A quick guide to Internships in Japan

With only 2% of its population being foreigners, Japan is unique and offers everything you can think of. The country has a similar shape as California and being almost the same size, only about 30% is habitable. The remaining 70% is mountainous. This means Japan has some awesome mountains to climb and is a popular country to go on winter holiday. And on top of that (pun intended) do not forget the tropical beaches and beautiful diving spots the south has to offer.

Not to mention Japan’s economy, their export products and culture has influenced the world as we know it today.

Awesome! Who doesn’t want to explore a country like this?

And the best way to do this, might be through an internship.

Trust me, I have done it all: Traveling, language school, business trips and an internship.

Interning in Japan just for a few weeks allows you to:

  • Explore the country and its culture
  • Include a unique experience on your resume
  • Work on your Japanese
  • Make local and non-Japanese-international friends
  • And, perhaps most importantly, you will grow as a person and learn more about who you are and what kind of future you’d like to create for yourself
Mark & Luke at their internship in Tokyo
Mark & Luke at their internship in Tokyo

Topics for today:

  • Internships in Japan
  • Why an internship has so much value
  • The ideal internship candidate
  • How to get an internship in Japan
  • What is Zentern and how can you help me?
  • A day in the life of our interns

Internships in Japan

To start off with internships in Japan, it is not very common. Japanese companies offering internships do so to promote themselves towards young talent. The longest duration might be 1-week and is usually for Japanese students or students fluent in Japanese only.

We know that you know what an internship is. An internship can be:

  • A short preview of life after university
  • A tool to get into a master’s degree
  • A change of industries
  • To work with a different company than you are with now
  • The one and only thing missing to get you into the university you want (this is also for high schoolers)

Studying abroad or traveling to Japan is great and definitely something I like to recommend to everyone. However, through my experience, I felt I achieved much more for a cheaper investment and less time.

This is what I realized:

You will get more valuable experiences:

Work with Japanese locals and expats

Even without knowing a word of Japanese, you will be surrounded with Japanese people and/or expats who know more about the Japanese lifestyle or about living abroad. You will meet co-workers who will become friends and learn how to communicate on a professional level with different age groups, nationalities and personalities.

Understand the Japanese work culture and prepare for your future career
You will understand how Japanese people work, think and what their (business) culture is really like.

You are part of a professional team
Rather than having an individual-group society like most Western countries, Japan is a group-culture meaning that they will treat interns like any other co-worker and you will make friends for life. You are part of the fam now!
A global internship is work experience no one can take from you and will shine brighter on your resume than the sun on a hot summer day.

You get more bang for your buck:

Some internships are paid, but unpaid internships are the standard in Japan. The internship industry here sees internships as a learning-process. It is similar to school but instead of reading a book about it, you get to try things in real life.

An internship connects you with more future possibilities:

Studying abroad is fun and pretty relaxing. You make friends and have less pressure than working at your internship, but you are stuck in a “foreign-bubble”. Through work, you get the chance to join meetings, seminars and network. I was fortunate enough to network with important people allowing me to get invited to job interviews in Japan but also in the USA. I actually got hired through my internship after I graduated university.

Finding employment gets easier:

Whether it is after university or a career switch, having proof of an internship in Japan will make you stand out. Even before an interview is confirmed, your future employer might think this about you already:

  • Wow! You are independent and likes to learn new things
  • You have an international and broad mind-set
  • You know what it is like to adapt quickly to new environments
  • You can take on responsibilities
  • Getting this person to understand our mission and goals while contributing to our team is a piece of cake
  • Has a step ahead on other applicants and is therefore eligible for promotions sooner than others 
  • Can be my guide on a business trip to Japan

Internships can be done short term and long term

Unfortunately, a 1-month language course does not make you fluent. However, a 1-month internship is enough to stand out already and learn more about the work force (may this type of force always be with you).  

Do not forget, like Nelson Mandela says:

“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.”

Life and job / internship hunting will become so much easier when you speak the language. Hence the fact that studying the Japanese language is important too.

The ideal internship candidate

Literally everyone. Everyone interested in doing an internship in Japan is the ideal candidate. Whether your grades are as low as the temperature on the North-pole or higher than Mt. Fuji, go for it.

How to get an internship in Japan

There are several ways to get an internship in Japan successfully:

  • Applying to companies directly by yourself (difficulty level: difficult)
    Chances are you might not hear back, or the positions are for people living in Japan. Finding an internship is difficult when you are in a different country.
  • Job fairs (difficulty level: difficult)
    There are not many job fairs that offer internships abroad, if they are the chances are you are competing with other (Japanese) people native in Japanese and fluent in English or another major language such as Chinese or Spanish.
  • Networking such as LinkedIn (difficulty level: difficult)
    Great to get in touch with the hiring person directly but not appreciated by many people. Most people in HR appreciate it when you go through their official channels.
  • Through an internship agency (difficulty level: easy, quick and stress-less)
    An internship agency places you with an internship company anywhere in Japan. There are many out there, so you need to compare and look for one that fits you best. There are program fees involved but in return you get a confirmed internship meaning guaranteed work experience making it a very good and high-return investment.

What is Zentern and how can they help me?

Zentern Internships is a Japanese-based internship agency. We work from our Tokyo office and offer internships nationwide. The most famous places for internships have been Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Kyoto, Sapporo and Nagoya.
You have to understand that most Japanese companies prefer working with companies also registered in Japan (long story) allowing us to work with a wide variety of local and international companies.
Based on your internship interests, skills and personality, we arrange your internship in Japan from 4 to 24-weeks.

We offer 3-programs to choose from:

Fully custom-made internships available for everyone and you can start anytime all year round. 

Check out a day in the life of our Zenterns

Check out these videos to get a better understanding of living and working in Japan:

Interested in finding out more? Let’s start with an online meeting! Contact us here.

Or are you interested in exploring a different country and culture? Check out our new Global & Virtual Internship Program!