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8 Side Jobs for Foreigners to Make Extra Money in Japan

As the gig economy model grows abroad, Japan’s government is now encouraging workers to take second jobs. Here’s our pick of the best side hustles for foreign workers.

By 6 min read

Shinzo Abe’s Work Style Reform policy has been causing a stir in the Japanese labor market for the last few months. In his effort to curb dangerously long work hours and remove unequal pay gaps, he is also promoting labor flexibility by encouraging workers to take secondary jobs. 

In 2015, 5.3 million Japanese worked two jobs. In 2018, this number swelled to 7.4 million, or about 11% of the total workforce, according to Lancers Inc, one of Japan’s largest online freelancer job platforms.

Guidelines and models for companies to help them embrace a gig-style economy were put in place earlier this year, along with the removal of a labor ministry rule banning second jobs without the employer’s permission. Now, employees only have to inform their bosses before taking on another gig.

In 2015, 5.3 million Japanese worked two jobs. In 2018, this number swelled to 7.4 million […]

While Japanese companies have traditionally demanded 100% loyalty and monogamous commitment from their employees, more and more are changing their outlook in order to help current staff broaden their skillset, as well as attract new workers amid a labor shortage.

With the government actively encouraging people to have second jobs or work multiple part-time jobs, if you’re open to finding a side hustle in Japan now is the time to start looking. 

Here are some of the most common, accessible and flexible side jobs for foreigners in Japan.

1. English Instructor

This may be one of the most popular side-jobs taken by foreigners living in Japan. English instructor or tutor positions are often flexible and may allow you to work from home, after regular work/school hours, or on weekends. Instructor job requirements may range from English play-time with nursery-school age children, to teaching primary or secondary school children, up to teaching business-level courses.

There’s also the private English lessons route where you teach as an independent freelancer via platforms like Hello Sensei or Eigo Pass. An Eikaiwa Cafe is another option, where English speakers will usually sit at a table at a designated café, then be joined by locals who engage in different interesting topics of conversation. Examples in Tokyo include Easy Eikaiwa or LeafCup English Café.

Potential earnings: ¥1000 – ¥6000 per hour

2. Service Staff

Eager to practice your Japanese? Interact with local and foreign customers every day during shifts at a restaurant, café, or bar. Since the service industry is one of the areas hit hardest by Japan’s labor shortage, part-timers have a variety of choices for what type of restaurant they’d like to work in. Fancy a gyoza restaurant? Spanish-Italian? What about a French Brasserie?

You’ll need conversational to business-level Japanese ability for most service staff positions, though we are seeing an increasing number of job listings for international establishments (in the big cities) that don’t require Japanese language skills. 

Potential earnings: ¥1000 – ¥1500 per hour

3. Game Localization Testers 

If you have a passion for video games, this might be the perfect side gig for you. Video game companies are often on the hunt for native speakers of a variety of different languages, to translate and test video games in their native language in the fast-growing field of game localization. Many of these positions can also be held remotely, as long as you have a computer and an internet connection. Another of the job requirements? “Extensive experience playing video games.” Check! 

Potential earnings: ¥1200 per hour

4. Freelance Translator

If you’ve been in Japan for a while and want to put your language skills to the test, translation work may be the gig for you. Japanese companies often look for a native speaker in a second language to translate Japanese documents, websites, press releases, and more into other languages. Translators may often be the liaison between foreign customers or vendors and the local Japanese company as well. If you’ve got the language skills, it’s worth updating your LinkedIn page with information in Japanese and creating a profile on a freelancer marketplace such as Gengo or CrowdWorks.

Potential earnings: Depends on project/work

5. Konbini Staff

Another popular side hustle in Japan is to work at konbini (convenience stores), which are found in every corner of the country. Konbini are in the midst of a foreign recruitment drive, with the four largest brands employing more than 50,000 gaijin staff in total. Often, you can work as little or as much as you want during a week, and in some cases, you can bring home the leftover food!

lt’s possible to take a part-time position at a konbini for their graveyard shifts or after regular work hours, too. You’ll need decent enough Japanese to be able to interact with managers and customers. Take a look at the recruitment pages for Lawson and 7-Eleven for an idea of what it’s all about.

Potential earnings: ¥800+ per hour (varies by store and by region)

6. Uber Eats Delivery Rider

As Uber Eats gains traction in Japan (while Uber itself can’t get a foothold) more delivery drivers and cyclists are needed to transport food around Japan’s big cities. The hours are flexible, you are your own boss, and if you choose to cycle, you can get a lot of exercise too. Pay is based on how many deliveries you make and you’ll need to sort yourself out with the proper bicycle insurance. Uber Eats is available in Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Aichi, Kyoto, Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka, and it’s easy to get started as a delivery driver. If you want to go directly with a company, delivery jobs with Domino’s Pizza, KFC and McDonald’s are open to foreign workers as well.

Potential earnings: ¥700 – ¥1800 per hour

7. Go-Kart Tour Guide

Put your driving skills to good use by becoming a part-time Go-Kart Tour Guide with X-Cart (formerly known as MariCar) and live out your childhood fantasies. This uniquely Tokyo job has got to be one of the coolest in Japan. It combines go-karts, funny costumes, working outdoors, and driving by the highlights of Tokyo every day. You’ll need either a Japanese driver’s license or international driving permit to apply to this one.

Potential earnings: ¥1000 – ¥1100 per hour 

8. J-Blogger or Vlogger

Monetize your own day-to-day Japanese experiences and adventures by starting a blog or vlog about your journey in Japan! It’s not uncommon for social media influencers to be able to make significant income using the power of the internet. Make money from creating sponsored content, placing ads, offering services, or using affiliate links to hotels and tours. 

Our very own GaijnPot Blog is always looking for creative people to help contribute content across its media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Get in touch with the team via the contact form.

Potential earnings: Varies

Before you jump into a side gig

jumping in GIF by America's Funniest Home Videos

  • Do be cautious of the risks around karoshi, meaning “death by overwork.” Some argue that encouraging people to take second jobs will only undermine government efforts to cap overtime working hours. Always prioritize your health and make sure your weekly hours are manageable for you.
  • Check with your current employer whether they allow you to work a second job. Some companies may still contractually not allow this, including exchange programs such as JET.
  • Be mindful of your visa requirements around how many hours you are permitted to work, and how many jobs you are allowed to hold. If your visa only permits one main job, you may have to apply for an “Application for Permission to Engage in Activity other than that Permitted under the Status of Residence Previously Granted.” For more information on visas in Japan, check out our section on Visas and Status of Residence on the GaijinPot 101.

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