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What working in Japan is really like

So you want to work in Japan? But what’s it really like, and what kind of lifestyle would you have…? If these are questions you’re asking yourself, then this article is for you. How much will you have to work? What will your relationships with coworkers be like? We’re going to answer questions like these as well explain what working is Japan is “really” like!

Day-to-Day Work
Many Japanese companies begin work at around 9 in the morning. In fact, Japan is such a time-conscious country that “certificates of lateness” are issued when buses, trains, or other public transit are late due to an accident or other issue. In the working world in particular, it’s considered standard to be five minutes early for your appointments, so timeliness is extremely important!

Lunch breaks are generally between 45 minutes to one hour long. Some companies have cafeterias, but if you’re working in a neighborhood with many office buildings, there are likely many stores selling bento boxes nearby, too. Many stores sell bento boxes for as little as 500 yen, so definitely see if you can find a favorite bento place nearby!

In Japanese workplace culture, it’s typical to separate your work and private lives, but lunchtime is considered an opportunity to get closer to your colleagues. If you get to know one another by chatting casually over your meal, you may just find that the work you do together will go more smoothly, too.

Minus your lunch time, one work day is generally 8 hours, meaning that it’s typical for most companies to finish work around 6 p.m. However, you may be thinking, “But Japan has a lot of overtime!” The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan has a program to push back on this, “Work Style Reform,” and more and more companies have been taking measures to send their workers home earlier, like automatically turning off the lights and power to computers at a certain time.

Company Clubs, etc.
If you work at a relatively large company, there may even be company clubs or hobby groups. Spending a little time enjoying a hobby after some hard work can’t be bad! Even if your company doesn’t have such a group within the company structure, there should be communities you can join where you live. Even if you’re not confident in your Japanese abilities, communicating through sports or game is relatively easy. Try looking for a community that suits you!

Kobe City Activities (Sports) (Japanese Only)
Kobe General Community Sports Club (Japanese Only)

Company Events
You may be invited to department or company-wide events like welcoming parties or year-end parties. Typically gatherings include welcoming and farewell parties (“kansougeikai”) in the autumn and spring seasons when many people move departments or companies; year-end parties (“bounenkai”) and new years parties (“shinnenkai”) around New Years. These are held for employees to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment as they enjoy food and drinks. It’s not unusual to head to karaoke for round two (“nijikai,” a “second party”).

Some of you may worry if you don’t drink alcohol, or don’t like singing, but we still recommend going and seeing what these events are like, even if you don’t much feel like it at first. They can may your work progress more smoothly in the same way that spending lunch with your coworkers can, and you may even be able to use what you speak about with bosses and coworkers at these events in your work itself. You don’t need to do anything special. In Japanese society, where preserving the “wa” (“the peace”) is very important, just showing up may make all the difference.

Company Benefits, Taxes, etc.
Companies may offer not only prominent benefits like paid leave, compensation for new certifications and classes to improve your skills, but also more hidden benefits like condolence or congratulatory compensation or leave time. There is support for you if you work hard so if you have any questions or problems, we recommend first speaking with the people around you.

Additionally, if you work for a company, that company will take care of your taxes and health insurance for you. Income tax, resident tax, and health insurance payments are usually automatically deducted from your salary each month. However, you may find some items on your pay slip whose purpose or reason is unclear. In these cases, please consult with someone who’s worked at the company longer, or with a specialist.
Hyogo Labor Bureau

If you have any other issues or concerns, we recommend taking advantage of a consultation service.
Kobe City Consultation Window

The Kobe City Notebook is regularly updated with information about life in Kobe, so please be sure to take a look!