Foreigners are getting more and more popular to hire in Japan lately. Partly because the upcoming Olympic games in Tokyo and partly because the population is starting to become more international. There are more and more foreigners living, studying and or working here now than ever before. A large decline in the young population might also be something triggering a more aggressive internationalization of the country.
Some things needs some explaining though so that you can be sure you get into a proper company and won’t just get ripped off by some company trying to use you. There are two types of offices in Japan: broadly speaking. Classical Japanese style and modern international style. Most large companies have been moving towards the latter but since huge corporations can have a hard time organizing change some parts could linger. When looking for a good place to work as a foreigner it could be worth it to look for the more international and modern businesses.
The stereotypical classical Japanese business have a very strong hierarchy that is mostly determined by the amounts of years spent successfully in the company. They often have a system that works a bit like garbage thrown into a waterfall and makes the lower ranks do most, if not all, of the gritty hard work. That also means they sometimes give out tasks outside of the employee’s actual responsibility. Some say they even send employees they don’t like off to a far away office to do shitty work instead of firing them so that they will quit of their own accord. It is not all bad though, since they often are a very stable form of income and don’t expect their employees to think too much.
Working for such a company might give you a day in the week where you do nothing but filling out papers or driving around your boss even though that is not your main responsibility. The office climate is often said to be a bit laid back and some people don’t work more than they have to as long as the boss is not looking. If you ever came into higher ranks of this kind of place you would probably feel very important and have the ability to boss around your assigned coworkers.
On the other hand the modern international businesses have a more “westernized” style and think more about actual performance of the employee at their assigned post. They are often open to negotiation and try to please their employees so that they will stay with the company. In these companies the culture inside the companies will vary a lot from place to place and even though they are loosely categorized as being international or modern Japanese rules can still be very strict in some areas. In these companies you might not get as much of the shittiest work just because you are “the new guy” but you will be forced to prove your worth to the company.
A normal day at a modern style business are very different and depends greatly on what you work with. Usually they have more services and recess areas so that you can relax and talk casually with your coworkers on your obligatory 1 hour long lunch break. There might be a lot more meetings where you can voice your opinions (more or less). Given a task from your boss you would have to work hard to finish it on time for the deadline and if you can’t you may not be entrusted with the most important tasks again.
There are some things to take note of regarding work in Japan in general though. In contrast to some other countries in the world, Japanese companies often have almost no patience with people being late. There is also a very strict rule regarding how you should go about a task given to you when you run into a problem. It’s called “hourensouhou – 報連相（ホウレンソウ）” easily remembered because it has the same spelling as “Spinach” in Japanese, but it is a actually short for: inform, contact, ask for advice. Not all companies implements this rule but it can be worth a look up!
In other words it is important to look for signs of things and rules that you do not agree with or don’t like when looking for a company in Japan. Often smaller new businesses have better implementations of the modern style and are in many cases preferable. Don’t go for some company that you don’t know anything about. Try to get some information about the working climate in the office when you are at the interview and try to get a peek at some employees walking around the office and see if you can imagine yourself in their position.
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