Tokyo Podcast Episode 55

How Old Is Too Old To Move To Japan

SEASON 2 EPISODE 5

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Ever thought that you might be too old to move to Japan? In this episode, our host Anthony Joh speaks about a subject many listeners have requested – the pros and cons of being at a certain age in Japan.

Age is just a number, but it can sometimes affect how you think or do certain things. Take the head of cyber security in Japan for example. Yoshitaka Sakurada, 68 years old, recently admitted that he has never used a computer. Scary thought!

In your 20s…

Most people in their 20s have a lot of time and are openminded. Most likely, they haven’t decided what path in life they want to take yet. A person in this position can benefit a lot from traveling and experiencing new places and cultures to get an idea of what path you might want to pursue.

One of the problems with Japan is that they don’t really want foreigners to come and work there. They need foreigners and they welcome tourists to come and learn about Japan and their culture but deep down many Japanese would prefer it if Japan was just for the Japanese.

As a result of this mindset they make getting a long term visa difficult. At most they will give you continuous short term visas so they can kick you out the second you stop acting like a good Japanese!

To avoid this and have some control over your destiny in Japan, it is advisable to secure your own visa. Whether this is a working holiday visa, marriage visa, descendant visa, etc. If you can avoid having a company sponsor your work visa, you will retain more control over your time in Japan.

Having said that the easiest job for most young people to get is an English teaching job and this means that you will probably be getting sponsored by the English teaching school that hired you.

Most Japanese companies do not like to hire from overseas but due to a lack of qualified English teachers in Japan many language schools are now doing some overseas hiring. If you get hired, they’ll help you each step of the way, by arranging your visa, apartment and anything else you might need assistance with.

While teaching English is one of the easiest jobs to get, it’s not something that you will want to do for too long. If you are a serious teacher you will find teaching English in Japan frustrating as you will be forced to follow a curriculum that is more entertainment than education.

Don’t get stuck in the English teaching racket because the industry is in decline and wages are only set to go lower. Learn Japanese as quickly as you can so you can move onto other opportunities.

If you decide to move to Japan in your 20s and end up working and spending a lot of time around other Japanese people, chances are that you might start to act and think like them. The Japanese culture is designed to prevent people from making their own decisions, they’re taught how to act and what to do from birth. As they get older, they’re told where to study and work as well as pretty much everything else in their adult lives.

Japanese young people are trained to be a corporate robot and that “skill” rarely transfers well back in your home country.

This way of life means that most Japanese are unable to properly express their opinions or make their own decisions. Of course, adapting to the culture doesn’t have to be a bad thing, especially if you’re planning on staying a long time. However, if you eventually decide to “go back home”, you might struggle with leaving the Japanese mentality behind.

In your 30s…

A lot of people in their 30s seem to think that they’re too old to move to Japan. However, this isn’t true. Japan is a structured country, most companies are looking for mature employees who follow direction rather than young people with colourful personalities.

If you can demonstrate your maturity, communication skills and willingness to work, you will more than likely be able to get a higher paying job. Right now, more companies, especially tech companies are starting to hire foreigners.

Just remember, you may be qualified on paper, but the main thing employers are looking for is if you’ve worked for other Japanese companies in the past. This would signal that you’ve already learned the “Japanese way” and that you most likely won’t be causing any awkwardness with your “foreign ways”.

Don’t go into a Japanese company thinking that you’re going to bring your Western mindset and “disrupt” your way to the top. They are looking for conformity and humility. If you can demonstrate that, then every now and then you can offer a piece of Western advice. They probably won’t listen to it but they will appreciate the effort.

In your 40s…

Japan is considered an old society, with 25% of the population over 45 years of age. The biggest market is for any business or person who caters to the senior group. Naturally, people with a little more seniority and maturity to them are likely to be relatable for this age group.

A lot of what was written for people in their 30’s can be applied to anyone in their 40’s but according to the Japanese mindset, you’re expected to do certain things at a certain age. In your 40s, you should be working for a big international company, so giving that up to move overseas to work as an English teacher or do what they consider a “young person’s job”, is perceived as a little strange to them. This might make it a bit more difficult to find a job, so it’s very important to present yourself in a professional and upstanding manner.

It can also be hard to find a social group in your age class without speaking Japanese. Most of the foreigners in their 40s came to Japan when they were young and started families and are therefore already well-established in the Japanese society.

Nevertheless, no matter what age you are and what challenges you might face, living abroad is a fantastic way to learn about yourself and get different perspectives on life.

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