Japan's blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge technology offers workers the potential for career advancement and the opportunity to experience a unique culture

Japan has long been a popular tourist destination for those seeking a unique cultural experience. Visitors can expect to explore Japan's magnificent gardens, marvel at the traditional geisha dance, and savour its world-famous cuisine.

The Japanese government has introduced several initiatives to attract and retain foreign workers. For example, they have expanded the list of eligible occupations for the Working Holiday Visa program and created a new visa for highly skilled workers.

The cost of living is higher in major cities such as Tokyo, but these bustling urban areas also offer a vibrant expat community and a sense of belonging.

Learning Japanese before arrival is certainly beneficial, but there are also many opportunities to take language courses once you arrive. Getting around Japan is also easy and affordable, thanks to highly efficient public transport. During your free time, you can catch the bullet train to the volcanic island of Kyushu or travel north to Hokkaido, a popular ski and snowboarding destination.

For the latest guidance on entering Japan for work, see GOV.UK - Foreign travel advice - Japan.

Jobs in Japan

Japan is home to some of the world's leading companies in technology, such as Sony, Toyota, and Panasonic. If you are interested in working in a cutting-edge field, Japan is a great place to be.

Other major Japanese industries include:

  • agriculture
  • consumer products (electronics)
  • manufacturing (mining)
  • information technology
  • pharmaceuticals
  • services (banking, retail, telecommunications)
  • tourism
  • transport (aerospace, automobiles, shipbuilding).

Most overseas workers from Europe are transferred from a multinational company in their own country that has a presence in Japan - such as Unilever, Nissan, and IBM.

The 10 biggest technology corporations in Japan in 2023, according to Disfold, are:

  • Keyence Corp
  • Sony Group Corporation       
  • Tokyo Electron Ltd                 
  • Murata Manufacturing Co. Ltd
  • Renesas Electronics Corp        
  • Panasonic Corp            
  • Advantest Corp
  • Canon Inc.       
  • Fujitsu Ltd
  • NTT Data Corp

When looking for English-speaking jobs, these will mostly be based in Tokyo, the commercial centre of the country. You might also find work in Osaka, Kanagawa, Bin and Shinagawa.

Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is one of the main ways to secure employment in Japan.

You can search for jobs in Japan at:

Popular graduate jobs

  • Commerce and trading
  • Food service
  • IT service
  • Manufacturing
  • Non-manufacturing
  • Tourism

How to get a job in Japan

If you have not been able to secure a secondment from a company in your own country, you will almost certainly need to have a strong grasp of Japanese before applying for work. This is especially true if you are applying for permanent roles at Japanese companies.

To apply for jobs, your CV should ideally be translated into Japanese. Be aware that it will take a different format than you may be used to. For example, a Japanese CV typically contains personal information, such as age, gender, and marital status.

Job interviews in Japan are strict, and formal and follow set protocols. It's therefore important to be aware of what's expected of you. For instance:

  • you must dress conservatively and formally
  • you knock on the door three times before entering the room and shouldn't sit down until you're told to
  • you may be expected to bow before sitting down
  • a candidate's personality is often viewed just as highly as their skills and qualifications
  • the interview could last for an hour to an hour-and-a-half
  • it's possible you'll be questioned by  a large panel of native Japanese speakers.

Japanese workers traditionally stay with the same company for most of their careers and view their coworkers almost like family. As a result, interviewers may ask detailed questions about your motivation for applying to work for them and your hobbies and interests.

If you are unsuccessful in your job search, there are organisations available to help you find temporary work and secure a one-year working holiday visa in Japan. To be eligible for BUNAC's Work Japan programme, you'll need to be a UK or Irish passport holder, aged 18-30, and looking to work in Japan for up to 12 months. The program provides support in converting your CV into Japanese and finding a job, as well as the opportunity to learn Japanese.

Summer jobs

If you're considering working in Japan for the summer (typically June-September), there are several summer job opportunities available for foreign workers, including:

  • Holiday resort worker - as a beach resort worker, sales assistant, summer camp leader, etc.
  • Teaching English - in a school or privately.
  • Casual hospitality work - in bars, restaurants, and hotels.
  • Volunteering - to expand your skillset and gain valuable work and life experience. Keep in mind that you will need to save up to fund this type of trip.

Specialist organisations advertising summer work opportunities in Japan include:

  • boobooSKI - representing various providers of ski and beach resort jobs, you could choose to work in Okinawa while enjoying the summer weather. Options are available from April to October.
  • One World 365 - offers the chance for 18-30 year olds to work or volunteer in Japan during the summer, winter or for an entire year.

Teaching jobs

English teaching jobs are one of the most popular sources of employment for native English speakers in Japan, especially in large urban areas like Tokyo. You could work as a high school teacher, teach English at a private school, or even offer private lessons.

While you don't need a teaching degree to teach English in Japan, you will need to be a confident English speaker and ideally hold a recognised teaching English as a foreign language certificate, such as TEFL or IELTS. Learn more about these qualifications at Teach English Abroad.

Search for teaching vacancies at:


The Japanese government is keen to promote internships as a way for companies to benefit from the expertise of foreign students. Internships provide valuable experience in Japanese business practices and enhance your language and communication skills.

Students enrolled at Japanese universities have the most opportunities for internships during their spring and summer academic breaks, as well as after graduation. Learn more about internships for foreign students at Study in Japan - Internship.

If you're based in a country within the European Union (EU), you can explore internships with Japanese businesses at the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation.

Japanese internships can also be arranged by the following organisations:

  •  Absolute Internship - a summer internship programme based in Tokyo for English-speaking students and graduates, with employment options in areas including business development, finance and marketing.
  • AIESEC UK - its Global Talent programme offers paid six to 12-month international internships for students and recent graduates.
  • CRCC Asia - an organiser of internship programmes in Osaka and Tokyo.
  • Go Overseas - browse internship programmes across Japan.
  • IAESTE - for full-time science, engineering, technology and applied arts students working towards a Bachelors or Masters. These paid placements usually last for between eight and 12 weeks during the summer but can be longer at other times of the year.
  • Internship in Japan - this Tokyo-based provider organises business, creative and technical internships through a network of over 300 companies. These range from 3-4 weeks to 21-24 weeks at any time of year. You can also learn Japanese at its partner language school while you work.
  • Internship Japan - a voluntary organisation helping those from overseas to secure internship opportunities in Japan.
  • The Intern Group - a leading international internship provider with a programme in Tokyo for those who've completed their high school education, plus university students and graduates.

Japanese visas

If you're a British citizen, a visa is required before you can travel to work in Japan. However, the type of working visa you need depends on the length of your stay and the nature of the employment you'll be undertaking.

To take up an offer for a permanent or fixed-term position, you'll need to obtain a highly skilled professional working visa. The categories covered by this visa include:

  • artist - photographer, artist, sculptor.
  • business manager - director, owner.
  • engineer/specialist in humanities/international services - copywriter, designer, foreign language teacher, IT engineer.
  • instructor - high school teacher.
  • intra-company transferee - worker from a global company with a Japanese branch.
  • skilled labour - pilot, animal trainer, chef.
  • journalist - editor, cameraperson, newspaper journalist.
  • legal/accounting services - accountant, solicitor.
  • medical services - nurse, dentist, physician.
  • professor - university professor or assistant.
  • religious activities – bishop, pastor, monk.
  • researcher - investigator, institute researcher.
  • technical intern training - technical intern.

Before you can put forward a visa application, you're expected to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility, issued by Japan's Ministry of Justice. Your sponsor (employer) should contact their local immigration office and make the application on your behalf.

Only with a Certificate of Eligibility can you apply for a work or long-term stay visa through your country's Japanese embassy - and then you'll need to visit the embassy in person to present the following:

  • a valid passport
  • a completed and signed Visa Application Form
  • a passport photo taken within the last six months
  • an original and a photocopy of the Certificate of Eligibility.

The turnaround time on processing a visa is normally four working days, but the Certificate of Eligibility will expire three months after the date it was issued.

For more information on applying for Japanese working visas, see the Embassy of Japan in the UK.

Language requirements

English-speaking jobs in Japan are mainly advertised by multinational businesses, so to work for a traditional Japanese company, you will likely need to demonstrate fluency in Japanese. Learning Japanese will also help you to embrace the culture.

In large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto, you should be able to get by without speaking Japanese, but with English fluency rates in the country being as low as 475 on the English Proficiency Index, it is worth taking some lessons at home before you accept a job offer.

Japanese can be one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn, so you will need to dedicate time and effort to mastering the pronunciation challenges. If you plan to learn Japanese while you are living in Japan, you will find language schools in most major cities. For example, GenkiJACS is a language school based in Tokyo and Fukuoka. For information on the recognition of qualifications in Japan, see ENIC-NARIC - Japan.

What it's like to work in Japan

Japanese management style is based on group harmony, and open-plan office spaces are common. In this promotion-oriented culture, firmly rooted in a seniority system, the number of hours worked is highly valued.

While Japanese labour law stipulates a maximum of 40 hours per week (eight hours per day), employees of traditional Japanese companies may work up to 12 hours per day, with some overtime unpaid. Even then, it is socially acceptable to go for after-work drinks with colleagues.

Foreign workers are not expected or pressured to follow suit in working these longer hours. Japanese nationals often start at 9am and stay in the office until 6-7pm, usually once their manager/supervisor leaves.

However, the government is attempting to change the demands of Japanese working culture

by encouraging an early finish on the last working Friday of each month and implementing other measures to increase efficiency and ensure a better work-life balance.

With a five-day working week from Monday to Friday, the daily rush hours in busy cities are usually 7-9am and 5-8pm. During these times, public transport will be crowded.

Holiday entitlement in Japan is relatively low and typically depends on the length of employment. Workers are entitled to a minimum of 10 paid vacation days each year, with an average of 18.5 days. However, very few employees take up their full allotment. There are also 16 public holidays, which often fall on either side of a Saturday or Sunday.

If you are considering taking a position with a Japanese firm, your holiday entitlement should be clearly stated in your contract.

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