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Call for guidance and tips regarding study-to-work transition in Tokyo as a foreigner


2 Feb 2017
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I plan to transition from studying (I am a postgraduate researcher on a scholarship) to a job in Tokyo. I will invest all the necessary time to make sure I have explored all the options and have really understood the implications of this. Yet, I am posting this to obtain first-hand experiences and advise that I might have not considered or overlooked.

If this forum is not appropriate for this type of threads, please delete this and forgive me.

About me:
  • I am from Europe. I have lived in Tokyo for quite a while. I have also lived in or travelled to many cities, and after all it's Tokyo the one I enjoy the most. I plan to stay for a long time.
  • I am a research student; student visa.
  • I have concluded over time that I do not enjoy what I am researching. I wish to move to a job.
However, finding a satisfying job as a foreigner in Tokyo is quite difficult. Therefore, here are a few things about me:
  • Degrees in engineering. (Problem-solving, mathematics, physics, mechanics, statistics, programming in C/C++/Python/MATLAB/JS, etc).
  • Native in English, Spanish, Catalan. Can understand French.
  • Studying Japanese in my free time. I will take N3 in December.
  • Studying data science (R, Python) in my free time.
  • Run a travel blog (PHP, HTML, CSS, social media, Photoshop).
  • Limited experience in software engineering.
  • Freelance experience in teaching.
And here are things I consider when thinking of a satisfactory job, which may or may not intersect:
  • Wish to stay in Tokyo.
  • I am single with 100% flexibility for business trips.
  • Love writing, editing, proofreading. Articles, stories, fiction, non-fiction or any sort of content.
  • Love linguistics, translation. I am a self-taught English speaker with native level.
  • Love working with people, be it Japanese or international demographics. Communication with clients, customers, etc.
  • Love traveling. Have travelled alone 50 countries. Would like to work in a travel-related business.
  • Love programming. Entry-level experience for many languages, but willing to learn in my free time.
  • Love team management. Work in or lead a team within a company.
  • Wish to work in a company with young/middle-age employees. Fresh, modern environment.
Considering all of these, and the fact that my Japanese is still not N3, I wonder if you have advice regarding:
(1) Possible industries, communities, etc in which to look for a job.
(2) Advice in transitioning from student visa to working visa.

Thank you 🙂:


Just me
20 Aug 2003
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Thank you for providing all of that background. How about adding what kind of job you want?

Also, I'm just curious about reasons why you don't like your research. I mean, you wrote "I do not enjoy what I am researching. I wish to move to a job." Nobody ever says you have to continue researching the topic you do; you can just get a job in a company or government lab that has related interests or that has an opportunity for you to apply your skills. Do you dislike the topic you're researching or doing research itself? And why?


12 Oct 2013
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For better or worse, one of the qualities that Japanese companies admire is persistence. Giving up something because you are bored of it is a kind of warning sign. At any company, even one you love, or one that makes products or services that you admire, you may well be asked to do very boring things. Seeing past the boredom to the eventual reward is a good thing. Getting a post-doctorate degree is a very good thing. The pool of undereducated people who like to travel and write is enormous. The pool of post-doctorate employees who bring brains and discipline is significantly smaller. If you like, continue your Japanese studies while you finish your degree. N3 is a very low value achievement. The number of people who are now at N1 is high, and is getting higher. But N3 is a good step towards N1, so continue to challenge yourself for that.


2 Feb 2017
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Thank you, Glenski and Majestic! I really appreciate your thoughts and your taking a minute to share them with me.

@Glenski: I am quite sure that what bores me is the research topic, or research field. I sit down and am excited about doing whatever tasks I planned for my day, but once I get started, I start thinking about all those other things I would like to do instead (for example, the ones mentioned on the list). I painstakingly go through my day most of the days. I have worked in this field before (as an engineering instead of doing pure research), and I did not enjoy it. I thought a research-oriented career would be more exciting, but I am now sort of ruling that option out as well, as you see.

At this point, changing research field doesn't make much sense (and is no easy feat to secure a scholarship in a field you have no experience in). I also find this field to be quite isolated, overlapping only with a few other engineering fields.

What I have in mind as a venture I would like to join is one which has (1) a more direct impact on and interaction with society and local/global communities, (2) has a more social workplace (even though I am part of a team in which I contribute in other projects, researching my own line of research for my own scientific (and graduation) purposes feels lonely most of the time), (3) offers a wider spectrum of industries with which to collaborate and work (I certainly enjoy and value exploring different industries, and obtaining more knowledge about the global scene out of that). Hopefully that makes sense and is not just a long synonym for "I'm young and bored."

@Majestic: Thank you for your wise words. I am not giving up over night, I have been considering this for several months. I believe a way to approach this is to get a part-time job in a company and combine that with my research and my free time learning activities, and see how that goes.
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