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For those of you who work for Japanese companies, what are some of the best or worst things about it?


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Working for a Japanese company (well, two) was a good experience for me overall. The best thing I took out of it was learning to speak Japanese at a business level, including keigo. But beyond that, I also learned how to take care of my work to ensure that everything was perfect, ensuring a high quality. When I first started the number of checks everything had to go through seemed overboard, and often frustrated me, but I learned to appreciate it over time, and as I started hiring foreigners in my own company, I really appreciated that training. It can be frustrating dealing with staff who cut corners.

On the opposite side of things, having to work overtime sucked. And dealing with rules that meant everyone sunk or swam depending on the strength of the company, rather than the strength of their own individual work, also sucked. And politics between staff and/or management, particularly pettiness, really sucked, although to be fair that's true in companies in most countries as far as I know, and not limited to Japan.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Best: Clients and co-workers

Worst: The lack of organization

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Best: End of the year and Start of the year parties.

Worst: Meeting after meeting and lack of responsibility.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Best: A genuine sense of team. Very smart and capable coworkers.

Worst: Very tough to get decisions pushed through in a timely manner.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Not working for a Japanese company is the best thing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

best - the friendly greetings, chit chat, laughs and happy smiles that you knew were genuine

worst - the friendly greetings, chit chat, laughs and happy smiles that you knew were fake

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Best: Worst: hours, overtime, endless meetings, low pay, robotic colleagues.

That's why I quit the japanese company I was at to join a foreign owned company. Worlds apart, so much better.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

worst: mandatory age retirement. No flexibility.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Mine has been generally positive. Be firm about separating work/private time ( drinking with coworkers a few times a year is more than enough ). As mentioned before, one of the negatives are the long, pointless meetings which very rarely produce anything constructive.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Best: Having coffee served by Keiko at exactly 9:45.

Worst: Having to stay and work after Keiko leaves at 5:30.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Best: Not going to get laid off and given a package because some gaishikei isn't fully committed to Japan or ships your job over to India or China. Also pay raises annually although not too much.

Worst: Not being able to lay off the incompetent fools that just sit around and collect a paycheck and could care more about their next smoke break then their work. Pay is not the highest as you everything is packed into my bonus that I get 2 times a year.

Overall it isn't too bad as my company isn't your typical run of the mill Japanese companies.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Best: Having coffee served by Keiko at exactly 9:45.

Oddly enough, that's on Keiko's list too:

Worst: Having to serve coffee to creepy male co-workers.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Best: Everything seems nice Worst: Everything "seems" nice.

You're gonna hate my comment, cause it's highly offensive, even if I don't really mean to be. Yes it's all tidy, it's all pitch perfect smiles with excellent verbal usage with the kindest ethics, bowing your heads like bobbers off a boat. And clients come with the simplest problems or bragging that doesn't matter. But ask for a raise, health coverage, or perhaps a computer that works; maybe an update on the old windows system that keeps breaking down? Oh maybe a firewall application to keep the virus out. Or perhaps a headsup week in advance that they're shaving my hours in half, and that there's no raise after 3 months training, and that your boss is leaving and the company provides no visa's for your co-workers. Co-workers; maybe some team playing for once? Not "I can do this stop helping me" type of bullshit. We're in this together! and I'm not arguing when I give an opinion, but giving an option! Just because your older, and experienced doesn't mean you can do everything! Your can't even pronounce their own "Rice" correctly! . proud to not be a Japanese, getting tied down in a crappy system that'll anker you to the bottom of the Japan sea. If you love Japan, go to Kyoto, eat your sushi, find a cute Japanese girl, show her the world, have lots of half Japanese babies who will growup to be great citizens outside Japan. Just don't live in the Japanese system. It's safe, but goes no where; it's a ship at dock waiting for a Tsunami. The economy, the population, the safety of the country, it's all going south and everyone knows it; they know it, and nothing changes. I don't mean to be offensive, but it's the damn truth. Some people like me live in denial of it, tolerated the school system, tolerating the pathetic work system. It's just surviving the quakes, and making dumb ideas like cellphones a huge deal. I was surprised when I worked in a Canadian company for once and they made sure I got health coverage and good pay, asked for problems upfront. Sure, work is work everywhere, but know what excels your life the best. I don't believe Japanese culture is positive in with human growth. It's just hammering down nails that stick up. It's a generous disciplined culture but it sure takes pride in that 'island' mentality. Somehow I got influenced in it one way or another cause i keep applying for Japanese companies in North America and I get no satisfaction, cause it's just the same anywhere. Have a great day.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I know this is an old article, but thought I should add my 2 cents.

Best: The fact that you are not Japanese and can move back to your country at any time. Worst: Basically everything.

I've been here more than 5 years, and I can honestly say I have gone from absolutely loving Japan, to nearly hating it. Before someone says "then leave!!!" let me say I am planning on moving back to the states (unless I can find a foreign-owned CG studio here in Tokyo). I'm sure compared to many countries Japan's quality of life is an improvement, but compared to an American lifestyle Japan is kind of like camping. Anyway I am definitely looking forward to getting back to a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, seeing as the salaries in Japan are about half of American salaries.

The biggest reason I began to hate Japan is their horrible horrible work ethic and business culture. I've never taught English, so I don't know what that's like, but if you work in Japan at a normal company you will begin to see the darker side of the country. In my opinion most of Japan's social problems (high suicide rate, depression, low birth rates, high rate of singles, low salaries, increasing rates of single mothers, men and women going their separate ways, broken nenkin system etc.) are caused mostly by Japan's business culture. A Japanese company takes most of your time, most of your energy, and gives you very little in return in terms of appreciation, salary and contentment; the salaries are not even enough to raise a family on (hence the low marriage/birth rates).

This may sound strange but Japanese people have a warped view of efficiency when it comes to time and labor. In an industry like mine (3DCG) you can expect more than half the staff to do "meaningless overtime", which means they are at their desks well into the night, but aren't actually doing much work (and any work they are doing is full of errors because they are exhausted). What they are doing is trying to create a good image to the company by showing what dedicated employees they are.. it's basically just posturing. They are also trying to offset their low salaries, because the laws in Japan are such that overtime (past a certain amount [35hours per month at my company]) has to be paid. So since a company can really only afford to pay its employees what it can afford to pay, and half the staff is working and getting paid for overtime, everyone's salaries are therefore lower than they could be otherwise.

You can also expect long, pointless, fruitless meetings; I have been in meetings that literally lasted more than 4 hours and accomplished almost nothing unless you enjoy long pauses of silence and watching middle-aged Japanese men make strange sounds and say souuuuuu-desuuuuuu-neeeeeeeee as slowly as they possibly can. Do you remember the scene in Lord of the Rings where the 2 hobbits are waiting for the Ents to reach a decision? After hours of waiting Treebeard tells them they "just finished saying good morning". Ya, it's like that! These long pointless meetings mean you literally don't have time to do the work you need to do. It seems like the reason for these long meetings is the fault of their indirect communication style; so getting things discussed, decided and accomplished takes easily twice as long as a western company. Furthermore the culture is very passive aggressive, so it's very hard to tell what people are really thinking, if they are being genuinely nice to you or if they are subtly being mean. Also, don't expect honesty if it jeopardizes group cohesion; there is a saying in Japan uso-mo-houben, which basically means that a lie is justified sometimes if it will help keep things stable. We saw this in action on the news after Fukushima where Tepco, the media and the government colluded in lies about the severity of the situation. Michio Kaku slammed Japan for its irresponsible and dangerous handling of the situation.

But getting back to the workplace. There is also a problem with Japanese companies using software and tools incorrectly... I call this the kanchigai tatsumaki or tornado of misinformation. The problem is that if you work in a technology industry that is constantly getting new software, tools, new information and ways of doing things etc., all of that information is going to be written in English initially, and 90% of Japanese people can't speak or read English, so they come up with their own ways of doing things and spread that misinformation around their incestuous industries. For example I once worked at a huge successful Japanese company (Denso) that had lost their original Photoshop files for icons for a project. Instead of remaking new icons they opened up old compressed Jpgs they had and wanted to use those; but those icons had a drop shadow, so they opened up each icon and were trying to erase the dropshadow by hand with the ERASER TOOL! When I asked why in the hell they were to modify nasty compressed images by hand, they said that other Japanese studios did it that way (as though that was a good reason). I eventually convinced them to let me remake all the icons in vector and created a system that automatically exported and replaced the assets from a central file every time they made a change to them... I saved them tons of time and headache but do you think they showed me any appreciation for that? Quite the opposite, I was viewed as a troublemaker for stepping out of the hierarchy... sighhhhhhhhh. Relating to this, any criticism (even positive criticism) will be seen as negativity, and will make you a pariah among your coworkers... because the most important thing in Japanese business is not efficiency, not quality, not a good outcome, but rather group cohesion. So why is group cohesion so important? Well because Japanese people do everything as a group, and the company is supposed to be the most important thing in your life (even above your family). This leads to a cult-like group-think kind of culture that really makes me cringe at times. Here's an example; at my current studio every day at 3:30 they do this little exercise routine called radio taisou (Google it). It's basically the national exercise routine (yes such a thing exists). It's technically optional since it would probably be against the law to force people to participate, but they expect everyone to do it. I did it for a few months, but after that opted to keep my headphones on and continue my work. No problem right? No, problem! I was called to a meeting where they told me they were concerned because I wasn't participating in the radio taisou. I literally facepalmed... and said "look guys, I have a lot of work to do... furthermore I'm a 35 year old man and I don't want to use my time on this planet to talk about not participating in radio taisou. Now can I go back to my desk now so I can continue my work for you?". I was probably a little heavy-handed with them, but after 5 years of this madness enough is enough. Anyway I digress, but listen, anyone thinking of moving to Japan long term working in a normal industry should read these words and take a huge step back and rethink their decision.

1 ( +1 / -0 )


I bet that felt good! Good luck!

I've never taught English, so I don't know what that's like

It's great as long as you stay out of the kindergartens, Elementary, Junior and High Schools and low level universities.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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