Working in Yokohama

Updated 2022-12-23 08:10

Yokohama is the second largest city in Japan after the capital, Tokyo. It is also the capital of Kanagawa Prefecture, has a population of more than 3.6 million, and takes advantage of its geographical position. Located less than one hour by train/subway from Tokyo, Yokohama attracts more and more tourists and expatriates every year, among which are many foreigners who choose to live in Yokohama rather than in the Tokyo megalopolis. How do you find a job in this port city? What are the main economic pillars there? Here is a practical guide.

Mapping Yokohama

History of the Port City

Yokohama is located south of Tokyo, in the Kanto region, on Honshu Island, the largest in Japan.

The first port city of Japan has managed to make a place for itself next to big Tokyo. The natives of Yokohama are called "hamakko", literally, the "children of the beach". This is to say that the history of the city is merged with the evolution of its port, which is an open door to the world. It was through this port that the first exchanges with foreign countries occurred in the second half of the 19th century.

The small port of Yokohama became famous in all of Japan - a fame that extended beyond the borders of the Nippon archipelago. Successive developments have transformed the discreet city into an economic pillar. Today, Yokohama takes advantage of its geographical position (in the center of Japan) to trade with the whole world.

The port city of the future

Located 40km south of Tokyo, the port of Yokohama overlooks Tokyo Bay. It is the pride of the city. Opened to foreign trade in 1858, it has continued to thrive to become a major international port in Japan. This success can be appreciated at all levels, starting with jobs.

The port sector is a major employer with jobs in import/export, maritime expertise, shipping, customs, warehousing, logistics, engineering, stevedoring, tugboats, ship repair, inspection, etc. The influence of the port sector trickles down to the city's entire economy: restaurants, shops, museums, boutiques, etc. This is good news for expatriates looking for job opportunities in Yokohama.

The economy of Yokohama

Yokohama's economy is known as the "Yokohama economy ripple effect" driven by the port sector. The port indeed directly attracts some major industries such as shipping, steel, automobiles and tourism. They, in turn, attract the heavyweights of the hotel and restaurant industry, culture and entertainment. This is a real virtuous circle which contributes to the expansion and dynamism of the entire prefecture. It is a vibrant economy that attracts locals and foreigners alike.

Yokohama's economic health

Last year, 32.1% of Yokohama's income and 30.8% of jobs came from port activity, for an income of more than 5 million yen, divided between logistics (nearly 750,000 yen), industries (nearly 1.7 million), and tourism/culture (more than 1.1 million). More than 3.6 million yen come directly from the port. In addition, 1.4 million comes from indirect production.

Job creation by the port of Yokohama

In 2021, thanks to port activity again, 557,213 jobs have been created: 399,508 direct and 157,705 indirect ones. Industries account for the majority of the jobs created, with 177,044 positions, ahead of tourism/culture and logistics with 152,268 and 76,196 jobs, respectively.

Yokohama's economy by sector

Not surprisingly, the industrial sector is the most important. It accounts for 19.3% of the market. Business services are close behind (15%), followed by transportation (12.5%), trade (10.1%) and real estate (8.5%). Construction, information and communication, electricity/water/gas and personal services account for between 6 and 3% of the market.

Major companies located in Yokohama

As an international port city, Yokohama attracts large Japanese and foreign companies:

Industrial sector

Caterpillar, Iriso Electronics, Kuka Japan, Lasertec Corporation, Leister technologies, Okamura Corporation, Ono Sokki, Shincron, TÜV Rheinland Japan.

Automotive Sector

Nissan Motor, Polaris, AB Dynamics, Ducati, Nexteer, Suizo (H2) power, NBHX (Ningbo Huaxiang Group), HSK (Hoden Seimitsu Kako Kenkyusho)

Other major companies

Electronics, new technologies, high-tech sectors, etc. Almost every company wants to take advantage of Yokohama's strategic position. Panasonic, Bosch, Continental, Sumimoto Electic Industries, Faurecia, Adient, and Magna Steyr have all developed activities in Yokohama.

Why do international companies choose Yokohama?

With its history, strategic location and international outlook, Yokohama is a prime location for international companies. The city also offers a range of benefits to entrepreneurs and startups.

The German Industry Park (GIP) allows entrepreneurs to develop their businesses. The GIP is open to all, regardless of nationality. The Yokohama World Business Support Center (WBC) offers workspaces, services for professionals, and free advice. The city encourages the setting up of businesses and organizes meetings between professionals. This is another positive point for expatriates looking for a job in Yokohama. The city is thinking big and is increasing its partnerships with foreign countries. It also invests in communication, with many professional meetings to attract foreign companies.

A flourishing tourism sector

In terms of tourism, the port city has nothing to envy to the Japanese capital. Yokohama has many famous monuments, temples and shrines that attract visitors, starting with the Japanese people themselves. With the contemplative Japanese Sankeien garden, the futuristic Minato Mirai, the ramen museum, which takes us back to the 50's, the famous Chinatown, the biggest Chinese district in Japan, there is no lack of tourist attractions and activities in Yokohama. These also represent job opportunities for foreigners.

What kind of job are you seeking in Yokohama?

Now that you know more about Yokohama's economy, you can better prepare for your move and your job search. How long will you stay in Japan? On which visa? What type of job and contract are you seeking? Start by defining your needs.

In order to work in Japan, you need the right visa. You can choose from the Japan Working Holiday Visa (WHV), the student visa, the work permit, the internship visa or the spouse visa. However, The student visa, the Japanese WHV and the internship visa do not allow you to work full-time in Japan.

Baito jobs

Prior to COVID, baito jobs were plentiful and were posted on supermarket and konbini (24-hour mini-markets) storefronts. Since the Covid crisis, such offers have become less available, although the market is slowly recovering. This is only a partial improvement. The Japanese labor market is being hit by an alarming precariousness, and the phenomenon has gained even more ground since COVID. Short-term jobs are less well protected than permanent jobs. Moreover, a baito does not grant you a work visa. The Japanese immigration will ask you for a permanent contract.

Guidelines for finding a baito job in Yokohama

Baitoru, Nihon de baito, (accessible only from Japan), Albeit jungle, Baito my Navi are as many websites, where you can find many listed baito jobs. Also consider magazines, such as TownWork, Job aidem, Domo! or Working free. They are all free and can be found in train and subway stations. TownWork has job offers from all over Japan. The other magazines focus on certain regions, including Kanto, where Yokohama is located.

You can find jobs in restaurants, services as a waiter, sharehouse cleaner, hotel cleaner, handyman, in language cafes as tutor, or in convenience stores. There are still plenty of other websites offering baito jobs. You don't need a long CV, but you stand a better chance of being hired if you speak Japanese. Many international students in Japan take up baito jobs to finance their studies and/or gain work experience.

Full-time job offers

Things get more complicated when looking for a full-time job. Making a career in Japan is not impossible, but it does require some serious preparation. Are you already in Japan? Do you have experience in the industry you are applying for? Japan is an elitist country, which places great importance on academic qualifications, and there is a lot of competition between students and working people.

In Japan, people prepare to enter the job market during their last years of study. You will therefore be competing with both Japanese and foreigners. You stand more chances of being selected with a well-built resume. A degree from an international university known in Japan or from a Japanese university, professional experience, references and recommendations from companies known in Japan will be definite advantages.

Is the JLPT required to secure a job in Japan?

The JLPT (Japan Language Proficiency Test) is not necessary for a small job. But for a full-time job, it is highly recommended, as companies require it. The Internet is full of job offers that require at least a JLPT N2 (advanced intermediate level). It is not uncommon for companies to require an N1, which is the bilingual level. The JLPT is an international exam that validates the level of Japanese language, from beginner (N5, N4) to bilingual (N1).

Keep in mind that you will not be the only foreigner to master the language. Speaking Japanese is no longer a "bonus", but a prerequisite that every job seeker in Japan should have. Many students and working people who want to find a job in Japan arrive with an N2 or N1. Taking the JLPT before you arrive in Japan will enhance your resume.

Should you work in Yokohama or in Tokyo?

Should you choose the Japanese port city or the capital? Many expatriates are concerned that the demand for jobs will be lower than in Tokyo. Foreigners coming to Japan for the first time seem to be more concerned by these misconceptions, although they are based on a general observation: regardless of the country, there are more offers in the capital. Choosing Tokyo as a place to work is therefore a good option.

However, while many jobs are available in Tokyo, other cities are as promising for international careers, including Yokohama, Osaka, or Fukuoka. The strong presence of foreign groups in Yokohama and the multiple investments of the authorities are there to prove it.

Moreover, more job offers in Tokyo mean more competition. Yokohama is Japan's second-largest city for a reason. It, too, has many strategic and dynamic locations and hubs.

Finding a job in Yokohama

To find a job in Yokohama, there are several options: the website of the company you are targeting, general job websites, social media, etc. You can also join professional associations and participate in their events, and recreate a community in Yokohama. If you speak Japanese, join Japanese networks and, again, become part of a community. Do your job search directly in Japanese. You will have access to jobs that are not available on English websites. Finding a job in Japan is a long and sometimes difficult process, but not impossible.

Is it necessary to speak Japanese to find a job in Yokohama?

It is highly recommended that you learn Japanese. The language barrier will make you miss out on many job offers. Of course, speaking English is an asset as it is the first commercial language in the world. But English alone is not enough.

Whether your business is international or not, whether you live in Tokyo, Yokohama or other cities, don't skip the Japanese language. Having a good command of the language shows your motivation and your willingness to integrate into Japan.

Some international students prefer to come to Japan to learn the language in immersion. Finding a small job is also a good way to practice Japanese. Eventually, they aim for a more permanent job. Others save money by learning Japanese in their country before immigrating to Japan with a work visa.

More tips for living and working in Yokohama

Test the waters first

Is it your first-time move to Japan? If possible, test the waters before relocating there permanently. Visit different regions to see which one suits you best?

The beginning of your stay in Japan may be challenging (administrative formalities, various subscriptions, banking, etc.). If you are moving to Japan for work, try to come a few weeks before you start your job. Treat yourself to a vacation before starting your new career.

Experience life in the Land of the Rising Sun. Living in Japan is a unique experience. Try to recreate your "little world" in Yokohama with your favorite hobbies, entertainment, restaurants, etc. Make time for yourself to enjoy your new life. Even abroad, the daily routine quickly comes back to the surface.

It all requires time, patience and proper planning. Do not hesitate to ask questions in case of problems or doubts about visas, recruitment conditions, CVs, etc.

Take the time to research relevant information and to examine the offers (entry requirements, level of Japanese required, diplomas, years of experience, etc.). Do not send your CV to any company. Take time to choose the type of job you want to apply for.

Search for information on working conditions and learn a maximum about Japanese labor laws. Keep in mind that you don't need to review all of the legal codes, but you should retain the essential basic facts needed to work in Japan.

Adopt the standard Japanese work attire: dark suit and white shirt. Refrain from trying to be original, especially for a job interview. If in doubt, take coaching from recruitment agencies to master the codes and attend your interviews with more confidence.

Give yourself breaks during your job search. Take the opportunity to discover Japan. You don't have to stretch your budget to travel the country. A tour of the various districts of Yokohama or nearby cities is all you need.

Useful links:


Glassdoor (in Japanese)



Yokohama Chamber of Commerce (in Japanese)

Musubu (in Japanese)

City of Yokohama, job search assistance (in Japanese, multilingual translation)

Type - working in Japan (in Japanese)

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