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What are the options for a foreigner with limited Japanese knowledge? 



Man doesnt look very enticing at all. What about teaching English? 

my bro lives and works in japan.  that's a site he recommended.  there are probably sites for teaching english.

Ceki Volunteer Staff

I've heard mostly bad things and that it is not a good idea if your Japanese is already limited. Unless you are on a very high position in a foreign company (not Japanese), I heard not so inspiring stories about assimilating in the society and employee's treatment of workers.

Teaching positions can be found on sites like:

But if you're looking for a more specific position such as an ALT then you can try these:
JET Programme (if applications are still open for your area)

This website, Gaijinpot, is really helpful. I will tell you that my teacher gave me advice telling me that even if you don't want to teach English, it is a way to put your foot in the door and get some experience in Japan. While there you can learn and research more about the language, country, and culture and see what kind of jobs you can get.

You can work in little combini stores like Family mart, Lawson.

I see many foreigners working there and their Japanese is very limited.

You can work in convenience stores etc, but only if you are already in Japan with a valid visa of some kind (for example student visa with a special working permit). 

I'd say teaching English is probably your best option - if you are a native English speaker ('native level' won't cut it). Otherwise it might prove difficult to find a teaching position with good working conditions, and you really don't want to end up, say, in rural area if your Japanese is poor.

It's hard to answer a question so broad and having no idea about your background. Have you graduated from university? Are you in university? If you have graduated what work do you do right now? Do you want to live and work in Japan for your life? Or is this "yeah I just want to experience it for a little bit"?

I don't need anything super specific but it would be good if we could know "oh I'm in my 1st year of university in engineering (or Japanese literature or pre-med)" we could suggest "then look for an exchange to a university in Japan for your 2nd or 3rd year if possible".

English teacher is probably the easiest and realistic for most people but it's not a job you would want for your career.

If your goal is longterm work in Japan:

I don't want to say give up that dream but I think you should ask yourself some tough questions about why you want to work in Japan. If it's at all financially possible - I would look at a vacation there first where you give the place an honest look and decide "do I want to stake my entire future on this place even if it's likely I will not succeed". The deck of cards will be stacked against you trying to work in Japan. It will be against you succeeding in Japan if you somehow get a job there.

Personally I can't see myself ever risking that much on any country let alone a place like Japan. 

Some options that could potentially get you work in Japan but still provide you with a "safe" career: researcher/professor at a university, diplomat, public accounting, finance and many other professional white collar jobs (at large multinational firms with offices in Japan of course).

I understand I'm being negative and pessimistic in the eyes of some people but I think I'm being a realist. The vast majority of people who live in foreign countries do return home.  There is very little opportunity to advance in the foreign country where you are not a native speaker and frankly - you miss home. 

I would say the same thing to anyone who said "I really want to work in Italy" or "I really want to work in Spain" or South Korea or anywhere else. Language barriers are a big deal and they will stop you from advancing in your career. You will feel isolated and lonely at times.

Now some people do stay. The return rate is not 100%. But it would be better if you could figure out beforehand just how committed you are.

Thank you for the all the advice. 

I am looking to experience Japan in a slightly more wholesome manner rather than the odd vacation.  I doubt I have the credentials to make a decent living in Japan to permanently move to Japan but that can be something to consider if I really enjoy my time there. 


Thank you for the all the advice. 

I am looking to experience Japan in a slightly more wholesome manner rather than the odd vacation.  I doubt I have the credentials to make a decent living in Japan to permanently move to Japan but that can be something to consider if I really enjoy my time there. 

If English is your first language I would look at the teaching jobs then. It's not easy work and i have heard both positive and negative stories (albeit in regards to South Korea and not Japan) but it will force you to be outgoing, you will make some friends mostly with your fellow teachers. If you're a positive person it can be a great experience.

Alternatively if you don't mind a more longterm approach and you're in university - I would start trying to find internships and co-op positions with large multinational companies like say Ernst & Young if you're in accounting or Morgan Stanley in finance or WSP if you're in a more technical field like engineering. Get in early with an internship/co-op, show your value, get hired full time as soon as you graduate, work your way up and put in requests for transfers to Japan and maybe it might happen after a few years. Now I'm picking companies at random but really most giant corporations will have offices somewhere in Japan just like they would in China, Germany, America and other major economies.

I am not in university. 

i moved to a country without a job and not speaking the language.

now i speak the language but the arrogance of my initial decision never ceases to amaze me.  I'm lucky in that i can work online in my native language (after 21 years in my industry and a lot of hard work under my belt), but for most people now i think moving to a country where your language is not spoken is a fools errand.  

if you want to move to a country to assimilate, and be part of that country "in a slightly more wholesome manner than the odd vacation" I'd genuinely suggest you learn the language first.

I can probably pass JLPT N4 if I took it. I am at the point where frequent use of the language will probably benefit me more than reading a book.