Many people want to come to Japan but feel that a vacation is too short for them to really get a good grasp of what life is like here. At the same time, committing to a long-term contract or nine-to-five position in a traditional Japanese company seems like too much. A working holiday visa provides the perfect compromise: a year of legit residency that will allow you to immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle without committing to anything permanent.
The challenge with working holidays
The hard part with a working holiday is that it’s all too easy to put the emphasis on either the “working” or the “holiday” only. Jobs at English schools often make it hard for teachers to take time off, while seasonal work at outdoor resorts is always limited to a few months of intense work followed by time-off with no income.
There is, however, a very cool job that runs year round but still gives you the freedom to explore Japan. And it just so happens that you might have heard of it.
Work at MariCar — no go-kart experience required
‘I’m always smiling when I’m doing it,’ says Australian Kelsey, a MariCar go-kart guide in Akihabara.
“You feel like a celebrity. Everyone’s waving at you, everyone’s taking photos. You have a lot of enthusiasm for the group and they’re always so excited and happy to be doing it too, so you just bounce off each other. Pretty much the whole tour you’re smiling and excited.”
MariCar was established three years ago and is the leading company in its industry. What industry is that you ask? Why the go-kart tour-while-wearing-crazy-costumes business, of course. MariCar offers its customers the chance to drive around the most vibrant parts of Tokyo while dressed as your favorite Disney, Marvel or video game character.
Of course, the key to this whole experience is the tour guide who ensures that everyone has a great (and safe) time.
MariCar is currently recruiting new tour guides, especially English-speaking ones, to work in its seven branches across Tokyo. Located in Shibuya, Asakusa, Akihabara, Shinagawa or Tokyo Bay, different branches offer specialized tours for that particular neck of the woods. Guides will be consulted about what store they are assigned to and the company does its best to put you in the store closest to your living situation, as well as helping you if you want to relocate.
When Mike, a guide from New Zealand, first moved to Japan, the company was really helpful: “They offered me a position in a branch close to my new apartment, and gave me days off when I needed to move stuff in,” he says.
It’s a great fit for anyone who likes to work outside, drive and exercise their people skills. There’s no Japanese language requirements or any previous experience required. As long as you have a good attitude and an international driver’s license, you’re good to go.
Earn cash and make friends
Of course, you’ll be able to collect quite a few coins along the way with a MariCar salary of between ¥960 and ¥1,100 per hour (part-time) or ¥200,000 to ¥300,000 per month (full-time). What’s really great for someone with a working holiday visa is that you can tell the company what days you’re free and they’ll try to work around your schedule. This means you’ll have plenty of time for galavanting all around this beautiful country and getting the full Japan experience.
The atmosphere of each store is super fun, friendly and informal. All the employees are welcoming and eager to help you get started. In addition to bilingual Japanese staff, MariCar employs people from a wide variety of countries — meaning you’ll be able to easily make new friends, both Japanese and international.
For Kelsey, the close staff community is one of the best parts of the job. “Everyone’s so happy to learn from us and for us to learn from them,” she said.
So by driving a MariCar, you’ll be able to experience some cultural exchange and brush up on your Japanese — or maybe another language.
What it’s like to work as a MariCar tour guide
You’ll start your day at your branch preparing for tours, checking the customer list and inspecting the carts to make sure everything is ready for the day.
Guides are then assigned to go out on two to four tours per day traveling through all the best sights of Tokyo including Rainbow Bridge, the Imperial Palace, Akihabara and Tokyo Skytree.
“You’re going to see a perspective of Tokyo you haven’t seen yet,” says Mike.
You’re going to see a perspective of Tokyo you haven’t seen yet
Guides get quite a bit of training before they start. In addition to learning how to fix the carts and other aspects of the job, newbies will drive with more experienced guides along the course to learn it before they feel comfortable enough to join an actual tour and, finally, lead one on their own. Once they’re ready, the guides will direct the group along the route taking pictures and making sure that everyone drives safe.
Even though the route is the same every time, each tour has a different character because of the customers — things never get boring. Kelsey says that they get all types of people from a lot of different cultures and countries.
“It’s a great way to meet people from different places in the world.”
At the end of your stay, if you decided that you enjoy driving around in a go-kart dressed as the world’s most famous cartoon mouse (and who wouldn’t), MariCar is willing to sponsor employees for regular work visas and offers long-term careers for those interested. If you’re planning on staying in Japan, you can work your way up to being a store manager. The company offers a clear pay-raise structure, possible housing support, full social security and travel expenses.
“I really couldn’t say anything bad about this job,” Kelsey says with a smile.
Mike couldn’t either: “Yeah, it’s really a dream job,” he adds.
So what are you waiting for? Speed on over to the job page and check it out!