Networking in Japan: How to Find a Job as an LGBTQIA+ Person

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[Guest Blog Post] Eli Wood is a freelance content writer from Massachusetts. Eli studied and tutored Japanese throughout college and now helps businesses grow by using the right words. You can connect with Eli on LinkedIn or visit their website.

When you start networking in Japan as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you might want to know where you’ll be welcome and supported. Before you start networking, it helps to know how and where to look and what to expect in your job search. I talked with Kris de Leon and Charles St. Anthony (read his Senpai Success Story) about their experiences with networking in Japan to get some tips for LGBTQIA+ job seekers and help you find the best opportunities!

What’s It Like to Work in Japan as an LGBTQIA+ Person?

Japan isn’t known for being queer-friendly, but LGBTQIA+ people in Japan aren’t new or rare. According to a 2020 survey conducted by Dentsu, about 9% of Japan’s population identifies as LGBTQIA+ and most people are either accepting of or neutral toward people in the community. Considering that the same survey showed 5% of Japan’s population was LGBTQIA+ in 2012, it shows that more people feel comfortable being open about their identities in Japan today.

“The LGBTQIA+ community is a certain percentage of any country,” said Charles, a media personality and author who has lived and worked in Japan. “Given that Japan has a population of 125 million people, that means there are a substantial number of us on the islands.”

There aren’t many protections in Japan for LGBTQIA+ people when it comes to working and living there. That doesn’t mean you’ll have a negative experience, but it is something to be mindful of if you’re seeking work in Japan. Many Japanese companies are pushing for more diversity in the workplace, so you’re more likely to find people being more open and accepting than even ten years ago. However, just like in the West, you’ll get mixed reactions.

“I think the biggest challenge LGBTQIA+ people face is acquiring long-term residence visas for your partner or spouse,” Charles said when asked about his networking and working experience as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community in Japan. “Some municipalities such as the Shibuya and Setagaya Wards in Tokyo do grant same sex couples certain rights like hospital visitation, but this does not confer a foreign same sex partner a visa for work or residency… At this point in time, it would probably be easier to find a Japanese company or job that will sponsor a visa, if you are looking to stay in Japan for a long period of time with your partner.”

Photo by John Schaidler on Unsplash

Networking in Japan as Part of the LGBTQIA+ Community

When it comes to networking in Japan for LGBTQIA+ people, your experience will depend on many factors, just as it would in the West. You likely don’t tell everyone you meet about your identities, and you’re not obligated to. That doesn’t mean you need to keep it a secret if you want to share it, but you get to make that call.

“In the major cities, I don’t think that being LGBTQIA+ will necessarily be a hindrance to getting a job in most cases,” Charles said. “It’s not like you need to list that on your resume. If you have the skills, I think you can network and find a career as easily as in the West.” Charles went on to say that the more important thing is making sure you’re qualified when you go to apply for jobs. Many people are denied work visas if they don’t have a four-year degree or higher. 

It may help to listen to other queer and transgender people working in Japan, like Seralyn Campbell, who transitioned as she built her career in Japan. You can talk to other LGBTQIA+ people who have worked in Japan, even if it’s just online. Once you connect with someone in the circles you want to join, those circles begin to open to you as well.

If you have the skills, I think you can network and find a career as easily as in the West.

Charles St. Anthony
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

How to Find Networking Opportunities in Japan

There are many resources for connecting with other LGBTQIA+ professionals in Japan. You can use some of the same networking resources you use already, like social media. If you don’t use them yet, here are some places to get started, no matter where you are in your career search.

Join LinkedIn and Follow Professionals in Japan

“I recommend using LinkedIn,” said Kris, a business funding consultant who lived and worked in Japan for five years. “Find LGBTQIA+ related groups on LinkedIn, join them, and then do a search for any group members that live in Japan. Then connect and build a relationship with them.”

LinkedIn is one of the best places to find jobs, as well as network with professionals around the world. Build your connections and follow people whose work relates to your chosen field, as well as people outside it—you never know where you’ll find your next opportunity! 

To find more LGBTQIA+ networking opportunities, follow Maki Muraki, founder of Nijiiro Diversity. She and her organization advocate for the community and work to boost opportunities for LGBTQIA+ people in Japan. You can find similar groups on LinkedIn that do work like hers and use them to build your own network.

Find Diverse Professional Networks

Look into diversity career forums and search for jobs that prioritize diversity in the workplace to learn how and where you can find work with supportive organizations. Other companies like Rakuten have created their own official LGBT Network where you can discover more places to connect with other LGBTQIA+ people in the professional world.

Networking happens beyond professional events, too. Tell people in your life and those you meet in person and online what kind of work you do. Chances are you’ll meet someone who can introduce you to professionals in that field (fun fact: this is how I met Kasia—through one of my friends from college who later worked with Kasia).

Join expat groups on Facebook and LinkedIn in Japan.

Kris DeLeon

Look for Expat Gathering Places

When asked where LGBTQIA+ people seeking work in Japan could find networking opportunities, Charles said, “Though not necessarily LGBTQIA+ focused, I would make sure to check out Metropolis Tokyo for events around town, and the Pink Cow in Akasaka is always a welcoming expat gathering spot for people of all stripes.”

As an expat in Japan, you’ll want to find people who share your experiences. In big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, it’s not hard to find other expats, but it’s worth looking for places that welcome you and where you can share your experiences, too.

“Join expat groups on Facebook and LinkedIn in Japan,” said Kris. “For example, the Expats in Japan Facebook group has close to 5k members. See what events are going on and attend them. When you join these groups, introduce yourself and let the group members know what you offer. You never know what kind of opportunity that can lead to.”

If you’re looking to network in Japan as part of the LGBTQIA+ community, there are plenty of resources even beyond what I’ve talked about here. It’s all about finding the right groups for you, looking out for opportunities to connect, and learning as you go. Remember that no two people in any community will have the same experience, so leave room to create your own. 

Do you have other LGBTQIA+ networking resources? Share them in the comments!

Connect with Charles on Instagram and Twitter or visit his website.

Connect with Kris on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Other resources from readers:

Be sure to check out the other blog posts in the Networking series: Networking 101, Networking 102, Networking 103, and Networking 104.

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