So 1 year ago my fiancée and I made the decision to drop everything in the UK and get the ball rolling on moving to Japan. The plan was simple, get a visa, see the sights, then get a job before the cold rolls in. So after lots of planning, 4 months ago we flew out to Japan, had a blast and as luck would have it have found ourselves working in animation companies in Tokyo. So if you want to take the plunge, here is my advice on how to get an animation job in Japan.

Us

Prerequisites

  • Willing to work much longer hours and take potentially a big pay cut. Wages are lower in Japan and standard working hours are until at least 7pm.
  • Studying Japanese language. Most companies want to see you are actively trying to learn, even if they have in house translators. Get a head start by checking out my lesson!
  • A showreel ready that shows off your best skills. Keep it around 1 minute and don’t be afraid to have multiple reels to show off different skill sets.
  • An A4 formated CV. Keep it simple, 1 page and clean formatting. You may not be able to get as creative as you want but be glad most animation companies don’t ask you to submit a rirekisho!

visa
1: Get a working holiday Visa

  • If you are from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the Republic of Korea, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark or Norway then this is your foot in the door.
  • This will allow you to visit the country for 1 year, travel and apply for jobs in any field to start work at a moments notice. I can’t stress enough how much an advantage this gives you over applying from abroad as animation employers normally want you to start yesterday.
  • There are a variety of requirements for this, but overall the process is fairly quick and it only took about 2 weeks to get my WHV. In fact I was initially turned away for applying too early (6 months before my trip. They recommended 2 months)! Check out the embassy info page which has all the requirements.
  • For more information, there is a great post here with lots of WHV info.

Tokyo Cityscape

2: Save up and come to Japan

    • Or more specifically Tokyo if you just want to land a job ASAP.
    • I’d recommend you come with money and time in hand to travel for at least one month so you can acclimatise & get practising your language skills.
    • There are many advantages you have by being in the country as opposed to applying from aboard. First off it proves your willingness which looks good to employers. You are also able to come in for interviews, work in house on animation tests and you are able to take on short term freelance jobs which can often develop into full time positions.
    • I recommend bringing a laptop (& more) with you to run your software of choice incase you are asked to do a remote test. I was asked to do one while applying for polygon and even though I was hitch-hiking at the time 700 miles away from Tokyo, I was able to complete the animation test which landed me the job.

3: Apply to the right companies

Here are my recommendations on which studios are most foreigner friendly and are worth prioritising when you being your search for animation companies in Japan:

  1. Polygon Pictures – Large studio. Foreigner friendly. Translators in house.
  2. OLM – Large Studio. Foreigner Friendly. Managers often speak English.
  3. Marza – Mid-Large studio. Foreigner friendly. Translators in house.
  4. Konami – Large studio. Foreigner friendly application process.

Another notable mention is Aoki Studio who are smaller in size but ran by non Japanese so communication is in English. Though if your Japanese is conversational & progressing well you could check out Digital Frontier.

  • Apply in English unless your Japanese writing is very good, I wouldn’t recommend getting friends to write your application in Japanese as it will create a false impression.
  • When applying, stress you are in Japan already, have a visa and are learning Japanese. Make sure they know you could start tomorrow morning, as they may just ask you to!

polygon pictures

Final points

This by no means guarantees that you will get a job, but being in Japan is such an important step to take. Japanese people are very humble and strongly believe in doing business face to face, so being here ready to come in for interviews at a moments notice to suit their schedule is key. If all else fails, make sure you come over with a mind set to travel and fall back on non animation jobs such as English teaching while you keep pushing animation companies. So if things don’t quite work out, at least you will have a fantastic trip and enjoy your time in Japan.

If you want to do a bit of travelling first on the cheap, check out my guide to hitchhiking in Japan.

Any questions please check out my Japan animation FAQ first, then drop me a comment or say hello on twitter, cheers!

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