What Japanese Language Qualifications ACTUALLY Mean in Japan

While many of you may be studying Japanese for your trips to the country, or to better understand manga and anime – there are quite a few of us who spend thousands of hours studying with the aim of getting a job in Japan. 

I’ve already put in the thousands of hours and managed to get some nice qualifications under my belt. For the last couple of months, I’ve been searching for a non-English-teaching job. So, were the Japanese language qualifications that I slaved away to obtain any actual use in the interviews? Keep reading to find out! 

(1) JPLT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test)

This is the most well-known Japanese language test aimed at foreigners and has five levels from N5-N1. For employment, only N3-N1 are of real importance. N3 may help you get an English teaching job or an IT job depending on the company. N2 will help you with most jobs, and N1 will show evidence that you have a deep understanding of the Japanese language (but it’s incredibly difficult to obtain). 

Unfortunately, though, even this test is not known by everyone. From my experience, this test is well-known and respected by companies who regularly employ foreign employees. For example, the hotel industry often employs foreigners, so most employers in the industry will have heard of this test. 

Click here to visit the website. 


(2) BJT (Business Japanese Test)

The BJT is a very difficult test aimed at those will work in high-level business situations. There is only one test and your grade depends on how well you do. Getting the top grade J1+ may even be harder than N1 – however, without a failing score, you’re guaranteed to get a qualification at one level or another. 

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve met anyone who actually knew was this test was. 

Click here to visit the website. 


(3) Kanji Kentei (Kanji writing/reading test)

The kanji kentei is designed as a test for native Japanese speakers, but foreigners are also free to take part. Level 10, the lowest test has a pass rate of 95% (and is mainly taken by young children), while the highest level (level 1) is most often taken by university students and has a pass rate of just 10%. 

In the test, you are required to be able to write complex kanji, spot minor differences, know synonyms and antonyms, and have a deep knowledge of Japanese phrases and idioms. Due to the fact that many foreigners struggle to even write daily Japanese, the vast majority of people will find the upper levels of this test difficult even after a decade of studying. Those born in countries like China who also learn the characters as a child will have a huge advantage. (I have studied for levels 4, 3, 2 but have never taken the test because even with N1, I knew I didn’t have a chance at any levels worth doing without putting a billion hours of writing practice in). 

If you do have the courage to take this test, it will be extremely useful in your future job hunting. Since this is a common test Japanese people often want on there resume, almost all employers will know what this test is and how difficult it is. 


Click here to visit the website. 

(4) Hisho Kentei (secretarial test)

While the test is designed for those who wish to be a secretary in Japan, the required understanding of business culture makes it a very useful test to have even for Japanese people. The test has three levels (3 being the easiest). To pass the test, you will not only be required to read and understand complex questions – but to have a deep understanding of Japanese culture. 

For example, one question might be “which pattern card is appropriate to send to a wedding and how much money should you put in it?”. In Japan, the cards you send for different occasions have different string patterns – for a wedding, string with a knot that won’t come undone is appropriate. When giving money (in Japan, money is given as a present at weddings), even numbers are seen as unlucky because they can be divided. An amount of money that cannot be shared evenly is seen as best (10,000 yen, 30,000 yen, or 50,000 yen). 

The lowest level of the test is achievable by those who have an N2 level of Japanese (and have studied related materials for the test). The test is also well-known by employers and shows you understand business culture – so it’s a great one to have in a bag.

Click here to visit the website. 


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While there are many more tests you can take, these are the main ones (and the ones I have experience with). So, go pick up your books and start studying!