Nov 7 2017 How to find jobs that require little/no Japanese language ability?

Although many of the Japanese companies operate globally, it is a myth that you can survive without Japanese language. That said, there are some exceptions. How can you identify companies that require less/no Japanese?

  • Who do you communicate on a daily basis?
  • Does size matter? How flexible are big companies vs small?
  • Prepare for fierce competition: entry tests, salary negotiation etc.


Although many of the Japanese companies have business globally, it is a myth that you can survive without Japanese language ability at Japanese companies. That said, there are certain exceptions to this rule where little to no Japanese is required. So how can you identify such companies and job positions and how can you apply for the such companies?

Do you use English on a daily basis?

One way to identify if the jobs or companies that require little to no Japanese is to look at what kind of people you will communicate with on a daily basis.
Firstly, in the job you are trying to apply, do you see yourself communicating more with people outside of the company? In that case, are they Japanese speakers or otherwise? Identifying who the end-user, customer or client company you will predominantly be communicating within a position is a good indicator of the language requirements. If communication with Japanese stakeholders in a job is f the job necessary than it is fairly certain that Japanese fluency is required. Sales jobs (targeting domestic marketing), PR/Marketing jobs, NPO jobs for instance, fall into this category.

A second method is to look internally within your prospective team and/or company. Would you be communicating with colleagues in English or other languages? Although almost all the Japanese people have six years or more of English education, unfortunately, the confidence and comfort level of Japanese people speaking English in the work place is oftentimes low. Common team or industry dynamics that suggest a little to no Japanese requirements include:
– Teams with a high number of international employees
– Companies which have strong a focus on markets outside of Japan (e.g. Global Sales or global marketing)
– Positions where a teams’ work operates on a commonly understood language entirely (e.g. IT where programming languages are universal).
Some R&D positions which require knowledge of the latest research journals will most oftentimes require English speakers. This is because the primary language of leading research papers published internationally is English.

Look at the size of the company

If the size of the companies is very large, it is more difficult to imagine that you can survive without Japanese language ability.
In large companies, the bulk of company documents are written in Japanese and you are required to understand them. Further to this, depending on your position you are most likely required to produce regular reports/and documents in Japanese.

When it comes to smaller size companies, language requirement can be more flexible. If the companies have just been established years ago or so and are very active in hiring foreigners, they are likely to be open to English-speakers. A lack of, or, ongoing creation of company documents make it easier to translate. Ventures and startup’s leadership may also have leadership with experience working or studying abroad, which can make a company’s general day-to-day operations more open to Japanese and non-speakers.

Based on our experience, small companies with roughly 5-20 people tend to have greater flexibility with language requirements. Companies that have a larger number of employees or have little to no foreigners working in the company are more likely to have higher Japanese language requirements.

Expect fierce competition

In reality, for the job positions that require less or no Japanese, there are many foreign applicants. Since all of them are able to speak English or/and several more languages, you will not be seen competitive just because you speak different language.

You have to be ready for very competitive selection process. For example, you may be required to take intense entry test. In the IT industry where little/no Japanese requirements are most common, there are sometimes coding tests as long as one hour to three hours. In other cases, you are given an assignment which you have to spend one week or so to complete.

When you are given an offer, you may be surprised that your offer amount is not as much as you expected. The companies decide the salary amount based on your skillset and experience, but it can be also decided based on demand vs supply. For positions that require no Japanese in particular, companies have a larger pool of candidates to choose from, which can make employees expendable or lower the salary.

Not all companies will have low salaries as the lax language requirements is often allowed in place of a high level of experience or advanced skill set. That said, the compromise for low language requirements can at times be at the expense of the salary offered. As with any technical or managerial skillset one might have, your choice and commitment to improving Japanese language ability will undoubtedly have a marked effect on job opportunities and compensation.

With greater pressure to shift strategy under a growing labor shortage and global competition from emerging economies, Japanese companies are definitely changing to become more global than before.
That said, the evolution of companies in Japan towards accepting more non-Japanese speakers is understandable, a long and slow one. In fact, a steady effort to improve Japanese language abilities is undoubtedly one that will be faster than the pace for change in most Japanese companies.

At Active Connector, we are always looking for companies that are leading or eager to implement changes that make it more conducive for international employees to join. Our daily search to create jobs that require less or no Japanese is a hard one, but we would not be thriving as a company if there were none. We believe the jobs we share without any Japanese requirements and the companies we work with show a promising future that is more open to non-Japanese speakers. That said, the hope to remove language as a barrier to entry in work definitely a two-way street! We therefore encourage all members to do what they can to better their Japanese so they can have better job opportunities.

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