Do you love gadgets, Japanese comics or animated film? Are you a culture vulture? Or do you hear Japan and think of skiing and snowboarding? If your answer is yes, it is unlikely you would be satisfied with a ‘been there, done that’ whirlwind trip around Japan. To immerse yourself in the Japanese way of life, a working holiday or gap year is the smartest option.
Living and working in Japan will allow you the time to absorb the language, have authentic experiences (rush-hour train travel in Tokyo, anyone?), enjoy the food, see the sites at your leisure and witness fascinating traditions such as a tea ceremony or a sumo wrestling match.
A working holiday in Japan doesn’t appeal to everyone. There are three main reasons why people don’t choose Japan as their first overseas working holiday destination. They believe Japan is very expensive, they don’t speak the local language and the only work opportunity available is Teaching English.
Yes, Japan can be very expensive if you continuously live like a tourist. As for speaking Japanese, many Japanese learn English and are very eager to practice with you. And work, you will discover there are other work opportunities besides teaching English.
The Working Holiday Visa
As of 2nd November 2017 Japan has working holiday agreements with 19 countries/regions:
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Republic of Korea, France, Germany, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Spain and Argentina. To participate you must satisfy a number of requirements including: Residing in your own country when applying; Intend primarily to holiday; Be aged between 18 and 30 years of age inclusive at time of application (some applicants must be between 18 and 25 years inclusive); Possess reasonable funds for the maintenance of your stay; Be in good health. For more details and to apply contact your nearest Embassy or Consulates-General of Japan in your own country/region. You can find more details at www.mofa.go.jp
Types of Work
The largest source of employment for gaijin is to teach English. There are two options: you can organise a job before you arrive or you can find one on arrival. Many first-timers organise one before they arrive cause they are guaranteed a position and accommodation is usually included. And you will enter under a sponsored work visa rather than the working holiday visa. The only thing is you are committed to your sponsor where with the working holiday visa you can choose who you wish to work for.
Having a TEFOL qualification will give you an edge to finding a teaching position. Most find a position in an Eikaiwa private English conversation schools of which there are around 8,000 of. Many are part of chains such as www.aeonet.com, www.berlitz.com, www.saxoncourt.com.
You may consider applying to come on the JET Program www.jetprogramme.org as a teaching aid or sports co-ordinator.
If teaching isn’t your scene there are other options. The snow fields in Japan are a hot destination and many come to the slopes to ski and snowboard. All sorts of jobs present themselves in the mountains. Hospitality staff in the resorts are required and ski and snowboard instructors are required.
Depending on your Japanese language skills you could find a position in accounting, banking, hospitality and retail. There may be work at a theme park such as Tokyo Disneyland, translating and interpreting, busking, hostels or you could WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) www.wwoofjapan.com.
It is advisable to have accommodation organised for your arrival. I would suggest at least 2 weeks, cause by the time you have gotten over any jetlag, done some sightseeing and got your bearings, the two weeks will probably be up. There is lots of short-term accommodation available. Hostels are a great option cause you will be surrounded by like-minded travellers. Compare and book your hostel with Hostel World.
If you don’t have any longer term accommodation sorted then the gaijin press might be helpful, check out www.gaijinpot.com to find yourself an apartment.
Once you have the two main things sorted: a job and a place to live you can then start to immerse yourself in your new found life. Japan can be a frustrating and confusing place when you are newly arrived, but once you begin to learn the Japanese way of doing things, Japan can be a very friendly and enjoyable place. Culture shock is, afterall, part of immersing yourself in another country.
About the Author: Sharyn McCullum arrived in Tokyo for a working holiday. Being tall and blonde she found it a little scary but soon got her head around the culture and had the time of her life. She currently calls Melbourne home.