We have a very special interview from Mike Paxman who is currently working in the mobile games industry here in Tokyo. Mike studied Japanese Language at the University of Sheffield, also helping to run the Japan Society on the side.
He also used to run the extremely popular Japan is doomed blog and has contributed contents to other Japanese culture websites such as Tofugu.
Below is the interview we did together about advice for those who are who are interested in working in Japan and specifically the game industry! Some great contents and hope you enjoy!
I never intended to do an internship after finishing university. I wanted to get back to Japan ASAP and work at a Japanese company. I wanted to taste the real Japanese working culture and take my Japanese above the N1 level, and at the time I thought the only way to do this was by working at a Japanese company full time. If that was not possible, then working at a foreign company in Japan would be the next best thing.
The only thing I didn’t realize was just how crazy hard it would turn out to be to find a full time job in Japan while being in a completely different country. I had this totally unjustified belief that all it would take is a few e-mails here, then some skype interviews there and companies would be falling all over themselves to sign me up. Unsurprisingly, I was completely wrong.
The Japanese Language Proficiency Test, for those of you who are not familiar with it is one of the most important qualifications you can get to get you into a job in Japan. Of course there are those jobs out there that do not require Japanese to get, but if you really want a job in Japan where you are doing the same work as your fellow Japanese colleagues, this is your ticket in. Japanese society puts a lot of importance on standardized tests – this is something you’d understand by looking at the fact that every university in Japan has its own humongous standardized test you need to determine if you are eligible to enter. The importance of test scores in Japan holds for foreigners as well. Those of you looking to get your 永住権 (eijuuken), permanent residence, having passed JLPT 1 will increase your chances. Not as in you will be favored more, you will actually receive 10 points in their point system to determine the eligibility of people for permanent residence. If we look at the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) we can understand more about the JLPT considering TOEIC is the main qualification you put on your resume when showing off your English ability in Japan.
What do avocados, rabbits, and British Rock all have in common? Well, not that much actually, unless you want to take into account the morbid fact that Percin, a fungicidal toxin found in avocados, is in fact deadly poisonous to rabbits, or the fact that Led Zeppelin have a rare live LP from 1969 called ‘Dancing Avocado’.
But who cares? The fact is that USAGI, located halfway between Shibuya and Omotesandō just off Aoyama-Dori, binds these three things together and somehow makes it seem like the most natural thing in the world. Make no mistakes, this place is as about as quirky as they come and that is exactly what I love about it. It even has its own theme song.
Turn off the main road and find its Ivy covered façade, littered with mismatched pots and an assortment of rabbit statues, then walk through it’s the doors and you will find yourself in a parallel, albeit cozy and homely, dimension where British rock and memorabilia from yesteryear blends seamlessly into a love of rabbits and avocado accompanied food.
Hell you have met your match; its name…… Salaryman boot camp.
Welcome to part two of a series of articles looking at what happens after you make the best decision of your life and join a Japanese company. Specifically we are focusing on the training period.
For those that missed it, part 1 of the series looked at the pre-entry training (yep the training will often start BEFORE you even get in the company) . Pre-entry training is kind of like an early Christmas present, a Christmas present that punches you in the face and makes you write an apology letter. Oh yeah.
This article is the first that looks at the initial training you get AFTER entering the company.
Much like the external exams mentioned above, this gasshuku (Remote Training) isn’t in every company, but it is present in many. For those who don’t know any better the concept of business gasshuku sounds almost fun. You get to stay in a hotel for free, get free meals and also get to know the new people that have also joined the company. Plus if you are a foreigner all the Japanese you can handle! Heck most people have to pay for this!
In reality though gasshuku is often one of the toughest things that any shinnyuushain will go through, regardless of nationality. My own experience brought me down to my knees and almost had me leaving the company (and I like to think I don’t throw in the towel easily) I mean I made it through the recruitment process, and that was no walk in the park !
I have many faults. One of them is that I am extremely ignorant towards certain things if I feel that they won’t affect me directly. I know it is not the best quality to have.
As an example in the summer of 2013 I had no idea that Princess Kate was even pregnant let alone that the baby was rumored to be a girl (she was about 6 months pregnant at the time). I generally didn’t keep up with the news between Kate and William because in all honesty I didn’t see how it would affect me at all. In fact I strongly believe that 99% of the stuff the royal family (and most celebrity) will do won’t affect my day to day life at all. It is this kind of attitude that results in me being ignorant towards a LOT of things.
*Funnily enough at the time of writing this article it seems that she is rumored to be pregnant with twins
Just before I came to Japan on my year abroad there were a lot of people who would talk about how Japan was due for a big earthquake at any time and that it would hit Tokyo pretty bad. I generally ignored these people because I thought that they were probably over exaggerating and that it wouldn’t happen when I am over there. I thought it wouldn’t affect me.
March 11th was a day that affected a lot of people I cared about, but it took me a while for everything to sink in and realize that it was part of my life too. On March 11th 2011, I was taking a shower in my dormitory in Warabi-shi of Saitama. I can’t quite remember if I had classes that day or I simply chose to skip them because I was exhausted from work. It was the middle of the day and I was going about my business when I suddenly found that I couldn’t stand up properly. My thought process was something to the effect of: “Wow, am I hungover?? I knew all this drinking was going to catch up with my health at some point, but this is… oh… this is an Earthquake.” So I rinsed off the shampoo off my head, wrapped a towel around my waist and ran up to my room. I put on some shorts and then my next priority was to secure my things and make sure nothing would be broken. It took me a second to realize that I’d be a bit broke if I didn’t get downstairs. I ran outside, putting on a shirt as I greeted everyone standing outside.
Our area wasn’t affected all that badly, so it wasn’t until later that I heard about people dodging falling debris and having to walk 8 hours back home due to traffic jams and stopped trains. It was much much worse than I had realized at first. I still remember me joking with my friend Vincent when hearing that the Fukushima plant had been damaged, saying that “Oh looks like we’re gonna have a new Marvel hero on our hands.” Our friend Aki quickly cut in to let us know that it was a much more serious situation and not something to be joking about. He was right, it is still something that we can’t say is completely safe, even 3 years later.
If there was ever a god, treacle sponge puddings are surely proof that he in fact exists , and at the same time seems to have a penchant for home baking – for how else could such a delight to the tongue have made its way into the world? The treacle sponge pudding has no qualms about being a simple desert, essentially just a ball of sponge wallowing in syrup. Juxtaposed against the French dacquoise or the mille feuilles, art forms in themselves requiring patience and skill, the sponge pudding epitomizes that very British way of ‘lumping’ separate things together and hoping for the best. Which (as with battered deep-fried mars bars, One Direction and The UK Independence party) can sometimes can go horribly wrong, but at other times (as with Fish and Chips,The Beatles and Monty Python) hits the nail straight on the head.
Welcome to our new corner, a place to wind down and forget all about trains, technology and the toils of a hectic week as I take you to a small corner of Japan, for some coffee, and maybe even a bite to eat.
To me the greatest Cafés can almost be living works of art. The smells, whether it be from the ageing pine of the floorboards, the unmistakable scent of well-aged tatami mats, the aromas of the food piling out of the kitchen and of course, freshly brewed coffee. These buildings, sometimes decrepit and sometimes as if almost frozen in time, spill with character, warmth and history. This is where I like to sit and watch the world go by, and these are the places around Japan that I want to introduce to you too.
So let us begin with the first, ‘Kayaba Coffee’ in Yanaka, Tokyo.
First things first, if you have never been to Yanaka just get off the train and go exploring. It is one of those rare gems in a city like Tokyo, an area steeped in history and endowed with countless historic temples; it never seems to garner the same kind of attention like the ‘old-Japan’ seeking tourist hot spot that is Asakusa. But this is what makes it great. Yanaka is Edo. You don’t even need a map, just take a walk down any side street and you are bound to come across a temple with some kind of historic importance. And one of the best things, there are no tourists in floppy hats and knee high sock/sandal combinations with camera lenses protruding from their chests like a scene from Alien. Well, maybe only the occasional few.
Basically, Yanaka is that wonderful of a topic that it deserves a post all of its own, for another time.
Within the midst of all that history stands the Café, “Kayaba Coffee”.
I can always recall one of my earliest childhood memories of my “awakening” to Japan as a “modern country”, and not just as a land of the rising sun full of ninjas and samurai (TV can be a convincing media).
I was born and raised in the small town of Wednesbury in the UK. A village for most of its existence, when the Industrial revolution picked nearby Birmingham up and propelled it to Industrial “workshop of the world” Wednesbury was swept along in the pandemonium. Soon the banks of canals filled with barges laden fresh with coal for Birmingham’s roaring industries; brimmed to the edge with factories, workshops and steel mills – the modern age had arrived for this small town.
But history was not to be kind to Wednesbury. As fast as Industry had giveth life to the town it took it away. Post-war, as in other areas, British industrial output crumbled under the weight of cheaper foreign imports and factory closures, mass unemployment and mass unenjoyment soon followed. However as soon as the 90s began where once stood steel mills now stood shops, as the old abandoned land which once rang day and night to the sound hammers pounding steel now thronged with the crowds of Middle-England – row upon row of cars filled to impossibility with flat pack furniture and kitchen fittings crawling along the asphalt.
But that’s a story for another time, so let’s return to that 12 year old wide-eyed Wednesbury child – the most exotic thing in his life being an Indian curry. I clearly remember my father telling me about how his friend has been to Japan only to return flabbergasted, astounded by its neon metropolis and futurisms.
“Everything they have is at least 10 years advanced of anything we have over here”
That was it. That was all I needed. Japan from that point on cemented itself into my mind as certain kind of futuristic utopia. Everyday chores need not trouble, as your trusty robot would carry out those tasks. The flow of information is electronically controlled as everyday devices and appliances speak with each other to optimise your daily routines for maximised – Japanese style – efficiency. The age of men was over.