Japanese 3D Animation Industry FAQ

A year ago this month I published an article on How to Get an Animation Job in Japan and since then have received comments, replies and emails in the hundreds with many more questions. Having recently returned to London after nearly a year and a half of working and networking in Japan, I thought now would be a good time to answer all the most common questions about the industry.

Image from gameinformer.com

What are the salaries like and what is a decent wage?
Salaries in Japan are usually lower than the west and living in Tokyo is not cheap. A basic monthly wage for a junior/ mid 3D artist could be around 250,000jpy = 1370gbp = 2150usd and you could survive in Tokyo. But if you are talented and negotiate hard you can bring this up much higher.

What are the working hours like?
Working hours can be very long but it is not as if this is unique to Japan in this industry. I have had to work until midnight and I have had to work weekends. Overtime pay is non existent and you may even have to fight to get compensated for working Saturday and Sunday. Though as a foreigner, you will have things easier than Japanese people who consistently work until last train at 1am.

train

Do you need a degree to get a job in Japan?
A degree will definitely be a big help but is not a requirement for a working holiday visa (WHV) and if your showreel is good enough then that’s all that really matters. But if you are from the US which has no WHV program, applying for a job without a degree is going to be much more difficult.

Can I work in animation on a student visa?
You can potentially work part time on a student visa and it will be a foot in the door. But in animation companies this will almost certainly be unpaid internships, leaving you with no time or money.

Do I need to speak Japanese to find work?
You wont need it for the companies I recommended in my post, but speaking Japanese will open many more doors. If you want to pick up the basics fast, I seriously recommend a 3 pronged approach: “Michelle Thomas Method” audio tapes for getting yourself speaking. “Anki” mobile app flash cards to drill vocabulary and the book “A Dictionary of Basic Japanese Sentence Patterns”. Check out my lesson for a head start learning Japanese for 3D artists.

japanese

Can I get a job in 2D animation or the manga industry?
My experience in 2D is limited, however from what I found I would say this would be incredibly difficult due to the sheer size and quality of the competition. I saw jobs advertised for 6 day work weeks paying far less than what I thought was the legal minimum wage. I would recommend you do a lot more research before pursing this avenue.

Is it possible to find work outside of Tokyo?
There are a small number of companies outside of Tokyo, but most of them will need you to have at least some Japanese language ability. There is an interesting company in Fukuoka in the south of Japan called Mont Blanc Pictures. Other examples are Nintendo who are based in Kyoto and Digital Media Lab have an office in Osaka.

(Just for fun!) What was the weirdest thing about working in Japan?
For me, the biggest shock was people sleeping at their desks! I’ve put it down the the last train home mentality, people come into work so tired that I would regularly see them snoozing for 2 or 3 hours, only to wake up and have to stay late to get their work done again!

sleep

 

 

Posted on November 17, 2014 in blogPosts

About the Author

Dean Wright is a 3D artist and film maker. He writes about the VFX industry, Motorsport and working life in Japan following his time there in 2013-2014. Having worked internationally at major studios, he now lives in London freelancing for a wide range of clients.

Responses (20)

  1. Evan SSensei
    January 31, 2015 at 5:53 am · Reply

    thats harsh man T^T

  2. Dreams2008
    February 4, 2015 at 8:15 am · Reply

    Well.. for salary, it’s even worse if you have no experience on Animation industry. I got only 180,000jpy when I first working as a 3DCG artist in Japan small animation company. But anyway, it is a good start if you want to step in Japan animation industry. 😀

    • Dean Wright
      February 4, 2015 at 8:18 am · Reply

      Yeah I’ve heard even lower for anything on the 2D side. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. TSc
    April 2, 2015 at 7:14 am · Reply

    Hi Dean,

    Just want to ask if Japan do some online 3D modeling job?

    • Dean Wright
      April 2, 2015 at 11:05 am · Reply

      If you have connections you can find people who might work freelance for sure. Its all about who you know and how you get in touch, as with any country.

  4. javali
    April 22, 2015 at 9:16 pm · Reply

    Hi Dean,

    Thanks for your blog…

    Do you know of any other small japanese (english speaking) animation companies that you could recommend?

  5. binod khatri
    April 24, 2015 at 2:51 pm · Reply

    hey .. im from nepal n m working here as teacher … m doing 3d charecter animation in maya .if u have any job over there … can u please let me know .. i ll send u my demoreel.
    thanks

    • javali
      April 28, 2015 at 7:44 pm · Reply

      hey binold,

      I might know someone, but they are looking for 2d with a little 3d…. where can i find your demoreel?

  6. Yosua Sinambela
    May 21, 2015 at 8:36 am · Reply

    Hi, Dean-san. Thank you for your kind response from twitter. As I read it, I was surprised you’re able to work in Japan even though your Japanese is still not fluent. I always eager to go to Japan and work as a 3D animator. I am a fresh graduated, so do you have any suggestion what needs to be prepared before I/we apply to work in the Japanese industries? Thanks again.

  7. Shivanshu
    June 24, 2015 at 1:32 pm · Reply

    Hello,
    My name is shivanshu sharma, Currently i am looking to work in 3D animation industry for experience.
    I am a total fresher and i do want to know if it is possible for a fresher to get a job there in Japan? I am from India and I have just completed my B.A in V.F.X degree.

    I have prepared my show-reel too. I have experience working as freelance artist.

    One more thing, Is racism exist there? I mean if someone treating you differently according to your race or color?

    • Dean Wright
      June 25, 2015 at 7:57 am · Reply

      I would recommend getting experience in your own country first, that would help. I worked with many artists from India while I was in Japan so I don’t think you will have any extra difficulty finding work in Japan. Good luck!

  8. Ruben Stair
    February 29, 2016 at 12:24 am · Reply

    How about the salary for senior 3d animator in Tokyo 2016,I think I’m going to be offered soon,I hope but I’m still confused,what to say for expected salary…. Can u give me some numbers…Thank You..

    • Dean Wright
      February 29, 2016 at 10:11 am · Reply

      This honestly depends on how hard you negotiate. I’ve seen senior people take jobs in Japan on junior salaries as they are not used to negotiating. My experience is you will likely be severely low balled and it is up to you how much you want to risk going higher. You could target your previous salary or a little higher if you like but if you are from the US or Europe I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s asking for double what they offer you. It would be great if you can reply or email me with how things go. Cheers

  9. Alex
    March 15, 2016 at 7:07 am · Reply

    Dear Dean,

    Thank you for your blog and all the good advice, it is really useful.

    I just received a 内定 as a 3D Animator and I have to take care of my working visa.
    As an exchange student for now, I have a student visa which I need to change for a working visa.

    I just wonder in which category I need to apply :
    – Engineer/Specialist in humanities/International services
    – Artist
    – Highly skilled professional

    Thank you for your response.
    Alex

  10. Pramod
    December 21, 2016 at 12:18 pm · Reply

    hi Dean, sir i m from india . i m collage student . sir i have started my demoreel work . and its only an 6-7 months left for intern semester , so i want to know about the 3d artist jobs in japan , and level i must to get job and can i do internship in working holiday visa or i have to apply for work visa?

  11. Ashton Y
    February 15, 2017 at 3:50 pm · Reply

    Hi Dean,
    Thanks for such a unique blog. Hard to find good info on this topic.
    Im from Canada and i’ve worked for about 5 years exclusively as a VFX tracking layout artists with some experience in effects and also some animation.
    i am also currently learning Houdini Effects which i will add to my reel soon.

    I was wondering if there is a market for VFX artists (tracking/layout/Effects) in Tokyo or is it mostly animation only?

    Thanks in advance

    • Dean Wright
      February 15, 2017 at 7:44 pm · Reply

      Yeah there is demand for VFX artists and your experience will be of value in Japan too. Games companies produce a lot of their cinematics in house as well so it worth looking at the big studios that put out AAA titles, they often need effects work. Good luck!

  12. Khris
    April 26, 2017 at 7:42 pm · Reply

    Dean

    Great article sir! Are you familiar with GATZ: O. One of the most beautiful productions I have ever seen…

    Not sure if you could answer this but…wondering if you would have any insight into what goes into that type of effort. (Time, No. of people, Cost of Software/Hardware used…etc. Forget about marketing and voice actors or whatever, but just the animation) How could I find something like that out?

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