Internships in Japan

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Internships in Japan

Guide to internships abroad in Japan

Japan is a melting pot of traditionalism and modernity, allowing travelers and expats to revel in its high tech cities and its deep rooted history. Whether you want to climb Mt Fuji, stroll through cherry blossoms, or indulge in freshly made sushi, Japan has something for everyone.

Interested in interning in Japan? Keep reading to learn more about the types of industries and how to get an internship in Japan!

Top Industries

Japan has a booming economy across several industries, many of which are making a concrete effort to become more globalized. English-speaking internships can be found in any sector, but they are more popular in large multinational corporations than in smaller, local companies.

  • PR & Marketing: PR and marketing skills are essential in any industry. This industry also tends to be quite broad, allowing you to develop a range of transferable skills. You could be helping a tech giant carry out market research, writing English content for a hotel chain, or creating graphics for a start-up.
  • Banking & Financial Sector: International banks often have English-speaking placements available. As an intern in the banking and financial sector in Japan, you will have the opportunity to work in one of the most fast-paced environments in the world.
  • Media & Pop Culture: Japanese media and popular culture have fans all over the world. For many people, it doesn’t get any better than working within a Japanese animation studio, manga (comic book) publication, or J-Pop magazine. Internships in these industries are competitive and tend to be for Japanese speakers.

Best cities to intern in Japan

Tokyo

Visually enchanting and bustling with life, Tokyo is Japan’s political and economic hub. Internship opportunities in Japan’s capital are endless, with a particular emphasis on industries such as electronics and technology, engineering, communications, and much more. Whether interns want to inspect ancient pagodas or play football atop skyscrapers, Tokyo can offer travelers and interns an enlightening experience.

Kyoto

Although an anagram of Tokyo, Kyoto is the more traditional counterpart and is often described as Japan’s “spiritual heart”. Unscathed from the bombings of the second world war, old buildings are rife, perpetuating feelings of tranquility and traditionalism. Pagodas are ubiquitous, as are cherry blossoms, creating a unique environment for interns.

While Kyoto offers an idyllic scenery for interns, there are far fewer internships available than in Tokyo, especially for those who do not speak Japanese. Popular industries in Kyoto include technology, gaming, and tourism.

Osaka

Osaka is Japan’s third largest city, and it is a city which boasts of lively strips, neon colors, sapphire-esque beaches, and a vibrant culinary scene. As a major financial center in Japan, popular industries in Osaka include electronics, with multinational companies such as Panasonic, Sharp, and Sanyo being headquartered there. While there are more likely to be opportunities for internships in Osaka, the cost of living is higher in Osaka than it is in Kyoto.

How to apply to internships Japan

While requirements may be different depending on the location, industry, or employer, these are generally the steps you’ll need to follow to land an internship in Japan.

  1. Decide on your field. You should consider what will benefit you personally and professionally the most.
  2. Update your resume. Ensure that your CV or resume is tailored to the specific internship you're applying for. Be sure to mention both soft and hard skills you've gained throughout your academic and occupational career.
  3. Search for positions. Summer is a great time to complete an internship and gain real-world skills if you're not taking summer classes. Early spring is also an excellent time to start looking, since companies will advertise to international students leading up to academic breaks.
  4. Ace your interview! Research the internship and position thoroughly. On the other hand, you are interviewing them just as much as they are interviewing you. Be sure to also ask questions to determine if it's the right opportunity for you!
  5. Apply for your visa. The type of visa you need will depend on the length of your internship and whether you receive compensation for it. Paid internships usually require a Designated Activities Visa, while unpaid ones (which are more common) require a Cultural Activities Visa.

Cost of living in Japan

Japan is relatively expensive, but not prohibitively so. How much you spend will be up to the location of your internship and your own spending habits. Rent in a big city costs about ¥90,000 ($850 USD) a month, but it can be almost half of that if you are willing to live in the suburbs and face the legendarily crowded commuter trains.

However, many large corporations in Japan offer employee accommodation, meaning that interns are often placed in halls of residence for free. These dorms will almost always be separated by gender and are typically minimalist. If you are doing an internship through a third-party organization, housing will also likely be included. This will either be in a dorm-style arrangement with other interns in the same program as you or in a homestay.

If you’re interning in major cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, you should budget to spend more on daily living expenses.

  • Food: $483 USD per month
  • Transportation: $67 USD per month
  • Gym & Entertainment: $80 USD per month
  • Housing: $500 - $715 USD for a room in shared accommodation depending on city
  • Utilities: $185 USD per month

Source: Numbeo

Work culture, language, and etiquette tips in Japan

Work Culture

Japan has a very specific work culture, which involves a large number of unspoken rules and customs. For example, people meeting each other in a professional context will always exchange business cards by taking turns bowing and presenting their cards with both hands.

Work dinners are fairly common and part of the Japanese workplace’s culture of networking. Employees are regularly brought together to eat, drink, and socialize - in this context, they are allowed to let their hair down considerably more than at the office.

All of these conventions can be intimidating for a foreign intern, but don’t worry too much about them. They don’t expect you to know all the rules! However, being observant and picking these up will most likely impress your coworkers.

Language

Although English plays an important role in Japanese as the international link or lingua franca, you may be surprised to hear that the rate of English speakers in Japan is low. However, there is increasingly more emphasis on English education in Japan to increase this rate.

Although it may be a difficult language to perfect, interns will find it very enriching learning Japanese and practicing with the locals. The Japanese language uses kanji, characters similar to Chinese. It is also a tonal language, meaning that you will need to put emphasis on intonation while pronouncing words. For example, hashi can mean both chopsticks and bridge. Using the high to low intonation will mean chopsticks (はし) whereas using the low to high intonation will mean bridge(はし).

Etiquette

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. Even in large cities, the risk of crime is considerably lower than you would expect anywhere else. People are considered to be very polite and respectful in Japan, and it is important to reciprocate this. It is often said that the sense of peace, unity, and harmony is integral to Japanese culture.

Pointing is considered to be rude, as is making loud noises in public spaces. Table manners are also important, so be sure to say thank you (ありがとう- / arigatō /) before and after your meal! However, slurping isn’t considered to be rude, so slurp away with your noodle soup!

Seniority and hierarchy are very important in Japanese culture, so challenging your superiors is frowned upon. This attitude extends outside the workplace: at a work dinner, junior employees are expected to serve drinks to senior ones.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • What visa do I need to intern in Japan?

    There are several different visas that can allow you to intern in Japan. If you are completing a paid internship you will need to apply for a Designated Activities Visa. Unpaid internships usually need a Cultural Activities Visa. Make sure to confirm this with your internship employer or your home country embassy.

  • Can I intern in Japan without speaking Japanese?

    Although there are a lot of Japanese-speaking only roles and it would be helpful to know the official language, there are internship opportunities for English-speakers where you can get Japanese training on the job. This way, you can learn Japanese and gain invaluable work experience abroad!

  • How do I get an internship in Japan?

    Determine what city and which industry you would like to complete your internship in Japan. Then, start applying to openings at companies, through recruiters, and third-party providers. Most companies in Japan start looking for interns at the end of March.

  • Are internships in Japan paid?

    Japan has paid internships, however, they are hard to find. Most internships are unpaid or compensated through non-monetary ways such as housing, activities, or meals.

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