Japan, with its bustling fashion capitals and avant-garde style scene, stands as a captivating hub for the modeling industry, drawing both local and international talent into its spotlight. In this article, we introduce tips for starting your modeling career in Japan.
First Published: 2022-02-22
Table of Contents
- The Modeling Scene in Japan
- How to Become a Model in Japan
- Modeling Agencies in Japan for Foreigners
- Tips for Aspiring Models in Japan
Japan’s thriving fashion scene that produces avant-garde innovation, makes it a global influencer in the industry. From Tokyo’s trendiest fashions that pulse with creativity, to the historically and culturally rich traditional wear, Japanese fashion seamlessly marries traditional elements with cutting-edge trends to create unique styles.
Japanese fashion is well-known for its diverse fashion, from iconic street Harajuku fashion to the elegance of traditional Kimono attire, Japan continually pushes the boundaries of fashion. And thanks to its constantly growing fashion industry, other industries that touch on fashion like manufacturing and of course, modeling, find themselves propelled forward with the momentum.
As Japan’s fashion market extends its reach beyond its borders, there has been an increasing need for foreign models in Japan to suit the target market. A good example is Japanese apparel brand Uniqlo, who has a diverse cast of fashion models.
First, let’s take a look at just some of the top models in Japan, both past and present, and get inspiration from their work.
A former model, Tao Okamoto was one of the famous Japanese models represented by Premier Model Agency. Awarded by Japan Vogue as the “Women of the Year” in 2010, Tao Okamoto has worked with big name companies such as Louis Vuitton, Miu Miu, and Chanel. After debuting on international screens alongside Hugh Jackman in Marvel’s The Wolverine, she has become a full-time actress.
Another model turned actor, Sen Mitsuji is an Australian-Japanese model who was scouted when visiting Japan. He jumped into modeling and was especially active between 2010 - 2015, appearing in famous magazines and walking the runway in fashion weeks and collections worldwide. Since then, he’s transitioned into acting and photography.
She is probably the first name that comes to mind for many when it comes to “Japanese supermodels”. She was one of the first Japanese and Asian models to make it big as a model overseas and walk in prestigious fashion shows and collections. She continues to model today, along with many other new projects.
Rina Fukushi is a young Japanese-Filipino model represented by Ipsilon. She was discovered as a young teen and has already walked in world-famous shows including New York and Paris Fashion Weeks for some huge name brands including Alexander Wang.
A popular model, YouTuber and influencer, Kemio has shaped the culture of young people in Japan. Living in the States, but continuing to collaborate with many brands both in Japan and around the world, his bright personality has encouraged a lot of people.
Perhaps one of the most famous on our list if you’ve been following Japanese entertainment, Kiko Mizuhara has been in the modeling and entertainment industry since 2003. She has also been a brand ambassador for big names like Coach and Dior. She is also an actress and influencer, appearing in works like “Norwegian Wood” and “Queer Eye”.
Aspiring to become a model in Japan? It is certainly possible as there is a growing need for foreign models in Japan as an increasing number of brands are aiming to expand to the global market, or to market to visiting overseas tourists.
So, how does one become a model in Japan?
Apply to a Modeling Agency
If you are already in Japan, then applying to a modeling agency is most likely the best course of action. The benefits of a modeling agency is that they can help find and book auditions for you, and can even offer other job opportunities like acting, commercial and TV appearances. Assemble your modeling portfolio and do your research as there are many agencies to choose from, including ones that specialize in foreign models in Japan. More on this below.
Find Modeling Jobs in Japan Online
Another way to find modeling jobs in Japan is online. Not all businesses go through modeling agencies to find models, there are some that post jobs ads on social media, job placement websites, and even on their official websites. The modeling job ad will typically specify what type of model they are looking for like height and gender, or even if they are looking for foreign models.
However, keep in mind that this method comes with risks. For one, you have no agency to represent you and protect your interests. Also, there is also a risk of encountering a scam. Therefore, practice extreme caution by doing your own research and selecting reputable companies only.
Try to Get Scouted in Japan
There are lots of success stories about models who started out by getting scouted in Japan, and there are places where there’s higher chances of being discovered. Shibuya is definitely one of those places, along with other popular hangouts. This is by no means a simple task. Research the latest fashion and make-up trends, dress your best, and visit these places, and maybe an opportunity will fall into your lap.
Start Off as a Social Media Influencer
Having a strong social media presence is one of the best ways to kick-off a modeling career in Japan and other parts of the world. It’s hard work requiring daily updates to show off your outfits, and initial investment of purchasing all those outfits. You will also need to work on your selfie and photography skills. As your social media presence grows, your looks and marketability will help you be discovered.
There are modeling agencies in Japan that specialise in foreign models. These are some of them to get you started.
Founded in 1997, talent and model agency Chat Noir has offices in Tokyo, Osaka, and in Los Angeles. They have over 1500 models and talents registered, and specialise in foreign models. Aside from modeling jobs, Chat Noir also has acting, dancing, singing, narrators, translator, and interpreter services that require foreign language expertise. Additionally, they also recruit transgender models to promote diversity.
Official Website: https://www.chatnoir.tv/en/
Bravo Models is one of the most recommended modeling agencies in Tokyo with a good reputation as a reliable employer. Their expertise lies in magazine modeling, as well as runway modeling. Many of their models have appeared in fashion shows including for Paris Week.
Official Website: https://www.bravomodels.net/
Another well-known talent and modeling agency that’s based in Tokyo, Acqua Models accepts a wide range of foreign nationals, even kids! Apart from modeling, they also have jobs for dancing, narrating, and voice acting.
Official Website: https://www.acquamodels.com/
Donna Models is a big-name modeling agency that is known for its models representing luxury brands including Gucci, Chanel and Coach. Top Japanese model, Tao Okamoto, that we mentioned above is registered with this agency.
Official Website: http://www.donnamodels.jp/
Here are some tips to help you on your journey of becoming a foreign model in Japan.
Start Modeling as a Part-Time Job
Unless you’re already an established model overseas, it will be nearly impossible to obtain the “Entertainment (興行 Kougyou)” visa-type for modeling. Many people come to Japan as international students, or for a different job, both with their respective visa-types and then try their hand in modeling on the side. Once you become successful or show potential, then perhaps a modeling agency will sponsor your visa.
Learn the Culture and Language
It’s important to know how Japan works and what the modeling industry here is like. There is a huge preference for models who are half-Japanese. Many of the established models grew up in Japan. But this isn’t necessarily true for all models, so don’t give up! However, do know there are distinct categories for Japanese/Asian models, half-Japanese models, and international/foreign models.
Being proficient in Japanese is also important. While the agency may be able to handle everything in English, the people you will be potentially working with may not. As a model, you will be working with hair and make-up artists, photographers, videographers etc. who may give directions in Japanese. There’s also a chance you will co-star with Japanese models, or other international models who do not share your mother tongue. For future opportunities, communication is key, so do your best to learn the language.
And that's all that you need to know about how to become a model in Japan. We hope this article helps you out. All the best!