Finding work in Tokyo is possible, but it’s not as easy nor as lucrative as it used to be. Teaching English is still the most common job for Westerners, but bartending, hostessing, modelling and various other jobs are also possible.
Whatever line of work you choose, it is essential to look neat and tidy for interviews – appearances can make or break you in Japan. You’ll also need to be determined, and you should have a sizable sum of money to float on while you’re looking for work, and possibly to get you out of the country if you don’t find any (it happens). Foreigners who have set up in Japan over the last few years maintain that a figure of around US$5000 or more is necessary to make a go of it. People do it with less, but they run the risk of ending up penniless and homeless before they find a job.
Be advised that business cards (meishi) carry much more weight in Japan than they do in the West. Information about a person’s status and, perhaps even more importantly, their connections can be obtained from business cards, which are ritually exchanged on first meeting. It’s good form to accept cards with both hands and examine them before tucking them away into your purse or wallet. If attending a meeting, the card should be left on the table until the end of the meeting, and only afterwards be respectfully put away.
Most businesses are open from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, with some also open on Saturday. Banks are normally open Monday to Friday from 9am to noon, and between 2pm and 5pm (some ATMs, however, may be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, but this can be rare). Shops and supermarkets are usually open from 10am to 8pm daily. Restaurants are generally open for lunch from 11.30am or noon to 2.30pm or 3pm and for dinner from 6pm or 6.30pm to 9pm or 10pm, with last orders taken about half an hour before closing. Variations on the above opening hours are listed in reviews.
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If you’ve ever thought about living and working abroad, then why not teach English as a foreign language (TEFL)? It could be the key to funding your travels and experiencing new cultures in a totally new way. You don’t need teaching experience or even the ability to speak the local language – although you might learn it while you’re out there.