Here’s What Expats Need to Know About Finding Work in Japan

Working in Japan looked impossible to most foreign workers until the early 2000s. Japanese language requirements were stringent, visas were scarce, and there was a strong national desire to prefer local labor over international workers. However, these days, expats are finding more options to work in the island nation with less stringent standards due to a dwindling population and an increase in foreign corporations.

If you’ve been meaning to relocate and work in Japan for the longest time, there are certain things that you need to keep in mind. If you’re curious about what those things are, make sure to read until the end of this guide.

Here’s What Expats Need to Know About Finding Work in Japan

Planning to Work in Japan as an Expat? Here’s Everything You Need to Know

In the past, the Japanese labor market was known for not being accommodating to foreigners. However, this has changed over the recent years, as Japan has experienced an increase in not only multinational corporations opening up shop in its major cities, but also an inflow of expats relocating to the small island nation. As a result, Japan has made it easier for expats to obtain a social security number. Even if you do not request one, you will be assigned a social security number when you apply for your residency card.

Expats wondering how to find a job in Japan should hunt for positions in early spring and late summer, as these are peak hiring seasons.

Working in Japan has several advantages:

  • a high average pay (almost 4 million JPY (37,800 USD) per year) and
  • a collaborative company culture.

However, Japan is also a tremendously work-oriented country. The working days are from Monday through Friday, but the work hours are long. Because one’s workplace is often viewed as an extended family in Japan, Japanese businesses expect employees to devote a significant amount of time and effort to their jobs.

Working as a self-employed individual is attainable in Japan, but it will be difficult. Because the workplace is regarded as similar to a family in Japanese culture, persons who work for themselves are not viewed in high regard. Although the freelancing culture is gaining popularity in the Asian country, self-employed foreigners should expect to have to show themselves as serious, committed professionals.

Getting a Job as a Foreigner in Japan

Here’s What Expats Need to Know About Finding Work in Japan

Not to discourage you, but if you want to know how to find a job as a foreigner in Japan, you should realize that the process is more complex than in other Asian countries. Although Japan has relaxed its language requirements, foreigners need nonetheless know some Japanese and declare their intention to continue studying it while residing in Japan.

Applying for a Job as an Expat in Japan

Being in Japan is one of the best ways to begin applying for jobs here. Applying for a job in Japan from abroad is challenging since outside recruits are costly for Japanese companies and are considered a financial risk. The organization will need to assist you with your relocation and train you. Companies are more willing to consider you as a candidate if you are already in Japan since they do not have to pay to relocate you and you are most likely already familiar (or growing familiar) with Japanese culture.

Requirements and Eligibility to Work in Japan

Here’s What Expats Need to Know About Finding Work in Japan

University Degree or 10 Years of Professional Work Experience

One of the most important prerequisites for working in Japan is to have a university degree or ten years of experience in your line of work. Because Japan is not as easy to immigrate to as other nations, these conditions are difficult to meet unless you move to Japan as a student or on a temporary visit visa. In either case, you will need a university degree or at least 10 years of work experience to work in Japan.

Japanese Language Proficiency

Language is another prerequisite for work here in Japan. Foreigners used to need a high level of Japanese competence to get a job in Japan. Although these expectations have diminished in recent years, a basic understanding of the language is still required because an employee’s integration into Japanese social and work culture is particularly vital to Japanese companies. Employers in Japan may ask you to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) to assess your language skills. There are five levels, with Level 1 being the most advanced. Most employers may demand you to pass Level 2 at the very least.

Complete and Outstanding Credentials

In addition to the language requirement, you need to provide references as well as a list of qualifications demonstrating why you are the ideal candidate for the role. Make sure your references are aware that Japanese employers may contact them. As a formal society and a highly competitive employment market, Japanese businesses scrutinize every element of potential employees, including contacting references.

Writing a Japanese CV

You should have a Japanese version of your CV whether the job you’re applying for requires a high level of Japanese or not. The criteria for CVs in Japan are fairly stringent, and most employers want them to be handwritten in kanji (Japanese script). If you are unsure about your kanji skills, some websites will generate the writing for you.

General Info

The Japanese resume format is known as rirekisho. It is preferable to conduct an internet search for this term and acquire a generic template to fill out. The template will guide you through the writing process. You must write your name in at least two of the three script options provided below:

  • what your name sounds like in hiragana
  • characters written in katakana
  • typical Japanese characters

The template will have two lines with both forms of your name. For foreigners, the conventional practice is to utilize standard Japanese and katakana.

Your birth date must also be specified in terms of Japanese imperial eras:

  • Showa: 1926 – 1988
  • Heisei: 1989 – 2019
  • Reiwa: 2020 – onwards

To write your birth year, circle the Japanese characters that belong to your era and then write a number that represents the year. For example, if you were born in 1992, you would circle the Heisei symbols and then the number 4.

Education and Work History

After you’ve carefully filled out your general information, you’ll need to list your educational and career history. Both are listed chronologically, with the most recent experience appearing first. Unlike in Western resumes, your job history does not need to provide a synopsis of your responsibilities and obligations.


Like many resumes, a Japanese CV should include a mention of your achievements, professional honors, and licenses and certificates. This includes a copy of your driver’s license.

Reason for Applying

There will be a section at the end of the rirekisho template where you can write about why you are the best candidate for the post to which you are applying. This is where you can be creative with your CV, but keep in mind the professional and reserved ideals of Japanese culture. Don’t stray too far from those principles.

Personal Details

In addition to your general contact information, education, and job history, Japanese employers expect to learn about your marital status, number of dependents, and even your commute time if you are offered the position.

Free Section (Say What You Want)

The final area of the Japanese resume is where you can convey your goals for the position you’re looking for. This can include job advancement or learning new skills, as well as compensation expectations.

Include a Professional Photograph

Last but not least, on the first page of your Japanese CV, insert a professional photograph in the upper right corner. This headshot should resemble a passport photo taken on a plain white background. It is also advisable for both men and women to dress in a black business suit for the photograph. Men should put on a tie.

Tips for Writing a Cover Letter

In contrast to a Japanese CV, a cover letter in Japan is quite similar to cover letters in other nations. Your cover letter should elaborate on your professional experience indicated in your CV, but only as it relates to the job for which you are applying. It should be no more than a page long and concise. It should be original enough to make you stand out while still being properly written.

Your cover letter, like your CV, should be translated into Japanese.

Tips for Your Interview

  1. Japan is a fairly formal culture where appearance is extremely important. As a foreigner, you are already at a disadvantage and will need to outperform everyone throughout the interview. This means that you should dress professionally, even if the organization you’re applying to is more casual (which, in Japan, is not common).
  2. Slouching, drinking, and chewing gum should all be avoided. Understand that in Japan, your personality is just as important as your CV.
  3. Be sure to show up no more than 5–10 minutes early. Being late is considered incredibly rude, but also being too early is frowned upon.
  4. Other interview protocols that are specific to Japanese culture include knocking on the door three times before entering and do not sit until you are invited to. Be aware that the interview could last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour. You will most likely be interviewed by a panel of interviewers.
  5. Japanese workers often stay with the same firm for several years, and the majority of them work in the same role throughout their careers. As a result, employees and co-workers are treated virtually as extended family members in Japanese workplace culture. Keep this in mind during the interview process since it implies you will be judged not just on how successfully you will work inside the firm, but also on how well you will integrate into the company “family.”

Tips for Networking

Networking is one of the finest ways for a foreigner to find jobs in Japan. The country has a strong after-work alcohol culture. Finding the bars and restaurants frequented by professionals will thus be of great assistance in getting you linked in Japan. For expatriates who want to live and work in Japan but haven’t found a job, moving to Japan as an English teacher is a possible choice. Then you can network till you find something that is more closely related to your career industry.

What are the Positions Foreigners Typically Apply for in Japan?

Here’s What Expats Need to Know About Finding Work in Japan

While it’s possible to apply for work in practically every industry in Japan, there are a few job sectors where expats will have the most opportunities:

  • teacher
  • banker
  • gastronomy
  • IT
  • military (typically foreign)
  • sales staff
  • service staff
  • engineer
  • professors
  • manufacturing

Similarly, expats with experience or an interest in robotics or offshore manufacturing may find it easier to obtain work than expats in other industries. Research and development are other popular professions for foreigners to work in Japan. The island nation ranks third in the globe in terms of money spent on this field (almost 16 trillion JPY/144 billion USD per year).

Here’s What Expats Need to Know About Finding Work in Japan

There you have it! If you have plans to pursue a career and relocate to Japan in the future, make sure to keep a copy of this guide. This will help you sort out the nitty-gritty stuff to find the perfect job for you in this Asian powerhouse nation. Of course, there are several other things that you need to consider before making this big decision of moving to Japan. But as you can tell, Japan is one of the most unique places you can work in as an expat.

So don’t be discouraged by the challenges that you might face early on in pursuing your goal of building a career or a life here. Instead, use this as a powerful motivation to adapt and acclimate to the way of life, which is uniquely Japanese – and watch how new opportunities will unfold one by one for you.

To learn more tips on how you can thrive as an expat here in Japan, be sure to keep posted for updates from this blog. Also, we’d like to know what you think about Japan being a country to relocate to for work. Leave us a comment in the section below to share your thoughts and experiences regarding this!

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