Moving to Japan for work is not an easy decision. The language is difficult to learn, the work culture has many quirks and traditions that can be hard to get used to, and then there’s the hurdle of having to find a job in the first place.
While Japan certainly isn’t for everyone, there are more than enough reasons to come and build your career here. In the article below, we’ve collected a few main points that make Japan a exciting place to live and work.
Demand for Foreign Workers
The first reason is relatively straightforward: Japan needs high-skilled foreign workers. Find out more about the details below.
Working in Japan: Then
In the not so distant past, moving to Japan for work used to come with high hurdles. Even with good Japanese skills and some amount of work experience, finding a job was difficult at best and almost impossible at worst.
The main reason was a lack of demand. A steady supply of young Japanese talent meant that companies could afford to be picky when selecting new employees for their positions. Furthermore, the traditional “lifetime employment” system heavily favored long-term loyalty over (relatively) short-term assets, and the ability to communicate in Japanese was almost always considered a top priority.
High Japanese language requirements, concerns about early job changes, and the costs and time necessary for a visa sponsorship - all these factors contributed to companies not being very enthusiastic about hiring people from outside the country.
In addition to all of this, traditional Japanese work culture didn’t exactly have the best reputation. In many cases, the “lifetime employment” system led to long hours at work and little free time for everything else. However, things have changed since then.
Working in Japan: Now
Japan has long been known as an aging society, but the impact of the country’s demographic trend has become increasingly pronounced in the recent 5 to 10 years. With the percentage of inhabitants expected to reach over 40% by 2055 and the amount of young people constantly decreasing, companies are looking for helping hands in almost every industry.
The labor shortage is especially pronounced in engineering industries. As a country with little natural resources, Japan has always had to rely on technology and trade to excel in the international environment. But the demographic trend and shortage of young Japanese talent is threatening to diminish the chances for technical innovation that’s the key to Japan’s future. According to an estimate from the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the domestic IT sector will be facing a shortage of up to 790,000 much-needed professionals by 2030.
Because of this, more and more companies are actively ridding themselves of “island mentality” and are opening up to candidates from outside Japan. Aspects of the “lifetime employment” system remain in contemporary Japanese company culture, but overall, the trend is heading towards employment patterns that favor practical skills, work experience and efficiency over time spent at work and loyalty to the company.
For non-Japanese thinking of working in Japan, this means:
- More opportunities to utilize skills acquired at home
- Lower Japanese requirements for high-skilled work
- A greater number of companies that lack the negative aspects typically associated with “traditional Japanese” working culture
Stable Employment and Professional Opportunities
In the past, university graduates in Japan entered a company and stayed there for the rest of their lives. In the recent past, this system has been changing, and job changes have become more common. However, the average employee still spends about four times as much time at any one job than their peer in countries like the US. Full-time employment is, overall, very stable.
Companies also tend to be more conservative when it comes to dismissals or layoffs. Most of the time, these options are only considered during big economic downturns or severe misconduct on the employee’s part. As Japanese put a big focus on long-term training and growth of their employees, many of them would rather keep their staff so they can use their knowledge of and familiarity with the company to bring in results.
On the flip side, huge career leaps are not as common as they might be outside of Japan. Even now, the average career progression in Japan tends to be much more gradual than in countries like the US.
In addition to job stability, Japan also offers a lot of exciting challenges – especially for the tech-inclined. Japan has been called a high-tech country for a long time and is known for the world’s ever high-speed commercial high-speed rail system, visionary robotics and many other technological advancements. Working in Japan gives you a chance to get to know these things first-hand and help evolve them to the next stage.
Unique Culture and Beautiful Sceneries
Last, but not least, Japan offers a rich culture and a plethora of fascinating sights to everyone living there. Short-term visits are one way to experience the country. But living and working in Japan is the best way to immerse yourself in the culture and experience day-to-day life first-hand.
Of course, there is no better place for those who enjoy traditional Japanese culture. Travel to historical places and old towns like Kyoto, Kanazawa, and Kurashiki. Visit traditional gardens, sign up for a traditional martial arts course, or learn more about the intricacies of the elegant arts of tea ceremony and flower arrangement.
For fans of the outdoors, Japan offers many beautiful spots to explore. Because of the country’s long and drawn-out shape, Japan offers a lot of variety – from the freezing north of Hokkaido to subtropical Okinawa or the Ogasawara Islands. In the summer months, you can even climb the legendary Mount Fuji!
Are you a fan of anime and manga? Then go shopping in Akihabara or Nakano Broadway, explore Tokyo’s many anime-themed cafes, attend the legendary Comiket or events with your favorite voice actors, and read manga in their original language as soon as they come out.
Fans of the nightlife, fashion and Japanese music also get their money’s worth. Lose yourself in the club scene of Roppongi or hop bars in Shinjuku’s Golden Gai, stroll through Harajuku and survey the latest trends, and visit concerts of your favorite bands and musicians live.
When living in Japan, all this and much more is always just within reach of your fingertips. It’s safe to say that if you enjoy Japanese culture in any shape or form, every day is going to be an adventure!