I am often asked about how to find work while living on Okinawa which is a really great question. I have done some videos on the subject in the past but the reality is that so much changes from year to year that it was time for an update. That being said in this post we are going to talk about finding a job, what some of your job options might be, what resources you may find useful and of course a little bit of my personal experience tossed in there as well.
Foreigners living on (or planning to move to) Okinawa have three main options when it comes to employment. The first is to be an English teacher, the second is to work with the US Government and the third is to work as a contractor. It is important to note that there are a number of other options for those with specialized skills and fluency in Japanese, however for the sake of this post we will be sticking to the basics.
Being an English teacher in Okinawa is very similar to being an English teacher in other parts of the country. There are companies which hire teachers and pair them with schools as well as schools that hire teachers directly. However, there are also a few differences. The main difference between being an English teacher on Mainland Japan and being an English teacher in Okinawa is the demand for teachers. Because of size alone you’re not as likely to find a job teaching English here in Okinawa as you would be in Mainland Japan. The US Military presence here in Okinawa also can sometimes make finding a job as an English teacher in some areas complicated. Some schools take advantage of the fact that military members like the idea of cultural exchange but don’t know the “business” end of things like what is a fair hourly wage. This does not make finding a job as an English teacher impossible but it does mean that from time to time you may have to sift through some unreasonable job offers.
The second option is to work with the US Government. With the island of Okinawa being home to over 30 US Military bases there are a lot of options too. Military bases are like self sustaining communities and therefore the right person can find a job doing just about anything on a military base. This includes working in a department store like AAFES, working at a restaurant, daycare, post office, specialty shop, grocery store, gym and the list goes on. Of course working on a US Military base is not for everyone. Some jobs are only available to US citizens, others are only available to Japanese citizens. Some jobs will be geared towards hiring military spouses (MCCS and 18FSS) and others who are already here on Okinawa under the SOFA. Other jobs (USAJobs) will be available to others including those who currently reside outside of Okinawa and will require relocation and visa sponsorship.
The third and final option for finding employment here in Okinawa is to become a contractor. Being a contractor on Okinawa can be tricky, especially if you are planning on settling down in one place for any long period of time. Contracts change hands all the time and not all are lengthy. This can make them not the most secure of job choices here on Okinawa. Not all contracting jobs offer visa sponsorship either which is an important detail to ask about during the application process and/or at the time of the interview. As is with everything else being a contractor is not for everyone. Those interested should have a strong background and excel in their field. Finding contracting positions can also sometimes be challenging because of the different companies which hold contracts in Okinawa changing on a yearly basis. Research and inquiries are the best solution to finding who is hiring those in your field.
Like anywhere else Okinawa has it’s challenges and advantages when it comes to finding a job. It takes a great deal of work and effort to find a job. At the end of the day, however, it is worth it to live on the beautiful island of Okinawa!