by Kit Nagamura

ALL CHILDREN are either cute as bugs or just plain gorgeous, your own especially. It might not occur to you to test that theory at large, but in Japan, foreign-looking faces and body shapes are hot commodities and it’s not unusual for young ones to be scouted for modeling on the street. If you can’t wait for such a serendipitous encounter, you can register your child at a nearby “talent” or modeling agency. Before you offer up junior’s services in the limelight, however, a few considerations.

First, not every tyke is ready for work — and modeling is serious work, even at the elementary levels. Additionally, your child might be a natural ham in front of your camera, but faced with a telephoto lens and a stranger, freak out. It’s wise to test the perimeters first, because canceling a work contract at the last moment can cost everyone involved.

Generally speaking, though, if your child is the extroverted sort who responds well to instructions and cheerfully takes on a task until it’s done correctly, then you might be in business. Here’s how it works. Clients usually contact an agency that handles foreign (or mixed nationality) models, and specify their needs — a 5-year-old, blue-eyed boy, for example. The agent then offers the client choices from a file of registered models. If your child has what the client is looking for, your agent will negotiate a “guarantee” (the pay), finesse the legal and taxation details of child “artist” management, and assist you in getting to the job location. Some agencies require that you register exclusively with them, others charge a minimal registration fee (usually ¥1,000), and some are freelance and fairly relaxed about the whole process.

When you register, the agency will usually measure your child, take a photograph, and surreptitiously check for manners, cheerfulness, and hygiene. Clean hair, dirt-free trimmed nails, and good teeth all factor in, so launch a scrub-fest before you go. Some agencies will allow you to supplement the composite portfolio with your own photos and a listing of your child’s talents (singing, dancing, sports, etc.) You will also need to show your child’s passport (unless he or she has Japanese nationality); bring your passport along just in case you, gorgeous parent that you are, get scouted too.

Next, you’ll need to offer up your contact information and the hours your child is available to work. Clear communication about the latter is crucial, so specify which hours, holidays, and weekends are okay. Some jobs are shot during school hours (in fact, some agencies only accept registration during the academic day to get you in the habit.) If you don’t like the idea, be clear about it from the start.

There are myriad modeling jobs your child might be offered. Still work — posters, billboards, magazines — is assigned by selection from an agency’s portfolio (the simplest deal for you) or by audition (which requires blocking in both the audition and the potential work date). Commercials and stints as TV or movie extras require a video-recorded audition, screen test, and if you land a speaking role, multiple read-throughs. The minimum pay for such work is about ¥12,000 per day, but that day can be a long one, with lots of hurry-up-and- wait. Bring an arsenal of snacks, books, homework, and quiet toys to quell ennui.

Runway work is much in the same vein — there are fittings, rehearsals, nips and tucks ad nauseam — but the reward is getting to strut your stuff on the catwalk. Parents I have talked to say there’s a certain amount of “I’m too sexy for my mom, too sexy for my dad,” about their junior runway stars, but admit that modeling tends to build confidence nearly as fast as the college account.


No fee; Contact: Akio-san
1-15-11 Jingumae. Harajuku, Shibuya-ku, Tel: 3402-7561
Registration Hours: M – F, 11 am – 4 pm

Registration fee: ¥1,000; Contact: Hase-san
2-11-9 Nishi Nakanobu, Shinagawa-ku, Tel: 3784-9851,

No fee; Contact: “Anyone who answers the phone”
1-6-6 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku; Tel: 3405-0410
Registration Hours: 11 am – 6 pm

No fee; Contact: Taka-san
8-13-19 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tel: 3405-7151
Registration Hours: M – F, about 11 am

JUNES (pronounced “Junesse”)
Registration Fee: ¥1,000; Contact: Soma-san or Rocky
GC Building, Nishi Azabu 2-24-37, Minato-ku; Tel: 5469-5333
Registration Hours: M – Thu., from 12:30 pm

Registration Fee: ¥1,000; Contact: Any agent
3-40-2 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; Tel: 3404-9429
Registration Hours: M – F, 10 – 11 am

Registration fee: ¥1,000 for foreigners; ¥30,000 portfolio fee for
mixed nationality models; Contact: Sonami-san or Masae-san
5-4-11 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku; Tel: 3280-5481
Registration Hours: M – F, 10 am – 6:30 pm

No fee for kids; ¥500 for adults; Contact: Eri-san
1-19-13-402 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku; Tel: 5411-7747
Registration Hours: M – F, 2 – 5 pm