Doing an Internship in Japan as a Foreigner
Have you ever considered working in Japan, but are not sure whether the Japanese working culture would suit you? Internships are a nice way of trying out working in Japan for a limited time. Some even come with the chance of a job offer after the internship.
Internship Options for Foreigners
Long-term internships are not very common in Japan. Most Japanese companies only have internship programs that last for a few days. However, there are a few mostly foreign companies that offer long-term internships aimed at foreign applicants. From my experience the best website to look for such internships is Kopra.org. Here you can find internship offers from companies like Bosch, Mitsubishi Fuso, and Mercedes. Most internships are offered for a term of 6 to 12 months and usually, companies allow applicants to apply from overseas and conduct interviews on the phone or via video chat.
Visa for Internships in Japan
In most cases, you will need a so-called "designated activities visa" for doing an internship in Japan. The company you intern for should assist you with the visa application process. On such a visa you can receive an allowance from the company you intern for, but you don’t get a general work permission and will not be able to work side jobs.
Another option is a working holiday visa. Some companies do not provide visa support and only take candidates that already have a visa. In that case, you can try to apply for a working holiday visa if you fulfill the requirements. If you are on a working holiday visa you have a general work permit and can take side jobs on top of your internship.
Payment and Prospects of Internships in Japan
Most of the serious internship offers in the Tokyo area that I have seen so far offer an allowance of 100,000 to 160,000 Yen per month. Depending on where you live and how much you spend this can be enough to pay for your cost of living. But especially in the Tokyo area housing cost can be quite expensive.
Some companies offer internships without or only a small renumeration. I personally would not recommend doing such internships especially when on a working holiday as you can easily make more money by working in low paid part-time job.
More often than not companies use their internship system as a kind of recruitment system, and I know a lot of foreigners that were offered a full-time job after completing an internship. If you do well, you might be able to stay in Japan for longer than you initially expected.
My Experience Interning in Japan
My first work experience in Japan was an internship at a huge Japanese manufacturer. They provided housing for the interns for free and on top of that paid a decent allowance. Interns were taken good care of got support with formalities like registering at the city office and opening a bank account.
The internship helped me to get a realistic impression of the Japanese work-life and gave me the chance to make my first experiences. Unfortunately, due to the bad economic state the company was in when I interned, I was not offered a job however, due to the experiences I made, I was able to get a full-time job elsewhere shortly after finishing my internship.
Internships in Japan are very popular, and most companies have high expectations especially when it comes to Japanese skills, so if you have the chance to, I definitely recommend it.