From Olympics to Omotenashi: What You Need to Know About Working in Japan's Tourism Industry

Updated: Dec 25, 2019

Author: Putri Nurdivi

Published date: 2nd December 2019

The Japanese tourism industry has been recognized as one of the most sought-after job sectors in Japan. Alongside tourism stakeholders, the Japanese government has been actively promoting Japan's tourism industry and continuously improving the infrastructures, facilities, and services available due to the dramatic increase in the number of tourists coming from all over the world with the majority from other Asian countries. #jportlibrary

Japan is home to a one-of-a-kind tourism industry.

In recent years Japan has also opened its gates more to tourists by providing a more relaxed policy measure on the visa requirements particularly for travelers from China and South East Asian Countries. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) report, the number of foreign visitors to Japan is seeing substantial growth, reaching 28.69 million in 2017 based on the Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO) report. Moreover, JNTO also reported the number of inbound tourists this year has jumped up 5.2% compared to 2018.

The boom in the tourism industry has not gone unnoticed by Japanese firms. Regardless of efforts to cash in on the new tourism boom, there are simply not enough domestic workers to hold up the industry. With the tension of the ongoing Rugby World Cup 2019 and the highly anticipated Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020, there has been an expansion of the tourism market through diverse human resources by welcoming foreign workers in the tourism-related firms in Japan. In this article, we discover the Japanese tourism industry through the eyes of foreigners.

I learned fundamental knowledge for my career.

We sat down with a few foreign students working in the service industry to get a better look at the inside of working in Japanese tourism.

Agustiyatmo Suryo Sugiputro or Suryo from Indonesia, who has just received his bachelor's degree in tourism and hospitality from Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University last September. After going through the shuukatsu or job hunting season to many travel agencies and hotels, he will be starting off as a Reservation Agent of Swissotel Nankai Osaka from January 2020.

This work environment is nothing new to Suryo previously undertook a month long internship in the same hotel under rooms and concierge. Suryo was actively looking for an internship in the tourism industry and discovered the opportunity through his university’s portal, where all the requirements, benefits and application procedure is clearly stated on the page.

Suryo realized the internship was a stepping stone to his dream career in the tourism field. Within a month, he familiarized himself with his workplace environment and establish relations with other colleagues.

“During my internship, I was assigned in several positions such as helping the whole lobby operations and also in the information center. Those requires me to directly interact with guests in which I learned two fundamental knowledge for my career; service and communication skills which are considered essential in all fields of the tourism industry,” Suryo told us.

JPort also had an interview with Sebastian Masaki Iwami, a half Japanese-Argentinian who has been working in Japan for over a year. Sebastian graduated from Buenos Aires, Argentina with a major in tourism and hospitality. He began his career in a telecommunications company and moved to Japan to start a new journey in a travel agency. Currently, Sebastian works as a sales and offer consultation in the form of travel packages including airfare tickets, hotel selection, and destination planning. Born and raised in Argentina, he found that communication is the most challenging part of his job.

“My job requires me to have a lot of interaction with customers from around the world. Despite being half Japanese, I feel that communicating in Japanese with local workers; your fellow colleagues, the wholesaler or airlines is the most interesting,” Sebastian explained.

Throughout his job, Sebastian could successfully improve his communication skills. “Personally, my experience in travel agencies helps me a lot to build my future career. Most importantly I have gained my communication skills and advanced my language skills, both English and Japanese.”

Always On Standby

With a high demand for able workers, Japanese companies are actively employing foreigners. Chances are you'll be working alongside a diverse staff from all over the world. Suryo met his 22 new coworkers during the Naiteishiki or Job Offering Ceremony last October--more half are foreigners.

Suryo tells us time management is critical in the tourism industry. Working hours, particularly in the hotel and accommodations field, can be quite flexible, but you have to be ready to be on your post even on the weekends and national holidays.

“We work up to 5 days per week, just like ordinary workers out there. But make sure to keep in mind that while everyone is going for a short or long term holiday, for instance on Christmas and golden week, your present is highly needed. Therefore, you need to manage your own schedule so that you have a healthy work-life balance,” Suryo explained to us.

The Customer is God

Omotenashi literally translates to "no front or back", meaning to serve the customer wholeheartedly without thoughts of personal gain. Japan National Tourism Organization defined Omotenashi as one of the essentials in the Japanese culture; originating from sado or tea ceremony practice. Customer satisfaction is considered to be a top priority in Japan, especially within the field of tourism, in which Japan is famous for the phrase お客様は神様 or "the customer is god".

Before pursuing a career in the tourism sector, Suryo knew the importance of fully understanding the local culture and practices. He experienced how Omotenashi works first hand during his first short term internship.

“In my early days of the internship, I had no idea what to do regarding the Japanese business manner; how or when you need to bow and the use of Japanese Keigo in particular was really confusing for me. I'm really grateful for the experience I had before actually working as a full-time in the company. My company also provide us a proper training beforehand,” Suryo shared to us.

Moreover, Sebastian noticed that Japan has been expanding the tourism industry. Hence, create a potential market for foreigners who want to establish their own business in the tourism area. However, opening your own business in Japan is infamously complicated work as you will need to go through the paperwork and bureaucracies regardless of industry.


1. JTB

Starting off as a State-Owned Enterprise known as the Japan Tourist Bureau (Hence the name, JTB), JTB has now grown to become Japan’s biggest Travel Agent and one of the biggest in the world. JTB offers a comprehensive and integrated travel service through their numerous brands, catering to the various needs and demands of customers. Currently, the JTB Group has diversified its portfolio to not only a travel and tourism focus but also businesses such as real estate marketing and publishing. They have also established numerous branches globally with 502 offices in 39 countries.

Career opportunities are also available in JTB and their overseas subsidiaries. For fresh graduates of 2020, applications are already closed since the process started on March, earlier this year but seminars and information sessions are held throughout November 2019 to January 2020. They do offer short-term internships and long-term internships for students who would like to experience and gain hands-on knowledge about working in the tourism industry and the firm. All of this information are available in their English website. However, a more complete procedures and details are only available in Japanese.

  • JTB starting wage, especially for fresh graduate, range from 170,000 to 210,000 JPY.

  • Employees will also receive benefits given by the company such as regional salary, various allowances (commute, family, child care), basic and overseas training for new employees, and social insurance coverage.

English Site :

Japanese Site :

2. H.I.S

On the other hand, H.I.S, a travel agency headquartered in Shinjuku, Tokyo, is one of JTB’s main rivals in the industry. In 2018, H.I.S is reported to be one of the most growing firms with 50% increase in their year-on-year sales. The H.I.S group also owns various domestic group companies and other tourism related businesses such as hotels, theme parks, even energy and insurance. The famous robot operated Hen-na Hotel in Japan, is also a subsidiary hotel under the group.

For employment opportunities, H.I.S are also in the middle of their recruitment process for students graduating in March 2020 to enter their office by April 2020. However, all detailed information are only available in Japanese. Employment are also available in their overseas offices and subsidiaries depending on the vacancies. They don’t seem to offer internships for the time being but part-time positions such as store staff, customer services and marketing support are also promoted in their recruitment page.

  • The starting salary at H.I.S ranges from approximately between 160,000 to 210,000 JPY.

  • Other benefits offered by the company are; bonuses twice a year (July & December), possible raises once a year, social insurance coverage, also allowances in the form of qualification pay and other daily allowances (commuting, childcare, etc.)

English Site :

Japanese Site :


There are also a lot of hotel and hospitality brands here in Japan. High-end hotels such as the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Hyatt or Mandarin Oriental are among the popular firms. Working in these top-flight hotels may require you to acquire certifications from hospitality studies or prior experiences as they expect a lot from candidates. However, some may also carry out recruitments for fresh-graduates; the Grand Hyatt group are opening job vacancies for 2020 graduates to be stationed in their freshly opened Hyatt Centric and Hyatt House in Kanazawa.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Tokyo

Besides these famous global-brands, local hotel-chain brands which caters to a more segmented audience like the APA Hotel group or the Superhotel may also offer you employment opportunities. Hoshino Resort, a Japanese hospitality brand originating in 1914 regularly hosts career seminars all over Japan. Their application period for 2020 graduates are closed but they are summer or winter internships are available in certain months. The APA Group are employing in their hotel and real estate business through MyNavi and RikuNavi. While their rival counterpart, the Superhotel, also offers a career track and general staff employment opportunities fresh graduates.

Working in the tourism and hospitality field may offer promising prospects for fresh graduates, and a consumer-minded approach will definitely benefit you in the tourism and hospitality industry. Don’t forget to keep an eye on their career pages as well for recruitment schedules and guidelines!

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