Being a student is tough. While the cup ramen may be better in Japan, money worries are international. (Plus, don’t you want to try the real stuff?) The solution for many hungry undergraduates around the world is a part-time job.
Before the pandemic, the number of international students in Japan was steadily rising. They were here to join language schools, high-ranking universities and colleges, as well as to experience a new and exciting culture. Now with borders opening up, students are back and looking to subsidize their life in Japan.
Visas can be complicated. Here are some questions you may have:
Can I work on a student visa?
Yes, but you need to ask for permission first. If you don’t have any other terms and conditions—the fine print on a scholarship, for example—it is a simple process. You can either fill in an application before you arrive in Japan (the easier option) or brave the Immigration Bureau in Japan and wait for acceptance (the longer option).
How many hours can I work?
The main activity specified on your visa is to study, so you can only work a maximum of 28 hours a week. Though you can work up to eight hours a day during holidays and school breaks. Working and studying at the same time can be very tiring, so keep that in mind when you take that extra night shift on a Sunday.
Where can I work?
Don’t think you can work in a host club just because you saw a Vice documentary about it; dabbling in the adult entertainment industry is strictly prohibited for students, as it is for most visas in Japan. Some jobs may blur the lines, so always be careful and double-check with your school for confirmation.
Types of jobs
Once you’ve got your permission stamped on the reverse side of your residence card, it’s time to hustle. There are many websites to look for jobs in Japan, from the slightly sketchy Craigslist to the reputable Gaijinpot.
The minimum wage in Tokyo is ¥1,041 per hour (as of 2021). If you are lacking in work experience and Japanese language skills, it might be hard to find a job that pays much higher—but it is not impossible.
Convenience store clerk
One benefit of working as an international student in Japan is that you can practice your Japanese, and a job at the local konbini will not only improve your language skills but also give you an insight into the day-to-day life of your customers—“Takeshi, really? This is your sixth coffee today.”
Many convenience stores are willing to hire foreign staff with conversational Japanese skills, such as 7-Eleven. And while the pay will stick around the ¥1,000 mark, once you get your head around the machines, cashless options, Takeshi’s coffee addiction and other unusual convenience store occurrences, the job is fairly straightforward. The only downsides are the dreaded night shift—which isn`t recommended before end-of-year finals—and the perpetual smell of fried chicken on your uniform.
Jobs for teaching English in Japan are easy to find, and you don’t need any Japanese to do it. Perfect when you have just arrived in a country and are finding your feet. Pay varies from company and type of work; for example, if you teach business English, you are more likely to be paid higher (around ¥3,000 to ¥4,000) than teaching kindergarten (¥1,000 to ¥2,000). When you jump away from English, and into tutoring specific subjects like math or science, the salary also grows.
Keep in mind that your students’ ages may greatly affect how tired you feel at the end of your shift. But see what suits you.
Are you the one constantly cleaning up after everyone in your dorm or sharehouse? You might as well be getting paid for it.
A hotel housekeeper is a role for a perfectionist. You’ll be cleaning sheets, making beds, scrubbing toilets—the whole lot—so you better enjoy seeing a crisp, pristine room. You don`t need much Japanese, unless specified, but the pay reflects that. Hours tend to be less flexible as you’ll generally be required to be there during hotel check-out times (10:00-15:00). Not the best hours to fit around a timetable. However, you don`t need to only clean hotels; any building is up for grabs.
Japan is known for its excellent hospitality, so the service industry is a great choice for those who can plaster on a smile and be cordial and polite. Just don’t expect tips—Japan doesn’t do that. The pay is around minimum wage and you’ll need some Japanese to interact with customers—start practicing your irasshaimase! (welcome!) now.
The style of establishment is also important. An izakaya will be louder, busier and filled with rowdier guests. While at a hotel restaurant, you’ll be required to know your dinner fork from your salad fork. Either way, the chance of leftovers is on the cards, saving you plenty of trips to the supermarket.
Warehouse and factory worker
If you aren’t a people person then a job in a factory or warehouse may be for you. All you need is some headphones and a little bit of strength. The work generally consists of packing items, such as in an Amazon warehouse. But depending on the factory, you may also assemble furniture and transport goods.
You won’t be getting anything above ¥2,000; however, you won’t need any previous experience or Japanese skills. The work can be tough and a little bit lonely, but this is perfect for someone who wants to just get in and out.
With the pandemic making food delivery services all the more popular, there are opportunities to make some extra cash for those with some spare time. If you want to combine your daily workout and don’t mind the dash, then this job may be for you. You’ll need your own form of transport, and most likely that will be a bicycle, but you’ll also have the freedom to choose your hours and can work as little or as much as you’d like. Services, like Uber Eats, welcome foreign workers.