Despite facing numerous challenges, from an ageing population to limited natural resources, Japan still maintains one of the world's largest economies. There are plenty of opportunities across an extensive range of sectors for expats wanting to work in Japan.
In recent years, Japan's economic landscape has been remodelled by deregulation, technological advances and an increasing number of foreign companies establishing headquarters or bases in the country. Despite this apparent integration, traditional Japanese business etiquette remains largely intact and still poses one of the most considerable acclimatisation challenges for expats working in Japan.
Job market in Japan
Expats looking to work in Japan can still find enviable positions with many of the multinational corporations present in the country. This is particularly true in the bustling capital of Tokyo and within the English-teaching industry, which has remained extremely popular among young Anglophones for years.
The entertainment, hospitality, IT and manufacturing sectors also continue to offer work for expats, with fluency in Japanese not required. For those that do know Japanese, translation work is another popular expat profession, especially for trailing spouses and partners who have followed their loved ones abroad. Language-oriented expats who are also university graduates may also consider teaching English in Japan.
Expats planning on working in Japan should note that it claims one of the highest costs of living worldwide, so it's important to carefully negotiate an adequate salary package.
Finding a job in Japan
Prospective expats looking to work in Japan will benefit from the ability to speak Japanese. It's possible to find jobs with few Japanese language requirements in multinational corporations, most of which are based in Tokyo, but having a strong command of the local language will offer broader prospects.
Online job portals are a useful resource in getting to know the job market, but word of mouth through local friends or fellow expats is a solid strategy to get a foot in the door.
With the popularity of teaching English in Japan, those looking to work in this area will have a particularly robust selection of online resources. They can either apply directly to international schools in Japan or enrol in the Japanese government's popular Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme.
- GaijinPot Jobs: This is a popular job search site specifically designed for foreigners seeking employment in Japan.
- Jobs in Japan: Another useful job search platform for non-Japanese speakers seeking work in Japan.
- JET Programme: Official page for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, a Japanese government initiative to employ foreign English language teachers.
- LinkedIn Japan and Indeed Japan are Japanese branches of the international career sites.
Work culture in Japan
Corporate culture in Japan is quite formal, with very long office hours and lifetime employment the norm. After-hours drinking with the boss is very much an established practice. Furthermore, the practice of genki and ganbatte – presenting a positive energy and a can-do attitude – are often exhausting and frustrating to foreign nationals.
Newly arrived expats aren't expected to adhere to the regularly practised 60-hour workweek or the mandatory post-work socialising hours. However, acting differently from co-workers and being held to separate expectations can increase feelings of isolation.