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


  • Love this article, thanks for sharing!
    One question, which age do you think is going to be good to start out in Japan ? I’m 17 turning 18 in like 8 months, i really want to live in Japan and thought about taking the year between 18 and 19 to master the language where i live (Switzerland)(japanese) and go try it in Japan when i’m 19. c:

    • Hi Melissa,
      It depends on what you’re planning to do.
      If you want to learn the language and experience Japan, then after graduating high school might be a good time.
      If you want to work in Japan in the long run, you need to get a university degree first.
      Of course, you can do both. Why not go to Japan for a year or so to learn the language and see how life is there and then go back to your home country, go to university and move back to Japan after that?

      Good luck to you! :D

  • “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,” ME TOO :D

  • So did you get the job before you entered Japan? And if so , did you mention in the beginning that you provide your own visa? ^^

    • Yes, I did which was tremendously helpful if you are a non-native speaker of English. A lot of schools have experience with how hard it can be to get a work visa for a non-native speaker … or rather for a person that doesn’t hold a passport of an English-speaking country….. ^^;

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