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Self-employed non-Japanese restaurant owners need to be aware of the recent policy changes

What is needed to start a business in Japan? We’ve asked an immigration lawyer (2)

Self-Employed Restaurant Owners May Face Stricter Scrutiny

(Go to the previous article: What do you need to know before applying for Business Manager and Startup visas? –– What is needed to start a business in Japan? We’ve asked an immigration lawyer (1) )

–– There are many immigrants who run a restaurant. Are they mostly spouse-visa holders?

I suppose they have a spouse visa or are permanent residents. Some have a Business Manager visa, of course.

But with this visa, you must stick strictly to managerial work. I mean, the only Manager running a restaurant is not allowed under the visa.

–– But in reality, there seem to be many restaurants run by self-employed owners who are not Japanese.

Yes, you are right. However, the immigration office is making moves to examine these cases more carefully with a new “Food Industry” qualification created under the “Specified Skilled Worker” and “Designated Activities No. 46” categories.

Self-Employed Restaurant Owners May Face Stricter Scrutiny

More specifically, there is a particular visa for a cook. Table waiting and dishwashing work are part of the “Food Industry” under the category of “Specified Skilled Worker.” If the visa applicant has graduated from a Japanese university, their work falls under the “Number 46” subcategory. This means that the “No. 46” qualification is for those who work as servers in the food service industry, implying that the restaurant manager focuses only on managerial work. To put it another way, managers are not permitted to perform non-managerial work.

This is not because of a change in rules. They have been this way for a while, but have not been carefully enforced. However, many restaurants are operated by non-Japanese owners who act as both staff and management, and authorities are becoming stricter. When applying for a Business Manager visa to run a restaurant, you might be asked to show an employment contract for the restaurant staff.

Moreover, you may need to set up a separate office when running a restaurant under a Business Manager visa, although some do not. You will also be examined by the immigration office when renewing your visa. If you do not have the required staff or office, your permit may not be renewed.

–– It looks like there are many challenges for non-Japanese nationals wanting to start their own businesses in Japan. Could you offer some advice?

Certainly. It is by no means easy to prepare the five million yen needed to start a business. But in reality, if you would like to launch a restaurant or cafe, you will most likely need more than that. Borrowing money from relatives or friends is one option.

Another point to remember is the importance of designing your business to be profitable. A variety of specialists such as accountants and consultants can help you to improve your business plan. As I mentioned before, the renewal of your visa may depend on the profitability of your business, so I recommend that you seek out a professional advisor to further develop your business and convince the immigration and tax authorities of its viability.

Also, if you have an Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa, I recommend you check that your employer allows a side business. Finally, please do not forget to file as a freelancer – 個人事業主 (kojin jigyo-nushi) – with the tax office so that your revenue is regarded as business income.

(Edited by Jennifer Pastore)

Go to the following article: Japanese must be aware of the fact that we often unconsciously see foreigners as being ‘different': What is needed to start a business in Japan? We’ve asked an immigration lawyer (3)


Author’s note: Posse Nippon interviewed Mr. Tachikawa, who has extensive experience in immigration law, about the procedures immigrants in Japan need to follow when starting their own businesses. This article is not an advertorial, as Mr. Tachikawa generously agreed to speak with us on a voluntary basis. His office is available to answer questions in English.

You can contact Accurate Administrative Scrivener Corporation (Accurate Gyoseishoshi Hojin or アキュレイト行政書士法人) directly at, or through its official LINE account (please check the QR code).

Posse Nippon ( may also be reached for more information about this article.

*The information on this page is correct as of 4 September 2022.

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