Teaching English at cram schools is the most common job for foreign workers. A bachelor degree in any field is the minimum requirement. It’s a crowded market and doesn’t usually pay very well, but there are almost always jobs available. It offers invaluable life experience as well. Without proper teaching credentials in their home country, foreign workers can’t teach at public schools except under the Japanese government’s JET program.
Many Japanese companies hire foreign IT professionals, such as software engineers and programmers, making this the second most common job foreigners take in Japan. They’ll be quick to tell you they could make more money somewhere else but were drawn to Japan for their own reasons. Usually, very little Japanese ability is required to work in this field.
There is always a need for translation and interpreting, and not just for Japanese to English but for many other languages too. Most of these jobs are in the gaming industry, where game localization and testing is needed. Translators and interpreters could also pick up freelance work, such as assisting visiting businesspersons or translating written works, if their visa allows it.
International sales managers, sales support staff, and sales representatives are some of the posts that local Japanese companies like to fill with foreign workers. These jobs are usually in companies with a global reach trying to access international markets, such as the automobile or banking industries.
If you’re American, being stationed at one of the USA’s military bases in Japan is another common way foreign workers find themselves in the country. There are more American military personnel based in Japan than there are in any other foreign country, and cities around large bases end up with large international populations. Some older locals are opposed to the excessive military presence and perform protests outside the bases on a regular basis, but most people are indifferent.
Large investment banks can afford to relocate workers or hire foreign staff, though it’s much more common to find foreign bank employees in Hong Kong and Shanghai. The banking industry also supports other well-paying roles, such as jobs in the IT sector.
As long as you have passable Japanese language skills and a valid visa (such as a spouse or Working Holiday visa), it’s possible to find work in the service industry. Jobs in the tourism industry, such as hotels and resorts, as well as restaurants and cafés in busy tourist areas, will be especially open to hiring foreign staff because their dual language skills would be an asset.
Japan is known for its advanced engineering, and companies are happy to hire foreign workers and keep the design aspect of their business onshore. Foreign engineers would mainly be needed in the automobile industry to design parts.