Working in Japan

Are you the “Poster Boy” for your school or company?

Companies and schools in Japan often treat their foreign employees, and students, like royalty-free models. Having smiling foreign staff make for great promotional material and you will invariably be called upon to have your photo taken. What should you do?

Companies and schools in Japan often treat their foreign employees, and students, like royalty-free models.  Having smiling foreign staff make for great promotional material and you will invariably be called upon to have your photo taken.  While it would be wise to be a team player, there are some things you should know in advance before you accept, refuse or even if you are tasked to take photos of, for example if you are a teacher, kids at your school for a flier, newsletter or Web site.  Thanks for EduCareer for the advice below on Japan’s privacy and image laws, and we hope it keeps you out of trouble.

Japan has what’s called “right to image,” and this means a person’s picture cannot be published without his or her consent. Underage persons do not have the right to consent to their image being published–you need parents’ permission for that. If, for example, you have an English Club home page and want to upload student pictures, make sure you get permission! Some schools have additional rules, like students may only be photographed from behind (no faces showing, regardless of whether you have permission or not), and rules about how students are to be referred to in print (make sure you check if printing names is okay or if initials only/just first or last names is the school policy).

The same rights apply to you. If your school is using your image for promotion they need your permission. First, check your contract–some contracts come with a built-in clause allowing the school to use your image. Then talk to your supervisor. Not allowing your pictures to be used may not be the best way to make friends at school, since native teachers are often used as a sales point, but you can certainly request that schools ask before using your picture. Besides being the law, it is common courtesy after all. If you really do not want your picture used, be polite but firm. Schools are all aware of the right to image and will usually comply.

As for having your own picture used, I would want to confirm where, how, how long and the purpose the image is going to be used. A monthly school brochure of 200 copies is way different than an advertisement on a billboard.  One is being a team player while you may want to get compensated for the later.

In short, permission is key. Get permission before publishing anything with your kids’ names and pictures, and have your school get your permission before publishing yours.


Peter Lackner is the Managing Partner at and has had management-level positions at major job boards in Japan including:, GaijinPot, CareerEngine and currently the managing partner at

Running a job board gives Peter the opportunity to speak with employers and job seekers every day and find out why some are successful and others are not. Speaking to both employers and job seekers has given Peter the ability to be able to see both sides of the hiring process. This is why exists - to help job seekers find the jobs they want and employers to find the candidates they need.

Peter is active in the ETJ (English Teachers in Japan organization), a member of JALT’s School Owners SIG and currently on the Executive Board of the Tokyo Association of International Preschools.

You can often find Peter speaking to groups on how to get a new or better job, and to employers on how to avoid making a bad hire.

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