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How to Find a Job in Japan When You Live Overseas

Getting a job in Japan when you don’t live in Japan: what’s available, how much Japanese do you need and how to apply. Introducing the “Overseas OK” button!

By 5 min read 1

So, you currently live outside Japan but are determined to live and work here in the near future. How do you make that a reality? You could pick up a Japan Rail Pass, hop on a plane, drop yourself in a big city like Tokyo or Osaka and canvas the city for a week or so, then head home and hope someone decides to sponsor your work visa. Maybe you’ll get lucky. Likely not. This sort of thing is a big gamble even in distant cities within our home country, and there is absolutely a better way.

Start here with GaijinPot Jobs—specifically, with our Overseas OK section (for jobs in Japan accepting applications from people who don’t currently live here), and apply from wherever you hang your hat.

What Jobs Can You Get in Japan from Overseas?

Do you have what it takes?

Lots. Are you a new grad looking for a chance to work in Japan and open to teaching English—the time-honored way to kick off a career here? Teaching jobs are plentiful and can take you from the snowy mountains of Hokkadio to the heat of Okinawa and everywhere in between.

Wondering if you need to be a JET? You don’t. Do you need teaching experience? Not always. How about age requirements? Perhaps you’ve heard you must be a young whippersnapper to snag a job teaching in Japan. Untrue. This humble writer came to Japan when he was 47 to teach English—anything is possible.

If teaching is not your bag, no worries, there are other opportunities. In our Overseas OK section, you’ll see everything from restaurant and hospitality work (both seasonal and ongoing), to posts in higher education, sales and marketing, positions in all imaginable types of IT careers… a vast array of recruiting positions… too many jobs to mention, really. Japan’s workplace ecosystem is as diverse as that of any country and it needs as wide a range of talent as any. And, contrary to what you may hear, employers (especially those welcome to overseas applications) can be quite open to sponsoring a Japan work visa. So, what about job requirements… of course, Japanese is required, right? Well, maybe not.

What About Japanese Language Skills?

You better study up.

The short answer as to whether you need Japanese language skills is this: It depends.

If you’re looking to land an entry-level teaching position at an eikaiwa (English conversation school) or a post with a language dispatch company in Japan, you’ll find that most schools will require either none or “basic” Japanese. How much is basic? If you’ve spent a lot of time teaching yourself Japanese, you’ve likely got enough to get you past most initial hurdles.

With other positions, Japanese language requirements vary. Recruiting firms that place more English-speaking candidates need more English-speaking recruiters, and the opposite is true when firms are placing more Japanese talent. The hospitality industry tends to look for English-speaking candidates to help tourists worldwide. However, properties focusing mainly on Japan’s world-famous onsens often pull from a local traveler base, so you’ll likely need to border on fluency to compete.

Of late, when it comes to IT-related jobs, engineering skills beat language skills hands down, and this trend (championed by foreign-owned businesses) is also beginning to make inroads into Japanese-owned firms. With engineering jobs outside of IT, many will require at least a conversational level of Japanese, if not “business Japanese.” We can help you beef up your language skills if you wish to do so.

Applying for Jobs in Japan When You Live Overseas

You’ll have more competition.

This is where we make things simple for you. Employers come to us because they know we have readers like you—people who want to live and work in Japan. So, help them find you. Set up your profile on GaijinPot, store several versions of a cover letter within GaijinPot so you don’t have to write every single letter from scratch, and get to applying.

What you should expect is this: if you’re applying for teaching jobs with a company where bringing ESL teachers to Japan is their core business, you have a four-year degree and need a work visa, you should expect your overseas application to be handled apace; these firms often need a lot of people—especially toward the end of the calendar year. Local eikaiwa jobs in competitive markets like Tokyo, however, you should consider it to be more of a long shot, as they’re likely to expect applicants to be current Japan residents.

Outside teaching, your overseas efforts will feel like applying for any other job—you’re in it like the rest of us. Tech companies in Japan tend to be open to remote talent, so your chances will depend mainly on your tech and interpersonal skills. Suppose you love language and would like to work in many game tester/localization-type positions we often feature in GaijinPot Jobs. In that case, your location overseas is also likely a non-issue. The same goes for things like medical proofreading and the occasional editing job. People will generally want to hear from you if you can turn around an assignment on deadline and are a pro. The final take? If you want to work in Japan but currently don’t live here, set up your GaijinPot jobs account and get your resume rolling. Hunt for jobs first in our Overseas OK section, then check out open positions in our other sections. Applying is half the battle.

Good luck!

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