20 Ways You Can Make Extra Money While Living in Japan


Living in Japan has been (and is!) an amazing experience, with many opportunities to explore a new culture and make lifelong memories. But sadly we all need to make money!

Tip: Take my ‘Should you live in Japan’ quiz to see if it’s the right choice for you!

Luckily, if you’re looking for ways to supplement your income while living in Japan, or just make money in Japan to start with, there are plenty of options available.

From teaching English online or tutoring students, to starting your own business or taking on freelance work, it’s possible to make money in Japan without leaving the comfort of your home.

Today, we’ll take a look at 20 different ways you can make extra money while living in Japan! Whether you’re looking for full-time employment or just some occasional side hustles, there’s something here that will suit everyone’s needs.

, let’s get started!

1. Flip second-hand goods

Monetization method

Buy low, sell high!

Why would it work?

Japan’s second-hand market is nothing short of exceptional. You’ll find more than you ever knew existed, and it’ll almost certainly be in pristine condition. Another reason this could work is that there’s a huge global following of Japanese culture.

To people living in culturally different countries, lots of these products or goods are new and exciting, and buying something is the closest way for people to experience Japan without actually being here.

How to start

While the barrier to entry for something like this is relatively low, it pays to be clued up in a specific area of the market. If you chose something like Japanese clothing, you could go to a Mode Off store and grab some second-hand clothing you know would fetch a higher price overseas.

Cameras, Retro games, Toys, Jeans, Shoes, the list is practically endless.

Once you’ve sourced your product from one of the Off stores (or another second-hand store in Japan) for a low cost, you can use sites like eBay or even your own website to sell these items to customers all around the world who can’t make it out to Japan. With a little bit of research and effort, you can find great deals on unique items that people are willing to pay top dollar for!

Additionally, this type of work requires minimal overhead costs so it’s perfect if you’re just getting started earning extra cash.

2. Sell your photography

Monetization method

Stock websites would be your best bet, though you could start your own online store as well. If you chose the latter, you’ll need a large following or understand digital marketing well enough to drive sales

Why would it work?

Japan is a flipping beautiful country. Not only is it the snowiest place in the world, but it also has its own desert, jungles, and white sandy beaches.

Couple that with it cyberpunk imagery that so many people adore and you’ll start to understand why taking photos could be a good way to make some extra cash in Japan.

I know a few full-time photographers out here. Some of them are simply portrait photographers (which doesn’t necessarily take advantage of being in Japan), and others are travel photographers who mainly shoot hotel locations. While they operate in an extremely professional sense, there’s still a market for casual photographers if your work is good enough.

How to start

This is a great way to monetize your passion and make some extra cash while living in Japan. With the proliferation of stock photo websites, it’s easier than ever to sell your photos – all you need is an internet connection and a portfolio of images that customers will find attractive.

If you’re going for stock sites, that last part is crucial, and may take a while to wrap your head around.

You can also use social media platforms like Instagram or Flickr to showcase your work and attract buyers from around the world, though you must make sure you’re shooting imagery that sells and targets that specific demographic. There’s little point trying to sell pretty landscape photos to a stock site.

Perhaps you could also connect yourself to a print-on-demand service and you’ve basically got a passive income source.

Ok, so it’s not that simple, but if everything falls into place it sounds like a pretty fantastic job to me. So if you have an eye for what looks good (and more importantly, what sells) and want to make some extra money while living in Japan, consider selling your photographs!

Oh, and before you remortgage your house, you absolutely don’t need the best gear. I’ve written a post about the best travel cameras to use in Japan, while it’s a little dated it just shows how little you need to spend to get good photos. So money shouldn’t be an issue!

List of stock sites to check out:

3. Start a YouTube channel

Monetization method

After 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours (within the last year), you’ll be eligible to earn income from the ads that run on your channel. Before that point, you’ve got affiliate deals, sponsorships, and merchandise that can earn you money.

If you’ve got a highly niche channel and audience, leverage of lower traffic is key to making money early!

Why would it work?

Here is a list of YouTubers in Japan, though we can now add PewDiePie to that list! Because this country is such a popular destination for so many people, be it pop culture, skiing, or travel, you’ll never have a shortage of interested viewers. Just find a niche!

How to start

With the right content and strategy, you can build an audience and monetize your videos with ad revenue or sponsorships. You don’t need any special equipment but you should be prepared to invest a considerable amount of time, or at least a small amount of time frequently – all you need is your camera phone and a passion for creating interesting video content.

Plus, this type of work allows you to be creative and express yourself in ways that other jobs may not, especially in Japanese society. So if you’re interested in a novel way of making money in Japan, consider starting a YouTube channel! You never know what the future holds if you just make that first video!

4. Start a blog 

Monetization method

Affiliate income, ad revenue, sponsorships

Why would it work?

Because Japan is a really flipping interesting country, and there aren’t enough personalities writing about it! That’s exactly why I started!

Or to be honest, why not start a blog about anything you’re passionate about? It doesn’t have to be Japan!

How to start

Starting a blog is another great way to make money while living in Japan. Blogging allows you to create content that can be monetized through ad revenue or sponsored posts, and it gives you the freedom to express yourself at the same time. All you need is a laptop and an internet connection!

With some dedication, hard work, and direction, pretty much anyone can start a successful blog that earns them extra money each month. Granted, it might take a long time (I can attest to that fact!) but it can be a semi-passive source of income, and anything is better than nothing.

The process may seem complicated if it’s not something you’ve ever done before, but trust me when I tell you that it’s the most rewarding thing you’ll ever do.

Plus, the power of leverage (just like with a lot of things on this list) means you can start making money and unlocking some incredible opportunities extremely early on in your blogging career.

5. Sell your artwork

Monetization method

Print on Demand, leverage an existing audience, stock sites, commissions

Why would it work?

Because your art rocks! Plus if you’ve come to Japan as an assistant language teacher or something similar, I’m sure your schedule is pretty full.

By selling your artwork and putting it out there, you could be passively making money while you sleep. In any case, it shouldn’t require that much of a time commitment if you like drawing/painting anyway!

How to start

You can use popular platforms like Etsy or create your own website to showcase and sell your work. With the right strategy and dedication, it’s more than possible to make extra income in Japan.

It may take a little longer to quit your day job, but if you see it as something you love doing, any amount of money you earn on top is a bonus!

6. Self-publish a book with Kindle Direct Publishing

Monetization method

Sell your book on Amazon

Why would it work?

Everyone loves reading about personal experiences, and the popularity of Japan makes this one a winner. That said, if you love fantasy or sci-fi, romance, or drama, you can write about anything.

It’s another form of making money in Japan that, while it may take a bit of upfront effort, can generate monthly income while you’re sleeping on your futon.

How to start

With Kindle Direct Publishing, you can create and market your own ebooks on the Amazon platform. This allows you to reach a global audience with minimal overhead costs, as well as keep control over the pricing of your books.

You’ll also get access to powerful analytics tools that will help you track reader engagement and sales performance, allowing you to optimize your content for maximum success. So if you’re looking for ways to monetize your creativity and make some extra cash while living in Japan, consider self-publishing a book!

In fact, why not re-purpose some of those old blog posts!?

7. Become a freelance copywriter

Monetization method

Client payments

Why would it work?

People are always looking for help with writing. While the introduction of AI writing software has made this a slightly more… interesting… topic of discussion, the work is still out there.

Terrible content writing mills are the only place I’ve seen a huge decline in work, but I would never suggest anyone write for one of these companies anyway.

How to start

Copywriting is the art of creating compelling content for businesses and organizations that helps them promote their products or services. As a freelance copywriter, you’ll be able to work remotely with clients from around the world and create content that engages readers and drives sales.

So, if you’ve got a sales background or anything that may make you stand out from other writers, use it to your advantage. Though, it is worth noting that in the beginning, you may really have to sell yourself.

Check out this group on Reddit to get actionable advice from people in a similar situation as you. They’ve helped me more times than I can remember!

8. Become a freelance travel writer for magazines and publications

Monetization method

Pay per word or per assignment

Why would it work?

High-paying publications, magazines, and blogs are always on the lookout for interesting and unique stories to share with their audience. If you’re living in Japan, it’s likely you’ve got a story to tell without even realizing it.

What seems normal to you, might be extraordinary for someone who won’t ever get to live out here. Give yourself some time and I bet you’ll come up with a couple of interesting ideas!

How to start

As a freelance travel writer, you’ll have the opportunity to explore different places around the world while also sharing your experiences with others through writing. You can work with magazines, and publications, or even create your own blog (like me!) – all of which provide great opportunities to earn an income from your writing skills.

Plus, this type of work allows you to flex your creative muscles and share stories that inspire readers everywhere which is always a nice bonus. So if you’re looking for ways to monetize your passion for traveling and writing while living in Japan, this could be one of the best options for you.

Find a story and idea that’s unique, find an appropriate (this is key!) magazine, blog, or publication for your story, and directly pitch the editor. Of course, there are a few things to learn, and likely a few mistakes to make, but if you’re persistent then you’ll get there!

9. Freelance Translation

Monetization method

Direct payment from clients

Why would it work?

Freelance translation is always going to be a skill that’s in demand. Because of its high barrier to entry, the pay is also likely to be pretty good.

As such, you won’t have to work loads of hours and can even do it for a few hours in the evening when you return from work. Whatever you decide, there’s always going to be work out there, whether that’s contracted, freelance, or full-time.

How to start

If you’re fluent in both English and Japanese, then freelance translation work could be the perfect way to make money while living in Japan. Whether it’s translating books, webpages, or even video games, there are a variety of opportunities available for those who have the language skills needed to succeed.

I know somebody who translates Japanese video games as a permanent Job into English and they absolutely love it. Granted, the work may be hard and the hours are likely fairly long, but if you like what you do then I can imagine it being a very rewarding job.

If you’re that good at Japanese, you could also be a freelance teacher in your spare time. Completely different from translating on a computer screen, but definitely a way to upskill and make more money in Japan.

10. Freelance odd jobs

Monetization method

Marketplace payments

Why would it work?

This is something that doesn’t require you to be in Japan and is more of a general suggestion on ‘how to make money while traveling. People, companies, and organizations are always looking for odd jobs to be done.

Whether that’s data entry, writing, translation, or anything in between, you’ll likely be able to find something to suit your skill set and circumstances.

How to start

The easiest way to start doing odd jobs as a freelancer would be to sign up for a marketplace like Fiverr or Upwork and offer your services.

When signing up to Upwork, you’ll have to bid for jobs as they come on and make an application. For Fiverr it’s more a case of advertising yourself and having clients come to you.

11. Part-time modeling

Monetization method

Agency Payments

Why would it work?

If you’re looking for a way to make extra money while living in Japan, then consider becoming a part-time model! As a part-time model, you’ll have the opportunity to showcase your unique style and personality while helping brands promote their products or services.

Plus, this type of work allows you to flex your creative muscles and explore different looks while still earning an income. You’ll also gain valuable experience that can be used in other areas of life such as networking and public speaking.

How to start

I’ve never done anything like this before, but know a few people who have. Japan is a great place to get started as a model because there isn’t so much fierce competition as there is in other parts of the world.

My best suggestion for you if you want to make extra money in Japan as a model would be to contact a few modeling agencies. They’ll have the know-how and network available to get you gigs a lot faster than you’d be able to do alone.

They’ll be able to give you advice, help advance your career, and give you realistic expectations. You may find out later that this isn’t something you’re interested in, but this is certainly the best place to get started.

12. Teach English

Monetization method

Part-time contract payments

Why would it work?

Teaching English in Japan is a great way to make some extra money while living there. As an English teacher, you’ll have the opportunity to work with students of all ages and help them learn a language that can open up new opportunities for them. That’s an incredibly rewarding feeling!

You’ll also gain valuable experience working in an international setting, as well as being able to explore different cultures and build relationships with people from around the world. Plus, this type of work allows you the flexibility to create your own schedule and earn an income at your own pace.

Teaching English is the way 90% of people end up making money in Japan. US English tends to edge out in terms of popularity but as long as you’re fluent in the language (native is better) you shouldn’t have a problem finding extra work.

Getting a long-term contract with a school and working very long hours isn’t the only way to go about it, though.

How to start

Getting a long-term contract with a school and working very long hours isn’t the only way to go about it. There are a number of ways you can teach English in Japan for extra income (we’ll talk about some of them later in the article), and working part-time is perfectly common.

If you live near a Japanese school, it may be as simple as going in and asking. And it probably won’t be an issue if your Japanese isn’t that great as most schools will want you to talk to the students in English.

If that’s not an option, search for a Gakushū juku (学習塾). These Cram Schools are places that offer students the option to study and learn after regular hours.

That might mean on holidays, after school, or at the weekend. In any case, it means they may accept part-time work, so it’s worth checking out!

Take a look at a few online English teaching Job boards in Japan, they’re always great ways to find Jobs that’ll get you some extra income! I’d recommend GaijinPotJobs to get you started.

13. Become an English tutor

Monetization method

Client Payments (or agency if you don’t want to go it alone)

Why would it work?

Once again, it comes back to the popularity of learning English in Japan. So, If you’re looking for a way to make extra money while living in Japan, then becoming an English tutor could be the perfect side hustle for you.

As a private English tutor, you’ll have the opportunity to work with students of all ages and help them learn a language that can seriously broaden their horizons. Plus, this type of work allows you to create your own schedule and earn an income at your own pace – so it’s perfect if you’re looking for flexible hours or want to supplement your existing income in Japan!

How to start

Private Tutoring likely pays a lot better than teaching at a public school. To start off, I’d recommend checking out that job board I linked above and see if there are any opportunities in your local area.

If that doesn’t work, it’s time to head online. When teaching English online, you may not just be teaching English to Japanese children, but also to anyone in the world.

That opens up the potential for more income while living in Japan, and widens your job search. I would suggest applying to (or at least checking out) online English teaching companies like Magic ears, Cambly, VIPKid, QKids, and Preply. Once again, if you’re from America you’ll likely be more sought after than someone from the UK or other English-speaking countries for a lot of these places.

Do your own research as to where it’s best to apply as lots of these offer different contracts – ideal if you’re looking for a flexible schedule at the same time as making extra money in Japan.

14. Sell your own second-hand goods to hard Offs and Off stores

Monetization method

Buy low, sell high!

Why would it work?

If you’re looking for a way to make extra money while living in Japan, then selling your unwanted items at ‘Off’ stores is an excellent option.

And we don’t need reminding how much I love Hard Off!

Not only will you be able to free up some space and declutter your home, but it can also give you the opportunity to earn some extra cash.

Plus, this type of work allows you the freedom to choose when and where you want to sell your items – so it’s perfect if you need flexible hours or want to supplement your existing income!

With its easy-to-use online platform and convenient locations throughout Japan, Off stores are a great place for anyone who wants to make some extra money from home without too much hassle.

If you’re looking for ways to monetize your possessions while living in Japan, consider selling them at your local Hard OFF!

How to start

If you’ve been in Japan for a while, you may have accumulated more things than you need. If you’re looking to make a little extra income then that’s not a bad thing!

Grab all those things and head down to your local Off store. They’ll give you a fair price, and you won’t have to deal with all that clutter anymore.

It’s the perfect way to make money from things you already have, and won’t take up too much time. I’ve suggested going to Hard Offs or Off stores here, but you can go to any second-hand store that you’re close to.

15. Start a guest house

Monetization method

Charge guests to stay in your home

Why would it work?

If you’re looking for a part-time (or full-time) job that will give you the freedom to create your own schedule, then this could be perfect for you. With its booming tourism industry and vibrant culture, Japan is an ideal destination for travelers from all over the world.

As a guest house owner, you’ll have the opportunity to provide guests with comfortable accommodation and help them experience Japanese hospitality firsthand. That’s something the host of an Airbnb I stayed at during my 2 days in Hiroshima did absolutely flawlessly.

You’ll also gain valuable experience working in an international setting and get to explore different cultures through your interactions with guests from around the globe. Plus, this type of work allows you to monetize your skills while still having flexibility (at least when you get everything up and running, anyway!) – so it’s great if you want to supplement your existing income or just need some extra cash!

How to start

Tourists visiting Japan are always looking for the most authentic experience available to them. Airbnb does a good job of this, specifically with hosts that have old or traditional Kominka or Machiya-style houses.

If you’re able to get your hands on one of Japan’s, ‘relatively affordable’, old properties, this could be a fantastic way to earn extra cash while living in Japan. Of course, this has a far higher barrier to entry than a lot of other suggestions on this list and that’s not even talking about the huge amount of paperwork you’d have to get through with the new minpaku law.

But, if you can get everything in order and potentially handle the costs associated for a few months, it has the potential to be more than just a side hustle in Japan.

16. Become a pet sitter

Monetization method

Payment from clients

Why would it work?

Japanese people LOVE their pets, and they’re willing to pay for them to be in good company should they need to leave for a few days. In fact, a lot of Japanese people would prefer a dog to a child.

This doesn’t exactly help with the country’s plummeting birthrate, but it definitely helps you if you fancy looking after someone’s cute pooch for a few nights!

If you’re looking for a way to make some extra money while living in Japan, then becoming a pet sitter could be the perfect side hustle for you. As a pet sitter, you would have the opportunity to provide companionship and care to animals of all shapes and sizes.

You’ll get to spend quality time with furry friends while also earning an income at your own pace. Once again, this is a type of work that allows you the flexibility to create your own schedule – so it’s great if you need to choose your own hours or want to supplement your existing income!

How to start

Other than word of mouth, signing up for one of these websites will be your best bet!

Though, word of mouth goes a long way in Japan, so consider telling a few people about the services you offer.

Trusted Housesitters – A great place to offer out your services, not for money but for a free night (or however long) in someone’s house in exchange for looking after their pet.

GreatAuPair – Sometimes has paid petsitter jobs available

Sewakl – Prices already decided

Pet Backer – Chose your own prices

17. Become a part-time voice actor

Monetization method

Paid through an agency or client

Why would it work?

Being a voiceover artist in Japan is an excellent way to make more money while living here. You’ll have the opportunity to use your unique vocal talents to create audio recordings for various media outlets, including radio and television advertisements, video games, and movies.

Depending on what sort of work you chose, you should be able to set your own hours and work from home for the majority of the time – so it’s perfect for supplementing your existing income!

How to start

Reach out to local talent agencies. You may need someone who is fluent in Japanese to search for an appropriate place for you. Though, due to the nature of the work, it shouldn’t put you at a disadvantage that you aren’t fully fluent (but it won’t hurt, either!)

If you don’t have any sort of experience, try to build your portfolio up on services on Upwork or Fiverr beforehand. As far as I know, voice acting in Japan is actually quite competitive. But, you never know unless you try!

18. Become an actor

Monetization method

Paid through an agency

Why would it work?

Fancy starring in a really random commercial? Or perhaps making an appearance as an extra in a film you may never hear of again? You’re in luck!

Becoming an actor in Japan could be a great way to make a little extra money while living out here. The paychecks won’t be regular, and you won’t win every audition, but you’ll have some flipping incredible memories to tell!

How to start

GaijinPot has a great article about becoming an actor in Japan. While there are more opportunities for newcomers than there are in other places in the world, make no mistake that it’s still a tough industry.

As with certain other side hustles in Japan, it makes sense to find an agent that can get you appropriate roles. Remember to be punctual and only commit as long as you can deliver what’s being asked of you!

19. Work at a language exchange cafe conversation cafe in the evenings

Monetization method

Part-time pay

Why would it work?

Working at a language exchange cafe or conversation cafe in Japan is a great way to monetize your knowledge of Japanese culture and language. As an employee, you’ll be talking to a range of different people who are interested in learning English, but may not have as much time.

The idea is that you’ll often host a table in a language exchange cafe, and people will pop in for a drink and a chat. Each time someone new joins the table you can talk to them and get them involved in the conversation.

It’s likely at this point you’ll find quite a few of the people at your table are workers who can only spare an hour or so in the evening. This puts you at a great advantage – you still want a flexible job and people who work all day aren’t expecting (or in need of) full-time commitments.

Of course, you can work during the day if your cafe is open, but it’ll probably be busier in the evenings.

How to start

This is actually something I considered doing before coming to Japan. I didn’t like the work-life balance of having a full-time English teaching job in Japan, but sitting down and chatting to a few people after work seemed like an altogether much more pleasant idea.

The best way to start this one would be to take a look at the following links as well as type in ‘language exchange cafe’ + {your location} to Google.

ESL Cafe – Often has chat cafe jobs available in Japan

Mickey Mouse Cafe – Quite a famous cafe for language exchange, contact the owner directly to enquire.

English Only Cafe – In case you’re interested in talking for free – just a great way to make some friends 🙂

20. Offer specialty classes, courses, or guides

Monetization method

Direct payment (though you could make it passive by collating your skills into an online course)

Why would it work?

Offering specialty classes in Japan is a great way to make extra money while living there. As a teacher, you would have the opportunity to share your knowledge and skills with others who are interested in learning more about topics such as cooking, swimming, hiking, and other hobbies.

As with most of the ways to make money in Japan on this list, you can work as much or as little as you like – perfect if you need flexible hours or want to supplement your existing income!

Not only would this job enable you to earn money, but it could also help you practice my Japanese language skills if the classes become popular. So if you’re looking for ways to monetize your knowledge and skills while living in Japan, consider offering specialty classes!

It’s the same the world over. If you know something that someone else wants to know, they’ll pay you.

How to start

There are a number of ways to get started offering classes in Japan, though it may be different depending on the courses you want to offer. If it’s as simple as walking tours, you could join a platform like Airbnb or Viator and get going pretty much immediately when someone decides to join.

Perhaps you want to offer Italian cooking classes as a way to make money in Japan. You could either do that through an online platform like YouTube or invite people to a physical location so you can tutor them in person.

There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but the decision you make will greatly depend on your circumstances and what you have to offer. If you want to be in person, face to face, then you’ll have to account for a few different overheads and plan accordingly.

If you’d prefer the possibility of something a little more passive, make a video course and offer it up to the entire world, not just Japan! Or better yet, do both!

Overall, there are many ways to make money in Japan, from teaching English and offering specialty classes to selling digital products online. All of these methods have the potential to be profitable, depending on how much time and effort you’re willing to put into them.

As long as you take the necessary steps for success – such as researching your target market, setting achievable goals, and creating an effective marketing strategy – then it is possible that one of these options will work out well for you.

And most importantly, they should help to fund those 7-Eleven trips that are slowly taking all your money! Ultimately, making money in Japan can be both fun and rewarding if approached with dedication, creativity, and enthusiasm! Just keep going!

Have I missed out a key way to make extra money in Japan? Let me know in the comments below!

Jonny Gleason

Jonny is the founder of A Day of Zen and has an unhealthy obsession with Japan. In 2022 he moved to Japan on a mission to give his audience the best possible information. He's helped over 300,000 plan their trip so far, and is eager to make that number much bigger!

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