As you’re probably already aware, Japan is a very unique place. No where else in the world will you find the same outrageous opportunities to make money that are open to just about anyone.
The most common job for new foreigners is teaching English. Despite the thousands of English schools and 12 years of study at school, the English level in Japan remains at lower intermediate, ensuring strong demand for teachers. Every type of class and situation exists from Elementary schools right through to Flight Attendant Colleges. It can also be a great way into a previously non-existent position. I know of one teacher at a top Advertising agency who later became an English copywriter. He had no experience whatsoever in copywriting, they just liked him and enjoyed his lessons.
Without a doubt, the epicenter for entertainment work is Tokyo. There are around 60 major freelance agencies that offer all kinds of work to foreigners living in the area. It is not uncommon for first timers to walk into $1000 plus jobs, while their friends back home fight over $120 extras work. Experience is not expected – simply being foreign and having the right look is enough. In fact, most highly skilled dancers and actors would be appalled at how easy it is to get work and how the jobs are selected. Actual talent is very rarely considered – it is all about the look.
In many ways, the entertainment scene in Tokyo is a big break and a way to escape the comfort zone and limitations of home. Many foreigners living in Japan, doing the work, return home to find their friends are just as broke as they were 5 years ago, fighting over the same tiny piece of the entertainment pie, hoping desperately for a break. They are not seeing that Tokyo is that break! Ewan McGregor, Edward Norton, Ashley Judd and Cameron Diaz are among some of the current stars to have worked in Japan.
Japan was long considered one of the best places for working Dancer/hostess types in the world. Whilst it still can be very lucrative, the rules have changed regarding visas. Whereas once a 90 tourist visa was adequate, immigration crackdowns have led to the introduction of entertainment visas for all women employed in the industry. The Japanese culture remains one of meetings and drinking, and corporate types still prefer to do both in the company of attractive, polite, western women. In the past, women simply had to be attractive and turn up, now they need to be just as adept at being charming in order to make the big money.
The white wedding business is huge in Japan. It is the most popular type of ceremony from Sapporo to Okinawa and all those weddings create a demand for clean cut pastors to conduct the 20 minute ceremonies. In some cases, 20,000 yen for the 20 minute ceremony and performing 20-30 per month on the weekends is normal, making this one of the best ways to make yen. There are some properly ordained ministers out there, but for the most part, basic Japanese and rudimentary training is all it takes to move one man from the classroom to the pulpit.
The Headhunting industry in Tokyo continues to flourish unabated. New companies emerge quarterly and are still able to bill fees of 30 – even 35% in some cases. Most of the “recruiters” start out teaching English and usually have very little in the way of professional experience. As English speakers though, they are considered to be experts in dealing with foreign companies, which is more than enough to qualify them for the job. Here you will find recruiters – both male and female making 6 figures when many would struggle to hold down simple jobs back home. This truly is an extraordinary opportunity open to anyone with some professionalism and knowledge of Japan.
Japanese language skills.
For teaching English and Headhunting, Japanese is almost not required at all. Speaking with the students in Japanese is strongly discouraged – they are there to learn English after all, and in Headhunting, 95% of the candidates need to be effective communicators in English. That leaves Wedding Ministers – the ceremony is read in Japanese, dancing/hostessing – where some basic Japanese will be looked upon favorably and Acting/modeling/voice overs, where in most cases there will already be a translator and the pronunciation of 10 words in Japanese is more important that speaking ability.
An active interest in Japanese culture and the language will assist in daily life, but for the people simply interested in Japan as a way to make as much money as possible, it is simply not required.