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From Duke to Tokyo with J-Find Visa: Oliver’s Experience of Working in Japan

Updated: Jun 17

Have you ever dreamed of embarking on an adventure in a new country, immersing yourself in a different culture, and growing both personally and professionally? For Oliver Greenwald, a 23-year-old from Colorado, working in Japan as an American became a reality when he decided to pursue a career in Japan after graduating from Duke University.

Oliver Greenwald


In this interview with Jelper Club, Oliver shares his experiences, challenges, and insights on working in Japan with the J-Find Visa. Join us as we delve into:

  • Embracing the Adventure: Why Japan?

  • Navigating the Job Search in Tokyo

  • Real J-Find Visa Experience: Extending Your Stay in Japan

  • Securing a Working Visa in Japan

  • Thriving at a Japanese Startup

  • Work Culture in Japan from Real Experience

  • Advice for Students Considering a Career in Japan

  • Unlock Your Potential with Jelper Club

—— Could you share a bit about yourself?

Oliver: Hi there! My name is Oliver Greenwald, and I'm a 23-year-old American from Colorado. I recently graduated from Duke University, where I studied computer science and visual arts. My passion lies in UI/UX design and entrepreneurship, and I always knew I wanted to explore opportunities beyond the United States. After much consideration, I decided to take a leap of faith and move to Japan for an adventure.

—— What attracted you to Japan as a place to work and live?

Oliver: I had this feeling that I wanted to go to a large city in Asia after graduation. I took a summer to travel to different cities, and there was just something about Japan and Tokyo that felt right to me. I loved the culture, the people, and the energy of the city. It was a gut feeling more than anything specific, but I knew I wanted to make it my new home.


—— Can you walk us through your job search process in Japan?

Oliver: To be honest, it was a rollercoaster! I started by looking up famous companies and design agencies in Tokyo, seeing if they had any UI/UX design roles open, especially ones that didn't require Japanese language skills. I emailed so many cover letters expressing my intention to move to Japan and my desire to meet in person, but I didn't have much luck initially. Companies wanted to see that I was committed and actually in Tokyo first.

Once I moved here, I started utilizing the Duke alumni network, meeting people for coffee or lunch, and asking if they had any job leads. I applied to around 100 places and got rejected by 99 of them. It was tough, but I knew I just needed one "yes" to make it all worth it. Eventually, I found my current role and a part-time position at an AR company through referrals from people I had met in Japan. Networking was key!


—— You mentioned using the J-Find visa to extend your stay in Japan. Can you elaborate on that process?

Oliver: The J-Find visa was a game-changer for me. It's a relatively new "job-seeking" visa that allows you to stay in Japan for 6-12 months while looking for work. I switched to it from my tourist visa, but the process wasn't easy. I had to make multiple trips to the immigration office, wait in long lines, and deal with some miscommunication about the required documents.


However, the benefits were worth it. The J-Find visa gave me the time I needed to job hunt without worrying about my legal status. It also allowed me to skip the longer foreign resident lines at immigration when re-entering Japan. I even helped a couple of friends get the J-Find visa! While obtaining the visa was challenging, I'm grateful for the opportunity it provided.


—— Now that you've secured a full-time position, what is your current visa situation?

Oliver: I'm excited to share that I recently obtained an "Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / International Services" working visa! The visa process was much smoother this time around, as my company hired an agency to handle most of the paperwork. It took about three months, but all I had to do was submit some documents and a photo. It's a relief to have everything sorted out and to be able to focus on my work and life here in Japan.


—— What has your experience been like working at a startup in Japan?

Oliver: In a word: incredible! I feel extremely lucky to have found my current company, Digital Architecture Lab. The team is creative, open-minded, and has a bit of a Western style compared to traditional Japanese companies. The work-life balance is great, and my colleagues are supportive and welcoming.


One thing that surprised me was how multicultural the startup scene in Tokyo can be. While most of my co-workers are Japanese or Korean, there are also a few foreigners from the US. It's been eye-opening to learn from different perspectives and work styles.

—— How does the work culture in Japan differ from what you expected?

Oliver: Before coming to Japan, I'd heard all these crazy stereotypes about the Japanese working insanely long hours, you know, the whole "salaryman" thing. But honestly, that hasn't been my experience at all. At my startup, the hours and work-life balance are pretty much what I'd expect back in the States. I usually roll into the office around 10 AM and head out by 7 PM, and as long as I'm getting my work done, I have a lot of flexibility.


—— What advice would you give to students considering working in Japan?

Oliver: Go for it! Moving abroad was the best decision I've ever made. It's an adventure that pushes you out of your comfort zone and allows you to grow in ways you never imagined. You'll learn so much from being immersed in a different work culture and economy.


My advice would be to embrace the ambiguity and just put yourself out there. Don't be afraid to move to Japan before securing a job - being here in person can make a big difference in the job search process. Network, meet people, and keep applying. It might take time, but eventually, things will fall into place.


Also, be prepared for the practical challenges of moving to a new country. Brush up on your Japanese, research the recruitment cycles, and be ready to navigate things like housing, banking, and healthcare. It can be overwhelming at times, but the rewards are worth it.

—— Any other words of wisdom?

Oliver: I wish I'd known that August in Japan is brutally hot (laughs). But really, I wish I had known the difference in recruitment cycles between Japan and the US. In Japan, many companies hire new graduates in April, which aligns with the academic year. As a result, job openings for foreigners may be more limited during other times of the year. It's essential to research these recruitment cycles and plan your move accordingly to maximize your chances of finding a suitable position. 

Also, I wish I had been more prepared for the practical aspects of moving to a new country. From setting up a bank account and securing a phone plan to navigating the healthcare system and finding an apartment, there are numerous challenges that come with relocating to Japan. It's important to do your research, connect with others who have made a similar move, and be patient with yourself as you adapt to your new environment.

—— What are your thoughts on Jelper Club and their mission to help students work in Japan?

Oliver: I think what Jelper Club is doing is fantastic. I appreciate how much they want to help people like me from the US come to Japan and make the process easier. If you're a student looking to move to Japan for work, I definitely recommend checking out Jelper Club. It's a valuable tool and community for anyone considering this path, and it is also beneficial for people using the J-Find visa to share information and interact with each other.


Conclusion: Unlock Your Potential with Jelper Club

As Oliver's story demonstrates, working in Japan as an international student or recent graduate is an achievable and enriching experience. With determination, adaptability, and the right resources, you can turn your dreams of a global career into reality.


At Jelper Club, we're here to support you every step of the way for your career development in Japan. Our platform connects ambitious students from top universities worldwide with exclusive internship and full-time job opportunities in Japan with a variety of Japanese proficiency requirements. We also provide access to practical information, member-only events, and a professional community of like-minded individuals.


If you're ready to embark on your own Japanese adventure, visit Jelper Club today and discover how we can help you unlock your potential in Japan.

(Editor: Jelper Club Editorial Team)

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