We've been receiving numerous inquiries lately about working in Japan, such as "What kind of work is available?", "How do you find a job?", and more. Finding employment in Japan can be a daunting task, particularly in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka, where competition is intense. However, if you're interested in working in the countryside, then you won't want to miss the job opportunities we're about to introduce.
First, allow us to introduce a crucial term to you - the title of our position, which is known as:
Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad
This is a government recruitment program that is relatively unknown to both locals and foreigners. As of 2021, around 6,000 members are working in various locations throughout Japan, and the government intends to further increase this number. For further information, please visit the Japanese government's website (available in Japanese only):
As a member of the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad, you have the advantage of more flexible work arrangements. The program's ultimate goal is to encourage members to reside in rural areas, which means there is support available for relocation and even entrepreneurship. If you are interested in living in Japan, consider joining the team as a member!
What is your job in Japan?
I am currently part of the "Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad" in Satsumasendai City, Kagoshima. My main role is to promote local tourist attractions using Chinese and English. This involves managing and updating social media platforms, creating both written and video content, and occasionally doing translation and public speaking work.
What is "Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad"?
In Japan, the majority of the working population is concentrated in large metropolitan areas like Tokyo and Osaka, causing a significant decline in the rural population. This issue is further compounded by the aging population. If left unaddressed, many local governments may struggle to maintain operations due to insufficient tax revenues. Moreover, the lack of a sufficient local labor force also results in diminished community functions, such as the closure of supermarkets in some rural areas due to a shortage of manpower. As a result, the elderly in these areas are left with limited options and may have to rely on mobile vending machines to purchase daily necessities.
To tackle the pressing issue, the Japanese government has provided financial resources to local administrations and enlisted the "Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad" members to encourage more youth to relocate to rural areas.
What does the job entail?
The work of a member in the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad can be highly varied. While the city government sets the primary objectives, the team members themselves have complete autonomy over their actual operations.
- As an example of my role, I'm responsible for "Inbound Marketing" in Satsumasendai city. My main duty is to promote the city's tourist spots, boost its visibility, and attract international visitors.
- Ms. K, my colleague, is tasked with promoting "Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" among the locals. Apart from organizing related events, she also conducts educational talks in schools throughout the city.
- There are numerous other roles within the team, each with unique responsibilities. For instance, some members focus on revitalizing abandoned properties, while others assist in the digitization of government processes or the establishment of community sports facilities. There are also team members dedicated to researching local ceramic history, farming, maintaining hiking trails, and more. The specific tasks assigned to each team member are determined by the local government organization, based on the areas that require improvement.
To conclude, it is a program that aims to attract diverse talents to return to rural areas to address the issue of an aging population and to encourage them to establish roots in the community.
What are the advantages of becoming "Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad"?
The following information is provided as a reference only, as the recruitment requirements may vary depending on the location.
- Eligible to receive a start-up funding of 1 million yen
Joining the squad can be a great stepping stone if you plan to start a business in Japan. You can apply for a start-up fund of 1 million yen during the second year of your tenure. For more information, please visit the website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.
- Visa application is much more easier
Compared to applying for business management visas or working for small companies in Japan, obtaining a working visa as a member of the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad is relatively easier. The squad members are considered as Japanese civil servants and visa screening is less strict. In my case, I applied for the visa before the pandemic in 2020 and received a three-year work visa in just one day after submitting the documents. This is much more convenient compared to renewing the visa every year, especially for those who aim to obtain permanent residency in the future.
- Work-Life Balance: Flexibility in Working Hours
Despite the relatively low salary, the working hours as a member of the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad are quite flexible. Personally, I work for only 16 days a month and there is rarely any overtime. This grants me a lot of free time to plan and pursue my future endeavors in Japan.
- Easy to rent a house
Renting a house in the countryside can be complicated, but as a member of the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad, the city government provided me with a house to rent. It was a hassle-free process, and I was able to move in with just a suitcase. Plus, the rent in rural areas is generally affordable.
- Official vehicles available
Official vehicles are provided by the city government.
- Part-time jobs OK
Part-time jobs are now allowed by many local governments, depending on their regulations.
- Broaden your local connections
Networking with local business owners can be beneficial for future job opportunities and career growth.
- Many opportunities for newspaper and TV interviews
Since the first month of my employment, I have been given numerous chances to be interviewed by the local media, which is quite an uncommon opportunity.
Let's talk about the disadvantages...
- Low salary
The salary is definitely a major factor to consider for those working as a Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad. The team members receive the salary of a new recruit in the countryside, which may not be much. However, there are many holidays, and the cost of living is relatively low. Additionally, the city government provides free housing, which makes it easier to make ends meet. Many senior squad members also have part-time jobs to supplement their income.
- The contract period is limited to three years only
The term of the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad is limited to a maximum of three years and cannot be renewed. However, some members choose to relocate to another location to continue their career after the contract expires.
- Depending on the relationship with the person in charge
I've heard that the treatment of members by the person in charge can vary. As the members need to report to the city hall's staff, their attitude towards the members is crucial. Fortunately, in Kagoshima, the people are very kind and considerate.
- The achievement of the goal mostly relies on the members' own abilities
This program can be compared to "outsourcing" in some ways. The government sets the goals, but the team members must rely on their own abilities to achieve them, with limited resources and funding from the government. However, this also means that the team members have a high degree of autonomy in their work, with 90% of the control in their hands. They are free to propose and discuss new ideas with the person in charge, and try them out.
What was your method of finding and applying for this job?
It all starts with the social platform
Three years ago, while on the working holiday in Tokyo, I came to the realization that I wanted to move to Japan before my VISA expired. I began searching for job opportunities in Tokyo but found them to be unsatisfactory due to the heavy workload and excessive overtime hours. Just as I was about to give up, I stumbled upon a Facebook post advertising job openings for the Community-Reactivating Cooperator Squad in SatsumaSendai City.
As it happened, Liao, who was serving in the cooperation team in Sendai, had completed her tenure and was preparing to return to Taiwan. She posted a recruitment notice in the Facebook group.
When I applied for the job, I uploaded my resume on a Japanese job matching platform. Soon after, the staff from the city hall contacted me and scheduled a first interview in Tokyo. I recall meeting them at SL Plaza in Shimbashi and then finding a nearby cafe to start the interview in a more casual setting, which felt more like a friendly chat than a formal interview.
Following the first interview, I was invited for a second one. This time, it was required that I travel to Satsumasendai City Hall to meet with the section chiefs. In order to make it there, I purchased a flight and hotel package.
The second interview was more serious in tone and covered topics such as my previous work experiences, aspirations, motivations, and so on. Later that evening, I had dinner with the interviewer and Liao, and I had a feeling that I would receive the offer. Shortly after returning to Tokyo, I was officially offered the position.
What are the requirements to become a member of the team?
While the specific requirements for joining the team may vary depending on the location, you can use the recruitment details for SatsumaSendai City as a reference:
- Generally, individuals between the ages of 20 and 50 are eligible to apply.
- Live in a major city in Japan or are currently residing in a major city overseas.
- Possess basic computer operating skills
- Hold or plan to acquire a valid driver's license
- Preferably have Japanese N2 level certification or higher
Is Satsumasendai City currently accepting applications for the squad members?
According to the city hall representative, there will be a new recruitment round in 2023. If you want to stay updated with the latest news, make sure to follow Satsumasendai's social media accounts.
My hope is that this article will become a useful resource for those who are currently seeking employment opportunities in Japan. As a member of the cooperation team myself, I have found this program to be particularly beneficial for individuals interested in relocating to rural areas. Unfortunately, the program is relatively unknown to many people. With this article, my aim is to increase awareness about the cooperation team, and encourage more individuals to consider joining the team.