See a Sumo Wrestling Match on your working holiday in Japan
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 is because they believe Japan is very expensive, they don’t speak the local language and 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. Japan offers working holiday makers the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture, learn a new language, enjoy different food and possibly have the time of your life. So read on as in the following information I will help you prepare for your Japan working holiday. Please note I have updated this post on 20 February 2020.
The Japan Working Holiday Visa
Firstly, you. need to know if you can go on a working holiday to Japan. As of 2nd November 2017 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.
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 when they are being sponsored by an employer to work in Japan. This is often the case with English language schools that offer 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.
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.
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 through websites such as Skyscanner. 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. Hostels, xxxx and hotels are a great option to start with. If you prefer a bed in a hostel then check out HostelWorld where you can compare and book. Or if you want something more than a hostel visit Booking.com to compare and book a hotel room.
Types of Work in Japan
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 mountains. Hospitality staff in the resorts are required and ski and snowboard instructors are required.
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. Working in a hostel is another option, read my post on finding work in a hostel here.
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.
Playing in and travelling around 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. 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.
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.
Sharyn has travelled most of her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. In her 20’s she went overseas and spent 4 years living, working, playing and travelling through many countries. Her travels inspire her ‘Live Work and Play’ series of working holiday guides and LiveWorkPlayTravel where she shares her knowledge of travel, being a digital nomad and blogging. Sharyn continues to travel and currently calls Melbourne home.