What kinds of jobs are available to foreigners in Japan?

Japan has many jobs to offer foreigners, in various sectors and at different levels. It is estimated that foreigners make up roughly 1% of the total Japanese workforce with the number and percentage increasing steadily.

They work as language teachers, entertainers, convenience shop attendants, market researchers, IT professionals, expatriates in senior positions and last but not least in top management with Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Nissan Corporation, being one of the most visible and celebrated example. The list of jobs carried out by foreigners is almost endless but let's look at some of the job opportunities in more detail.

・Foreign Salaried Employees
・IT professionals
・R&D positions
・Language teachers
・Convenience shop attendants and waiters/waitresses
・Others: Expatriates


a) Foreign Salaried Employees

Increasingly, Japanese companies have begun to realize that it makes sense to hire foreigners alongside their Japanese staff. International blue-chip companies like Toyota, Fujitsu, Sony and others have been doing this for many years and now the movement has caught on with other large corporations and even some small and medium sized firms.

In order to be hired as a regular employee (sei-shain) or contract employee (keiyaku shain) a high Japanese language level is often required. Why? Almost all Japanese corporations use Japanese as their working language at headquarters. In order to communicate you need Japanese. In order to consume the wealth of information available in writing you need Japanese. Thus companies often request that the job seeker has at least reached level 2, preferably level 1 of the Japanese proficiency exam.


b) IT professionals

IT professionals are a category of their own. This is evident from the fact, that you have executive search companies and dispatch agencies solely focused on this sector.

Unique to the IT sector, the Japanese language requirement is waived or even non-existent for some positions. Why? People are hired primarily for their programming skills and not their Japanese interaction skills. Nevertheless, it's always an advantage if you speak the language.


c) R&D positions

To get access to the latest technological developments and brain power, bigger Japanese corporations are gradually opening their doors to foreign researchers.


d) Language teachers

Teaching languages continues to be one of the most popular and easy to get jobs for foreigners in Japan. Contrary to common belief, a teaching qualification is not always required. Many schools simply require a native command of the language. And as schools are constantly on the lookout for teachers, even that requirement has often been downgraded to "native-level". Meaning if you command a decent level of English, even if it's not your mother tongue you are still eligible for many teaching positions so do not hesitate to apply if it says "native-level". Nevertheless, compared to the 80's and 90's the language schools have become more concerned about teaching qualifications. Teaching positions are not just limited to the big five language schools - Nova Co., GEOS Corp., AEON Corp., ECC Co. and Berlitz - that occupy 25% of the market. There are countless medium and smaller-sized schools all trying to get a piece of the JPY 700 billion plus market. And last but not least, many foreigners teach languages in the form of private lessons be it as a side-job or their main activity. Hourly wages start around JPY 1,000 and can go up all the way to JPY 6,000. The average tends to be around JPY 2,500. Many of these lessons take place in fast food joints or coffee shops.

How should people who want to teach private lessons advertise?

・Start with your local supermarket or department store

More than a few supermarkets and department stores have a free bulletin board on which ads can be placed. Usually they have to be replaced every one to two weeks.
Other places in your neighborhood with free bulletin boards (for example your local bank)
A foreigner who lived in Shimokitazawa in the past had this story to tell. One of the major banks there had a small black board in the ATM section where people could write handwritten advertisements with chalk! Surprisingly, this foreigner got many teaching requests through this seemingly inconspicuous ad. Probably, the people waiting in line with nothing better to do naturally looked at the ad. And the information provided on the grounds of the bank was probably reassuring for the potential students.

www.SenseiSagasu.com also known as www.findateacher.net
This is a site dedicated to job seekers looking for language teaching jobs on the one hand, and students looking for potential teachers on the other hand. Registration of your profile and contacts can be done for free. The site finances itself through the students who pay for your contact information. For detailed information check out the site directly.

Alternatives to www.SenseiSagasu.com

・Spread the word to your friends and acquaintances

Apart from advertisements, make sure to spread the word through word-of-mouth. Maybe a friend of yours is going back to their home country and needs to find a replacement for his/her students.


e) Convenience shop attendants and waiters/waitresses

Have you ever noticed how many convenience shops these days have foreign shop attendants? Many of them come from Asia, speak perfect Japanese and if you are not really observant, chances are you haven't noticed them. You would be surprised to realize how common foreigners have become in the Japanese workplace. Convenience stores pay by the hour, usually below JPY 1,000. It's hard work but enables foreigners to turn most of their productive time, even at odd hours, into money.

The situation in restaurants and "izakayas" (Japanese style bars) is similar. The prerequisite is again a very high level of spoken Japanese, although this requirement is of less or no importance when it comes to establishments focusing on foreign clientele. Foreigners from all places are a common sight in restaurants and bars around Roppongi. Although some restaurants might pay up to JPY 2,000 per hour especially for late shifts, the average is again at the JPY 1,000 level.


f) Others: Expatriates

Expatriates often serve as managing directors or senior managers of foreign companies that have business operations in Japan. Usually they have worked a number of years at headquarters of the foreign company before being dispatched to Japan. Because of their management experience they enjoy favorable remuneration packages, often including accommodation, club memberships and a car for private use.