Student life in Japan may be all about thrifty living, but did you know that even as a student, you can work part-time for a secondary income?
University students doing shift jobs at restaurants or at convenience stores is a prevalent sight. Some students even rely solely on part-time jobs to finance their studies and living expenses in Japan. Did you know that the Japanese part-time job landscape pays a relatively high minimum wage among OECD nations due to its consistent rise?
In fact, wages have witnessed a comparatively stable growth rate from 2010 to 2018, and they are at a high of 930 JPY/Hour in 2021. The average hourly pay is around 1000 yen or more. Moreover, several part-time jobs require little university education or even professional training from applicants. With the relatively high minimum wages offered by many part-time jobs as well as the relatively low barriers to entry, it is no wonder why many university students in Japan work part-time to supplement their income.
How can you apply for a part-time work permit as a student in Japan?
Bear in mind that your Japanese student visa alone does not automatically permit you to work in Japan. You have to apply for a work permit before you decide to engage in part-time jobs.
- Complete this form (you may download the form here) before arriving in Japan and hand it over to Japanese immigration at the airport upon arrival.
- If you already have a Japanese residence card but not a work permit, you may apply for a part-time work permit within Japan by completing a more detailed form (you may download the form here) and heading to the immigration office.
If you intend to start working right away upon your arrival in Japan, then you might want to fill out the required form prior to your arrival in Japan. If you apply for a work permit after you are in Japan, you may have to wait up to a month before your application gets approved. Once you receive approval to work part-time as a student, the authorities will paste a sticker in your passport and stamp the bottom space of the back of your zairyu, or Japanese residence card with a black stamp.
What are some of the typical part-time jobs you can do in Japan as a student?
Typical jobs you can apply for as a student in Japan include shop assistant roles in retail boutiques or convenience stores, office administrative positions as well as wait staff roles in restaurants. If you are a native English speaker (which many of us from Singapore are) you could even tutor English privately or teach in a language school. Otherwise you could still do translation in any other languages you are proficient in.
Note that you cannot do certain part-time jobs while on a part-time work permit in Japan. Prohibited jobs include those in the adult entertainment industry such as pachinko parlour staff and wait staff in night clubs. Should you get caught working these kinds of jobs, you may face immediate deportation back to your home country or face a hefty fine.
(You could apply to be a part-time shop assistant while studying in Japan.)
What are the benefits of working part-time as a student in Japan?
#1: Increase your income/earnings
As a foreign student in Japan, you may be concerned about tuition fees and living expenses. Even if you are on a scholarship or have your expenses paid for by your parents, having some more spending money is always nice. Working part-time during your free time would give you some extra cash to travel and explore Japan, try out delicious Japanese cuisine and participate in various cultural events. With these added experiences, your student life in Japan is bound to be more memorable.
(The extra income you can earn while working part-time jobs can finance your travels around Japan.)
#2: Practise your Japanese
You might have studied the Japanese language for some time now and are looking to put your knowledge to good use. Working part-time is an excellent way to improve your speaking, reading, writing and listening skills all at once. What is more, total language immersion is a tried-and-tested way to hone your language skills even further. For instance, if you decide to be a wait staff at a restaurant, you would have to communicate with customers and co-workers in Japanese. While situations may be challenging at times, putting yourself out of your comfort zone is highly advantageous if you aim to master as much Japanese as you can. Also, if you are studying Japanese in your university, your part-time work experience could even enhance your language skills.
#3: Gain work experience to boost your CV
Besides earning more money, getting a part-time job relating to your career interest would be a huge boon in building your resume up. For example, if your ambition is to be a professional translator, getting a part-time English to Japanese translating job while studying would definitely make you more marketable once you graduate and apply for a full-time translation job. Even if your part-time job may not be related to your university major or long-term career interests, you can still get glimpses of Japanese workplace etiquette and cultural norms. Such an understanding would even place you at an edge when you apply for a full-time job in the future as your dream companies may be looking for people with nuanced understanding of Japanese culture.
(Teaching English in Japan is a common part-time job to boost your income and career.)
#4: Widen your social network
Having a reliable social network is vital for students living abroad. Having good friends is essential while you are a foreign student studying abroad. This is especially so in a non-English speaking country like Japan where you may not be too familiar with the language. Therefore, getting a part-time job can widen your social networks and broaden your experiences in Japan. For example, as a part-time English language teacher in Japan, I met several interesting adult students with careers in the entertainment fields. I even got to hear some of their live music performances in Tokyo! Your social network could even assist you with finding a job after graduation as they may have useful contacts that could greatly benefit your job search.
Do you need to be fluent in Japanese to start working part-time?
Depending on the job, you may or may not need to be fluent in Japanese to apply for it. If you apply for a role as a wait staff in a restaurant, then at least some conversational or intermediate level Japanese skills would be needed. If your job requires you to liaise only with foreigners, you could just get away with your knowledge of English or other foreign languages. Some jobs, like dishwashing ones, do not require Japanese language skills at all.
Enhance your university life with part-time job experiences!
Studying in Japan as a university student does not mean that you have to worry about your finances or social life. By doing part-time jobs once you have a work permit, you can earn extra income while studying, practise your Japanese language skills, boost your resume as well as make lifelong friends at the same time.
Finally, here’s where you can improve your Japanese skills before you go!