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In Japan, most foreign nationals work as English language teachers. There are also opportunities for those with specific technical skills and industry experience, particularly for Japanese speakers.
Hiring Trends and Geographies
Finding work as a foreigner in Japan can be challenging. Employers rely a lot on referrals for foreign candidates, so you would do well to build up and utilise any network that you have there. For those without personal connections, you can use headhunters to find work: expect to pay a fee if they successfully secure you a job. You are at an advantage when looking for jobs if you have technical or industry experience already. If you speak Japanese, there are opportunities in business, finance, IT and recruitment sectors. For the real specialist, visas are available for experienced practitioners of shodo (calligraphy), karate and ikebana (professional flower arranging)!
There is some funding for PhDs and postdoctorates in science to do long or short term research in Japan through the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science: www.jsps.go.jp/english/e-fellow The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation offer six scholarships per year, in which you would do intensive language study in Japan, followed by a work placement: www.dajf.org.uk
English language schools employ the most foreign nationals in Japan and teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) enjoys a higher pay rate in Japan than most countries, though costs are commensurately higher. Smart, professional appearance and charisma may be more important than formal qualifications to gain these roles. Aside from the eikaiwa (English conversation) schools, a prestigious option is the JET scheme, www.jetprogramme.org, allowing participants from 44 countries to work as language assistants throughout Japan.
Providing glamorous companionship to wealthy businessmen in ‘hostess bars’ has long been a popular option for foreigners in Japan. Most foreign embassies STRONGLY advise against this work - as do we. It frequently leaves women open to exploitation in – often – illegal establishments.
Japan’s legendary reputation for a strong work ethic is not unfounded, but hard work and long hours are compensated by numerous national holidays, mainly associated with festivals which you’ll get to enjoy. You’ll not be expected to understand Japanese to work in most jobs that foreigners are likely to be offered, but of course you’ll find life much easier if you make the effort to learn a little Japanese.
As a foreigner you aren’t able to fill a post which any Japanese national could do, so the key is finding a company to sponsor you. The Japanese embassy provides information on immigration or London embassy website.
Vacancy sites are www.hays.co.jp, www.gaijinpot.com, www.tokyoconnections.com and jobonline.thecareersgroup.co.uk. See www.careerstagged.co.uk for a full list of job search resources, entering ‘Japan’ into the search term box.