working in Japan

Working and living in Japan

When it comes to working in Japan, a lot written about the overtime work culture. Although there is no running away from these problems, this article is to show you some positives of working in Japan through my personal experiences. With a lot of apprehensions, I accepted my first offer of working in Japan and dived straight into the culture. After a mild culture shock, I truly began enjoying my life in Japan. If you are someone who likes Japan but is skeptical of working here, this will surely give you a first-hand sneak peek in living in Japan 🙂

There are three types of companies in Japan. The first ones are the traditional companies, abiding by the old rules and work culture. These ones are the usually the ones in the news for the work culture-related problems. The second ones are the modern companies, who hate the old-school methodology and have completely adopted the global (or more western) work culture. The last category blends the first and the second. These do respect the traditional work culture and have some bits and pieces of it, but at the same time realize the need for change. In my opinion, if you are a foreigner, interested in working in Japan, go for the second and the third type to make things little conducive for you.

I work at a tech startup in Tokyo, which falls in the second category. The work culture here follows the “work hard, party harder” motto, similar to Silicon Valley. Formal working hours are 10:00 to 19:00, however, it is flexible as long as people get work done. It takes me about 30 minutes of commute by train (Tip: As per Japan labor law, an employer needs to reimburse the employee’s commute cost so don’t worry about that!). However, the trains are overcrowded from morning 7:30 to 10:00. Although I see Japanese people reading books or manga in that crowded train compartments (I absolutely appreciate this 😀 ), I fail to utilize those 30 minutes of my commute. The Yamanote line, Marunouchi Line, Denentoshi Line, and Shinjuku line are usually crowded during the peak hours.

rush hour in tokyo
commuting during rush hour in Tokyo

I leave no opportunity to praise the daily life convenience this place provides, especially when it’s about food. Apart from a few Japanese colleagues at work, the cooking enthusiasts, everyone else prefers to buy ‘bento’ box (Japanese lunch box). Convenience stores are a boon for a people like me, who hate cooking or want to avoid the hassle. They can practically provide you a complete meal (salads, main course, and desserts). They have a decent variety of salads, soba, udon, pasta, a few Chinese dishes, bread, pastry, cookies, and cup noodles. That’s the beauty of Japan, the convenience of living! You can manage to eat a good quality meal irrespective of your cooking skills. Eating from a bento from a convenience store is usually cheaper than eating at restaurants. When on a budget living and bored on convenience store options, you can always go to the Japanese chain restaurants like Komoro soba, Yoshinoya, and Sukiya. These chains usually follow the Japanese traditional meal style, providing you with a balanced diet for a fairly cheap amount. In addition, Japan has inculcated in me a need for a light beverage post meal. I believe this is to avoid post lunch dizziness. I usually do to ‘combini’ (convenience store) run or use vending machines for that.

Friday evenings are all about drinking! In Japan, parties are not limited to one per evening.
There are a series of parties on any given evening! And, we don’t discuss work at these parties 🙂 The first party is usually dinner and drinks at an Izakaya. People at my workplace prefer izakayas specializing in seafood and/or hot pots. The second party, ‘nijikai’, is usually a drinks-only-party or a karaoke night, depending on people’s mood. Check out our article on Nightlife in Japan: Izakaya and Karaoke to know more about it.

Usually, all the companies arrange team building events once a month or once in two months. The choice of event is usually dependent on the season of the year. The spring Hanami (literally translating to ‘cherry blossom viewing’) parties are my pick! In simple terms, these are spring snaps at parks. A lot of cooking, drinking, and talking happens here under the pleasant sakura flowers. Another usual company event is beach soccer, fishing, barbecue during summer and autumn. Some companies do organize skiing and snowboarding events in winter. These events are a great platform to know your colleagues and embrace the uniqueness of Japan.

Cherry blossom Hanami party
Hanami Party under cherry blossom

Through this article, we are not trying to hide the difficulties of working in Japan. It is only an attempt to show you a different Japan and share the goodness of the work culture. To conclude, I’d like to share my takeaways about working and living in Japan

  • Stereotyping is harmful. Work in Japan is not all about problems. It is highly dependent on the environment you’re in!
  • Because there is a lack of workforce, you are an irreplaceable asset for the company.
  • Don’t let the fear of language get onto you. Companies provide language coaching.
  • With the advent of Olympics 2020, Japan is radically trying to be open it’s doors for the world. It is the best time to be in Japan 🙂

Photo Credits:
erikjohansson [CC BY 2.0], Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons, Pixhere