During my life in Tokyo I was surprised to find out the great demand for foreign models in their bigger cities. Passing through areas like Shibuya and sometimes even Shinjuku would have me noticed by studio “scouts” who could see me as a potential model.
A lot of the ones that came to me at the time were looking for a rugged look, with longer hair or unrestrained facial hair so that ended up influencing my look as a result. After coming up to me and asking for my contact details for their photography studios, they started emailing me for auditions and jobs.
My first job attained this way was as a model for a Birkenstock online catalog:
The interesting thing about this experience was that I did little to nothing and my work only kept increasing! My finding out about this business literally happened in the wild, with my enjoying some of the fun stores and features of Shibuya, by simply hanging out around that area as a foreigner, I was approached without my having any intention of getting work.
My first physical magazine release (through scouts) was as a model in Grind:
I progressively got more gigs and paid better as well, there were few auditions I showed up to in vain. The work itself, modelling was also mostly doing nothing, although I did love to get creative and play around depending on the shoot, something the stylists and photographers seemed to appreciate.
Since I am quite tall naturally over 6 feet, I made sure to stay trim during this time so that I could fit in their available clothes. This is because although foreign models are in high demand, particularly ones not already with an agency, they are marketing to Japanese people who tend to be much physically smaller, so keep that in mind when you know you’re going to be modelling their clothes.
Good Manners, Good Attitude, Good Work
I think part of the reason I keep getting hired back with higher pay rates was because I always stayed polite during my audition and work interactions, being genuinely interested in the culture I also did my best to speak Japanese as much as I could, this really gave me an edge, when thinking in retrospect. Speaking their language, accepting their culture and showing respect goes a long way in getting chosen for future gigs.
By the point my modelling was really starting to take off (from little to no effort from myself) was also the time my wife and I decided to move back to Canada. There’s no saying whether my modelling career may have gone further but there is good argument that if you head down, it could be the start of yours.
I Wasn’t Out To Get Work It Just Came
I don’t want to lead people astray so my warning is to make sure you are supported somehow when in Japan, such as by an educational grant from the government to study abroad if you are young or even a Working-Holiday visa if your country has that agreement with Japan. The most likely and well-known option is to do some basic teaching certification in your country for teaching English and teach it in Japan.
Tokyo probably is the best place for that kind of work, but don’t let that stop you from exploring all the other wonderful cities and areas of Japan, such as Kyoto for a glimpse of old Japan or Osaka known as an adamant business town. There are also many places in between, above and below all unique and worth considering.
The key to the enjoyment of my journey there and keeping a positive attitude about modelling may have been due to my open exploration without expectations.