Start a Modeling Career in Japan

WeXpats
2022/02/22

Modeling in Japan has been an opportunity that many aspiring individuals have taken, whether it started out as a chance happening or by personal ambition. Japan has several modeling agencies that offer work to local and foreign beauties for a variety of work opportunities, from runways to advertisements and more.


Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Modeling in Japan
  2. Modeling Agencies in Japan
  3. Tips and Info for Foreign Models
  4. Summary

Introduction to Modeling in Japan

In Japan, fashion has a significant impact on their culture and as the country is widely known for its distinct sense of style which has attracted model aspirants worldwide. Modeling isn’t as easy as someone might think it is, since it’s one of the most crucial and competitive industries, and the same can be said for Japan. At the same time, there’s many different areas and events that a model can specialize in, and the rise of social media has made it easier for some to be discovered. 

Top Japanese 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.

Tao Okamoto

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.

Instagram / IMDB

Sen Mitsuji

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.

Instagram / IMDB

Ai Tominaga

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.

Official Site / Instagram

Current To-Watch Models

Rina Fukushi

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.

Instagram

Kemio

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.

Instagram / YouTube

Kiko Mizuhara

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”.

A couple more to definitely keep an eye on include Mika Schneider,
Kohei Takabatake and Kayoko Higuchi

Modeling Agencies in Japan

So now you’re inspired. Where should you start? 

If you’re already in Japan, then applying to a modeling agency is probably the best course of action. Especially when you’re first starting out, you may not be able to land a steady job just being a model, so not only will an agency help you book auditions, they’ll often offer other jobs that you can audition for, such as acting and tv appearances. Do your research as there’s many agencies to choose from, including those that specialize in foreign models in Japan. Here are a few to get you started. 

Chatnoir Model Talent Agency

Founded in 1997, this agency has offices in Tokyo and Osaka, and even one in Los Angeles (from 2019) and has over 1500 models and talents listed. Chatnoir Agency offers various jobs aside from modeling, including acting. In addition, they also accept transgender talents to promote diversity.

Bravo Models

Known for being a top class international modeling agency in Japan since 1996, Bravo Models has made a reputation as a reliable employer. It is highly regarded and recommended by many, especially for those interested in runway modeling. 

Acqua Models

Another popular well-known agency, Acqua Models welcomes aspirants of all ages, as they even have a Kids division. Aside from modeling, they offer jobs such as acting, voice acting and narration. 

Other agencies often recommended include Avocado, FreeWave and Donna Models. And of course, there’s many more.

Tips and Info for Foreign Models

Here are a couple of tips to know about becoming a model.

Have a Strong Social Media Presence

As times have changed, it’s not enough to take nice headshots and apply for jobs at agencies. Most models post on Instagram to show off their outfits, their fierce (or cute depending on your image!) looks and marketability. Japan is no different, and it’s helped many to be discovered.

Try to Get Scouted

There’s definitely lots of stories of models who started out by getting scouted in Japan, and there’s places where there’s higher chances of being discovered. Shibuya is definitely one of those places, along with other popular hangouts. Think about where to be and what to wear, and maybe an opportunity will fall into your lap. 

Start off with a Different Visa

Unless you’re already an established model overseas, it will be nearly impossible to get a visa just for modeling to come to Japan. Many people come to Japan as students, or as English teachers, or for a different kind of job, and then try their hand at modeling while in the country. If you become successful or show potential, then perhaps an agency will sponsor your visa. 

Know the Culture and Language

And finally, it’s important to know how Japan works and what the industry is like. There is a huge preference for models who are half-Japanese. Many of the established models grew up in Japan. But that isn’t necessarily true for all models, so don’t give up! However, know that there are distinct categories for Japanese/Asian models, half-Japanese models, and foreign models.

It’s also good to be at least proficient in Japanese. While the agency may be able to handle everything in English, not everyone you will be potentially working with will be able to speak English, so for smoother communication and future opportunities, do your best to learn the language. 

Summary

Modeling in Japan may be a wish come true for aspirants who take interest in the country’s culture and fashion. The passion of expressing oneself through media and work is truly admirable and although the road to making it big may be rough, we hope this article is helpful to get your first foot in the door.

For how to be an actor in Japan, please take a look at our article
here.

Writer

WeXpats
Here to provide a variety of articles from useful information about life, working, and studying in Japan to Japan's charms and attractive qualities.

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