Planning a Working Holiday in Japan – Should I Use an Agency or Organize It on My Own?
If you have considered doing a working holiday in Japan, you might have researched agencies that help you organize your working holiday stay. As someone that planned and organized their working holiday stay in Japan on their own, I took a look at what kind of services these agencies offer and provide my opinion whether it’s a good investment or whether you should rather spend the money for traveling while in Japan.
What Kinds of Services Do Agencies Provide?
Most working holiday agencies offer similar services. They help you with the preparation of the documents you need for requesting the working holiday visa, they arrange accommodation in Japan, help you with formalities like going to the city office, opening a bank account, getting a cell phone contract and assisting your job hunting. Additionally, you can get intercultural training before your departure and access to office equipment like computers or printers.
Also, the agency is your contact point for your stay in Japan in case you have any troubles.
Most of the services they provide are things that you can do on your own even if you speak little to no Japanese. However, obviously many procedures go more smoothly the better your Japanese is.
Depending on what is included in the service package of most agencies are priced at around 1,000 USD.
Pros of Using an Agency
Agencies can help you save time and make things go more smoothly. You won’t have to look for accommodation and don’t need to spend time researching how certain procedures work as the agency will provide necessary information or go through the procedures with you.
Also, they provide a certain sense of safety as you have someone that you can contact in English in case you encounter difficulties.
Cons of Using an Agency
Organizing a working holiday stay in Japan is time intensive and you probably need to do a significant amount of research if you plan to do everything in your own. However, organizing my working holiday was a very valuable experience that taught me some important lessons. Not everything went well or as planned but for me, such difficulties are part of the experience. Overcoming them will make you grow as a person.
Also, if you entrust an agency with your stay, they might not be able to adjust to your personal needs and preferences, e.g. if an agency only provides accommodation in guesthouses they might not be able to help you if you would prefer your own apartment.
I also found the approach that some agencies have regarding job hunting questionable. The German agency AIFS, e.g., sends their participants to "Hello Work" (the Japanese employment office) as a first step for job hunting. From my experience Hello Work is the last place you should use for job hunting as they usually only have low-quality job ads.
Should I Use An Agency?
Spending 1000 bucks on an agency is a lot of money that you could also spend on fun things while you are in Japan. If you already know some Japanese, you will probably be just fine without an agency. You can find all the information you need online on working holiday resource websites, general Japan resource websites and personal blogs of former working holiday makers.
If you speak no Japanese, you might encounter more difficulties and an agency can provide useful help. Having a point of contact in Japan in case of emergencies also is nice. Especially if you only have few or no contacts in Japan yet.
I personally would always recommend to not use an agency to get a "real" working holiday experience and because in my opinion the money is better spent on experiences while in Japan or on Japanese language course to prepare for your stay.