Internships are a great way to gain hands-on experience, improve multicultural communication skills and get a sneak peek into the inner workings of a Japanese company. An internship also provides a ton of networking opportunities that will help grow your career. But landing an internship in the “land of connections” can feel almost next to impossible. Whether you are an undergraduate student or someone looking for a career change, there are multiple ways to land an internship in your dream sector in Japan.

What You Can Gain From a Japanese Internship

The first question you should ask yourself is: Why do an internship in Japan in the first place?

Everyone has their own reasons, but there are huge advantages to completing an internship versus studying abroad in a Japanese university. The first and most obvious point is getting a sneak peek inside a Japanese company and experiencing Japan’s unique work culture.

At first glance, how the Japanese conduct business can appear strict and formal, but surprisingly business deals are made based on relationships. Being able to speak some Japanese will give you a jumping-off point to dive further into the social hierarchy that defines the country’s work culture. An internship will provide the opportunity to hone and develop your language and multicultural communication skills which are highly sought after in today’s competitive hiring market. You’ll also likely be exposed to industry-specific information, topics, jargon that a university course would rarely cover.

Interested in building a career in Japan? A huge benefit of doing an internship in Japan is that you’ll likely have the opportunity of landing a job if you impress your supervisors.

Don’t have a clear career plan yet? No worries! An internship will provide new insights and connections that will become invaluable tools in the future, not to mention experience gained in an internship is highly valued by recruiters and will give your CV a big boost.

What Do You Need To Prepare for a Japanese Internship?

Before coming to Japan, you’ll have to choose your internship depending on how long you intend on staying. Do you want to live in Japan for a short time? Do you want to gain enough international work experience for a job elsewhere afterwards? Are you interested in working in Japan after finishing your internship?

These are all important questions that you need to ask yourself and decide on one of them to know what type of internship to apply for.

Another big factor at play will be your Japanese ability. Interns coming to Japan from abroad are divided into two groups. Those who have already studied Japanese and are seeking to gain “hard skills” then there are those who have specialized knowledge and experience, but have low language skills. Most companies will prefer candidates with a JLPT N2 or N1. But if you have background knowledge in certain sectors such as tech or IT then Japanese knowledge is not required at all.

Understanding the Internship System in Japan

There is still an ambiguous definition of internships in Japan and many companies have yet to embrace the full range of opportunities that internships bring to the workplace, but there is a growing number of internships across the country. There are a few different types of internships that Japanese companies provide from short-term to long term.

Short Term Internships

These internships can range from a few days to a handful of weeks. But is there any point to such short placements? Actually, there is. These types of internships are often used as part of the regular Japanese recruitment process. Here, the company is not actually looking for a short-time worker, but a future potential employee. It’s an opportunity for company employees to get to know you, see if you can work as part of the team and have the potential to grow within the company. If you can impress your supervisors, chances are that you’ll likely land a job offer from said company.

Long-Term Internships

These can last between 4 months to a year providing you with hands-on experience. These are similar to those from abroad giving you a closer look into the inner workings of the company and provide you with general or specific experience in the industry. However, this won’t necessarily result in a job. Long-term interns are expected to complete their work and leave after the internship period ends.

How Do You Find Internships in Japan?

This is the part that you’ve been waiting for, so let’s dive in. There are three main approaches you can take to secure an internship in Japan: Through an internship placement agency, searching internship platforms and job boards, and directly applying to the company that you’re interested in.

Internship Placement Agencies

This is the easiest route to finding an internship. With the number of international students increasing every year, internship placement agencies can be the best way to secure an internship. They specifically cater to international student in Japan, so all the information is readily available in English. All you have to do is send your information and tell them what type of internship or experience you hope to gain in Japan and they’ll reel off suitable internships for you. The hardest thing is choosing which placement agency to go with!

However, there is a catch. Signing up with an internship placement agency will cost you way more money than any other options. You will have to pay the agency for the application, registration and any other specific fees that your agency will require. It’d best to ask up front how much their services will be so that you can prepare your budget. Apart from that, you are all set and ready to go!

Here are the major internship placement agencies based in Japan.

Pros
  • Recommend internships that best suit your interests and career goals
  • Will provide visa support
  • Will help you find accommodation
Cons
  • Mainly offer unpaid internships
  • You will have to pay for registration and internship program fees
  • You will have to pay for your own accommodation

Internship Platforms and Job Boards

Can’t afford the agency placement fees? No worries! You can save yourself some money by searching for internships yourself. Searching for keywords such as “interships in Japan” will show you hundreds of opportunies. To further your number of choices, check out both English and Japanese websites.

There are plenty of great internships that can be found on internship platforms and job boards. You can input your chosen industry, jobm and preferred area and you’ll immediately find a ton of opportunities. If you have the right skill set and are careful with your application documents, your chances of landing an internship are pretty high.

If you’re aiming for an internship with the possibility of following up with a job offer, be careful about the time of your application. Companies will start their recruitment process for the following year in the summer, so the number of internship opportunities significantly increase during August. Our advice is to apply 2 or 3 months in advance to get the best leads.

Here are some internship platform and job boards:

You can also find internship opportunities on the website of the chamber of commerce of your home country in Japan.

Talk to your university

There are universities in Japan that offer internships to students. You can start by talking with the university that you are enrolled in. Working as an intern at a university can be pretty handy. You won’t have to spend extra time or money searching for internships. Your internship will not only provide you with hands-on working experience in your chosen industry, but you’ll probably also get course credit towards your degree. It’s a win-win situation!

However, this option is only available to you if you’re enrolled as an international student in a Japanese university. It’s no the end of the world if you’re coming in from abroad. You can talk to your Japanese language professors at your enrolled university and see if they have any connections to a Japanese company or organization that may be able to offer you an internship.

Multinational Companies and NGOs

There are plenty of international companies and organizations based in Japan that provide an English-speaking work environment and truly global experience. Not all of these companies will offer internships, but there’s no harm in reaching out to them and asking them for internship opportunities.

This shows your level of dedication and motivation to kickstart your career and make a fantastic first impression on recruiters. After all, you went through the trouble of researching about the company, products and services and overall company values.

Landing an internship is very competitive and you will need a clear idea of what your goals are. If you can define these and connect them to your chosen company or organization’s brand and values, you’re far more likely to land an internship offer.

LinkedIn is your best friend when searching for international companies and organizations. You’ve got this!

Professional Networks

Although we just mentioned this, websites such as Linkedin and Wantedly are essential resources for networking. These sites basically provide professional networking opportunities which means you’ll be able to find job and internship offers. Seeking help from your academic or personal network that you’ve built over the years will come in handy in times like these. You might already have someone in your network that has experienced interning in Japan. They are an invaluable source of information and can give you personalized advice and tips on how to get an internship in your chosen field.

Ready to get started?

An internship in Japan is a great investment for your professional career. It not only offers a golden opportunity got you to develop your knowledge and skills in your chosen field, but you’ll also gain a deeper understanding of the mindset of a different culture.

Taking part in an internship in Japan will give you the skills and experience to easily adapt to challenging and changing environments which will help sharpen your resume. You will grow as professionally equipped with valuable skills and you will also learn more about yourself and the world at large.

Now that you have a clearer idea of how to get an internship in Japan, it’s time to set the wheels into motion. Buckle up and get ready to gain the experience of a lifetime.