So we know what are the highlights about working in Japan are, but with every pro there is a con. Here are the things that they don't tell you about working in this amazing country.
1) Starting Rate and Pay Date
Okay, so maybe this is not an unusual one, but it is something that they do not tell you initially. It is also the reason why they tell you to make sure that you save a lot of money. Your first months or two months pay in Japan is not at the rate that they would have told you in the interview. You have a trial rate, and on top of that you will not get paid until you have completed your second month in most circumstances. Be prepared for it. It is the hardest transition you will have to make money wise.
2) 29 Hour Contract
Be very careful of this one. If you are employed on a 29 hour contract, and they are paying you a full time wage, it means that this company you are working for refuse to pay your health insurance out of your wages. By getting you to sign a 29 hour contract, you are responsible for your own health insurance. By that I mean that you have to go to the city ward office and apply for it yourself, and make sure that you pay it every month. It also may make them not responsible for any accidents you may get at work, and it would mean that they don't have to pay out on the insurance to cover part of the health insurance treatment bill. When you quit or move house, you are the person who would have to notify the city ward office of this.
3) Health Insurance
There are several bands of health insurance that you can have in Japan. Make sure you know which health insurance you are paying for out of your wages, even if your company is responsible for your health insurance. The higher band your are in, the more expensive it is. If it is too expensive for you, then maybe consider asking to switch to the lower rate.
Some companies insist on paying your pension. Make sure you know how much they are paying, because when you return to your country, you'll have to take the pension information with you, so you can transfer it across. That's a nice plus if you can get a pension from your company.
Your company will generally pay your travel for you, which is great! However, if your train is late, then you need to get a densha chien shoumeisho (train delay certificate) from the train guard at the station where you elite, otherwise you will loose either a small amount of pay, an hours pay, or your monthly bonus. Most train station guards will stand at the ticket gates handing them out. If no one is there, then you need to go to the booth next to the gates and say, "Chien shoumeishou onegai shimasu?" (May I have a train delay certificate please?)
The role of the densha chien shoumeisho is to apologize to your company because it is their fault that you were late.
6) Registration of Alien Card / Address
When you arrive in Japan you'll be required to registrar your address on your alien card. You have to register it at the city ward office of your own city that you will be living in. You will be given advice at immigration in the airport when you arrive. If you can get your address registered before you start your new job, then that is the best way. All city offices are open five days a week, except for national holidays. Very few opening times are made on the weekend. There are a few for some reason or another.
The bad news is that if you can't get in and register your address, then you will have to take time off work. If you have just started, then this won't look good, and they will make you take it unpaid. An even bigger downside to this is if you have to move and re-registrer your address whilst working for the company, then you will have to take a days holiday.
In Japan the only time you are sick is when you have a fever, or are ridden in a hospital bed. Any other kinds of sickness (migraines, headaches, period pains, etc) or injury is not generally recognized as allowance for taking a day off sick. Stomach bugs count if you work with children.
When you get sick, you are required (for most companies) to provide a shindan (a sick note from your doctor; ask by saying "Shindan sho wo itadakemasenka") for your company. It is expensive to get a shindan. Other companies may not require that. Some companies will give you a certain amount of holiday and sick days you can take off work. The clever side to this (and it's crafty because of the work is priority) is that if you take a day off sick, then they first expected you to put in as holiday! YES! HOLIDAY! They call it nenkyu. Seems unfair right? It's very true. It has happened to me. By doing that, it means that they can have you for more days, as it is unlikely that you will use up your sick leave, but you will use up your holiday leave.
Tell me ... would you rather use up your holiday as sick leave, or get a sick note from the doctors and take it as a sick day?
For hospital appointments, most companies are okay for you to leave for a few hours and return to work. That's a plus, I guess.
8) Personal Days and Holidays
A lot of companies will allocate a certain number of personal days. It's important.
All that being said, I believe that the decision to work here and survive here when working is solely based on the persons mentality to how work plays in their everyday life.
9) Souvenir A.K.A Omiyage
If you take a holiday from work that's not a national holiday or a personal day, then you are expected to bring back souvenirs for everybody in your company. Except it's not actually a souvenir. Omiyage is an obligation. Omiyage is something that you can eat. You will generally see omiyage displayed out in souvenir shops or at the airport. It is generally regional based. Omiyage is something that you can take to someone's house. Omiyage is expected to be given at work when you return from your holiday. Omiyage is almost apologizing for taking holiday from work, and leaving your jobs to everyone else. Omiyage can be expensive, but at least you can buy it in a big box.
10) Work Parties
One thing that the Japanese like to do is drink. They love to drink. You may start working for a company that has a lot of work parties. This will generally be organized by your boss. You will also be expected to attend. Not so bad if you like to party, and yes you will be expected to attend even if you have worked for 12 hours with one break. Then on top of the work party, you may have to attend an after party party. A lot of the younger generations in Japan are not overly fond of this.
During work parties you will be expected to attend to your higher ups by making sure they have a drink in their hand and participate in drinking and 'social' games.
In Japan overtime can be extremely hard. The Japanese have been known to clock up anywhere between 60 - 100 hours and more of overtime per month. They don't understand the business of 'if you have finished all your work, then you may leave'. The purpose of overtime is to finish all your work yes, but generally it is not a case of how hard you can work, but how long you stay at work. In a lot of companies many workers will stay on until after their boss leaves. That could clock up to twelve hours plus more, and if you leave before your co-workers and boss you may have to apologize for leaving before them. The sad thing is that not every company pays you for the overtime you put in.
It may not be so much frowned upon if you are a foreigner, but it would be bizarre to them if you clock off on the dot each day, even if you haven't finished all your jobs. My own overtime clocks in anywhere from 12 - 25 hours overtime per month. Ideally I would like to finish at my contracted time of 6pm everyday, but I have to do minimum of 30 minutes overtime everyday. It is more than my job is worth to question it as well.
The saying is in European countries and Western countries is that you have to have a 'work, life prioty'. In Japan they say 'work is priorty'.
Personally I would recommend that any person who is considering to work here should opt to experience Japan in a long holiday format. Japan offer a ninety tourist visa upon arriving in the country. Take time and travel around. That is a really good way. Try to understand what they are about.
If you are under 25, then you can possibly apply for a working holiday visa. You can work a minimum of 21 hours a week, and they can't expect you to do more than that. If you are a natural hard worker, then give it a go.
I don't regret attempting the working life out here. I have managed it for three years and yes, I'm exhausted from it. Working here has taught me what I really need in my life. The Japan working life is a great learning experience, and it teaches you about yourself and what and who you are as a human being. It teaches you about how to make sure you keep in a fit and healthy mind and it helps you build up your resilience for problems and issues you may have to address in the future.
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