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Working in Japan

edited May 2007 in architecture
I am thinking of moving to Japan to work.

Not too sure of what the architectural work culture is like, and where to start looking.

Anyone would like to share their experience or maybe give advice on researching firms in Japan? How much different would it be from working in Australia?

I don't speak much Japan YET :), will that be a huge problem in the archi industry??


  • alicat
    edited January 1970
    Hi Kang

    Having lived there and going back shortly, a couple of things to be considered.

    Have you been working here in Australia and if so are you registered?
    Do you know any one there? Japan is a huge networking place - with several levels of honourism and indebture (don't know if that is the right word...mmmm)

    Language can be an issue. You may be able to get work in a bi lingual firm.

    If you are straight out of school,or still there, try and get an internship.... that would be my best suggestion. With no language skills it will show your willingess to work and learn the language......all helpful in the longrun.....

    Visas can be a problem. If you are going there to look for work on a Tourist Visa you will have to leave the country and fly to Korea or similar destination. Your employer will have to sponsor you and with no networks this could be very difficult.....

    One of the best ways is to find a firm with offices in Japan and in an english speaking country, that you could be moved to. Takes care of all expenses and paperwork etc depending on the ex pat package

    Alternatively you could work for a eikawa and save up the dosh for later (much higher than current advertise listing for architects that I have seen) and get a taste of the coutnry. Culture SHOCK is huge. Are you female or male? (makes another diffo) If you totally associate with the Ex-pat community your Japanese could suffer and take time. You will need to at least have taken a high level of the Jap pro. test or speak so fluently in the interview and in correspondance to be taken seriously in work for some firms.

    Also, there are lots of website forums were GD and other designers want work there, and that could be your best bet. However it will be a long slog.

    Start learning japanese, make japanese friends to practice and begin your networking
    There is lots more I can tell you but not without more information from you.

    Remember too, work culture is life. Over used I know, but expect long days, some offices expect saturdays (some half and full days). And the exchange rate at the moment (YUCK) . Tax rate is a third of ours and no hecs with the tax arrangement.

    On the plus side it is fantastic. Dont forget other areas other than Tokyo to work..Have fun. Once your there and work for one firm you should have no problems. It is getting that one firm that is......:)
  • kang
    edited January 1970
    hi alicat,

    it sounds like you are quite knowledgable about this. are you working in a firm over there now?

    i am working in a firm now, though not registered. going there is actually a reality for me as my husband's posted there for work. to make it difficult, i will be living in a small town 45 min from Tokyo. (Ever heard of Tsukuba????)

    i have been researching around for architecture jobs, but the few that are advertised on the internet requires business level Japanese. The people I know who are living over there are teaching english.

    feels like quite a bit of a barrier to enter into this industry. that's why i posted my queries on this forum. I wanted to know:

    1) what the working culture is like. mind you, i already feel a little lost in your explanation, is it really that complex?

    2) i would love to know the average pay of an archi graduate. tax sounds like a relief.

    3) you suggested internship... i heard that they don't really pay you for internship...true or false?

    4)"Also, there are lots of website forums were GD and other designers want work there, and that could be your best bet. However it will be a long slog. " - Can you explain what you mean by this?

    5) Can you point out any examples of firms with branches in Japan?

    6)"Alternatively you could work for a eikawa and save up the dosh for later (much higher than current advertise listing for architects that I have seen) and get a taste of the coutnry." - pardon my ignorance again... what's an eikawa?

    Thanks for you advice!
  • alicat
    edited January 1970
    Hi kang

    I am not that knowlegable about all this, but have some understanding. I lived in Nagoya for over 12 months as an exchange student about 10 years ago. I am going back in about 6 months. I am heading over with an english language school, which I will work with for about 6-8 months to get my bearings (tokyo) and ressurect some language skills.

    Then I will try my luck. I know that I may not get anything. But the idea is too work crazy to save some money and then investigate the possiblities. If no luck then no worries I will head off to another destination.

    That is great that you are working in a firm. Take lots of documentation samples with you.
    Check to see what your visa will be. That may be a problem with work.

    If your hubby is being sent there for work, then alot of your difficulties will be solved.
    Suggestions are to learn some japanese culture and etiquette before you go. Go to all the work functions that you can and meet everyone wifes inculded. With an understanding of culture, you may be able to get a connection through some one there for a firm. Must stress dont push your need for work. Read up on the culture and you will understand why.

    Answers ( to the best that I can manage)

    1) working culture is changing and adpating. be prepared for a very certain level of dress if you are female in the office. (suit, shirt with collar, closed shoes and pantyhose when any skin is bared) but really it is like any office here...wear you best at the interview and guage what other people are wearing in the office. Most offices are open planned.As long as you work hard you will be rewarded. If you have kids though, partime work in the archi field will be very hard.

    2) average pay - sounds like you have done the same research as me. Tax is awesome though, just make sure you have a health plan with any job....

    3) you are not normally paid as an intern, you sound like you have a couple of years under your belt anyway so this does not sound liek an option for you.

    4) there are website were this very question is ask for graphic designers (GD). How do I get a job in japan etc etc. It is like anywhere in the world research, get your feet on the ground and look around. You may find a gem or two in a job ad or some other advice.

    5) Not being mean here, but google them. A lot of people, including myself want to work Japan. And the market is very full - It is very competitive to get work in Japan in this field as above. myself with my Japanese abilities (Level 2 proficency) and a network in Nagoya, and expat friends and Japanese friends in the art scene in Tokyo may not get anything at all. I am prepared for that. Bummer I know, but I want a job too!!! So sorry, no cant point you in that direction.

    6) English language school. The macdonald jobs of Japan. Pay is pretty low now with the exchange rate and the english boom over. Hours are long.

    If your hubby is moving, take advantage of English/Japanese Clubs in your new area - they are usually run by local councils. and usually free. You go along and speak English one week, and the next Japanese or similar ---- this will allow you to make friends outside the Ex-pat community, and lots of Japanese ones ----back again to the network. Life and work are really the same up, learn and HAVE FUN AND LOTS OF SUSHI
  • kang
    edited January 1970

    i'm thinking about the same thing. teach english in Japan, then look around and make friends, form a network. hopefully i master Japanese to a good conversational level as well.

    when are you hopping to Tokyo? Have you found a teaching position already or are you looking for one?

    anyhoo, all the best in everything, hopefully all goes as you plan or even better.

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