Want to start Work in Japan? Crucial Tips for Success!

Want to start Work in Japan? Crucial Tips for Success!

Do you want to work in Japan? Have you landed a job position yet? Thousands of people dream about working in the country of their dreams and living their best life in Japan, but the Japanese work life can be quite a working culture shock for some.

Whether or not you‘ve secured a job in Japanyet, it’s best to get a few tips on how to navigate the Japanese working culture and come out of it successfully. Here are 9 tips for success when beginning to work in Japan!

1. (Try to) Learn Japanese

It’s not uncommon to get a job in Japan that doesn’t require Japanese. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the language at all. Even if you’re not allowed to use Japanese at work, it shouldn’t hinder your learning process. 

When you can communicate in Japanese, even at a basic level, you open so many more doors of opportunity for yourself. It can definitely help you grow and move up in the country. You can choose to go to after-work Japanese classes or self-learn, but definitely practice consistently. Making Japanese friends definitely will help.

2. Accept criticism

In Japanese work culture, criticism is often part and parcel of the job. Expect it every other day, if not every day. When you do receive criticism, don’t be defensive. Accept it and thank them for the feedback.

If you start telling others that they’re wrong, you aren’t helping anyone, especially yourself. You’re actually making it worse by losing the respect of others. Japan’s work culture is where criticism is given more than praise, so be sure you’re prepared for them.

3. Don’t question or answer back to superiors

The hierarchy at work is pretty strict in Japan. Remember who are your superiors and who are your subordinates. When your superiors tell you off for doing something wrong, don’t answer back or question them. Simply accept and move on. 

This hierarchical structure applies even for locals and not just foreigners. You can only start giving orders around when you yourself become a superior, how ever long that may take.

4. Work overtime

In Japan, expect to work more hours than you signed up for. It’s common in companies to work past the time you’re supposed to leave. Overtime is kind of required even though it doesn’t say in the contract. 

Most of the time, overtime is usually paid. However, if it’s not, suck it up. If you start making a fuss about not working overtime without pay, you might get a bad reputation in the company. An extra thirty minutes is a small price to pay to be on the good side of the higher ups. 

5. Wait a few years before rocking the boat

In Japanese companies, the longer you are in the company, the more respected you are. If you just entered the company, wait a few more years before pitching your brilliant new ideas. You might be ostracised and get backlash. Others might think you’re trying to change the place when you are just a newbie.

In Japan, unless you have authority to carry these new ideas, they aren’t as valuable as you might think. It’s harsh, but it’s the truth for some companies. 

6. Don’t make excuses

This next point is linked to point number 2. When you are given criticism or someone has misunderstood something about you or your work, don’t make excuses. Simply accept it and apologise. If you apologise by saying “moushi wake gozaimasen” (申し訳ございません), this literally means “there is no excuse”. It’s better to apologise without actually admitting fault than to come up with excuses in Japanese work culture. And also let them know that it won’t happen again, and make sure it doesn’t!

7. Dress the part

The work attire in Japan is quite uniform for most companies. Salarymen often wear a suit and tie in cooler seasons, and a smart casual version called “Cool Biz” in the summer. This is when it’s acceptable to wear short-sleeved shirts with no ties to beat the summer heat.

Women are sometimes expected to wear work heels, but some companies are taking this rule out of their attire rules. Makeup is often kept at minimum and basic, and this also includes hair colour and hairstyle. 

This work attire also depends on the industry you’re in. If you’re in the creative industry, you can get away with quite a bit more. Check with your coworkers first if you’re unsure about the dress code for your company. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. 

8. Be punctual 

There’s a saying that goes “time is money”. It’s quite applicable in Japan. Japanese people are known to be punctual or early when it comes to timing. Whether it’s a formal meeting or a casual meet up with friends, timing is quite important to the Japanese people. 

When you’re on time, you’re considered late. Always try to be at least five minutes early to avoid this. Even though you can call in advance to inform them you’re going to be late, Japanese people will apologise profusely when they are late to an appointment. 

In a work setting, if you’re late to a meeting, it leaves a bad impression on you. It’s not the most ideal, especially if you’re the one presenting. Definitely come prepared and come on-time, if not early.

9. Be a team player

Last but not least, always be a team player when in a Japanese company. In Japanese work culture, teamwork is more important than individualism. If you take credit for yourself only, you wouldn’t have the best reputation at work. As they say, there’s no “I” in “team”.

There’s also this Japanese national characteristic known as “omotenashi”, which is the Japanese hospitality of politeness and care for others. Be sharp of your coworkers’ feelings and tasks. Offer to help out if they need a hand while still keeping your boundaries. Sometimes, some people want to do all the work themselves, so you wouldn’t want to annoy them with that.

Start planning your career in Japan!

The Japanese working culture can be quite a difficult one to decode, but if you’re alert and motivated to improve, you’ll definitely get the hang of the Japanese work environment. You have these 9 tips to get you started with succeeding in work in Japan – get on working that job position or promotion! 

Work in Japan: Fantasy vs Reality

Work in Japan: Fantasy vs Reality

Working is a chore. Working in a foreign country like Japan sounds exciting. I bet every foreigner who’s ever worked in Japan thought that at first. What they’re thinking now is slightly different…

There’s a fantasy of working life in Japan, and it’s quite the opposite of the reality. I’m not trying to scare you away from finding a job here. But it’s best to know a few things before you commit a few years to a new job in a foreign country.

In this article, we’re going to look at 3 fantasies in comparison with their realities. 

man drinking starbucks in front of a computer

Fantasy: After-work fun

Who doesn’t like a couple of drinks after work? A normal job takes up five days a week, leaving weekends and weekday evenings for leisure. You’ve got to make the most of your free time out of work. Especially if you’re thinking about working in a city like Tokyo, you might be expecting a couple of pints of beer after a long day of hard work.

There is some truth in that. Going for rounds of drinks with colleagues is actually part of the work culture here. It’s a way to bond with your coworkers. When you build stronger relationships, Japanese people believe that the workflow will be more effective. 

If your boss joins you at the after-work drinking as well, that’s when it gets even more fun. That means that the boss will pay. Free drinks for all! 

Reality: Overtime work

Realistically, you’re not going to be able to drink every night. In fact, you might not even be able to do much at night, other than sleeping. The harsh reality is that Japan has a very tough working culture. Everyone basically works overtime. Staying overtime is sometimes required, even though it’s not stated in any contract or written document. It’s an unspoken rule. You’d have to ‘read the air’ to find out. 

Depending on your company, you might not even get paid for the overtime hours (so check before signing any contracts).

In Japanese work etiquette, you don’t leave before the boss. If the boss decides to stay till 10PM, everyone else is expected to stay till 10:30PM. That’s just how it is. Let’s hope your boss doesn’t like overtime as much!

However, I’ve heard from some friends who are not required to work overtime and it’s fine with their company. So it’s not a hard-and-fast rule.

People with umbrellas leaving a building

Fantasy: Individualism

If you’ve seen or heard about Japan, you might’ve heard about their crazy fashion and perspective. Tokyo’s Harajuku neighbourhood is an outlet for the locals to express themselves and their ideas any way they like. No judgement whatsoever.

And from my own experience, this expressiveness and individualism can go beyond the neighbourhood. You see locals going out of the box in other cities, too. Many people travel to Japan to witness this unique culture for themselves. Some want the opportunity to spread their wings as well.

To be honest, it was one of my reasons for going to Japan, too. I needed to stretch my legs a bit. I wanted to explore my individuality. 

Reality: Uniformity

While you can definitely explore it during your free time, it’s not at all like that at work. The work life in Japan, and generally the cultural norm, is uniformity. When it comes to dressing, you have to look like everyone else. The dress code has to be followed. 

And it doesn’t just stop at appearance. It includes other aspects of work life. There are ways of doing things in terms of how you speak, act and react in the office. The work etiquette has a set of rules in its system, and it has to be abided by.

My personal experience with working for a Japanese company wasn’t at all like that, though. I had a bit more freedom when it comes to what I wear and how I speak. At the end of the day, it really depends on how traditional or modern the company you’re with is.

People going up on an escalator

Fantasy: Culture enriching

Moving to a new country is exciting. You’re going to be in a different environment. Everything is new. You’re going to be immersed in a foreign culture. It’s going to be like one long vacation.

On my days off where I go on day trips and sightseeing spots, the culturally enriching factor kicks in. There’s always something new to discover about Japan and its culture. One part of the country can have various cultural facts compared to another. Take Osaka and Tokyo, for example. The two are so similar, yet dramatically different in so many ways. 

Reality: Culture shock

After the holiday mood fades away, you’ll soon realise that everyday life involves stress and mundane routines. Even in a different country, you can’t avoid that. When you work in Japan, you’ll also discover aspects about the Japanese working culture – both good and bad. 

While in some countries, you don’t have to keep up with formalities in the office. When you work in Japan, they’re very strict on that. It also comes hand in hand with hierarchy. Yup, there’s work hierarchy culture here.

And it doesn’t mean age. Someone five years younger than you can have a higher status. Someone who enters the company later than you can be your boss. Regardless, you’ll have to speak to them like how you would an elderly: with respect and keigo (敬語).

Working Life in Japan

Expect big changes when you move your life to Japan, especially if you’re planning to work here. Even with these three comparisons, working life in Japan is not all bad. There are perks and advantages. And not all companies are going to be the same. At the end of the day, you’re going to experience things you’ll never be able to back in your own country. So take a leap of faith and start applying!