Jan 20, 2016

Salaryman (in Japan): The Blog

Salaryman (in Japan): The Blog photo

Salaryman - サラリーマン - def. a Japanese white-collar businessman (Merriam-Webster),

OR ... 

- an essentially useless, often inebriated japanese man, characterized by gray suit, blank expression, an inability to think for himself 

(Urban Dictionary).

I thought I’d start a blog documenting, as much as possible, my life as a salaryman in Japan. Maybe it’ll provide an insight for potential overseas applicants to corporate Japan.  Maybe it’ll put you off applying in the first place.  Maybe it’s my attempt to reach out to people like me, trying to balance I want leave work on time and in the office Western values, with I’m damned if I’m going to be the first person to leave and go home values that prevail here in Japan.

According to the salaryman definitions above, I don’t qualify to write this blog.  I’m not Japanese, and I don’t drink very much.  No comment on the latter characteristics.

Since coming to Japan though, I’ve always seen the salaryman in two ways; one - as a kind of Chandler from friends type, self-deprecating, uniform on the surface, doing work that nobody is interested in.  The other way is much more concise; they don’t teach English.

Salary .. woman, man, or person?

In Japan it seems to be office lady / salaryman.  I’ll go with salaryman, if I may.  I am male, and salary person doesn’t come up much in search engines.


In this blog I won’t be mentioning any names (of co-workers, companies, rivals e.t.c).  I won’t go into the specifics of what I do, in large part because I myself don’t have much of a clue.

Getting more specific as to what qualifies me as a salaryman; I work in one of those big shiny skyscrapers near ‘salaryman town’ Shimbashi, Tokyo - like one of these ..

Salaryman (in Japan): The Blog photo

.. but not actually one of these!  The office is on the 14th floor and the smoking rooms have views worth at least 30,000 yen (were they a hotel room).  I have my own business card, I usually come home late from work, I spend most of my time knackered, go to lots of meetings, introduce myself to lots of people, carry a MacBook at all times (it seldom gets opened outside of an office), and for lunch I can often be found in places like the image below, shoulder to shoulder with my fellow foot soldiers of Japan’s economic army.

Salaryman (in Japan): The Blog photo

Where I might fail on the salaryman front, is that I rarely wear a suit, I don’t have one of those shoulder bag/briefcase hybrid things, I don’t clock in/clock out, there’s no weird collective stretching/exercising in the office, no bell sounds to tell everyone to start work, very few post-work drinks (or am I just not invited?), I usually get to miss rush hour on the train to work (although I rarely get a seat), and I’d be really surprised if I’m here until retirement.

So there you have it, brief like a salaryman’s lunch!

Next in the Filofax - How I became a salaryman in Japan, i.e. How you can become a salaryperson! Or some title to that effect.



A foreign salaryman in Japan, documenting life from somewhere near 'salaryman town' Shimbashi, Tokyo. Way out of my depth!


  • yoona

    on Jan 20

    Hi, your post was very funny! I'm Japanese and I've been curious how non-Japanese people working in Japan feel like. Waiting for your next update!!

  • SalarymanJim

    on Jan 21

    @yoona Thank you very much. Things seem to be going OK so far but it's not without its challenges. I'll try to keep you updated in my posts. Glad you got the humour! I was a bit worried about that.

  • alphy

    on Jan 22

    Great post. I just turned down an offer to join a Japanese company as a salaryman. It was much less of a shiny skyscraper in bustling city, and more factory on the coast in the boonies kind of deal. Curious about what kind of work you do, and the expectations/pressure you have as a foreigner in a (I'm assuming) Japanese company, and most of all if my decision to continue teaching in Japan was worth it or not!

  • trekkingbecky

    on Jan 24

    Awesome! I'm looking forward to future posts! :D Would you be interested in linking up your posts to my blog's weekly Expat Tuesday link-up? http://www.trekkingwithbecky.com/expat-tuesday/

  • SalarymanJim

    on Jan 25

    @alphy Thanks. This 'salaryman' job is a first for me in Japan. I'd only taught English (as a full-time job) up to this point. You certainly get a different perspective on teaching work when you're no longer doing it. Some things look better, some worse. Like anything, I suppose, it's what you try and make of it. Are you enjoying it? As for expectations/pressure, I'll perhaps put them in another post (once I've figured out what they are!!!!!).