Monthly Archives: November 2013

Alcohol and Work in Japan

My last article introduced you to some of the main alcohols that are available here in Japan. I also talked a little bit about who they were aimed at, as well as some background about how the genetic make up of a percentage of Japanese people mean they can not physically drink alcohol. Here is a handy dandy link for those that missed it.

Ok, this article is going to focus specifically on alcohol and how it relates to working life here in Japan. I said in the last article that a few of you might be thinking “What has alcohol got to do with work!?” my answer being “Everything!” and oh boy does it!

So essentially there are key moments in every Japanese company where you will have the opportunity/duty to drink. These are kangeikai (welcome party), soubetsukai (farewell party), bounenkai (end of year party), when you are interacting with customers and finally just the general office nomikai (general drink-up).  In most cases these events will be in the form of nomihoudai. As far as I know this is a unique system to Japan that is both wonderful and devilishly self-destructive (though I hear it is also recently available in Korea also under the same Japanese word nomihoudai). How it works is that for a set price and time you can drink as much as you like on a range of drinks. So in theory you can have 1 glass of beer or 20 glasses of beer and it will be the same price. If nothing else, it certainly helps working the bill at the end of the night easier.

So we now know that they are many times in which we will have the opportunity to drink and it will general be in an environment where there is no limit to the amount of alcohol. I am sure that many think “Even so, surely you can just say…no? ” If only it was that simple.

As a shinnyuushain (new employee) in any Japanese company you have certain expectations to fill, whether this be answering the company phones, refilling the coffee machines or making sure you greet everyone in the morning. Perhaps the most important non-office duty is attending drinking events where you will have the responsibility of pouring everyone’s drinks, as well as having to drink anything that is given to you by a superior. This may seem like all BS, but I assure you that it in 99% of ‘How-to’ books or websites on being a new employee in Japan they will cover this topic in detail. Not only that, but there are very specifics way in which you must ‘correctly’ pour the drinks. Heaven forbid you just pour that bad boy without consider where the label is or your own hand placement!

Here is a perfect examples of a Japanese book which is aimed at new Japanese employees explaining about what to do in a drinking situation.

Japanese Manner Book

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Alcohol in Japan

Now we have many articles that are just dying to be written, how to go about job hunting in Japan, how to avoid over time at work, as well as other great tips on working and living here  and these bad boys are definitely going to blow your mind. Now don’t worry we do intend to get round to writing these articles. In fact I have just finished writing an article about applying for a working holiday visa for Japan if you are a UK citizen, very useful and very valuable information right there.

However as the title implies for this article, first I want to talk about one very important topic, alcohol. Specifically on how it links to work here in Japan. Now you might be thinking, wait one second here, what has alcohol got to do with work? To put it simply, everything.

Now not everyone drinks. Some people find it too unhealthy or expensive. Some people don’t like the taste, others might just be too busy. However some people just can’t physically drink alcohol at all. That last fact I actually learnt during my 2 month training period at my Japanese company (It was a 2 hour seminar in a conference room, where we were given lots of free beer and told how to pour it into a glass ‘properly’….then the guy explained for around 30 seconds about the ill effects of alcohol. The seminar was done after all by a guy employed at an alcohol company.)

According to  9.5% of Japanese people just can’t drink the stuff without their bodies getting all crazy and weird. This rather interesting articles even suggest those people carrying around come crazy red card so they can prove to people that drinking is a risk to them.

The reason why they can’t drink is  essentially all down to genes, specifically two. The gene ADH1B, which breaks up the alcohol into acetaldehyde (a toxic), and is actually found a lot in Japanese people. According to the article 60% have genes that help efficiently break down the alcohol turning it in the toxic acetaldehyde. As a side effect it means that they don’t feel the ‘buzz’ of alcohol much either. We also have the gene ALDH2. This little guy then turns that toxic acetaldehyde into acetic acid, and 4% of Japanese people are unable to break this acetaldehyde down at all. Resulting in all kind of side effects such as turning red in the face, sweating, itching as well as just feeling pretty damn ill in general.

Despite the facts I have listed above about many people not wanting / being able to drink much alcohol, it is pretty damn hard to avoid the stuff here in Japan.  Especially if you are working at a Japanese company and you are male.

Ok now for some background about some of the main alcoholic beverages that are available in Japan. Because information is FUN! When I first came to Japan in my 20s I just assumed it would be the same as the UK where it is mainly beer and spirits mixers, such as lemonade and vodka or Jack Daniels and coke….how wrong I was.

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Applying for a Working Holiday Visa Japan from the UK

This article is going to walk you through how to successfully apply for a Working Holiday Visa for Japan from the United Kingdom. I will supply the EXACT documents that I used and you are more than welcome to take them for yourself, alter them a little and submit them. Hell you can even just change my name to yours and submit them the way they are!

The Japanese Working Holiday Visa is an amazing visa that will allow the holder to stay in Japan for one year, allowing them to work an unlimited amount of hours. Now they do stress that this visa in NOT for people who are specifically looking to just work or study, the main focus should be travel with any side jobs there to help support this. This is a key thing to remember when filling in all the information for your  application.Below is a list taken form the Japanese government website detailing the general requirements of the applicant and also the documents required to be submitted.

British Passport Fully-loaded with a Beautiful Visa

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How to win at the Boston Career Forum

The Boston Career Form is just around the corner. For those of you that don’t know, it is THE biggest job fair for English-Japanese bilinguals in the world. As well as Boston, the same company also holds career fairs in London and here in Tokyo too (albeit smaller in scale). Here at WIJ we all found our first full time job for Japan at these Career Forums and they should be a major date on your calendar for anyone seriously considering working here in Japan.

So today we have a special post by Jamie Rhodes. Jamie met his company at the Boston Career Form and had successful interviews with many of the other companies he applied to. Essentially he totally kicked ass at the forum.

Below is an extremely useful and informative article about his own experience at the fair, as well as advice and tips on how he succeeded. Enjoy!


Career Forum

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