Despite facing numerous challenges ranging from an ageing population to limited natural resources, Japan still maintains one of the world's largest economies. There are plenty of opportunities across a broad range of sectors for expats wanting to work in Japan.
In recent years, Japan's economic landscape has been remodelled by deregulation, technology advances and an increasing number of foreign companies establishing headquarters or bases in the country. Despite this apparent integration, the traditional Japanese business etiquette remains largely intact and still poses one of the greatest 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, particularly in the bustling capital of Tokyo, or within an industry that has remained extremely popular among young Westerners for years, teaching English.
The entertainment, hospitality and manufacturing sectors also continue to offer work for expats, with fluency in Japanese not required. Translation work for those that do know Japanese is another popular expat profession, especially for trailing spouses and partners who have followed their loved ones abroad. Language-oriented expats 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 knowing 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 good 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 good way 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 and can either apply directly to international schools in Japan or enrol in the Japanese government's popular Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) programme.
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 concepts of genki and ganbatte – which require presenting a positive energy and can-do attitude – are often exhausting and frustrating to foreign nationals.
Newly arrived expats aren't expected to adhere to the regularly practiced 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.