Continuing with our series of interviewing people who are working and living in Japan, we have an interview from James who is now teaching English at an International Preschool in Tokyo. Teaching English in Japan is no doubt the most common job for most westerners looking to come work and live in Japan.
It can especially handy if you have been unable to study Japanese to a level where you can work in a Japanese business environment (N1-2 level), but still want to enjoy living and working here. It can be a nice temporary position for people until they move onto another position. For others teaching English is the perfect work-life balance and something they decide to make their key career for their entire time in Japan.
Teaching English in Japan is a booming industry in Japan and it is not going anywhere soon. James has some great insight into the industry and advice for anyone that is looking or interested in pursuing a teaching career here. Enjoy!
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!
When you are job hunting one thing that you will no doubt do is research about a company. It might be the company that you are applying to, its competitors or just somewhere you have an interest in. For anyone new to job hunting this entire process can seem rather daunting, even more so for a Japanese company as much of the material and resources will be in Japanese.
What is even crazier is that if you are going to a job fair such as the Boston Career Forum, then there is a chance you will be applying to 10s of companies. That is a whole lotta research!
However there are many sites and steps you can use to simplify the entire process. Trying to think of a good Kibō dōki(reason for applying)? How about reading exactly what the guys put down that got hired, sounds like some pretty juicy info eh. Not too sure if you will fit in the company and if there is a lot of Zangyō (overtime)? All this information, as well as a companies values, strategy and its entire recruitment process can be easily found on-line if you know where to look.
So far all you job hunting wanna be workers out there I am going to introduce my top sites and own personal method of how I do research on a company. Use it, improve it, ignore it, I don’t mind, but hopefully it will help a few of you out there! Either way it worked for me!
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.
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 !
Hello Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls. This is IT! This is the theme that got everything rolling. The big bang for Wijapan. It is the topic I always wanted to write about and the one I also wanted to avoid, due to it often bringing up un-pleasurable memories.
Now working in a Japanese company is one HELL of a big theme. We haven’t got that many articles here at Wijapan (YET!) but quite a few of them touch on working in a Japanese company. Jamie has introduced some of the annoyances to be found with everyday life here such as the good old hanko and your truly has talked about the diet surrounding working in a Japanese company and also a general outline of how to apply to one .
I would say though, more than anything that happens in the day to day life of working here, what has had the most lasting impression on me was the first two months, namely the kyouikukikan, the ‘training period’.
My first two months in a Japanese company were so mind boggling and shocking, that it made me realize that even though I had majored in Japanese language and culture for 4 years at university, spent one year living here as an exchange student and 6 months working for Mercedes Benz in Tokyo with many Japanese staff, I really knew nothing about what goes on in a traditional Japanese company or what it is like to work for one. I also think that unless you have experienced being here (or read this blog) you will never know.
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.
OK so we are back to the long road of job hunting in Japan. Following on from the previous article we are have gone to the company presentation and hopefully our Entry Sheet has passed. The next step being the ultra-fun:
So you have made it through the first stage and it has only taken you around 4 months. The next step will often be a written exam or first interview, depending on the company the order is different and some companies leave out the written exam all together (my company and Tokyo Joe’s company both had a written exam but Joe’s didn’t).
There are various kinds of written exams, personality tests, general knowledge test and specialist knowledge tests. The most famous of all of these is the SPI which stands for ‘Synthetic Personality Inventory’ which is a general knowledge test and the standard used by 1000s of companies. The SPI test generally has a math, language (Japanese and English) as well as personality section, but there are variations depending on who is taking the test (university grad, college grad etc.) and company that is using it. In essence it used to test not just a candidate’s academic level but also their general knowledge and character too. The most current version of the test is SPI3 which was introduced in 2012. The test can be done in both a test centers or on-line.
These tests can actually be pretty demanding and there are a LOAD of books, websites and mobile applications devoted to just getting prepared for them. Often at Universities you will see hordes of students combining forces to tackle the tests. One person who is good at maths will do that section for everyone in the group, then another person will do the language section etc. Maybe not the most ethical way to do it, but definitely easier than trying to do it solo.
You might think that finding a new job is pretty much the same in any country. You generally find an advertisement for a job you want to do with a specific job description, listing the skills required for that position etc. You then send in a CV and Cover Letter highlighting your key skills and how they are applicable to what is required from the role. You will have an interview, usually one, maybe two at the most and if it is a specific skilled based job such as translation, some sort of work related ‘trail’. This is what I perceived ‘job hunting’ as and how most of my friends in the UK, America and other parts of Europe went about applying and getting their job.
Also here in Japan, when you apply to most (not all) gaishikei (foreign company in Japan) it essentially follows the same pattern as above. My own internship application to Mercedes Benz R&D Japan followed the above process to the Tee.
However if you are applying to a Japanese company, especially if you are going to be/are a new graduate, then the process is completely different and actually EXTREMELY confusing and long. Perhaps the biggest difference with ‘job hunting’ in Japan (called shuushoku katsudou or shuukatsu for short, cause shuushoku katsudou is a ridiculously long word!) is the fact that you are essentially not actually hunting for a ‘job’ but a ‘company’. The reason being that when you apply and are hired, you will often have no idea what job you will be doing in the company! Which makes it damn hard to sell yourself! Also most of the time when you are applying to a Japanese company it is under the assumption that you will work their for life, though more recently there is an increase in people changing jobs in Japan.
So the average Japanese University student will start job hunting….wait for it…..at least a full 14 months before they are scheduled to graduate. Yep, talk about forward planning. The reason being that you have to jump through certain unavoidable ‘hoops’. Even if you are the most skilled, highly desirable candidate generally there is no way of avoiding this.
So what does the average job hunting route entail?
When I first came to Japan I was shocked by all the delicious food. I knew people who had been to Japan raved about how amazing everything was, but being in the UK with very limited knowledge of Japanese food, when someone said ‘Japan’ and ‘food’ in the same sentence all I could think of was sushi and noodles. Yeah I know, me and 99% of the the non Japanese population. Furthermore despite the fact that I had been studying Japanese at university and held an interest in Japan since 15 I was actually very ignorant towards Japanese foods.
I didn’t know what takoyaki, okonomiyaki or oden was. Now for the average Joe not knowing these foods isn’t anything special, but for a self confessed Japan-aholic this is kinda embarrassing. The flip side was when I came in September 2010 for the first time I was blown away by pretty much everything. Biggest surprise being that Japanese curry doesn’t taste a thing like the Indian curry I had been pretty much brought up on (my family LOVES CURRY!).
My class and I were always told before going to Japan that we would lose weight. That every year people go and come back lighter than when they went. After our year abroad and everyone was back in the UK, the majority of people had indeed lost a fair few pounds. Most people looked pretty damn slim and healthy. I say most people because I actually put weight on in Japan. Nothing big, nothing even that noticeable to other people, but the scales don’t lie, I was heavier than before I went. Did I care at the time? Nope. The food in Japan is amazing, and not just the Japanese food. You have high quality and delicious Korean, Chinese and Italian food here too just to name a few. 10 months of gorging on ramen, pasta, curry and sushi (often tabehoudai (all you can eat) together with nomihoudai (all you can drink best/worst invention in the world!) had resulted in the gain in weight. Many of the main social activities in Japan centering around food and drinking in some way.
Upon returning to the UK and not having the same temptation/opportunity to just go to the city at any time meet some friends and have a food/alcohol orgy like I did before, I had a much healthier eating lifestyle. Me and my roommate would often try food related challenges such as ‘Vegetarian Month’ (Fegebruary anyone? Best name ever!). I had also started running, actually to the point where my big toenail fell off, fun times. Going back to Japan in September 2012 at age 22, I was a lot fitter than the time I left and was looking forward to sampling all the cuisine that Japan had to offer again. However I vowed that this time I would make an effort to cook more and have a ‘healthier’ diet. Boy, did I fail!