A Day in the Life of a Foreigner Working for a Japanese Firm
Today I would like to show you how a regular workday looks for me as a foreign woman working for a Japanese firm. I have worked for several firms and will combine the experiences I had so far. Additionally, I would like to point out how things changed since I started to work remotely which is what I have been doing for about a year and a half now.
In Japan You Start Into the Workday Quite Late
Most companies in Japan start rather late, usually at around 9 or 10 AM. When living in Tokyo, a commuting time of one hour or more is quite common since most people can’t afford to live closer to their workplace. My door-to-door commute time also used to be over an hour and since the train that I took to work is delayed on most weekdays, you also had to factor in some extra time. Japanese trains are known for being especially punctual, unfortunately, that does not apply to trains in Tokyo during rush hour.
I used to get up at around 6:30 and leave the house at around 7:30. Now working remotely I have the luxury to sleep until 8 AM.
My commute to work was stressful as trains were packed sometimes to the point where I was worried that I might get hurt. A lot of workers in Tokyo that commute by train already feel tired when they arrive at their workplace. The crowded trains are a problem that has been addressed by politicians for a while but so far, no solution was implemented. I am glad that now I do not have to commute anymore and got rid of that stress factor.
Morning Meetings are Common in Japan
The first thing I do after arriving at work is checking e-mails and making a to-do list for the day. In some Japanese companies, you start the workday with a morning meeting called 朝礼 (Shorei) where people from your department gather and share important information or sometimes just talk about something unrelated to work. This is supposed to increase the team spirit but most Japanese people I know find it annoying and a waste of time.
In most office jobs in Japan, you get a one hour lunch break that usually is sometime around 12:00 and 2:00 PM. In Japan, it is quite common for employees to bring their own lunch. I used to do that most of the time because it is cheaper than eating out and you can control your diet better.
Going out for lunch is not that expensive though. A lot of restaurants have special lunch offers at around only 1,000 yen ($10).
When working from home I usually eat something from the previous day as there are not many restaurants close to where I live.
Japan is Known for Long Meetings
So far in most jobs, my workdays were pretty much spent in front of a computer all day. You often hear that in Japanese companies a lot of time is spent in meeting rooms, and I can confirm that is true for friends and relatives, however, the jobs that I did so far only required me to be in meetings about once a week. I do find that often the meetings are longer than necessary because participants stray from the topic and it takes long to make decisions.
In most companies in Japan, the regular work time is 8 hours. So far, I never worked for a company where I had to a lot of overtime and usually could leave the office on time.
After another packed train ride, I would usually arrive home sometime between 19:00 to 20:00. Leaving me only a few hours to do some housework, eat dinner, and take a bath before I had to get ready for bed. When I first came to Japan, I used to take a shower in the morning, but over time I adapted to the Japanese style of taking a bath in the evening.
Now that I work from home, I have a lot more free time in the evenings that I use for exercises, enjoying my hobbies, and working on side projects. Overall, my work-life balance has improved a lot through remote work.