Internships in Japan are more than just sushi and karaoke! With over 3,000 islands and the world’s third largest economy, an internship in Japan will enable interns to connect with large scale businesses and understand how cultural elements play into Japanese business. Japan is well known for its technological advancements, but its role as a global leader stems even further into its social, economic, and political power as well, providing those who obtain internships in Japan with incredible learning opportunities. After hours, the “Land of the Rising Sun” offers interns the chance to meditate in ancient temples, attend a sumo match or practice calligraphy.
Thanks to bullet trains, cheap flights, and punctual bus schedules, it’s easy to travel and explore while interning in Japan, but there are certain locations where it is best to settle for an internship placement.
Tokyo. With one of the largest populations in the world, Tokyo is an ideal place for internships in business, economics, or international relations. Tokyo is the most popular city for internship placements, with opportunities from Public Admin to Marketing and Journalism. From the cherry blossoms in Yoyogi Park, to the flashing lights of Akihabara (the Electronic District), Tokyo presents a dichotomy between strong tradition and modern pop culture. Luckily, the Capital city’s 197 train stations enable interns to get just about anywhere quickly! Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan, is not far from Tokyo and offers up a variety of internships year round as well.
The Kansai region, particularly Osaka and Kyoto, are also very popular for internships in Japan. Osaka is known for being the region’s economic powerhouse, while Kyoto, Japan’s capital until the late 19th century, is the historical and cultural center. But, if you’re really looking to get away, the island of Okinawa is cheaper, less crowded, and more relaxed than Honshu (the main island). Internships in Japan are also offered in the north on the island of Hokkaido, where interns can work in the city of Sapporo.
If you don’t speak Japanese or know much about the culture, there are still plenty of internship opportunities available. Internships in Japan place interns in Business, Banking, and Marketing positions in large multinational companies most commonly. Internships in Education and with small nonprofits are also readily available. Teaching English is the primary role of expats in Japan, so TEFL programs are very popular. Plus, if anime, snowboarding, or a hotel internship are of interest, there are placements in those arenas too! Internships in Japan can last anywhere from one month to a year depending on the organization and placement.
Salary & Costs
Though Japan can be considered expensive, traveling and eating is often cheaper than in the U.S. and most of Europe. Some internships that require Japanese language skills will provide a small stipend, but most internships in Japan (Tokyo particularly) are unpaid. Since stipends and salary for interns are uncommon, some internships will provide additional support for work and living expenses. If money is a dealbreaker, consider an arubaito (part-time job) instead. Teaching English is a popular part-time or full-time job, but will require a student work permit which can be a bit of extra red tape.
Accommodation & Visas
Homestays and apartment arrangements are typical for interns living in Japan. You may encounter lodging without air conditioning and heat depending on the time of year and your location in Japan. If interning in northern Japan, be prepared for humid summer months and freezing winters. Urban planning allows for Japan to house many people close together, but because of earthquakes most homes and apartments are built with light material and do not have heating or cooling systems. Instead of central heat, they rely on space heating or the use of a kotatsu (a heated table with a blanket over it). However, there are less traditional homes and apartments that have more modern amenities.
You will need a general visa from the Japanese embassy if you plan to intern in Japan. It will allow you to stay for one to two years and is free! If you’re lucky enough to obtain a paid internship, there will be different rules. Once you’ve obtained your visa, you will also need to register as an alien and carry your registration card with you wherever you go.
Benefits & Challenges
- Business Expectations: Japanese can be very formal and have specific expectations for communication (especially greetings), and how personal relationships should be developed. Do your homework and learn to bow, when to shake hands, and gift giving traditions.
- Clothing: Work attire in Japan is traditional for both men and women. Leave the neons behind and stick with dark clothing during your internship in Japan.
- Punctuality: Arrive five minutes late and prepare to be considered disrespectful. Punctuality is a strong cultural value throughout Japan. If a train is one minute off schedule, expect an apology (or at least an announcement from the conductor).
- Cultural Opportunities: These are easy to find – learn flower arranging, tea ceremony etiquette, martial arts, and traditional dance!
- Free Stuff!: Take the Japanese fans and tissues you are offered on the street – you will need them.