I'd love to live in Japan when I'm older. Realistically, what is the highest paid job someone from the UK could get in Japan?

It depends on how hard you want to work and hustle.

I know people who have done the following to get to Japan:

  • Transferred as expats with their current companies. From there they found other jobs locally.
  • Those who started as English teachers went on to start careers in sales, graphic design, web development, and marketing with little or no Japanese
  • A freelancer who found a Japanese business partner and started a business (with upfront capital of $4–5k USD), where they were able to secure a 1 year visa and then get it extended from there
  • Foreigners who became translators, video game testers
  • A foreigner who started e-commerce businesses exporting anime merchandise

Generally speaking once you are “in” the country with a 1 year visa, it’s a lot easier to look around for other work. Depending on your skill set and work experience would make this a mini goal.

People will always respond with “language is a huge barrier.” While I do agree that things will be easier with the language — like in any country — this should by no means deter you from chasing your dreams.

There are plenty of people in Tokyo who have made it successfully into a range of careers. Some of them speak Japanese, some of them didn’t speak a word when they got here. Don’t let other people tell you otherwise.

How is this possible?

There are companies in Tokyo who run APAC marketing and overseas marketing from Tokyo. Meaning that you won’t be in charge of Japan as a market, but you’d be based here. While APAC HQ is typically Singapore, there are companies who base their regional offices in Japan. Google has some regional products they run out of Tokyo.

There are also companies who are marketing primarily towards foreigners living in Japan, so if you speak English and understand the market trends w/ a specific skill set to bring to the table, that can qualify you without language skills. Gogonihon is one example.

Of course if you have technical skills like web or app development then this puts you in a different category.

Lastly, recruitment is another career to seriously consider — it can be extremely lucrative. There are over 3,000 registered recruitment firms in Tokyo and many of them deal with non-Japanese clients, so the language is not a necessity.

Oh, and did I mention Japan has a severe labor shortage? There are lots of jobs.

If failure is not an option and you are determined to come to Japan, my suggestion would be to get a working-holiday visa and come here for a few months. Network, meet people, apply for jobs. You’ll be much more likely to get an interview if you’re physically here. You’re also more likely to bump into the “right” people.

In the worst case scenario, you can become an English teacher and then start a side hustle.

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