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 anyways. Either I’d find a job or just stay until I ran 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 kind 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!

Although it’s a really crappy forum most of the time, there are some really knowledgable people: Gaijinpot Forum (* is closed down but GaijinPot jobs is still very helpful)
Watch out for a user called “Glenski”. He knows a lot about all sorts of visa types and how to obtain them!
There’s also ESL Cafe Forum which is mainly focused on teaching English in Japan, though.

Both mentioned forums also have a job advertisement section where you can look for job offers for foreigners in Japan. Be sure to check it out.

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)

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

75 Comments

  • Hi, thank you for sharing ur experience…
    Your blog is great and I can read a lot of things about Japan…
    Mmm i want to ask something,,

    Can I go or visit Japan for short term like in short course?

    I want to visit Japan to take a short course and also visit my new friend from Japan..

    Thank you for your reply… :)))

    • Hello! :)

      First of all, thank you so much for the nice compliment.

      Of course, you can visit Japan for a week or two, see some great sightseeing spots, visit friends. No problem at all.
      Just make sure if and what kind of visa you might need as that varies from nationality to nationality.

  • Hello,
    Iam very lucky to know your blog. I have a plan to go Japan next year, but it seems too hard to get working visa because Iam from Vietnam.
    Iam a receptionist for one resort in Nha Trang, Vietnam. Do you think I can find a job in Japan, is there any suitable job for me?

    • Hello, Thuong.
      I’m very sorry, but the hotel business is something I have no idea about.
      Have you checked out job ads on Gaijinpot and the likes? You’ll see if there are any offers and what they would require.

      Good luck to you! :)

  • Hi it was a wonderful moment when i came across your post which you shard with our brothers and sisters about this country called japan. it really has a lot of historical background and it’s too much developed in terms of technology and that country is developing on a high speed though i have never reached in japan i just here it ie in news paper and through watching there moves, and according to the picture i have in my maid japan is really a nice country. Lucky of jobs is now world wide youth unemployment rates in the all world is to high??well upon that statement was a by the way let me go direct to the point madam. I am male adult living in east Africa i have different qualifications in different fields ie After my high school i went for a course in nursing school hence i also attained certificates in emergence management,first aid skills (basic life support),patient transport attendant,home basic care and instruct with st john ambulance Uganda. I also went further and i did a craft in motor vehicle in a vocational institute.
    i was request you to advice me am in preparation to apply for a visa to heed to japan for job-hurt. i would like to ask you madam how is the accommodation in there? feeding? and which is the best visa to apply to which doesn’t disturb to apply to. i will be grateful to you if my request is granted i am looking forward to here from you.

    your’s faithfully
    ………………………………
    George

    • Hello,
      you cannot apply for a visa unless it’s the working holiday visa or a tourist visa.
      And you’re not allowed to look for a job while you’re on a tourist visa in Japan! Be careful.
      So, usually you would first find a job in Japan and then the company will sponsor your visa (apply for your work visa).

      Start looking at job ads at the websites I suggested in this post and see if there’s anything you can apply for.

      Accommodation and food is good. I’m not sure what exactly you want to know. ;)

      Good luck to you! :)

  • Hi, I’m Ayu. Me and my friend have a plan to move to Japan to work. I have a bachelor degree in Informatics but my friend don’t. I’m Indonesian and he’s American. I’ve been reading for so many blogs that he needs to have a bachelor degree to get worker visa. But you said it here that it’s possible to go there first on a tourist visa and start looking for a job and hoping that we will get a sponsorship visa. My question, how big is the probablity? He’s interested to work as English teacher. And if he got the job, is it possible to get a sponsorship visa to work legally in Japan even with the fact that he doesn’t have a degree? I’ve been trying to find a scholarship there too but he’s too old to get an undergraduate degree scholarship lol. I think my chance is bigger cause I’m also planning to take a Japanese course or something and get a work part job. Thank you so much in advance. I’d love to talk to the person who has the experience about this directly instead of reading the blog. Have a good day!

    • Ayu, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but a sponsored visa is just a sponsored work visa. A company cannot sponsor your visa if you don’t fulfill the visa requirements which is at least a BA/BS degree. As your friend is American he also cannot get the Working Holiday Visa.
      I’m afraid as long as he isn’t married to a Japanese citizen or gets a BA degree, he won’t be able to get a work visa.

      He could get a student visa and study at a Japanese language school, but these are expensive. He then could get a permit to work part-time, but this will only work out if your friend has some savings.

  • Greetings:

    I was wondering about a few things,
    I am from the Philippines with a work experience in the Bank; the problem is: (1) I am not a native english speaker, obviously; (2) bank-jobs require business/native level of japanese; (3) I won’t have enough money to last until I finish a japanese language school, and (4) visa.

    So I was wondering: is it feasible to study japanese there while doing part-time work given the above things? I do not intend to live in the big expensive cities; and I’m not picky when it comes to where I am staying.

    Hoping that you’re still actively monitoring this blogpost since this is 4 years old already.

    • Hi, Juan.
      I’ve met a few people from the Philippines who were teaching English in Japan. If I remember correctly they told me they got the visa because English is an official language in their country?!

      Anyway, yes, you can work part-time on a student visa, but you need to get permission from the immigration office first.
      I can’t tell you if you’ll earn enough money to support yourself with just a part-time job. I guess it depends on where you’re living and how much your part-time job pays.

      You could also study Japanese on your own while you’re still in the Philippines and then come over once your Japanese skills are good enough.

  • You have no idea how happy I am, you are the first person who replied to my silly question. Well, English is like a secondary language for us, so maybe that works for our favor.

    And, as we speak, I’m searching for some good schools in Japan that is not close to any gigantic cities, I’m not the city-type.

    Do you have any idea where I can find information on how to get a student’s visa?

    Again, thank you very much.

    • You are very welcome. :)

      I have never studied at a language school myself, but I think most of them will help you with the paper work for the student visa.
      You can also find more information here and here.

      I totally understand you. I’m also not a city person. ;)

  • Hi! Just wanted to say thank you for your blog. A lot of your posts were interesting. I do hope to start a life in Japan soon too. I’ve been researching far and wide and your log helped a lot. Arigatou gozaimasu!

  • How easy is it to find a job in Japan if you fluently speak both English (live in America) and German (family) and are working on learning Japanese? I would be fine with being an English teacher there or really any type of job. For a few years now, it has been my dream to live and work in Japan. Any suggestions? Arigato! Danke! Thank you!

    • It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a job for your then – especially teaching English.
      Like I’ve mentioned it’s not so much about finding a job, but about the work visa.
      In order to obtain a work visa you need at least a BA/BS degree – and for most English teaching jobs you should hold a passport of an English-speaking country. ;)

  • Your story is very inspiring indeed. :)
    I happened to chance upon your blog while looking for facts for Ainoshima.
    I’m been crazy about Japan since i was 15. I’m 34 now and i’ve been travelling to Japan for holidays every year for the past 10 years. I’m Singaporean and english is my first language.. I’ve studied Japanese for over 7 years and i got my N2 cert 2 years ago..
    I’ve always thought about working and living in Japan but never did anything about it.
    However, i do only have a diploma with over 13yrs of experience in a specific line… do you think its possible at all for me to find a job in Japan without a degree?
    After reading your blog, it does give me a bit more encouragement and it’s definitely inspiring.
    Thanks for this. :)

    • Haha, you kind of sound like me. There are so many similarities, really! ^__^

      With 13 years of experience in a certain job field you could definitely get a work visa for that specific job field.
      But please keep in mind that a Japanese company has no reason to hire a foreigner if a Japanese person can do the job just as well – or even better (= no language issues).

      Anyway, good luck to you! ^_____^

  • Hi : )

    You have a great site, congratulations, I am happy that people like you share so much experience from Japan, it is really amazing and very helpful too. And so colorful, in your case (^.~)

    I really hope that I am not too insolent but I wanted to ask you for an advice, if possible.

    This is my situation – I am still relatively young – 23 years old, and I have the opportunity to receive the Japanese government MEXT scholarship as a non-degree student (although I really haven’t got much time left to pass the needed documents because of my hesitation) . My field is history. They give you a monthly stipend of 143 000 yen. The specialization lasts for about 1,5-2 years. The holders of that scholarship will receive student visa, which means that part-time working will be allowed. Do you think that is possible for a international student to find a part-time English teaching job while attending the uni and after he graduates to switch to full-time and acquire a working visa from his school? I know that I can’t do anything with history if I want to stay in Japan, so my only chance may be the English teaching. Then again, I am not a native speaker. I didn’t went through education taught in English – one of the main requirements I’ve seen in the job descriptions, besides being native speaker. I don’t know if my English is decent enough, never got a real opportunity to practise my spoken skills but I hope that it will do. I have a BA in history and will acquire a MA again in history early in the next year. They give me the right to be a history teacher in my country. So does that mean that my degrees are related to “education” and will somehow give a little advantage when applying for English teaching jobs?

    Maybe my problem is that I am not “100%” motivated, which is a bad thing to say, I guess. But I really don’t know what to expect. I like it how people like you don’t save up sharing some of the bad sides of Japan when writing about that magnificent country. I really wanted to hear the opinion of a person who really knows what living in Japan really means.

    Once again, I hope that I am not insolent.

    Take care.

    PS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VLQigsshJSg

    A little salute. I know that it’s not a happy song, quite the opposite actually, and not a good choice for a salute at all, but I just like it how it sounds. It’s from one of the German musicians I really enjoyed back when I tried to study your native language. Ha, maybe I should instead try coming to Germany… Oh, nevermind.

    • Hi, Rimedore! ^^

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. :)

      Well, certainly if you have a visa that allows you to work (student visa with part-time work permit), you will be able to find a part-time job teaching English as long as your pronuciation is good enough. There are plenty of English teaching jobs in Japan and the biggest issue is usually obtaining the work visa. So, if you already have a work permit, your chances aren’t too bad. But of course, your English needs to be at a certain level. ;)

      I’m not sure if I understood the second part correctly. Are you asking whether your university will give you a work visa for working somewhere else as an English teacher? That won’t happen. That’s not possible. You need to find a job / a school that will sponsor your visa then. If you can obtain such a visa, I don’t know. I also was rejected the first time. It’s up to sheer luck, the immigration officer etc. Nobody will be able to tell you if it works out for non-native speakers like us, but you have nothing to lose, so why not just give it a try? ^^

      The scholarship is a GREAT opportunity in my eyes. Definitely go through with that!

      Good luck to you! :)

      And thanks for the nice song. ^^

  • Hello !
    First I would like to thank you for this very nice blog ^^ It will help me a lot for my next trips :)
    I have a question… I read this article and you said that you worked for a year with the working holiday visa.
    I am in Japan right now, working as an interior designer with the working holiday visa.. but I thought you could only work for 6 months :o (and stay a year). Am I wrong ??!!!
    Thank you for your answer,
    Zoé

    • Hi Zoé,

      Actually it depends on your nationality. I’m only familiar with the one for German citizens. We can work and live in Japan for 12 months with the Working Holiday Visa. I know it’s different for people from Canada or Australia, but I don’t know the details. You might want to check that.

  • Hallo!
    Ich bin gerade über deinen Blog gestolpert, weil ich auch gerne ein Jahr Working Holiday in Japan machen würde und als Englischlehrer arbeiten. Im Moment mache ich noch meinen BA Jaanisch fertig.
    Was ich nun wissen wollte ist, du schreibst dass die Voraussetzungen “native speaker” und BA eigentlich eher wichtig sind, will man ein work visa. Nun arbeitest du schon seit einigen Jahren in Japan… D.h. du bist mit dem working holiday Visa nach Japan und bist dann nachdem das eine Jahr Working Holiday Visa vorbei war, zu einem Work Visa gewechselt?
    Also was mich interessiert, wenn man erstmal einen Job als Englischlehrer gefunden hat an einer Schule ist die Qualifiktion “native speaker” nicht mehr ausschlaggebend für das Working Visa?
    Ich hoffe meine Ausfühurngen waren verständlich! ^___^”

    • Hallo Maxi,
      keine Sorge, ich verstehe sehr gut, was du meinst. ;)

      Nein, leider ist das nicht so einfach. Bei mir wurde der Antrag auf den Wechsel vom Working Holiday Visum zu einem “richtigen” Arbeitsvisum nach dem Ablauf des Jahres erstmal abgelehnt mit der Begründung, dass ich nicht 12 Jahre lang in Englisch unterrichtet wurde und keinen Pass von einem englischsprachigen Land besitze. Würde ich als Deutschlehrerin arbeiten wollen, wäre das kein Problem. So hirnrissig!
      Hätte ich einen Abschluss in Englisch gehabt, wäre das wohl auch noch eine Option gewesen.

      So hat mein damaliger Chef als auch eine Ausbildungsstätte in Japan über Briefe an das Immigration Office bestätigt, dass ich perfekt Englisch kann und der erneute Antrag wurde dann angenommen. Die darauffolgenden Jahre waren dann kein Problem mehr, weil ein Visum ERNEUERN in der Regel ganz leicht geht. Da wird nicht erneut alles nachgeprüft. ;)

      Es war also ein Sonderfall. Es hätte auch schiefgehen können. Später habe ich auch gemerkt, dass es stark vom jeweiligen Immigration Office und Beamten abhängt ……
      Man braucht also eine Portion Glück oder jemand mit Beziehungen, wenn man die Visum-Voraussetzungen anderweitig nicht erfüllen kann. :/

      So, ich hoffe, das war jetzt verständlich. ;)

      • Vielen Dank für die ausführliche Antwort! :)
        Ich dachte mir schon, dass es warscheinlich nicht so einfach gegangen ist mit dem work visa…

        Dann würde mich aber doch noch interessieren, wie du es angestellt hast einen Job zu finden von Deutschland aus? Weil die meisten Verträge auf gaijinpot scheinen ja ein Jahr zu laufen und die Meisten erwarten, dass man vor Ort verfügbar ist für Interviews. Wenn man also jetzt nicht direkt in Deutschland eine Zusage bekommt, sondern in Japan sucht, kann man ja mit dem Working Holiday Visa einen Jahresvertrag nicht mehr erfüllen oder (also angenommen man fände nach 1,2 Monaten in Japan erst eine Stelle)?

        Nochmal vielen Dank für deinen schönen Blog! Gibst mir echt Mut! :)
        Schönen Tag noch!

        • Hallo,

          die meisten wollen, dass du bereits in Japan sein sollst, weil die Beantragung des Visums 2-3 Monate dauern kann und die Stelle oft schneller besetzt werden muss. Wenn du allerdings bereits dein eigenes Visum mitbringst, kannst du ja quasi sofort anfangen. Dann ist das kein Problem. :)
          Wir haben auch immer nur Telefon- oder Skype-Interviews mit unseren Bewerbern geführt. Das geht also ohne Probleme. ^__^

          Du kannst den Jahresvertrag schon erfüllen, du kannst ja dann versuchen dein Working Holiday Visum in ein echtes Arbeitsvisum umzuwandeln – sofern du das möchtest. Ob das klappt, ist natürlich ein anderes Problem. ^^;

  • Hello Good Day,

    Just wondering, are you still working in Japan right now? And still living here. I would love to ask more inquiries about Japan and working in Japan. I hope you could help me or give me a little hand regarding some information that would help me to stay longer here.^^.

    Thank you and hope to hear from you.

    Celine

  • Ahoi! Bin eben auf deinen Blog gestoßen und bin absolut begeistert :) Ich mach mir ein paar Gedanken um Japan und co, da mein Freund zur Zeit ein Auslandsjahr im Rahmen seines Japanisch-Studiums dort verbringt und es kommt immer häufiger das Thema “wenn ich hier her auswandere” auf den Tisch, weil er sich wirklich sehr wohl fühlt.

    Ich selbst studiere nichts Japan-bezogenes (Paläontologie) und spreche die Sprache auch nur rudimentär, weil ich sie nebenbei aus purem Interesse ein bisschen lerne. Aber ich liebe den Kerl und ich könnte mir durchaus vorstellen, eines Tages mit ihm gemeinsam dort hin zu gehen für eine längere Zeit.
    Die Frage für mich ist einfach: wie gut sind die Chancen für mich, überhaupt dauerhaft mit gehen zu dürfen? Wir sind immerhin nicht verheiratet (sein Wunsch/Plan wäre es, auszuwandern sobald er ein festes Jobangebot nach dem Studium hat) und ein Working Holiday Visa erlischt ja auch irgendwann. Ich spreche fließend englisch aber muss ehrlich sagen, dass ich meine Studienrichtung sehr mag und eigentlich gern auf dem Gebiet weiter arbeiten möchte.
    Ich kann mir vorstellen, dass es nahezu unmöglich ist, als ausländischer Wissenschaftler ohne sichere Sprachkenntnisse, dort einen Job an einem Museum/Institut zu bekommen … wäre da Sprachlehrer echt die einzige Alternative?

    Sorry für den langen Text aber ich hoffe, du kannst da vielleicht ne Aussage treffen? Es ist klar, dass man nicht “einfach mal eben so” die Entscheidung trifft auszuwandern, deswegen versuch ich mich so umfassend wie möglich über meine Perspektiven zu informieren ;)

    Liebe Grüße x Anni

    • Hallo Anni! ^__^

      Danke für das nette Kompliment.
      Ich würde an deiner Stelle auf gar keinen Fall deine Studienrichtung ändern, schon gar nicht, wenn sie dir gefällt!
      Dir steht ja vermutlich die Option eines “Working Holiday” noch offen. Das würde ich dir erstmal ans Herz legen. Dann kannst du dir alles mal in Ruhe ansehen und dort für 1 Jahr leben.
      Vielleicht gefällt es dir ja dort überhaupt nicht, aber dann kannst du immer noch überlegen, wie es weitergehen soll.

      Falls es dir doch gefällt, kannst du als nächstes mit einem Studentenvisum, die Sprache lernen, und Teilzeit arbeiten, um dir das zu finanzieren.
      Es gibt auch noch das “Dependent Visa”, aber dafür müsstest du deinen Freund dann heiraten: http://www.ac.auone-net.jp/~lawyer/dependent.html

      Man kann ja auch erstmal als Englischlehrer arbeiten und die Zeit nutzen, sein Japanisch aufzubessern. Wenn du dann gut Japanisch kannst, tun sich nochmal andere Möglichkeiten auf.

      Einfach wird das nicht und wenn dir Japan nicht so gut gefällt, wird es wohl schwierig für dich.

      Ich hoffe, ich konnte dir wenigstens ein bißchen weiterhelfen. ;)

  • Hi,
    Your blog was interesting for me since I’ve been looking for some jobs and ways to go to Japan. Well, I am from Afghanistan, and my country does not have working holiday visa. I have a bachelor degree in Liberal Arts in English and I wonder where to start.
    I will be glad to hear more from you, in how to start either visa process or job search.
    Thanks,
    Razi

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