Want to start Work in Japan? Crucial Tips for Success!

Published August 17th, 2021

Do you want to work in Japan? Have you landed a job position yet? Thousands of people dream about working in the country of their dreams and living their best life in Japan, but the Japanese work life can be quite a working culture shock for some.

Whether or not you‘ve secured a job in Japanyet, it’s best to get a few tips on how to navigate the Japanese working culture and come out of it successfully. Here are 9 tips for success when beginning to work in Japan!

1. (Try to) Learn Japanese

It’s not uncommon to get a job in Japan that doesn’t require Japanese. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn the language at all. Even if you’re not allowed to use Japanese at work, it shouldn’t hinder your learning process.

When you can communicate in Japanese, even at a basic level, you open so many more doors of opportunity for yourself. It can definitely help you grow and move up in the country. You can choose to go to after-work Japanese classes or self-learn, but definitely practice consistently. Making Japanese friends definitely will help.

2. Accept criticism

In Japanese work culture, criticism is often part and parcel of the job. Expect it every other day, if not every day. When you do receive criticism, don’t be defensive. Accept it and thank them for the feedback.

If you start telling others that they’re wrong, you aren’t helping anyone, especially yourself. You’re actually making it worse by losing the respect of others. Japan’s work culture is where criticism is given more than praise, so be sure you’re prepared for them.

3. Don’t question or answer back to superiors

The hierarchy at work is pretty strict in Japan. Remember who are your superiors and who are your subordinates. When your superiors tell you off for doing something wrong, don’t answer back or question them. Simply accept and move on.

This hierarchical structure applies even for locals and not just foreigners. You can only start giving orders around when you yourself become a superior, how ever long that may take.

4. Work overtime

In Japan, expect to work more hours than you signed up for. It’s common in companies to work past the time you’re supposed to leave. Overtime is kind of required even though it doesn’t say in the contract.

Most of the time, overtime is usually paid. However, if it’s not, suck it up. If you start making a fuss about not working overtime without pay, you might get a bad reputation in the company. An extra thirty minutes is a small price to pay to be on the good side of the higher ups.

5. Wait a few years before rocking the boat

In Japanese companies, the longer you are in the company, the more respected you are. If you just entered the company, wait a few more years before pitching your brilliant new ideas. You might be ostracised and get backlash. Others might think you’re trying to change the place when you are just a newbie.

In Japan, unless you have authority to carry these new ideas, they aren’t as valuable as you might think. It’s harsh, but it’s the truth for some companies.

6. Don’t make excuses

This next point is linked to point number 2. When you are given criticism or someone has misunderstood something about you or your work, don’t make excuses. Simply accept it and apologise. If you apologise by saying “moushi wake gozaimasen” (申し訳ございません), this literally means “there is no excuse”. It’s better to apologise without actually admitting fault than to come up with excuses in Japanese work culture. And also let them know that it won’t happen again, and make sure it doesn’t!

7. Dress the part

The work attire in Japan is quite uniform for most companies. Salarymen often wear a suit and tie in cooler seasons, and a smart casual version called “Cool Biz” in the summer. This is when it’s acceptable to wear short-sleeved shirts with no ties to beat the summer heat.

Women are sometimes expected to wear work heels, but some companies are taking this rule out of their attire rules. Makeup is often kept at minimum and basic, and this also includes hair colour and hairstyle.

This work attire also depends on the industry you’re in. If you’re in the creative industry, you can get away with quite a bit more. Check with your coworkers first if you’re unsure about the dress code for your company. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.

8. Be punctual

There’s a saying that goes “time is money”. It’s quite applicable in Japan. Japanese people are known to be punctual or early when it comes to timing. Whether it’s a formal meeting or a casual meet up with friends, timing is quite important to the Japanese people.

When you’re on time, you’re considered late. Always try to be at least five minutes early to avoid this. Even though you can call in advance to inform them you’re going to be late, Japanese people will apologise profusely when they are late to an appointment.

In a work setting, if you’re late to a meeting, it leaves a bad impression on you. It’s not the most ideal, especially if you’re the one presenting. Definitely come prepared and come on-time, if not early.

9. Be a team player

Last but not least, always be a team player when in a Japanese company. In Japanese work culture, teamwork is more important than individualism. If you take credit for yourself only, you wouldn’t have the best reputation at work. As they say, there’s no “I” in “team”.

There’s also this Japanese national characteristic known as “omotenashi”, which is the Japanese hospitality of politeness and care for others. Be sharp of your coworkers’ feelings and tasks. Offer to help out if they need a hand while still keeping your boundaries. Sometimes, some people want to do all the work themselves, so you wouldn’t want to annoy them with that.

Start planning your career in Japan!

The Japanese working culture can be quite a difficult one to decode, but if you’re alert and motivated to improve, you’ll definitely get the hang of the Japanese work environment. You have these 9 tips to get you started with succeeding in work in Japan – get on working that job position or promotion!