Guide to Japanese Speaking Jobs in Japan
By Joy Uetake | February 12, 2021
Finding a job in Japan can be a challenge, especially as a foreigner, but more options are available if you consider Japanese speaking jobs. Whether or not you are sure about having a Japanese speaking job or if you adamantly want to use your Japanese language skills in your job. This article will help you navigate the Japanese speaking job market.
This article is a subsection of our ultimate Guide to Jobs in Japan.
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Levels of Japanese and Experience for Japanese Speaking Jobs
Many companies who hire non-native Japanese speakers often require their applicants to pass a certain level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). Each level of the JLPT correlates to a general proficiency level (shown in the table below). This guide will focus on Japanese speaking jobs requiring conversational to fluent levels of Japanese skill (JLPT N3-N1). Not all jobs require you to pass a JLPT test and instead may just test your Japanese skills on-site or take your word for it, but these are good benchmarks to measure one’s Japanese proficiency.
JLPT Levels and Proficiency Table
|JLPT Level 5 or N5||Basic|
|JLPT Level 4 or N4||Basic|
|JLPT Level 3 or N3||Conversational|
|JLPT Level 2 or N2||Business|
|JLPT Level 1 or N1||Fluent|
For more information about the JLPT levels and the JLPT itself see the JLPT Official site’s level summary page.
Oftentimes, companies or recruitment companies using job board websites will list jobs by the level of experience needed. Job boards often use a 5-step system of career statuses (in ascending order): Entry-level, Experienced, Manager, Executive, and another level between Experienced and Executive depending on the site. A job that allows Entry-level candidates is generally asking for anyone interested in the job whether or not they have any experience doing that job. A job that requires an Experienced candidate is usually looking for someone with anywhere from at least 1-5 years of experience doing that job or a similar one. A Manager level job often requires a candidate with experience doing a similar job on a managerial or supervisor level. Jobs that require Executive level experience often require individuals with a few years of experience in the industry at a managerial or supervisor level or higher. These are just general descriptions of the experience levels companies or recruiters ask for, you should always take a good look at the requirements of the listed job just to make sure that you can meet those requirements before applying.
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Japanese Speaking IT (Information Technology) Jobs
Japan is a very technologically advanced country and is always in need of employees in the information technology (IT) field. Japan is known for its technological developments in many technology sectors, most famously, consumer electronics and automobile manufacturing. Whether it be for programming software, data analyzing, IT engineering, or something else, there will always be a need for IT professionals in Japan. IT professional jobs are often foreigner-friendly because of the abundance of positions that need to be filled.
Most Japanese speaking IT jobs will only require a business level of Japanese because of the need to translate and communicate the IT jargon with other workers of the company. However, certain companies do require a higher or lower level of Japanese depending on the job or company. Generally, companies want experienced IT professionals who know what they are doing, but occasionally companies will hire and train entry-level employees.
Software engineers will generally create, maintain, improve, and test hardware and software systems. Some responsibilities include: writing and testing code, designing software programs, updating software and systems, etc. Out of the three basic types of software engineers, front-end developers, back-end developers, and full-stack developers, there is bound to be a position for you.
As mentioned before, most IT jobs require a business level of Japanese to translate and cooperate properly with native Japanese-speakers to build, maintain, and upgrade a Japanese website. The more Japanese you know the more jobs open up to you, but if you find yourself at a conversational level, there is still a large pool of job options for you. Although most companies will require someone with experience in the IT industry, some companies will look to hire and train newly graduated candidates.
System engineers are like the immune system of the company, they keep their company’s technical infrastructure running smoothly, and if anything happens they are there to find and fix the problem. For all of the installed systems and infrastructure, some responsibilities include, keeping up to date and installing new systems or applications, and maintaining system security and efficiency. This is so that the highest levels of performance and productivity of the company’s technology are ensured.
Just like Software engineers, many jobs will require a business level of Japanese to properly communicate with Japanese-speaking co-workers about new upgrades to the system or to report problems to executives or something else. Also just like software engineers, most companies will require an experienced candidate, but some companies will seek out new university graduates to hire and train.
Unlike software engineers and system engineers who work internally, application engineers work directly with the customers. Generally, application engineers are responsible for improving existing systems or applications, designing, developing, and testing new applications, providing technical support, and analyzing and assessing the customer base. All these responsibilities are for the end goal of creating a better product or experience for the customer.
While there are conversational level jobs available, business-level Japanese tends to be the most common language requirement because of the job’s nature of working closely with customers while in Japan. It is quite rare to find an entry-level application engineer job. Most companies will ask for someone with experience in the IT field, in addition to looking for someone with good people skills.
For more information about IT Jobs see our Guide to IT Jobs in Japan.
Japanese Speaking Customer Service Jobs
Customer service jobs can be challenging, but they are a great way to practice, maintain, and improve your language skills. If you enjoy meeting and interacting with people this may be the field for you. By nature, customer service jobs are Japanese speaking jobs that require you to interact with customers daily and being in Japan, having a more advanced level of Japanese is necessary.
Any job where you have to interact with the customer or superiors requires 敬語(けいご) or respectful speech. Many part-time customer service jobs only require a conversational level of Japanese, but the more you look into the higher-end and full-time job market the level of Japanese needed shifts from conversational level to a business or fluent level of Japanese.
Hotel Front Staff/Receptionist
Hotels are often looking for Front Staff that can speak multiple languages to cater to all customers. A Receptionist’s responsibilities include, but are not limited to welcoming guests, checking guests in and out of their accommodations, making reservations, offering and suggesting information regarding the hotel and the surrounding area, etc.
A business level of Japanese tends to be the requirement of Front Staff because they need to speak in 敬語(けいご). Front Staff jobs can range from entry-level to experienced based on what the hotel is looking for. Some Hotels will exclusively ask for candidates with prior experience as a receptionist, and some hotels will accept individuals with or without experience.
For more information on Hotel Front Staff and other Hotel Jobs see our article, Guide to Hotel Jobs in Japan.
Sales representatives work directly with customers or other companies intending to sell a product or products to new or existing potential buyers. Now, why would companies hire foreigners for the job? Japan is the third-largest economy (as of January 2021) and is extremely interconnected with the other prominent, non-japanese speaking, economies of the world. The level of co-dependency of the world’s economies creates a need for Japanese companies or foreign companies operating in Japan to hire multilingual individuals. A foreigner working for a Japanese company may be preferred because a foreigner might understand the culture and language of the foreign company better than a Japanese national. An advanced Japanese speaking foreigner working for a foreign company that operates in Japan may also be considered over a Japanese national because they might be better at communicating with their co-workers and superiors.
This job often requires a Bachelor’s degree in business or a related field, and a high level of communication and charisma. The level of experience can be anywhere from entry to the experienced level depending on the company, and the level of Japanese needed is usually a business or fluent level to be able to properly and respectfully communicate to other businesses and customers in 敬語(けいご).
Sales assistants have a plethora of responsibilities to make the customer shopping experience as good as possible. This includes greeting customers, taking inventory, excellent customer service, financial responsibilities, etc. Sales assistants also require good communication skills and customer interaction to be able to properly do their job.
Good communication skills mean a business or fluent level of Japanese to be able to speak in 敬語(けいご) to customers or supervisors. Good sales assistants can influence the income of the company or store, because of this, many companies ask for an individual with experience in a customer service job, but companies that allow entry-level candidates are also abundant. Something to consider when thinking about a sales assistant is, some companies and or store locations may require their sales assistants to reach a certain quota of sales.
For more information about Sales Jobs in Japan see our article, Guide to Sales Jobs in Japan.
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Japanese Speaking Translator/Interpreter Jobs
As an English speaker in a foreign country with a booming economy, there will always be a job for you. If your language skills are advanced enough, there is a wide array of jobs as a translator, from the niche manga translator to the more serious legal document translator. In addition to the slew of job types as a translator, there are also many foreign companies operating in Japan who need translators daily. On the other hand, large Japanese companies that work with foreign companies or clients may also utilize a translator daily. Translation work is purely translating one language to the other, but interpreters and localizers are also necessary to properly convey the tone and feel of the original work so it does not get lost in translation.
As one would expect from a language-heavy Japanese speaking job, an advanced level of language proficiency and comprehension is a necessity in this field. Most jobs will require a fluent level of Japanese, but a business level of Japanese may be appropriate when working in highly specialized industries.
Commercial and Industrial Company Translator/Interpreter
Large companies and corporations that have operations both in and out of Japan will need translation work done. If these companies do not need constant translation work to be done, they may turn to translation agencies. If the company does need constant translation then they will most likely hire a translator for themselves. Translators for these companies may need to translate documents for a multitude of circumstances such as document translation for goods or services sold overseas, translation of messages to foreign companies or customers, translation of legal documents, etc.
Having to translate for a large company is a big responsibility, so knowing the correct translation is very important. These jobs most often require someone with a fluent level of Japanese. If the circumstance is right, some companies will look for or prefer someone with a business level of Japanese and knows the vocabulary of their industry. These companies will also look for those with experience as a translator so that they are not considered as a liability to the company.
Japan is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, video game and comic hubs in the world. The Japanese game and manga industries are always looking for people to translate and localize their content for overseas audiences. Game translators and localizers are responsible for translating the game’s text and dialogue without losing the tone and feel of the original Japanese version of the game into an easily understandable and fun version in another language. Similar to games, manga also requires translation and localization to properly convey the same tone and feel of the original work. Localizers are extremely important; if the text is translated just as is, it may lose the original genius of the Japanese text. This may result in low ratings and sales of the game or manga sales overseas.
Just like translating for a commercial or industrial company, a fluent understanding of Japanese is often the minimum requirement. However, someone with a business level of Japanese who can demonstrate their wit and talent with their localization skills may also be considered over a fluent candidate. Also similar to a commercial or industrial company translator, experienced workers are almost always preferred over entry-level candidates because they would most likely not be considered as a liability.
For more information on Translation Jobs see our article, Guide to Translation Jobs in Japan.
Other Japanese Speaking Jobs to Consider
Another job to consider as a Japanese speaking foreigner in Japan would be as a marketer. All companies need marketers, and there is such a wide variety of marketing jobs you will probably never run out of options. As a marketer you will most likely have to work with customers to some extent, and being in Japan, that means knowing how to read, write, and speak the language. Companies look for a business to fluent level of Japanese as a requirement, but jobs are offered at the entry to manager levels of experience depending on what jobs the company needs to fulfill.
For more in-depth information on Marketing Jobs see our article, Guide to Marketing Jobs in Japan for Foreigners.
English teaching jobs may not be what you expected when looking for Japanese speaking jobs, but there are a surprising amount of jobs that actually do require a conversational or business level of Japanese. A majority of the jobs in this field only require basic Japanese or do not require any Japanese at all. The jobs that do require a more advanced level of Japanese require it so the candidate can properly communicate with co-workers and sometimes students with little to no English skill. In most cases, full-time English teaching jobs will require some sort of experience while part-time jobs would prefer experienced candidates, but entry-level candidates are usually accepted as well.
For more in-depth information on English Teaching Jobs see our article, Guide to Teaching Jobs in Japan.
Where to Find Japanese Speaking Jobs
Now you may find yourself asking, how do I find a Japanese speaking job as a foreigner? A common way is to look to online job boards. The job boards, at the bare minimum, will list the job, its description, its requirements, what language level is required, and the job type
Each job board has its strengths and weaknesses but to get you started here are some recommendations to get you started:
If you don’t like any of the job board offers, maybe you want to try the more traditional 就職活動 (しゅうしょくかつどう) route. This involves creating a Japanese resume, going to countless interviews, dressing and acting professionally, and maybe getting a recruiter. 50% of the companies looking to hire foreigners are small companies with 30 employees or less, so it is also a good idea to be open to that possibility. If you are looking for larger companies known for hiring foreign employees, try looking at Amazon, Western Union, and Rakuten.
For a more comprehensive look into Jobs in Japan see our Ultimate Guide to Jobs in Japan for Foreigners.