaching English in Japan is very much a business. You’ll often be asked to help recruit and promote your school. There are also stories of bosses pressuring teachers to keep students in school as long as possible to churn out more profit; that could mean slowing down the pace of a student’s learning or just constantly telling the students their English is good but not good enough.

The next job transitions from the English teacher into the translator. Again, the simple act that you can write, read, and speak perfect English is a very desirable trait in Japan. If you understand even konnichi wa, you have probably already been forced to translate for friends or at work. Some people turn this into a part time or full time job. Translating services are on the lookout for new hires, as are Japanese companies that want to be more competitive in the global marketplace. Translating opens up great opportunities to meet people, including presidents of companies or government officials. The better you are the more people you meet and the better the pay. Even though Japanese learn English for nearly ten years in school, the flawed education system unfortunately means people barely retain more than some basic vocabulary words. Translating jobs are more easily found in the larger cities, though there is more competition as well. Translating could be anything from checking English papers for accuracy to simultaneous translation. Usually a lower level translation job means a mumbling gaijin translating English to Japanese. It may sound horrible and you may be missing half the translation, but your limited Japanese is usually better than a Japanese person’s English. Even if you are not completely accurate, as the best translator in the room, your role of bringing people together is overly appreciated.

The last job non-Japanese find in Japan is sharing Japanese culture. This can be done in Japanese or English. This job will require some kind of writing or reporting experience. Even taking pictures could fall under this category. From fashion to food, history to pop culture, travel sites to music, the topics to explore and share are endless. Landing a writing gig for websites or magazines about Japan takes know-how and luck, but if you have a passion, it is a great way to learn more about Japan as you share what you know. With some luck and skill, you can even write for GaijinPot (imagine that). Some foreigners become immersed so deep into the culture that they become professors, teaching about one or more aspects of Japan through Japanese and international universities.

Teaching, translating, and sharing Japanese culture are the jobs most readily available to foreigners in Japan. Do your time in these jobs, network and improve your Japanese, and you can move on to something better within the same career field or find a whole new opportunity most gaijin don’t know about or could not find on an average job board. Japan is a land of mystery, but hopefully the job market doesn’t have to be.

Check for daily updates on Japan job postings while you’re here on GaijinPot. Happy hunting!

Photos by: tokyoform | tripu

Author of this article

Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus is in love with Japan. In addition to his over 60 published articles about Japan, he is author of "Ai, Love You? Finding Friendship, Romance, and Heartbreak in Japan." Buy it on Xlibris ( or on Amazon. With a stay on a military base near Hiroshima, study abroad in the wintery northern Tohoku, and travels through Sapporo, Sendai, Akita, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and more, he has lived the Japanese experience. He enjoys sharing his passion through writing about the culture and people of Japan, being featured on media outlets such as Japan Tourist, Japan Today, and GaijinPot. He is continuing his Japan studies and is currently working on his next feature book.

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