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I need to better understand the employment landscape in Japan

franck.f

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Hi everyone,

I'm currently trying to gather very basic stats concerning the work landscape in Japan from the perspective of expats/foreigners working in Japan and it would be great if some of you could answer a couple of questions listed as follows :

1. Did you choose to work in a Japanese company or in a foreign-owned company?
Why did you make that choice?

2. What was the primary reason why you chose the company you're currently working for?
(language, culture, environment, salary, working hours, other incentives etc.)

3. Could you write a little bit about both the best and worst aspects of working in Japan in your opinion?

4. Finally, only if you don't mind, your nationality, age, gender and industry.

Thanks in advance for your replies! :)
 

Glenski

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1. Did you choose to work in a Japanese company or in a foreign-owned company?
Why did you make that choice?

Japanese company initially
Easy to get into.

2. What was the primary reason why you chose the company you're currently working for?
(language, culture, environment, salary, working hours, other incentives etc.)

There was no single primary reason. Money was a major factor, yet, but tenure was also very important as was the fewer classroom hours compared to HS.

3. Could you write a little bit about both the best and worst aspects of working in Japan in your opinion?

This is extremely difficult to answer. If you want an answer just from my own field, that narrows it down somewhat, but even in education (teaching English), it pretty much covers a lot of ground, from eikaiwa to K12 to univ/college to biz English school to privately owned school.
One good aspect regardless of industry is that for Americans you are exempt from U.S. taxes up to a fairly high figure (roughly $92,000 now).
A bad aspect is that you should learn the Japanese language (spoken, written), and it's not all that easy a language to learn. Can't say whether this is the "worst" aspect, though. In education, especially university teaching, the job stability is poor. Most uni teachers today are on short-term contracts and are part-time teachers.

4. Finally, only if you don't mind, your nationality, age, gender and industry.

American, 59, male, education
 

cocoichi

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Hi, I am currently not working in Japan, but I'm planning to move somewhere in 2017. Maybe my intentions and reasons why could be interesting to you. I did work in japan before (internship that is, at a Japanese company)

1. Did you choose to work in a Japanese company or in a foreign-owned company?
Why did you make that choice?

I would want to enter a Japanese company, since my main interest is online marketing and international sales. I would like to represent a domestic company in other markets. It would be easier to communicate to customers in my native language or English, than to communicate in Japanese. I believe that I am more valuable to a Japanese company with limited international experience, than to a foreign company looking to expand in Japan. Another reason for wanting to work at a Japanese company in Japan rather than for a foreign-owned company, is my "fear" of the foreign company one day shutting down their Japanese operations, leaving me jobless. I am Dutch, and as a citizen of a country where employees are protected pretty well, those things scare me the most. I guess I just have to deal with it.

2. What was the primary reason why you chose the company you're currently working for?
(language, culture, environment, salary, working hours, other incentives etc.)

Since Japanese work life demands a lot of hours devoted to the job, I would try to apply for jobs in industries that I'm really interested in (craft beer, FMCG, travel, sports). Salary would be important to, but as I am planning to stick with a company for many years, I see my initial salary merely as an investment. Knowing that it will increase if I deliver, and hoping that I will one day be assigned manager.

3. Could you write a little bit about both the best and worst aspects of working in Japan in your opinion?

Nothing that can't be dealt with. A well prepared foreigner would have read most of the horror stories (long hours, demanding bosses, endless drinking with superiors, ugly bright lit office rooms with grey and green interiors with 20 people in the same room, decision making that does not make any sense to you, cleaning the office every morning at 7.30, etc etc. Expect these things to happen, and be flexible about it. Know that things are different there.
One of the best aspects (during my internship) is the sense that you ARE the brand, and that success is a group effort.

4. Finally, only if you don't mind, your nationality, age, gender and industry.
28, Male, Dutch, doing all kinds of things at a university (except teaching)
 

cocoichi

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4. Finally, only if you don't mind, your nationality, age, gender and industry.

American, 59, male, education
Glenski, are you going to retire any time soon? You're approaching the Japanese retirement age, right?
May I ask how long you have lived in Japan?
 

Kazekawa

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1. Did you choose to work in a Japanese company or in a foreign-owned company?
Why did you make that choice?

I chose to work in a foreign-owned company. I have found that working for a foreigner leads to working for somebody who has been through what you are about to go through. There are various things that you will have to deal with while living and working here and it does not hurt to have people around to talk to, confide in and understand you.

2. What was the primary reason why you chose the company you're currently working for?
(language, culture, environment, salary, working hours, other incentives etc.)

All of the above really. It took a few years to find the right company for me, but the one I have been working at for 5 years has treated me very well. Paid vacation, decent salary, good location, fellow foreign residents, etc. It really depends on what kind of career you plan to get involved with.

3. Could you write a little bit about both the best and worst aspects of working in Japan in your opinion?

If your visa is sponsored by the company... they can just about hold you hostage. You aren't going to make waves and will be willing to deal with a lot of crap when someone holds something like that over you. There are all kinds of cultural misunderstandings, mistakes and problems that can arise by not understanding what is considered normal. For example, the Japanese do not openly complain about customers/fellow co-workers, etc. Doing so to them is going to make you look incredibly bad.

However, there are bonuses to working in Japan. Depending on the career, you could be seen as someone with outside knowledge and ability who is able to spice up the lives of those around you. It really depends on where and with whom you are working.

4. Finally, only if you don't mind, your nationality, age, gender and industry.

I'm a Caucasian (yes, this can matter) American. 30 years old (been here since I was 20), Male, English conversation teacher (though I have tried car exporting and was an international teacher for a time).
 

cocoichi

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4. Finally, only if you don't mind, your nationality, age, gender and industry.

I'm a Caucasian (yes, this can matter) American. 30 years old (been here since I was 20), Male, English conversation teacher (though I have tried car exporting and was an international teacher for a time).

Could you tell me more about your experience in the car exporting industry? I often see those ads. It looks kind of interesting, but then I am a little cautious because those ads keep popping up. Looks like people come and go all the time.
 

Kazekawa

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Could you tell me more about your experience in the car exporting industry? I often see those ads. It looks kind of interesting, but then I am a little cautious because those ads keep popping up. Looks like people come and go all the time.

If I must recall those dark days, certainly. It was in a very tiny bedroom in a Japanese/Chinese couples apartment. They would steal pictures from popular Japanese used car companies, then put them on their website. I was then instructed (with no experience whatsoever) to email every single person I could find on the planet to develop contacts and push our "cars" onto them.

When someone wanted to buy "the car" in the picture, the couple would search auctions for the cheapest one they could find that matched the description and then sold it at a profit. I sold one car while there and it made me feel sick to my stomach as I was forced to lie to the guy buying the car that "yes, we have the car in our lot right now!".

I was then scolded for not turning more of a profit on it. The wife was Chinese. She was a fan of getting really close to my face before shouting and becoming hostile. The Japanese husband was an incredibly kind guy. There was an African guy working there as well. His trick was selling cars to his friends in South Africa.

They eventually moved to a new apartment right next to my old one with the intent of having me work extra hours as I didn't need a commute. They talked the African guy into take a spare bedroom so he could work as long as possible.

I cannot say for certain if my experience was just outright insane, but i'd suggest caution and confirm things before getting involved with any exporting company. I needed the work at the time and the unemployment office hooked me up with the "company".

Good times they were not.
 

cocoichi

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If I must recall those dark days, certainly. It was in a very tiny bedroom in a Japanese/Chinese couples apartment. They would steal pictures from popular Japanese used car companies, then put them on their website. I was then instructed (with no experience whatsoever) to email every single person I could find on the planet to develop contacts and push our "cars" onto them.

When someone wanted to buy "the car" in the picture, the couple would search auctions for the cheapest one they could find that matched the description and then sold it at a profit. I sold one car while there and it made me feel sick to my stomach as I was forced to lie to the guy buying the car that "yes, we have the car in our lot right now!".

I was then scolded for not turning more of a profit on it. The wife was Chinese. She was a fan of getting really close to my face before shouting and becoming hostile. The Japanese husband was an incredibly kind guy. There was an African guy working there as well. His trick was selling cars to his friends in South Africa.

They eventually moved to a new apartment right next to my old one with the intent of having me work extra hours as I didn't need a commute. They talked the African guy into take a spare bedroom so he could work as long as possible.

I cannot say for certain if my experience was just outright insane, but i'd suggest caution and confirm things before getting involved with any exporting company. I needed the work at the time and the unemployment office hooked me up with the "company".

Good times they were not.

Thanks for this information. Some of the companies look legitimate, with a big office in Yokohama (I always do a google streetview out of interest), but some do indeed look shabby. My Japanese wife while living with me in Europe once took on an internet job where she would have to act as a EN/JP translator and international Ebay customer service person for a Japanese individual. The guy sold watches online to people in the US and Europe for about 50% of their market value, claiming he had connections with the Japanese factory. Within two weeks she had many complaints about the authenticity of the products. Seems like you shouldn't trust a Japanese webshop just because you think Japanese are sincere and honest people. The internet can take out the worst in anyone.
 

Kazekawa

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Thanks for this information. Some of the companies look legitimate, with a big office in Yokohama (I always do a google streetview out of interest), but some do indeed look shabby. My Japanese wife while living with me in Europe once took on an internet job where she would have to act as a EN/JP translator and international Ebay customer service person for a Japanese individual. The guy sold watches online to people in the US and Europe for about 50% of their market value, claiming he had connections with the Japanese factory. Within two weeks she had many complaints about the authenticity of the products. Seems like you shouldn't trust a Japanese webshop just because you think Japanese are sincere and honest people. The internet can take out the worst in anyone.

People are crappy everywhere. The mistake we make is thinking that a race of people or a certain country would surely not do this or that because... well in their past they were super nice, or they have no reason to do so! My wife just the other day got a text from her friend asking her for a large sum of money (her friends line account was hacked by some random Japanese guy). She realized right away what had happened and said she had no money on her. So the guy persisted for 20 minutes asking about her bank account and such.

If people can find a way to cheat, swindle, or get an advantage over another person.... somebody is going to do it. It doesn't matter where they come from or where they live. Take heed for sure and don't even trust local businesses. It's not just online you have to worry about. There are shady as heck people I have encountered in Japan who have little or no internet presence and were just as bad.

Another tip is to be careful with signing up for a company before coming here. If you do sign a contract in advance, it had better be incredibly damned specific with no ambiguity.
 

Glenski

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cocoichi wrote:
Glenski, are you going to retire any time soon? You're approaching the Japanese retirement age, right?
May I ask how long you have lived in Japan?
Retirement at my uni is age 63. Many/Most will continue for another 1-2 years as a part-timer in order to ensure full retirement / pension benefits. I have a child who will still be in secondary school then, so I would like to work PT much longer, whatever type of job I can find.

I've been here since 1998.
 

Glenski

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Kazekawa wrote:
If your visa is sponsored by the company... they can just about hold you hostage. You aren't going to make waves and will be willing to deal with a lot of crap when someone holds something like that over you.
What the hell are you talking about? Employers cannot revoke your visa (unlike in Korea).
 

franck.f

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Glenski, Cocoichi, Kazekawa, thank you very much for your time!

It helped a lot, really.

But I need more opinions from more people.

I'm looking forward to reading more inputs.

Thanks again
 
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cocoichi

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Glenski, Cocoichi, Kazekawa, thank you very much for your time!

It helped a lot, really.

But I need more opinions from more people.

I'm looking forward to reading more inputs.

Thanks again

Maybe you should explain more what it is for, and what you are planning to do :)
 

johnnyG

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First, this board isn't that big--you're going to get a really skewed bit of data.

1. I wanted to continue working outside the US (not necessarily Japan), and was trying to make the best of that. I left a uni job in Korea, and another one before that in Beijing, and spent two teaching in Tokyo before here. (I think I got there in '85 or '86.)

2. It was a job that happened to be available in the city where my soon-to-be wife was already working.

3. Best: universal healthcare (along with controlled costs). Excellent daycare (meaning 保育園 and not 幼稚園). Excellent food. Clean air, & tap water is excellent (sea of japan side). Excellent cycling. No guns. And, as someone who has taught in both China and Korea, the realization that Japan is a place you can live long term--not just work a while and leave or "go back home".

4. Male, caucasian, US, uni education, turning 64 this month, and for the present intend to retire 'in place' (in less than 18 months). Barring some cataclysm, I'm pretty sure I'll live here till I'm not living any more.
 

Kazekawa

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Kazekawa wrote:

What the hell are you talking about? Employers cannot revoke your visa (unlike in Korea).

You learn to relax and give it some thought. Correct, the employer itself CANNOT revoke your visa. Only immigration can revoke a visa. That being said, they can easily report you to immigration to let them know that you are no longer working for them and they are no longer sponsoring you. Some companies with a grudge have been reported in the past to make all kinds of accusations to immigration.

Likewise, if you got a sponsored visa for one type of work, and then switched career paths, that too can cause issues. So my statement stands, companies who sponsor your visa do have some power over you and really crappy bosses will remind you of this. I have had co-workers experience this. I myself have a spouse visa and no such power was held over me by any companies I have worked for.
 

Mike Cash

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You learn to relax and give it some thought. Correct, the employer itself CANNOT revoke your visa. Only immigration can revoke a visa. That being said, they can easily report you to immigration to let them know that you are no longer working for them and they are no longer sponsoring you. Some companies with a grudge have been reported in the past to make all kinds of accusations to immigration.

Likewise, if you got a sponsored visa for one type of work, and then switched career paths, that too can cause issues. So my statement stands, companies who sponsor your visa do have some power over you and really crappy bosses will remind you of this. I have had co-workers experience this. I myself have a spouse visa and no such power was held over me by any companies I have worked for.

About time for you to go PR, don't you think?
 

Mike Cash

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What do you mean? o_O

Permanent Residence.

You're in exactly the same position that you warn against; your continued 在留資格 is in the hands of someone else. Or are you able to go to a regular working visa if you suddenly find yourself single?
 

Kazekawa

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Permanent Residence.

You're in exactly the same position that you warn against; your continued 在留資格 is in the hands of someone else. Or are you able to go to a regular working visa if you suddenly find yourself single?

My wife of 10 years with whom I have 2 children and a house vs a random boss in Japan? I am not sure they are exactly the same situation, and yes, my work would be able to give a visa should I need it. I'll be getting my PR next year once I fill out the paperwork.

But this is off topic and not about me and my situation. This is warning other people about the potential for problems. Let us return to the topic of experiences working in Japan.
 

Mike Cash

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My wife of 10 years with whom I have 2 children and a house vs a random boss in Japan? I am not sure they are exactly the same situation, and yes, my work would be able to give a visa should I need it. I'll be getting my PR next year once I fill out the paperwork.

But this is off topic and not about me and my situation. This is warning other people about the potential for problems. Let us return to the topic of experiences working in Japan.

Right.... because length of marriage and presence of children automagically makes one immune from dissolution of the marriage. Gotcha.

Imagine a situation in which one is here repeatedly renewing spouse visas, feels no need to change to a status not dependent on being a spouse, is not eligible for a regular working visa....and whose spouse unexpectedly dies.

Your admonition against thread drift would be easier to swallow were you yourself not the major source of it in the thread. A word count would probably reveal that the bulk of the content so far has been your off-topic comments. The OP has gotten about all the on topic replies he is likely to get. I certainly have no intention of answering his questions if he can't be bothered to tell us why he's asking.
 

Glenski

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You learn to relax and give it some thought. Correct, the employer itself CANNOT revoke your visa. Only immigration can revoke a visa. That being said, they can easily report you to immigration to let them know that you are no longer working for them and they are no longer sponsoring you.
So what? Legally, you have only 3 months to stay if one's job is up and one can't find work (and doesn't show extenuating circumstances).

Some companies with a grudge have been reported in the past to make all kinds of accusations to immigration.
Again, so what? If the grudge is warranted, why shouldn't they complain?
If the claims are unfounded, it's often pretty easy to show. Immigration is not stupid. Sounds like you have had some direct experience, and it would behoove you to elaborate.

Likewise, if you got a sponsored visa for one type of work, and then switched career paths, that too can cause issues.
"Issues"? Like what? If your new career path does not make you eligible for the work visa you have, you apply to change it. Pretty straightforward process not fraught with problems beyond typical bureaucratic paperwork.

I myself have a spouse visa and no such power was held over me by any companies I have worked for.
Well, not everyone here is married to a Japanese, so why flaunt it? Your whole tirade has been for people on work visas, so it's not exactly pertinent to switch gears.
 

Kazekawa

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Right.... because length of marriage and presence of children automagically makes one immune from dissolution of the marriage. Gotcha.

Imagine a situation in which one is here repeatedly renewing spouse visas, feels no need to change to a status not dependent on being a spouse, is not eligible for a regular working visa....and whose spouse unexpectedly dies.

Your admonition against thread drift would be easier to swallow were you yourself not the major source of it in the thread. A word count would probably reveal that the bulk of the content so far has been your off-topic comments. The OP has gotten about all the on topic replies he is likely to get. I certainly have no intention of answering his questions if he can't be bothered to tell us why he's asking.

Yikes, tried to ask nicely. Pulling out of this thread and refusing to continue it in such a hostile environment. Both of you guys come off as incredibly aggressive and there is no reason for that whatsoever.

Frank, if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to message me privately ^_^.
 
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Mike Cash

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Yikes, tried to ask nicely. Pulling out of this thread and refusing to continue it in such a hostile environment. Both of you guys come off as incredibly aggressive and there is no reason for that whatsoever.

Frank, if you have any more questions, please don't hesitate to message me privately ^_^.

And I just as calmly pointed out the incongruity of your net-copping us. I can't help but imagine an old salt like you must have learned the phrase 自分のことを棚にあげる by this point. On top of which it doesn't sit well when someone who just showed up here days ago dictates posting behavior to the longest active member on the forum. You can get miffed act play the aggrieved victim if that's how you roll, but if you don't like being called on your insolence....the simple solution is to avoid being insolent.
 

Glenski

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Put another way:
“The great tragedy of Science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact”
 
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