Building a new career in Japan as a graphic designer

After leaving a position at a San Francisco-based design company that he built up impressively, Josf decided to challenge himself in Japan, a completely new environment. I talked to Josf about the miraculous start he’s made building his career as a graphic designer.

Posted by on February 14, 2015 – Student Testimonials

Building a new career in Japan as a graphic designer

A new challenge (日本語はこちらから

Josf made the decision to live in Japan in 2013. He felt inspired to take on the challenge of the new environment of Japan together with his Japanese wife, who he met at art school in 2002.

By 2013, the startup design company that he started to assist six years ago had grown significantly and his own business, a clothing design company, had also started to run smoothly. He made the decision to move to Japan, even as his colleagues and his partner were trying to keep him in San Francisco.

In San Francisco, the business that we launched in a studio room had grown in size to the extent that it now occupied a building. This sense of achievement, together with the feeling that it was time to take on a fresh challenge, made me commit to the idea of coming to Japan. I used to visit Japan with my wife each year, and I had always thought that I would like to try living here some time.

Barriers Josf felt after coming to Japan

Josf had come to Japan, but was wondering what to do here. In a completely new environment, he started to realise that this challenge of building a new career in Japan that he himself had set was turning out to be larger than he had imagined. A few months after arriving in Japan, Josf found himself homesick, missing his friends, the job that he loved, and the environment that he was used to living in.

But I’d bought the ticket already. So I had to enjoy the ride.

Josf was determined that he must face this challenge squarely. It was a challenge that he had brought on himself. He decided that in order to succeed in Japan, he should make a solid investment in studying the language for one to two years.

Josf went along to observe a Japanese language school near his home, but noticed that it was a large class of 20–30 students and that all of them were all Chinese. He felt that it would be difficult to study there. With help from his family, he found ILS (now Coto). The atmosphere was casual and class sizes were small. He was attracted by the fact that the lessons centred on conversation. He undertook a four-month-long intensive course.

I thought it was good that an environment focusing on Japanese could be created in this intensive course. I developed what you could call a kind of stamina for studying.

Turning point: Gaining skills in Japanese and getting a job

After the intensive course, Josf switched over to private lessons and studied for half a year. This was around New Year in 2014, when he was invited to a party by a friend and went along on his own. There, he found himself amongst people who were not able to speak English, and later realized that he had spent the whole night communicating in Japanese only. When there was something that he did not understand, he asked people to repeat themselves or asked them to speak more slowly. Josf describes this as a good turning point, which gave him confidence that he could communicate in Japanese in such a way.

About a year after arriving in Japan, Josf succeeded in finding a part-time graphic design job and started working in an English- and Japanese-speaking environment. Gradually, he started to feel more and more confident communicating in Japanese. Currently, in addition to work at the company, he is starting to get a nice amount of freelance work. He picks up freelance jobs through introductions while networking at creator’s events and the like. Josf mostly converses in Japanese at these events. He was on the path for building a new career in Japan !

What’s Josf’s next goal?

Right now, Josf is very much enjoying supporting a Japanese startup companies that he got to know through networking. Not only does Josf take jobs, but he also introduces locally-based creators or gives advice about how to get along with locally-based companies when Japanese apps companies hold events in San Francisco.”

According to Josf, creating business is creating new culture. It is about inspiring more and more people. He himself likes that kind of environment and feels value in supporting these kinds of people.

The cultures of Japan and San Francisco are entirely different. I’d like to become a bridge that connects Japan with San Francisco.

Josf would like to speak Japanese so fluently that he no longer need to think about what he is saying. This is the level of Japanese that he is aiming for. Until then, he is going to carry on with his Japanese lessons.

Josf’s challenge has only just begun, but he has definitely made advances over the past 18 months. We wish him well in expressing his true potential and expanding the scope of his future activities.



Coto's Japanese Intensive Course