Freelancing In Tokyo With David Chester


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  • Many foreigners come to Japan as an English teacher – but other job opportunities exist in Tokyo! This episode’s guest David Chester wrote a book exploring freelancing options available to English speakers. From starring in Japanese TV shows to performing as musicians, there are many side hustles in Tokyo if you know where to find them.
  • The Bubba Gump Shrimp Company in Tokyo is offering a free meal! This exciting deal is brought to you by The Expat’s Guide to Japan, a fantastic free resource for anyone moving to Japan for the first time. Check out their Facebook page for details on how to enter and win a free meal at the said restaurant.

Finding Freelancing Jobs in Tokyo.

On the show with Anthony is David Chester who runs a website on Freelancing in Tokyo which offers information on alternative jobs or how to get started in Tokyo. The eBook version of his site also lists different ways to come to Tokyo and make the Big Yen. Anthony’s and David’s experiences are similar: they came to Japan not with a job outline but rather with a backpack, suitcase, and some yen.

David narrated his translation work with a Japanese music producer in Los Angeles and his earlier visit to Japan as a musician under a 2-month contract. He thought it would be more exciting if he worked in Japan. So, in 1993, with a tourist visa and a big dream, he moved in with an American friend who had a spare room. Back then, the salaryman mentality was more prevalent and it was the start of the bubble burst in Japan. Not exactly a great timing, but David found himself bombarded with people wanting to speak in English until he got offers to write and edit. He took these because he came without a job.

Certain industries were becoming more conscious that if they want to compete financially and economically, English has to be embraced. While some lost their teaching jobs because companies would rather learn Chinese, there’s still plenty of openings. Nowadays, young people would be working part-time and would not be interested in corporate lifetime employment. Japan now is more relaxed and western influence is apparent. It may not be fully bilingual such as those seen in transportations, but it made efforts for tourists.

Living in Japan will be daunting without English, but for David, it forced him to expand his mind and open a dictionary. One’s level of communicating in Japanese can determine if you qualify to live and work in Japan. But being able to do the smallest things in Japanese can already feel like a great accomplishment!

Can someone who does not speak Japanese find work? For this, David stressed the importance of getting a meishi or a name card. Books and movies that featured giving name cards point out an important cultural practice for the Japanese. When David searched for a job, he got a name card in English which had a Japanese translation on the other side. Giving these to people in companies and even in the streets helped him build a network.

There are also English-speaking communities one can join. David got his 1st job English job in one of its gatherings! Anthony and David discuss ex-pat forums chat which could be valuable but also one of the worst areas to hang out and get information about a new country. Another source would be the Metropolis which has weekly updates for ex-pats and helpful tools in getting established in the city.

Another interesting opportunity is signing up for a model or TV agency. Another overlooked and often crucified opportunity is doing voice over. There’s a fair amount of money in doing some commercials and show appearances.

Many jobs in the book revolve around speaking English. One can teach other languages as Japanese people would also like to learn other languages. Arts may also be offered so long as there are a need and interest in the community.

People might be turned away from the country seeing calamities it has experienced. A genuine interest in its country along with some research and money are some factors to consider when deciding to come to Japan.

Should you ponder or decide to come to Tokyo, grab a copy of David’s book as it will help score gigs and other tips in the country!

Free meal at Bubba Gump Shrimp Company

Have you seen the movie Forrest Gump? A restaurant inspired by the film is located in Tokyo and cooks some of the best shrimp meals in Tokyo!

Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That’s about it.

– Bubba

If you like shrimp and you want to enter this contest, check out Expat Guide to Japan. This is a fantastic resource for anyone new to Japan. To join their contest and get a free meal in Bubba Gump, just go to their Facebook page and click their post!

Get a Job in Japan!

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