Japan has been the work mecca for backpackers since the 80’s when the economy acquired the Midas touch. Travelers keen to get back to India or Thailand arrived by the plane load to sell their souls and get back on the trail as fast as possible. These days there’s still money to be made but it’s a hard slog.
There is a constant demand for English teachers though most schools will want to see a college diploma. Schools pay around $2000 a month – at least when they decide to pay you. English schools in Japan are famous for being a complete shambles and many can barely afford to pay the staff, handing out salaries in doses throughout the month.
The big money for girls is in hostessing. This basically involves laughing at the puerile jokes of Japanese businessmen, filling their glasses and lighting their cigars. The clients take a masochistic thrill in having a woman fawn over them but who they are not allowed to touch. Most women find this job utterly sickening but the hostesses generally make twice the salaries of the English teachers. But oh, what profit a woman if she gains the whole world but loses her soul?
Street trading used to be where the easy money was at. In the old days anyone could just turn up and set up shop in the street with whatever stock they’d bought cheap in Thailand or India. Granted, they’d pay whatever the yakuza asked of them when a representative came around but there was more than enough money for everyone.
These days the Israelis have sewn up the choice spots in almost all of the main cities and towns in Japan. The Israeli bosses buy the rights to certain locations from the yakuza and then they bring Israelis to come and work for them. The boss gives the worker the pitch, the merchandise, security back up and a brief lesson in Japanese and the art of selling. The worker is then left to do his best to flog the trinkets of the day and he keeps 40% of what he sells. After costs. Still, make friends with an Israeli and you too can sell designer trash.
Buskers might try their luck singing Beatles songs on the Metro. Pretty hellish to sing “Michelle” and “Yesterday” all day but this can be fairly profitable.
There’s also money to be made as a model. You don’t need to be a stunner, simply Western. A command of Japanese would help you a lot in the world of TV but there’s a steady stream of work for models in many different fields. To do this you need to make contact with an agency and get some professional photos taken so that they can promote you.
There’s even rumor that male Westerners can make $80 an hour playing pool in Tokyo. The only catch is that they have to do it naked, in front of fawning Japanese women.
These jobs can be found on the following resources:
http://www.jobsinjapan.com – comprehensive job listings
http://www.tokyonoticeboard.co.jp – some bar work, the odd teaching job and hostessing contacts
http://www.eslcafe.com/joblist – many Japan teaching jobs listed here.
tokyo.craigslist.org – wide variety of eclectic job links
Also check out the Work for Travelers section
and the Jobs Abroad Guide