So, you want to work in Japan. In order to succeed in the land of the rising sun, some Japanese language skills are definitely required. The question is – how much Japanese do you need to work in Japan exactly? In this article, we’ll learn about:

  • The JLPT and the job market
  • Language requirements for different industries

What Jobs Do Foreigners in Japan Do?

Some of the most common jobs that bring foreigners to Japan are:

  • English teacher
  • IT professional
  • Engineer
  • Translator
  • Interpreter

The JLPT and the Job Market

A record number of foreigners are entering the country to fill the growing employment gap caused by Japan’s rapidly aging population. The demand for foreign talent means that some employers are willing to work in English, however, that is not always the case.

The most common measure of fluency is the JLPT, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test. It consists of five levels – from N1 (advanced/fluent) to N5 (elementary). To work in a majority of companies and industries in Japan, employers expect prospective employees to have at least passed the JLPT at the N2 level.

If you’re hoping to start learning Japanese, have a look at our article on what your options are.

Language Requirements for Different Industries

Of course, the amount of Japanese you’ll need depends on what kind of work do you. Let’s look at some of the most common industries, such as:

  • Education
  • The tech industry
  • The business sector


The ESL (English as a second language) industry is big business in Japan, and hires a lot of foreigners.

Most schools will ask teachers to speak only English to students. Language immersion is often expected, so Japanese is not necessary. That is not to say that Japanese is not beneficial, as many low-level students or children might need help. A teacher who can understand them is, of course, a bonus. If one works in either a public or private university or school, Japanese is also very useful for internal communication with coworkers.

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Tech Industry Professionals

More modern, tech-focused companies have also begun establishing themselves in Japan. They are aware of the need to adapt to a globalized, interconnected world. This means that they are more comfortable with bilingual working environments, and offer opportunities to those who may need to still improve their Japanese language skills. 

However, to be hired with no Japanese language skills, one must be in a highly specialized occupation. Most companies still operate mainly in Japanese, and bilingual employees are particularly in demand.

The Business Sector

Many multinational companies transfer their employees to Japan for a number of years. Even though they are encouraged to study Japanese, they are usually not required to, as these companies often conduct business in the language of origin (as well as in Japanese, of course). Transfers are also usually not seen as permanent. This does however depend on the company and the position.

Why You Should Learn Japanese Anyway

Yes, it is possible to find a job in Japan without any Japanese. However, it does limit what you are able to do. If you are hoping to stay long-term, it’s a good idea to learn at least some. Not only will your employment opportunities increase, but daily life will also be easier.

Want to Work in Japan?

Inbound Technology helps foreigners find work in Japan’s tech industry. Get in touch with a career advisor here, or follow us on LinkedIn.