Life in Japan

How I Made It to Japan

Hello. cute emoticon with heart
This is the first post in this blog. Thanks to those of you who are reading along from the very start! cute animated hearts
A lot of people are interested in coming to Japan. Some only want to visit, others want to come and try living here for a while. And some want to live in Japan forever. However, one big question is:

How to make it to Japan?

There are zillions of options actually. Don’t listen to all the people who tell you it’s impossible.
It’s true that it can be difficult, but that shouldn’t stop you from trying if you really want to come here!


My story: How and why I got to Japan

I’m going to tell you my story and maybe that will give you some idea and help you to get to Japan, too.
Please keep in mind that it all depends on your nationality, education, age and many other things, so there is no “How to get to Japan” recipe, unfortunately. cute emoticon not amused

Ever since elementary school I’ve been interested in Japan. Doing karate at that time surely was one of the triggers. Later I got into anime and manga, studied some Japanese and finally decided to visit Japan for a few weeks.
Just like all of you I had my own reasons why I wanted to see the country of the rising sun.

After my short, but awesome 3-weeks vacation in Japan back in 2007 when I just had graduated from university, I decided that it was not yet enough and that I needed to go back to explore the country some more.
I looked into various options that could get me back there ASAP.
And there are a LOT of options!!


Researching options and obtaining a visa

In my case, as I had already graduated from university, I skipped all the exchange student and MA programs out there. I was very interested in attending a Japanese language school or course, but those are super expensive.
That’s why I was looking for ways that would let me earn enough money. For that, I needed a proper work visa!
Luckily, there is something awesome called “working holiday visa“. Depending on your nationality it lets you stay and work in Japan for a set time frame.
For me, as a German national, I was allowed to work full-time for up to a whole year with it.
The requirements are easily fulfilled by most of us. They also may vary from country to country, but apart from a start capital of around 2000$US, the flight ticket, being under 30 years and some other tiny things, it’s really not hard to obtain this visa.

I know that this visa is only available for a few countries, so if you’re not one of the lucky ones, don’t give up just yet!
It might be harder to get into Japan, but certainly not impossible!

how to make it to japan


Finding a job in Japan

So, with that visa in my hands I was ready to go. However, I still didn’t have a job or anything set up.
My original plan was to just go to Tokyo – where I also had a few Japanese friends already – and start looking for work once there. I had nothing to lose anyway. Either I’d find a job or just stay until I run out of money!
My family, however, suggested I should look for jobs BEFORE leaving. I also thought it would be safer and started looking for a job.

Quickly I noticed that there was basically only O.N.E. kind of job for foreigners who cannot speak Japanese fluently: English teacher.
(Theoretically, there are other kinds of jobs, too, but let’s skip that for now.)
The good thing is that Japan really needs English teachers, so there are enough jobs out there.
The harder part is to actually get one of those jobs. If you’ve ever looked at some of the job ads, you might have noticed that the most basic requirements always are at least a BA/BS degree and being a native English speaker.


The reality about requirements:

Now, let me tell you that both of these requirements have more to do with obtaining a work visa and less with the ACTUAL job requirements!
In other words, if you bring your own work visa (spouse visa, working holiday visa, etc.), then your chances are much better – even if you don’t fulfill the earlier mentioned requirements!

A work visa for a full-time job in Japan generally requires you to have a BS/BA degree to show you’re somewhat qualified. Japan is not an immigration country! They only let highly qualified people stay here long-term (most of the time).

My luck was that I had a MA degree in an education-related field which outperformed all the English “native speakers” who “only” had a BA degree in whatever (science, economy etc.) PLUS I brought my own work visa with me (the working holiday visa). With that, I had quite good chances.


To all the non-native speakers out there, don’t give up!
However, one important thing is your English ability, of course. The most essential point is your pronunciation! If you have a strong accent, then it might be really tough to get a job!

Well, that’s how I got my first job despite of being a non-native speaker of English.
See? It’s not impossible! cute emoticon wink


Where can I get information about my chances and visa obtainment?

Still freaking out because you have no degree at all? You don’t want to become a teaching monkey? *g*
Believe me, there are MANY options out there for you, too! You just need to find them. And one thing is for sure, it’s NOT gonna be a piece of cake, you have to fight for it if you really want it!

Back in the days there were many helpful forums out there. Nowadays, I’d recommend checking out GaijinPot as one of the best sources for finding a job in Japan.

Starting out as an English teacher to set foot into Japan is quite common. It doesn’t mean that you’ll have to stay in this job forever – unless you really love the job like me!

There are many good examples of foreigners who made it into various fields.
Good examples I (and probably most of you) know of are:

  • Danny Choo (’embassador’ for Japanese culture)
  • Jamie (aspiring mangaka + actress)
  • Jenya (voice actress)
  • Anji from Salztokyo (creating her own kimono)

So, don’t give up your dreams! Now you know how to make it to Japan!
Meanwhile, I hope my blog will give you inspiration and brings Japan closer to you. cute emoticon robot heart


    • Hallo! :D
      Danke für deinen Kommentar! ^-^
      Ich kann mich an deinen Blog erinnern, weil mir die Fotos damals so gut gefallen haben! :thumbup:
      Ich weiß aber nicht mehr, wie/wo ich auf deinen Blog gestoßen bin :ehehe:

      Das war ja ursprünglich damals auch mein Plan. Ab nach Tokio und mal sehen, was man so an Jobs auftreiben kann, aber dann ist mir mein Vater aufs Dach gestiegen und ich hab bereits intensiv nach Jobs gesucht bevor ich nach Japan bin. :hihi:

  • Hello!! I just found your blog! Hope you had a Merry Christmas and hope you will have a Happy New Year!
    My name is Ernie and I am from Mexico.
    I am really interested in Japanese culture since a looooong time ago (but intensely, 6-7 years ago). I currently study japanese and just did the JLPT5 (in March they give me my results D: ).
    I have been too Japan 2 times, and I can’t get enough of it, I love it!, and I really want to stay there for a long time, so i’ve been searching how to go :thumbup:
    I am currently in a process to enter a japanese university (although my classes and such are in english) and hope I can make it :) If so, I will be in Japan by september :fan: :D :happy:
    I took german classes a LOOOOONG time ago and I just remember the numbers and guten tag/morgen/nacht, auf wiedersehen and such… LOL :ehehe:
    I will follow your blog from now on!
    Good Luck!

    • :music2: HAPPY NEW YEAR!! :stars:

      Hello Ernie, thank you so much for your nice comment! :hearts:
      I’m sure you have passed level 5! :thumbup:

      I’m in the middle of changing jobs and moving (within Japan) right now, so there won’t be many blog posts for some time, I hope you stick with me nevertheless.

      I wish you all the best for your future goals!! :chu:

  • Hello,thank you for your inspiring words and I wish one day I may be able to live in Japan.
    About. me- 61years old single male from India with university degree in commerce.worked in Arab Gulf countries in Accounts and for last 22 years worked as Sales Associate in a high end shopping mall in Doha,Qatar. Now, I am in India and wish to learn Japanese and live in Japan.
    Once again I wish to express my sincere thanks for encouraging experience of yours..

  • Hallo :)

    Ich verfolge dein Blog seit einiger Zeit und finde deine Einträge sehr ratsam, wenn es um das Leben in Japan geht.

    Da du sehr viel Erfahrungen in Japan gemacht hast, möchte ich dich gern um Rat fragen!
    Ich mache gerade mein Abitur und mein Plan war ursprünglich ein Work and Holiday Jahr in Japan ab diesem Sommer zu machen, wo ich japanisch gut erlernen und wertvolle Lebenserfahrungen sammeln kann. Ich bewerbe mich auch noch für ein paar Hochschulen. Allerdings weiß ich nicht, was sich besser lohnt: erst mal ein Jahr nach Japan oder doch lieber studieren (etwas in Richtung Japan) und dann das Work and Travel Jahr?

    Ich brauche echt einen guten Ratschlag!

    Liebe Grüße :)

    • Hallo!
      Erstmal vielen Dank für den netten Kommentar! Freut mich, dass dir die Einträge zu gefallen scheinen!

      Das ist in der Tat eine schwere Entscheidung.
      Ich kenne viele, die nach dem Abi für 1 Jahr nach Japan sind. Danach ging es zurück in die Heimat, um zu studieren.
      Zumindest von den Leuten, die ich kenne, ist danach niemand mehr nach Japan zurückgezogen.

      Ich werde dir jetzt ein paar Sachen erzählen, aber ich kann und will dir keinen Ratschlag geben. Das musst du ganz alleine entscheiden! ;)

      Wenn du gleich nach dem Abi mit dem Visum nach Japan gehst, dann ist das Visum für immer verloren und du kannst es nicht nochmal benutzen.
      Allerdings ist es wesentlich einfacher ein Visum zu bekommen, wenn du ein abgeschlossenes Studium hast. Dabei kommt es aber wieder auf den Fachbereich an, in dem du arbeiten willst!
      Als Faustregel gilt, dass du entweder ein abgeschlossenes Studium in dem Bereich brauchst, in dem du arbeiten willst, oder mind. 10 Jahre Berufserfahrung.

      Nehmen wir an, du studierst zuerst, findest aber dann einfach keinen Job in Japan in dem Bereich, den du studiert hast. Dann wird es relativ schwierig in Japan Fuß zu fassen (weil du einfach kein Arbeitsvisum bekommen wirst – es sei denn du heiratest einen japanischen Staatsbürger …). In dem Fall könnte dir das Work and Holiday helfen (aber auch nur für 1 Jahr).

      Falls du noch nie in Japan warst oder auch wenn schon, dann wirst du in dem einen Jahr sehr viele Erfahrungen sammeln. Diese werden dir dann helfen, eine Entscheidung für deinen weiteren Weg zu treffen. Vielleicht ist Japan ja gar nicht so, wie du es dir vorgestellt hast. Dann hat dir das Jahr in Japan wenigstens gezeigt, dass das doch nicht das Richtige war und du kannst was anderes studieren.
      Oder du bekommst durch das Jahr eine genauere Vorstellung davon, was genau dich an Japan interessiert und was du dort später mal machen möchtest.

      Hör einfach auf dein Bauchgefühl! Wenn du das Gefühl hast, dass du nicht mehr länger warten willst, dann geh gleich nach dem Abi! ;)

      • Vielen, vielen Dank für deine super nette und aufrichtige Antwort!

        Ich habe schon fast Kopfweh von der Qual der Wahl, aber es tut gut zu hören, dass man auf sein Bauchgefühl hören sollte. :)

        Ich empfinde die japanische Sprache als sehr wichtig für mich, sowohl für meine eigene Interesse als auch für die Zukunft. Angenommen ich bin ein Jahr dort und lerne ehrgeizig die Sprache und schaffe es wenigstens zu N2. Wie stehen eigentlich die Chancen für Studium in Japan gleich anzuschließen? Ist es lohnenswert? Habe schon von den hohen Kosten (da Privatunis) und die Aufnahmenprüfungen gehört.

        Wenn ich in Deutschland ein Platz für ein Wirtschaftsstudium mit Schwerpunkt Japan erhalte, welches sowieso ein Auslandjahr in Japan enthält, würde danach die japanische Botschaft mir Work and Travel Visum genehmigen, wenn ich bereits schon durch Studium Japan-Erfahrung gemacht habe? Schließlich dient dieses Visum ja nur, wenn man Land und Leute kennen lernen möchte, oder?

        PS: Ich finde dein bloggen hier super, es hilft einen wirklich ein besseres Bild von richtigen Leben in Japan zu bekommen und wenn ich mal wieder Fragen hab, weiß ich wenigstens wo ich mich am besten melden könnte.

        • Leider kenne ich mich mit einem Studium in Japan nicht aus und bevor ich dir was Falsches sage, lass ich’s lieber! ;)

          Ich denke schon, dass du dennoch ein Work and Holiday Visum bekommen kannst. Ich bin mir sogar fast sicher, dass es ein paar Leute gibt, die genau das gemacht haben!

          Aber anstatt nur mich zu fragen, habe ich einen besseren Vorschlag. Ich weiß nicht, ob du das EMBJapan Forum kennst?
          Dort gibt es viele Gleichgesinnte! Viele haben das, was du vorhast, bereits hinter sich. Ich bin mir sicher, dass dir viele Leute dort Tipps geben können.
          Gerade wenn du unsicher in deiner Entscheidung bist, ist es immer gut die Meinung von möglichst vielen anderen zu hören! :D

  • Ah, you lucky Germans. U.S. nationals can’t get a working holiday visa, so I had to resort to working for an eikaiwa (that’s another story in itself). As you said, anyone with a bachelor’s degree and who is (or seems to be) a native speaker can go this route. The good news is that I got a 3-year visa right off the bat, which launched me on my own magical journey in this country.

    • People who can get a working holiday visa are lucky indeed.
      I probably wouldn’t be here in Japan now without it. I think it’s a great opportunity for non-native speakers of English as native speakers of English don’t necessarily need this as long as they have a BS / BA degree.
      Of course this is only true if one wants to teach English in Japan, but as we both know that’s how most people break into the Japanese working society and then go from there.

      I did struggle when my working holiday visa expired and I wanted to change it to a real work visa. My first application was rejected saying: “We can’t give you a visa for teaching English, because you’re not a native English speaker. However, if you want to teach German, then it’s not a problem.”
      My qualifications didn’t seem to matter. For them it seems that being a native speaker is the “qualification” you need in order to teach that language which is such a stupid way of thinking.

      Luckily I managed to get a real work visa with the help of my boss and a few other people. A lot of paperwork had to be done.
      At first I only got a one-year visa, but from then on it was always a 3-year visa! :D

      Great that you got a 3-year visa right away. Saved you a lot of trouble and paperwork! ;)

  • Hi ! Nice to see you again ;P 日本語で失礼します! 日本の歴史的な観光地やJapancultureを写真で紹介しているのは素晴らしいと思います :thumbup:
    日本人の自分でさえこんな場所・物があったのか と気付かされることがあり、改めて外国の方の日本文化の知識の豊富さに驚かされます!
    個人的には自宅から近い場所にある埼玉県の秩父の事をUPしてたのでうれしかったです。もし機会があれば”三峰神社”にも行ってみてください、自分のお気に入りの場所で(ちょっと遠いけれど :ehehe: ) ヤマトタケル(日本武尊)という1900年以上前の皇室の方のゆかりの神社です。 ;P

    じぶんはTwitterで海外のおもしろい事、そして日本のサブカルチャーをtweetしていますが、そこで気づいたことが、本当に多くの海外の方が日本文化を愛してくれていること・・そして残念ながらあまりにも多くの日本好きの海外の人が、いま日本国が直面しているKorean issue”朝鮮人問題”を知らなすぎです :whyohwhy:
    日本文化を愛する海外の人達にもそれは他人ごとではなく、韓国や北朝鮮の人間が神社・仏閣を破壊し宝や仏像を盗んで、日本のnational heritage”遺産”を荒らしまくっています。
    そして彼らは日本人になりすまし(通名を使い)犯罪をひんぱんに犯し、その上 “日本の文化を消し、乗っ取るために” 政治・マスメディアにまで入り込んでいます。
    日本のマスメディアの”産経新聞”以外のTV・新聞はほとんど韓国・北朝鮮・中国に乗っ取られています(Comfort woman”慰安婦”も実は韓国と朝日新聞が作った大ウソです :hum: )・・これが”事実”です。
    Sorry,暗い話しをしてしまいましたが :ehehe: 日本人は日本文化を愛する海外の人達は大歓迎です!そして日本の文化が好きになったら、もう一つ先の日本の”深い部分”も知ってください :shiawase:

    最後に、いつも写真、楽しみにしてます!頑張ってください ;P :thumbup:

    • Hello Keiichi! :D
      Thank you so much for your comment! (^___^):heart:






  • Hey,
    What a journey it must have been!! I’m from India and i’m trying to figure out the best option to go there :D. I finish graduation next year and my dad wants me to do my postgrad from tokyo university under the international program in economics for foreigners. but frankly, i’m not interested. I’d rather go there and visit it on my own than using education as an excuse to stay there. What do you think? Looking forward to more posts from your side. You are an inspiration. Thanks :)

    • Hi Divya! :D

      I think you should do whatever you feel like doing. I don’t know what you want to achieve jobwise in the future and if taking the course your father suggests would help you.

      And thanks so much for the nice compliment! ^___^

  • HI!
    I am from the country of Burma but I currently in the United States as an International student working on my BS in Mathematics. I believe I will graduate in May 2014 and decided to go to Japan and work there. I can speak English pretty good but I can’t speak Japanese at all, but willing to learn though :D. Do you mind telling me what kind of jobs can I possibly get? Btw, I <3 your blog. :)


    • Hi, Ted Lin!

      Well, with your current qualifications you could start out as an English teacher (which is what most foreigners do at first).
      As long as you’re not fluent in Japanese it’s going to be difficult to get any other kind of job unless you work for a company that will send you to Japan.
      Teaching English can be a lot of fun, but I understand that it’s not for everyone.

      I wish you good luck with whatever you decide to do! :D

  • This was such a relieving/heartwarming post. There isn’t that much about how non-native English speakers can find a job in Japan on the internet. Your blog seems to be an exception though. I’m from India, looking at Japan in the near future. I visited it for a short trip earlier this year, and my fiance and I should be moving there within a couple of years. I’m doing my M.A. in English right now, so honestly, if I were turned down just because I’m not native (despite better and far more relevant qualifications than most native English speakers there), I would be mad and disheartened. Your post gives me (and many others too) a lot of hope. It’s lovely to see stories like this too. Will keep an eye out for your future posts. ;P

    • Aww, thank you so much, Shweta!

      I’m sure you can find a job. Even if it might be difficult at first, don’t give up!
      There ARE jobs for non-native speakers like us, but we have to “fight” harder than native speakers to get what we want.

  • Hi,

    ich habe vor kurzem angefangen deinen Blog zu lesen und wollte dich bei meinem Problem um Rat fragen. Ich studiere gerade Japanologie (B.A. 2. Semester) und habe danach vor in Japanologie einen Master zu machen. Mein Englischlevel ist leider noch B1+ (ungefähr intermediate), aber ich habe deshalb vor 1 Jahr (zwischen Bachelor und Master) in England zu verbringen. Als Zusatzqualifikation werde ich dann intermediate Spanischkenntnisse aufweisen können und halt den gewöhnlichen Kram (Office, BWL-Grundlagen,…). Nun zu meinem Problem: Bin ich einfach nur überbesorgt oder werden die Chancen wirklich nicht gut für mich stehen? Weil irgendwie mache ich mich deshalb noch ganz verrückt…
    Vielen Dank für deine Hilfe

    Liebe Grüße aus Bayern

    • Hallo nach Bayern!

      Du möchtest gerne wissen, wie deine Chancen für was genau stehen?
      Ich selbst habe nie Japanologie studiert und ich nehme an, dass ihr dort Professoren und Ansprechpartner habt, die euch bezüglich eurer beruflichen Zukunft in Japan bessere Auskunft geben können als ich.
      Ich bin sicher nicht der richtige Ansprechpartner, wenn du gerne wissen möchtest, welche Chancen du in Japan mit einem Japanologiestudium hast.

      Spanischkenntnisse werden dir hier in Japan wohl eher nicht weiterhelfen.
      Wenn du deine Englischkenntnisse noch weiter ausbauen kannst, wäre natürlich der Job des Englischlehrers eine Option für dich – falls das überhaupt in Frage kommt.
      Als Übersetzer könntest du sicher auch arbeiten, allerdings ist die Nachfrage nach Deutsch-Japanisch eher gering.

      Ich wünsche dir auf jeden Fall viel Glück und mach dir nicht so viele Sorgen! ;)

  • Nice article!

    Like other people already said , there are not a lot of stories from non-native english speakers who succeded in becoming a english teacher in Japan on the internet.

    I’m currently studying to obtain my masterdegree by the end of this year. Afterwards I’m planning to do a Tefl-course for some teaching experience on my cv.

    Unfortunaly I’m from the Netherlands and we do not have the working holiday visa for Japan.

    So I wanted to ask you if you know somebody who is a non-native english teacher in Japan and who is willing to answer some of my questions about the proces of applying to jobs and getting a humanities visa when you are still living outside of Japan?

    • Hi Wesley,

      You can’t apply for the visa yourself. First, you need to find a job. They need to apply for you. That will take up to 3 months.
      Some companies ask you to come to Japan on a tourist visa and make you work while you wait for the work visa, but don’t do it! It’s against the law and if immigration will find out, you might be banned from Japan (worst case scenario).

      So, I’d suggest that after you’ve finished your MA and got that TEFL certificate, you start applying for English teaching jobs from abroad.
      Once you found a job, they’ll sponsor your work visa.
      If immigration will accept the application is a different story, though.

      I wish you good luck! :D

  • Hi,
    I have a plan to move to Tokyo at least on August or September..
    I have 5 years of teaching experience in multi-cultural schools and English was language I have used since I was 5 years old, including during the teaching and learning process at school, even though I am not a native speaker.

    I have applied to some international schools; preschools, kindergartens. some schools gave respond, some asked me to contact them once I move to Tokyo, some asked me to keep in touch after the interview, etc. But so far I have not received an official statement that I am being hired…

    I wanna give up cos I think I need to get a job somehow before I move…but why is it so hard…
    is it b’cos i am not a native speaker..? or probably my qualifications? i am having a bachelor degree in art and will get my early childhood education certificate in June.. but i don’t think they’re interested with those qualifications.. :(

    • Hello Gakemi!

      It’s true that we non-native speakers have to fight harder. You need better qualifications than a native speaker to stand a chance.
      I think once you have your early childhood education certificate, that will help.
      In my case it helped a lot that I could bring my own work visa (the working holiday visa). Maybe you can get that one as well? If so, you should mention it in your application.
      Most people are just worried that they might not be able to sponsor your visa if you’re not a native speaker of English, so if you can bring your own work visa, that will open some doors.

      If you can’t, then don’t give up just yet. Write as many applications as possible!
      Also make sure that your English is perfect in your applications.

      Good luck! :D

  • Hi there, I am glad to find out your blog by accident. It is very useful information for people want to live in Japan. Thank you for sharing. My dream is living and do business in Japan one day. I have a question to ask you (I appreicate if you can give me some idea). Even english is not my first language but I have no problem with my pronunciation. I only got Diploma in Fashion Design and I am early 40. In my case, will I still get chance to work there? What I can do in first? I’m appreciated if you can help.

    • Hello Amy! :)

      First, I suggest you read my newest blog post about teaching English in Japan.
      I won’t lie. It won’t be easy, but it’s not impossible. I think you might be able to land a job. I’m more worried about whether you could obtain a work visa or not. Being 40+ you’re not eligible to get the working holiday visa. Without a university degree or a passport of an English speaking country it will be extremely difficult.

  • hi ,
    I am graduate in computer science and Masters in business from UK. I want to get a business management job in Japan aslo want to work and stay there. I am fluent in english. i am from Bangladesh. How to apply for the jobs also how to apply for the Visa in Japan? let me know please , thanks :)

    • Hello.
      You can find job offers on sites like: GaijinPot Jobs or Jobs in Japan.
      The application process is different for each job, so check carefully how they want you to apply.
      You cannot apply for a work visa. Your future employer will sponsor your visa. So, your first task is to get a job.

      Good luck!

Leave a Comment


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.