In this article, I will explain the differences between internships in Japan and in the West. I will also give you some tips that will help you become an intern in Japan.
What is an internship in Japan?
This question may seem silly, but believe me, it is not. The internship concept as we understand it in the West, does not really exist in Japan. Actually, most Japanese students do not need to make an internship to graduate. They acquire their first stripes in the work world at the end of their studies, once they have their degree.
It is for this reason that internships are not common in the Land of the Rising Sun. But do not worry, they do exist! I could even say that international companies and startups based in Japan are more and more searching for interns. You’ll just need to make more efforts that in your own country to find an internship in Japan.
Can we be paid for it?
Officially, you cannot be paid for an internship in Japan. Unofficially, interns can receive benefits that cover all or part of their expenses.
However, keep in mind that the company is not obligated to offer those benefits. It is therefore possible that it does not give you anything. In this case, consider leaving your country with enough money to live well during your whole internship. Ideally, find some information about the cost of living in Japan before starting to search for an internship there.
Who can become intern in Japan?
Do not imagine that companies base in Japan are only searching for awesome profiles. Foreign students have often a few misconceptions about the requirements of Japanese companies. I would like to clarify:
- No, you do not need to be in a very famous university or school to become intern in Japan. Anyway, most managers in Japan are unable to name a foreign university that is not Harvard or Oxford…
- No, you do not need to already have a degree to start search for an internship in Japan. You can do an internship during your first year.
- No, you do not need to speak Japanese to become an intern in Japan. A good level of English is enough for many companies. But of course, Japanese language skills can open additional doors.
Do not be afraid to try. My advice is just to not focus all your researches in Japan, especially if you absolutely need an internship to validate your year.
Where to find a company that want interns?
The most difficult point to do an internship in Japan is where to find a company that wants an intern. I reassure you right away, you do not need to be a distant cousin of Shinzo Abe to become an intern in Japan. You can find an internship in Japan through various ways accessible to all.
KOPRA is a website specializing in internship offers and applications in East Asian companies. It is a superb tool to find companies seeking for interns and to apply for some offers.
But there is a small problem: there are 600 offers for 20 000 internship seekers. Yeah… The competition is fierce on this platform! Fortunately, I have some other tips for you!
Your university or school
Sometimes it is not necessary to contact people on the other side of the world to find your internship in Japan. If you do not necessarily have contacts that could help you in your surroundings, do not overlook the network of your school.
Most universities and schools have partnerships with companies, associations and other schools abroad. Contact the person in charge of these networks or use the tools available to you to activate the network of your university or school.
Professional social networks
Professional social networks are filled with opportunities, even for students! You would be wrong to wait to get in working life to begin to register on such social networks.
It is in this kind of place you can find contacts that will allow you to create your own opportunities. Indeed, you do not always need to wait for a company to publish an internship offer. Sometimes, you just have to send a private message to someone with enough power to give your unsolicited application to the right person. Do not be afraid to annoy people, contact them and you will have answers.
There are two professional social networks you should definitely register to:
- LinkedIn: it is the undisputed leader on the market.
- Wantedly: this Japanese professional social network as a more friendly approach than LinkedIn. You will find many Japanese startups there.
Otherwise you can also fall back on Facebook. Some groups are full of job offers in Japan. Again, be proactive and do not hesitate to publish a message that describes your background and what you are looking for. Some people on those groups can have what you are searching for.
Many companies looking for foreign profiles posts regularly on this platform in Japan. Hundreds of new posts appear every day, and some are internship offers.
There, job offers are mostly written in English. You will not need to be fluent in Japanese to apply. In addition, the website allows you to select jobs by industry. It is super convenient.
Note that different Craigslist portals exist. There are eight of them just for Japan:
Before you start to apply, I would also like to warn you. It is quite easy to post an ad on Craigslist. For this reason, you must remain vigilant when exchanging with people who published an offer. Some ads are sometimes scammers. So be careful.
What do you need in your application?
As in the West, many applications are composed with two elements: a resume and a cover letter. Those wishing to become an intern in design, image or development fields can also provide a portfolio. But I will not address this latter medium in this part, as its nature varies greatly depending on the field.
It is not necessary to make a traditional Japanese resume. Indeed, the “rirekisho” is not an obligation, especially if you are a foreigner. Just be sure to write your resume both in English and Japanese to make it intelligible to the maximum of human resources managers.
Tweak your resume to highlight what differentiates you from Japanese who have just entered the labor market. The company must understand your unique profile will be a plus for their business. Believe it or not, even without experience you have something special to give to Japanese companies.
A cover letter
In some cases you will need to write a cover letter. If you are not able to write in Japanese, do not think Google Translate will do the work for you. Simply write your cover letter in English. It will be read by who can. But at least you will not make mistakes in a language you do not speak.
Which visa do you need to make an intership in Japan?
You can do an internship in Japan with several types of visa. Your rights vary greatly depending on the type of visa you have. So be extra careful, as companies are not always aware of the immigration laws.
Internships under 90 days
To perfom a non-paid internship under three months, you can use a simple tourist visa. In this case, you will not have much to do because this visa is issued free on arrival on Japanese soil for most of the western countries. Please note that the tourist visa has a 90 days duration. So be careful that your internship is completed before the end of its validity.
Alternatively, you can achieve this kind of internship with all the other types of visas: student, working holiday…
Internships longer than 90 days
There is no way to do an internship of more than 90 days with a tourist visa. In this case, you must have an internship visa, also called “cultural activities”, or a student visa.
Japanese immigration is rather hard when it comes to issuing visas. So you have no guarantee of getting your internship visa, even if you have found a company that accepts you as an intern.
In addition, you can also do an internship with a working holiday visa (if your citizen of a country that has a bilateral agreement with Japan). However, I advise you to not necessarily use your unique chance to have a WHV only for an internship. Use this card as a last resort. It would be a shame to not be able to fully enjoy this visa that allows you to live a whole year in Japan.
I think I addressed all the questions you can have about internships in Japan. I invite you to ask your questions or share your tips in the comments of this article.