Skip to main content

Life in Japan: The Q&A

Visa application and requirements for work

First, you need to find an employer in Japan who is going to help you with acquiring your visa (a so-called “visa sponsor”).
Once you and your future employer have come to an agreement, head to the Japanese embassy in your home country. There, you complete the necessary paperwork to acquire a landing permission and a status of residence.

The length of the process depends on your sponsor company, your visa type and the number of applications the immigration bureau is dealing with at the time. A conservative estimate for the whole process is 3-4 months.

No, but Japanese language skills give you access to bigger number of job opportunities.
Common job types that require little or to Japanese are English teaching and IT engineering (coding, software development, etc).

The type of work you're allowed to do is regulated by your visa type. In terms of immigration, Japan puts a focus on highly-skilled individuals.

Working visas are typically not issued for so-called "unskilled" work that does not require a university degree (ex. cashier, construction worker, hairdresser). Exceptions are jobs covered by the "Technical Intern" and "Specified Skilled Worker" visas.

A university degree is a standard requirement for many jobs in Japan because it makes it easier for employers to sponsor a working visa.
One major exception is the Specified Skilled Worker visa, which allows foreigners from certain countries to work in specific fields even if they don’t have a degree.

Going to university and getting a degree in Japan doesn’t automatically increase your chances of getting a job.

However, staying in Japan long-term for a longer period of time before starting to work enables you to accustom yourself to the culture and master the language.

In that sense, going to university in Japan is an advantage. The same is true for long-term language school courses.

Searching and finding jobs

The most foreigner-friendly industries are language education (especially English teaching), IT (software development, network engineering etc.), and hospitality (hotels, restaurants).

However, due to Japan’s decreasing population and young worker shortage, more and more industries are considering non-Japanese candidates.

Search for jobs on portals that are specializing in jobs for foreigners in Japan like Daijob, Gaijinpot, Jobs in Japan or japandev.

You can also attend job fairs aimed at foreign job seekers, like Disco’s bi-annual Career Forum, or contact job agencies.

As a fresh university graduate, you should plan in about 3-4 months at the very least. Make sure to check out the dates for big job hunt events etc. beforehand.

If you already have some work experience (3+ years) or have skills that are in high demand, it’s possible to find a job in a shorter time.

You can look for and apply to jobs from outside Japan.

However, searching in Japan will present you with more opportunities in the form of career fairs and other networking events.

Yes, you can attend company seminars or even job interviews on a short-term visitor visa.

However, it’s generally not possible to convert your tourist visa into a working visa while on a short-term stay. You have to return to your home country, complete the necessary procedures, and then come to Japan again.

For fresh graduates, the recruitment process starts with company seminars and so-called entry-sheets.

Next, applicants hand in their proper CVs and are sometimes required to take aptitude tests before advancing to the job interview stage.

Typically, there will be 2-3 interviews with the applicant before a decision is made. The whole process can take up to 6 months.

For fresh university graduates, the traditional job-hunting season starts on March 1st each year.

Because of the density of events in March and April, spring is a good time to look for jobs.

In recent years, the fresh graduate job market has been gradually changing to a year-round system. Now, there are also additional job hunt opportunities in summer, fall and winter.

Everyday Work

In 2020, the average annual salary in Japan (across all job types and industries) was 4.09 million JPY (37,200 USD). For more info, check out our page about wages and salary in Japan.

Traditional characteristics of Japanese work culture are strong hierarchies, high appreciation for politeness and proper etiquette, as well as a focus on the group over the individual.

However, work and business culture heavily depends on the company. There are also companies with flat hierarchies, a casual atmosphere etc.

According to openwork, the average amount of overtime in Japan is currently fluctuating around 24 hours per month in 2021. Overtime hours heavily depend on occupation and job type.

High-skilled professions like IT engineer tend to have lower amounts of overtime except for periods of “crunch time.”

Yes, foreigners in Japan can do freelance work by registering a sole business proprietorship.

However, since there is no “freelancer visa,” you will have to acquire a regular working visa first.

For most foreigners, this means that their first working visa is going to be sponsored by a company hiring them as a regular employee.


Living expenses depend on the area you live in as well as your personal lifestyle. Expenses are highest in the 23 wards of Tokyo and other big cities like Nagoya and Osaka.

Living in the countryside tends to be cheaper, but also comes with lower wages.

For everyday life (shopping, talking to people in casual settings, going to the doctor), the minimum level to aim for is JLPT N3. For work in a Japanese-speaking environment, JLPT N2 is often the minimum requirement – some companies even ask for N1.

Many foreigners choose share houses as their first accommodation in Japan.

Rooms are usually fully furnished, relatively cheap and don't require a lot of time (or Japanese skills) to rent. For more info, read our guide on finding accommodation in Japan.