Modeling in Tokyo, Japan

Two Different Perspectives of Modeling in Tokyo

they made me take off my top

Perspective 1: Minoru Kusoda,

"…pretend that you're an overly flamboyant gay dude."

Firstly, I admit it: I am not good-looking enough to model in the West. BUT, I did several jobs in Tokyo. Among them:

  • model for jewelry company print advert (10000 yen/two hours work.)
  • extra for IBM training video (paid about 25000 yen/one whole day)
  • extra for DOCOMO NTT commercial (paid about 22000 yen/whole day)
  • extra on educational NHK show (NHK jobs pay shit — 10000 yen)

Generally, I was a dude in the background. Landing a main role will get you much more money (i.e. 200,000 yen) than the above extra/print work. Most of the auditions I went to were won by someone who actually looked like their calling in life could be modeling/acting. But if you want to give it a shot, here's the basic rundown:


There are dozens of agencies. I worked primarily with D'XIM (Harajuku), Avocado (Harajuku), and Group Echo (in the boonies). You can find their info online. Some agencies require you to bring your own photos, others take them for you in their office (so dress well). If you want to do voice work for agencies like Group Echo who specialize in this area, bring a reel. They'll all ask you to fill out a registration form, on which you input your sizes (they'll measure you if you don't know) and skills.

Being Available

One week you might get four calls from different agencies (sometimes about the same job). Then you might not hear from an agency for a month. The work is inconsistent. You can't rely on it, so you're forced to get a regular day job (e.g. teaching). Then you'll get a call for 'the perfect job' but you'll have to cancel because of your stupid day job. Life. Most auditions are during the daytime on a weekday, along with the actual shoot, making them difficult to attend. For exchange students in Tokyo, this type of work is ideal because you could probably ditch a month of Japanese university and still pass.

Some jobs select models/actors only by photo-selection. Therefore having good photos is important. Most jobs require photo-selection and an audition. All the jobs I got were by photo-selection only which proves how badly I suck at acting in auditions.


Are rad. But unpaid. Firstly, you'll need to introduce yourself (in JP) to the company/camera before your audition. Then they'll ask you to do something, possibly fucked up, on camera. For one audition I just had to pull my t-shirt over my head, put my arms out like a robot, and teeter back and forth for like 40 seconds. For others, I just had to drink beer and shoot the shit with other gaijins (there are plenty of beer commercial auditions). I found that just being myself wasn't enough as I am not incredibly animated. If you're the same, pretend that you're an overly flamboyant gay dude. It helped me at least.

gay Bulgarian singer Azis

Then you await the call, which is most often a disappointing one, rendering the whole process financially fruitless. But, you likely had a good time (if you're like me) and just being involved in a contest with such a high reward is exciting in itself.

Can any foreigner model in Japan?

After much contemplation, my answer is … probably not. To land a job, you need at least of one of these assets: looks or skills.

looks: you don't need to be good looking, but you need to embody some kind of look. If you fit the mold of a wholesome blue-eyed cracker, scrawny emo kid, muscular jock, or big-nosed mutant, you're likely to be hired for jobs that need to fill this stereotype.

skills: having unique skills, e.g. tennis, break-dancing, ballet, etc, is invaluable. The only audition I nearly won was a skateboarding one. If you can do something well or expertly, there's a good chance that during a year in Tokyo, that skill will be required in an audition.

Lacking both of these assets, you might want to stick to your reliable day job. This advice is coming from someone who was fairly unsuccessful overall, and therefore is not meant as boastful. If you think modeling is for you, give it a shot by all means. With so many different jobs in Tokyo; one just might require an alien freak like you.


Perspective 2: Shank,

"Rule number one: Don't give a fuck."

I've done about 20 or so male modeling gigs here in Japan. Man, if I said that to the boys back home I'd definitely get a shot in the arm! Basically, it easier than real work plus you get a little cash and a vanity trophy. I have friends who work for agencies and pull all their income from modeling. But these are thin hipsters who are half Japanese, so tattooed old skaters like me can't even hope to pull the same paychecks.

Unlike Kusoda, I have never been signed to an agency. I do have a bro who works for one, and would throw me odd jobs now and then. After you do a few shoots, the magazines and photography companies will put you on file. Then when they have something the requires, let's say, “old drunk with tattoos and facial scars to make this sissy-ass brand look more street”, then they call me. I've made as little as 15,000 yen for 5 cuts (5 sets of shots in one outfit each). I've gotten 8,000 yen for a 10 minute New Era ad as well. The best are all day shoots direct for the magazine where you go in for like 4-6 hours and pump out 8 cuts or so. That pays around 50,000 yen. But remember that most of the time your not doing shit. Your sitting around eating a rice ball and drinking coffee with some other dudes who all know each other in the 2-degrees-of-Kevin Bacon-separation sort of way….So, bring a good fuckin' book.

I've been in magazines like Sense, Warp, Ollie and Huge among others. In fact, my girl called me one day and said that she was at the bookstore above Starbucks in front of Shibuya crossing and they had a huge ass display with me and my friend on it. Turns out that we got the cover of Huge that month, so I called up the dudes and demanded a bonus. Sneaky bitches!  I've also done jobs for catalogues, promo vids, and even a full on catwalk show for Diet Butcher Slim Skin. That one was fun because they got us drunk as shit before the show, and I got to meet a bunch of whiney lil man-bitches complain about hairstyle changes and other male-model bullshit. In fact, I've got faded via modeling quite a few times. There are opening parties, seasonal exhibitions, and sometimes they just want to get some live action party pics in a controlled environment. I went to one where they rented out a club, had a “punk” band play, and had an open bar. We all got wasted and started a mosh pit. And…wa-la! I'm in a magazine bitches!

Tips to be Japan's next bottom-feeder model:

1. Don't give a fuck.  Bad hair day?  OK. 

Look like shit from a bender? OK.

Smell like tranny whore from a bondage party the night before?  OK.

Once you're there, they need you.  They can't just pull some dick off the street same-day and replace you.  Simply, being polite is enough.  No need to be overly accommodating.

2. Ask around.  You can be fresh off the boat, and within a few weeks you'll have foreign friends. Ask them if they ever did any gigs.  If they have, e-mail your photos and details (measurements) over to the contact and you might get a job.  I got my first job with a pic of me skating in Yoyogi park all dirty and skank.

3. Negotiate.  Unless you are through an agency, I suggest reasonable negotiation.  You teach English for 3000 yen an hour?  Make sure you get at least that if not more.  Unless your a vain bitch, you're there for the money.

4. Have fun.  Have free snacks and coffee. Smoke a fag. Shotgun a beer. My friend who runs a major magazine here in Japan told me that he only uses models to fill pages. They are worthless otherwise. So take advantage of anything they offer. I make them drive me to the train station or my next destination when possible.  Why not?

In summary, Handsome Boy Modeling School is a dope album, but Prince Paul wasn't referencing Japan. You don't have to look like every other GQ model, and no one will try to rape you. You just have to NOT look Japanese. Chin down and glare at the camera.  That's all there is to it bitches.

Authors: Minoru Kusoda [cybrog] & Shank [gotfadedjapan]

23 thoughts on “Modeling in Tokyo, Japan

  1. alejandro

    kool bro , shit , let’s see this shit coz i only know how to say ,mac donalds in japanese

  2. Samira

    I want to be model

  3. register at an agency then . that’s the first step

  4. Efraín de jesus Rivera Ceballos

    I have taken great interest in modeling, I have 20 years, I’m from mexico and I love Japanese culture (I’m sexy and I have eyes and look very energetic, smart and deep) a Japanese friend told me that I would have much luck in Japan, truth is as simple as you mention? please instruct me, I’d appreciate it.

    • A lot of Japanese people say that to foreigners.

      You could go and give it a try. But it’s not a job you can rely on for steady income (unless you are good looking enough to model anywhere, e.g. in Mexico, London, etc).

      And you’d need a visa first.
      If you can get a visa, and have enough cash to try it out, go there and try it.

  5. Thank you for this post, it’s been so useful!

    I have signed up to one of the agencies recommended here, and I want to sign to a couple more. I have a question I wonder if you could answer for me?

    “One week you might get four calls from different agencies (sometimes about the same job)”

    What do you do in this situation, if you get two calls for the same job? Say yes to one and no to the other? Won’t it be embarassing if you see your manager from the other agency at the audition?

    Thank you very much!

  6. mb

    Sapphira: I’m glad you found it useful. If you get two calls for the same job, it’s not a problem. Foreigners can register at as many agencies as they’d like (I did hear that Japanese models can’t do this — but I”m not 100% sure it’s true). Anyways, there’s no embarrassment involved. Whoever calls first gets you. I never did any “shopping around” among the agencies when jobs were offered. I think they all offered the same pay (maybe, mostly) anyways. You’ll answer the first call, make your decision, and then if another agency calls after that, well, you’ve already committed to going to the audition with another agency. c’est la vie.


    • Thank you very much indeed, that puts my mind at ease :)

  7. I want be model please call this number 08048886660

  8. Piggy

    Your article is very interesting. I am mixed (European and Japanese) and I already have applied to Agencies in Japan. They want to meet me at first before taking me under contract. So that is why I am going to Japan in October again. I want to stay 3 Months there and I will just have a Tourist Visa there. I hope that an Agency can sponsour me an Entertainment/Working visa. What kind of Visa did you have? And how difficult is it with changing the Visa? I would like to stay as long as possible in japan and to work there but I have heard that most Foreigner Models just stay for a short period. Can you tell me a little bit more about Modeling in Japan? And what is if a Model can not speak japanese very well?

    Thank you and sorry for the long comment.

    • MB

      Hello. I had a working holiday visa (available to Canadians and probably people from all Common Wealth nations), so I didn’t need to think about the visa. I imagine that it would be impossible to model for real companies without a visa. The companies I worked with wouldn’t have sponsored me either because I was small time (I barely ever got any work). I could imagine a larger company providing a visa, but that would be for big time models (not extras in beer commercials, i.e. a dude like me).

      Not being able to speak Japanese won’t be an advantage (it will disqualify you from any Japanese speaking roles).

      Not sure I can say much more than what is written above. I haven’t lived in Japan now for several years.
      Best of luck. If I were you, I’d try to either study in Japan for a year of university (you can work while studying usually) or check into whether your country has a working holiday scheme with japan. MB

  9. can i be a model ? i have good looking body and im 5’5 i got face look a sexy face ^^

  10. i realy love japan thats why i want to be model of japan ill be nice model call me please im newbie i wanna be model 09223589636

  11. aiza cresencio

    Im, 5,6

  12. Cecille Strebel

    I want to be a model . Im not sexy but im photogenic and seductive in pictures.

  13. CV

    very helpful….arigato…i am a student and i want to try it.

  14. Shiella Sato

    I’m interested in this article I have a 9 years old daughter I want her to b a model can she join here

  15. I want to be a model

  16. 250-0631
    Kanagawa Hakone, Ashigarashimo-Gun

  17. I want to be a model please

  18. Riyansh

    thanks for such an great article,I surely got a little bit of idea about modelling in japan.I am 22,and want to be a model in japan.what should be my first step to get in there,i mean from where should I start.
    thank you.

  19. Anant


    I am Indian guy in Tokyo and looking for some part time job so can you let me know if I can work for your agency

  20. just got pad its friday night

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