Most of the immigrants in Japan arrive here as an exchange student. Their career is a topic I think about a lot these days. Not only because I'm an exchange student too, but also because Japan is facing very serious issues such as decreasing population and decreasing birthrate. The Japanese government is trying to solve this problem by gradually increasing the number of foreigners in the country. Immigrating to Japan is really the first step and the rest comes later. Therefore, I am really curious about career paths in Japan for foreigners. This might be a controversial topic, but I tried to do a kind of summary based on my personal experience.
What are your prospects as a foreigner Japan?
The original purpose of this website is to help learners to learn another language so as a starting point I will talk about language a little bit. The carriers you can choose for yourself are dependent on the languages you can speak.
If you are a native speaker of the English language you have completely different options from those who speak for example Chinese natively. English native speakers without Japanese knowledge are usually English teachers in private language schools or universities. They receive a reasonable salary and they don't have to work for long hours and even though if they have to they are compensated for their work. The problem with teaching English in Japan is the lack of promotion. This means that unless you establish your own English school you have to be prepared for teaching English until the end of your life in Japan.
Secondly, I will talk about immigrants with native English abilities and Japanese skills. Currently, I feel that this is one of the best combinations because you can become a translator or interpreter any time. You can always work on your own or you can also choose to be an employee in a company. This is a highly flexible job and you can expect to earn a fair amount of money.
If you have an extra skill in addition to your language speaking abilities you will be extremely popular on the Japanese job market. Foreigners in Japan who graduate from Japanese universities with a competitive specialisation such as IT, natural sciences or law can find very well-respected occupation. Based on your age and skills you can earn more than US$5000 in a month but be prepared for working extremely long hours. I have friends working in Tokyo and sometimes they even miss the last train and the company has to order a taxi for them to get home. Also don't expect to have too much vacation. You will get about 20 days a year off.
Another very interesting career path for foreigners in Japan is photo modeling. In spite of globalisation the number of non-Japanese people in Japan is still incomparable to the number of native residents. Japanese people, similarly to other humans like to enjoy the fake realisation of the outside world through media. If you are good looking foreigner who fits the image of what the TV is trying to present of the paradise outside of Japan you will easily find a job as a model and you will be earning more money per hour as most of the population. The disadvantage of being a model in Japan is very similar to teaching English in Japan in a sense that you will soon find the limits of this occupation. This means that no matter how long you have worked as a model your salary will essentially be the same. Another drawback here is that most of the modeling agencies are dishonest and sometimes you will have to fight for your money. If you would like to know which agencies are reliable you can contact me by sending an email to hikari.code [at] gmail dot com. I will be more than happy to help you with your modelling career in Japan.Recommended for you: What are the advantages of speaking Japanese when you are in Japan?
I can't think of any other activities that wouldn’t require advanced Japanese skills, but with that, I’m convinced that there is not a single position you would not be allowed to fill. I have many friends working in customer service in Japan so they actually interact with customers every day even though they’re not asian-looking people. The important point is that they speak Japanese on a native level and they understand the cultural requirements and rules they are governed by when they work in an eastern environment. They also except that these rules are completely different from the ones we bring from home and this is something you will have to understand too when you are looking for permanent employment in Japan. Luckily, the rules are clear and they don't require PhD to understand. Following them might be a bit more difficult.