Everything You Need to Know About Working in the Japanese Hotel Industry!

Have you ever dreamed of working in a Japanese hotel? While it might look glamorous from the outside, jumping in without prior knowledge can lead to bitter disappointment. Of course, while you shouldn’t give up on your dream, some advanced research will go a long way in finding a job that suits you! To gain a better understanding of the industry, we’ve prepared a guide laying out everything you need to know about working in a Japanese hotel – both the good and the bad! Read on and discover what to expect as you pursue your ideal hotel career.

What Skills Do You Need to Work in a Japanese Hotel?

Before exploring the pros and cons of working in a Japanese hotel, let’s first discuss the skills you’ll need to make it in the industry.

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Japanese and Other Foreign Language Skills

Even outside hotels, the most important skill you’ll need in Japan is Japanese language proficiency. Without basic language command, you’ll find working and living in Japan significantly more difficult. At hotels, you’ll be constantly communicating with guests, and, while there’s generally no need to master the “keigo” honorific form of Japanese, you should at least be able to grasp fundamental polite words and phrases. However, hotels and ryokan inns with high-class reputations will likely demand more than just basic proficiency.

Of course, if you’re applying for custodial or janitorial positions where there isn’t a lot of contact with guests, your Japanese language skills won’t matter as much. However, since you will be living in the country, you should get to know the language as much as possible, otherwise you’ll be spending every working day without talking to another person. However, if you’re aiming for a position at a hotel front desk and such, you’ll need to show real proficiency with Japanese, so you’d better start practicing now!

Then again, guests at Japanese hotels come from all over the world and may not speak Japanese, so your skills in foreign languages can be a big career booster. That’s why, when applying for a job at a Japanese hotel, first check whether a lot of their guests come from overseas, as these are the places where additional language skills will be most valued.

The Right Mindset for Hospitality Work

Hotels form a central part of the hospitality industry and operate basically the same all over the world. However, in Japan, things can get a little complicated when a hotel makes a mistake or has to deal with unreasonable guests.

Japanese hotels pride themselves on “omotenashi,” which is the unique Japanese culture of hospitality. It essentially dictates that every guest is a god and should be individually attended to with utmost devotion. Whether the customer is pleasant or difficult, in every situation, their needs should be fulfilled with haste and a smile. That’s why a certain mindset is required for hospitality work whereby your sole purpose is to make guests happy. Without this mindset, you’ll never make it.

What Are the Pros of Japan’s Hotel Industry?

Improve Your Foreign Language Ability

A Japanese hotel will naturally have plenty of Japanese staff alongside the possibility of foreign workers, both of whom can help develop your language skills.

As employees will communicate primarily in Japanese, you’ll have ample opportunity to practice the language. Even if you’re not great at first, you will slowly but surely improve through interactions with native speakers during your work. While you’ll need a decent command of keigo when communicating with guests, this also gives you the chance to master both the casual and honorific forms of the language. A lot of people have seen their keigo and casual Japanese significantly improve while working in the hospitality sector, including the writer of this article, who started work in Japan in a ryokan in Shizuoka.

Also, if you can speak another foreign language and work in a hotel with international clientele, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to interact with people from all over the world to improve additional language skills alongside Japanese.

Understand Japan’s “Omotenashi” Hospitality Culture

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In Japan, there exists a unique service culture known as “omotenashi.” Omotenashi goes beyond mere courtesy and kindness and extends to dedicating all your strength to making guests feel comfortable, welcomed, and at ease. The best place to experience this is, of course, at a Japanese hotel. As no other country has a culture quite like omotenashi, witnessing this unique part of Japan up close is another benefit of working in the country’s hospitality industry. By interacting with all sorts of guests with a smile and positive attitude, you’ll get to know firsthand what omotenashi really means.

Gain Experience Valued All Over the World

It’s not uncommon nowadays to see foreigners working at Japanese hotels. In fact, it’s not even that difficult to get a visa to work in the Japanese hospitality industry provided you meet a few basic requirements. Once you’re hired, there’s often also an established career advancement path to further acquire industry knowledge and experience. Alongside improving foreign language skills by communicating with coworkers, you’ll also be learning the ins and outs of numerous facets of Japanese culture. And by interacting with guests, you’ll naturally develop a Japanese mindset for hotel work, which is highly valued all over the world. If you ever decide to seek hotel work outside Japan, the experience of having worked in a Japanese hotel and all the benefits listed above will be a gold star on your CV.

Save Money and Experience a New Side of Japan

While most offers for hotel jobs will come from big cities like Tokyo or Osaka, there is still plenty of work to be found in small-town ryokan inns or provincial tourist resorts. The beauty of these facilities is that they often offer free or heavily discounted room and board, which can help you save more money than working in a big-city hotel. While smaller towns won’t offer as much entertainment as larger cities, you’ll be able to thoroughly explore a lesser-known side of Japan to see how the locals live.

What Are the Cons of Japan’s Hotel Industry?

Physically Demanding Work

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Many hotels offer 24-hour service. Front desk duties can be especially hard, as most operate on a 2 or 3-shift system. Depending on your schedule, you may have to get up early or work until late at night.

Note: Part-time restaurant work usually doesn’t operate on a shift system, however, breakfast preparations may require you to show up at around 6 am, clock out at 11 am, then be back at 3 pm to stay until 9:30 pm. It’s very different from work in other industries and can be even tougher if the restaurant is holding a party or banquet, which can easily run past 10 pm. For those who have to clean up after such events, it’s not unusual to finish work as late as 11 pm. In most cases, the break between these work hours is unpaid.

You might be thinking: “Well, since I can take a break in the middle of work, I’ll be alright.” But from personal experience, you likely won’t feel rested during these breaks. It’ll be like you’ve worked from 6 in the morning until 9 at night. When working at a ski resort, for example, you may have to wake up early, help rent out gear during the day, and then have to do the night shift straight after. The hospitality industry takes a significant toll on the body, so if you want to work at a Japanese hotel, you’d better be in good shape.

Note: Working hours ultimately depend on your position and place of work. Please only use this as a reference.

Lots of Stressful Situations

When working at a hotel, you’ll naturally interact with a lot of guests throughout the day, which can often lead to stress. Remember, the Japanese service mantra is that “customer is God” so when a customer has a problem, even if you had nothing to do with it, you’ll need to bow your head and apologize. Plus, you’ll have to deal with these tricky situations in a foreign language, which can further add to the stress. So, if you want to survive while working at a Japanese hotel, you’ll need to find a healthy way to blow off all that steam.

Wearing a Lot of Different Hats at Smaller Hotels

Unlike famous, large-scale hotels, jobs at smaller, provincial resorts and inns may not be clearly defined. You and the rest of the staff will likely be expected to take turns looking after the entire facility, from check-ins and check-outs to showing guests to their rooms, serving meals, cleaning, and anything else that needs doing. Along with being physically demanding, it can prevent you from becoming an expert in a specific skill.

If you want to work your way up in the Japanese hotel industry, you should first confirm what your specific duties will be and find out if the hotel has a career advancement plan.

Big Cities Are Initially Expensive and Regional Areas Offer Little Entertainment

As mentioned before, many hotels in expensive cities like Tokyo or Osaka won’t offer employees room and board, which means that a lot of your earnings will go towards rent and food. If you add in all the taxes you’ll have to pay, a lavish lifestyle and even a modest nest egg of savings are out of reach. Of course, the longer you work, the better your salary will become, gradually improving your life and finances. However, the beginning will be tough.

On the other hand, working in smaller, regional hotels will help you save money at the expense of things to use it on. Areas outside of big cities offer little entertainment, and if you try commuting to more exciting places on your days off, a sizable chunk of money will go towards expensive train tickets and the like. That’s why a lot of people working in smaller hotels, resorts, or inns simply opt to limit their social life and refrain from going out often.

Working in a Japanese Hotel: Some Final Advice

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We hope you found this article exploring the pros and cons of the Japanese hotel industry helpful! From world-famous resorts to historical ryokan inns, Japan hosts a plethora of accommodation styles each with their own upsides and downsides. If you’re considering working at a Japanese hotel, then please use this article to help find a workplace that ticks all the boxes – we’re rooting for you!

You can also make use of tsunagu Local Jobs, our own job-search service for foreigners residing in Japan. We host a wide selection of job offers that aren’t publicly available offering friendly and supportive work environments for foreigners. The service also boasts career changing support in a variety of languages, so sign up today by clicking the banner below and start down the path to finding the job of your dreams in Japan!

All information contained in this article is current as of the time of publication.

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By the way, if you're looking for a job or career change and you're already in Japan, we now have a jobs site called tsunagu Local Jobs! On top of having exclusive job listings that you won't find anywhere else, we've vetted all the listings to ensure that they're foreigner-friendly and high quality. If you register for an account on the site, you can even make use of our agent service where our international staff will help you find the perfect job in Japan, so check it out today!

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

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