Working in Japan

Working in Japan – Interview with packaging designer Miki

Interview with Miki Kawamura

BlaBlaJapan had an amazing opportunity to have interview with packaging designer Miki Kawamura, and asked for her career and tips how foreigners can win a designer’s post in Japan. You will learn about required skills for being a designer, advices on job hunting and chance to become freelance designer in Japan.

Miki Kawamura used to work for a Japanese packaging design company, BRAVIS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED Japan, from 2013 to 2016. She is currently based in Hamburg, Germany, working at Serviceplan Groupe GmbH which is also a packaging design company, as well as a freelance packaging designer. One of her several awards to be highlighted is Pentaward PACKAGING CONCEPT PROFESSIONAL (LUXURY) – Gold (England).

What kind of career would be required when you look for a post as designer in Japan?

The best would be to graduate from a famous university with major in art or design. Because companies which look for designers ask directly to those famous universities. So, the students there will automatically have chance to apply for those posts.Job offer from company to students in JapanMy university was not famous at all even if my major was in art and culture, so I and my classmates didn’t get such opportunities through the university. That is why all of us was doing job hunting in a normal way, so sending CVs to every possible company.

She explained during the interview how she got the post even if her university was not famous at all (from 4:23).

How can I search for design companies in Japan?

Applicants should decide the location at first. For example, Tokyo or Osaka. Then open the “Google Map”, input the keyword “graphic design”, “package design” whatever you want to search for. Then you’ll find many companies. Usually, if you click each pin, the website information is published. So, check the company’s website and confirm whether you are interested in the company or not. If yes, send your CV and portfolio directly to the company via Email.

How to find companies in Japan

How should foreigners do job hunting if they want to work as designer in Japan?

The best is as I mentioned earlier to major in art at famous university. Because Japanese people / companies care about names of universities. Master diploma is also an additional point. In Japan, many of us have only bachelor degree. So, if you have master diploma it shows that you have higher skill than the other applicants only with bachelor degree. Thus, English language skill is also appreciated. Because the clients of Japanese package design companies are getting international and international. They have lots of clients in Asia such as South Korea, Thailand or China. English will help to communicate with them, and understand their culture and needs.

Packaging design is strongly connected with local culture.

How important to have Japanese language skill?

Being able to speak Japanese is one of the key skills you should have. You don’t have to be native speaker. It doesn’t have to be at very high level, either. But simply, the communication is done in Japanese in most cases. At least the attitude to learn Japanese is definitely required.

Advice to avoid shady job posting

Many people are interested in famous companies. Of course, I can understand those names sound attractive. What you should be aware of is that those company’s structure is like big tree always. And even branches have the famous name, even though they are just bottom of a big organization, so terminal. But thanks to the name, those look more attractive than non famous design offices.

Piramid of parent and branch companies in Japan

Focusing on the famous companies, of course head office take good inquires for themselves, and give any other less profitable job or annoying tasks to the branches. In this case, dissatisfaction feeling can occur in you when you are ambitious. Because the chance to get promoted to parent company is very small.

What I want to emphasize is, don’t decide just its name. Look if the company is just a branch or not. Also, for example you enter the one where a very famous designer or a famous director belongs to. Inquiries often come to him. Clients want his work. Then, you might end up with the job that you just help him with his work like an assistant, and not able to interact with his customers directly.

You can also refer to this article, we have introduced general tips about how to avoid shady job posting

Process from job interview until job offer

First, you need to send your application with your CV and portfolio. If the company finds you interesting, you will get a kind of homework as test.

EXAMPLE: “Please create package design for Ra-men”

So, you must submit your work to the company. And if your work is liked, you are invited to director’s interview. And after that finally, you will be facing CEO’s interview.

This is a practical example from my colleagues. What I can say is that there must always be a design test if you want to work as designer. Only showing your portfolio won’t be enough.

Are foreign designer sought?

Yes, because the market is getting international and international. Japanese design companies have lots of Korean, Chinese or Thailand’s clients. Especially because packaging design has strong relationship with local culture, people who have understanding those country’s culture are required. Thus, very good English language skill is a pure advantage.

We have less customers in Europe or America, because the culture is too different and simply too far away.

How can I work as freelance designer in Japan?

It is depending on where you live now. In case you start to aim being freelancer from outside Japan, the highest hurdle for you will be the visa, not the work. Japan is a country which often doesn’t give freelance visa to foreigners. Even if you utilize lawyer, a very tough and long way will be waiting for you. Even though the reality is hard, there is a good way how to do it.

To get freelancer visa, you need to have work contract with several enterprises in Japan. But if you have no connection in Japan yet, it is almost impossible to get contracts. That is why, I recommend you to enter a company in Japan first. So, you become an employee at a company. Then, make your personal connections while you work as employee. After some years, you may find 3 – 4 companies that give you jobs constantly, then you could realize to become freelancer in Japan.

Miki Kawamura’s profile

ACADEMIC BACKGROUND

  • University of Toyama (2008-2011, 2012-2013 japan)
    Faculty of Arts and Culture
  • Lahti Institute of Design (2011-2012 Finland)
    Package design Lab

WORK EXPERIENCE

  • Serviceplan Group GmbH & Co. KG (2018 -)
  • MUTTER Gesellschaft für Design & Vermarktung GmbH (2017 -2018)
  • BRAVIS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED Japan (2013 – 2016)
  • BRAVIS INTERNATIONAL LIMITED China (2014 – 2015)

AWARD in 2012

  • Student Starpack Packaging Design Awards
    Brief H – Busy chocolate sponsor by Nestlé – Gold Winner (England)
  • Recreate Packaging Contest Category 2 :
    Primary package for a liquid beauty care product – Finalist (Finland)
  • Japan Student Services Organization – Encouragement Prize (Japan)

AWARD in 2019

  • A’ Design Award and Competition – Packaging Silver Award (Italy)
  • Pentaward PACKAGING CONCEPT PROFESSIONAL (LUXURY) – Gold (England)
  • Hoc Star by Serviceplan Hamburg (Germany)
ABOUT ME
Yuki Nagahori
BA in German / Japan Country Manager at editorial company → Sales → currently sales planner based in Hamburg, Germany https://www.linkedin.com/in/yuki-nagahori/