Doing Business in Japan

What are the advantages and disadvantages of working in Japan?

So you have finally made your way to Japan or maybe you have even been here for a while already. As long as you are not filthy-rich, there will always be this one thing you will have to do – work.

We all have heard what others say about Japanese work ethics – Japanese people work hard, they work tirelessly day and night and they even die working.

How about foreigners who settled in here? Are they put up to the same standards or, maybe, their job is somewhat different? Let’s find out what they had to say about that.

Today’s article will cover some of the pros and cons of working for a Japanese company. Some opinions may not be new to you, however, some you may find shocking.

So what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Disadvantages of working in Japan

Having done my research I have, sadly, realized that many foreigners could easily list more negative aspects of working in Japan rather than positive ones. The most reoccurring ones were:

  • Long hours at work, a lot of (expected from you) overtime
  • Lack of sick leave and not enough holidays per year (Japanese national holidays do not make up for the time when you actually can hop on a plane and enjoy your Cuba Libre in an exotic country far away from your mundane duties)
  • Indirection, lack of straightforwardness

Other ones that filled up the list were:

  • Lack of family time and family empathy
  • Ineffective workstyle (e.g., meetings held for the sake of holding a meeting, “work hard, not smart”)
    Extra events that you have to participate in or help organizing (often during weekends or your days off) and the pressure that comes with it
  • Voicing your opinion or sharing ideas, especially if you have not been a member of the company for too long, is not welcome, thus feeling of unaccomplishment
  • Starting over from the bottom each time you change jobs
  • Foreign “masquerade” – some foreigners feel like as if they were used for what they look like, not for their skills
  • Late night drinking with coworkers and bosses after work, if not on daily basis then way too often
  • Feeling expendable as foreigners opposed to Japanese may just leave any time
  • Not being considered as part of the group since you are not Japanese, so that you are excluded from conversations on serious level
  • Using your nationality to justify as if you did not understand what you have been asked to do, when, clearly, you did
  • Reactive approach rather than proactive – usually you would hear about your mistakes rather than how to avoid them in the first place in this specific situation
  • Lack of proper training (that sometimes may take weeks)

That might be quite an overwhelming list, especially, if you have just taken your first steps in Japan or thinking of starting a new chapter in your life. However, is it that bad and Japan has nothing great to offer? That can’t be true, so let’s focus now on the positive aspects of working in Japan.

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Advantages of working in Japan

It may be surprising, after having been showered with all those cons, but there are some great advantages that you should pay attention to.
These are:

  • earning enough money to become fully independent and have a good quality of life
  • less taxes than in most countries
  • learning how to provide a polished product (you get to know what it really means to deliver a product or service of high quality)
  • teamwork – you are not left out as others often offer to support you finishing up your duties while on a project
  • establishing good relationship with foreign coworkers who may feel similar to what you feel, so you are not necessarily that alone here, and yes, it helps with the loneliness that will haunt you more often than not
  • company events that boost up team spirit and morale
  • so called “gaijin card” as foreigners are not expected to toe the company line
  • get-togethers with coworkers
  • stability as you will not be fired as easily as you could have in your home country
  • you can always show off to your friends back home that you work in Japan 🙂
  • you are not expected to deal with overwhelming amount of responsibility as you are perceived (and always will be) as an outsider
  • order and structure, planning
  • politeness and respect

That is not bad, isn’t it? Some characteristics are pretty unique in the world. For example, mentioned above, job stability is a very big advantage. If you are either from the United States or Europe, job stability is not promised. Especially, termination of contracts in the United States relatively very easy even if you compare it with Europe. Career Management, a German-based recruiting company specializing in Japan, said in their article “Once you are hired by a Japanese company, you cannot be made redundant easily due to its human-oriented and long-term-oriented business style.”

Despite facing many disadvantages that might be daunting at first, many foreigners still decide to stay in Japan, so something has make up for that. And what could be the reasons why foreigners still choose to come here and face the harshness of working in Japan is a topic for next time.

Stay tuned!

Денис - IT-специалист, с детства увлекающийся культурой Японии. В этом блоге он наконец-то воссоединил работу и увлечение. Денис стремится рассказать о своем опыте работы с клиентами из Японии и всегда ищет возможности для новых открытий.