Apr 20, 2018

When expat life in Japan means pumping the brakes on your own career

The journey that brought each of us to Japan is unique - some are here because of love, some are here because of their studies, and many are here as a result of work. Whether it’s because you specifically sought out Japan as a destination to earn your yen or because your company or organization sent you here, working in Japan presents some unique challenges and long standing traditions -- but often includes fantastic opportunities you may not be able to get elsewhere.

When expat life in Japan means pumping the brakes on your own career photo

However, for a lot of people, moving to Japan means pumping the brakes on their own career to follow a spouse or partner who has to work or study here for a period of time -- and moving here for love may also have those same unintended consequences. The fact of the matter is that depending on what your profession was back home, there might not be an easy fit for you here employment-wise. If you were a teacher back home you’re probably in luck, but my career before I moved to Japan was working for a bank as a fraud analyst. My coworkers and I were the people detecting transactions the bad guys who steal card details attempt to do, and I found it an interesting and fulfilling line of work.

My husband was in the military which meant plenty of moves (usually every 3 years), and not long after we were married he was stationed at a base in Tokyo - and we’ve been here ever since, albeit in a different capacity to the military now. I was excited about the move to Japan, and it had been a country I’d wanted to visit for a long time - but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit my concern about where that would leave me when it came to a job, particularly since I don’t have fluency in the language. I’ve done volunteer work which I've enjoyed, but other than that I haven’t really found a groove here in terms of paid employment. Right now my children are young so being a stay at home parent makes logical sense (perhaps not financial sense!) but I do worry sometimes about where the career gap from living in Japan for almost 5 years now is going to leave me.

Japan has been a blessing for our family in a number of ways, and we do love living here - but it’s not always an easy transition to finding employment if you don’t speak the language and don’t have an affinity for teaching.

Pic Credit: via Flickr User bakokojp (link here)



After spending the last several years in the beating heart of Tokyo, I will be spending the next three in the countryside of Japan. I adore this country and all it has to offer - and I'm always learning more and more about life here as I go along!


  • Candiajia1

    on Apr 25

    What a honest read! You have echoed the very thoughts I’ve mulled over in my head but left unarticulated! From as far back as I can remember I’ve dreamt of visiting Japan and it has been my lifelong dream to teach the babies (kindergarten) but having now arrived here, I realized the gap between reality and hope is very wide. Perhaps I may have to volunteer to teach the babies. Perhaps I may never get back to teaching. Who knows....... what I do know though is that it can be quite daunting to move from career person to being stay at home because the ‘honeymoon’ period does wear off after a few months and you can be left asking what next, or how much longer. Let’s hope for sanity sake we may get back to being career moms sooner than later.

  • genkidesu

    on Apr 25

    @Candiajia1 yes! It's tough. I love that I get to be home with my children while they're young, but I do worry a bit about when it is time to go back to work when they're at school that I'm going to have a giant gaping hole in my resume because while we were here in Japan finding work to match my skill set has been tough.