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Traveling in Japan is a unique experience as it is. To make it even more unique, some travelers are finding temporary jobs as fruit pickers throughout the country.
It offers a side of Japan that most tourists don’t get to see — all while topping up your travel fund.
But how can foreigners find the best fruit picking jobs in Japan?
It’s a bit of a process, but if you’re a true Japan-lover looking for interesting travel jobs, the process is worth it.
Here’s everything you need to know.
Table of Contents
- What is fruit picking in Japan like?
- How to find fruit picking jobs in Japan
- Word of mouth
- How to legally work in Japan
- Best areas to pick fruit in Japan
- How much is the salary of a fruit picker in Japan?
- How often will you get paid?
- Can I work on a farm in Japan?
What is fruit picking in Japan like?
Fruit picking in Japan is a common job that natives and foreigners alike can enjoy.
Even though only 15% of Japan’s land is suitable for farming, it’s a shining star among fruit markets around the world. Known for producing fruit that’s often larger, sweeter, and more aesthetically pleasing than its competitors, Japan has a stratospheric standard for fruit.
Naturally, fruit pickers are an essential part of the process.
Farmers cultivate the land, plant the seeds, and tend the crops.
But that’s where their job ends.
Fruit pickers collect and box up the fruit for the farm they’re working on. Using their best judgment, they survey the fruit for things such as ripeness, color, and size. Because of Japan’s high standards, pickers only collect the most pristine fruit.
Everything else is either tossed or consumed privately on the farm.
Japan’s guidelines don’t allow farms to sell subpar fruit.
Whether you’re a native looking for work or a foreigner looking for an interesting money-making opportunity, fruit picker jobs abroad can be a unique experience.
Be warned, however — Japan has four distinct seasons, and the type of fruit you pick depends on the time of year you visit.
Before we get into fruit picking jobs, there’s something pretty crazy you need to know about Japan’s fruit culture. This quick video is super interesting, but long story short, Japan has a niche “premium fruit” scene where you can buy essentially perfect fruits at crazy prices. The guys in the video tried some grapes that cost $1,977 – what???
Is fruit picking a hard job?
Fruit picking is a relatively simple job, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.
The job is physically demanding. Most shifts start at the crack of dawn and go until sundown. Fruit pickers also stand on their feet for the majority of the day, though they are allowed to take breaks and have lunch. They also have to be able to bend and carry potentially heavy baskets of fruit all day.
If you’re young and healthy, then fruit picking probably won’t be too bad. But it’s not a job for older people or those with pre-existing health issues.
For those up to the task, fruit-picking can be a great way to make money, especially for travelers who need to generate income to fund their excursions.
What’s harder than the actual job is finding a job in the first place, especially if you’re not from Japan.
But fret not. Just because something’s not easy doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.
How to find fruit picking jobs in Japan
For Japan natives, finding a fruit picking job is as simple as knowing the right people. They may have family members or friends who are already in the line of work who can refer them to the best companies. Local job boards are also a promising source of work.
Unfortunately, foreigners usually don’t have the luxury of those pre-existing connections, so you’ll have to start from the ground up.
Here’s how to find work.
One of the most common ways that travelers can find fruit picking jobs is to search for them on job boards. Just like in the U.S, Japan has a plethora of employment opportunities that get advertised on these job boards.
For work exchange opportunities, start exploring sites like:
For full-time roles, check out:
A few of these websites are in Japanese. And as you’re about to see, you’re going to need to know some Japanese anyway. If you’re still learning, you can have Google translate the page for you.
Look out for key details such as the length of the job, the location, the length of hours you’ll be working, your salary (whether it’s paid by the hour or by your output), and any other perks that might come with the job.
Most employers list contact info in the ad. Reach out via phone or email to go over details and ensure a good fit.
Word of mouth
Once you land your first fruit picking job, all that comes after should be easier. Ideally, you’ll make friends with other workers and build your network, which can lead to other job opportunities in the future.
Often, fruit pickers form cliques within the farm and happily share new job information with new friends.
If you have yet to land your first job, it wouldn’t hurt to start making some Japanese friends online. An easy way to do this is to teach English online to Japanese students (another great digital nomad job) or simply connect with people on social media.
It never hurts to have local friends on the ground waiting for you.
How to legally work in Japan
I know you’re itching to become a fruit picker in Japan, but let’s back up a little bit.
Simply having a passport or a tourist visa for Japan isn’t enough to get a job. To legally work and earn Japanese currency, there are two somewhat challenging obstacles to overcome.
1. Obtain a work visa
Foreigners are only allowed to stay in Japan for 90 days without a visa. To stay longer and get a job, you need a work visa.
Currently, you have two work visa options depending on your nationality.
#1.) Working Holiday Visa. Open to applicants between the age of 18 and 30, this visa is for students and travelers who are looking to make money while studying or vacationing in Japan.
Given the laxer job requirements, it’s the more flexible of the two options. Unfortunately, it’s only open to residents of 26 countries. At this time, the U.S. is not on the list.
#2.) Specified Skilled Workers Visa. Anyone over the age of 18 can apply for this visa and receive permission to work.
But there’s a catch.
You have to get a job within 14 of Japan’s pre-set industries. Fortunately, one of those industries is agriculture.
Japan also requires successful applicants to work full-time hours, which won’t leave much time for leisure activities. This is an option for Japan-loving foreigners who want to work longer-term in Japan.
If all this sounds like too much work just to pick some fruit, check out these other freelance visas for digital nomads.
2. Pass the language proficiency test
Japan requires all foreign workers to pass at least the N4 Japanese language proficiency test. School Lynk Media states that the N4 is the second easiest language test, just under the N5.
You’ll need to learn 1,500 vocabulary words and express a satisfactory understanding of local Japanese phrases and customs. You also need a basic understanding of kanji, Japan’s system of writing that utilizes Chinese characters.
Finally, you have to pass an oral exam, where you listen to common Japanese phrases and must follow the conversation.
It might sound like a pain, but if you’re unable to at least partially communicate with the farm’s staff, you won’t last long on the job anyway. Don’t think of learning a language as a chore. Think of it as an opportunity to immerse yourself deeper into the Japanese culture.
You can purchase online workbooks and supplemental study materials to help you to pass your exam. And if your language skills aren’t where you need them to be, you can take intensive language lessons to whip you into shape in about a month.
Best areas to pick fruit in Japan
Your destination depends on the time of year you visit.
Like much of the U.S., Japan enjoys four distinct seasons. This means that the availability of certain fruit picking jobs is seasonal.
If you have your heart set on picking a certain fruit, you need to determine what months that fruit is in season. For example, peaches peak during the middle of summer. Apple picker jobs in Japan tend to be during late fall. And grapes are usually best picked in winter.
Keep in mind, jobs for easier-to-pick fruits often fill the fastest. For your first job, it’s best to be flexible on fruit type and location. Once you gain experience and build a network, you can start to be more picky (pun intended).
For example, The Nakagomi Orchard is one of the most popular fruit picking locations. Located in Yamanashi, Japan, the Nakagomi employs fruit pickers from late June to early January. If you stay the duration of their operation season, you’ll start with picking cherries then transition to other fruits as they come in season.
Many farms are also open to the public, who can pay a fee and pick a certain amount of fruit to take home and enjoy with their families.
How much is the salary of a fruit picker in Japan?
Fruit picking in Japan won’t make you rich, but it can definitely provide enough income to provide food and shelter. It’s a great way for travelers to stretch their money. The average fruit picker in Japan works for minimum wage and brings in 170,979.75 yen, which is Japan’s currency.
This amounts to just under $1,500 USD per month for full-time work, or roughly $50 per day. (Speaking of which, if fruit picking sounds like too much of a hassle, check out these other awesome ways to make $50 per day).
Of course, there are factors to consider. If you work overtime or are an especially speedy picker, you’ll earn more.
As it goes, there are probably easier ways for foreigners to make money in Japan, though those opportunities require a wider set of skills.
There is an upside to branching out, however. And that is finding a job that’s less physically demanding. Fruit pickers work long hours in the heat, cold, and rain, and rarely get the benefits other jobs would provide.
Over time, it wears on the body. So if you’re not happy with possibly living off of $1500 a month, you might want to think twice.
It can be an interesting temporary travel job to keep the adventure alive, but it’s definitely not the best long-term career.
With a work visa and Japanese language proficiency, you don’t have to work in agriculture. And if you do have your heart set on agriculture, there are other Japan farming jobs for foreigners that are more sustainable.
You could also simply earn online as you travel.
For some easy ideas, check out this guide on how to earn $2000 a month from home (or anywhere in the world).
How often will you get paid?
Your payment terms depend on your employer.
Each farm has its own rules and payment schedule. As a general rule, many farms pay at the end of the week or the end of each business day.
Those that pay at the end of a workweek often do so because they pay by the bucket instead of the hour. Apparently, it makes more sense to tally up your bucket on a weekly basis.
How do you get paid?
Japan favors its own currency, the Japanese yen, over international forms of payment. You can use your yen to pay for the rest of your Japan trip, or you can swap it for another currency before you leave the country.
Despite Japan’s astonishing technology, they are still a largely cash-based society. Receiving cash payments makes life easier for you, as you won’t have to hassle with opening a Japanese bank account.
Can I work on a farm in Japan?
You can work on a farm in Japan, and it’ll be an unforgettable experience. That said, you have to jump through a lot of hoops to make it happen, and you won’t earn that much. Other job opportunities in Japan would make all that hoop-jumping more worthwhile.
That said, if you’re already interested in learning Japanese, you are from a country eligible for Japan’s Work Holiday Visa, and you just want a no-strings-attached seasonal job — more for the experience than for the pay — than a fruit picking job in Japan may be right up your alley.
For over 100 ways to earn money while traveling, check out the free guide below:
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered—where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Skyscanner - Find cheap flights.
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Anytime Mailbox - Virtual mail service that can handle your mail while you’re away.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).