How to Start Modeling in Japan

The fashion industry is more globally connected than ever, with several fashion “capitals” located around the world. One such fashion capital is Tokyo, Japan, which stands out among other prestigious fashion cities as one of the quirkiest. If you’re looking for a fun way to get your modeling career off the ground, modeling in Japan could be a great opportunity for you. Here’s what you need to know about getting traction in the Japanese fashion industry.

Modeling in Japan

When it comes to the most important cities in the world for fashion, the Big Four, which include New York City, Paris, London, and Milan, have remained the same for quite some time. But Tokyo, and subsequently the Japanese fashion industry as a whole, is on the rise, with Vogue Business ranking them in fifth place among the top ten fashion capitals of the world, notably ahead of Los Angeles.

Japan is a particularly intriguing market for many newcomers from the U.S. and Europe to explore since agencies tend to seek out foreign talent almost as much as they look for local models. This can help you be a bit more competitive while finding work in a highly prestigious market. When it comes to physical requirements for fashion models, Japanese modeling agencies also tend to be a bit more realistic. For example, males can get hired if they’re 5’10” or 5’11” and women can be 5’6” or 5’7” and land representation at most agencies.

How to Become a Model in Japan

For models looking for quality representation by an agency, you’ll want to focus on building a solid portfolio. Get professional test shots completed if you are struggling to find paid shoots and continue to put yourself out there. Many agencies in Japan don’t necessarily look for big names on resumes. If you can show an agency work that proves you have talent and you fit the look, you have a good shot at getting hired.

Many Japanese modeling agencies provide incentives to pick up and move across the world to start working. In fact, it’s pretty much par for the course to cover travel and living expenses for models who relocate to Japan to start modeling.

Most agencies in Tokyo also work with a guarantee system, where they pay models upfront for their first two months on contract, typically $10,000 to $20,000, with top models getting up to $150,000 guaranteed. This is done in anticipation of the models earning that money back through gigs, with additional earnings coming in after the guarantee threshold has been topped. And if models end up not earning enough through gigs to cover their guarantee, there is no expectation to pay it back.

Some models end their two-month contracts in Japan and are able to seamlessly transition to other fashion capitals, like New York City or Paris. But many find themselves returning to Japan for work due to the positive experience.

Working your way up to modeling in Japan will be much easier if you can get representation for local gigs and build up your portfolio. From there, your career can get a major boost by working in Tokyo, and you may even find yourself wanting to return in the future.

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