How to find a chef apprenticeship in Japan?

October 13th 2020 Updated

internship at restaurants in Japan

Recently, many chefs want to gain on-site experience in a Japanese restaurant, so is it possible to do a short apprenticeship? I often get such questions. The short answer is that there is no system for apprenticeship/stage/internship in Japan, unlike Europe. Data shows that only 10 – 20 % of restaurants in Japan have any English-speaking staff, and the language used to communicate at work is almost 100% Japanese. Therefore, unless foreigners can speak daily conversational Japanese, finding apprenticeship opportunities will be difficult.

Still, although it’s uncommon, some chefs have approached the restaurant owner and explained their enthusiasm for cooking, and were given the opportunity to do an apprenticeship at that restaurant. So we cay say, it’s difficult to find but not 100% impossible.

How to find an opportunity?

There are no restaurants that have issued apprenticeship recruitment notices. It may help if you have connections with people in the restaurant industry in Japan who can suggest a particular restaurant to you, but if you have never been to that restaurant before, the actual conditions and atmosphere may differ from your expectations. If possible, learn about the restaurant by visiting multiple times, become familiar with the food and service, and if you still want to do an apprenticeship there, tell the staff about your enthusiasm for cooking. Use easy words and try to explain in as simple and clear a way as possible.

Majority of Japanese restaurants are not used to accepting Non-Japanese speakers, and you might be declined, but I know of some chefs who have found an apprenticeship this way.

What kind of job will you be given?

The way each restaurant is run is different, so I recommend “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” Even if you are a chef with decades of experience, be prepared to start at the bottom. Until you know well the workings of the shop, there are only a few jobs that you can do.

You may be assigned to simple jobs such as washing dishes, putting out tea, cleaning and so on. This may also be true for overseas restaurants, but in Japan working in a restaurant is hard work. Besides the hard work, not understanding the language will be tough.

Although it’s a good opportunity to learn all kinds of cooking knowledge and techniques on-site, be aware that it might be a much harder job than you can imagine.

What kind of contribution can you make?

Having received the opportunity for an apprenticeship in Japan, you might feel that you absolutely want to learn as much as possible, but please remember that restaurant has given you this opportunity. While working, keep in mind that you want to give something back to the restaurant, don’t be only focused on what you can get. If you have this kind of good attitude, it will help you to have a better relationship with your coworkers.

Is there any salary?

Unlike part-time or full-time work, there is no salary for working an apprenticeship.

If you wish to work part-time or full-time with proper visa, please see the following our article of What type of visa is required to work at a restaurant in japan?

How long is an apprenticeship?

The length of the apprenticeship will have to be discussed and decided with the restaurant manager. It could be as short as one day to begin with, or it could be as long as 2 – 3 months. In most cases the longest apprentice can work is three months, as this is the length of a short-term visa and the length you can stay if you are from a visa exempt country.

If you wish to have a three-month apprenticeship without pay, you can obtain a Cultural Activities Visa and stay for up to one year.

Japanese restaurant rules

The following are some rules that you will want to know before you start working in Japan


This applies not only in Japan, but in all business in the world and Japanese people see big importance on punctuality. Being on time is considered an absolute must for professionals. Please do not be late working time. However, if you are late for some reason, be sure to contact your manager. Restaurant staff often communicate using an app. Facebook messenger and LINE are very common in Japan, but WhatsApp is not used much.

No Excuses

Of course, cultural differences are unavoidable, but in Japan, when something goes wrong, it is considered a virtue to first apologize. If you really want to explain the reason for the mistake, you must first acknowledge the mistake and apologize, then you may explain.


When working in a Japanese restaurant or sushi shop, having tattoos that customers can see is considered inappropriate. (This is because there is a strong feeling in Japan that associates tattoos with Yakuza gangs.) Therefore, if you have visible tattoos you must discuss this with the manager of the restaurant.

Tattoos that cannot be covered by clothing can sometimes be covered with stickers that are sold at the Don Quijote discount shop in Japan.

Japanese phrases

Before working in a Japanese restaurant these are the most essential phases you must remember and use.

Irashaimase! (Welcome!)

In Japanese restaurants this is said when customers walk into the shop. You should hear this anytime you enter a restaurant in Japan.

Arigato-gozaimashita! (Thank you!)

You say this to show your appreciation to your customers as they leave the restaurant.

Ohayo Gozaimasu! (Good morning!)

In the morning and up to noon, this is said when entering the workplace as a greeting to your co-workers.

Otsukaresama-deshita! (Good job today!)

This is said to your co-workers when you are finished work and leaving for the day.

**-san (Mr./Ms.)

In Japan, older people and people in positions of authority are always called ** – San, to show respect. It’s ok to use **- san after either the last name or the first name. If the manager is Mr. Suzuki, he will be called Suzuki-San.

Of course, it’s much better if you can speak Japanese,
but even if you can’t speak Japanese, you and your co-workers at the restaurant should be able to work comfortably together if you show respect and make an effort to keep smiling.

We hope all of you get the opportunity to work in Japan!

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