How to stay in Japan for free as a a free accommodation, work exchange in Guesthouse/Hostel

Work as a free accommodation in Guesthouse or Hostel of Japan

How to stay in Japan for freeWith a tourist visa, you will stay in Japan for at least 3 months, and with a working holiday visa, you will stay in Japan for 1 year, so if you love Japan, you must want to stay as cheap as possible.
Japan started the working holiday programs first with Australia in 1980. As of 1st April 2020, Japan has introduced the programs with the following 26 countries/regions.
Australia, New Zealand, Canada, The Republic of Korea, France, Germany, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Denmark, Hong Kong, Norway, Portugal, Poland, Slovakia , Austria, Hungary, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Iceland,  Czech, Lithuania

Why are guesthouses / hostels so cheap?

  1. Haven’t spent a lot of money on equipment
  2. The  building used to be an unused assets
  3. Most of the private rooms have a shared bathroom and toilet.
  4. There’s a dormitory room.
  5. It doesn’t come with bath amenities.
  6. Reception is not open 24 hours a day.
  7. Live-in staffs are working as a free accommodation staff to work exchange in the guesthouse or hostel

Stay in dormitory as a free accommodation staff
1~5 are all tangible factors. But the reason 6. and 7. are an intangible factors.  In order to run a guesthouse, they want to keep the cost of accommodation as low as possible, so they want to keep labor costs as low as possible as well.

Why do guesthouses/hostels hire a foreigner with a working holiday visa?

No qualms about hiring foreigners

Working foreigner in JapanThe guesthouse has a lot of foreign guests, to begin with, so they hire English-speaking staff. Therefore, they have no qualms about hiring foreigners who do not speak Japanese.

The process is not complicated.

Interview to work in Japan The company or Individual owners can only hire foreigners as defined by the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law.
The type of work you can do and the hours you can work are limited by the visa.  Regulation of Working holiday visa is relatively lax.
So the company or individual business owner does not have to do the annoying paperwork to hire a foreigner with a working holiday visa.

No labor costs

Salary of guesthouse, hostel in JapanThere are relatively many beds in the dormitory, and they’re not always full.
If the beds can not be occupied for a certain amount of period, it’s more profitable to have someone else use it.  Then they get to work in exchange for free housing. 
This would be cheaper than hiring part-time cleaning staff.

Friendly customer service

Warm hospitality customer service in JapanWhen running a guesthouse, it’s very important to have a reputation for how good the hospitality is.
If they have foreign staffs, they will be friendly with guests in the guesthouse or hostel, which is worth staying there.

Language ability

Bilingual staff in hostelIf there is a native English speaker in the guesthouse, Japanese staff members always ask him/her for English writing or reading. In guesthouses, they have to make or update postings or notices on the walls.
We have many guests who can not or do not speak English well such as Korean, Chinese, or Spanish-speaking people. On the other hand, many of the staff speak English but do not speak those languages. If there is a native Korean, Chinese, or Spanish free accommodation staff in the guesthouse, he/she should be able to translate their language into Japanese.

Variety of skills available except for the languages

DIY work in hostel by a free accommodation staffIn running a guesthouse, they can not spend a lot of money.  This means that they have to do DIY work such as repairs, renovations. On the other hand, the staff members working in a guesthouse or hostel are relatively more women. Therefore if a free-accommodation staff can do DIY work such  as painting, repairing or carpenter’s work, he/she would be valued.
Many backpackers who travel the world work on a freelance basis. A person who has the ability to communicate on social media as a YouTube, Blogger or Instagrammer will promote the guesthouse from them. This kind of thing is worth the advertising cost of staying for free.
Some of the backpackers working on a freelance basis have high IT literacy such as programmers, system engineers, web designers, or photographers. If they’re willing to use their skills and dedication to help run the guesthouse, this kind of works can be also exchanged into the accommodation fee.

Why can’t foreigners with a working holiday visa work in a HOTEL as a live-in worker?

Work hotel in JapanOf course, the Hotel is not always full neither. It means that there are some vacant rooms all the time. However, The front desk staff and the cleaning staff are completely separated from each other.
Therefore even if there is an English speaking front reception staff, it is not that they organize the cleaning works.
On the other hand, most of the persons who organize the cleaning staff can not speak English. Therefore they hesitate to hire a foreigner who can not speak Japanese. Besides, The overwhelming majority of people working in hotels as cleaners are older women.  As you can imagine, the elderly don’t speak English at all.


When will the demand for helper staff be in the guesthouse or hostel?

Busy season in Japan for accommodationAs mentioned above, when they have beds or rooms for a certain amount of period, they want to accept a helper (work exchange staff or free accommodation staff).
Therefore the fewer customers they have, the more staff they are wanting. In short here would be the suitable season, if you want to be a helper (work exchange staff, free accommodation staff)

Right after the new year holiday

eg. In case Sat. is 5th of Jan, it would be starting slow season from 6th (Sun) of Jan.). Then it would last this slow season until before the spring holiday, which is around 20th of March

Right after the Golden Week Holiday

 Basically Golden Week Holiday lasts unlit the 5th of May [Children’s Day ], but in case 5th of May is Fri or Thurs, many Japanese people take a paid leave for these days as well. In this case, the slow season will start from the last Sun.) This slow season lasts until the end of June. June is the rainy season.

Right after the Autumn leaf season

It is different depending on the region. Especially in Kyoto the Autumn leaf season is extremely high season. This slow season lasts until the end of the year holiday, which starts around the 24th of Dec.

If I’m a work exchange staff and not getting paid at all, does that mean I’m working?

If I'm a work exchange staff and not getting paid at all, does that mean I'm working?As you know visitors to Japan on a 3-month tourist visa are not allowed to work in Japan. But you have a question. “If I’m a work exchange staff and not getting paid at all, does that mean I’m working?”

If it were NOT that you are working, you may think that you can be hired as a free accommodation staff, a work exchange staff, or a helper in the guesthouse even if you are a tourist visa.
However, the interpretation is wrong. The Japanese government (The immigration authorities) interpret the job as a way to get paid money, which is exchanged into accommodation fees.

In fact, some years ago the owner of the hostel was arrested for hiring foreigners on tourist visas. In this case, not only the employer but also some of the foreign employees were arrested too.

Some of the hostel owners may be recruiting foreign workers as free accommodation staff without confirming the visa.  I don’t know whether they know this fact or not. I think you would better refrain from working on a tourist visa even if you are getting paid.

How long do I have to work as free accommodation staff?

A working holiday visa is not something you can get many times! An opportunity of staying in Japan for 1 year should be a very precious experience. So probably you don’t just want to visit one city, you want to visit several.

Work period for working holiday visa in JapanOn the other hand, the guesthouse manager wants you to stay as long as possible unless it will be approaching the busy season. Because if the period is too short, they can not spend the training time for you.
This staying period should be matched with the situation and condition of both employee and employer. When you apply for a job, you can request your preferred period, but if the period can be changeable flexibly, you’re more likely to be hired.

How to find a guesthouse or hostel that offers free housing for a work-exchange staff or a live-in staff?

  • : Workaway is here to promote fair exchange between budget travellers, language learners or culture seekers who can stay with 1000s of families, individuals or organizations that are looking for help in over 165 countries. [ ]
  • HelpX : HelpX is an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.  [ ]
  • Worldpackers : Worldpackers is a collaborative platform that connects you with hosts around the world where you can travel exchanging your skills for accommodation. [ ]

■Language Innは、インターナショナルなゲストハウス(宿泊施設)を運営する「ジェイホッパーズ大阪ユニバーサル」店の併設企画です。