To stay or not to stay in Japan?
October 4, 2012 3:16 AM   Subscribe

My search for an ideal job in Japan continues: To go back to America and attend the DISCO Boston Career Fair or to stay in Japan?

Hi all, I am in a bit of a pickle.

I am currently living in Tokyo, Japan, and have been job hunting here since June.

I took an English teaching position last month which was definitely not my first choice - I wanted a job in which I could use my Japanese in some way (I am close to fluent), but my previous visa was running out so I ended up signing the contract. For various reasons I won't get into here I quit during training before the actual job began.

Since then, I have been job hunting yet again and also searching for private students to teach English online. I haven't had much luck, and at this rate in three or four months my money will run dry.

I am trying to decide whether to stay in Japan and continue searching for jobs, or head back home and attend the Boston Career Forum, which is the largest job fair of the year for bilinguals who want to find employment in Japan. I need to decide in the next few days.

Factors to consider:

- I am currently on an instructor visa, for a job that I quit before it even started. So if I find a new job and need a transfer of visa status, I will probably have to get a letter from my former employer; while they said they understood my reasons for not taking the job, they are probably not too happy so I am not sure what they will do.

- If I go home, my visa (which is valid until next August) will be cancelled. If I am unable to secure a job in Boston, the next time I go to Japan it will be on a 3-month tourist visa.

- If I go home, I will receive $4000 in pension from the previous job I worked in Japan.

- If I were to go home, I would be able to crash at my parents' place for free, which would be great as I only have about $5000 left to my name. If I am unable to secure a job at the Boston Career Forum, I am not certain where to go from there though.

- I have a one-way flight at the moment I can use for just $250.

- Although I have not had luck as of yet, it is undoubtedly easier to find employment in Japan while you are actually IN Japan. Also, my Japanese is growing by leaps and bounds from just day-to-day living. But again, if I were to find a job I would have to explain the sudden departure from my previous employer, which I am uncertain of how to do.

- I am also considering going to graduate school (In Japan, if possible).

Thanks for reading this unnecessarily long post - I am trying to sort out my thoughts. I would appreciate any input!
posted by Kamelot123 to Work & Money (11 answers total)
From what I've heard about the Boston fair, it is mostly for Japanese students studying abroad that will be returning after graduation. My Japanese friend wasn't that impressed with it, and based on what she said I wouldn't recommend it. Being in Japan on a valid visa is a major advantage.

What kind of work are you looking to do? Do you have any specialties or skills other than language skills? Any industry certifications or JLPT?
Also, have you tried meeting with recruiters or haken companies?
posted by koakuma at 3:26 AM on October 4, 2012

I would go home only if you're ready to throw in the towel in Japan.

I would also set a time limit, based on your money, of how much longer you'll stay. Basically, when you have no more money, you're going home.

What exactly is your plan? I think that you need one as you sound very much at loose ends.

Have you thought about working for the US Federal Government in Japan as a stop gap? My Dad worked as a therapist for the DOD and my folks had a blast! (It doesn't hurt that in addition to a salary the government paid their rent and utilities while they were abroad.) Their house in Iwakuni was a traditional Japanese house. Amazing!

You can probably even get hourly work, at the PX or the Burger King on a base. The page I linked to shows those jobs. Not only that buy you'll get PX and Commissary privilages. Sure, wasabi fish are awesome, but a person's gotta get a Doritos fix too.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:42 AM on October 4, 2012

The BCF seems to be a treasure pot for Japanese-English bilingual jobs, seeing as about 95% of my friends who went there came back with some form of internship/job. However, they were all a) native Japanese studying abroad (except for one British guy who was fluent in Japanese), and b) currently enrolled in, or recently graduated (1 year max) from university, since the majority of the companies are looking for 'shinsotsu' (fresh grads). I wonder how much opportunity there will be for you since you fit neither. However, since you can go to BCF for $250 (I presume?) then maybe it's worth a try - it is more targeted job hunting than just emailing CVs around in Japan. I would advise preparing as much as you can beforehand, though - shortlist the companies for which you would fit the bill, and start the application process now if you haven't already (for a lot of jobs it seems that the BCF is the final rounds of the process, and much of the application/first round skype interviews etc take place beforehand). Good luck!
posted by pikeandshield at 7:22 AM on October 4, 2012

I'm sure you've thought of this, but: reentry visa?

I would imagine those Burger King jobs on base are held by zainichi Koreans or economic immigrants from China, fwiw..
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:24 AM on October 4, 2012

I would imagine those Burger King jobs on base are held by zainichi Koreans or economic immigrants from China, fwiw..

Uh, nope. There are some folks who are residents of the country who work on the base, but some of these jobs are specifically for US Citizens.

I'm not saying it has to be permanant, I'm just throwing it out there.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:11 PM on October 4, 2012

I am an example of a foreigner who found a job at DISCO (San Fran), and have other non-Japanese friends who did the same, so it can happen. What others are saying about the conference being targetted toward Japanese in the US is true, though. One question that I haven't heard you answer, is, what do you want to do as a career? It sounds like you don't want to teach, but what do you want to do? Are qualified to do? Keep in mind that most of the other people at those job fairs are bilingual, too, so if you're going to go, polish your CV and make sure you can sell yourself.

Take my advice with a grain of salt - I did this years ago during the tech bubble, and I don't know how high the bar really was for getting fresh grads (which in Japan are notorious for being blank sheets) to do the jobs you want. Times may have changed.
posted by Metro Gnome at 7:47 PM on October 4, 2012

Hi guys/gals. Thanks for the comments.

Yeah, I should have said what kind of job I was looking for - I am basically looking for an internationally-themed job in which I could use my Japanese as well and gain valuable experience I could use in a career later on (I am 26). A job I interviewed for recently and thought would be a good fit, for example, was a study abroad counseling position at a university in Tokyo. I also am interested in getting into the translating field. Like Ruthless Bunny said, I am basically at loose ends, and need to form a more concrete "if this happens, then I will do this" plan.

Regarding the reentry visa (permit)... I would actually have to cancel my visa to get the $4000 in pension refunds, so that option is unfortunately out. From what I hear I should get this money as soon as possible since the Japanese pension fund is running dangerously low and is having a hard time paying even paying back its Japanese nationals.

Which brings me to my next point: Apparently I made a mistake regarding the ticket pricing. It will cost $250 plus the difference between my last ticket and the ticket I would be purchasing now. Ticket prices are much higher now so even with the original ticket price subtracted the cost would be closer to $2000... so maybe it's not even worth it to go home.

I have been graduated from university for over three years, which makes me no longer "shinsotsu" unfortunately. As such, it is much more difficult to find a job since I am "chuuto" with no real experience save teaching.
posted by Kamelot123 at 8:15 PM on October 4, 2012

Please feel free to MeMail me as well if you have any more information!
posted by Kamelot123 at 8:16 PM on October 4, 2012

There is no shortage of pension funds. If pension payments were not being made, it would be a national crisis, and people would be up in arms.

That said, I've seen your earlier questions, and I don't think you're going about things in the right way. You don't seem to know what job you want to do, only what you don't want to do. I think you'd be better off if you sat down and decided exactly what sort of job you want, and what kind of company you want to work in, and then devote your efforts to that concrete goal. You seem to be bouncing around, waiting for some kind of perfect opportunity. Those don't get randomly handed out anymore. Whatever position you want, there are probably a dozen or more people working at trying to get that same position right now, with plans in place. Decide what you want to do first, then put in your effort to realize it.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:38 AM on October 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you really want to stay in Japan, don't go home. It will be next to impossible to get back. You're in a better position now than you will ever be.

I ended up going back to Canada in 2004, and have regretted it ever since (to some extent). I was living in the countryside (where I am writing this now - we are back for 3 months for a visit), but if I had been living in Tokyo back then I could have found a job outside of teaching. No problem.

The key is to network. The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan is an excellent resource, as is any number of LinkedIn groups. So is the American embassy.

You just have to figure out what you want to do - I would typically look at jobs featuring sales and marketing support for American, such as helping out with tradeshows etc etc. Connect with an American embassy trade officer and ask what companies are doing well in Japan.

I think you have plenty of time (4 months) to get that job. But it will take perseverence - spending every free moment sending out emails and following up on referrals.

Treat the job seeking process as non-linear. Just broadcast that you are looking for a job, and what kind of job you are looking for. Ask for advice and connections. Don't forget anyone who has ever helped you, which means sending follow-up emails to report on progress.

But cold calling and emailing is the only way you are going to make it happen.

Also, don't create artificial barriers. You are not too young or too old or too experienced or too inexperienced.

What you are really, really looking for is a good fit, someone you are going to enjoy working with, and someone who will enjoy working with you. Maybe a smaller company. It's hard to say.

But don't give up!!!

As an aside, when I first came to Japan in 1994, I somehow ended up in the boonies, the Noto Peninsula to be exact. I had a hell of a time finding work out, but eventually I found something by chance in a neighbouring prefecture. I had gone through the phone book and called every single English language school (this was pre-internet) in Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui.

The last place I called gave me a job that started immediately.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:23 PM on October 7, 2012

I can't recommend translation, by the way. In its own way it is just as challenging to make a living these days as eikaiwa is, unless you specialize in highly technical documentation, such as life sciences or patents. It used to be a great entry-level job at Japanese companies, but who wants to work at a Japanese company?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:25 PM on October 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

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