Broadly speaking, there are two options for searching for jobs in Japan. Your can either come to Japan on a non-working visa (e.g. student visa or working holiday visa) and search during your stay, or use the internet to search from your home country.
On this page, we first introduce you to the basics of scheduling your job hunt before jumping into the job search options.
Scheduling your job hunt
Depending on how you search for jobs and what kinds of companies to apply to, you should schedule about 2-6 months for your job hunt.
As a mid-career candidate, you can apply in the same way that you would in your home country. Simply look for jobs online and apply to the positions that match your profile via e-mail or traditional mail. For a list of portal sites, see below.
Fresh graduates, on the other hand, follow a much more rigid schedule. In the next point, we explain the details.
Job Hunt Schedule for Fresh Graduates
Japanese university students start looking for jobs and attending job hunting events in their last year of university, around one year before they graduate. The traditional job hunt season is broken down into these basic steps:
- Applications (CVs, company seminars): March 1st
- Screening: June 1st
- Job Offers: September 1st
- Start of Work: April 1st
The dates given are the starting dates for each step. For example, before March 1st, member companies of the Japan Business Federation are not allowed to hold official company seminars, and the main job search portals (Rikunabi and MyNavi) go live on this day.
This system has its roots in Japan’s era of rapid economic growth and was put in place to prevent companies from approaching students too soon, disrupting their studies.
However, things have changed a bit since this schedule was first institutionalized. For example, many companies offer company tours (called 1-day internships) months ahead of March 1st. There is also a secondary hiring window in Fall/Winter (September to December).
Overall, hiring of fresh graduates in Japan is moving away from a very strict “only once each year” schedule to a more flexible model with multiple entry points throughout the year. However, many companies continue to use the classic job hunt schedule as a guideline, and most fresh graduates still start working on April 1st.
The most important thing when job hunting in Japan as a student is your graduation date. If you’re studying at a university outside of Japan, the flow outlined above could be a bit tight for you. In that case, you might want to consider starting to work not in the following year, but the year after that. You can do this by concentrating your job search efforts in the fall/winter hiring window.
You can start with the visa application procedures ahead of time by providing a date of expected graduation. Also, after graduation, you are still eligible for “fresh graduate” positions for around 2-3 years.
Searching for a job while in Japan
Being in Japan allows you access to unique opportunities that would not be open to you otherwise, such as participating in large-scale career fairs, company seminars and other events. Another upside is the ability to talk with people from eye to eye.
As a side effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of companies doing online interviews has increased in recent years. However, Japanese companies still prefer meeting with candidates in person. Depending on the company, being in Japan can give you a considerable networking advantage.
Online Job Boards and Portals
There are a wide variety of job boards, aimed at different kinds of job seekers – the main divide being mid-career professionals and fresh graduates. By having a look at listings on Japanese-language websites, you can further widen the scope of your opportunities. Below, you can find an overview of the options.
English-language job boards
- Jobs in Japan
- Work Japan
- japandev (tech jobs including design, marketing, etc.)
- tokyodev (software developer jobs)
Japanese-language job boards (mid-career)
Japanese-language job boards (fresh graduates)
Job boards aimed at fresh graduates have separate sub-sites for each year. Most of the time, two sites are open at the same time (one for the next year, and one for the year after that). When using these sites, make sure to use the sub-site for the year that matches your date of expected graduation.
In addition to online search, you can participate in career and job fairs held at real-world venues (as well as online).
At career fairs, job seekers can attend presentations at company booths and ask questions afterwards. Those who are interested in a job then hand in so-called entry sheets to enter the formal screening process. If you submit an entry sheet, the company will contact you directly after the event and give you more info about when to hand in your proper CV, job interviews, etc.
Some companies also offer so-called “walk-in interviews.” These opportunities allow you to skip the document screening stage and jump straight to a job interview (which usually comes quite late in the traditional selection process). The number of interview slots are often limited or have time restrictions, so be proactive and make sure to check in advance.
When attending a career fair, you should…
Wear a suit (even if you’re participating in an online event)
Bring a few CVs, ideally in both Japanese and English
Check the attending companies and seminar timetables beforehand
Below, you can find a list of career fairs aimed at international/bilingual job seekers.
- CFN Tokyo Career Forum
- When: June, December
- Where: Tokyo
- CFN Kyoto Career Forum
- When: July
- Where: Kyoto
- Daijob Career Fair
- When: February, March, July
- Where: Tokyo/Online
- GL Doors!
- When: March, July
- Where: Tokyo/Online
- MvNavi Job Fair for International Students
- When: March, September
- Where: Tokyo/Osaka/Nagoya/Fukuoka/Online
- MyNavi Job Fair for Students from ASEAN
- When: April
- Where: Tokyo
- Job Haku
- When: February, July
- Where: Tokyo/Online
There are also events aimed at a general Japanese audience organized by the two main job portals MyNavi and Rikunabi (see above). They are usually aimed at fresh graduates ad held a few times throughout the year, with the main focus on March/April. If your Japanese level is high enough, you can use these opportunities as well.
The final option is using a recruiting agency. Job agency services are typically free of charge for the job seeker, which makes them a relatively stress-free option.
Examples for big, English-speaking recruiters in Tokyo are Robert Walters, Michael Page, Hays Japan, Morgan McKinley, and Daijob.
In addition to the English-speaking recruiters, there are also Japanese-language options like doda, en agents, Recruit Agent, Pasona Career, JAC Recruitment, Jinzai Bank and others.
Recruiters are typically active in the mid-career job market. If you’re a fresh university graduate without any special skills or practical work experience (3+ years), it might be easier to find jobs through the above-mentioned job fairs and other evens aimed at “newcomers.”
To increase your chances, you can also search for specialized recruiters. For example, ASEAN CAREER focuses on job seekers from Asian countries.
Searching for a job from abroad
Compared to job hunting from within Japan, searching for a job for outside the country is considerably harder.
The major Japan-focused job boards (Daijob, GaijinPot, Jobs in Japan) are – of course – technically open to users from around the world. However, most companies listing jobs there look for candidates who are already living in Japan. The main reason is that they want to avoid the costs and procedures that comes with sponsoring a new visa.
Some of the job boards listed above allow you to filter for jobs that can be applied to from abroad. A new platform called Yaaay, released in 2022, allows users from all around the world to search and apply to tech jobs in Japan. Specialist websites like tokyodev or japandev also tend to offer these options.
In addition to online options, there’s a small amount of Japan-focused career forums held outside of Japan, most notably those organized by DISCO:
- Boston Career Forum*
- US Career Forum
*The online version of the Boston Career Forum is open to all applicants regardless of nationality or current place of residence.
In the past, DISCO has also held venue events in Shanghai, London, and Los Angeles.
Last, but not least, there’s one other way to a job in Japan: An internal transfer. For this approach, you first join a company in your own country that has offices in Japan, and transfer to the Japanese branch later.
On the plus side, internal transfers don’t require you to know Japanese right from the start. Also, in many cases your salary will be considerably higher upon moving (compared to starting out in Japan).
On the flipside, internal transfers are a long-term approach – they require you to acquire you a few years’ worth of work experience in your home country first. This makes them not an option if you want to move to Japan in the near future.
Also, a company having an office in Japan doesn’t necessarily mean that you can transfer there, even if you learn and master Japanese. The decision to send you overseas will depend on company resources, HR decisions, and other external factors.