Japan Entry Program - Part One

Japan Entry Program - Part One

This is a letter I received from a reader in Canada, and is typical of many I receive requesting a cook-book approach to getting to Japan and finding work. So, keep in mind that this "recipe" is for low-cost entry, dedication to learning the language, and the commitment to build a career, while you are presently unskilled.

NL: Hi, I'm 17 years old Canadian. I'm planning to move to Japan next year and work my way up in Tokyo in a major fashion design company. I am going to do this knowing that it is severely crazy and difficult but have THE will to succeed. My questions are as follows; what is the cheapest way to get into Japan, and what can I do to increase my chances of success in the fashion design industry?

Terrie: My first reaction on reading this is that 17 is kind of young to be moving overseas to a totally unknown environment, but then I reminded myself that I personally left home at the tender age of 16 and I have a Japanese (male) friend, who took himself to the USA when he was 13, without any help at all from his parents! So I guess it's a matter of will-power and maturity.

Let's look at this program in 3 parts: Getting here, Learning and looking, Career building.

Getting here:
By far the easiest way to get a visa into Japan is as a language student. You study for 3-5 hours a day, which means that you get about 4-6 hours to work part-time to pay the bills. The beauty of this approach is that it forces you to focus on the language issue right from the start, and if you're serious about your career, you absolutely have to speak some Japanese.

There are many Japanese language schools out there. A couple of good ones are: Kanrin Japanese School ( kanrin@par.odn.ne.jp ), Tokyo International Culture Education Institute ( ticei@tokyo-icei.jp ). You reserve with them, pay your money, and they sponsor your visa into Japan. Charges for such schools usually run about JPY80-150,000 per month. As I've said in previous articles, you should allow a minimum of 6 months language learning, and preferably 9-12 months. Later in your career you'll be very happy you listened to this advice.

By far the cheapest form of accommodation in Japan is the Gaijin house. There are plenty of these advertised in Metropolis and on the Web. You should be able to find somewhere for about JPY80,000, although if you are willing to share a room you can get a place for as low as JPY50,000, which is what I did when I first arrived in Tokyo as a backpacker. I might add that if you decide to live outside Tokyo, Fukuoka in Kyushu is a pretty nice place and much cheaper.

So, you have probably gathered by now that I really don't recommend just jumping on a plane and coming to Japan without at least having saved some money to get you through the first few months. Including language classes, accommodation, and say JPY3,000 a day for food and transport, you'll need about JPY250,000 x 3 months minimum to get in. That's about US$7,500. It's not that hard to find part-time work - and within 6-8 weeks, you can expect to be making about JPY1,300~2,000/hour doing English teaching and bar tending/hostessing or whatever else. No, it's not big money, but the objective here is subsistence living while study and eventually you get yourself a real job. More next week.

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