In 2008 I moved to Japan to teach English just because well, adventure. For someone to move to Japan it means they are really into the culture, very adventurous or a little crazy. I am probably a mixture of the latter two. Well, it was more curiosity than anything else and the plan was to stay just one year.
That one year, became ten years and going. Luckily, the company I worked for provided me with an apartment because it is very difficult for non-natives to rent an apartment in Japan. It doesn’t matter where you are from, as soon as most Japanese apartment agencies hear a non-Japanese name, some red flags start going up. I encountered this first hand when I decided to relocate from the country-side of Okayama prefecture to Yokohama city (20 mins outside Tokyo).
The country-side got boring, even as much as the people there are much nicer than the city folks, the food is better and I had a popular local TV show in the area, not many opportunities were there for a side hustle. I tried only one side hustle and that was to export car parts, but I didn’t get a whole lot of customers so I quit that.
However, there are many opportunities in the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, for people that decide to move to Japan. Some people get luckier than others but it’s always worth a try. I will highlight some of the ways expats in Japan can gain success to varying degrees.
WAYS IN WHICH EXPATS IN JAPAN CAN
I wrote my first book, “Poetic Expressions of Peace and Love” back in 2010, two years after coming to Japan. I got some Japanese friends to translate my poetry and then got it published online via Lulu press in the US. The marketing of it was difficult, but I made a few deals at some local book stores in Japan and even went to the states and Jamaica on a book tour. It was mostly successful but not best seller category by no means. When I moved to Yokohama in 2011, two weeks after the big earthquake and tsunami, I was determined to make Japan become a success for me (I still am). So I tried my hand at a few different things. I had a blog, and the viewership started picking up when I moved to Yokohama. I also eventually started to do a few other side hustles to varying degrees of success.
I wrote my second book which was based on my most successful blog posts about living in Japan. It is called “Seeing Japan through the eyes of a Jamaican expat“. The main topics in the book were:
- Best places to visit in Japan
- Differences between Jamaica and Japan
- Things to know before coming to Japan
- Relationships including marriage with Japanese men and women
- Best Japanese foods
I went to the studio and recorded a few of my dub poems (Jamaican spoken word poetry accompanied by drums). I used one of these studio recordings to make a music video. I also do performance gigs every now and again. Music is big business in Japan and some foreigners make a living here either performing or promoting acts. Japanese hip hop and reggae is still largely an underground phenomenon but it’s slowly creeping up in the mainstream.
A few foreigners also make a killing from TV appearances whether appearing on commercial, modeling or acting on TV shows/dramas. This usually, but not necessarily, requires some level of Japanese proficiency. One African-American guy gained huge success appearing on commercials for one of the top phone companies in Japan, Softbank (the company that owns Sprint). I also make random appearances on Japanese TV, but can’t find the time to commit to it. Other Ways
Other things that foreigners gain success from in Japan are:
- Import/export (especially cars and car parts).
- Doing exceptionally well at or starting up some sort of English school or headhunting business.
A few people get lucky in other areas but what I mentioned are the main things. Like many things in life, a risk is involved, but living in Japan is a risk worth taking.