The Truth About Working at a Japanese Company

salaryman

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

Step_in_Japan_office

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

mask

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

tiredsalaryman

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.

DSC00659

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?

70 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 (www.japaneseruleof7.com), 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:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      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! 😀

    • roo says:

      I came to Japan as a student and i got a job in here and i find that there are huge differences in the work style. Japanese are not productive and task oriented , they are too time oriented .
      ordinary japanese is not money oriented but company oriented .
      i will say bye to company.
      no fun in here man~~

  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:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      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..)

    • roo says:

      I came to Japan as a student and i got a job in here and i find that there are huge differences in the work style. Japanese are not productive and task oriented , they are too time oriented .
      ordinary japanese is not money oriented but company oriented .
      i will say bye to company.
      no fun in here man~~
      They do not run for money, they do not run for their own leisure time ,
      what the hell is it !!
      thats why Jap economy is going down¥¥
      no humrous ! just work work work !
      Beware of Jap companies!

  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!

      http://www.mext.go.jp/english/highered/1303739.htm

      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: http://www.wsj.com/articles/corporate-drama-series-hits-close-to-home-in-japan-1450391964

  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!

      • rubymary says:
        Profile photo of rubymary

        Hey there! I’m sorry for the slow response, thank you very much for reading my blog!

        I agree with you on ALL THESE POINTS. The computer thing was a huge culture shock to me–I mean, wtf? No computer?? A lot of my Japanese friends only use their cell phone instead of a computer, which to me is just mind blowing. Even though Japan is known for being technologically advanced, it’s ironic that 1. no one can barely use a PC 2. almost everything is still done by hand/on paper 3. most houses don’t have central heating.

        In Japan (and most of Asia) students are taught to just pass the test, memorize stuff and blindly obey authority–and it shows in their work. There’s a reason that Japan/China/MostofAsia still has yet to innovate, and that’s exactly why. In Japan there’s too much stupid, useless heirarchy that hurts the business and makes it impossible to share ideas.

        Are you working at a Japanese company now? How are you doing? I hope that you can find somewhere a little more open minded and better to work soon!

      • Chelsea says:

        Thank you soooo very much for your post!!! I’m so glad I found you guys who feel the same.
        I’m a Vietnamese, speak English, japanese and now working in a japanese company based in Singapore. Hence, the OT is not as hard (everyone clocks out on time)

        But there is one more thing i notice is that the chuzaiin was sent oversea to “enrich their experiences” and hence would be one of the “rising star” when they come back to HQ” ; surely promotion to higher position is granted.

        But they are absolutely useless! My “GM” (yes, GM) who is transferred from HR division in HQ, doesnt even know the most basic term of Sales and international trading. And yet, he is working as GM, in charge of the whole Sale team (!?!)

        I mean, why the heck they sent a person of no useful experience to here? to do what?
        and just imagine, those people, they come back and rise to the top of the company!
        Japanese company will seriously be doomed forever and ever!

  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.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Hello! Sorry for the late response! I hope this advice isn’t too late…

      I don’t think a culture course would be very helpful in landing a job in Japan, and really, it depends on what you want to do there. If you have a hard skill like programming or accounting, I think that you may be able to get a job in Japan without language credentials. However, if you want to try and get a job there with soft skill alone, knowing Japanese is a must. I think most companies won’t interview or hire you without N2 qualifications (JLPT test). Although they will still treat you like a stupid foreigner, they will also expect you to read and write on almost the same level as them. If you can’t read/listen to the news in Japanese, I suggest you get to that level before trying to go for a job in Japan that isn’t paired with a hard skill.

      Let me know what kind of work you’d like to go into and maybe I can offer more advice… but right now I suggest that you focus more on language. Culture is also a big deal, but I think this is learned more through experience (study abroad, etc..) than anything else.

  19. Todd says:

    You spoke a ton of truth here. So many dont know of what you post, but dive into, just like you, and I did, and are latter disappointed by what they find. Its apples and oranges, west vs east and the 2 dont mix. I also, will probably never work for Japanese people again. I found them to be racist as well, just to put a cap on the mountain of misery I experienced.

    To combat the conformity, what I did is work 10x harder and speedier than any Japanese coworkers, therefore, my early “kaeri” from work was justified. Most Japanese have a very weak skill set. They are good at what they do, but nothing else. I have multiple skills, as most immigrants do, and they usually let allot of wrongs I did slip by, because I could hustle. Those people still siting at their desk were slaves to the bucho or sempai, and he knew it. He couldnt control me, because I could out perform him and out wit him, most of the time. Advice to the newb wanting to join a japanese company- dont. But if you insist, you best have mad skills or risk becoming a statistic, that stat being the drone that is mentally and physically sick from exhaustion due to overtime and conformity

    The only 2 things you left out is the part about being married, a foreigner, and treatment by the company. Being married to a local, you kind of enter the world of acceptance and are not seen as temporary. The downside is your treated worse because your seen as a kind of loser or somebody they dont really want around but have to make exception for. “kare no okusan nihonjin dakara” you hear it allot, why the gaijin works here at the japanese company. Career progression is also limited, but your treated somewhat different than somebody like you. Naturalized Japanese get treated allot better, but Id never trade places with them.

    The other thing you left out was the part about skills. I found that Japanese dont even acknowledge skills acquired in Japan, except for language skills. They want what you bring from university, companies abroad, military, and your western mind. They really look down on anything you got from Japan; its like they know that most gaijin are treated like shit in Japan so they already know what your bringing and the license system for skills in Japan is a joke so they dont care about that either. I really didnt learn anything from Japanese; they just gave the opportunity to apply what I knew or studied from abroad.

    Overall, your post was excellent and a rare gem to find. You were spot on and I agree, I cannot recommend a Japanese company as a great place to work.

  20. Todd says:

    I forgot to add
    She is right, unless you have a hard skill, it can be tough to find a job in Japan without fluent Japanese. You wont use your fluent Japanese that much because the dont trust the foreigner enough to enter their circles, but it will get you in the door. There are ways around it however. Hard skills like network engineer, airplane mechs, bridge engineer or bridge sales, embassy work, security work, some japanese language schools have connections to warehouse work,, chefs (knew some that couldnt speak any japanese) hotel work etc. This is likely to increase due to Abes plan to open up the country to immigrants.

    Best to have multiple hard skills. One of the things that really sucks about Japan is the work. Japanese concentrate on one task, and do that task very well The downside is it will drive you insane, but they like this kind of work. If you bring a skillset they dont have to source out, like programmer CAD machine operator, artist, web designer, mechanic welder cook etc, youll always be above the japanese bully who wants to jam you on some assembly line. You got to exploit this and create your own niche, or like she says, rely on soft skills and get nowhere as office politics dont favor gaijin so much.

  21. Corbin Ervin says:

    Thank you so much. That is very helpful and encouraging to know. I am studying information systems in college and will be working with databases and network applications.

  22. SELENA G. says:

    I am a Asian foreigner speak Japanese , Chinese and english! I came here for college , work as an english teacher and finally graduated with a translation job offer in a Japanese company. I AM THE ONLY FOREIGNER IN THIS 500PPL OFFICE!!! The working culture here colour me shock everyday! I honestly don’t know why so many people want to come to Japan and ridiculously think every Japanese girl wear short skirts and look like she just came out from a anime book. As a foreigner girl, if you are Asian, I highly prefer you don’t come to Japan for work. It is a complete waste time retarded thing to do. If you are Caucasian, I don’t recommend it to you either. UNLESS YOU ARE INTERESTED IN JAPANESE DUDES.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      Haha I’m glad you can agree! I hope you can get out of there, Selena! And even if you’re interested in Japanese dudes, I don’t recommend women to date them… they’ll cheat on you!

  23. British Shakaijin says:

    This is a good summary of Japanese working culture and I totally agree! There’s lots of great things which I love about Japan but the working culture (and sexism within…) isn’t one of them.

    I was told off once for “eating too much fruit” (my own fruit which I kept in my bag) and being told I should only eat one piece of fruit. And I asked why, I was told because it “is bad to eat too much fruit” so I had to stop. (Hmmm….ok…).

    In particular, you are spot on about the the dragging yourself into work when ill, sputtering germs everywhere and making your colleagues ill in the process. Interestingly I did get sent home once when I had a really mild cold though. Funnily enough, in Belgium the problem is the complete opposite – people seem to conveniently know in advance exactly which dates they are going to be ill (often coinciding with public holidays and/or booked vacations) and book sick days off in advance like vacation. However, with the high taxes people who work pay and the high level of unemployment in a welfare-heavy state, perhaps we can’t blame them.

    I am not sure if you have already come across it, but if not, there is a book which is extremely popular in the Francophone world about working in Japan in a Japanese company, from the view of a Japanese-speaking foreigner, Amélie Northomb, a Belgian who lived and worked in Japan. It is called ‘Fear and Trembling’. I think she either grew up there or went to school there so spoke fluent Japanese. It seems generally well-received although some critics have accused her of playing up to stereotypes of Japan/Japanese people and ‘orientalism’. It seems to be worth a read though (I haven’t read it yet).

    Maybe more cutting-edge companies such as start-ups etc are different?

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      What!? You were told off for eating fruit!?!? That’s so weird!!! hahaha… That would definitely not happen in China!

      That’s great about Belgium workers getting “sick” right around public holidays. I think in America you could get away with that once or twice, but then aftera while the company might get on your case. Start-ups (and tech) are totally different, however. I have a friend who works at Apple and he said he gets unlimited time off, but since they keep him so busy he really never gets to use it. I kind of prefer having a set days off and being forced to use it, like in Germany or in many European companies. People in the USA just work too damn hard, lol.

      I would love to read that book! Do they have it in English? I’ll look on amazon now and see if I can find it. Have you read it?

      I think it also depends on the Japanese company. My Japanese company in Shanghai treated us well and my boss there was super cool, so I was actually ok there and in some respects it was kind of better than a USA firm. The Japanese government however.. *shiver* really bad. Still, I think it’s better to work in an environment where you’re used to the culture. I may think western culture is better, but I know a lot of Japanese people think that western companies are flakey and employees are lazy (and after working in Japan, I have to agree to a point). Despite this, though, I think Americans (and western culture overall) is more efficient, and to me that’s most important.

      • British Shakaijin says:

        Yes, there is an English translation and she has also written other books, not only on Japan. I have not yet read the book (only one page which a classmate once showed to me to illustrate how Japanese people in Japan kill themselves studying when I disagreed with her on that point). It seems like every other Francophone I meet in France or Belgium has read it though.

  24. SHAZ says:

    Trading house culture , much the same here in Europe.
    Good to know that the issues raised are common and we are not just imagining that we are lacking good and healthy work ethics. Many thanks for this forum & all the rest for sharing … Pls keep it up.
    Its a shame that many ex-pats in the Japanese Sogo Shosha are sent all over the world often without any training and too young. Of course it is a fact they are under great pressure , however since in many cases they often have no clue how to manage a team of locals (Non Asians).
    I have heard and know of unlawful behaviour that gets swept under the carpet and senior management will not tackle any of it. Legislation in US is much better applied and due to past cases (Companies suffer financial loss or even worst are named and shamed in the media ), things are worst in Europe but absolutely terrible in other countries in Middle East and Asia.

    Good training in local culture, man- management , inter-personnel relationships and local HR laws will help these companies and institutions. Some already are doing and has helped a lot.
    Working for Japanese for almost 20 years- I have seen their best to worst. Great people. However often miss the point and focus too much on the process of self promotion/preservation and following the HQ which are sitting far away; and without much empathy.

    Working with my current boss recently has effected my behaviour at home which has caused misery for my family,must leave before its too late. Hope everyone else take action before it effects your healthy or family’s well being.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I am very sorry that you are having difficulties working at your Japanese company at the moment! You’ve worked with them 20 years…!! Good job, I’m so proud of you! It’s a feat I could never do, haha.

      You explained Japanese management very well. They said inexperienced people to countries abroad to “manage” the outside offices, when really they have no understanding of local culture and end up destroying team morale.

      Everything depends on the boss. At my Japanese company in China, my boss was extremely intelligent and worked in China for over 15 years, so she knew about the local culture and was an excellent manager. Everyone looked up to her (also rare to have a female higher up) and went to her for advice. She was like the yoda of our company.

      Then, flip it around to my Japanese government job, and my direct management was terrible. The main office sent over three Japanese staff to our local office and two of them were incompetent. Nobody could speak English, nobody could understand the local culture, and most of all it was just crazy to see how badlyt hey did their job! It was like throwing money away.

      Best of luck to you! Hopefully your current boss switches out soon and you get a better one 😉

  25. Todd says:

    Something else Id like to add (forgot, because this topic covers vast territory); Some think being married to a Japanese is the ultimate ticket, the holy grail of achivement and being accepted in Japan. All the hurdles like visa, the best jobs, the best housing, quality of life, etc will just suddenly improve drastically. It can and does improve, in comparison to someone who struggles to find a job because they are hostage to their employer for visa, and just about everything else. but like anything else in Japan, there is a catch. The catch is that you still experience all the suck that was mentioned above, but once you return home, if you complain about it, then its you, the gaijins fault, not Japans. You need to learn more Japanese, be more passive, etc etc. So the suck circle is perpetual. It can be a heavy burden; a self blaming endless muck thats hard to walk back from. And of course the Japanese spouse does NOT want to live abroad, and Japan is considered to be the pinacle of the world as they are taught, so why should they? Misery in Japan is seen as happiness by many.
    Some find the utopia they are looking for by working at an international school, base or embassy. Highly reccomended. A pure Japanese enviroment will teach you (or damage you) all about the real Japan, especially if your in it 24/7 I guess it comes down to culture clashes and which one gets crushed, which one wins. The person who needs something, like a visa, a check, etc, will make the sacrifice, but before you get into it too deep, make sure its something you want. Same thing goes for the Japanese married to a foreigner, living abroad. Many return home for these very reasons.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I think because the cultural gap between western countries and japan are so wide it really is a struggle for either party. I have to say, though, I meet a lot more Japanese people that envy the western way of life than the other way around (I seldom meet westerners who say, gee whiz I love Japan’s repressive and xenophobic culture, I want to live there forever). Many of my best Japanese friends say they love Japan, but working there is mentally (and sometimes physically) crushing. They are in search of other opportunities in other countries, but as you said, obtaining visas and starting a life somewhere that’s not your home country is difficult.

      I never thought of getting a Japanese partner as “the holy grail,” and it’s shocking that some would think that would be the solution to all their Japan problems. I think assimilating into Japanese culture is a choice you have to make, it’s not something you marry into and pick up as you go. Once I learned to accept that Japanese people do things differently from the west and started to think like them (like work crazy overtime, put career above family/wife, not openly express emotions) my life in Japan improved ten fold. In fact, I often turned down many Japanese men because even though I understood their culture and dove in head first, I knew they wouldn’t do the same for me. It would be difficult for me to fully throw myself into Japanese culture if my partner did not even attempt to try and understand or sympathize with some of my western values. Unless both parties can be mutually understanding, it’s going to be a bad, bad relationship.

      Basically my rule of thumb is: befriend or date a Japanese persosn that has lived abroad, even if it’s only for a little while. Japanese people that have never lived abroad, or even left the island, are strange creatures indeed (and this is the same for Americans as well, haha).

      And yes, working in a Japanese company sucks–but your happiness depends on your direct supervisor. When I worked at a Japanese company in Shanghai my direct supervisor was a badass Japanese woman who had been CEO of the China branch for 20 years. She demoted herself to advisor even though everyone (even the male CEO of HQ) begged her to take reign again. Everyone fell at her feet and I was so impressed (especially for a woman in Japan). She had lived abroad so long and traveled so much that she was really easygoing with me and upfront told me that Japanese people are inefficient and frustrating. It was nice to have someone that could sympathize and actually understand just how ridiculous Japan work flow was at times. That job was awesome because of her, but when she was gone the runner up for her was another narrow minded Japanese ojisan obsseed with protocol. Sigh.

      Anyway, great comment!!! Sorry my comment is 10 pages long here, haha…

  26. Todd says:

    Ruby,
    Thanks for your reponse, and you make many good points that I can connect too. There are people in Japan that marry just to get that “ticket” I mentioned, Ive met them. Some Filipinos, (actually many) who have done it. Some have community and deal, (highly reccomended) through church and friends, others are out in the inaka alone married to a Japanese who cant find Japanese wife, others get married and get the PR and then make the break to start their own hustle. To each his or her own when making their way. These are some of the most toughest and resilent people I have ever met or worked with. Its sort of what I meant by the “sacrifice” Other people got married while in the military, perhaps the new culture was sensory overload, blinding them to the obvious reality we veterans of the game can now easily witness on the train or just walking through downtown tokyo during lunch break; the conformity, white shirts, same bags, shuffle etc. They might continue in their base job and ignore the suck due to that privilage or go private sector and jump into the suck and become one with it. So people have different entry points into the suck I guess, and keep our sanity by connecting with dialogue like this. Then I meet people like yourself, who sometimes I envy. In transit, who will sacrifice to get that experience or skill, but there is an end game, but who know the suck and can connect/describe it well. I think allot of people who get married to a Japanese and come to Japan latter come to the realization that, hey, this isnt what I thought it would be, but they have kids and are now commited. They just try to make it work. Ive found its sometimes these people who will deny or even defend a different version of reality, perhaps is a coping mechanism, so its refreshing to read your post about the real. This gets into heavy territory, so I wont go there, because this denying or apathy also describes how many Japanese feel, trapped in a life where service for the whole is considered saintly, whereas individualism is considered a sin, but its their cultural DNA, whereas it conflicts strongly with mine
    .
    I agree with many of your points, but I dont think a foreigner can really ever assimilate into Japan because Japanese people think in absolute terms; your either a Japanese or your not. There are those who strongly disagree, and have made the commitment, but Ive met and observed them and how the Japanese interact with them. I dont witness any exception being made for them, no matter how fluent in Japanese, or how well they can mimick Japanese mannerisms. It seems to me to be just a self fooling game they are playing; I know because Ive played it as well, only to be snickered at latter by many Japanese. Once again, a bit of a heavy topic, but I walked back from that world and try to keep myself as real as possible and I get allot more respect from the Japanese now. I cannot honestly say that Japanese will accept me if I naturalized or became pera pera in the languge, actually the opposite would occur.

    Thank you for letting me rant, and your awesome post about working at a Japanese company!

  27. Todd says:

    Also, your comment about Japanese who worked abroad and have empathy for foreigners struggling in Japan is spot on, but those are a rare find, unless you go abroad and find them working there.

    • rubymary says:
      Profile photo of rubymary

      I agree with everything you wrote! Haha. I do feel bad for the ones that get sucked into a Japanese life thinking it’s going to be awesome, then realizes it sucks, but can’t back out because they are married or have kids. One could say my dad made this mistake with my mom marrying a Vietnamese woman thinking it would be fun to have cross cultural uniqueness, but then it ends up just being more of a headache. They made itw ork for 40 years somehow, though.

      Anyway, I’ve only seen a handful of foreigners who are so sold on Japan they stay there and learn perfect Japanese and deal with all the xenophobic ostracisim. No one really becomes Japanese, but you just gotta get used to the fact that 1. everyone is going to think you’re a stupid gaijin forever because of how you look 2. you will always be mildly frustrated with how inefficient and ridiculous Japan is. I remember once I had a passionate outburt with one of my fellow Japanese English Teachers, asking him why he worked so hard and why he didn’t pursue his dream of going to Germany. He looked me dead in the eyes, with the saddest face I’ve ever seen, and said: “There’s nothing I can do, Mary. I was born Japanese.” That’s when Japanese reality hit me in the face and I realized I wasn’t in America anymore.

      Also, yes, meeting a Japanese person who worked abroad and has empathy for foreigners is extremely rare. It hink I only have 3 friends like this. One even said to me: “Mary, Japanese people are robots. That’s all we are.” It was refreshing to hear a Japanese person not praise the death out of their country.

      Thanks again! Really interesting discussion 🙂

  28. Todd says:

    “There’s nothing I can do, Mary. I was born Japanese.”

    Thats a rare find, that kind of honesty from a Japanese. Many Japanese I know, mask that sad reality with a defense of all things Japan snap, and when you suggest your leaving, they have a fit or pout. Ive often wondered why, but it may be because they know they cant. That gets into the more heavy stuff like obligation for life in relationships and work.

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