Work in Japan Advice Board
Hi, I’m Harvey, I’m 26 years old and I’m from London, a city universally renowned for its cheery atmosphere, friendly people and gorgeous sunshine. I attended Cardiff University (see above for a description of the city) and graduated with a purely linguistic degree in Spanish and Japanese.
After graduating for University, I knew that at some point in the near future I would like to return to Japan. Like many people who have just graduated, I had less than no money and my first challenge was to bring in some sort of income to afford the flight and initial living expenses. When I left University I chose not to live at home in order to preserve my sanity (which was already at risk from partaking in a 4-year kanji absorption program) so I had to save money while also paying for rent, food and bills in London.
To do this, I worked on a building site and translated for free/very little in the evenings to build a small freelance translation client base. After 4 months, I finally had enough clients to go solo so I left my building site job and set myself a monthly target of earnings from translation. As I was freelancing completely and therefore no longer needed to be in London, I decided to move back to Cardiff as it halved my rent. For 6 months my earnings increased steadily until I had saved £5000.
When I came to Japan, I found a job as an English teacher in a small school in Tokyo. The job was 18 hours per week but it provided me with enough money for rent, food and entertainment. My first class everyday started at 13.30 and finished at 15.30, followed by another class from 20.00 until 22.00. In the four and a half hours between classes, I would head to the local Ootoya (highly recommended!) to study more Japanese and read books about various business-related topics. While I felt my ability to read and translate was good, I didn’t feel confident in my speaking ability nor my business Japanese so I focused on business Japanese from text books and speaking whenever I went out.
I was also one of the many people who leave University having studied languages and then has no idea how to use them. Reading many books sparked an interest in marketing so I set about reading books about SEO, Google Analytics, Marketing metrics etc. to form some kind of basic knowledge. As I felt I had enough money to survive by English teaching and it was providing me with my visa, I stopped translating in favour of preparing myself to work in a company.
After a year of teaching English and studying I finally decided to proactively look for a job. I applied for internships and full-time positions through jobsites, in addition to e-mailing companies directly to see if they had any positions available.
Most surprising to me was that despite not having any JLPT and also possessing an extremely laid-back interview style I was able to receive 4 job offers for Japanese-speaking positions. (More about how I was able to do that in the next article!)
Naturally, the position I decided to take was a marketing position at a global Japanese company.
So here I am. I’ve been working in the same global Japanese company for 8 months now and it will be my absolute pleasure to tell you my story.
I will be posting a new column every 2 weeks focusing on the good, the bad and the ugly about working in Japan from the perspective of a young(ish) British man.
Thanks for reading and see you next time!
Harvey studied Spanish and Japanese at University before working as a freelance translator and English teacher. In 2013, he decided to join a Japanese company.