A right-of-the-batt, and probably not so handy, answer would be, it depends. Different companies care about different factors such as specific skills (although still in Japan it prevails the view that when it comes to recent graduates they want them like a fresh–ready-to-fill vase).
A more precise answer is that there are two almost sine qua non conditions that most companies demand for letting in long term visitors. Both can be mixed with common sense, but there are some caveats.
Sure enough! Being in Japan and wanting to work in Japan you have to speak the language. Although change is happening on this part (at this point every foreigner living in Japan must be aware of the English policy of entities like Rakuten to which smaller players can be added), a high percentage of Japanese companies prioritize those with good command of the language of the two Kanas and Kanji.
That pretty much sounds common sense and nothing new is being added. Yet, very little attention is paid to the also “common-sense” reasons behind this still prevailing requirement:
1) The difficulty in assigning various duties to employees with limited Japanese. The equation is straightforwardly simple: limited Japanese abilities – limited tasks. It should be interpreted together with
2) Difficulties for teamwork
In case those are not self-explanatory, it might suffice to say that there are very few jobs, including IT, that do not require people to exchange ideas, to talk to each other. No wonder why the lack of good communication abilities of employees is one of the most important complains from employers worldwide, even in the very same mother tongue. Emphasis on this soft skill is now more relevant than ever. Welcome to the twenty first century!
When it comes to talking about economic development, culture really matters. Why would it not matter in the case of one of the nuclear parts of development which is the employees-employers relationship?
Companies do want foreign employees to have an understanding of the Japanese culture. In fact, cultural understanding is important anywhere. Any country expects their long term guests to understand their way of living.
Even if you are not so fresh in Japan, given that having a good understanding of another country’s cultural rules takes some time, a useful introduction to the Japanese culture in the business/workplace environment is The Culture Map of Erin Meyer.
Having lived and worked in Japan for around seven years, I can confidently tell you she is fairly on the mark in her interpretation of the Japanese culture.
In my experience, at least for a general understanding, most of the cultural issues Japanese care about from foreigners borders with the idea of respect to others. Have you heard of Jikan Genshu and Yakusoku mamoru? Probably you did. How difficult is it getting into that mindset? Being at least mindful about it can go a long way.
Your main conclusion, at this point, might be “there is contradiction between the speech of globalization (global human capital) and the reality of the job market looking for students with enough Japanese local literacy (language, culture, and cultural business)”. I invite you to reflect on the following:
1. As I have written before, there is wind of change in Japan and change will accelerate.
2. Although some work-related cultural adjustment towards welcoming global human capital will be expected, we should think as a two-way compromise and understanding.
3. No matter how much standardization speech super globalization advocates profess, globalization is not meant to indiscriminately annihilate local identities, including culture and language
4. As “entry doors”, yes, overall those matter to a great extent. But do not be fool, they cannot be sufficient.
[…..to be continued]