How to become a model in Japan and what are the things to note?

One of the major questions you will have to find an answer for when you start your new life in Japan is how to generate some kind of revenue to cover your daily expenses and your travel fees when you want to go on a vacation. If you’re receiving a scholarship from the Japanese government or from your university you don’t have to worry too much on this account, but if you’re not in such an honoured position you’ll have to find at least a part time employment in Japan. If you are in such a situation be sure to read this article and make your initial plans.

How to become a model in Japan?



One of the most straightforward solutions to this problem is to work in a convenience store. This will earn you approximately $10 per hour and you’ll be paid based on the number of hours you spend working behind the cashier or loading the product selves. This is an ideal solution for those who are willing to work for long hours and you don’t mind hard work. Even if you live in the remotest area of Japan you’ll find at least one Seven Eleven that will employ you, and you can increase your chances of being employed by speaking some of the language. I’m pretty sure you will have no issues with the monthly payments of your salary, but let’s think a little bit more about this choice.


Jobs beyond the convenience store


Working in a convenience store will not require any kind of certification, or in other words by choosing to work there you’re not making use of your potential skills at all, however there might be some. For example your appearance.


For those who have enough confidence to stand in front of a camera and are fine with the act of photo modelling Japan has endless opportunities.. I can share with you my personal experiences I gained as a photo model working in the Kansai area. I was mostly working with model agencies in Osaka, but I’m convinced that the capital has much more options in this field, albeit the competition must be much higher as there are more foreigners living in Tokyo than in other areas of Japan.


Some practical advice


First of all let’s see some practical advice for those who want to be a photo model in Japan.


Your first step of a photo model in Japan should be to create a profile of yourself. Try to think of your appealing points. Whether you have blond hair, or blue eyes. You might be tall or you might have a muscular body. These characteristics of your body can all help you and you can even work on some of these in preparation for your modeling career in Japan.


When I was talking to people about being a model in Japan the majority of the reactions were very pessimistic and negative. If you have low self-esteem, don’t even think of being a model, because while the work itself is seemingly easy, there will be numerous difficulties you’ll face working for Japanese model agencies.


If you have a certain appearance, an eye colour, a body weight, that’s fine. Not all agencies are equal. Some are looking for tall guys and some are looking for short girls. Therefore, your best approach is to register to a few of these agencies with a well prepared portfolio.


Your photos


The agencies will require you photos to be sent to them on a regular basis. They have to update their own portfolio as well, so make sure that you have that perfect outlook and learn some of the ins and outs of photography in order to shoot the best pictures of yourself. Some model agencies will try to offer you their photography service. The larger ones might have professional photographers to do the job for them, however I would refuse this proposal in general, because the photos you take shouldn’t be much worse than the ones they take. It’s not rare for a Japanese model agency to charge $300 for a photo session and in many cases the models are not even satisfied with the quality of the pictures.


First steps


If you live in a big city in Japan, or major cities are within an approachable distance, try to find model agencies in your area. If you live in Tokyo, you will find hundreds of them. The same is true for Osaka and there might be some agencies on Okinawa and Hokkaido, but I’m not sure of this.


The model agencies might look very similar, but the business policy is completely different. I was always surprised by the huge differences between these agencies. Usually, there are a few main model agencies in the city and a large proportion of the foreigners are registered with these famous offices. You can expect a certain level of trust from these companies, however it’s always good to stay alert and minimize the risk of being taken advantage of.


Many agencies are operated by a single person with some secretaries, but the largest ones have several employees. By the way, the number of employees will not tell you anything about the agency. In certain periods of the year I received a great number of job requests from companies with many employees, but with time, these numbers miraculously decreased. Some of these agencies are relatively new and they don’t have enough clients, whereas a single Japanese boss with a handful of clients will offer you much more jobs.


Working as a model in Japan


On the top of my career I was actively working with 3-4 agencies in my area and I was receiving job offers almost on a daily basis.


The agency will send you the job description in broken English and sometimes in Japanese. Exchanging messages with these Japanese model agencies is a nightmare. Their English is very difficult to comprehend and if you try to switch to Japanese they get offended, because they take it as if you were criticizing their English skills. Frankly speaking, I haven’t been able to find a proper solution for this problem.


There is another very frustrating issue with the way of communication. The model agencies in Japan usually have an email list of models and these lists are not categorized at all. In some lucky situations, they put males and females on different lists so you won’t get job offers for females if you’re a male.


So agents do their job more meticulously and they send you the job offers that more or less match your style. And finally, if you don’t like something, for example the way they communicate with you and you request for a change, be prepared to be turned down. The model agencies will not change their system only to make you happy to work with them.


You’ll receive these jobs in your mailbox and you have to choose the ones you like the most while considering your own schedule. Once you agree on the terms it’s almost impossible to change anything. Your compensation, the time frame, the place and other conditions are usually indicated in the email and when you undertake the job, it also means that you’re fine with these terms too. If you don’t show up on a given date for the job you’ve once applied for, that’s a huge minus and if it happens frequently the model agency will remove you from their email list. When the agent does this, he will also tell the other models that you were an unreliable person and he discharged you.


How much can you earn as a model in Japan?


Although the job offers will be arriving almost daily you won’t be able to accept all of them. Sometimes it’s the location or the date and sometimes the money is not too appealing. As a rule of thumb, I rejected almost every job that was paying me less than $100.


The money you get for these jobs depends on the model agency and their client as well. If you’re lucky enough and you can work for a mega corporation you’ll be paid more. Keep in mind that the model agency takes it’s share too. The percentage they work with is kept in secret, so we never know it, but sometimes it happened that we received the same job offer from two different agencies and we could tell how greedy they were, based on the comparison we made between the amounts. At this point, I understood that there is always leeway for negotiation.


So basically there are three types of modeling jobs based on the amount of work you have to work.


There are short time shootings, with 2-3 hours of work. Even though they seem short you’ll have to allocate at least half a day to these kinds of jobs, because you have to wake up, prepare your food, your clothes, yourself, go to the place, do the job and come back. If the model agency is stingy, they’ll offer you less than $100 for these, so I deleted these job offers almost automatically.


The jobs that will take your whole day fall into the second category. The majority of these jobs are requested by wedding venue owners and they will pay you approximately $200 per day if you’re given a side role and 4-5 times more if you’re the bride or the bridegroom. The amount depends on the number of hours you have to work. If the cameraman thinks that there is not enough sunlight to do the shoots, expect to stay for a few extra hours. Whether you get paid for these hours depends on your negotiation skills, but if the model agency is sincere enough you just have to mention them that you ended up working for longer than you were initially told.


The third types of jobs are the ones with more money. These jobs will require you to work for more days or the client is a large Japanese corporation, therefore the pay will be much better. I received these offers once in a blue moon. Once I had a chance to work for the regional gas company and they paid me approximately $700 for a few hour shooting. There was another job I got a few years ago and I was paid almost $1000 for a 3 day session. I guess there is no secret strategy to get these well compensated jobs. The following points worth consideration if you want to build up a stable source of income while you are in Japan and you’re working in the model industry:


  • (1) Be reliable. Don’t be late, keep your words and don’t criticize anything.
  • (2) Stay fit. Don’t get fat and do sports so that you develop more muscles.
  • (3) Keep your portfolio up to date and send your photos to the agencies regularly.
  • (4) Don’t argue with the agents and never be rude to them.
  • (5) Don’t gossip, because it will be known to everyone sooner or later.
  • (6) Try to be flexible.

How do you receive your money?


This is another frustrating issue. You will be told marvelous stories on how the client pays, how the model agency does accounting and how often the Japanese banks transfer money. Most of these stories make no sense at all. They are excuses fabricated to you so that the model agency does not have to compensate you in time.


Some agencies are somewhat better, but if you’re unfortunate enough to work with a model agency who faces financial difficulties you’ll have hard times chasing your money.


I just loved to listen to their stories saying that the client pays once a month, and then the bank transfers on a later date and due to their accounting practices they can only transfer you the money in the upcoming month. The whole thing in 2019 and 2020.


Well, some expats have to leave Japan on a pretty short notice. If they have unsettled payments with model agencies and they don’t have enough time to haggle with the agent they might end up leaving the country without collecting their money. This is another sly practice you’ll have to pay attention to when you are working as a photo model in Japan.


Some agencies are somewhat better and they transfer you the money in 30 days, but some will tell you that they need at least 2 months to collect their money from the client and then they can pay you. A little bit absurd and it’s hard to believe that in a country where you can travel on bullet trains transferring money from company A to company B takes that long, but what can you do about it? Just adhere to the rules and be sure to be on good terms with the agents so that you receive these job offers in the future.


If you’re interested in becoming a model in Japan you can contact me on Whatsapp (+36 30 831 69 72). Feel free to ask me any question!


Stay tuned for the next post! じゃねー!


Illustration: pakutaso.com


Content: LB



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