Guide to Internships in Tokyo

By  Tyson Batino  May 13, 2019

This is the BFF Tokyo guide to internships in Tokyo. The guide will first focus on internship seekers in Tokyo on knowing what to expect and how to find the right internship for you. This guide is based on our experiences offering marketing internships, but the information applies to any area to be honest.

Marketing Internship in Tokyo

What you need to know about an internship in Tokyo

You have come to the right place to find and learn about working as a marketing internship in Tokyo. This page will help you to learn more about the preparations you need to make when searching for an internship position. Many foreigners in Japan make the wrong choice when choosing an internship because they do not know what to look for nor what questions to ask in the interview and end not learning much about marketing or working for a company that does not know how to do marketing.

Why should you do an internship?

For someone who is interested in business or marketing, you cannot get real world experience as a university student and your only option to get hands on work is to do an internship. Some university programs have a hands on approach to learning work skills as opposed to academic, but these types of programs are not the norm. I wish more universities would provide this type of education, so students would not have to do an internship in addition to taking university courses. However, until that happens, an internship would have to fill the need for practical experience.

What are you interested in?

Before you choose a marketing internship in Tokyo, you really need to know what areas of marketing you want to learn. If you do not know what you want to learn you will pretty much be doing a wide variety of work and you may not even learn marketing because they are making you do general work that is completely unrelated to marketing but it is something they want done.

Here is a general list of marketing skills that you can learn at a company. In major companies like UBER and Airbnb, they have large teams of people who only focus on one of the areas below. What I am trying to say is that if you try to become a jack of all trades, you really become a master of none because each area of marketing goes super deep and there is so much to learn that there are people who only focus on one area at the corporate level.

  • Content Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Email Marketing
  • Website Analytics
  • Branding
  • Market Research
  • Graphic Design
  • Paid Advertisements
Social Media Internships

Recommendations for choosing an internship

Spend several hours researching about the various areas of marketing above to find what type of marketing is a match for your personality and your interests. Some people are really good and some areas and really bad at others, so you need to find what is right for you for your internship in Tokyo.

When you know what type of marketing you want to do, research some job ads for that specific position to see what type of work they do and the requirements for that position. Look for a marketing internship that get you to work on areas that will prepare you for a marketing position in the future.

Be Selective in your Internship in Tokyo

Another huge challenge in choosing a marketing internship in Tokyo is that the person in charge of marketing may not know anything about marketing at all. You could be wasting your time because you will only learn marketing to an amateurish level that would make it hard for you to find a position at an innovative company or a competitive company full-time. You really need to be selective when choosing a place to intern because you are making a 6 month to 1 year commitment and you may not be paid, so make sure you know exactly what you want in return for your investment in time.

Many foreigners and Japanese in marketing positions actually do not know that much about marketing even though it is their full-time job. The main reason this happens is because a company has a stable income to support hiring a marketer and they want to get more customers, but the CEO and other founding members may not actually know marketing themselves and therefore may be unable to coach the person who will be mentoring you. In other cases, they often put foreigners into marketing positions who have no background in marketing. Many small to medium size Japanese businesses assume that because you are a foreigner, you immediately know how to market to foreigners in Tokyo and put you in a marketing position role. This sounds hilarious...I know, but it happens so often that I am not surprised at all.

Should I join a large company or a startup?

The great thing about startups is that they will allow you take more risks and explore a wide array of social media channels because they do not have to worry about doing everything on brand. They will let you do things from the bottom up and you can test what works and what does not. The only downside about startups in Tokyo is that they may not be able to mentor you either because they are busy or because they may not know much about marketing themselves! Also you need to be aware that the definition of a startup is a company that has not succeeded yet. 

Not surprisingly, the opposite would apply for a company bringing on an intern to join their marketing team in Tokyo. They have several full-time staff working on marketing projects and can provide feedback and guidance on learning marketing. They may even pay money or provide other benefits compared to a startup. The only small downside is that they will have a specific area they would like you to focus on and if they are paying a salary, you will probably be doing work that no one else wants to do! I have heard of many paid interns being made to do data entry and other jobs that may not benefit their learning.

Finding an Internship in Tokyo

Internships are hard to find in Tokyo because a company would have to pay money to post it on a job board. Your best bet to finding an internship would be to ask in a group on Facebook like the Tokyo Expat Network or look on the websites of companies whose main market are foreign customers.

Some companies I know that hire interns are Japan Travel and Go Go Nihon.

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