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Special Skill Accommodation Visa

Today's blog post is for anyone interested in working in the hotel industry in Japan. Whether it's a traditional ryokan or a business hotel, anyone who wants to work in this industry as a non-Japanese needs a special visa and, of course, the necessary Japanese language skills. But let's start at the beginning.


Types of visa

Japan has many types of visas, which can make it quite complicated to find the visa you need for your stay. Listing them all would go beyond the scope of this post, so I'll focus on the visas I've received so far.

From 2015 to 2016, I came to Japan on a working holiday visa for the first time, which allowed me to live, travel, and work in Japan for a year. This visa can only be issued once in a lifetime and is the most freedom-giving visa. You are not tied to a fixed employer, do not need a fixed place of residence, and can take up almost any profession.

For more specific information, I recommend the Japanese embassy's website. It helped me a lot with my research at the time.

I organized my trip through the organization WWOOF Japan. Farms, kindergartens, and family businesses were my home for a year, helping me to get to know the country and its people better. My old blog from back then is still online; if you are interested, you are welcome to look.

In 2019, I traveled to Japan for three weeks as a vacationer. I didn't need a visa; I got the normal tourist sticker on my passport and was legally allowed to stay in Japan for up to three months. As the sticker says, the tourist visa only allows you to travel and not do paid work.

In spring 2022, after the coronavirus mess was finally over, I went to Japan with a student visa. For this, I needed a language school to be a guarantor for the visa issue. I had to prove that I had paid for the language school and could finance my life in Japan. I think it was 10,000 euros, which I had to prove in my bank account to get the visa issued. I also needed the following:

  1. The "Certificate of Eligibility" (CoE), which is issued by the host institution (the original, as well as a copy)

  2. The visa application form

  3. One passport photo (must be glued to the application form)

  4. A valid passport

Once everything was done, I had to wait for Japan to open its borders, which took another six months from receiving my visa. But I've already told you the story.

The student visa allows you to work part-time in Japan as long as this part-time job does not interfere with your focus, namely your studies. For me, this was the job at the tourist information center in Nihonbashi.

Please also note that you are NOT allowed to work under your student visa once you have graduated or exmatriculated from university!

You will now need a different visa, depending on your field of work. And now it gets complicated!

It was clear that I wanted to work in a ryokan after language school. However, as I was a bit slow with my research, I missed the last test 2022, which I would have needed for the special skills visa, which is necessary for working in a ryokan. Fortunately, Ryokan and the parent company hired me on a regular work visa. But, this came with some restrictions.

I asked a lawyer in Tokyo who specialized in this area to apply for the work visa. This cost me and the ryokan a few yen but made the process much easier. I received my new work visa in January 2023 and moved to Yugawara to pursue my new job. The regular work visa, Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services, is the most often issued. Here, the company must prove why they want to hire a foreigner for the position, the advertised not a Japanese. Often, translator activities or, in my particular case, the reception and handling of guests who do not speak Japanese are specified here. However, unlike the Special Skills Visa, the Work Visa does not allow you to handle food, which limited my work to reception, check-in, and check-out until I got my new visa.

Special skills visa

Now, let's move on to the visa I wanted. Unlike the standard work visa, the requirements for this visa are a CoE issued by the company that employs me, the application forms, proof of my Japanese language skills (JLPT or JFT Basic), and passing the Special Skills Test for the hotel industry. The latter is only offered four times a year, and I was lucky that it was provided in January 2023 directly during the second week in Tokyo. The test is entirely Japanese and includes a question and answer section, where you must choose a reaction to the situation described and a listening and speaking section in Japanese. After 45 minutes, the test is over, and you must wait a month for the results.

I took the JLPT N2 for the second time in December 2022 but narrowly failed with four missing points. As this test is only offered twice a year, I took the JFT Basic, another somewhat less well-known language test, and passed with 98%. Comparable to the JLPT N4 level. My Japanese level is currently at N2 for conversation, although when it comes to writing and reading kanji, I am probably at N4 or N3 level. However, it seems enough to pass the hotel industry test.

I received the certificate at the end of February 2023, and with the help of the ryokan, I applied for the special skills hotel business visa and received the new visa in June. Now, my field of work has expanded from reception and office work to restaurant service, cleaning the bathing facilities, and room checks. My days became more extended, stressful, and irregular, which affected me physically and mentally.

After "enduring," you could say, five months under the new conditions, some challenges appeared on the surface. Some of you may be aware, others not yet, but you are typically entitled to 10 paid vacation days after starting a new job in Japan. Yes, you read that right. In other words, TEN paid vacation days per year! Of course, I wanted to take a few of these to spend a few lovely days in Okinawa with my partner, who wished to visit me over Christmas. When I spoke to my boss about this in the summer, she responded, "We'll see, but it should be fine." This gradually changed to "Unfortunately, we can't give you this time off over Christmas," which made me decide to resign even more.

I can say that this time taught me a lot and showed me, in more ways than one, what I wanted and, most importantly, what I did not want. It strengthened my communication skills and helped me finally stand up for myself and claim my worth.

Anyone interested in working in a ryokan in Japan should know that it is very physical and will demand a lot from you. If, like me at the time, you plan to do other activities, take care of your energy reserves and don't let yourself be underpaid. Take care of the unique skills visa early on, and never forget that work should be fun.

If you have any questions or are interested in other topics, please leave me a comment so I can answer them.

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