4 Things to Expect When Working in a Japanese Company | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

4 Things to Expect When Working in a Japanese Company

By Guidable Writers Jul 24, 2020

What Can I Expect When Working in a Japanese Company?

If you are getting a new job in Japan, you must receive a lot of advice from several “senpai” that Japanese workplace culture is pretty unique, where existing tons of rules which probably can make you feel uncomfortable at work. 

Let’s check out some things to expect when working in a Japanese workplace.

1. The Nomikai Tradition 

In Japan, it is very common to enjoy a meal and drink with your colleagues; in fact, in certain businesses, it may be an unspoken necessity. Many Japanese believe that a significant way to strengthen relationships is after-work hangouts. It can be helpful to consider who the colleagues are when they’re comfortable and outside the workplace, their normal attitude. It even had a name – nominication (a coined word combining “nomu(drinking)” and “communication”). If you are accepted to a new workplace in Japan, you will be invited to a welcome party. 

December and January are the most significant months of the drinking party. In December, Japanese businesses frequently host year-end celebrations, and in January, a New Year banquet.

 Drinking Rules

There are also tons of rules and standards within the Japanese drinking culture, as in other customs in Japan. As with many things in Japan or when you’re traveling to any place. To fit in, but most importantly, to show respect for the communities.

  • Don’t pour your own drink

Always pour for those around you while out at a party, and then wait for them to return the favour, and pour your drink for you. Though there is no hierarchy with colleagues, you ‘re supposed to pour a drink for your boss.

  • Don’t drink before everyone has been served

Similar to the idea that once everyone has been served, you should not start your meal, it’s the same with drinks. Before swigging back your highball make sure everyone has something in their bottle.

  • Order the same on the first round

Not as popular as the others, but it helps the waiters. For the first round of orders, people frequently order the same drink and that is more often than not beer. We guarantee that you do not regret that when it’s summer height.

  • Don’t drink from the bottle

A significant one to remember particularly for those from the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia. Drinking directly from the bottle does not really suit the philosophy of sharing even though it is just for you. It’s much worse if you’re sharing, and not very sanitary.

  • Kanpai!

Different from the toast making culture in western countries, in Japan, before you take the first refreshing sip, remember Kanpai! (カンパイ), as you clink your glasses with your friends and colleagues. 

2. Overtime Work 

Japan does have some of the longest working hours in the world. In fact, their work hours are such a significant problem that ‘karoshi’ is a legally recognized cause of death, a term that translates as ‘death by overwork.’ In Japanese culture the principle of passive resilience and active perseverance, also known as gaman and ganbaru, is highly respected and clearly expressed in the workplace.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, approximately one quarter of Japanese companies had full-time workers who logged over 80 hours of overtime in a single month, with an additional 12 per cent hitting the 100-hour mark. Even those work hours are unpaid. On top of this, many Japanese employees are notorious for refusing to take their paid leave for fear of upsetting their colleagues. Yet views are shifting with a new labor law being placed in place in 2019 to curb the overworking culture of Japan.

3. Difficulty in Confronting Your Supervisor

According to a paper from Doshisha University in Kyoto, several Japanese businesses adhere to a mantra called Horenso. Horenso is a mnemonic technique combining the first three verbs syllables: houkoku (report), renraku (contact), soudan (consult).

Which means an employee will always keep their bosses updated about what they are doing in Japan. Each decision, however small it may sound, should go through the chain of command and get the approval stamp from the boss. Employees will report any issues to their supervisors immediately before they try to take care of it themselves.

Many foreigners do not feel comfortable, and some people leave their workplace because they cannot say anything about their superior or similar occurrences like that.

So, you have to remember that if you want to work at a Japanese workplace, you have to bear with such things and become accustomed to Japanese hidden rules that you must obey your superior unconditionally.

 4. Gender Inequality 

The debate on Gender Equality in Japan is never out of date. 

These days, many Japanese firms have run several policies to encourage gender equality, but the results show no significant development. 43.8 percent of employees in Japan are female, according to the Gender Equality Bureau. This is around the same amount as other developed countries like Sweden, the United States, and Germany. But the percentage is relatively small when it comes to women in management roles. It’s 13% for Japan, 39% for Sweden, 43% for the West, and 29% for Germany. In Japan, women experience inequality of pay and less job security.

What Differences Have You Experienced Working in a Japanese Company?

Do you work in a Japanese company? Was it different from what you expected? We’d love to hear more about your experience working in Japan.