Japan TV is obsessed with TV reenactments. A lot of them are Japanese historical pieces but quite a few are foreign historical dramas. Since Japan is almost exclusively of Japanese stock there is always a demand for foreign extras and characters to play the these parts.
Now you’re probably thinking “I don’t know how to do a blue steel look!”. Well it doesn’t matter what you look like! The people that get the most work are over 50 because most people in the industry are 20 something and everyone over 50 in Japan is a banker or something. They want all sizes, it doesn’t matter what you look like.
It can be an interesting job but while gigs pay well, you’re not going to make lots of money off it. Two main obstacles block the money train:
A) Japanese talent agencies; Japanese agencies have a stranglehold on the entertainment industry and unlike the West where the agent works for the talent here in Japan the talent work for the agencies. They take anywhere from 50-90% of the money the studios pay, if they pay you at all. They even scam the audition process bringing as many people as possible as they are paid per person, money you will never receive.
B) Supply and demand; Economics would dictate that a lack of foreign faces would allow model/extra workers to demand a bigger share but to the Japanese all foreign faces look the same and there are always new people who are willing to work for very little just to be part of the process.
There are two type of jobs the bread and bacon extra work and the commercial headline jobs. The extra work is you just being a foreign face in the background and that pays around 15,000YEN a day (As of 2014 this has gone down to 10,000). Headline jobs are when you are the main face and they will pay around the 150,000YEN range depending on the length of the spot, face time, etc…
It is possible to make money doing talent work but there is the start up issue. Most agencies have at least a 2 month waiting period to get paid. Some don’t pay out for as long as six months. So for the first few months its necessary to have some saving or zero costs and someone supporting you. Then there will be times were you won’t get any work and then when you do you have to wait for a couple months to get paid. Vicious cycle.
While there isn’t much money its not like you’re expected to do any work. Most jobs just have you wait the whole day for a few minutes work. I just did a role where I was a Russian soldier during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion. They shipped me up to the country put me in a hotel and then the next day I spent 7:00AM to 4:00 PM waiting around in costume with about 20 other soldiers. My scene took about 5min to shoot and then we went home. It goes the other way too I’ve also been on other jobs where I get paid the same fee as everybody but I arrive at 9:00AM and then at 9:30AM I could go home. If you have a lot of free time there are a lot of travel jobs too. To get around expensive American labour laws, where they actually pay the actor a decent salary, Japanese studios ship out people to Hawaii or America to film a commercial or drama.
There are a number of agencies in Japan including:
While GroupEcho has some commercial work they mostly specialize in movie extra jobs. Think occupying American soldiers who brutalize a poor Japanese population.
Contact is Hikaru at:
22-15,3Chome Adachi,Adachi-ku,Tokyo,Japan 120-0015
Confusing as they agency sounds like Group Echo but they are two different companies.
Phone Number: 03 5457 3544
I’ve only come across this agency in 2014 but people say it’s reliable and trustworthy.
Roppongi Statin, Toei Ōedo Line (E-23)
7 minutes walk from “Exit 7” (Roppongi Midtown)
Roppongi Station, Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line (H-04)
10 minutes walk from “Exit 4a” (The “Roppongi” Intersection)
Akasaka Station, Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (C-06)
7 minutes walk from “Exit 6”
Nogizaka Station, Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line (C-05)
7 minutes walk from “Exit 2”
425 Akasaka Residential
9-1-7 Akasaka Minato-ku, Tokyo
IMO is infamous in the extra community as they are a dirty, dirty agency who will not pay you unless you are on their case ALL the time. They are one of the oldest model agencies in Tokyo. They have a core group of talent that they treat well and send to all their other jobs but when they need more faces they send out a bunch of new people and then don’t pay them. These new people eventually get angry or give up which isn’t a problem because there is always a new sucker.
The thing is they have lots of work and as long as you keep meticulous records they will eventually pay you but you’ll have to fight for it. To show how shady they are they refuse to email or text you any information and do all their communication over the phone so that there is no record of anything they say.
Nishi Azabu 1-6-6
Take exit 2 from the Hibya Roppongi Station. Walk straight down the
street and past one light.
Eventually you will see a blue building called the A-Life building
turn right after the building.
Walk down the side street and on the right you will see a building
with a tree in front and huge
dog in the garage.
A lot of agency startups are actual IMO staff you have had enough of jerking around their models and set off on their own. Avocado is one of these companies whose owners used to work for IMO. There are now a highly respectable company doing it right. Another start-up from former IMO staff is ECHO. Not to be confused with Group Echo.
#401 6-33-7 JINGUMAE
3-40-3 JS bld. , Shibuya ku, Jingu mae, Tokyo Japan
Nearest station : Gaien mae sta. (Sub. Ginza Line) 5 min. walk
Registration is basically every Monday through Thursday /start
from12:45 or 16:00.
DXIM Miyazaki Bldg. #305
Miyazaki Bldg. #305
6-28-5 Jingu-mae Shibuya-ku,
Tokyo 150-0001 Japan.
3-40-2, jingumae.shibuya-ku Tokyo.
In November of 2011 Freewave was hit by a scandal when one of its talent was arrested falsifying their VISA. It was through no fault of their own but since then they are very strict about who they will put on their books only choosing those with impeccable VISA status.
email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
NK Bldg 1F 3-19-10 Ikejiri Setagaya-ku Tokyo, 154-0001
Phone Number: 03-6453-2744
Fax Number: 03-6453-2743
Lazaris is a pretty cool place and Hiro, one of the gaijin herders, is a nice guy.
To get registered, please contact them at 03-5775-6125
They only take appointments by phone call on first come and first-served basis.
The registration hours are from 12:00 to 18:00, Monday through Friday.
R & A
Walking into the place is like walking into Sopranos. These guys may not look like agents but they can give you some good jobs.
Right Beside K&M agency
ISOP are notorious for being … well crazy. Ever since Steve left no one there seems to have a handle on just what is going on with their talent. Often they just send their whole talent pool to every job. So you take the time to go to their auditions but then find out as a white man that you were sent to an audition for Chinese speaking children. It has happened before. But they do get a lot of work and with a small staff ,while they are crazy, they give you individual attention. But most of their jobs are also sent out to other agencies. When I get a call from ISOP I just ignore it and wait for another agency to call me about the same job. If no one calls then I return the ISOP call.
Isop Company Ltd
Imperial, Room 317 Chiyoda Line All ages
Akasaka, Ichibankan Nogizaka Registration Fee: None
8-13-19 Akasaka (7 min. walk)
Minato-ku, Tokyo 107
email@example.com in harajuku
ZENITH INC. multi-management
TEL 03-5411-7747 FAX03-5411-2527
1-19-13-402 JINGUMAE SHIBUYA-KU
TOKYO JAPAN ZIP 150-0001
These guys are who handled the Softbank commercial
|UPDATE – November 2011 – Victoria is MIA and is probably defunct|
Victoria Star Promotion Co., Ltd.
Daiichi-SS Bldg. 10-C, 4-12-20
Softtown Negishi Nibankan 604, 18-32
Phone : 03-3784-9851
e-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
Addess : 2-11-9-1F, Nishi-Nakanobu, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 142-0054
Phone : 03-5411-7767
e-Mail : email@example.com
Addess : 3-15-22-1F NISHIAZABU MINATOKU TOKYO 160-0031 JAPAN
What to bring to the agency
The agency will most likely ask for you to have your gaijin card so they can check your VISA status. You should also bring some good pictures of yourself. Pictures where you are the only person in the shot preferably with a white background. When you go to the agency they will take additional pictures so dress to impress and be early!
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For other “How to … in Japan” guides, try these:
|How to survive getting arrested in Japan||How to cycle in Japan||Getting the around the Japanese health care system||Making Friends in Japan||How not to be a hostess|
Thank you for very useful information. It’s very difficult to find on the Internet such a detailed list of Tokyo agencies.
It would be incorrect to overlook their contributions to cinema this year.
hi, i’m here on a tourist visa right now but am wanting to stay for about a year and a half. in the states i’m an actress and am able to work full time doing so. how can i get a visa to show the agents if i’m looking for film work to be my main job? do i need a side job that will provide a visa or can i get it on my own without having a place i’m working at?
Unless you have relatives in Japan or are up to marrying a Japanese citizen to change from a tourist visa to a another visa you need a full time employer that will sponsor you.
Hi, thank you for shedding some light on how things work there.
I was wondering, would it be possible for us to go take part in acting/be a part of an agency when we are there on a student visa? I am currently in the middle of processing my visa to attend a language program.
I’d appreciate the feedback. Thank you in advance.
Unless they’ve changed things recently I believe that you can work 28hrs a week on a student VISA. But you’re not allowed to work in the sex industry, so no soap lands or hostess work
Great. Well, luckily, I’m not planning to work in the mentioned fields. Truly appreciate the reply.
Thank you for the shared info once again. The list of agencies will prove to be very helpful.
Ah…If I may ask another question…
I was wondering if you, or someone you know in Japan, has actually gotten a change of visa from their current working visa, into what is called a “talent visa” in some other countries. As in, has anyone actually gotten a sponsorship from their agencies to become a full time talent.
Thank you again in advance.
I can marry the right woman if she’d like to live in Japan.
can I contact you by e-mail?
I am wondering, as a self-employed person, and acting, twitch and YouTube, how can we go about getting a visa to live in Japan?
Can I write to different acting agencies to possibly hire me on and sponsor me?
I can’t express enough, how much I hate America and I don’t wanna be here. I am extremely unhappy here. But I am very happy in Japan. I can write an entire essay expanding on the reasons I would prefer to live in Japan. I will spare that here, but obviously for now my questions are is it possible to get an agent in Japan to sponsor you to come over there to work in the entertainment industry?
Surely there’s got to be away. I know there are handfuls of other content creators that have even successfully received their visa to live in Japan, just as content creators. So I’m sure there’s got to be a way for me as an actor.
I’m not opposed to marrying the right Japanese guy, but I am surely in no rush to get married, and I would feel more comfortable achieving a visa on my own, instead of relying on some guy..
The Talent or Entertainment VISA is used a lot for sex trafficking in Japan so they’re trying to clamp down on who gets it. There are agencies who will sponsor someone just to model in Japan but that is usually done outside the country and difficult to do unless you have that professional model look.
I see….wow. You’re very well updated.
Thank you so much again for the information. I truly appreciate it.
i knew a few part time models who have been “modelling” on a student visa, but none of them got money for it… just pictures for their portfolio, or free drinks/food, since usually their work was standing around at events… none of the have been real professionals, though… i also knew a few male models, who got payed, but of course the work was irregular, since there are only so many runway shows or magazine shots (usually for catalogues)…
i am working in fashion and my old work place had a few model agencies close by… the models changed on a regular basis (though all looked the same, think young eastern europe, long blonde hair), just because apparently there is a sheer endless supply… so nobody bothers getting an entertainment visa for them, they just take students and working holiday holders, or even tourists…
that doesnt mean that it is impossible to get an entertainment visa as a model, but i dont think it is easier, since, as stated above, companies save themselves some trouble, also it is difficult to prove in how far you are a professional model (everybody can take pics), that is the difference between modelling and actory/musicians,who of course have it easier to proof that they are professionals… on the other hand, as far as i know, even david lee roth had to get a studen tvisa…
Oh, thanks for the info! Then it’s ok to do modeling as a student, I calmed down a bit. I am still baffled though, I can understand one agency maybe missing my e-mail and failing to reply but three of them? Why they are ignoring a simple question…
Also, I am bit confused. Why didn’t the models you talked about get paid? I read a lot of stories about people who model in Japan once in a while and get paid properly. They aren’t professionals or anything, they just do it when they have time.
I don’t want to give up, I will stay there until I do something with my career. But if they don’t pay me, that might be a little hard since I can’t afford being a student for more than 2 years on my money alone 😦
first: max is 2 years on a students visa, after that you cant get any more time on a students visa (also costs about 6000 euro)…
they did get payed for photoshots, at least the men did… i dont know why the women didnt, i guess because they werent really looking good enough (and more or less tried to get jobs through it)…
the ones at the agencies close to my old company did get payed…
in case you want to know how the ones i personally knew could afford all that: rich parents and boyfriends who payed, or let them stay for free (they usually had more than one “bf”)…
as for not replying, that is perfectly normal here, when companies are not interested… also, applying from abroad might be the problem…
what is your career? maybe its easier to get into that?
Thank you very much for the detailed article! It’s been my dream to start a modelling career in Japan and I’m planning to go to a language school next year and start modelling at the same time.
But I’m a bit disappointed since I e-mailed a few of the agencies on this list asking if it’s ok to work on a student visa for them and they never replied
Now I’m a bit scared. I hope they didn’t just ignore my e-mail because they don’t accept people on a student visa…
@gordengorek: I want to go to a language school for 2 years and then to continue to a university for 2 more years. As far as I know, it is possible. I already have money for the language school but I won’t be able to sustain myself for another 2 years if the modeling job doesn’t pay anything…
sure, apartments and everything else are expensive, too…
you can do nearly every other job, too… makes more sense maybe…
I have my freelance jobs which are enough to sustain myself for a while. Uhm, and I don’t want to do other jobs. Like I said, my dream is to do modeling in Japan. That is why I’m going. Anyway, my question was about the student visa. Thank you for the replies!
So how about people that actually want to act in something where they use your lines you read and you aren’t just a “face”. Japan doesn’t seem to offer any real roles to gaijin….