Oct 9 2020 What is it like for a foreigner to work in Japan: A complete guide to working in Japan

Are you a foreigner looking for a career in Japan? You must have wondered “What is it like to work in a Japanese company?” If you have never worked in Japan but would love to do so, you must be curious to know the answer to this question.

How is the Japanese corporate work culture?

Adecco, one of the biggest recruitment agencies operating in Japan, had conducted a job satisfaction survey for 300 foreigners who have regular and white-color jobs there.

The study revealed that 77% of foreign workers were very satisfied or satisfied with their job and the five biggest factors for their satisfaction were “Job role,” “Relationship,” “Working hours,” “Job security,” and “Welfare benefits.”

The number of foreigners working in Japan has been steadily increasing from 0.68 million in 2012 to 1.46 million in 2018

The increase has been largely driven by many actions taken by both the government and private sector companies to make Japanese workplaces more amiable, diverse and inclusive. Recent changes in the labor market, as well as changes in people’s mindsets, point to a move toward greater diversity and inclusion.

For example, at the turn of the decade, Rakuten announced the need to drive English within the organisation as the official language for the company. 

Language barrier, indirect communication style, a need to read between lines are some of the common apprehensions about the Japanese work culture, but many of these are very misguided and often represented by individuals in respect to their reporting managers / direct supervisors.

Though Japanese work culture is still perceived as very demanding and different in nature, things on the ground are much different:

  • The most common misnomer is that the Japanese corporate culture is too demanding and that is too stereotypical.
  • People usually have misconceptions about the culture that they will have a lot of work or they will have a lot of overtime. It’s true with some companies but not with the majority of companies.
  • Language is not a barrier unless you stumble upon the traditional organizations which prefer Japanese speaking employees. 
  • In recent years, young firms with startup atmosphere and flat organization structures have also been on the rise in Japan who value diversity and cultural mix.


Why people change their current job or company in Japan and what are they looking for in their new company :

According to a survey conducted by HR consultancy firm DISCO, the main reason cited by foreigners to leave their job in Japan was to return to their home country while corporate culture and language barrier combined contributed to a meagre 28%. Some other reasons might be:

  • People who are staying in Japan already and looking for change in company are primarily due to dissatisfaction with their current place or they are unhappy with their current job profile
  • Foreigners, especially from the US / Europe sometimes tend to expect a Westernized culture akin to the “silicon valley” work environment where everyone speaks english in the office and there is a prominent presence of a western culture. 


If you are a foreigner looking for work in Japan, you should ask the following questions:

  • Is the company a Large, medium or small-sized?
  • Does it have a domestic or global culture?
  • Are you the only foreigner? Are you the first foreigner to have ever worked there?
  • Your role and seniority level when you start.
  • Whether you have a chance to learn new skills and advance your career at the company.
  • Does the company require a high level of proficiency in Japanese?


Whether a company is a good match for you:

  • You should start by looking at different places which will include companies based out of Japan as well as foreign companies with offices in Japan as per your skills and comfort level.
  • Try looking at companies which have already welcomed foreigners into the fold and are trying to be very supportive in nature and at the same time trying to diversify their culture.
  • Are the existing employees in the company very welcoming towards foreigners and are supportive towards them?


Working in Japan as a foreigner can be challenging at times but you might gradually fall in love with its unique culture, excellent food, beautiful seasons and its clean, convenient and safe environment. You won’t know until you try.


More than 9000 people have registered with Active Connector to get special access to job recommendations.
Be the next one to get a dream job through us!