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soc.culture.japan FAQ [Monthly Posting] [2/3]
Section - (6.1) Finding a job (for non-Japanese)

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Top Document: soc.culture.japan FAQ [Monthly Posting] [2/3]
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
Last update: 5/98
From: (Mike Fester) et al.

Getting a job in Japan involves some lag time and effort, but is not
really that difficult, especially if you have a technical degree and
speak some Japanese. The hard part is knowing where/how to look. And,
as in the rest of the world, the better your qualifications, the
easier it is.

If you can speak, read, and write Japanese (you need not be fluent),
pick up a copy of the magazine _Shuushoku Jouhou_ ("Job Hunting
Information") at a Japanese bookstore. It comes out 3 times a year,
and it contains company descriptions, benefits explanations, etc, from
companies who are actively recruiting new employees. In Japan, the
magazine is (or was) free, but overseas it costs about $2. It also has
lots of postcards to fill out (1 per company) which you send in to
those companies in which you have an interest. If you have work
experience in addition to the technical degree, don't pay too much
attention to the salaries listed, as those are for absolute beginners.
Note: there are other magazines for such job-hunting info, but
_Shuushoku_ is one of the more expensive. Companies advertising in it
are, in general, better able to come to terms with employing a
foreigner who does not have exposure to the Japanese system.
Kokusaiha No Tame No Shushoku Joho (International Recruit Magazine) is
published by:

International Career Information, Inc
111 Pavonia Ave.
Jersey City, NJ  07310  USA
(201) 216-0600

Tokyo Office
7-3-5 Ginza
Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104  JAPAN
(03) 3575-6347

There is another magazine of the same sort called _Adapt_. [Editor: the 
old number given in the previous versions of the FAQ, 1-800-344-7241, is 
no longer functioning. I'd appreciate it if anyone can tell me what their
current number is.]

If you do not speak Japanese, it becomes more difficult, but not
impossible.  Get a hold of the daily edition of _The Japan Times_,
particularly the Monday and Thursday issues. They contain job offers
(usually in English, but often in French, German, Italian, etc). Many
of these are targeted specifically for foreigners. See the following
section of this FAQ list for subscription info.
If you have a non-technical degree, but speak Japanese, again, it is a
bit more difficult, but not impossible. The _Shuushoku_ route works
well there.

If none of those applies to you, you really have to hustle. Probably,
you will have to actually visit Japan (read: Tokyo) and personally
answer those ads for English teachers. There are a lot of jobs
available, but there is also a lot of competition. You'll have to
hustle, but it can be done.

If you take the _Shuushoku_ route, expect to send about 45 - 60 cards
in for every 3 or for positive responses. Many of the companies will
show an interest, and will await your arrival in Japan for an
interview. Some may fly you out at their expense (I got 3 such


Once you've got an offer, you'll have to negotiate on salary and
moving expenses. The company will have to then offer you a contract,
which you must sign. They or you then apply for your visa. This can
take about 3 - 4 months.

One thing you need to remember in this negotiation procedure is that
things are different in Japan than here. In the larger cities
especially, getting an apartment is EXPENSIVE. Frequently (almost
always) you will have to pay an honorarium to your landlord/lady
equivalent to about 2 months' rent (non refundable). If you use a
rental agency to find your place (you almost certainly will) you will
pay them about 1 - 2 months' rent as a fee. There are exceptions of
course, but these are not the rule. Also, remember that many apart-
ments will NOT rent to foreigners. Nothing you can do about it,
really, so keep looking. Someone will take you. Also, getting a phone
in Japan is expensive: you will have to buy a 'phone line' from NTT
for about $600-680, depending on exchange rate. Sometimes these are
available "used" for less. This entitles you to phone service. Then
you have to pay for the phone and installation itself (about another
$100+). Use all this info in negotiating your moving expenses.
Contrary to popular belief, not all (in fact, not most) companies have
living quarters for their employees. You will also pay a cleaning
deposit and usually a monthly 'management fee' for cleaning the whole
apartment, garbage collection, etc.

You can be accepted as a 'shain' (real-live employee) or 'keiyakusha'
(contractor). There are advantages to each. As a 'shain', you will
receive the various 'teate' that the company offers its employees.
These are 'allowances' and are NOT included in your wages (they are
NOT taxable). These frequently include FULL payment of your train fee
(can easily be over $100 a month) which is a pass along one or more
train lines from your apartment to work. There is also a payment for
your residence; this is NOT a full payment of rent, but is frequently
about 50% of the rent. Also, if you have a family, you get an
additional allowance for each child and for your spouse. You will
receive full coverage under the Japanese national medical plan, and
also get the company bonuses. These bonuses can be up to 3 months
salary. HOWEVER, they are not always "bonuses". Some companies include
them in the yearly salary package they offer their employees, and they
withhold part of your salary from each paycheck in order to pay it.
Check to be sure which procedure your company follows.

As a keiyakusha, you will have to provide for all your expenses,
including insurance, etc, and you do not receive bonuses. However, it
usually pays a lot better, usually enough to MORE THAN compensate for
the loss of the teate's.  Also, some companies may not allow you to
work outside their company on your own time (e.g., as a translator). As
a keiyakysha, you can make a LOT of money in your spare time.

Once everyone has agreed to the conditions of employment, the company
will apply for your visa. They will probably act as your guarantors
for your con- duct in Japan (if, however, you have relatives there,
you can ask them to do so). If you are married to a Japanese national,
however, you can apply for a spouse visa. In either event, you will
need the contract, and a guarantor.  If you can, get the spouse visa;
you will have more flexibility in getting another job, assuming things
do not work out with your new company as you expected. Also, they can
be granted for longer periods of time, though in practice, only a
single year is granted for first-time entrants into Japan (and
sometimes for people who have been there for years). You will also
need lots of documentation, including college transcripts, proper
identification, etc. Once you have made the application, you must
wait. I have had embassy people tell me the process would take "3
weeks", but 2 - 3 months is about right. BE VERY POLITE TO EVERYONE
ABOUT IT! Not fair, of course, but that's life.

Once you have gotten your visa, you can go to Japan and begin your new
career/life/adventure. You must register at the local city hall (and
they apparently will no longer fingerprint you). You will have to pay a
residence tax (which can range from several hundred to several
thousand dollars) each year. You will have to pay Japanese income tax
(usually MUCH lower than US tax). If you make less than $70,000 a
year, you can get an exemption from US taxes, though you still have to


I will address the spouse situation first, as many people seem
concerned about finding a job when they move with their spouse to
Japan. Note: whether or not you speak Japanese, the suggestions for
language teaching apply. My advice is to learn the language as quickly
as possible, once you're there. This opens the translation /
interpretation jobs to you; MUCH more lucrative, and in many cases,
more interesting.

If you are married to a Japanese, and have, or can get, a spouse visa
(as above) you should have no problems once you get to Japan, if you
are willing to hustle. Most jobs are not full-time, however. It is
MUCH easier to find these part-time jobs than full-time jobs. You can
get quite a few of them.  Standard pay, through an agency, is
Y3,000-Y4,500/hour. These jobs are often advertised in the Monday and
Thursday edition of the _Japan Times_. After you get some experience,
it becomes a bit easier to get a full-time lecturer job at a
university. The competition is much tougher for these, but the longer
you're in Japan, the better your chances. And once you have some
experience, it is much easier to keep getting these part-time jobs, if
you so desire. Also, your name will become known in the teaching
circles, and you'll have more access to better information on
full-time positions.

If you are not married, you will need to find a sponsor in one of the
companies you will be working for. Many companies are unwilling to do
this. My advice is to keep plugging. If you can make it to Tokyo, you
CAN find such a job, IF you answer every ad that you see. If you are
outside of Japan, then it becomes much more difficult, about like
finding a job in any country without being there. What few hints I
have are above.

Part-time jobs offer transportation costs, period. Only full-time jobs
will provide benefits (usually). However, you can very nicely
supplement your income with translation jobs. This would enable you to
work at home. (It assumes, of course, that you will speak/read some
Japanese.) These jobs are also advertised in the J Times. Get a FAX
and a computer capable of handling Japanese language and you really
can make a lot of money. It is, however, a constant hustle.  Note:
most J-E translation jobs pay about Y5,000 a page, E-J pays about
Y3,000.  I did get one translation job that paid Y10,000 a page, but
those are rare.  Many of these translation companies also offer the
occasional interpretation job as well. These can be real plums; my
wife and I got paid Y100,000 EACH for a one-day outing to the beach at
Chiba with a couple of foreign models. If you stay in Japan long
enough to learn the language even moderately well, you will find a
larger and larger number of translation/interpretation jobs coming
your way, as there is a very high turnover among employees of these
these smaller translation/interpretation companies.


As of May 1998, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have reciprocity
agreements with Japan, allowing people to do a "working holiday"--work
for a couple months under various restrictions with nothing more than
tourist visas. The US (last I checked, 1991) was not such a
country. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, you: 

      must be a citizen of Australia, New Zealand, or Canada currently
      residing in his or her country of citizenship.

      must intend primarily to holiday in Japan for a specific length
      of time.

      must be between 18 and 30 years of age at the time of application.

      must possess a valid passport and a return ticket or sufficient
      funds to purchase a return ticket.

      must possess reasonable funds for living expenses, including
      medical expenses, during the period of the initial stay in Japan.
      For a single person, the minimum is US$2000, for a married couple,
      US$3000 or equivalent amount of the national currency.

      must be in good health and not have a criminal record.

More details are available at 

It IS possible to get a part-time teaching job or two, and some
translation jobs if you hustle. (In case you're wondering, I am *not*
recommending this! --FAQ maintainer) It is illegal, and if you get
caught, you'd better do some sincere apologizing to avoid getting
kicked out of the country.  As noted above, Japanese authorities can
be much more forgiving if you give them reason to be (no guarantees of
course.)  Many companies will not ask you too many questions about
your visa status, if you don't volunteer anything, or "misrepresent"
your status. So, it CAN be done, and if you get caught, most likely
the worst that will happen is you will get kicked out of Japan.

There are also some internship programs available for specific areas,
but these are very competitive, and Japanese authorities sometimes
have problems getting intern visas run through immigration (sounds
strange, but it is true.) Consult your local program for more info.

So, have fun, work hard, and enjoy the land of the rising Yen!
(some information here courtesy of Ray Tang) 

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