- There are jobs for people who cannot or can barely speak Japanese
- Most jobs available are either teaching jobs or simple ones that do not require much communication
- There are filters on job searching website to only show jobs without Japanese
- JapanWork has many jobs for people with no or little Japanese language skills
Non-Japanese speakers can work
If you are thinking of working in Japan but you are not fluent in Japanese, you are probably wondering if there are any jobs that you can do. Even though most jobs here definitely need certain levels of language ability, there are many jobs available for people who do not speak Japanese.
What kind of jobs are available?
Jobs that non-Japanese and partial-Japanese speakers can work are sorted into two categories: jobs where you can use your own language, or ones that require almost no speaking to get the work done. Most jobs that let you use your language to work are teaching jobs like these below:
- ALT (assistant language teachers): At public and private schools. Usually middle schools and high schools. You would be teaching your own language, and can talk to teachers you would work with since they know your language. Usually, this job requires some kind of educational background, so you may not be able to apply if you do not have a bachelor’s degree. One thing to note is that most ALT jobs are for English speakers, since English is taught at all Japanese middle schools and high schools. Also, starting in 2020, public elementary schools will be teaching English too. So, there is a rapidly growing need for English speaking teachers in Japan.
- Language teacher at private language “schools”: The need for English is very high even outside schools. There are so many different English schools that are ran by private companies across Japan. Like the ALT job, most private schools will ask if you have a degree. Here are some of the company-ran schools:
Even though there are schools that teach foreign languages other than English, there are not as many as English ones. Below are a couple of examples:
As for jobs where you do not have to communicate with customers and your co-workers, these are some examples:
- Washing dishes: At restaurants and bars. You would not need to take orders or talk to your customers at all. Conversations with your co-workers would not be a lot either. Usually, there is no educational requirement, so you can get the job even if you have not graduated from college. In fact, many non-Japanese speakers are working at restaurants as dishwashers.
- Security guards: at shops, buildings, hotels, and airports. This job does not require much communication. Sometimes customers and passengers might ask you directions and questions, but other than that, you would not have to use any Japanese.
- Sorting food: At food producers and processors. You would check food’s quality, size, weight or ripeness. For example, at a vegetable producer, you would sort vegetables by their sizes and shapes. You would also check if there is any big scars or damage to the food. Except for when you communicate with your employer and co-workers about how your work is going, there is no need to talk or listen.
- Packing and/or unpacking: At plants and retail clothing shops. What you would need to do is keep packing and/or unpacking numerous things. For example, you would pack products in boxes at a plant to ship them. As for retail clothing companies, I know this from my experience. I have worked with foreign people with beginner-level Japanese at one of the biggest clothing shops in Japan, and we kept unpacking clothes from boxes and plastic bags in the store’s “backyard,” so that we could merchandise the clothes throughout the store. At the beginning of the day, we were told to unpack walls of boxes, and after that we just kept doing our job without needing to communicate anymore.
Unless you are working as a teacher, or your employer can speak your language, you would need to have some basic Japanese communication skills. But often, companies hiring non-Japanese speakers are used to communicating with them and they will do their best to communicate well with you.
Another option would be working at a gaishikei kigyou (外資系企業), a foreign owned company. Apple and Amazon are examples. However, you might not know how long it would take before you could be transferred to Japan. A benefit of working at a gaishikei kigyou would be that you can work in Japan without having to deal with Japanese-style of business. There are things like
Where to find non-Japanese jobs
Of course, JapanWork will help you find jobs. We have more than 2,000 job listings available for foreign people, and some of the jobs require no to little Japanese. There is a section where you can choose your Japanese language level to filter jobs.
Other useful job searching websites are:
GaijinPot has “No Nihongo” button to click to see available non-Japanese jobs. On Daijob.com’s website, you can choose from more than 20 different languages to use for work.
Once you find a job you would like to do, read instructions on the job listing carefully for how to apply for the job. Each job has different application processes and required documents. Remember, if you are not sure how to apply, it might be easier to just call them if their number is on the job listing.
After my experience having to struggle with learning English in America for school, I can understand that this might be a terrifying challenge to find a job in Japan, but ganbare (you can do it)! It will be totally worth it!