English Jobs in Japan - 4 Careers Without Japanese

Japan is an ideal country to live and work in. With the world’s third-largest economy, relatively low cost of living, a high degree of public safety, and many entertainment options, it draws many not just for travel but for finding jobs. If you want to use English in your job in Japan, what are your career options?

This article explores four common job options where you can speak and use English regularly. It is not necessary to have a high level of Japanese. Read to learn about teaching positions, tech jobs, writing and creative fields, and working in hospitality and customer service.

With the demand for English speakers continuing to rise in Japan in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, English teaching is a career that is easy to get started in. It is one of the most common in Japan for non-Japanese, foreign workers who use English.

With ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) programs like JET and Interac, as well as eikaiwa (English conversation) teaching, there are many choices to consider when searching for a teaching job in Japan. Direct hiring, meaning you would work for a school or educational institution, also occurs at schools and universities. It is advisable to keep your options open.

Note that you do not need to have a teaching license in many cases--just a college or university degree and a passion for helping others learn English.

Compensation and benefits vary by institution, with the JET Program considered to have the best opportunities for pay, vacation days, and workload. Eikaiwa teaching generally has more irregular hours, with classes for students in evenings and on weekends.

There are also certain teaching positions that do not require high levels of Japanese. These include working at universities in Japan. Seminars and lectures conducted in English are common at public and private schools throughout the country, like Tokyo University, Waseda University, and Kyoto University. If you have teaching experience and advanced credentials, this is another opportunity to consider.

Engineering, programming, and tech jobs are in high-demand in Japan. This means your skills are more important than Japanese language ability. In addition, depending on the company, your coworkers will be able to understand and communicate in English well, too.

If you have the technical skills and ability to learn and adapt to different codes and projects, you’ll have a relatively easy time finding a position.

Note that larger companies will have more support and international resources than smaller businesses. This means it may be an easier work environment to adjust to.

The creative fields, including writing, art, and film, do not require a very high level of Japanese, either, and can be done in English. In 2019, the demand for travel writers and art in all forms from an overseas perspective is something that much of Japanese society and businesses need.

Ideas for pursuing creative job paths are just like in other countries. If you like writing, start a blog or be proactive in contacting online magazines or websites to write for them. If you do art, reach out to local businesses and offer your services. Another option is to build a career in photography and film-making. To start, contact friends and acquaintances about doing photo shoots or making videos.

This form of career involves a lot of self-motivation and persistence, however, as there likely will be much freelance work involved. Make sure you have a resume and portfolio ready to show potential clients and businesses when the opportunity comes.

The last area to consider is in the hotel and hospitality industry, and at other small businesses, including cafes, restaurants, and shops in Japan.

With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, more travelers are coming from overseas. Over 1.5 billion people use and speak English, making it critical for hotels and businesses to have fluent speakers on-call.

Hotel reception job openings are common in Japan, with most requirements being based around language and your attitude. Even if you don’t have much working experience, it is possible to get into this career path. Jobs at local businesses and restaurants are also in demand.

Have you ever gone to a Starbucks and seen a non-Japanese employee? It is common to see international residents working in these customer-related positions. Some of these positions are part-time and others are full-time.

Japan is not known for having many advanced English or foreign language speakers, making it seem difficult to work without high Japanese skills. However, there are many options that do not require Japanese, and which you can use English in.

From teaching to tech jobs, to artistic careers and working in customer-relations, you can be successful in finding and advancing in a position of your choice in Japan.

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