Want an Alternative to Teaching English? Are You Too Sexy for Your Shirt?

Aaron Baggett

Modeling in Tokyo can be rough if you don’t know the language and, as you’ve probably guessed, I don’t. I am literally one of those people that hold up the line at McDonald’s while I Point and grunt at the menu. Obviously it limits my opportunities in the job market here and for a while I wasn’t just living cheap, I was living poor. I even resorted to waiting at a place called Butler’s Café in Shibuya. I had to dress up in a tux and call Japanese women princess. I would bow at their feet to take orders, lead them by the hand to the toilet and entertain them with whimsical tales of adventure from my time at the castle, all of which I was forced to rehearse. Whenever they would ring a bell I would yell, “Yes, my princess?” and contemplate what I was doing with my life.

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At first I did what everyone new to Japan does. I found salarymen and housewives willing to pay me 2500yen an hour for fake conversations in English. This type of work is incredibly tedious and most of your students will eventually realize what a rip-off it is and stop contacting you. I mean seriously, charging people money for small talk is ridiculous. You might as well work at a host bar. Besides, unless you are putting in a lot of hours with as many people as possible, you’re just going to be making coffee money. Most of them will just want one hour a week.

After about three months of no shows and my conscience eating away at me, I said forget all that noise and started doing some real job hunting. By that I mean I started searching through Craigslist. I also had some luck with dedicated job-hunting sites, but nothing was ever long-term. I typically worked as a preschool teacher, where I was essentially a performing clown; shouting out the name of shapes while some kid sneezed in my lunch.  And just a heads up for those new to Japan who want to work with kids. Be prepared to put a little John McClane into your step if you want any kind of chance dodging the constant barrage of fingers Japanese children will be sticking up your butt. Kancho is the name and your ass is the game.

Never turn your back to them. (via: bigbutpretty)

You’re probably asking what is all this leading up to. If entertaining soccer moms at Starbucks in the guise of an English lesson isn’t going to make the yen, then what will? Well, have you considered modeling?


I need you to just hear me out.

I get a lot of people asking me what modeling pays, how to find gigs, who to trust, etc. So I just want to go over some basic tips for anyone looking to get into it. It’s definitely lowbrow stuff, at least in my opinion, but if you want quick cash without having to do a whole lot, then it might be a viable option for you. I’ve been doing it for some time now and while it hasn’t exactly bought me an apartment in Roppongi Midtown, it has payed for groceries and kept my cellphone turned on.


The downside is I’ve lost the ability to smile.

First of all, I got into it just by chance. Editors and Stylist Assistants are always searching for people at Shibuya Crossing and in front of Harajuku at Takeshita Exit. And I mean always. Of course they’re usually looking for a certain type, but I’ve been scouted just as many times as I’ve been overlooked. At first I always thought it was a scam. I mean random people asking for your pants size and email can look a bit shady, ya know? After they get your information they’ll ask you to come to an audition and this is probably the worst part about the whole experience. They will almost always be in the middle of nowhere and late at night. Usually, the scout will have you and the other guys auditioning meet somewhere together. After everyone finally gets there, you’ll all follow the scout to meet the stylist and each of you will take turns trying on the latest in homeless chic.

It rubs the lotion on its skin or else it gets the hose again.

This is when you find out if you’ve wasted your time or not. If they like you, they will probably have you try on more than one outfit. They’ll all whisper to one another and stare at you. If you get a “kawaii” or a “sugoi!” then you definitely got the job. If they don’t like you, you’ll try on one outfit for about 15 seconds and hear “Ok! Thank you!” This means you not only didn’t get the job, but you have also wasted money getting there because they will never pay for your train fare.

Once you actually do get a gig, you’ll have to come back for a fitting and schedule the shoot. It will probably either be for a magazine or a catalog. I don’t want to delve too much here, but I’ve had good shoots and I’ve had bad shoots. The good shoots are usually fun or at least quick. Once I was flown out to Shikoku and stayed at an onsen in the mountains. The pay was low, but the experience was great. The bad ones are always long, slow and the other models are usually pricks. By the way, professional models are always douchemous maximus.

Like this guy.

If freelance isn’t working out then you can always try agencies. I’ve only worked with a few and honestly I don’t like them, but the benefits are that they will find you a ton of auditions and usually provide a larger guarantee. The downside is you’ll be working with more professionals and the auditions will be more competitive. I stopped working with agencies because I hate auditions. The last one I did for an agency had around 200 guys just for a Nissan ad. If you’re freelance, you have a better chance of getting called directly from stylist and editors. They might even make you a regular.

Here is a basic rundown:

  • Unless you look like Jabba the Hutt, don’t worry too much. I’ve seen some pretty ugly guys modeling.
  • Likewise, unless you look like Draco Malfoy, don’t expect to retire early.
  • Professional models are douches.
  • If you want to be scouted, stand around Shibuya Crossing or in front of Harajuku Station.
  • They will never pay your train fare.
  • Professional models are douches.
  • If they don’t tell you how much the guarantee is, that means it’s low.
  • Freelance pay is usually in the 10000yen – 25000yen range.
  • Professional models are douches.
  • If you are with an agency, but still get scouted, tell the guy you’re freelance.
  • Agencies will guarantee you more money and snag you more auditions, but they’ll be more competitive.
  • You can join multiple agencies.
  • You can get free haircuts at gigs.
  • Professional models are douches.
  • Bring a book or something on your shoots. Especially if they take you out of Tokyo
  • Also, professional models are douches.

Agencies I recommend if you don’t mind going to auditions:





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18 Responses to “Want an Alternative to Teaching English? Are You Too Sexy for Your Shirt?”

  1. jordan_wyn October 19, 2012

    Years ago a girl in my study abroad class was scouted to be a… what do they call those little stomach-warmer things that always pop up around winter time? a model for those. She said the whole experience was super weird (but safe!) but I say hey now you have more money and a good party story.

    Time to put on my cute clothes and loiter around Harajuku Station.

  2. I found this entertaining as well as educational, does the same thing apply for women? And is it possible to model and work as an english teacher, or will you end up getting fired?

    • Thanks and I’m glad you liked it.

      Most of the the women I have ever seen modeling or have modeled with are from Russia or Germany. I think a lot more is demanded of them and it looks a lot harder. I know a few girls, who like me, were scouted on the streets though.

      I’ve worked as both an English teacher and a model. The schools I worked for were very cool with it. They would post my pictures all over the school and introduce me to all the moms. I don’t know if public schools would be ok with it though.

  3. The Only Blonde in Osaka October 28, 2012

    Haha, this is great! When I was visiting my friend in Tokyo I witnessed him be ‘scouted’ exactly as you describe – we were at the Shibuya crossing, and he got accosted by this hipster Japanese man who complimented him on his height and asked for his pants size. My friend declined, because he’s a JET and apparently you can’t enter another contract without their permission. Anyway, I thought it was hilarious… good luck with your modelling career. 😉

    • Hey,

      Thanks! I think being tall is the main thing they look for to be honest. I will probably stop doing it myself once I have a full time job or maybe make up a persona so I can keep chasing the dream. haha

  4. oh my gosh…you are too funny! i LOVE your descriptions for modeling in japan. i took my kids for an audition last night in shinjuku and it was at night – right before rush hour. as it turns out, the audition was a total waste of time. of course the agency didn’t pay the 2000 round trip train fee. so far, my children have had fake “families” of german and swedish descent. i haven’t met any a**hole models, but i don’t doubt that they are here.

    • I’m very glad you liked it and thank you!

      I’m sorry you guys had your time wasted. Today I spent two hours looking for a place as far from the nearest station as possible to audition. After I finally get to the place, they take two pictures of me and give me an “ok! Thank you!” This is not the glamorous life Angelina Jolie in Gia told me it would be.

  5. Swedish Girl February 7, 2013

    I thank my friend for letting me know about this site (and of course you for having it ^^) Its great! I was wondering how picky they are about workspermit as I am currently staying on a holidaypermit. Id really like to try modelling 🙂

    • Mark James Hill February 3, 2016

      Extremely strict. Also this article is amusing but this is just about the most difficult way to get work as a model. And these are very low paying jobs. With agencies you get Commercial and promotional video jobs which pay much more 100000- 500,000 yen sometimes but any where from 10,000 up. With the added benefit of usage fees. But you wont always be selected and there are many people doing this in Tokyo so dont expect a full tme salary. Unless you are fulltime contract model.

  6. you mentioned to stand around Harajuku exit and Shibuya crossing, have you had any luck on specific days or times?

    any feedback would be great, thanks for the great post!

  7. Thanks for the article. In your experience, would having piercings be an impediment to this kind of work?

    • Gregory Fabre October 2, 2016

      In my experience if there are too many on the face it might be. On the other hand, if you have some on your genitals it could be an advantage as some of the “princesses” ask you over for extra-curricular activity and it excites them.

  8. yeahtottttttally October 3, 2016

    a lot of professional models are nice tbh. I’ve worked in tokyo and even some of the bigger names are down to earth

    • Aaron

      The article was mostly a joke with some relevant info. When I made the douche comment and posted the picture of said douche, that is a picture of me.

  9. FromTokyo October 23, 2016

    “Unless you look like Jabba the Hutt….”

    Don’t be misleading, though. This should say, “If you are Caucasian…” Looks definitely DO matter if you’re not. An “ugly” (note the quotes) Caucasian will get the job 9 times out of 10 over an attractive non-Caucasian. Let’s be honest. Non-Caucasians usually don’t even get a look in, unless they’re non-brown Asians.

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