During my research for a possible move to Japan last year, although I was applying for jobs in Japanese schools, I was also checking into other jobs westerners can do in Japan other than teaching. That’s because in Thailand, where I currently live, most jobs are closed to non-Thais so I was interested to see if it was the same in Japan. Happily, it’s not. In fact, not only are westerners allowed to work at a myriad of jobs, Japan is a place where you can actually set up a pretty lucrative career.
IT jobs – One of my closest friends left Thailand several years ago and moved to Japan to teach. While he had several years teaching experience in Thailand, his background in the US was in the IT field. Only a year after he started work at a Japanese language school, he had moved to an IT job with a large Japanese company and his salary had skyrocketed.
His advice to anyone wanting an IT job in Japan? Move to a major Japanese city and teach for a year or two, as it helps you get settled and established and jobs are relatively easy to get. During that time, you can make contacts, sign up with various IT recruitment agencies and, hopefully, eventually land a job in an IT position.
Check out daily job listings at The Japan Times, or at Daijob, a website that specializes in job listings for multi-lingual job seekers.
Modelling – I’ve lost count of the number of blogs I read that are written by westerners working in Japan, some of whom have moved from teaching or bar work into a modeling career. Westerners are in quite high demand for print work, TV commercials, radio voice-overs and even movie roles and, once you make a name for yourself, salaries can be extremely high.
This video from Micaela Braithwaite, a Canadian living in Japan, will give you an idea of the type of modelling western women can do — everything from the covers of local magazines, to high-fashion print work and TV commercials.
Musician/DJ – If you’re a musician, there’s a thriving bar and concert scene in cities all over Japan, with Japanese young people willing to travel miles to hear their favorite western singers. Or, if you have DJ experience, western DJs are in high demand in bars and nightclubs and, if you make a name for yourself, you can be as well. If you can sing in Japanese, of course, you’ll do even better.
Kat McDowell is one New Zealander who has made it quite big in Japan, with her vinyl album going to number one in the charts.
Working in a bar – Just like in many other countries around Asia, if you ever go into an American bar or a British pub, you’re more than likely going to see a westerner behind the bar. That’s because a western face gives a little bit more ‘authenticity’ to the place, and makes the Japanese feel like they’re eating or drinking somewhere that isn’t Japan. As for the expats who frequent the place, they just enjoy having a fellow westerner to talk to.
If you’re interested in working in a bar or pub in Japan, do the rounds with your resume. If you have prior experience, of course, you’ll be one step ahead.
Translation work – If you speak fluent Japanese, you could create a successful career for yourself as a freelance translator. That’s because Japanese companies have gone even more international than they were just a decade ago, and with that comes their need to have not only all their documents translated into perfect English, but also to sometimes have a native English speaking translator available for meetings and client dinners.
Check out the local newspapers for job listings, or contact various companies in the area.
What did you do at home? – Depending on what type of visa you already have in Japan, or which companies are willing to apply for a visa for you, and what your skills are, you can do many of the things you might have done at home. Secretary? Engineer? Graphic designer? Special events director?
If you have experience in a job that may be in high demand in Japan, and if you speak Japanese as well as English, you are allowed to do many of the high-skilled jobs westerners would do back home. Think about it. Highly skilled and able to speak both English and Japanese? The sky is practically the limit.