Top Things to Know Before Interning in Japan

Japan Internships

Top Things to Know Before Interning in Japan

Interning in Japan is a dream opportunity for college students who want to gain more international experience and a deep understanding of one of the world’s leading economies. From the bustling streets of Tokyo to the picturesque landscapes of Kyoto, Japan offers the most enchanting blend of tradition and innovation.

But entering into the Japanese work and social environment can be daunting. 

If you’re curious about what it takes to succeed in an internship in the Land of the Rising Sun, this post is for you. 

Why Choose Japan for Your Internship?

It’s probably fair to assume that you have plenty of options for internship destinations. However, Japan should come to the forefront.

If you’re studying Japanese, it’s an obvious choice. There’s no better way to learn a language than through cultural immersion. Plus, you’ll reap all the benefits of an internship in general, like improving soft skills, expanding your professional network, and boosting your resume.

Japan is a great place to intern if you are interested in a career in marketing, technology, or business, too. It’s known for its many technological advancements and secure standing in the global marketplace, making it a top destination for students interested in these fields.

Top 7 Things to Know Before Interning in Japan 

You’ve picked Japan. So now what? Here are some insider tips to help you feel as prepared as possible before your plane touches down.

1. Cultural Awareness is Key

Japanese society has a rich heritage. This heritage is reflected in traditional customs, such as the tea ceremony and the wearing of kimonos. Bowing is a common form of greeting, with the depth and length of the bow varying based on the context.

Similarly, respect for elders and authority is super important. You’ll need to use honorifics such as ‘san’ when addressing people with whom you have a professional relationship.

It’s also important to be mindful of personal space as it is much more limited compared to Western cultures. Avoiding eye contact can sometimes be a sign of respect rather than shyness, and you’ll want to watch and learn from your colleagues and peers to gauge the most appropriate behavior.

2. Mastering the Language Basics

While English is spoken in business and tourist areas, learning some Japanese phrases will be greatly appreciated. Expressing gratitude with “arigato” or excusing yourself with “sumimasen” can go a long way in building rapport and making a positive impression.

Learning Hiragana and Katakana – the two basic Japanese writing systems – will likely prove to be beneficial for navigating daily life, especially when reading signs and menus.

Internship in Japan

3. Understand the Work Culture Differences

The work culture in Japan is well known for its formality, punctuality, and collective ethos. ‘Karōshi,’ which translates to ‘death by overwork,’ served as a stern wake-up call for Japan to reassess its work-life balance practices. Some organizations have since changed their work practices, but despite this, long hours and dedication to the company still hold weight in many organizations.

Because of this, you should be prepared for a structured and demanding work environment and for rigid hierarchical company structures. 

4. Handling the Legal Requirements

Securing the correct visa for your internship is non-negotiable. Japanese visa categories for interns typically fall under ‘working holiday visas’ or ‘cultural and activities visas.’ The latter may require sponsorship from a recognized organization or employer. You may also need work permits. 

You will also need a Certificate of Eligibility issued by your host company to apply for your visa. 

Not only that, but international interns are required to have health insurance in Japan. While some companies may include insurance as part of their intern packages, others may not. Japan has an excellent healthcare system, but it’s also one of the most expensive in the world. 

5. Getting Your Financial Ducks in a Row

Japan’s official currency is the yen (¥). Before you leave on your trip, exchange a portion of your local currency for yen to handle any immediate expenses upon arrival. Major airports and banks do offer currency exchange services, but they may not always offer the best rates.

You might want to consider using a local ATM for better exchange rates, and check whether your bank charges international withdrawal fees. Notify your bank of your travel plans to avoid your card being blocked for suspicious activity, too.

Here’s some bad news: Japan, especially the urban areas, can be one of the more expensive countries to live in. Your costs will quickly add up, so set yourself a realistic budget.

Consider limiting your travel during peak periods and exploring free events and activities to experience Japan without breaking the bank. Many museums and parks offer free or discounted entry on specific days of the month.

6. Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Your safety and well-being should always be a top priority, but that’s especially true when you’re navigating a new country and culture.

Before you hit the road – or should we say, the skies – put together a list of emergency contacts in Japan, including the address and phone numbers of your country’s embassy or consulate, as well as local emergency services. Keep this information with you at all times, along with your host company’s contact details.

When you get there, familiarize yourself with the location of nearby medical facilities, including hospitals and pharmacies. Make sure you have access to any necessary medications, and consider having a basic first-aid kit wherever you happen to be staying. 

While Japan’s healthcare system is advanced, with modern facilities and highly skilled professionals, medical information and services are primarily provided in Japanese. Having a translator app or guidebook with you at all times can be useful.

7. Dealing With Tech Issues

Stay connected by arranging for a local SIM card or mobile Wi-Fi device. Many coffee shops and public areas offer free Wi-Fi, but having your own connectivity solution is more convenient and guarantees a stable connection for work and communication.

Familiarize yourself with common Japanese tech brands and services, such as SoftBank and NTT Docomo, which provide mobile services and plans. Apps like Line and WeChat are popular for messaging and international calls.

A Global Career Starts With Absolute Internship

Ready to take your career to the next level? Absolute Internship wants to help. 

We are a leading international internship program with internships available all over the world, from London to Barcelona, Shanghai to Tokyo

We work with world-class companies to give our students life-changing opportunities. 

Could you be our next success story? Step out of your comfort zone and think about interning in Japan. Opportunities await. 

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