Japan Working Holiday | Live Work and Play in Japan

by | Feb 20, 2020 | Japan Live Work and Play, Live Work Play Travel, Working Holiday Visa Destination | 5 comments

Japan is a unique country. There is centuries of ancient history juxtaposed into modern-day life. From palaces to tea ceremonies to exploring natural wonders like Mount Fuji, a visit to Japan offers experiences like no other country can. That’s why obtaining a working holiday visa for Japan is an excellent opportunity.  With a Japanese working holiday visa, you will be able to immerse yourself in the culture and enjoy all that Japan has to offer. This post covers everything you need to know about heading to Japan on a working holiday visa. So if Japan is on your radar, read on! Please note, this post is updated 20 August 2021.

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Is a Working Holiday in Japan for You?


A working holiday in Japan doesn’t appeal to everyone. The three main reasons why people don’t choose Japan as their first overseas working holiday destination. First, people believe Japan is very expensive. Second, they don’t speak the local language. And third, the only work opportunity available is Teaching English. Well yes, these are very good reasons not to go to Japan but they shouldn’t stop you. Yes, Japan is considered to be an expensive country, particularly in Tokyo but a working holiday in Japan offers a lot of great opportunities. You can immerse yourself in a new culture, learn a new language, enjoy different food, get paid for working to cover your costs and possibly have the time of your life. I hope you think these reasons to go on a Japanese working holiday change any mis-conceptions you may have.


What is a Working Holiday in Japan?


The main purpose of a working holiday in Japan is to holiday and travel around Japan to discover its culture. However, because you are allowed a stay up to 12 months or longer with the visa, it allows you to work so you can earn extra cash to help you holiday and travel. A working holiday visa is a great way to legally  live, work and play in Japan.


The Japan Working Holiday Visa


Firstly, you. need to know if you can go on a working holiday to Japan. Currently, Japan has working holiday agreements with 19 countries/regions. They include Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Republic of Korea, France, Germany, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, Spain and Argentina.

To participate in the working holiday visa program you must satisfy a number of requirements including:

  • Residing in your own country when applying.
  • Intend primarily to holiday.
  • Be aged between 18 and 30 years of age inclusive at time of application (some applicants must be between 18 and 25 years inclusive).
  • Possess reasonable funds for the maintenance of your stay.


There is a bit of a process to go through to obtain this visa. You will need to submit an updated CV and write a letter on why you want to live and work in Japan. For more details on the working holiday visa and to apply for one contact your nearest Embassy or Consulate-General of Japan in your own country/region. You can also find more details about the Japan working holiday visa at www.mofa.go.jp.

There is also a Work Permit available that many people apply for. One of these is available when you are being sponsored by an employer to work in Japan. This is often the case with English language schools that offer teaching work to teach English for them.


The best time to go to Japan on a Working Holiday


Anytime is a good time to visit Japan although the seasons, the cost of airfares and accommodation, public holidays along with the availability of work opportunities can all play a major role.

The seasons

Japan has distinct seasons. The north and the mountains have snow in winter. Spring is mild while summer is hot and humid. Spring and autumn are the most popular times to travel. Summer begins in June and generally isn’t a great time to visit because of the stifling humidity and frequent showers. If this doesn’t bother you then visiting during summer would be fine. Nonetheless, northern Honshu and Hokkaido are much cooler than the rest of the country and offer many choices for outdoor recreation particularly skiing and snowboarding. The typhoon season is from the end of August into September though most storms run their course before they hit mainland Japan, you can expect to encounter a couple of big storms.


A Snow Capped Mount Fuji in Japan.

A snow-capped Mount Fuji


Cost of airfares and accommodation

The cost of an airfare and accommodation can play a role in when you head to Japan. Airfares and accommodation prices can fluctuate with the popularity of different seasons. I suggest you look out for specials on airfares. And for accommodation deals there are many choices on websites such as Booking.com.


If you are heading to Japan for a specific type of employment like skiing or snowboarding instructing or other work in the ski fields winter is the obvious choice. From December to March much of Japan is covered in snow. The teaching year begins in the first week of April so if you are looking for a contract you are best to look in March as most full-time teaching contracts start and finish in this month. Though schools do recruit throughout the year.

Holidays and things to see and do

Other things influencing your decision of when to go to Japan can include national holidays.  Golden week (late April to early May) and Obon Week (mid-August) are the biggest national holidays and the peak travelling season for the Japanese. New Year from December 27th to January 5th and school summer vacation from July 20th through to the end of August can also be busy and tickets and accommodation can be very difficult (and expensive) to find during these times. However, if there are particular things you want to see and do, don’t let a few dollars you might save on going at a cheaper time stop you. Check out some of the things following:


Where will you Stay in Japan – Accommodation Options in Japan


There is plenty of accommodation both short-term and long-term available in Japan. It is advisable to have accommodation organised for your arrival. I would suggest at least 2 weeks, because by the time you have gotten over any jetlag, done some sightseeing and got your bearings, the two weeks will probably be up. There is lots of short-term accommodation available. Tokyo and Osaka are the two main cities with international airports and more than likely, you will arrive at one of these cities. They are great to start your working holiday in. Here are some accommodation options for your arrival.


READ MORE: Short-term and Holiday Accommodation in Japan


Tokyo is huge and deciding where to start can be daunting. The two places I suggest you consider are the areas of Shibuya or Shinjuku. Shibuyu is a great base as it has a massive train station and is famous for the Scramble Crossing. Shinjuku is another major hub and is home to the busiest train station in Japan. So some short-term accommodation options could be:

Hostel: Nui Hostel Tokyo, Sakura Hotel Nippori (also can help with long-term share house style options)
Hotel: Best Western Tokyo.
For a bit of luxury: Hilton Tokyo, Dai-Ichi Hotel
For more options, check out the accommodation map for Tokyo.


If arriving in Osaka, here are some accommodation options:

Hostel: Guest House Matsu
Hotel: Dormy Inn Premium, Hotel Unizo
For more accommodation options, have a look at the Osaka accommodation map following.



Things to do on arrival in Japan


When you arrive in Japan, there are some things you must do before you can begin to live, work and play. These include:

Get a phone

Phones offer many services including maps to help you get around and find things as well as being contactable for employers to offer you work. So the first thing to do is to get yourself a phone or if you have a phone, purchase a local SIM. It will come in very handy.

TIP:  Japan SIM plans are divided into two categories – data only or data + voice. Without voice, you won’t be able to receive or make regular phone calls. However, you can use Skype, WhatsApp and other apps that allow calls over the internet. Some to consider include Mobal, Sakura Mobile, IlJmio and Biglobe SIM to name a few. 

Find somewhere to live

Finding somewhere to live long-term can be a challenge. When looking for longer-term accommodation your best bet is to look in the gaijin press. Have a look at www.gaijinpot.com to find yourself an apartment. You may want to consider where you are working before you sign on the dotted line as you don’t want to have to travel too far to get to and from work each day.

Get your Residence Card

On your arrival for the first time in Japan, you will fill out an arrivals card. Write ‘working holiday’ in the section asking for the purpose of your visit. When going through customs, the immigration official, after sighting your passport and visa will give you a Residence Permit Card. This is your form of identification when living and working in Japan so make sure you keep the card safe.

Apply for Residency and Your My Number Card

Now you are through the airport formalities, you have two weeks in which to register with the local municipal office. You will need to register with a Japanese address but if you don’t have one yet, you can use your hostel, hotel or a friend’s place – if you have one! In a few weeks you will receive a My Number card at the address you supplied. This card will have a 12 digit number on it that is used for taxation and social security. Yes, another thing to keep safe! By the way, employees are required to pay a 20 tax for the first 12 months they work, which will automatically be deducted from your wage.

Open a Bank Account

If you are working in Japan, you will need a bank account so your employer/s can put your wages into. Most Japanese banks require you to have lived in Japan for six months before they will open an account for however, there are some like Shinsei Bank and Japan Post Bank that will be more helpful. Don’t forget to take your passport, residence card and a Japanese phone number.


Types of Working Holiday Jobs in Japan


Anglo Saxon Female Teaching English To A Japanese Female

Teaching English is the large source of employment for gaijin


The largest source of employment for gaijin is to teach English. There are two options: you can organise a job before you arrive or you can find one on arrival. Many first-timers organise one before they arrive cause they are guaranteed a position and accommodation is usually included. And you will enter under a sponsored work visa rather than the working holiday visa. The only thing is you are committed to your sponsor where with the working holiday visa you can choose who you wish to work for.

Having a TEFOL qualification will give you an edge to finding a teaching position. Most find a position in an Eikaiwa private English conversation schools of which there are around 8,000 of. Many are part of chains such as Aeonet, Berlitz and Saxoncourt. You may also consider applying to come on the JET Program www.jetprogramme.org as a teaching aid or sports co-ordinator. To learn more about Teaching English in Japan read my post here.

If teaching isn’t your scene there are other options. The snow fields in Japan are a hot destination and many come to the slopes to ski and snowboard. All sorts of jobs present themselves in the mountain resorts. Hospitality staff in the resorts are required and are ski and snowboard instructors. This is a great option as resort jobs usually include room and board – that takes care of work and accommodation in the one go! If you are wanting to find a job in a Japanese ski resort head over to the BooBooSki site www.boobooski.com. You can apply for ski jobs in Japan here.

Depending on your Japanese language skills you could find a position in accounting, banking, hospitality and retail. There may be work at a theme park such as Tokyo Disneyland, translating and interpreting, busking or you could WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) www.wwoofjapan.com where in return for your work in agriculture, you will receive room and board in return. Working in a hostel is another option, read my post on finding work in a hostel here.

How to find a job in Japan

There are a number of options to finding a job in Japan. Here are some options.

Online Job Sites

There are several online Japanese job sites that are in English where you can find your next employment. Try Jobs in Japan www.jobsinjapan.com, GaijinPot www.gaijinpot.com and DaiJob www.daijob.com. 

Employment Agencies

There are a number of employment agencies you could register with to help you find a job in Japan. In Tokyo check out Tokyo Employment Service Centre for Foreigners. Or there are big international agencies such as Robert Walters you could register with.


Playing and Travelling in Japan


Playing in Japan I think is the best part of any working holiday. You will have it in your mind the things you want to experience and places you want to go. From the hustle and bustle of the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka to the beautiful countryside to the culture steeped in history. At least you have a year to try and see as much of Japan as you can. One of the best ways to get around Japan is with a JapanRail Pass. There are a number of them on offer that will give you access to many parts of Japan. To see what passes are available and to purchase one click here.

TIP: Purchase your JapanRail Pass in advance.


Wrapping Up


Living, working and playing in Japan is a great experience. Once you have the two main things sorted: a job and a place to live you can then start to immerse yourself in your new found life on your working holiday in Japan. Japan can be a frustrating and confusing place when you are newly arrived, but once you begin to learn the Japanese way of doing things, Japan can be a very friendly and enjoyable place. Culture shock is, afterall, part of immersing yourself in another country. If you have been on, or are planning a working holiday in Japan, I would love to hear your comments below.


Japan Has Many Facets. Mount Fuji. Tori Gates. People Rushing Around Tokyo. Find Out On A Working Holiday In Japan.

Thanks for sharing!

Useful Travel Resources for Your Next Adventure!


Accommodation: Where Will You Sleep Tonight? If you want a bed in a hostel dorm find a great deal with HostelWorld. I mostly stay in hotels now, Booking.com is my favourite site for booking hotels from budget to ‘I feel like splurging’. For something completely different I house and pet sitting through Trusted Housesitters – this has saved me thousands on accommodation, no joke!

Flights: I always head to Skyscanner first to find a cheap and flexible flight.

Car Rental: When I need to rent a car I turn to RentalCars.

Train Travel: I love riding the train rails and get the best value from raileurope. And Japan has a great one too – JapanRail Pass.

Bus Travel: Check out Busbud for bus tickets.

Pre-organised Tours: I’ve been on a few in my time with Contiki being my first and favourite. if you are 18-35 years of age you should check them out.

Jump-the-queue entrance tickets: I don’t enjoy standing in long queues which is why I book my entrance tickets and day trips in advance. My favourite website to book them in advance is GetYourGuide.

Travel Insurance. There are a number of reasons why travel insurance is important and I never travel without having bought a policy as you never know when something might happen. SafetyWing is great digital nomads and long-term travellers and World Normads has policies for general and adventure travel.


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Hi. Sharyn here. Savvy Australian female with a passion for travel and working abroad. I’m on a mission to provide you with my best tips, tricks and hacks to work abroad and travel the world. If I can do it, so can you!  Read more.


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Hi, Sharyn here. I’m the face behind Live Work Play Travel. I’ve travelled all my life thanks to my dad who worked for an airline – thanks dad! I’ve been a travel writer/blogger and living a location independent lifestyle since 1993. My aim with Live Work Play Travel is to provide you with the info to start living, working and travelling around the world like I do. I currently live in Melbourne with my partner and 2 kids. 


  1. Helen

    Is there a best time to go to Japan?

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Hi Helen.
      Anytime is a good time to go on a working holiday to Japan though the seasons, special events and potential work can all play a part. Winter is cold and provides a good ski season – you may find work in a ski resort. Spring brings the cherry blossoms and lots of tourists. Most head to Japan to Teach English if you have a job organised you will be governed to arrive for your start date. Overall, anytime is a good time.

  2. Char

    This is so helpful! I had a friend who went out for 6 months and had the best time in Japan! I’m considering doing it before I turn 30 next year! Great post

  3. jemima

    Interesting! Japan is one of the countries I wish to visit. I love their approach to nature and food! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Sharyn McCullum

      Japan is an interesting place to visit – I loved the history and the food. I hope you get the chance to get there.


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