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The Key to a Fulfilling Working Life: Learn About Vacation and Benefits

Work is important, but taking appropriate breaks to refresh yourself is extremely important for your mental and physical health. Amongst international students, there may be many of you who worry whether you’ll fit in at a company, or how you’ll find people with similar interests to your own. In this article, we’ll explain vacation and benefits at Japanese companies, and some of the secrets to enjoying a fulfilling professional life in Japan!

1. Fully -rest- on your days off
When it comes to the system of leave in Japan, there are differences between companies, but legally, workers are owed 105 days off a year when working 8 hours a day. Most companies have two days off per week, which gives about 120 rest days a year. Also, in addition to the rest days determined by the company, employees have a yearly allowance of paid leave days to take at their discretion. This system works in such a way that you may have an increasing number of days at your disposal, such as 10 days your first year, 11 your next. It is your right to take these days off, so make sure to make use of them.

Due to recent changes in the law, employees who have more than 10 days of paid leave in a year are required to take at least 5. This is true whether you are a Japanese or foreign citizen, so if you have any issues with this at work, please consult with a specialist.

The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has established general labor consultation corners in each prefecture, and consultation in other languages is available for foreign workers.
Hyogo Prefecture General Labor Consultation Center

2. Don’t force yourself when you have a cold or feel ill
If you push yourself too hard when you’re not feeling well, you’ll end up extending the period of time when you’re not performing well. If you’re not welling well, be sure to rest properly and take care of your body. However, unlike in many other countries, be aware that when you’re ill in Japan, it’s typical to use some of your paid vacation days. If you have an illness or injury that requires hospitalization, the situation may be treated differently depending on the situation, and you may be able to use reserved sick days. Make sure to read your contract carefully before you have any illness or injury, to avoid any trouble later on.

3. Make use of long holidays 3 or 4 times a year
Companies typically have long holidays 3 or 4 times a year. The Golden Week holidays from the end of April to the beginning of May, Obon holidays in mid-August, and year-end holidays are multiple days holidays across all of Japan. Other than these, some companies may require employees to take five consecutive vacation days at a timing of your choice.
There are also many services in Japan that stay open all year, especially convenience stores, supermarkets, and department stores. Instead, these industries may close down for a series of days during other seasons to make up for this. When this happens, you can relax at home or enjoy bathing at an onsen, or take a trip somewhere. I recommend doing something you can only do during a long vacation.

4. Make use of your benefits
Though there is some difference from company to company, in recent years companies have increasingly been making efforts to improve their benefits packages. Employment insurance, health insurance, national pension insurance, and so on, are considered parts of the basic package that companies should cover – what are known as statutory benefits. There is little difference amongst the statutory benefits that companies offer. Non-statutory benefits, however, include payments from the company, like housing allowance, rent support, and transportation payments; but can also include outside services for things like relaxation and leisure. This type of benefit is receiving more and more attention as the importance of work-life balance is being increasingly emphasized. Make sure to make use of this type of program!

5. Volunteering and Community Activities
Some companies may have small-scale communities within the company. In these, people with the same hobbies can get together deepen their relationships by playing sports, or doing art, etc. There are also of course a variety of communities you can find within and without the company. There are a variety of community groups and clubs in Kobe City, so be sure to try participating. Taking part in a hobby or hanging out with friends is sure to be a great way to relax.

Working in Japanese, and with unfamiliar business vocabulary is certainly not an easy feat. It’s likely very important to separate when you are working, and when you stop, in order to best take care of your health. Take advantage of the various support systems at your disposal both in and outside of the company, and make yours a fulfilling working life! Here in Kobe Study Abroad‘s Notebook, we’ll be posting lots of information about studying abroad and working in Japan, so be sure to take a look!