An apprenticeship in a traditional Japanese craft can be daunting for even the keenest student. Often lasting years and with few vacation days, the commitment requires unwavering endeavor and patience, without even the guarantee of a lifelong livelihood on completion. Many of Japan’s crafts are in decline, offering artisans an uncertain future.

For a foreign national, then, the path to apprenticeship and beyond — to employment or self-employment — can seem impassable. Not only is the craft new and often unlike anything experienced before, but the language and culture of the teaching environment is unfamiliar.

Still, more and more people from around the world are embracing the challenge and carving out a place for themselves in Japan’s oldest industries. Many are determined to turn their passion into a job, either in Japan or their home country, and to help future-proof their much-loved craft.