Guide: Tokyo

New from TBM! On December 17th, TBM's published it's first eBook: The Model's Guide to Tokyo. It is the most comprehensive guide to the Tokyo market and covers whether the market is right for you, what to expect at jobs and castings, and countless recommendations for grocery shopping and sight-seeing. Below is our free, online Guide. If you like it, and want more in-depth info, the eBook is for you! 

Inside, you'll find,

  • Market criteria: Is this the market for you?
  • Best work seasons for new faces and veterans
  • Detailed arrival information from Haneda and Narita Airports
  • Agency list complete with description of strengths
  • Casting protocol for appearance and behaviour
  • Common phrases
  • Types of jobs & up-to-date rates
  • Insider model tips
  • and so much more!

The Model's Guide to Tokyo is now available on Amazon!

Along with Milan, Tokyo is a market many models choose for their first modelling trip overseas. Tokyo is loved by almost every model and for good reason; the city is beautiful, the streets are pristine, the clients are nice, and the pay is the best in Asia. Tokyo is a market every model should aspire to try at least once in their career. 

Amanda Murphy, Binx Walton, Chiharu Okunugi, Daria Strokous, Issa Lish, Jamie Bochert, Lexi Boling, Liu Wen, Maartje Verhoef, Malaika Firth, Natalie Westling, Ondria Hardin, Sam Rollinson, Suvi Koponen, Vanessa Moody shot by Luigi & Iango, make up by Virginia Young, casting by Piergiorgio Del Moro for  Vogue Japan  April 2015 cover |  Source

Amanda Murphy, Binx Walton, Chiharu Okunugi, Daria Strokous, Issa Lish, Jamie Bochert, Lexi Boling, Liu Wen, Maartje Verhoef, Malaika Firth, Natalie Westling, Ondria Hardin, Sam Rollinson, Suvi Koponen, Vanessa Moody shot by Luigi & Iango, make up by Virginia Young, casting by Piergiorgio Del Moro for Vogue Japan April 2015 cover | Source

Market Criteria

For female models to be successful in Japan they must fall into one of two categories:

1. Young, slim, "kawaii," preferably with a round face

2. Cool and edgy with a very strong book (Examples: Abbey Lee Kershaw, Cailin Hill, Kelly Mittendorf)

Blondes are usually preferred, but brunettes can also work very well. In Asia as a whole, brunettes tend to work best.

Male models must fall into one of the following two categories:

1. Young, editorial, and slim, with a strong a book

2. Commercial, muscular, able to fit a suit

For male models, the ability to grow facial hair is an asset. 

Richard Bell at Bravo for  Men's Club Magazine

Richard Bell at Bravo for Men's Club Magazine

Female Measurements:

Bust: 30-34” (76-86cm)

Waist: 22-25” (56-64cm)

Hips: 33-35” (30-90cm)

Male Measurements:

Chest: 36-40” (92-102cm)

Waist: 29-32” (74-79cm)


13-21: It's in a model's best interest to start in the market as early as possible. Introducing yourself to the Japanese market early can help models forge strong relationships with their agency and they can return to the market again many times throughout their career.

25+: Agencies have declined to sign new models who are 25 because they're already "too old" to be introduced into the market. But, models who are older who have travelled to Tokyo before can go back repeatedly, so long as they still look young and have developed a solid client base. This is especially true for male models. 

Types of Jobs & Rates

Jobs in Tokyo tend to pay the highest in all of Asia, although rates have gone down over the past several years. There are a large variety of jobs including campaigns, editorial, runway, catalogues, and look books. Models hardly ever have any horror stories about Tokyo because most of the jobs are always very pleasant, well-paying, and clients treat models well.

Very successful models who have been to Tokyo multiple times have been able to earn between $20,000-30,000CDN net. However, these models have a lot of experience, great portfolios, and have established a loyal client base.

Shu Uemura

Shu Uemura


There are a lot of commercial jobs in Tokyo but most are for Asian or Eurasian-looking models. They include campaigns, print advertisements, as well as television commercials.

Clients include: Nivea, Toyota, Suzuki etc.


There are many catalogue jobs in Tokyo for both female and male models. Japanese clients are also very loyal to the models they select. For example, if a model works for an e-commerce client and the client likes them, they will be booked by them multiple times over the course of their contract. Consistent bookings for Japanese catalogues is how most successful models end up earning a lot of money.

Men who are more muscular who are considered to be “manly”, can work constantly for suit catalogues in Tokyo. The bookings are regular and models can expect to work almost every day and earn a lot, as long as they fit the suits.

Clients include: Nissen, Belle Maison, Peach John, GILT, Muse, Uniqlo, etc.




Most editorial clients in Tokyo will use foreign models in their magazines because it makes their images look more “international” and thus more prestigious. Eurasian or Asian models who want to shoot for high fashion giants like Elle, Numero, or Vogue, usually need to be top models, be Japanese celebrities, or have a strong agency. Other magazines like Glitter and Safari are more commercial. 

Clients include: Spur, Numero, Elle, Vogue Nippon, So-En, Figaro, Fudge, Nylon, Vogue Wedding, Elle Girl, Glitter, Gisele, Ginza, Vivi, Sense, Madame Figaro, Safari, etc.


There are a lot of different Japanese brands models can shoot for in Tokyo. Campaigns range from menswear, fashion clothes, as well as beauty campaigns.

Clients include: Snidel, Laguna Moon, Duras, Dazzlin, Uniqlo, Moussey, Lunasol, Million Carats, Roen, X'tyle, Antguage, titty&co., L'Excellence de Miki, J. Ferry, Male&Co., etc.


Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Tokto (MBFWT) has two fashion weeks each year:

Fall/Winter - Middle of March – Castings start the beginning of February

Spring/Summer - Fall/Winter: October – Castings start the beginning of September

Clients: A Degree Fahrenheit, Vivienne Tam, Factotum, Atsushi Nakashima, Christian Dada, Ganryu, Hisui, etc.



Agency List

There are many good agencies in Tokyo; it's all about finding an agency that will be able to promote you best. Finding success in the market is all about finding an agency that's the best fit for you. Even if you don't find the right agency the first time around, don't give up on the market just yet.



Cinq De Un


Agence Presse


White - Closed

Hi & Mi








Note: The Business Model does not necessarily promote any of the above agencies. The following list is to serve as a directory so models can be aware of the current active agencies in the market. Before signing with any agency, TBM strongly encourages all models to read contracts carefully. 

Richard Bell

Richard Bell

Ph: Kirsten Hassall

Ph: Kirsten Hassall

Words of Advice

Manners - Good manners are very important in Japan. People are expected to be very polite and conservative so please be respectful of the culture and customs. Avoid eating in public, say 'excuse me', and be pleasant.

Tokyo is expensive - Even though models generally earn more money in Tokyo, living in the city is very expensive and the difference between a model's gross and net can be staggering.

Castings off the plane - There's a good chance that if your plane lands in the morning or in the afternoon that you'll have castings straight off the plane. To be prepared, have your grooming/makeup bag, shaving kit, casting clothes, high heels, and portfolio all either in your carry on or in an easily accessible part of your suitcase. 

Bring a book/iPad - You'll most likely be sitting in the casting van for up to (if not more than) 8 hours per day. There is a lot of sitting in traffic and waiting around that goes on so bring a book, iPod, iPad, or your homework to use your time productively. 

Kirsten Hassall in Gisele Magazine

Kirsten Hassall in Gisele Magazine

Basic Information

Agency Commission: 40-50% excluding mother agency's 10%

Expenses Advanced: Yes. Tokyo agencies will advance a models expenses including flight and accommodation if requested. Next to Hong Kong, Tokyo expenses are the highest in Asia.

Guarantees: Tokyo agencies always offer guarantees. But if a model isn't working within the first two weeks, the host agency can cancel the guarantee without giving any money to the model. Agency, model's portfolio, and the model's years of experience are the three main factors that determine the model's guarantee.

For more information on the ins-and-outs of guarantees, check out this TBM article. 

Standard Contract: 45-60 Days

Visa Status: Work Visa Required – E-Class (E for Entertainer)

Ph: Kirsten Hassall

Ph: Kirsten Hassall

Model Apartments: Poor/Fair

The model apartments in Tokyo tend to be on the smaller side. Usually a maximum of four models will share an apartment and it's common for a model to get their own room. The rooms are incredibly small and usually only fit a bed and a nightstand, so models will be cramped for space.

Special thanks to: Lauren Rhoden - Model at Starz People, Hong Kong