The Truth About Working at a Japanese Company


The clock struck 5—it was officially time to head home and call it a day at the office.

Yet no one was leaving.

Japanese companies worry about local staff pressing legal charges for unpaid overtime in the U.S., so they order us to clock out at 5 p.m.  Of course, I wasn’t complaining.

So just like I do everyday, I shut off my computer, grabbed my purse, bowed and announced to the office:

O saki ni shitsureishimasu” (I humbly apologize for leaving early).

To which they instantaneously replied,

Otsukaresamadeshita” (We know you are tired, thank you for all your hard work).

After my leave, my Japanese co-workers don’t stay 10, or even 30 minutes later—they don’t head out of the office until 10 or 11 p.m. in the evening.

For the past six years I have humbly excused myself from the office, drenched in guilt that I’m leaving hours earlier than my colleagues–yet also in wonder at how on Earth they could stay so long with so little work to do.

Today, however, it will finally come to an end.

I’m quitting my job with the Japanese government and going to work for an American university. As of today, I officially vow to never work for a Japanese company again.

Coming here was my dream

Coming here was my dream

I have been in love with Japan since childhood. I watched the anime, played the video games, drowned myself in its samurai history—I was crazy about the place. I self-taught myself Japanese in high school and continued my study of the language deep into university. It was my dream to live in Japan someday, and I knew with my cultural and language skills I could land a job at a big company like Toyota. Although I heard horror stories of overwork and discrimination at Japanese companies from fellow friends, I was confident I could be the exception. I knew I could make it in a Japanese world.

Yet nothing could have prepared me for the reality of working at a Japanese company.

Perhaps you speak fluent Japanese and are wondering just what in god’s name you’re going to do with the skill. Maybe you’re dying to live in the land of anime and robots, so you cross the pacific and look for work in the motherland. Perhaps you’re just super unlucky and end up working at a Japanese company by fluke accident.

Whatever your reason may be, before you start a career with Japan you need to know what working with the Japanese is really like.

Ungodly Amounts of Overtime


In Japan it’s very normal to work late into the wee hours, no matter the industry. Employees often work 14 hour days, with one Japanese man confessing that he put in over 100 hours of overtime into his job—each month. In the rare auld times (the flourishing era of the 80’s and 90s) this overtime was actually paid, but now they just call it ‘service zangyou,’ or unpaid overtime. Basically, employees clock out at 5 p.m., but stay until midnight because it’s bad etiquette to leave before your superior.

They stay to keep the ‘wa,’ or harmony of the office. Japan is a very collective society, so they like to stick together and work as a team. Leaving before your superior, or even your senpai (seniors aka people that worked there longer/are older than you), is awkward.

I mean, if Tanaka-san leaves at 5 pm everyday but everyone else works until 10, then Tanaka-san is, essentially, a selfish bastard and doesn’t care about his fellow man. Screw Tanaka-san.

The only one who can get away with leaving early is the foreign English teacher, because s/he’s not a “real” member of the team—but that’s a story for another day.

Productivity Doesn’t Matter, so Don’t Work so Hard

Unless you’re launching a start-up (which Japanese people do not do, they only have 3% entrepreneur levels in the country compared to 13% in America), it’s unfathomable to me how you could have enough work to last 14 hours everyday.

The truth? There actually isn’t enough work to do until midnight. Since Japanese employees have to keep the wa and resign to their fate of working until the wee hours, employees usually spread their tasks out throughout the day and work at a snail’s pace. It’s not unusual for the Japanese to take 1-2 hours to send an e-mail or spend a week creating a simple powerpoint presentation. It’s no wonder, then, that Japan’s labor productivity is only 61% of the United States.

Plus, Japan isn’t merit based so even if you work hard and produce results you won’t be rewarded. Raises and promotions only happen through hierarchy and commitment to the company—in other words, you’ll get a real raise after you work there for 10-20 years. This is why Japanese employees seldom switch companies and often spend their entire life working at the same organization.

Big Bonuses and Job Security

japanese yen

Working 14 hours a day, staying late at the job for absolutely no reason and not being rewarded for your hard work? I know, sounds awful—but it’s not ALL bad.

At a Japanese company, you will most likely never be fired. Even if you suck at your job and spend half your shift sleeping on the desk, you’re still part of the big company family and papa company is going to take care of you. The retention rate at Japanese companies is much higher than other developed countries; however, the few employees that are fired by their company take it really hard; like, suicide hard. In Japan, getting fired is akin to being disowned by your parents—and since you spent your entire life working for the same company, it’s hard to jump ship and be rehired elsewhere. Sadly, for many salarymen in Japan, life ends with the pink slip.

The Japanese bonus is also a nice perk. If you google Japanese salaries, you may be alarmed at just how low they are. The average 35 year old male only makes 3,500,000 JPY annually (that’s about 30k USD with current exchange rate), and while living in Tokyo isn’t actually that expensive, salaries are still far below their American counterparts (about 45k annually,  which feels like BS cause few of my friends are actually making this much, but anyway..). Women are even worse off in Japan: a 35 year old Japanese woman earns much below her male counterpart at 2,900,000 JPY annually (that’s about 25k USD at current exchange rate), so just being a woman will automatically give you a pay cut–but hey, but that’s also another topic entirely.

Anyway, the bonus makes all the difference. The average Japanese employee receives two bonuses a year (one in January and one in June) that, combined, can be worth half a year’s worth of salary. Many of my Japanese colleagues have admitted to me that, without their bi-annual bonus, they would not be able to make ends meet. Sadly, with Japan’s ongoing economic recessions, these bonuses are shrinking by the year.

The foreign English teacher, by the way, does not usually receive this bonus.

Don’t Take Paid Leave—Even if You’re Sick


My fellow colleague came into the office wearing a mask.  He had no voice, was shaking with fever and could only communicate in short wheezes and coughs—but he wanted to prove to his colleagues and superior that he was dedicated to his job.

He was definitely too ill to work.

Later that day, he went to the hospital on his lunch break and got an IV transfusion. He returned to work two hours later and stayed until eleven in the evening.

And not surprisingly, the next day my American colleague and I were infected with his very same virus.

Yet it was worth it, because he proved to his boss and the rest of us he was serious about his job—or something.

Basically, Japanese people don’t use their paid or sick leave. Ever. Even Prime Minister Abe is begging the Japanese public take a break from their crazy work schedule, recently enforcing a law that will legally enforce them to take paid and sick leave.

We’ll see if it works.

And Finally, A Dead End


Much like it is difficult to be accepted into Japanese culture, being fully accepted by a Japanese company is equally difficult.

Most Japanese treat their foreign employees like temp workers, meaning they are not considered “real” employees and are rarely given opportunities for advancement.

At my current job, the “chuzaiin” (or staff sent from HQ in Japan) have fully covered health insurance, don’t pay taxes (we have to file as self-contracted employees and thus pay more tax), receive a 3,000 USD/monthly stipend for their ‘troubles’ living abroad and, most importantly, have opportunities for promotion.

The local staff (aka the Americans) have none of the above.  We have no benefits, no tax break, no monthly stipend (they won’t even help us pay for the parking fee, which is 100 USD/month) and, since we were hired locally (and not via HQ in Tokyo), we will never be able to attain management positions within the organization or move up.

While my previous Japanese company in Shanghai wasn’t this cruel (we at least had benefits, stipends for transportation costs and equal tax coverage), it was still ridiculously hard to move up in the company and it was difficult to imagine just where my career at the company would lead–if it even lead anywhere.

Before you work at a Japanese company, think really hard about your future and where you want to go with your career.


Working with a Japanese company may seem like a good fit if you speak Japanese, but with the vastly contrasting work cultures and the fact you’re a foreigner in a Japanese world–you might want take a look at other options.

Although slightly exaggerated, the Japanese drama Hanzawa Naoki (the story of a Japanese banker’s foray into the ring of Japanese business politics) serves as a great window into the world of Japanese work culture.  If you can be like Hanzawa and put up with everything he did then–congrats, I think you can make it in the Japanese world.

One of my favorite bloggers Charlotte also wrote a great post on working for Japanese companies–check it out!

I’m sad to say goodbye to my Japanese colleagues, but it’s time to look ahead and think about the future!

Has anyone else had troubles working for Japanese companies, or other foreign companies in general?  What differences have you noticed between east and west?

49 thoughts on “The Truth About Working at a Japanese Company

  1. Ruth - China Elevator Stories says:

    Some of it sounds similar to China, especially the long (and often unpaid) working hours. No-one really cares what you do when you work overtime every day, playing computer with your coworkers is perfectly fine as long as you don’t leave earlier than your superiors.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I didn’t know China was like this, too! I’ve never worked at a Chinese company so I’m not quite sure, but when I was in China they usually bolted out the door at 6 p.m.

      I think overall more people work overtime in China than in the USA (unpaid, too). My best Chinese friend works until 11 p.m. every night (and actually WORKS) and she gets no overtime pay whatsoever and she’s completely fine with it. Maybe it’s just an ‘asian’ mentality… work work work!

  2. Eileen黃愛玲 says:

    All of this sounds like Taiwanese companies in Taiwan but then again my husband said that they learned the job culture from them so it makes sense.

    “Working with a Japanese company may seem like a good fit if you speak Japanese, but with the vastly contrasting work cultures and the fact you’re a foreigner in a Japanese world–you might want take a look at other options.”
    My husband thought since he could speak Mandarin, he would be able to get work in Taiwan and China which is true but the culture drives him mad. Luckily, his current job in Shanghai is pretty decent and it’s because his boss is low key and cares about creativity rather than copying and doing things fast – that’s pretty rare in the interior design business in Shanghai.

    My husband’s former co-workers would sleep till 10 pm and start working just so they can get over-time pay or extra hours they can take off when they need them. It’s not that people work harder, they just work longer.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I heard Japan imparted a lot of culture into Taiwan, but I’m sad to hear that they also adapted their work style too! As for your husband’s former co-worker–that is so crazy! In America he would be fired for wasting the company’s money haha. I like how America is very efficient, but American companies are extremely cutthroat and will fire you in an instant if you don’t equal $$ for them.

      • Keiichi says:

        You do know that the differences in American and Japanese pay is because of the difference in converting Yen to American Dollars and also the value of Yen to the American dollar has gone down because of the Economic bubble in the 90’s. It’s slowly starting to come back though.

        • rubymary says:
          Profile photo of rubymary

          Yes I understand that there is a big gap due to the currency. But even with the currency issue leveled out I still think that salaries in the United States are higher as a whole. On the flip side, I think Japanese companies take better care of their employees (retirement, healthcare, benefits, etc…), and with the bonuses thrown in it can be comparable to or almost as good as US salaries.

          I mention it in my “Save 10,000 USD per year by living in Tokyo” post, but even with a lower salary it’s much easier to save money in Japan as opposed to the United States due to cost of living.

          Thank you for the comment!

  3. Lani says:

    Wow. This was such an eye-popping post. I knew that the Japanese were known for working gobs and gobs of OT, but this really painted the picture in full colors. I grew up wishing I could go to Japan and thinking it was a pretty perfect society, but now I’m wondering how they do it. We’ll see if Abe can turn around years and years of work culture. Great post.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of this blog (, but he writes about life in Japan PERFECTLY and it’s a great window into Japanese culture. Basically he says everything in Japan is picture perfect–but it comes at a price (i.e. mail gets delivered 24/7 because they work their delivery people to death, etc..).

      I think Japan is great if you keep the culture at arm’s length. Going there for a visit is perfect, or even teaching English there–but I think if you try to become one of them (i.e. want to be treated like a real Japanese person and not just a special needs foreigner), then life gets hard and horrible.

      I do hope Abe can change things, though. With the aging population and the economic slump, Japan needs to employ more women and make it easier for foreigners to get a job there (i.e. due away with all of these archaic work practices).

      Thanks for your comment!

      • Lani says:

        Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out. Yeah, I think any foreigners in Asia run up against the same thing – you will never be accepted no matter how long you live there/here.

        America, for all it’s flaws, is much more of a melting pot and that’s a good thing.

  4. Charlotte Steggz says:

    OMG don’t even get me started on chuzaiin.
    My boss recently got transferred and of course he gets his rent paid (on top of his salary which I don’t doubt is over 100k GBP) and he was complaining to me that he has to find a house without carpets because his daughter has a dust allergy???

    Also YAYAY thank you for the link! <3 This post was so amazing I was nodding the whole way through.

    • rubymary says:
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      WHAT!? 100k GBP!?! Oh god… chuzaiin get it so good!

      You know, I don’t mind if they are sent to UK/USA to work if they’re actually good at their job, but many of the chuzaiin I meet are just plain useless. At my former Japanese government job, we had 4 chuzaiin in the USA office–and they couldn’t speak English! (they could barely answer the phone). They were sent over here to market Japan tourism to Americans, but none of them have even been to the USA before much less speak basic English! I thought that all the money spent on the chuzaiin’s housing, salaries and ‘living abroad’ stipend was more than enough to hire talented workers locally that actually understood the market–but that’s just too efficient for Japan.

      Phew. Anyway. Haha. I love your post and I love your blog! Keep it up!

  5. Kimberly says:

    Yikes, I would certainly think twice before working for a Japanese company! I relate to the part about foreign teachers/employees being regarded as temp workers. Perhaps they wouldn’t be so temp if they were given the chance to get the same benefits as locals. But alas, it is how it is.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Ah, so I guess it’s the same in China, huh? I know at some international schools you can become a “real” teacher, but I heard those jobs are hard to find. It kinda sucks, because a part of me wanted to actually become a real teacher–but I knew that due to the education system, it would just never happen.

      On the bright side, us ‘foreign teachers’ don’t have to work as hard for usually equal or more pay, right? I know it’s unfair but… hey, it is what it is!

  6. Marta says:

    Ufff I don’t think I could work for a Japanese company! I cannot do things slower and I feel very annoyed if I don’t have anything to do. Also I don’t like making extra hours because I feel like I’m being cheated on… giving my time for free? I would do that if I worked for a charity, but not to make someone richer…

    In my new job, because I like it, I don’t mind staying longer if there is something urgent. But my old job was crazy, in the plant in Spain everybody was doing extra hours (the boss is a workaholic and he is in the office from 6am to 10pm Monday to Saturday). The Spanish engineers working in the Suzhou plant work every Saturday. From day one I said I wouldn’t work on Saturdays and I never did. I have my principles!!

    btw yaaaaay! For leaving your job and for the new one 😀

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Woohoo! I’m glad you stood ground, Marta! And I bet that, even though you didn’t work Saturdays you still did just as much as the other engineers that did, right!?

      I’m on the exact same page as you: I don’t mind working overtime if there is a NEED to work overtime. If we have a huge project coming up with a deadline, then I’m more than happy to stay and help out–but if it’s working late just for the sake of ‘looking like a good worker’ then forget it. Time is valuable and I’m not wasting it like that!

      I’m glad you found your perfect job, too! You seem so happy at your new job in Shanghai! 😀

  7. yueni says:

    This is what drives me utterly batty about working for Chinese & Japanese companies. The utter inefficiencies just drive me crazy.

  8. R Zhao says:

    Dang Mary, all your posts are so interesting!! I actually have been struggling a lot with the B.S. my husband goes through with my job and your post kinda inspired me to write about that. I think his situation isn’t nearly as bad, but it’s still a far cry from the work regulations we have in the US.

    • rubymary says:
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      Oooo I would love to read about what goes down in Chinese companies. After I wrote this post and complained about my work life, my Chinese friend in Shanghai just told me with a smile that her last two weekends were spent on a grueling business trip–with no pay or holiday compensation. She also works until 8-9 every night without pay either. Five paid holidays a year, and that’s it. Ouch.

      I would love to hear about your husband’s stories! Btw, I tried clicking on your blog but it gives me an error, are you doing some reconstruction?

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      You know, I always walked by their desk hoping to see them on FB or playing online poker or something, but I never caught them in the act. They must honestly be working or they’re just REALLY good at sensing my wandering eyes and minimizing the porn window just at the right time.

      I remember once we received about 200 handwritten surveys in English, and instead of just have me type them up she read through each survey word by word (she can’t read English btw) and put a post it note next to every word she didn’t know. She handed me the stack back to me when she was finished so that I could re-write every English word she couldn’t read. It looked like a giant post-it porcupine–not to mention a complete waste of time!

  9. Steven says:

    This is interesting to me, because my company is a US subsidiary of a very, very, very large Japanese company. Most of our local CEOs for the past dozen years have been assigned here by the mothership in Tokyo. Our culture is more US than JP though, so I only see the tiniest shades of what you discuss here.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      My boyfriend’s family works for a Japanese company, but their structure is still very Americanized. I think it really depends on the company. For example, I heard Toyota and Honda (and all those big international Japanese brands) tend to have their local branches work with their local cultures. I was with the Japanese government, though, and they were extremely Japanese.

      Anyway, glad your Japanese company is good! I’m envious!

  10. hanna says:

    As always, thank you for the interesting article! Now that I work in Tokyo I can totally relate to what you wrote. Of course, you always here a lot of horror stories about working in Japan (= Tokyo), about salary men going home with the last train every day day or even work until karoushi – and these stories actually seem to be true XD Of course there are companies who offer better working conditions than others, and even pay for all he overtime their employees are working, but there really exist these horror companies (even a lot of famous Japanese companies!), where you don’t get paid overtime although you work more than 60 hours a week and are never allowed to take a day off even though your contract says that you have the right to take paid leave 14+ days a year.
    Although I consider myself lucky with my current working conditions, at least for Tokyo, I really don’t like this overall attitude, where working overtime is considered “normal” and where you feel guilty for taking days off. I do think that the “life quality” in Germany is much better than in Japan, as people value and appreciate their free time outside of the office very much and companies have to pay a penalty fee if their employess don’t use the annual leave stated in their contracts. (But of course I don’t know how the working conditions in Japanese companies in Germany are..)

  11. Randy says:

    Hello Rubbyronin! I’m Randy from Indonesia and I’m currently working in one of the biggest Japanese company in the food industry. Reading this article is really funny, because, sadly, I’m also experiencing some of your description about working there!

    However, fortunately I am one of the lucky gaijin, who got recruited by the HQ and in chuuzain or shukkou sha status now. On the other hand, being send to group company lead to other problems as well, e.g. being discriminated etc etc..

    I don’t know what is happening now in the HQ, (just started to work this April then being sent over instantly), but recently looks like more people in my company leave early (around 6 or 7 which is considered as early for Japanese).

    What I dislike about working in the Japanese company is the jyoushi kankei or senior-junior relation, which is killing me! Even for asking a simple question, you have to be careful and kinda feel reluctant to waste even a minute of your senior’s “precious” time.

    Anyway, could you share some of your working experience in the Western country? Which do you think is better? Thanks! and wish me luck!haha

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Hi Randy! Wow, you were hired as a chuzaiin straight out of Indonesia!? Did the company send you to Japan? Are you living there now? How is your Japanese?? That is soooo interesting!!

      I heard when it comes to overtime, it really depends on your job and what industry you’re in. I heard bankers work crazy hours, but I’m sure government workers and tech companies are a little more lenient. I used to work in advertising and everyone there worked insane hours. One of my coworkers worked so long and hard, he went blind in one eye (from starring at the computer so long and lack of sleep) and passed out. He was immediately hospitalized. He had to wear an eye patch to help his swollen/infected eye ‘rest,’ but even at the hospital bed he continued to work on his laptop. It was insane. He was a very blunt guy (rare for a Japanese person), so when I asked him why he worked so damn hard all he could say was: “It’s all I got. I just can’t stop.” The creative department also slept in the office, sometimes pulling 70 hour shifts (if you count sleep there), and they even built a shower in there so they wouldn’t have to leave the office. I also heard creative in other advertising offices throughout the world tend to have this erratic schedule, so maybe it’s not Japan specific.

      I hear you about the jyoushi-kankei relationship… what a pain! I hate how you can’t openly express you opinion to your superior, because as an ‘underling’ you’re expected to blindly listen to them. It’s awful.

      Hmmmm western country work experiences…. that might be a good post! Surprisingly, I don’t have much experience working in a western company (all of my work experience except my current job is with Japanese companies), but from what I hear American and European work cultures are VASTLY different. Europeans leave right on the dot and take their holiday time very seriously (many are forced to take one month of holiday), while in America we are often given 10 days off a year–and many Americans don’t even use all 10 days (mind blowing). After coming back to the states, I realized Americans work pretty hard–but again, it depends on the industry. I work in education, which is very easygoing. People clock out right at 5pm, and if you’re a teacher you often leave at 3 or earlier and have the entire summer holiday off (3 months). However, employees in finance and banking work around the clock (like their Japanese counter parts) and I heard the tech industry, despite the benefits, also works you pretty hard. I guess there’s no escape.

      What I like the most about western companies vs. Japanese companies is: flexibility. Japanese companies have rules and stick firmly by them, even if they don’t make sense for certain situations. Americans are OK to bend the rules a little bit, and they’ll often help you out even if it’s “against protocol.”

      Good luck in Japan! Do you have a blog? You should totally start one about your adventures with Japan/Japanese companies!

  12. Florence & Atwood says:

    This was a really helpful blog… thank you! I think growing up in a western society and learning Japanese, people of my generation are easily seduced by the ‘coolness’ of Japan. I also dream of working in Japan but as you’ve described, it’s not exactly as glamorous as we imagine it to be.

    I wonder if it’s possible work primarily in a western company and then be assigned to work in Japan temporarily, for a year or so? I’m a science major but am wondering what else I could do besides teaching English since my Japanese is only intermediate.

    Life quality in German companies is better than Japanese? Geez… and German work ethic is already so hard core! It’s funny, I never thought about how ‘healthy’ Western company work ethic is until I started reading up about Japanese companies.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Oh I’m glad! Let me know if there is anything else I can help you with!

      I was definitely seduced by the coolness of Japan, and to be honest I still am. It’s an amazing country with an extremely rich and old culture… but people tend to forget that it’s not a perfect place.

      I think that’s the best way to get to Japan–try to work at a western company and get assigned there (since you get the expat package, aka subsidized housing and an increase in salary). However, I hear it’s getting harder to attain these jobs. Still, you might as well try!

      I think it will actually be easier for you to get a job in Japan as a science major, although knowing Japanese would be a huge help. Much like the USA, Japan is in desperate need of engineers and scientists.

      I don’t know if you know about the MEXT scholarship, but I think that would be a great way to get a taste of Japanese life. It’s a fully paid government scholarship, although somewhat competitive. You can get a scholarship to either just learn Japanese, or to even get your masters or PHD there. Might be worth looking into!

      Man, German companies are way healthier than even American ones! I hear you get 30 days of vacation, I’m very jealous!

      Again, thanks for stopping by!

  13. Sacha says:

    If you really want to work for a Japanese company, you can alleviate some of these issues by picking a smaller/younger company. It’ll probably still be bad, but at least I’ve heard anecdotal evidence of people enjoying their work in smaller companies (whereas I’ve yet to hear of a single foreigner who was happy being a salaryman in a big faceless corporation).

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Yeah I heard the face of Japanese corporations are changing. I knew a guy that worked at rakuten, the Japanese version of Amazon, and said it was a very ‘chill’ work place. The staff could dress in jeans and speak casually with each other. Still, I think the work environment is a little more strict than here in the States, but as you said–much better than being a salaryman at a big faceless corporation.

      Sadly there aren’t as many start ups in Japan. The big corporations 商社 rule. The recent Japanese drama (Shiatamachi Rocket) is about how small-mid tier businesses break their backs for these big corps in Japan. Article here:

  14. rodel says:

    this are all 100% true. im working here in japan for almost 20 years and im on the edge of realizing my future is going nowhere, i can read write and speak japanese fluently, i got 3 BS degree and some skills unparalled to the japanese worker. have my OT at 100+hrs/month and earning 35-40k anually. What was said in this column are all true and much more worst than that you will be degraded as your age increases. 55 below are still usefull and 56 above some company force you to find your own future or have a “voluntary resignation” . in short they call this place a workers paradise or modern slavery , i apologize to say that term , but it is the nearest term i know.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Oh no Rodel! It sounds like you need out, especially since you have a BS and you’re so skilled with Japanese! Get out while you can! I’m sure with all of your experience and skills you could easily switch to another company?

      Oh the voluntary resignation is so sad. After that it’s hard for them to find work again, or even purpose in life. It’s so sad.

      I hope that your situation in Japan gets better!

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      My Korean friend told me that he moved to Japan because they didn’t work as much as the Koreans. That’s when I knew just how crazy Koreans are about their work! I support you–don’t ever go to a Korean company!

  15. forsetiboston says:

    Korean companies are exactly the same. I worked for the largest Korean company in Silicon Valley and you felt like you walked off an airplane when you walked in that office. However, this blog post was amazingly well written I think it looks at American employment through rose colored glasses. I spent a decade in Silicon Valley and a lot of what was said about Japanese companies could be said about the Valley. In today’s global economy I think the author will find (well if the author is in Academia maybe not) that the Japanese are a bit ahead of the power curve. When you are working with teams in India, Eastern Europe, Asia, etc. even as you move up the ladder you will find your work day encroaching on your personal life. Further the added benefit of working remote, well that just means (in my case) you leave the Silicon Valley office at 8p (not Samsung a very well know American brand), you go home and log into VPN. Then you continue to work into the wee morning hours ignoring family, friends, and most importantly ignoring the time required to recharge.. Just saying depending on your industry, your position in that industry, and your career goals, business is business.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Yes, after moving back to the United States I realized that Americans aren’t exactly the laid back type, either. Especially in Silicon Valley, people there work crazy hours…. mostly because a good number of silicon valley companies are start ups and require an enormous amount of time investment (which I did mention in my blog post). But yes, places like San Fran (tech) and New York (finance) have higher rates of overtime that could compete with that of the Japanese (and Koreans).

      Still, EVERYONE in Japan (and Korea too, I’m sure) works unnecessary overtime, where I feel like in the United States this kind of extreme overtime is limited to certain industries (finance, law, tech–all the money making ones!). I also feel like work is more productive in the United States… usually if you’re working overtime, you’re actually working; whereas in Japan, you’re usually not working, you’re just staying late to keep harmony in balance. It’s not a good dedication of time. Americans DO work hard, but I think they’re *actually* working rather than just *looking like* they’re working.

      I think Americans do not get enough paid leave, nor do they get enough holidays. Our longest holiday is Christmas and New Years, which is only three days and not even consecutive (usually we go back to work Dec 26 – Jan 30), while Japan and China get “golden week” and “new years” and get a long chunk of time off.

      Plus, the pay in the United States is usually a lot better than Japan and Korea (but in retrospect,you have a much higher chance of getting fired).

      I hope that you aren’t working as hard in the valley anymore! Still, a tech job in Silicon Valley must pay pretty well! Thank you so much for the comment 🙂

  16. Dan says:

    This is an epic blog, and I love it. Thanks for the look into Chinese universities and Japanese companies! You’ve probably saved me from wasting years of my life getting degrees in order to do jobs I would have hated.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Wow Dan thanks for the super nice comment! I’m very happy to hear you enjoyed my blog!

      I’m glad that I could spare someone from the suffering of Japanese companies, or investing your entire career/prospects into languages (oh, if only I could go back in time and do the same!). What’s your story, anything you’re going to study or look into for future work prospects?

  17. car says:

    I am searching for topics about working with Japanese because I am suffering and I found your blog.

    I agree your point that Japanese WORK VERY SLOWLY. But I believe that it is because they do not have the ability to work in modern working style. Their computer ability is low. I am not sure but I think they do not use computer in their daily life. I have been staying in my Japanese friends’ house when I first came to Japan few years ago. There are simply no computer in their house. My friend are of their 20s few years ago and there are no computer!! Their working speed is also affected by their language ability. Look at your browser. The URLs are all in English and they simply cannot tell the URLs very clearly. Their emails are very long with the points at the bottom and sandwiched by a lot of useless lines. It takes much time for them to complete even such a simple work, not to mention the rest. In fact, most of the companies are still using facsimile and even handwriting!!

    • car says:

      Another thing I observed is that they follow your instruction strictly but DO NOT THINK. If you give them one simple instruction, they will work for you. If you give them one complicated instruction, they do not know what to do and will come back to you after a while. They do not think or search how to do it, say in the Internet or at the software help desk or whatever, and will just come back to you, asking what to do step-by-step. When you tell them what to do in detail, they may jot down the steps but they simply do not think why this step has to be done. They learn what, but not why. They will never improve their skill with this attitude. I wonder what education did they receive to become such a personality.

      There are too much to share but perhaps it will be another blog. Anyway, good luck to your work.. in an American university.. sounds great!

  18. Corbin Ervin says:

    Hello! I really enjoyed reading your article. Some of these points I already knew of; but after reading about your experiences, I feel that I have a much better understanding of what it’s like working in Japan. I am interested in working and living in Japan in the future and plan to spend the next few years of my life learning Japanese. However, I wanted to know if taking courses or completing a certificate program in Japanese culture would be worth the effort for landing a job working in Japan.

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