How a Part-Time Job in Japan Boosted my Japanese — 16 Comments

  1. Really great post! When I first decided I wanted to live in Japan, I thought I would want to be an English teacher. At the time, I really enjoyed helping my Chinese friends who were international students improve their English. I’ve volunteered teaching English for a couple of years and have my TEFL certificate. Although it’s a lot of fun, it’s not something I imagine myself doing for the rest of my life. In these volunteer jobs, I had free reign in my lessons too. In Japan, unless you’re teaching freelance, there’s little room to individualize your lesson. Not for me at all. I’m happy enough to teach my future kids English, and maybe volunteer at a church, but don’t want to make it my career.

    I was worried that I might have to be an English teacher just to get by until my Japanese is good enough when I move there, but now I have hope that there are other options. I hope to work at a daycare, and maybe do translating.

    I wonder what it’s like for a translator living in Japan. That job involves a lot of English, but would also involve a lot of Japanese.

    • I’ve also wondered what it would be like for a translator living in Japan. It seems like an interesting job, but the problem for most Japanese learners is that it’s clearly an endpoint. You get a translator job only after you’ve achieved a high level. If that’s a job you really want, it’s a great motivator, but it doesn’t seem like a good learning environment for most of us.

      It’s easy to get stuck in the thinking that the only jobs you can do in Japan are either no-Japanese jobs like English teaching, or high-level Japanese jobs like translation or working at a Japanese branch of an international company. Part-time stuff is a great middle point, because it requires Japanese, but not enough that you wouldn’t be able to handle most jobs after a few months to a year of dedicated studying.

  2. Great post. I was actually thinking of going in that direction. When you got your job, did they hire you at a level 10 proficiency?

    • They hired me as I was at the time, choppy Japanese and all! I really did stumble through the first couple of days, but nobody really got frustrated about my level or bothered me during that time. Most of the new hires politely interacted with me and left me alone until they figured out more about me, but the other half, the people who counted–the director, the store manager, and the experienced people–were really nice and understanding, dealing with things slowly. They put me in an important but unskilled place (door-greeting and flyering) during the grand-open rush, and then trained me in the kitchen during the downtime. After those first couple of days, I picked up most of what I needed to know quickly.

      • Oh, wow! I’m really surprised! I heard that even for part time jobs like these, you have to have a high JLPT score. It’s great to hear that’s not necessarily so.

        • I’ve never met a local who even knew what the JLPT is. Its usefulness in getting you a job is probably limited outside of Tokyo. Even if you say its Japanese name, people understand that it’s a test of Japanese proficiency but have no idea what the degrees mean. Most people just say something like “Oh, is this like the TOEIC for Japanese? What does this score mean? Is this good?”I hadn’t taken the JLPT at the time and still thought it was important to put something on my resume that said I had ability equivalent to Level 3. I don’t think anyone even looked at it twice. Nobody commented on it or asked me to prove a score. The fact that I was talking in the interview was enough.
          There are probably some high-profile jobs that know about the JLPT, but its presence or absence won’t affect your job prospects most of the time. Let your skill and willingness to learn show and that’ll be fine.

  3. Thank you for the insight and sharing Townwork. I will definitely look into something like that on my stay there.

  4. Really? Those jobs are “no experience necessary” in Japan? Because here in WA state, I can’t find ANY job because of my nonexistent work history (other than an internship at a Japanese cultural center in Seattle, and possibly a college workstudy via financial aid this fall). I can’t even apply at McD’s because of an obscure local law requiring me to have obtained a food handler’s permit during freshman year of high school to be eligible for one after age 18. Not that I need one in Japan, but…

    But yeah, if I ever get the money to go to Japan long-term (right now, a coding job for Adanac Entertainment is my best bet), I’ll definitely try this. Maybe not a food shop (the other disqualifier for that handler’s permit is I fail at cooking anything more complicated than prepackaged ramen), but something else that would give me that level of exposure to Japanese daily life.

    • Some of the jobs have experience preferences. Yakiniku shops in particular tend to list competency with a chef’s knife as an important asset for applicants. But if you pick up a part-time job magazine, usually it’s plastered with ads that proclaim exactly that: no experience necessary, you will be trained, please please please oh please apply pretty please?

  5. Great post! I’ve always wanted to live in Japan but I don’t want to teach english for longer than a year or two. I wanna do what you’ve been able to do, which is get a job in Japan that is not teaching english. A part time job at first is fine, but eventually I wanna work full-time at a Japanese company.

    One question though, all of my Japanese friends have told me that age really matters in Japan when you are trying to get a “real” job, and as I’m already 28, do u think there’s any chance to get hired?

    I’m probably level ~15 now, and by the time I can go to Japan (like 1-2 years from now) I wanna be much higher, but… will I be able to find a job at age 30 or 30+ ??

  6. Hey, great post first of all!

    My question is, how the heck did you get an interview after you were done being an English teacher? I thought Japan only hired foreigners for specific skills. Without a work permit, this post almost seems like something that could never happen, how did your employer deal with the work visas and such?

    • There are a few different questions embedded in your question, so I’ll start by saying that Japan’s work visa system is a little bit different than in, say, Korea. Maybe it’s changed recently, but in South Korea, your employer owns your visa, and once your relationship with your employer terminates, so does your visa. I had a friend who went to Korea before coming to Japan, and when things with his employer went south, he had to get out of the country as quickly as he could. In Japan, once you have your visa, you own your visa. It doesn’t matter if or when your relationship with the employer ends. Once you have it, you have it, and you can use it to get other jobs. So after an employer verifies that you’re allowed to be in the country, they don’t need to file any additional immigration paperwork on your behalf that I’m aware of.

      Getting a job different from the one specified on your visa is a different matter–if you even have an occupation specified at all. I came over, and still exist on a dependent visa, and yet can still work. Students are allowed to get jobs to support their ability to exist in the country. The list goes on. No matter what your visa, if you want to do something like a part-time job, your best bet is to get something called a “Permission to Engage in Activity Other Than That Permitted By The Status of Residence Previously Granted” form, or 資格外活動許可書 for less of a mouthful. You can apply for one at your local immigration office, and it’ll list your present activity (“being married to person x” or “going to university y” or “working at job z”), and the type of thing you’re allowed to do after receiving the permit, such as working a certain number of hours per week.

  7. Great post! I really think the same, by working part time that required you to speak japanese is a good way to improve your japanese. That is why I am trying to get a japanese part time job. I am wondering how many jobs did you apply before you get this job. As I have been trying applying a lot, and usually get turn down just because of my choppy japanese! Anyway, I will still my best to find one! At least your post here give me hope. Thanks!!

    • On doing a little research, it looks like the rate starts anywhere from 850-1000 yen/hour depending on location.

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