How to use a Working Holiday Visa in Japan the right way
Did you know that Japan offers a Working Holiday Visa to young individuals of a variety of nationalities, allowing them to stay in Japan for a duration of 6-18 months (depending on the nationality) and to accept almost any fully remunerated job to finance their time in Japan?
This is a great way to make your dream of Japan come true!
A Working Holiday Visa in Japan is currently available for you if you are 18-30 years old and if you are a citizen of the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, France, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Germany or Austria.
Unfortunately, the Working Holiday Visa does not exist for US Americans and other nationalities and age groups not listed above. In this case however, you can still apply for a Student Visa and Work Permit instead (please see some details at the end of this article).
In continuation, Chris Engler of World Unite!, an organization that offers worldwide intercultural learning opportunities and provides support to those doing a Working Holiday in Japan, answers some common questions about Working Holiday Visa in Japan.
1. What does a Working Holiday in Japan usually look like?
The majority of people doing a Working Holiday in Japan stay in the country for several months up to the maximum duration of their visa. During their time in Japan, they usually only have a couple of „base cities“ where they stay most of the time. That’s because it’s not so easy to find jobs if you only stay for a very short time at a certain location. This is very different from doing a Working Holiday Visa in Australia, for example.: There, many people on a Working Holiday Visa do a road trip, travelling through the country and doing day labour jobs here and there – in Japan that’s not really possible. For any duration of stay shorter than 3 months at a certain location it might be difficult to find a job. There’s the option of taking temporary jobs (e.g. at Christmas Markets, Oktoberfest), but they are limited to a certain event or season.
From their base city, those who are on a Working Holiday would then (if they want to) make short trips to other cities and regions of Japan to explore the country.
We at World Unite! have our base in the centre of Tokyo where we run our own share house and office. Most Working Holiday participants usually stay with us for some months and we help them with all formalities (e.g. resident registration, tax number, opening a bank account) and to find a job. After some months, once they are familiar with Japan and have improved their language level, some of them move to other cities on their own, but some also stay with us the whole time. No matter where in Japan you are – you can always contact World Unite! and count on our multinational support team, which is based in Tokyo.
In the beginning of their stay, many of our participants also attend language lessons, either at a language school or, more affordable, at a community centre. Knowing at least some basic Japanese is not only very useful for everyday life in Japan, but also immensely widens the range of available job options.
2. Which jobs can I realistically find in Japan?
On a Working Holiday Visa in Japan, you can legally accept any kind of job apart from the ones in bars, night clubs, adult entertainment and gambling. There’s no limit in terms of the amount of work hours and salary.
Usually you have to be in Japan already in order to secure a job. You have to attend job interviews and you also need a Japanese tax number and bank account first. World Unite! will assist you with these formalities.
It’s a general misconception that in Japan only jobs as English teachers are available for foreigners. Typical jobs for those on a Working Holiday, besides teaching English, include childcare, work at restaurants and cafés (as kitchen helpers, waiters/waitresses, dish-washers), sales at shops (if you know at least basic Japanese), light factory work (e.g. packaging goods), as models (even if you are rather average-looking ), as sports instructors or physical work (e.g. moving companies).
To have some Japanese language skills at conversational level will give you a big advantage when searching for jobs, but it’s not a necessity. With our help, almost all of our participants, who don’t have any or only very limited skills of the Japanese language, are still able to find jobs within their first month in Japan. If you don’t know Japanese, you should however have solid English language skills at least. Without knowing neither English nor Japanese, it’s almost impossible to find a job in Japan.
We have observed that it’s realistic for almost all participants who are seriously interested in finding work and who are a little flexible about which job to accept, to get employment within their first month in Japan. Many participants, with our help, even find a job within their first or second week.
In Tokyo, we will give you a counselling session about how to find a job. Furthermore we’ll translate your CV/resume into Japanese, make an appointment and accompany you to the labour office and search in several job databases for suitable jobs for you. However, it’s then up to you to send your application to the hiring company and to attend and perform well in the job interview.
3. What about the finances?
On the cost side, you have to consider:
- Your flight to Japan and back (you can use a flight comparison website to check rates)
- Rent for your accommodation (see details in the next question)
- Food and other living expenses (e.g. public transport). For Tokyo you should calculate with a minimum of around 280 EUR/300 USD per month
- Travel health insurance (around 40-50 EUR/USD per month)
- The services of an organization helping you: We, World Unite! charge a one-time service package fee of 800 EUR/ 880 USD. The services included will definitely help you not only to save time to make all arrangements, pre-arrival and in Japan, but might help you to actually save money in Japan by avoiding (costly) mistakes, by finding cheaper accommodation, by getting membership terms on cheaper food on wholesale, and by helping you to find a job quickly.
On the „income“ side, with the typical Working Holiday jobs, you will make (in Tokyo) between 890 and 1500 JPY per hour. So if you work part-time (28 hours per week), that’s around 100,000 to 170,000 JPY per month. If you work full-time (40 hours per week), we’re talking about 140,000 to 240,000 JPY per month.
If you have a good level of Japanese and/or some professional qualification (particular IT or engineering-related, or as a professional teacher of English as a foreign language), you can make a higher hourly salary than the range stated above.
As mentioned before, it’s realistic for most participants to find a job within their first month, so you should have enough money to cover one month without any job while doing job hunting.
It’s easy to calculate how long it will take you to „break even“, which usually happens in the 4th month. So, from this moment your total earnings will exceed the total costs and many participants are actually able to save money that they can then use to travel around or to take back home.
4. Which accommodation options do I have?
Basically there are only two realistic options: Share Houses and host families.
Share Houses are houses that are shared by their residents. There are several chain companies in Tokyo operating share houses. Some of them run many small houses (e.g. Sakura House has hundreds of 3-4 bedroom houses all over the city, which originally were single-family houses) and some companies run large premises (e.g. Oak House has several high-end share houses with 30-80 rooms each). Also, many unmarried Japanese people prefer to live in Share Houses, because it’s not only cheaper, but also more comfortable than renting a one-person apartment. The larger share houses have enjoyable common facilities (e.g. living rooms; some of the high-end share houses have libraries, music rooms with instruments, cinema rooms etc.) making it easy to socialize with other people.
In central Tokyo a dorm bed at a share house is usually around 45,000-60,000 JPY per month, a single room around 80,000-100,000 JPY. If you find considerably cheaper options in central Tokyo, room sizes are usually extremely tiny, the standard is poor, or they pack many people into a dorm room. If you commute around 60-90 minutes out of central Tokyo (e.g. Saitama or Yokohama Prefectures or in the very west of Tokyo), you find rates of around 15-20% below above mentioned prices.
We at World Unite! run our own, centrally located share house near Kiba Station, of exclusive use to our Working Holiday participants. Offering competitive rates, you can rent starting from 35,000 JPY for a dorm bed (4-8 share) at relatively spacious dorm rooms. Additionally, we’ve evaluated more than 30 other share houses in the Tokyo metropolitan area and can recommend you those with the best value.
Host families usually don’t live in central Tokyo due to high rents. Few families in central Tokyo have the space to accommodate a foreigner. For host family accommodation in Saitama, Yokohama or Tokyo locations outside of central Tokyo, you usually pay something like 80,000-85,000 JPY per month including meals (usually 2 meals on weekdays and 3 meals on weekends).
If you are on a Working Holiday Visa, it is often not feasible to rent an apartment in Tokyo on your own, because rental contracts in Japan are typically for a minimum duration of one year and you have to pay a relatively high amount (called „reikin“) to the real estate agent that you don’t get refunded when you leave. Most apartments also come unfurnished.
5. Can’t I arrange it all on my own? Why do I need an organization?
We notice how many things about Japan aren’t clear to most of our participants and how much help they need, particularly prior to their arrival and at the beginning of their time in Japan.
However, if you’re convinced you can arrange everything on your own – please go ahead! It’s a great way to mature and learn. But please be aware that it may cost you a considerable amount of time and frustration.
Please keep the following in mind:
* English-language skills are not widespread in Japan
If you don’t know any or only very basic Japanese, communication in Japan might be hard. Most information is only available in Japanese, e.g. about phone contracts or bank accounts. Customer support services in English are rare. Counter staff, even if they know basic English, are often too shy, not motivated or not patient enough to deal with a foreigner who is unable to communicate in Japanese.
In the beginning of your stay, we at World Unite! will do all the „difficult“ things that require Japanese language skills with you and for you. Later, you can always ask for our assistance if you need any help.
* Many things work „differently“ in Japan than elsewhere
Whereas in Western countries many things work somehow similarly, in Japan many things have their own logic. As a relatively isolated country with few foreigners, but of high economic standing, Japanese companies, public offices or individuals are proud to do things in „their own way“.
A lot of information you find on the internet is outdated, incomplete or even wrong. The Japan Association for Working Holiday Makers is still operating its relatively limited job database on their website, but they are not providing support to foreigners who’re on a Working Holiday Visa in Japan. They only consult Japanese who want to do a Working Holiday abroad.
If you just rely on the information you find online, you might have to learn many things „the hard way“ in Japan.
We at World Unite! have compiled a lot of information relevant to our Working Holiday participants that we have learned over the years and that we permanently update and make accessible in our preparation documents.
* Do you really know Japan and its culture?
Even if you’ve watched thousands of anime since your childhood, if you’ve never lived in Japan for a longer time, your idea of Japan and the Japanese might be not as accurate as you think.
As part of your preparation, World Unite! will give you an intercultural training session about Japan. The aim is to give you a basic understanding of Japanese values and the Japanese way of thinking. The concepts communicated in this session are directly related to living and working in Japan. They help you to understand cultural differences in order to faster adapt to the Japanese society, to avoid mistakes, and to prevent or weaken a possible „culture shock“.
* Is it so easy to find a job on your own?
We’re regularly contacted by individuals who’re already in Japan, having tried it on their own, but failed to find a job.
We support you by giving you a counselling session about how to find a Working Holiday job in Japan. Also, we translate your CV/resume to Japanese and actively suggest job offers to you.
At the World Unite! share house in Tokyo you’ll meet other participants and learn from their work-related experiences. Furthermore, many jobs are passed over from one participant to the next, if someone moves to another city or finishes their year in Japan. Being in touch with other participants of our Working Holiday program will be beneficial for you to find a job.
6. A brief note for all nationalities who cannot get a Working Holiday Visa in Japan
If you’re of a nationality or age that is not eligible for the Working Holiday Visa in Japan, you can get a Student Visa plus a Work Permit if you enroll in full-time Japanese language lessons at a language school which is accredited to apply for student visas. Additionally, you can obtain a special Work Permit that allows you to work for up to 28 hours per week. World Unite! can arrange this for you. You can make use of the same support services as those participants who are on a Working Holiday Visa.
For more information about a Working Holiday in Japan please visit the World Unite! Website:
You can contact World Unite! by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a guest post and any information and opinion is provided by Chris Engler of World Unite!. Therefore Zooming Japan doesn’t take any responsibility for the content. As you might know, I didn’t use such a service personally when I came to Japan. First of all, it didn’t exist back then and I didn’t have enough money to do so. However, if you feel insecure and lost, I think such a service will help you a lot. But that’s up to you, of course. :)
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Events in Jan/Feb 2017:
- Jan 15: Matobakai (Kumamoto)
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- Jan 17: Bonden-sai (Akita)
- Jan 28: Yamayaki (Nara)
- Feb 3: Setsubun (nationwide)
- Feb 3-12: Otaru Yuki Akari no Michi
- Feb 6-12: Sapporo Snow Festival
- Feb 7-12: Asahikawa Winter Festival
- Feb 15-16: Yokote Kamakura Festival
- Feb 17-19: Tokamachi Snow Festival
- Feb 18: Naked Festival at Saidai-ji (Okayama)