Trying to Move to Japan
June 8, 2005 12:12 AM   Subscribe

On June 26th I will be leaving the US for Japan and I hope to stay there for a long time. I am not worried about the language (I have been studying it at university for about 3 years and when I get to Japan I will be taking summer school courses for 6 weeks) or finding a place to live (I'm going to look into the "gaijin houses" or geshuku). My biggest concern is finding a job. I've already taught English at one of the big eikaiwas and I did not like it. Plus, teaching/speaking English for 8 hours a day does not help my Japanese. What I really want is a job where I can use my Japanese so that I can improve it. Does anyone have any general advice for finding a job like this in Japan (places to look, tests to take, etc)? Also, I've been reading up on the Japanese work visa and I've come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a big pain. As far as I can tell there are 2 ways to get a work visa: 1) get a job before you enter Japan and have the company do all the paperwork. Then, when you do enter Japan you will have your visa. 2) Find a job in Japan, return to the US for 1~2 months so that the paperwork can be processed, then return to Japan with the visa. It is a little late for #1, plus it's difficult for me to interview for jobs since I'm currently in the US. As for #2, what sort of company would hire someone who can't even start working for a month? I feel like the system is set up to deter people like me from coming and working in Japan. Anyway, if anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it.
posted by yasny_jp to Work & Money (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
yasny,jp: I was going to send you an email but you don't list one on your user page. Please use the "more inside" box on the post a question page so that your question is not so long on the front page. Good luck with your problem
posted by sic at 12:23 AM on June 8, 2005

I can't offer you advice specifically on Japan, but I can give a bit of perspective on work visas. Most countries that offer work visas require you to process them before you start working, which means going through either of the two scenarios you described. Any company that hires a foreigner most likely is familiar with this and understands that you either can't interview or alternatively will have to return to the US for a short time.

I'm not sure what the situation is like in Japan, but I know that this can make it hard for foreigners to find legitimate work abroad. You're right, the system is set up for the most part to keep all but the most determined foreigners out.

Good luck to you!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 2:04 AM on June 8, 2005

I've been reading up on the Japanese work visa and I've come to the conclusion that the whole thing is a big pain.

Catch-22? You bet. You're right that the deck is stacked against you, and they like it this way to keep the number of furyou gaijin to a minimum. And you're also right about the alternatives, except you should know that there are some companies that will "forget" to ask you about your visa (you'll probably be on a 3-month tourist visa), but these are mostly dodgy private eikaiwa (which you don't want), entertainment and construction labor jobs, where you will be at their mercy with little recourse if they decide to screw you over. I've heard it before: Construction company hires happy-go-lucky gaijin framer, first payday is in 6 to 8 weeks, the job they needed him for is finished about then, they underpay him and tell him to get lost or they'll report him to the MOJ immigration dept.

I know I wouldn't hire someone with a tourist visa for a position of responsibility, because it's illegal but moreso because there's an increased chance that I'll get burned. That's why we all had to work eikawa to get our feet in the door, excect people who were transferred to Japan by their companies. Suck it up, get hired by NOVA/GEOS/ECC and skip out as soon as they give you a visa.
posted by planetkyoto at 3:30 AM on June 8, 2005

I'm assuming you're coming over with a tourist's visa. Yeah, the visa thing is a pain, especially for us 'merkins, who can't get a Working Holiday visa for Japan. Planetkyoto's right, your best bet is to get with one of the eikaiwa until you get your visa. Then bail. It's a shitty thing to do, sure, but I figure as long as you give them a long notice, two weeks or more, they at least have a bit of time. And at this point I have very little sympathy for eikaiwa--profit definitely trumps teaching, and they probably wouldn't be in a fix if you left anyway. But you're already on your way, and don't have time to get hired stateside, so this is a moot point i guess.

I'm not sure about how easy it is to change from a tourist visa to a work visa if you're in the country. It's all about getting a sponsor.

The best place to look for jobs is the Monday Japan Times, the only day they list job ads. Also check out and and metropolis magazine.

Good luck!
posted by zardoz at 4:07 AM on June 8, 2005

Did you go to the Boston Career Forum run by Disco Intl.? If not, you should have or you ought to plan to. They have one in SF as well. That's the place to get a job before you arrive in Tokyo. If you don't have one lined up in advance, suck it up, teach eikaiwa, and get a visa, and then look for a job from in Japan.
posted by gen at 7:52 AM on June 8, 2005

Having gotten a work visa in Japan, a couple of points:
If you can find a job with a company that wants to sponsor your visa, it doesn't take 1-2 months - if they know what they are doing, they can do all their paperwork while you are still in Japan, then you can hop over to Korea, the closest country with an Emabssy/ Consulate, get your work visa (about 2-3 days - and 3 days in Seoul isn't so bad - I think you can also do it in Pusan, but I went to Seoul) and return to Japan as a legitimate worker. The company I worked for was an eikaiwa company, but I know of others who have gotten visas from other types of jobs.

Also, when you say you are not worried about the language - do you mean that you can read the newspaper? i.e. your reading and writing skills are fluent, or do you mean you want a job that requires speaking skills but little written. I had a few jobs (albeit on a working holiday visa (go Canada)) that were with Japanese co-workers. I found most through the working holiday centers, I found one just by asking around (I worked at the Seibu department store in their gift warehouse in Sapporo for a month - I was the only foreigner there, others mostly university students making extra cash)

Good luck.
posted by birdsquared at 9:05 AM on June 8, 2005

You sound like a perfect candidate to work in the international shipping arena - fluent in both the local language and the language mainly used in the industry, plus intimately familiar with the culture of the country that many goods are being shipped to.

Don't think FedEx or UPS, think freight forwarders, NVOCC's, and steamship lines. In the U.S. they are always looking for candidates such as yourself, to the point of regularly importing people or hiring people on tourist visas who want to stay. I can't vouch for Japanese companies in the industry doing your ppwk, but it happens all the time in the U.S.

With no experience in the industry, you'll likely be doing data entry and/or customer service. Helpful traits include being detail-oriented, and not getting stressed out easily, because working in shipping means ALWAYS being busy.

Good luck!
posted by vignettist at 12:34 PM on June 8, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments. I've realized I should have gotten a job with an eikaiwa and then quit, but oh well. Live and learn. Since I will be arriving on Monday, I will be sure to pick up a copy of the Japan Times and look through it.

Again, thanks everyone!
posted by yasny_jp at 3:16 PM on June 8, 2005

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