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カテゴリーのアイコン Work Life in Japan
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting to Work in Japan
Oct 23, 2023
5 min read
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Starting to work or trying to find a job in Japan can be a very overwhelming process and a hard cultural transition.

Here are 5 things I wish I knew as a fresh graduate to be more prepared for what is out there.

Interview System and Hiring Process

After applying for a desired position by submitting a comprehensive resume, the company kicks off the selection process with an initial document screening. This step involves a careful review of qualifications and may lead to a phone or video interview. Some candidates may also need to complete online aptitude tests assessing their personality or job-related written tests.

Once the candidate pool is narrowed down (often significantly), there are typically 3 to 4 interview rounds, involving HR departments and various managers.

If a candidate successfully navigates all interview rounds, they receive an official job offer, known as "naitei." This represents the culmination of the hiring process, formally inviting the candidate to join the company.

Resumes

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If the job listing is in Japanese or Japanese language proficiency is required, it is very likely that the company will require the submission of Japanese-style resume, commonly known as a "rirekisho,".

A rirekisho adheres to a unique format and is a crucial component of the job application process in Japan. It is traditionally handwritten, though typed or digital versions are increasingly accepted. The document is typically concise, spanning one to two A4-sized pages. Key sections include personal information (name, address, birth date, contact details), a career objective, educational history, work experience, skills and qualifications, and optionally, a section on hobbies and interests. Additionally, a small, professional photograph is usually affixed to the top right corner.

One notable aspect of Japanese resumes is the inclusion of references from previous employers or professors. Honesty and accuracy are highly valued, as integrity is a fundamental aspect of the evaluation process.

Customization is key, as applicants should tailor their resumes to align with the specific job requirements. After submission, it's common to send a follow-up thank-you letter or email to express gratitude for the opportunity to apply.

Overtime Work and Minashi Zangyo

Overtime in Japan is a defining feature of the country's work culture, marked by long working hours that often exceed the standard 40-hour workweek. It is deeply entrenched, particularly among white-collar workers known as "salarymen," who frequently work late into the evening and even on weekends. This pervasive practice is tied to notions of dedication, loyalty, and a strong work ethic.

Article 36 of the Japanese Labor Standards Law governs the agreement officially referred to as the "Notice of agreement regarding overtime and holiday work." This article serves to establish limits on working hours and overtime, with the primary aim of safeguarding employees from exploitation. In accordance with Article 36, employers found in violation of these regulations may face penalties, including imprisonment for up to six months or fines reaching as high as 300,000 JPY.

Nowadays most contracts will include “minashi zangyo” which is the expected amount of monthly overtime work set by the company which is already paid and included in your monthly wage. This means that you will not get retribution for additional overtime work unless you go over the number of hours set within the minashi zangyo close in your contract. Minashi zangyo varies by company, type, and seniority of position but make sure to be aware of it and to check before signing a contract, even though this is a very common practice in Japan.

Omiyage

Omiyage, which translates to "souvenir" or "gift," is an essential tradition in Japan. The gift-giving tradition involves bringing back small presents or tokens of appreciation for friends, family, coworkers, or acquaintances after a trip.

Omiyage is often associated with regional specialties or products unique to the area visited. Different regions in Japan are known for specific foods, snacks, or handicrafts, and these items make popular omiyage choices.

Holidays and Leave

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Japan's holiday and leave policy is a blend of traditional customs and modern work practices. National holidays, such as New Year's Day and Children's Day, punctuate the calendar. Paid leave, initially limited and growing with years of service, provides workers with vacation time.

The annual leave system is set at a minimum of ten days, with companies averaging on 2 weeks of paid holidays per year which is way beyond the average of 25 days in Europe. On the other side, national holidays are quite high in Japan, so you can expect to have a day off almost every month.

Japan's leave policy reflects a balance between preserving cultural traditions and accommodating the needs of a modern workforce.

Do You Want to Work in Japan?

We hope these tips and tricks have been useful to start navigating whether to start working in Japan and to kickstart a new chapter of your professional career.

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