Things to Know Before Working in the Japanese Hotel Industry


The Japanese government has set a goal of attracting 60 million annual foreign visitors to Japan in 2030. To provide the highest-quality services possible to so many people, a large number of hotel and accommodation enterprises have started proactively recruiting international staff. If you’re hoping to take advantage of this movement to snag a job, keep reading! In this article, we cover essential knowledge anyone entering Japan’s hotel industry should be aware of. This includes what visa you need, types of occupations within the industry, salaries, necessary skills, and more.

1. What Visa Do You Need to Work in a Japanese Hotel?

In order to work as a full-time employee (known as a “seishain” 正社員) at a Japanese hotel, you’ll need the appropriate visa. Let’s take a look at what kind of visa allows you to do what kind of work.

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〇Working Visa: Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services
Most foreign full-time employees at Japanese hotels work under this visa. To qualify for it, you’ll need the right educational background and work experience. Also, the job you’re applying for cannot be unskilled labor. The visa can be renewed and extended indefinitely.

Examples of Permitted Jobs:
* Front desk staff
* Office staff (sales, accounting, PR, other)
* Manager, assistant manager, and other supervisory positions

Front desk staff are often required to speak Japanese along with their native language and possibly additional languages. Hotels owned by foreign companies in particular see lots of international travelers, making it necessary for staff to be able to accurately interpret and translate for them. A daily conversational level of Japanese is simply not enough in these instances. In addition, for those looking to enter hotel management, the “Business Manager” visa may be necessary.

〇Working Visa: Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 (Accommodation Business)
This is a new type of working visa set up in April 2019 in accordance with revisions to the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act. It is available to those who have taken the Accommodation Industry Proficiency Test either in Japan or abroad. Unlike those with an Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa, people with this status of residence are able to perform unskilled labor, including:

Examples of Permitted Jobs:
* Restaurant waiting staff
* Bed making, cleaning work

However, with this visa, it is forbidden to perform “specialized” work. For example, it’s possible to work as both front desk staff and a cleaner, but those solely performing cleaning work will need to obtain a Specified Skilled Worker No. 1 visa for building cleaning instead of the accommodation business. In addition, unlike the Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa, this one has a maximum 5-year limit, so make sure you don’t exceed it!

〇Specified Skilled Worker Visa:
Many holders of this visa are employed as chefs to cook food from their home countries.

To work as a full-time or contract employee at a restaurant specializing in foreign cuisine, you’ll need at least 10 years of relevant work experience. It may be difficult to obtain this visa if your work experience was at a restaurant serving a variety of cuisines. In those cases, you may have to interview with a potential employer beforehand so that they can determine if you’re likely to obtain this status of residence.

2. Average Salary for Each Japanese Hotel Occupation

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Here are the average monthly salaries for Japanese hotel staff broken down by occupation:

Front desk staff: 200,000 – 250,000 yen
Office staff: 160,000 – 180,000 yen
Bridal staff (guiding, creating estimates, and proposing reception ideas for couples planning to marry): 200,000 – 250,000 yen
Manager, assistant manager, and other supervisory positions: 200,000 – 400,000 yen
Guest room duties: 180,000 – 200,000 yen
Wait staff, server: 180,000 – 200,000 yen
Cook: 180,000 – 200,000 yen

While salaries can depend on the occupation, as seen above, the overall average annual salary for the hotel industry is around 3-4 million yen.

3. Required Skills and Experience for Japanese Hotel Jobs

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〇Skills That Make You More Employable
While there are numerous occupations requiring specialized skills within the hotel industry, such as cooking and accounting, work where you directly interact with guests like front desk staff primarily requires the following three skills:

①Language Skills
Positions that require conversing with guests, making reservations, and handling inquiries will generally demand their applicants to have Japanese language skills equal to JLPT N2 or above. However, depending on the position, N3 or N4 levels may also be acceptable, so make sure to check the application requirements carefully.

Additionally, an applicant whose mother language is not English may also need to submit their TOEIC score, primarily at foreign-owned hotels. Popular hotels or those within major cities often have a large international customer base, making English an extremely important skill in this industry. Naturally, if you can speak any additional languages, make sure to highlight this skill on your application!

②Communication Skills
As the primary role of the hotel industry is to serve customers, you’ll need to appear friendly and highly approachable by speaking in a clear, sincere manner, preferably with a smile on your face.

③Observation Skills
A good hotel employee should be able to sense what customers need through the power of observation alone, without them having to utter a single word. Hotels welcome guests from all walks of life, and hotel staff should be able to instantly tell whether they are here on business, for pleasure, or something else entirely based just on their attire and conduct. This information should then be used to make friendly recommendations and give advice tailored to the individual guest.

〇Experiences That Make You More Employable
Naturally, having experience in the same field and occupation will make you considerably more employable. If you’re changing occupations within the hotel industry, you’ll be asked about your previous work duties during the interview, so make sure to talk about all your specific achievements. Even if you’ve never actually worked in a hotel before, you may have other valuable experience, such as working in the accommodation industry, like at a traditional Japanese inn, or in the customer service industry, like at a restaurant. All the skills you developed there are transferable to the hotel industry, so make sure to highlight them on your application.

4. What Kind of People Are Japanese Hotels Looking For?

As previously explained, many positions within the hotel industry, particularly front desk staff, don’t require much beyond sufficient language skills and a hospitable attitude, making them great jobs for foreigners looking to work in Japan. Japanese staff may occasionally be unable to meet the needs of some foreign guests due to cultural differences. However, if the hotel has a foreign staff member available, they will be able to easily step in and quickly ascertain everything the guest needs. They can also provide smoother check-ins and deal with any other issue that the foreign guests may have, which is why more and more hotels are looking to hire foreign staff who can communicate in different languages.

The ideal candidate for hotel work should be bright, eloquent, kind, and have a high level of endurance and stamina. From carrying customers’ luggage to traversing the hotel grounds on foot and handling both day and night shifts, your lifestyle will likely become unpredictable, so you’ll need the resilience to handle it.

One additional point to consider is that hotels desire highly flexible workers. For example, in between serving customers at the front desk, you’ll need to confirm reservations, arrange taxis, and more, requiring one person to perform a wide range of duties. Rather than people who are extremely particular about certain elements or who become engrossed with one thing, hotels need workers who can easily change and adapt to different circumstances.

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Why Not Work for a Japanese Hotel?

Before you look for work at a Japanese hotel, also consider that the average salary is generally on the low end while the entire industry is vulnerable to unexpected drops in tourism, which is what happened with the COVID-19 pandemic. However, before COVID-19, the number of travelers visiting Japan had been increasing every year, requiring more and more foreign staff with language and hospitality skills.

For foreign staff themselves, interacting with Japanese locals and foreign people who speak a different language than your own will allow you to significantly improve your language skills. In addition, serving and being directly thanked by customers makes the job rewarding and satisfying!

Once the world returns to normal, visitors to Japan are expected to increase again, making the hotel industry a fantastic place to pursue a career! If this article convinces you that the Japanese hotel industry might be for you, we encourage you to start job hunting to find a position that’s best suited to you.

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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.