If you are fortunate enough to be coming to Japan with a transfer within your current company, riding on a rather sweet Ex-Pat package, power to you. If not, chances are you’re coming armed with little more than what you already know of the place and an interest in finding out more. Two important questions you might like to ask yourself before moving to Japan:
How long do you plan on staying?
What do you want to achieve during your time here?
The answers to these questions should help you understand what kind of work it is that you want or need to do while you’re here. If you’re planning to come for a year or two, have a look around and experience the place for yourself, teaching your native language, especially English, is one logical and fairly easy way without understanding of the Japanese language of having an income and a flexible schedule, allowing time to do the things you want. Below are a few sites which may help you find a teaching position:
(General English Language Teaching news with links to the larger companies with schools in Japan)
(The, um, JET Program)
(Specialising in introducing students and teachers for private lessons)
Find a Teacher
(ELT Newsletter with advice and links)
(Teaching and other positions)
It is often possible to secure a teaching job before you come to Japan, provided you have a University Degree in order to obtain your Visa. The larger language schools hold interviews and seminars in cities around the world — follow the links to scheduled interview/seminar dates in a city near you. The larger schools are also in a position to offer employees the comfort of Visa sponsorship, a job, an apartment, a bank account and health insurance organised for you when you arrive. Be warned, though, the larger companies are older, more traditional and often have stifling systems in place, while the smaller companies may offer the employee more freedom, without the security. That being said, it really comes down to how well you get along with the people you work with on a daily basis, so even with the big companies, it is possible to find yourself in a smaller, more relaxed branch working with a great bunch of people. Another reason why teaching your native language in Japan is relatively easy work for foreigners to obtain a Visa for is that it is work which a Japanese National is most likely unable do. If you’re not taking a position away from a Japanese National, the Government are more likely to grant you a stamp.
If teaching or a similar temporary post is not your vocation of choice for the long term, once you’ve settled into your new lifestyle in Japan it’s a lot easier to have a look around for something more desirable. Time in a temporary position while you get your bearings will allow you to meet people, learn more about the culture and some of the language, which will prove most valuable if you choose to enter a Japanese company. With or without the language skills, you will need an understanding of Japanese people and their social/work ethics in order to live among and work well with them.
If you would prefer not to teach while in Japan, below are a few recruitment sites catering for a variety of industries and skillsets:
Japan Times Jobs
Japan Today Recruitment Directory
Daijob/Work In Japan
Japan Jobs Guide
There are also a number of sites specialising in recruitment in particular industries, especially Financial, Executive, IT and Sales positions, where the demand for a move toward international business and global awareness calls for more foreigners wanted in Japanese companies with foreign languages and experience in their respective fields abroad. It may also be worthwhile writing directly to or applying online with companies which already interest you — it may not state so on the website, but they may have positions or whole departments specifically dedicated to the needs of the international market.
In my experience, making the decision is half the work. If you already know when, why and for how long you would like to be in Japan, it’s quite possible options will fall in your path.