The job situation in Tokyo may have changed considerably since the bubble years of the 80s and 90s when anyone who looked foreign could walk into a bank, school or trading company with questionable qualifications or experience and land a plum job, but for people who are motivated and have some experience in their field there are still some great jobs to be found. Competition has become fairly fierce and there are more long-term foreigners living in Tokyo with near native Japanese skills. We examine here a few of the opportunities available to foreigners in Japan.
For new arrivals to Japan, English teaching is by far the easiest of jobs to land. A bright and enthusiastic personality is often more well regarded than teaching experience and qualifications. Many schools want people to have at least a BA which is a requirement to obtain a working visa. Japanese skills and ESL qualifications are optional, but probably helpful for some of the better jobs. The four biggest English conversation schools are Nova, Gaba, ECC and Geos. All of the schools are always on the lookout for new staff.
Modeling and Television
Most television shows and commercials have a token foreigner. Your success of finding work in commercials, as a TV extra or modeling will probably depend on your looks rather than any acting skills or Japanese ability. Obtaining regular work can be difficult and most people supplement their income with some English teaching. There are a few agencies which specialize in representing foreigners.
Translating and Re-writing
This area is probably second to English teaching in terms of accessibility and volume of work available. Work can include editing English documents written by Japanese or translating whole documents from Japanese to English (or any other language). More and more of this work is out-sourced to people who work from home.
Many large international banks and securities firms have offices in Tokyo. Suitably qualified people are always in demand. Japanese is not always a requirement as many companies use English for internal communication. Excellent salaries are available for people with experience in trading equities and bonds.
Restaurants and Entertainment
Many bars and restaurants in Tokyo employ foreigners. Basic Japanese is usually required but not necessary at some places that have mostly foreign customers, for example, bars in the Roppongi area. Proper visas are required as there are frequent crackdowns by the police on illegal workers. People with a working holiday visa can usually find these kinds of jobs fairly easy. For women there are always many opportunities to work in hostess bars and the like. Take a lot of care if you decide to work at one of these places. Try to find a place where you already know someone working and avoid meeting customers outside of the bar.
Seasonal jobs in hotels and ski resorts are sometimes available to people on a working holiday. Salary may not be high but accommodation and meals are often provided making it possible to save some money. They are a good way to experience Japan while possibly taking a break from university. Jobs are rarely advertised but it is possible to approach places directly when looking for work.
Computers and IT
There are many opportunities in IT for foreigners to find work, particularly with multi-nationals where English language skills are required to communicate with the company’s home office. A great deal of work is being out-sourced to cheaper labor markets, but there will always be a need for people to co-ordinate the work and to be available locally for implementation and support.