Showing posts with label Working in Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Working in Japan. Show all posts

Thursday, March 3, 2016

FAQ's on Working in Japan

These so called 'salarymen' or office ladies fear resentment from their colleagues if they take days off, a real concern in a conformist culture that values harmony
Japanese salarymen and office ladies
Photo Credit:

Here are some common questions I receive from people who want to work in Japan.

For FAQ's on Teaching English in Japan , click here. 

1. What jobs are available for foreigners in Japan? 

Most foreigners in Japan are either English teachers or factory workers. There are also a handful of nurses, nursing assistants and farmers. A handful of foreigners work in companies. However, these jobs require proficiency in Japanese.

2. How can I find a job in Japan? 

Find a company who can sponsor your visa. This is easier for English teaching positions.
You can also check the Japanese Embassy in your countries for job openings and work programs.

3. Can I go to Japan as a tourist then search for a job there? 

No one's stopping you from doing this but I wouldn't recommend it. It would be hard for you to find an employer who will sponsor your visa. Your employer might also take advantage of you.

4. I have a dependent visa, can I work in Japan? 

It depends on the restrictions of your visa. I have a friend whose husband has been granted a 3-year visa. He can also work with his visa. My husband was granted a year's visa but he cannot apply for work.

5. I have a student visa, can I work while studying? 

Just like in other countries, you can work a FEW hours if you have a student visa. But, you're not allowed to take full-time work. Just recently, a language school was closed because they're hiring people with student visa.

 6. Aside from my full-time job, can I do part-time work? 

If you have a work visa, it would be very specific on what kind of work you can do. If  you want to engage in part-time work, you have to apply for a "Certificate to Engage in Other Activities."

Check this post for more details: How to Get a Certificate to Engage in Other Activities.

For More on Working in Japan, check these sites:

Working in Japan

General Union

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

How Much Can You Save as an ALT in Japan?

Dotonbori Street, Osaka
I've been receiving a lot of emails lately asking how much they can earn and save as a Language Teacher in Japan. A safe answer would be, it depends on a lot of things. Are you teaching in school or in language schools or in companies? Are you hired part-time or full-time? Is housing and health insurance part of your benefits or not? Will you be living in big cities, small cities or far-flung areas? If you're living in really rural places, do they have nuclear crisis or none? For transportation, are you going to use a car, the trains, a bicycle or your two feet?

I could go on and on about the many factors or how much you can earn and save as a teacher in Japan.

But let me just share with you my own experience, cause really, that's the best thing I can talk about.

I earn around 200,000 JPY monthly from my work as an ALT.  I could earn more or less depending on the number of school days in each month.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What to Wear in Japanese Schools

In the pre-departure orientation before I came to Japan, the speaker heavily emphasized how the Japanese are very strict with overall appearance in the workplace. Hence, I was quite formal during my first months in Japan. I was always wearing suits and button-down shirts. My hair and face were always made up. I was even wearing pearl earrings. Then I noticed how I was even formal than the principal. I realized I was overdressed.

Perhaps, if I was working in a company, what I wore were just fine. But in the schools, I didn't need to be so formal all the time.

So if you're working or planning to work in Japanese schools, here's a more manageable guidelines: 

A. Hair
  • If you have long hair, always tie it in a pony tail. In schools, you will notice that all pony tails are not too low nor too high. The rule is to tie your hair as high as your ears. 
  • You can dye your hair 1 shade darker or lighter.   
  • For men, keep it short. 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

3 Great Things About the Senpai System


Senpai (or sempai) generally means senior or mentor. By virtue, a senpai is older and has more experience than his junior/ protege termed as the kohai. 

The senpai system is prevalent in Japanese schools and companies. In schools, younger students consider the upper classmen as their senpai. You can see the senpai system at work especially in sports and music clubs. The freshmen will be under the "mentorship" of an upperclassman. In companies, an entry-level employee will be placed under the responsibility of a senior member. Whether in school or companies, the senpai is expected to train and to guide his kohai, usually for a year. In return, the kohai is expected to respect and obey his senpai. The senpai and kohai relationship may last even after the mentorship term. 

Since I'm a foreigner, I've never been actually under a senpai. But I saw how it worked in my schools and business classes. It may have its downsides but what I have seen, so far, are the good things about it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Best Companies to Get Teaching Jobs in Japan

Sunset at Lake Hamana, Shizuoka
If you've been thinking of teaching English in Japan, this season is the best time to decide and apply. If you start applying now, you'll have time for the application process and get visas before school starts again in April 2015.

You can start your application for an English teaching post with the companies below. I did not include the JET Program because it's more competitive and  the application process is "mendoksai" (such a bother). I'm only recommending these three companies because they're already established in Japan. They also have more job opportunities than other smaller companies. You'll have more chances landing a teaching job through these companies.Their recruitment process is discussed on their websites so you'll have a clear idea about what to do, what to prepare and what to expect.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How to Find Part-Time English Teaching in Japan

an events venue in Hamamatsu

Do you need to earn more? Or maybe you just want to fill your free time?

If you think you can teach English, then there are loads of part-time work waiting for you.

Here's how you can find part-time teaching jobs in Japan:

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How Working in Japan is Different from the World

Shizuoka Police Mascot.
I've recently learned about how Japanese companies operate. My business class students are only too happy to explain how different Japanese companies are from the rest of the world. Aside from asking employees to work overtime, everyday, Japanese companies also have unusual practices in hiring employees,in negotiating with clients, in how long they stay their companies, in how employees get paid and in how companies regulate overtime.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Survive an Enkai

I went home last night hungry and with a throbbing headache. As soon as I opened the door of my apato (apartment), I collapsed on the carpet (I don't have a couch, poor me!) and slept the night. Thankfully, my headache was gone when I woke up in the morning. My face was smudgy though and my breath was deadly. All thanks to the drinking party or enkai I attended the previous night.

Schools in Japan usually hold 4 major enkais throughout the school year. A welcoming party in April, a sem-ender before summer vacation, the year-end party called bon enkai and the farewell party in March. In my 1/2 stay in the school where I teach, I've only attended three times. Last night was my third. 

Drinking party in Japan
However, last night was a little different. For some reason, enkais are divided into 2- the first party and the second party. (Very creative in naming them noh?) The first party is the more formal one where people give speeches in a hotel and you all act and talk properly. Then there's the second one, the party after the party, where people are just free to go beserk, sing the night away, drink all the beer they can, shout and vomit and do whatever. Now, last night was my first time to attend the second party. It was fun until the room just got too stuffy for me and I realized that I haven't eaten a proper dinner. I didn't know how I lasted until the host said it's time to leave. We somehow all said our goodbyes and went home safely, I hope. 

So waking up this morning, I realized the things I should have done to have enjoyed the enkai more. I'm bound to attend one or two more enkais this coming school year so might as well have guidelines. 

1. Eat a proper dinner before attending the party. 

I know parties should make you go home full. There's decent food during enkais but there's more drinks. People are extra sociable during enkais it's not easy to have a sit-down dinner. Coworkers will come up to you and pour you drinks. They'll talk and you have to talk back without food hanging on your mouth. You just gotta socialize you know. This is one of those rare times when your Japanese coworkers acknowledge your existence. Food? Eating? Ain't nobody got time for that in enkais.  

I went home hungry last night cause I didn't heed my own advice. I attended the party without having dinner first. I ate at the party but I drank thrice the amount of food I took. It's hard to eat when my coworkers are all over me. I certainly can't deny them my awesome-English conversation skills.:)

2. Be the first to pour beer or wine. And you can say "Enough's enough."

This is what happens in enkais. Your coworkers will come up to you with bottles of beer or wine in their hand. They'll pour some in your glass. (You can also pour some in their glasses.) You'll talk a little then both of you move on. Another person will come up to you and pour you beer or wine again and talk with you. This pouring and talking goes on until the host has something to say. You'll probably end up drinking 3 to 4 glasses of beer. If you like drinking, this must be heaven to you but not for me. I don't like to drink so drinking all the beer or wine they give me is like torture. I keep on accepting their offer because I thought it's impolite not to. 
Pouring beer

Last night, when I'm already feeling warm, I decided to grab a bottle, go around and pour people drinks. I have enough of them coming up to me and making me drunk. I should have done it earlier in the night. When people also offered to pour my glass, I politely declined while pointing to my red face. They're okay with it. They're not offended or anything. Some teachers also declined. I guess I forgot that it's not a crime to say No in whatever culture. 

3. Save for enkais. 

Aside from going home with hunger and headache, I was also broke. I paid about 11,000 Yen for the two drinking parties. Drinking parties are not cheap. The average enkai costs about 6,000- 8,000 Yen. A teacher told me that a portion of their salary is being deducted for enkais cause it's not cheap to attend them. I'll do that beginning next month. I'd probably attend 2 enkais this next school year so might as well save up for that. 

Other things: 

Check the dress code. 

I'm saying this cause I've attended two enkais where I dressed incorrectly. The first one, I thought it was formal so I was in my suit. When I arrived, everybody was dressed casually. I took of my suit to loosen my formality. The principal was thankfully in formal clothes so I wasn't alone. Then last night I thought it was semi-formal so I was wearing a nice dress with flower prints and cardigan. Turns out it was a formal event. I was ill at ease at first but well, people started taking off their coats cause it was warm so I felt more comfortable. 

Just try to enjoy. 

As I've said, enkais are those rare moments when your Japanese coworkers talk to you and laugh with you. I don't really like drinking but attending enkais made me more comfortable with my coworkers. They're also more sociable after I attended the few enkais I went to. Enkais are like the Japanese version of team building events. So just enjoy it. Doesn't matter if you understand them or if they understand you. Drinking knows no language barriers. 

More in Drinking in Japan on these Sites:

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What is Hard Work in Japan?

When you work as an ALT in Japan, do your work the longest possible time. Throw the term EFFICIENCY out of the window.

Seriously. If you want to be a successful ALT in Japan, you have to take your time in doing your job. Need to write a simple memo? Draft it in handwriting. Then type your draft. Edit in handwriting. Type the edited version. Proofread in handwriting. Proofread the typewritten one. Print. Need to cut papers? Do it one by one. Don't use the paper cutter. A friend also shared how to photocopy inefficiently. Need 40 copies back to back? Make 20 copies. Only on one side. Then flip it and do the other side. Repeat for the remaining 20. Bottomline: Just don't rush in finishing your tasks.

The reason? The Japanese value hardwork. And for them hardwork means longer working hours. Like really long. The average Japanese employee works about 1765 hours a year, the ninth among the world's hardest worker.  Korea's the only Asian country that beat them up the rank. The Japanese even have a word for people who died of working. It's karoshi.

(More on karoshi, here)

From what I see and know from the teachers in my school and the students in my Business classes, this is how the Japanese see hard work.

Definition 1: Hard work is when an employee usually works more than 8 hours a day. If there's an 8th day in the week, they should work on that day too. 

Teachers stay late in school. I honestly don't know what they do cause their lessons are not that great. They also go to school on the weekends for club activities. They say that clubs are important. Sure, but how about rest? I like to ask.

sleeping Japanese

Even students stay until 6 pm or beyond that for club activities. Then most of them go to juku or cram school, then they have to do homework. Japanese student are trained to work as hard as their teachers. No wonder they sleep in class. In fact, sleeping at work or in class is acceptable in Japan. It means you're really hardworking that you weren't able to sleep at all. 

(More on sleeping at work in Japan, here)

Some companies implemented a non-overtime day to stop employees from doing overtime work. They just had to do it. Otherwise, employees would just keep on working. My Business English classes are always from 6 to 8 pm. Whenever I ask my students what they're going to do next after the class, they always say that they're going back to work. I'm just baffled. It's already late.

Definition 2: Hard work means work always come first. Never mind family life or social life. 

Just think about this: If you're working more than 8 hours a day even during weekends, do you think you'd still have a great domestic or social life? So yeah, I don't think these Japanese workers have great family and social life.

japan train passengers sleeping cool pictures
Too busy to sleep at home

(More funny pictures of sleeping Japanese, here)

A most common observation is how Japanese wives actually push their husbands to work longer hours. This is supposedly good for one's career. At the same time, I've also heard many times how strained husband-wife relationships are in Japan. A Japanese woman told me that it's common for husbands and wives to not sleep together anymore after having a child. They just don't have time. She said that it's a good thing she's married to an American guy.

I once asked a teacher if she goes out with her friends on weekends. She looked at me, puzzled, as if my question was weird. She said she goes out with people when she has time. I want to ask when is that but I don't want to appear weirder. Based on her reaction, guess that socializing is not really a big part of their lives.

When you visit touristy places in Japan, it's common to see a group of old people sightseeing together. I wonder if these people waited for their retirement to see places in their own country. Or maybe they go in groups so they have a reason to socialize.

Definition 3: Hard work is when you're creative enough to prolong your work, pretend that you're working or add unnecessary tasks to your workload. 

With all the technology available in a Japanese workplace, it's easy to get things done. But then you don't want to be seen as lazy by not extending your work time. You can't also stare at the clock when all your tasks are finished. The solution is to be inefficient. Take your time, look serious while actually doing nothing (Example: blogging while at work with a thinking expression on your face) or just do whatever that seems work-related. Just do something! Don't look as if you finished a day's work when the day's not yet over. For the Japanese, work should never be done.

I always admire people who work hard until I came here. I admire the Japaneses' willingness to place in extra hours. I admire their dedication to their jobs. However, I can't understand what's the use of extra hours when your family or social life is already bordering to extinction? What is dedication without passion? I'm just wondering, that's all. I have the time to wonder like this at the longest possible time cause I'm in Japan.

More on Working Hard in Japan:

Myth or Reality: Japanese are Hard Working

Hard Work in Japanese Culture

Inefficiently Hard Working Japanese

Japanese Salary Men Working to Death

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Get "Certificate to Engage in Other Activities Other than that Permitted under the Status of Residency Previously Granted."

The name of the certificate is seriously long. I had to look it up on the net again just in case I miss a word. But anyway, this "Certificate to Engage in ...." is a permission from the Japanese government for foreigners who would like to do some other work not included in the scope of their visa. For foreign students, this certificate is necessary if you're planning to do some part-time work. For those who have working visas, this certificate is needed if the type of work you're planning to do some other work.

Certificate to Engage in Other Activities Other than that Permitted Under the Status of Residency Previously Granted

I had to apply for this long-named certificate because I only have an instructor visa. I can only teach students from elementary to high school. Thankfully, a company hired me to do some part-time work as a Business English instructor. This required me to obtain this certificate. Only private English classes can exempt you from getting this.

Applying for this certificate is not really difficult but it takes time. It took me almost a month before this certificate was granted. I think it would have been faster if I knew the documents needed. But anyway here's how to get one:

1. Go to the nearest regional immigration office in your area. Look for visa-related section. Ask for a form you have to fill out. In Hamamatsu, the regional office is a few minutes away from the station. It is just before the office of the Board of Education.

2. To speed the process, make sure you have permission from your visa sponsor. In my case, I had to request for a work certificate indicating my official work days and times. Also, request a work certificate or work contract from the company you're planning to work with. The other company I worked with gave me a document stating the work days and times. The immigration needed to these to make that whatever additional work you'll have won't be in conflict with your visa sponsor.

3. The immigration also asked me to submit salary slips for the last three months. Perhaps they want to know if having a part time job is necessary based on my salary.

4. After almost a month of waiting, I got a post from the immigration asking me to come the office on a certain day. Bring your passport and the immigration notice. Make sure to come 2 to 3 hours before closing time. If granted, it takes time to include the certificate in the passport. I arrived at 2:00 pm and left the office at around 5 pm. I just waited while the immigration officer did something with my passport.

I learned that you can actually download an application form for the Certificate to Engage.... then just post it to the immigration office. Also, the immigration office is gracious enough to correspond to applicants who lack documents. They don't decide just because you have no documents to show. In my case, they sent me a letter requesting for the work certificate and salary slips when I fail to bring them when I applied.

Also the certificate is not really a "certificate." It's more like an additional attachment in you passport.

So good luck in your application. Hope this helps.  :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

There is Always Dignity in Working: Odd Jobs in Japan

It wouldn't be exaggerating to say that the Japanese has the one of the most excellent work ethics. They don't complain with overtime. They are known to be punctual, submissive, loyal and organized. But more than these,  what I have noticed that impressed me is how they put dignity in their work- even the odd jobs.

Street enforcers
photo credit:

It is easy to act dignified if you are working in an office wearing smart clothes and knowing that you have a "good job." But to do a blue-collar job and act dignified while working is another thing, I think. The Japanese have done that though. I have never seen doormen, street people, drivers and cleaners act with dignity and pride in their work as the Japanese are. I have never seen, yet, a Japanese driver who looks lousy or a cleaner who looks stressed out. They are almost always polite. Their actions seem to convey "This is my job and it is important."
Probably some of them don't like their jobs like a lot of people do. I'm sure the traffic enforcer that I see everyday would rather be home in this cold weather. Or that the old man who cleans the school would rather retire or tend his garden. Or the cute young driver would rather be someplace than in the bus. Regardless of what they feel, I have yet to see a Japanese worker who looks totally ungrateful of his job. They always seem to be "into" their work. For me, they invite respect even if they are odd-jobs workers. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Tips on Establishing Rapport with Japanese CoWorkers

The vice-principal in my school told me yesterday that he would love to have me again as an ALT next year. It feels like he complimented me indirectly. I feel happy and greatly affirmed. How could I not when I heard a lot of horror stories from other ALT's in the area. The ALT before me was fired because the teachers find fault in her. So with the vice-principal telling me he wanted me for another year is really a great compliment.

Asians and Whites
photo credit:

The thing in working in Japanese schools is that I feel like I am always tiptoeing the line. I feel on guard for possible things or words that could offend my coworkers sensibilities. Just like any normal human being, I want them to like me. Without being a kiss-ass, I tried to think of ways to ingratiate myself in the school. 

1. I gave them chocolates on my first day. 

I like chocolates and I think most people like it. Chocolate is a safe first-day token. It's neutral and it makes people happy. Giving a token on your first day of work is like welcoming yourself to the school. All of the teachers appreciate it. Also, it is a good way to ask for their names and introduce yourself. This helps in making your presence known. 

2. I smile a lot especially on my first weeks. 

Japanese people like people who smile a lot, but not to the point of looking like a fool. Whenever I enter the staff room in the morning, I would put on a big smile and greet everyone cheerfully. I try to keep an open and approachable facial expression. I come to realize that me being able to speak in English overwhelms teachers who do not know how to. What they didn't know is that I also feel overwhelmed when they speak in Japanese. Good thing is that a smile is a universal language. 

3. I go to work early and do not hurry to go home. 

Japanese are known for their punctuality. To be on time in Japanese is to be 10 minutes earlier than the required time. So I am always early at work. Although they would say that you being late is okay, it really isn't. Also, I don't rush to go home. I don't pack my things before the official time ends. I try to linger for 10 to 15 minutes before saying goodbye. 

4. I try to find something to compliment about. 

I think all people likes to hear sincere compliments. Giving compliments can work wonders. There was a teacher in my school who doesn't smile. One time while we were changing to our indoor shoes, I complimented his new haircut which made him look younger. From then on, he smiles at me and tries to do small talk. Before coming to Japan, I am not really a "complimenting" type of person. But I think finding something good on another person does not only help in establishing rapport but also trains one's mind to positive thinking. 

5. I randomly ask questions or give comments 

Whenever there's a chance for me to talk to another teacher, I would usually grab it by saying something. Those somethings may sound insignificant but they helped me in having better relationship with the teachers/I would comment on the weather, on a teacher's advisory class, on a particular student, on what he/she is wearing. I would just say anything to ease awkward situations. 

With the few months I was here in Japan, I learned that a sunny disposition can overcome language barriers and cultural differences. Japanese also appreciate it when I try to communicate with them even if we don't fully understand each other. I learned that the effort itself is already a surefire thing to establish good working rapport with the Japanese teachers. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Useful Japanese Expressions in the Workplace

Japanese workers utter a lot of polite expressions. Some of them won't make sense when translated in the English language but say them nonetheless. These expressions will mark a good impression on you.

polite bow in Japan
photo credit:
1. Ohayo gozaimasu - Good morning!
As soon as you step on your workplace, be prepared to say "Ohayo Gozaimasu" to all the people you will meet until you arrive in your work desk. When entering your office, utter this in a loud voice which a lot of people can hear. Your co-workers will also say this when they enter the office. Be sure to respond even if you don't look at the person directly. 

Take note that the last 'u' in the word gozaimasu is silent. So, when you say this it will be like "Ohayo Gozaimas"

2. Konnichiwa -Hello

In the afternoon, greet your coworkers with Konnichiwa or hello when you meet them in the hallways, elevators, etc. Sometimes a simple nod will also be fine. 

3. Yorishiku Onegaishimasu or Onegaishimasu - Thank you for your kindness. 
This expression is used in a lot of instances. Instead of saying bye when you hang-up the phone, use this expression. When you are submitting or receiving documents or supplies, you can use this. You can also use this to end a conversation with a coworker. Again, the 'u' is silent in ongaishimasu. 

4. Osakini Shitsurei shimasu - I am so rude to leave before you. 

This expression is used just before you leave the office. Almost all of my co-workers say this just before they shut the door in the faculty room. This is accompanied with a slight bow. This is most applicable when you are saying goodbye to your boss. 

5. Otsukare sama deshita or Otsukare sama desu or Otsukare sama - Thank you for a job well done

This is how you say this "Ots-ka-re Sa-ma Desh-ta." This is used as a replacement for goodbye instead of "osakini"... Also, this is the reply you will say when a co-worker say "osakini..."

It is good to observe what your co-workers say and do. Also, most Japanese don't mind if you ask them what should you reply when they say a particular thing. They will be glad to teach you. 
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