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Drinking coffee has been a long-time practice for most cultures. In Japan, it rapidly emerged as a go-to for people living the fast-paced lives in megacities. With a valuable workforce in the industry, it continues to thrive catering to the caffeine needs of the people as well as offer jobs.
Coffee is a staple in most cultures, and Japan is no exception, despite the image of tea. Many people start their day with a coffee cup (or two!) to wake them up and have a bolt of caffeine and energy to jump-start their day. Coffee was first introduced in Japan back in the 1700s by Dutch traders. Having a brief hiatus because of the World War II coffee ban, coffee worked its way into Japanese society around the 1960s. The coffee industry has steadily grown as the years went by as coffee consumption in Japan increased rapidly! This is mostly due to the fact that Japan has been more exposed and immersed in Western culture. According to the International Coffee Organization, Japan imports the most coffee behind the European Union and the United States. This emphasizes that coffee truly holds a base in Japan’s lifestyle.
※ All Japan Coffee Association, "Coffee Market in Japan," p. 1 ※ International Coffee Organization, “Imports of coffee by selected importing countries - February 2020”
Though Japan is primarily known to be a tea-drinking society, coffee is as much part of Japan as tea is. The rise in the number of Japanese coffee shops is a testament to the growing demand for coffee within Japan. This opens the door for employment for locals and foreigners alike. Employment opportunities such as baristas are now more accessible to Japan’s increasing trend of the coffee industry.
A barista will typically report to the Cafe Manager. People who have previous training experience in the cafe industry would have a considerable advantage in the application process. Basic knowledge of the different types of coffee and the procedure on how to brew them is also essential. The skills needed to operate basic coffee machines such as the espresso machine is also a great advantage for applicants. Cash handling knowledge and experience is also a plus for applicants as they will mostly likely be handling the cash registry as well.
A barista in Japan would also have the following job responsibilities: They should be able to provide excellent customer service to clients, they should also know how to brew excellent coffee, and he or she would know how to assist in food preparation and cooking if the situation calls for it. Aside from these technical skills, baristas in Japan should have high standards for cleanliness and basic accounting information such as cash handling skills, providing accurate cash reports, and keeping stock inventory.
The annual average salary of a barista in Japan is around 2.88 million yen depending on the applicant’s skill or experience. The work schedule of full-time baristas in Japan would be around eight (8) hours per day for five (5) days a week, which amounts to roughly forty (40) hours in a week. The typical benefits that Japanese baristas would receive are free lunch or coffee during workdays.
※ Heikinnenshu, “Average annual income of cafe barista”
Being fluent in the Japanese language is also a must. Since many cafes are frequented by both locals and foreigners, a good grasp of the English language is becoming a standard for becoming a barista in Japan. For foreign applicants, having a working visa is also a must.
For foreign applicants who wish to work as a barista, they need to secure a working visa in Japan first. There are several ways a foreign applicant can secure different types of visas to be able to work at a Japanese cafe. Unless you already have a visa that allows you to work in Japan (with the right permission to work in the food industry), you would need one of the following:
Working Holiday Visa
Student Visa with special permission to engage in activity than that permitted in status of residence previously granted - you can work up to 28 hours
Visa sponsorship from coffee shop employer
Specified skilled worker visa - you have to pass a Japanese proficiency test about the food industry in order to obtain this visa
The basic requirements for applying for a working visa are as follows:
A valid passport;
A recent passport photo;
Guarantee letter from future employer with your future position and expected salary;
A Certificate of Eligibility issued by the Japanese Ministry of Justice or future employers;
An updated curriculum vitae;
Graduation Certificates or diplomas
Working visas are usually issued for a period from one to three years and can be extended for three months, six months, and even up to one year! Since good English communication skills may be a huge plus especially in bigger cities, language proficiency certificates such as IELTS may increase your chances of getting hired.
※ Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, "VISA"
Since cafes are a growing industry in Japan, there is a higher need for baristas in Japan. The ability to know different languages is an obvious advantage because it facilitates easier communication to tourists since Japan also has a booming tourism industry. Let’s take a look at some of the famous international cafes in Japan.
Starbucks first opened their store in Ginza in around 1996. Since then, Starbucks in Japan has grown to crazy proportions with around 1400 stores around the country! Starbucks in Japan offers unique coffee blends that are reflective of Japan’s unique culture. Famous drinks such as the Sakura latte which is a bestseller during cherry blossom season emerges as Starbucks Japan’s unique twist. Starbucks also provide relatively good compensation to their baristas as compared to other cafes. Wouldn’t it be exciting to be a part of this growing cafe franchise in Japan?
※ Heikinnenshu, “Average annual income of cafe barista”
The Blue Bottle Coffee shop was a cafe that was established in California in the early 2000s, where they focus on brewing single-origin coffee beans roasting small batches of coffee and sell them within a day. The first Blue Bottle Coffee in Japan was established in Kobe in 2018 and expanded to Tokyo and Kyoto. The opportunity to work as a barista here enables you to learn a new set of lucrative skills and techniques that are usually taught during extensive training.
Tully’s Coffee was initially established in Seattle, Washington, in the early 1990s. It was primarily acquired to rival the growing expansion of Starbucks in the United States. The expansion was a success as Tully’s has over 600 stores all over Japan. Working at this busy and fast-paced cafe will surely advance your barista skills and learn excellent customer service.
If you consider a career in the Japanese coffee industry, the coffee shops below are worth checking. There are other popular cafes like Rostro Coffee Roasters, Koffee Mameya, Reissue Cafe, and more with different specialties. Take a visit, and maybe there is an opportunity for you.
The Little Nap Coffee Stand is a quaint cafe that offers a very casual vibe perfect for youngsters to hang around. It also roasts their coffee on-site, and they are famous for their drip coffee. Working on this type of cafe creates a distinct chill creatively making coffee and drinks for different kinds of customers.
A fun and spooky cafe in Japan is Vampire Cafe where the ambiance is downright thrilling. This vampire-themed cafe offers classic coffees with unique twists! Barista work for a shop like this combines creativity and customer service because they cater to both locals and tourists.
This cool coffee shop is perfect for fresh millennials and Gen Zs! The cool, instagrammable, and hip decoration offers a very casual cafe experience that is enjoyed by most. Since Lattest offers a wide variety of coffee trends and flavors, baristas who are fortunate enough to pass their screening process also receive intensive training to keep up with the coffee demand of young coffee consumers.
Since the coffee industry in Japan is booming, this is definitely great news not just for Japan’s economy but also for hopeful applicants who would want to settle in Japan. For foreigners looking for job opportunities in Japan, consider investing in learning the required knowledge and skills to become a barista. Make sure to pay attention as well to the visa requirements and know that having a good grasp of the Japanese language is a must!
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