I originally wrote this article a few years ago, when I was only starting as a freelance translator myself. Long story short, kojin jigyo really helped me get started without any set up fees or administrative complexity. Since then, my business has grown and I have incorporated to enjoy the benefits of Japan’s social insurance, among other things. It works slightly better for me now that the dust has settled, but kojin jigyo remains an extremely attractive proposition for those in need of flexibility and simplicity.
Here you will find an updated version of the original article, with fresh information and previous comments left for reference.
The idea of starting a small business in a foreign country can sound intimidating. However, whether you are trying to run a restaurant, a small language school, or simply making a bit of cash as a freelancer, you will be happy to learn that there is an extremely simple form of business you can open in Japan.
It is called kojin jigyo (個人事業), or sole proprietorship as could be translated in English. It is possible to declare yourself as a kojin jigyo anytime, for free, and without any limitations of revenue.
What are the advantages of being a kojin jigyo?
- No restrictions on income, and your losses can be deducted from your revenues when you fill your tax forms.
- All you need to do then is to keep track of your earnings and expenses and declare them in your kakutei shinkoku once a year between February and March (you will have to use the blue form instead of the white one).
As a pain-free form of business, it is commonly used by small restaurants, language schools, import/export companies and people working as freelancers or consultants. The only risk as a kojin jigyo is that your liability is unlimited. That said, if you are in control of your expenses, that shouldn’t be a problem.
How do I declare myself as a kojin jigyo?
It is extremely simple! Just fill this form, print it out and send it to your closest tax office.
Once this is done, just make sure you keep all your payments on record, in case someone comes to ask.
A great thing about kojin jigyo is that your expenses, if relevant to your business at least to an extent, can be deducted from your revenues, which potentially means it can help you pay less in taxes. For example, say you buy a new laptop. Whatever your industry is, chances are you will need to be work on a computer at some point. You can register this purchase as a business expense! This also works for things like transports (you need to go out and see clients, don’t you?) or even the coffee you drink if you work as a private teacher. Just make sure it’s relevant to your business and you can back your claims.
Of course, if your business takes off, that you start paying employees and want to limit your liability, you will need to consider incorporating yourself at some point and start a 株式会社 – kabushiki gaisha.
That said, the kojin jigyo is a great starting point and is still relevant to a number of not-that-small businesses. This is the form of business most teachers, translators, consultants I know work under.
Dayal Singh on August 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm
We are based in New Delhi India would like to know if we can (Kojin Jigvo)start sole proprietary firm in Japan with your given instructions.
Kindly advise documents required processing time and fees payable for
for the same.
Thanks and await your reply to direct email address
loic on August 24, 2011 at 9:08 am
Great article, I wish I had it when I opened my kojin jigyo a few months ago! I was wondering why you use blue form instead of the white (form B) to pay the taxes? As a freelancer, I don’t have so many expenses and was thinking that the easiest option is the white form. Would you have any advice for me? Thanks!
Keith on September 29, 2011 at 4:39 am
Interesting. I am on a PR visa and want to start my own Kojin Jigyo.
Is it really as simple as one form? I would like more info or a chat about it.
siti on October 3, 2011 at 7:39 am
hye there…hajimemashite….konnichiwa…(know basic japan language a little bit)
I am very interested to know more on this ‘kojin jigyo’ thing….first of all,maybe i should introduce myself..my name is Siti and Im Malaysian…I am a fresh graduate student and have no experience at all in business directly…indirectly I used to sell clothes and scarf through facebook…and i found myself really interested to open up my own business…currently im taking International Master in Small Medium Enterprise in Universiti Malaya,Malaysia..next year I will be doing my practical study..and I found many articles on the SME industry in Japan and I really looking forward to my practical study in any SME company or known as ‘kojin jigyo’ in Japan…I have read all of your articles…its nice to know that you are one of the ‘kojin jigyo’ owner…could you give me any advices to get a place for my internship next year or any good advices to become one of the ‘kojin jigyo’??
looking forward for your response…
thank you very much…..
quest on January 25, 2012 at 7:06 am
Good article.I am planning to setup kojin jigyo as i have some freelance works related to my visa.I m under engineer visa status.do u have any idea ?kojin jigyo will create any problems related immigration.
can i start with engineer visa.?
on January 25, 2012 at 7:19 am
Thanks for your comment, and absolutely, your can start your kojin jigyo with your current visa. As long as you have your gaijin card and that you declare your income to your local tax office, there shouldn’t be any trouble.
Nathan on June 28, 2012 at 3:33 pm
Hi. Thanks for your clear tips and knowledge.
My wife and I, she is japanese, live in australia but would like to start an online business in japan. Is kojin jigyo still possible? Also, what do you mean about unlimited liability? Can we take out insurance? Thanks.
Faisal Mamun on August 16, 2012 at 7:13 am
Hello, i am interested to know more details about Kojin Jigvo to setup small business in Japan and ready to pay for consultancy. You may directly contact –
I have more than 15 years experience in IT as Service Management in leading Multi national company..Currently i am working for japan but remotely..
Sophia on September 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm
Thanks for your great article!
I’m now employed by a japanese company but alsoI’m planning to start my small business such as events orgnanizing. Will it cause the immigration problems?
And will it be better if i register a company or just do it unoffically?
Thank you 🙂
on September 7, 2012 at 12:50 pm
No, I don’t think immigration services would cause you any sort of trouble for that. Tax offices may if you make a lot of money and do not declare it.
If your small business is not generating too much profit (say below 1,000,000 yen a year), you can probably keep it unofficial.
Scott on September 6, 2012 at 3:08 pm
Were you able to open a bank account in the name of your chosen Kojin Jigyo?
Is that even possible?
on September 7, 2012 at 12:46 pm
Apparently it used to be possible with Japan Post, but I recently opened an account with them and was told it wasn’t possible. So, short answer, no I guess, but you can still try and ask your local bank.
K on September 10, 2012 at 8:16 am
Thanks for the info. I have a question though. My partner and I want to start an Eikawa in Japan. Can two people be listed on the kojin jigyo or will they only except one person on the kojin jigyo application?
on September 10, 2012 at 12:36 pm
You can only have one name on the application. What you can do is either have both of you register a kojin kigyo, or have one person register and then “hire” the other.
Alex on September 11, 2012 at 2:50 am
Hello! Thank you for this great article.
I am wondering – is it possible to run a kojin jigyo on a student visa, provided you work within the permitted number of hours a week? Arubaito is no problem, but I don’t know if running a small side-business would somehow be against the terms of the visa. Thanks again!
on September 11, 2012 at 10:48 am
Hi Alex, excellent question! I guess that would be a bit against the spirit of the student visa…
If you’re providing services directly, like design or translation, you could maybe declare them as a baito? Otherwise, if the amount is not too big, you shouldn’t have much trouble. Just keep all your bills/invoices in case someone come ask you.
Alex on September 12, 2012 at 4:09 am
Thank you so much for the reply. The kojin jigyo I had in mind was selling an imported product from the US, on a relatively small scale. Do you have a sense of how much income it would have to provide to no longer be considered arubaito? Or would this sort of business simply not be permitted at all?
on September 16, 2012 at 2:22 am
I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t be allowed as it is against the concept of a student visa, but if you don’t make more than a couple of 10.000 yen a month I don’t think you’d have much trouble not declaring it.
Ca on October 6, 2012 at 10:43 pm
Hello! Thanks for the great information!
I was wondering if it is possible to receive a visa while working independently. As in, starting a business when you don’t already have a visa, and getting a working visa or something for it. Is this completely impossible? I’d like to work as a freelance translator in Japan, but I’m afraid that there is no way to do it.
on October 8, 2012 at 10:48 pm
I’m afraid you don’t have too many options indeed. If you are eligible for a WH visa, you can always try to gain experience as a freelancer in Japan and find at least a part time job in a translation company that will get you a visa.
Zeeshan on October 11, 2012 at 7:01 pm
I just found your website through Google.com.
And i m looking for some help here for open a “Kogin Jigyo” in japan i was a foreign national and just recently became a japanese citizen i wonder if that,s gonna change anything??
So far i have been out of job this year since march and soon i will be starting a new job somewhere close to 8 million yen a year and i will be a father pretty soon and so far the way i see i can get some tax off for my kid and wife if (Put them as a Fuyo) in my kakutei shinkoku but i still have a huge amount of tax to pay after having my family as a fuyo.
Mate do you think if i get in to kojin jigyo while working for a japanese company
what do you think which is better getting in to kojin jigyo or should i do my tax the way i do every year (having few members as a fuyo)
Mate can you please advise on this cause if it is worth having a job in japan and open a my own private kojin jigyo then i m on it.
i have kept every single receipt of this year and i believe the receipt i had so far they are more then 4 million yen.
Please advise .
I look forward to your reply.
on October 12, 2012 at 7:31 am
That’s a good question. If you work full time in a company for 8 millions a year with shakai hoken, I’d advise you to keep things the way they are. With kojin jigyo, you can’t have your family under fuyo and the rate of taxes will be higher (especially with consumption tax rising to 10% soon) so even if the taxable amount is smaller it will be the same in the end. If you do your kojin jigyo apart from your work, though, that’s another story and you should declare it as a kojin jigyo.
on October 13, 2012 at 4:47 pm
Many Thanks for your quick response .
Understood!! what you think about the receipts worth of 4million
can i use them for my tax off through kojin gigyo??because i was gonna use my house as a office and as you know rents are huge in japan. can i use my own house for my kojin gigyo(As a office) ??
Sorry for another question and once again thanks for your help.
on October 17, 2012 at 7:10 am
Absolutely, you can take your rents our of your revenue with a kojin jigyo, that’s absolutely fine.
CaMi on October 23, 2012 at 3:33 pm
I was so happy to find your website on this information and also the comments other people have written and your responses to them. They are very helpful. I am also interested in this kojin jigyo. My question is also VISA related.
I currently have a working visa and am working for a small englsih school but I would like to start a small business. I believe you mentioned before that this ok. I was wondering about once my visa expires. If I quit working at my current job to focus solely on my small business can I then use my own business to sponsor a renewal of my visa?? I hope this question makes sense.
Thanks in advance!
on October 27, 2012 at 4:32 am
That’s a good question. In theory, no. Now it depends what you do and how much you make once everything is running. What kind of business are you thinking of?
Axel on November 30, 2012 at 8:42 am
Hello, great information!, i have a question, a Japanese friend and i want to start a small company to design small electronics gadgets, if he declares himself as kojin gigyo and hire me, would it help me to get the working visa to go to Japan?…thanks a lot!!
Meigu on December 10, 2012 at 6:24 am
I have a question :]
What kind of visa would you need, for long term stay in Japan with the intent of starting a Kojin Jigyo? I heard that you needed specific ones, but it seems that you can only start a Kojin Jigyo if you are married to a Japanese person or are of Japanese decent….I read you can’t on a work visa or one for students. I’m a bit confused as to which visa I would need to just, rent an apartment in japan and work on an online business. Do you know anything about it? Thanks in advance :]
Jean Chris on January 7, 2013 at 5:52 pm
Thanks for your great article!
I’m currently running a small but, extremely promising business from Centre London. My many trusted friends are so convinced there is great opportunity for growth in Japan for my unique condiments.
I am curious as to how to set up my own kojin jigyo and crucially how to reach potential business partners for financial and practical reasons.
I was also told I needed to establish contacts for visa purpose.
Would you have any advice for me?
Thanks and await your reply to direct email address
hazzy on February 3, 2013 at 10:49 pm
I’m from Karachi,Pakistan. i manufacture my Product name Smart Cat ( Cat litter ), in which we use Bentonite. And My father’s business is to manufacture Humic Acid and SSP these are two Products which use as fertilizer, this was My Family background Now, i want to do my Cat litter business in Japan. In Japan there are many factories of Cat Litter and they all use Bentonite for there product, I’ve three types of Bentonite and I’ve many Tons in stock.
I visited your website, you make easy ways to do business. This is my business, and i’m hoping for your good response.
R S on February 26, 2013 at 1:16 am
Thank you very much for the article!
I’m interested in going this way but struggling with the Japanese…
What would you suggest please?
Thank you and best regards,
05022 on March 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm
Hi ! I
m a forex trader, studied in Japan for about 4 years, and already comeback to my country. Just a simple question, Im planning to go to Japan and make a living there, so can I declare trading forex as kojin-jigyo ?as I just trading from home (my office absolutely).
Give me some suggestion because im very serious about this.
on March 25, 2013 at 4:23 am
Kojin jigyo seems to be exactly what you need, it will definitely be the simpliest way to start out for you 🙂
Krishelle on April 22, 2013 at 11:02 am
Hi. I just saw this blog and it is extremely helpful. I was wondering if you know anything about starting an online business in Japan? I was thinking of starting an online t-shirt store (clothing). Do you know if I need to show a business plan or have a show money to start one? And do you know how much registration fees cost? I really hope you can help!
Ras on April 30, 2013 at 8:45 am
Hi there Admin,
Many thank for your article about starting a sole proprietorship. You indicated that “If you are struggling with Japanese, just let me know and I’ll give you a hand.” Well, I need to fill but I cant fill the form(s) and I’m asking for your help. Thank you in anticipation of that.
Krishelle on May 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm
Hi. Thank you for writing this, it really helped. Although I have a question. I’ve search a lot about starting a small business, but most are about schools, restaurants or stores. I am planning on opening a shopping site and start selling t-shirts. A Japanese friend of mine said, he doesn’t think It’s really necessary for me to register until I reach a certain amount of taxable income. Could you help?
Petros on July 1, 2013 at 4:09 am
Hi there and thank you for all the great information you are posting here!
I am working full time in a company but want to start a small business(gallery) as kojin jigyo and work as part timer as well at my current company. What will happen with the taxes?
I found a space to rent which will be contracted under my partner’s (Japanese) name. Will I be able to claim it under my taxes? Or do I have to make the contract under my name? Any suggestions?
Iqbal Muhammad on July 15, 2013 at 12:38 am
I am interested to establish a small import and export business in Japan. Please let me know all details, time frame and tentative expenses to complete this process.
Franck on July 21, 2013 at 9:27 am
Well, sorry to be a mood killer here but I hold an engineer visa in Japan and, since I’m an experienced web designer, I was planning to make extra money from a membership driven website of mine.
Although I got quite excited after I read this article, I decided to give a call to the immigration bureau in Tokyo just to make sure everything is legal …. but I was told a very different story :
Basically, even for a side business (which means you don’t leave your current job), you need to ask the permission to the immigration bureau because the secondary activity isn’t one requested by an employer. So, your activity being the same isn’t enough. The type of contract must be the same : if you got your visa as an employee, you must start your extra activity as an employee.
If it’s not the case, you must ask the permission via the form downloadable here : http://www.moj.go.jp/content/000099659.pdf
You also have to produce a business plan that will explain in detail the kind of activity you want to start as an entrepreneur.
Then, you must wait one month or more to know if you got the permission or not.
Well, that’s what I’ve been told by the immigration bureau but if you guys know something I don’t, feel free to fire 🙂
on July 22, 2013 at 1:43 am
Well, for kojin jigyo you don’t have a contract or anything like that. I have personnally been working this way with a WH, a work visa and a spouse visa and never got any sort of trouble. Maybe they thought you were creating an actual company (GK or KK)?
Franck on July 28, 2013 at 12:46 pm
Sorry for the late reply.
Well, I know there is no contract involved with koujin jigyou and my interlocutors at the immigration bureau fully understood what it was about.
The thing is, you can do it under a spouse visa since this visa allows you do do any activity you want.
The problems start with specific visas such as Engineer, Specialist in Humanities, etc. Under theses visas, you have been granted the right to work under very specific conditions : as an employee, in a certain field of expertise and for a predefined minimum salary. If your current activity or you new activity doesn’t fulfill all of these, you can be deported. Of course it happens only if the immigration discovers it.
If you are not convinced : http://www.japanprobe.com/2011/11/24/japanese-police-arrest-french-tv-personality/
If people want to avoid this, they have to ask the permission for each new activity they plan to undertake.