Can you Work Part-time in Japan?

Working part-time jobs is a big deal in Japanese society. While in the west, younger people might mow the neighbors lawn or wash your uncles car for a few bucks, in Japan it is customary to work part-time jobs at convenience stores and other locations. Especially university students, who have a lot of free time, or housewives, after the kids have reached a certain age, often engage in one or more part-time jobs to increase their own spending power or help out with the families finances. But what about us non-Japanese?

The Visa Problem

What kind of work you can engage in as a foreigner in Japan is entirely dependent on what kind of visa you have. If you are a student, you are supposed to focus on studying, not working and in principle should not engage in any activities that may impede your studies. However, you can obtain an exemption to engage in activities outside of your original visa’s scope from the immigration office that allows you to engage in part-time work for up to 28 hours a week. Typical jobs are often found at restaurants, as stores staff or other low-skilled labour.

If you are on a working visa, things are a bit different however. If you have a visa for teaching English, and want to tutor kids in English after-hours, then you are technically allowed to do that. But if you want to work as a waiter or driver for Uber Eats, then you need to apply for an exemption from the immigration office as well. While obtaining the exemption on a student visa is almost a given, on a working visa you might face a lot more scrutiny and applications might take up to two months to complete. If you start working part-time before then, it is obviously illegal. One thing of note is that this only applies for paying work. If you are a volunteer, working for free, then you do not need to obtain any kind of exemption.

The problem with your employer

When on a working visa, your current “main” employer might also have something to say about your working part-time in addition. In fact, about half of all Japanese companies outright forbid their employees from engaging in part-time work. I am not a lawyer, so I can not tell you what the ramifications might be if you get caught working part-time but please be aware of this and consult with your employer before engaging in part-time work. You need to pay taxes if you earn more than 200.000 Japanese Yen a year with your part-time job and your “main” employer will have access your tax returns, so it is hard to hide the fact that you have a side business.

Even if your employer technically allows for you to engage in part-time work, they are going to expect you to always put your job with them first. Going home without properly finishing up because you have part-time work is not going to fly. Similarly, if you always show up tired because you are pulling night-shifts for another company, your bosses are going to start asking questions. Also, do not get a part-time job at a rival or direct competitor to your “main” company. It might be considered disrespectful and if you are found to be leaking company secrets there could be serious legal repercussions for you.

So in conclusion, if you absolutely cannot live with your current wages (or lack thereof if you are a student), then you can always consider engaging in part-time work. Just remember that you will have to get permission from immigration AND your employer in most cases. Personally, I could not see myself working a part-time job in addition to my full-time job, but if you absolutely want to then why not give it a shot!

A Question of Locale – How to Choose Where to Live in Japan

When it comes to moving to Japan, people tend to fall into one of two categories. On one side of the coin are those, that think about potential jobs first while being flexible about the location. On the other side are those, that have a specific area in mind where they want to live, while considerations about work are secondary. “I want to live in Tokyo not matter what, so I’ll do whatever work I can find” is a pretty common attitude among people that newly arrived to Japan or are still abroad, waiting for their chance to get in. As you can imagine, an all-or-nothing approach like that quickly leads down the path to disgruntlement and sooner or later you will find yourself at the HUB, sipping stale beer while you and your (foreign) colleagues rant about everything that is wrong in the world and specifically Japan. But I digress.

As can be understood from the above (very much tongue-in-cheek, but still accurate) paragraph, deciding on where you want to live is a very important decision to make when moving to Japan. As ever, this is not really a guide, rather I hope to give a more nuanced opinion on the whole issue and encourage you to do your own research to find somewhere that is actually livable for you.

The Problem with asking for advice

This is a bit more general, but bear with me because you will encounter this a lot when looking for advice on where to live in Japan. Whenever you ask someone for advice, be that online or offline, it will inevitably contain the opinion and bias of the person that is said advice it. When it comes to to our living environment, requirements vary from person to person so it is a very good idea to keep this in mind. One person might describe a somewhat run-down part of town as “seedy”, while another might praise it for the “urban vibes”. Another problem (mainly in online discussions) is the fact that people giving their opinion usually really love or really hate the thing they are giving their opinion about, so it is hard to find a balanced take.

Okay, but I still want your advice!

In that case, I am going to assume you have read and understood the above. I am trying my hardest to give the ever-elusive “balanced take” here, but it is still advice/my opinion so keep the above in mind.

I would recommend being more flexible with WHERE you work, rather than WHAT you work. Sure, you have seen all those glamorous or outright crazy instagram pictures from Shibuya, you spent two weeks in Tokyo on a holiday, absolutely loved it because you could still get Gyudon from Matsuya at 2 a.m. and now you absolutely HAVE to live here. But consider this, if you are willing to apply for absolutely any form of work, just to be able to live in Tokyo you will a) not make enough money to actually enjoy living here and b) will probably not have a lot of free-time to even use you meagre savings. I find that being content with and motivated for your work is a big contributor to personal happiness, so I would definitely prioritize it above where you want to live. Another more pragmatic reason is the fact that you need work to be eligible for most visa, so if you absolutely need to be in Japan as soon as possible, it is definitely better to figure out where you can work first.

Once you have a job offer, it is now time to think about where you want to live. If you are going to work in a bigger city, it is likely that you will have to commute by train. From personal experience, a commute that takes longer than 45 minutes is just awful, so I would think about that when choosing a place to live. If you like partying and going out a lot, then you might consider living in the city proper, but be prepared for the fact that partying in Japan might be different from what you are used to and rents can get pretty expensive in places like Tokyo. If you only go out on the weekends, then living in more affordable housing in the suburbs might be better for you, but be aware that you might need to take the train to go to a restaurant that you like.

Where should I live though?

You will have to figure that one out for yourself I am afraid. Apart from the above, the only other advice that I can give you is to not be overly dismissive of a place. Japan has 47 prefectures, which all have their own little quirks and characteristics that make them worth exploring or living in. People love ripping on Saitama or Ibaraki online, but I have found both of these places to be a lot nicer than their reputation suggests. When it comes to figuring out where you want to live, nobody but yourself is going to be able to give you a definitive answer. And if you get it wrong, do not be afraid to move somewhere else to try something new. You have already made a massive step in moving from abroad to Japan, is moving from Tokyo to Osaka really going to be such a big challenge?

Medical and Health Care in Japan – What to do at the Doctors Part II

If have not seen Part I of this series, I highly recommend you to go and check it out here!

Last week, I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger on part I. Sure you are now face-to-face with a doctor, but what happens next?! That is a good questions and it depends a lot on your personal situation, but after finishing last weeks article I still felt like I had more to say on the topic so here goes.

A few more things before you enter the 診察室

But first, we have to go one step back to the point where you submit your カルテ (the clipboard with a document that has all your relevant information on it). Depending on what kind of problems you are having, you might be asked to measure your pulse first. Yes, you often have to do this yourself but it is quite simple. They will show you to a machine that looks somewhat like an old printer from the 90s with a big hole on the side. You then stick your arm through that whole, tell the machine to start (there’s usually only one button, so press that one) and it will then measure your pulse. The result will be printed on a small paper slip which you hand to the reception staff. If you are nervous and have a high pulse as a result, they will ask you to try and calm down a bit and then measure again. If your pulse is still high after your second measurement, they might measure again manually or simply just roll with it.

Next, Japanese doctors love taking your blood (further confirming my theory that all doctors are secretly vampires) so expect to get pricked at least once. Again, depending on the type of treatment this might happen before or after you talked to the doctor but it is very likely to happen. The process of taking blood is pretty universal I think, the only stumbling block is when they ask you whether they can disinfect the area with an alcohol wipe first. Just say はい when you hear the word アルコール (a good idea in general if you are into that sort of stuff), or refuse if you are allergic.

Entering the lair

Now onto the really difficult stuff, the actual talking to the doctor. When you are called, you can proceed directly into the 診察室. Some people knock before they enter, but you do not have to. Unless you specifically go to a doctor that can speak English (or whatever language) and is advertised as such, it is best to expect that they can only speak Japanese. It is very important that you are able to express yourself properly, so the doctor can get a good idea of what is bothering you. If you cannot speak Japanese, best bring somebody who can.

During the interview, the doctor will try to diagnose as much as they can. Sometimes they might be able to tell what is wrong by simply looking at you. If more tests are necessary, you might have to go out and wait in the waiting room again until the tests can be performed. You will then be called to perform further tests until they can determine what they can do to help you, at which point they will call you into the 診察室 again and tell you as much. Generally, you will be given a thorough explanation of their findings and what they think is the best way to treat you. This often includes a boatload of pills and other medicines. Finally, you will be asked to go and wait in the waiting room while they process your payment.

Escaping the castle

Some people are want to leave, once the final consultation with the doctor is over but do not leave just yet. You still have to pay your 30% share of the costs. Simply go to the waiting room and wait until the receptionist calls for you. When paying, cash is often your best bet. Some clinics and hospitals may accept cashless payment, but from my experience most do not. If you do not have enough cash, it is generally acceptable to go to the next ATM and withdraw some (they have your info after all, should you decide to simply leg it). Make sure you double-check the receipt, I have been charged 60.000 Yen in the past when I should have been charged only 6.000. After you have paid, you will receive your prescription for your medication. Now you have almost made it.

The last step on your journey is to pick up your medication. Prescription medication is sold at the 薬局 (yakkyoku) and there are often several 薬局 in the vicinity of a clinic or hospital. You want to be on the lookout for the following sign: 処方せん受付 (shobousenuketsuke). This roughly translates to “We accept prescriptions” and is often displayed very prominently in front of the store. Go in, and present your prescription and insurance card first. Now comes another one of Japan’s peculiarities, the 薬手帳 (kusuritechou). This is a small booklet where all the prescription medication that you receive is logged. If you do not have one, they will make you one for free. If you forgot it, simply tell them, it’s no big deal. Also, you often have to fill out a カルテ again if it is your first time here. After that is done, it’s to waiting again. Once they have assembled all the medication you will be called and get the same explanation about the medications that you already got from the doctor. Then you pay and are finally free to go about your way.

That was quite the adventure, but I hope that it was useful to one or two of you out there. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to leave me a comment or contact me via the contact form or social media. Have a good one and see you next week!

Medical and Health Care in Japan – What to do at the Doctors’

If you want to live in Japan – or even if you are just visiting – it is very important to get familiar with the medical system. Depending on where you are from, the medical system might be very different or not that different at all. Still, going to the doctor was always a challenge for me, even in my home country, so going to the doctor in Japan sometimes seemed like an insurmountable hurdle. Now that I have gotten a bit older, I feel like I have gotten somewhat used to the idea of having somebody else analyze and judge my body, although I still feel uncomfortable. So, for people that may still be struggling with the idea of visiting a hospital or a doctor in Japan, I hope that I can make it a bit easier for you.

But first, what about money?

If your stay in Japan is 6 months or longer, you are required by law to have health insurance. Generally speaking, there are two types of health insurance in Japan: one for unemployed people and one for employed people (I simplify a lot here, if you want to read more about insurance I have written an article about it). Once you are at a medical facility, the two types of insurance generally do work the same though. People who have insurance, generally only have to cover 30% of the fee of most general medical procedures with the insurance covering the remaining 70%. There are some procedures that are not covered by insurance (cosmetic surgery, childbirth, STD testing among others), so it is a good idea to check in advance. Also, since I see it mentioned sometimes: no calling an ambulance does not cost you anything unless you are judged to have made a prank call.

The language barrier

While there are some English-speaking clinics in Tokyo, and younger doctors may sometimes know rudimentary English, hospital or clinic staff will generally only be able to speak Japanese. If you feel like you might not be able to explain yourself, try searching online for places that might be able to help you in English (or any other Language) or bring someone who can translate on your behalf. There are also translation services available that will dispatch a translator to accompany you or translate for you over the phone – for a cost.

I have seen other blogs do vocabulary lists, so I guess I should try making one too. So here is a list of the different medical practices and what they are called in Japanese (not an exhaustive list since I will probably forget some). The translations are not literal and are meant for people to understand what they can expect when they visit this type of clinic.

内科 – naika – internist, generalist medicine
歯科 – shika – dentist
眼科 – ganka – eye medicine
耳鼻科 – jibika – ear, nose, and throat medicine
皮膚科 – hifuka – skin medicine
尿器科 – nyoukika – urology
胃腸科 – ichouka – stomach and bowel medicine
小児科 – shounika – pediatrician
(産)婦人科 – (san)fujinka – (obstetrician), gynecologist

Obviously, there are many more but I think the above list should cover most basic needs. Clinics will often specialize in one of the above. When it comes to hospitals, there are specialized, as well as generalist places that cover a wider range of disciplines.

I have a medical problem, what to do?

If it is an emergency, stop reading this and call an ambulance. Otherwise, choose what kind of treatment you need from the list above and take it to Google, together with the name of your area (for example “耳鼻科 小平市”). If you do not know what kind of treatment you need, go to an internist and they will generally tell you where you have to go. Google reviews are a decent indicator of what you can expect. If you want to take it further and make sure you go to the best doctor (often simply meaning the one with the friendliest staff), there are also dedicated review sites but they are all in Japanese. If it is not urgent, consider calling in advance to make an appointment. Especially in bigger cities, waiting times can be quite long if you simply walk in.

Speaking of which, once you walked into a clinic/hospital, the first thing you need to do is make your way to the reception (受付, uketsuke). Explain why you are here – just something like “My eye hurts and I would like it looked at” is enough – and if you have an appointment, let them know. Then you will be asked to hand over your insurance card and, if it is your first time at this particular clinic/hospital, you will also be asked to fill out a カルテ (karute from German Karte, many german loan words in Japanese medicine), which forms the basis of your medical file. The カルテ is in Japanese and most places will expect you to fill it out in Japanese, so if you can not write Japanese very well, ask somebody who can. That being said, some of the information asked is very basic, such as your name, age, and address, but sometimes it might ask for important information such as allergies or illnesses you have/had, so make sure you read and understand everything.

Once you have filled out your カルテ, hand it back to the receptionist and they will return your insurance card to you. Now you have to wait for the doctor to see you. Some places have a number system, where you receive a number at the reception and are called by that. Other places will simply call you by your name. In any case, once you are called, you may proceed to the 診察室 (shinsatsushitsu, examination room) where the doctor will have a first chat with you, figure out what is wrong and how they can help you.

And with that, we have reached the end of this article, since everything that comes after this point will vary greatly on a person-by-person basis. I hope I was able to give you a general idea of what you can expect. If all goes well, I will write a bit more about this topic next friday. See you then!

Living and Working in Japan – Then and Now

I am now getting close to completing my fourth year of living in Japan, and recently I have been thinking about how this might have changed me and my perspective. Living in a foreign country is obviously a huge challenge and if you go in with the expectation that everything will go according to plan you are bound to be disappointed. So your perspective, your plans, your very idea of yourself and your life might change and it is up to you to figure out whether this is a good thing or a bad thing for you. However, in order to not get too philosophical and write a more relatable article, I will try to stick to a single topic – my expectations before coming to Japan and how they are holding up.

Expectations are there to be subverted – that does not have to be a bad thing

My expectations before going to Japan

Not to toot my own horn here, but I feel like I had pretty realistic expectations before coming to Japan for the first time. I did not expect futuristic skylines or real-life anime characters walking around in the streets (they do in Shibuya though). I expected people to be friendly and customer service to be top-notch. Also, I expected people to be pretty tech-savvy – high-tech and Japan supposedly go hand-in-hand after all – and generally very interested in the goings-on outside Japan. My expectation was that people were cooking Italian food while listening to rock music from abroad. I had read many of the books by Murakami Haruki and his characters definitely influenced my perception.

My impressions upon arriving in Japan

The one thing that I completely underestimated before coming to Japan is the sheer amount of people (especially true for Tokyo). I grew up in a town with a population of around 600.000, which is not exactly small by European standards. But coming to Japan and seeing the masses that flow through airports and train stations here was definitely a big shock. Another impression that I had immediately upong landing was that there are a lot of restaurants and other food-related shops. Advertisements seemed to be either women in short skirts, some exotic travel destinations or, more often than not, somehow food-related.

My Expectations – Four years later

But the point of the whole article was to reflect a bit about what has changed. I often hear that people are bothered by being treated differently due to being a foreigner, even after they have been here for a long time. For me, this is not such a big concern. I recognize that I am different from all the Japanese people around me and being treated accordingly does not bother me (for now, at least). I try my best to fit in, of course, I speak fluent Japanese and try my best to observe rules and customs, but at the same time, I recognize that I am different from those around me just by virtue of having lived somewhere else for 25 years. As long as people do not treat me like an idiot, I am generally fine. But if I am to be treated differently, then I expect to be given some slack when I behave differently in some situations. Sure, when in Rome, do as the Romans do are wise words to live by, but for me at least there are limitations – you can only bend so much without breaking.

As for my expectations, I think it is fair to say that I was pretty off-base, even though I did not picture an anime-fairytale wonderland. While customer service is polite, there can also be a robot-like quality to it, which makes it hard to deal with unforeseen situations. People are generally friendly, but distant and it is just as hard to make meaningful connections as it is anywhere else. Also, the high-tech image is a complete hoax, many people are so stuck in the past that they are still using Windows XP on their work computers. And while there are a lot of people interested in the goings-on outside of Japan, I am reminded of a zoo, where the visitors represent the Japanese, the animals represent everything and everyone non-Japanese, and there is a big sheet of glass that separates them which represents their Japaneseness. There are a great many people here that think that they are different – although not necessarily better – from the rest of the world and I guess if you imagine something for long enough than it will eventually become true.

As for me, I still enjoy living and working in Japan. Sure, it is different from what I expected but I adapted and made it work for me. I enjoy the challenge of communicating and finding my way in a different culture and while it can sometimes be very frustrating, I feel like I am growing and learning so much that it is all worth it. Never stop dancing is the message of one of Murakami’s best books, and living in Japan is definitely a quickstep.

Working in Japan – Is it really that bad?

So, you are interested in working in Japan. With the world being what it is, if we are even remotely interested in something, chances are we are going to “google” it. And if you search for articles, posts, and comments about working in Japan, there is a high likelihood that most of them will paint a fairly negative picture. But why is that?

Working in Japan CAN be stressful

The common stereotypes about working in Japan

As with everything on the internet, people are quick to jump to stereotypes. Japan has garnered attention in the past for poor working conditions like forced, unpaid overtime, little to no holidays, mandatory drinking parties after work, and so forth. Salaries, especially if you are just starting out, are usually on the lower end of the spectrum. Dynamics in the workplace can be confusing due to hierarchies that are mostly based on seniority, rather than ability. Unflexible and rigid structures make change almost impossible and are even harder for non-Japanese to adapt to.

The truth about working in Japan

As with many stereotypes, while there may be a morsel of truth to them, mostly they are a gross exaggeration of reality. Workplaces that actually have poor working conditions often get called out and receive the moniker of being “black”. Forced, unpaid overtime may have been common practice 30 years ago, but now there are laws mandating that overtime must be paid at a premium. Japan has many public holidays, and while it is still uncommon to take longer than a week off from work, many people enjoy long weekends by using paid vacation days on Fridays or Mondays. Salaries might be low, but so is the cost of living and there is a decent social safety net of health insurance and pension, which means you do not have to worry about getting sick or having no money for retirement. Especially smaller companies appoint increasingly younger, well-educated staff instead of relying on seniority. And getting used to structures in a foreign environment is one of the foremost skills that anyone looking to work abroad should hope to master.

What does it mean

It means you should take everything you read on the internet (this article included) with a massive grain of salt. Yes, working in Japan can be pretty challenging and it is certainly not for everyone. But the same can be said for every country, even if it is your home country. There may be some truth to the stereotypes listed above, and some of them may be encountered even today. But even then it is exceedingly rare that a single workplace will combine ALL of the listed stereotypes. You may find yourself in a place that pays a lower salary, but the higher-ups are appointed due to ability, rather than seniority. But in the end, these are simply stereotypes and everybody will find themselves in their own, unique situation. Do not let people on the internet tell you how to think. If you are interested in working in Japan, there is only one way to find out if it suits you – just do it.

A short update about the state of the blog

You may have noticed that, despite my repeated promises to the contrary, articles have been very few and far between in recent weeks. To the few people reading this and the blog in general, I thought I should post a quick update about whats going on behind the scenes at Japanseikatsu HQ.

Regarding the lack of articles recently, I think the easiest explanation is that I have simply burned myself out. Writing up to three articles a week about “samey” topics has become stale to me. Going forward, I hope to be able to post more regular content again, but on a schedule of once a week. Instead, I hope to be able to promote the blog a bit more, getting more eyes on what I write would hopefully be a motivator again.

In the same vein, the “News” articles are going on an indefinite hiatus. Instead of posting weekly updates, I’ll simply post about it if something significant happens instead of forcing out an article even when nothing noteworthy has happened.

I am still new to the world of blogging and am mostly simply winging it. I hope that my few readers are not put off by the new direction and will stick with me until I find a style that suits me, as well as you lot (hopefully). Thanks for reading and take care!

A few things you need to know before you apply to a Japanese company

Japan has a fairly unique hiring process, let’s get that out of the way first. Especially if you are fresh out of university and this is your first job in Japan, you can expect to come upon a few systems that might seem a bit alien. In this article, I would like to list a few things that you should keep in mind if you want to apply to and work for a traditional Japanese company.

  • Expect the application procedure to take a long time

Japanese people start the job-hunting process while they are still in university, usually in their third year. They submit applications starting in spring, then go to group seminars and interviews, and finally, they will have their final interviews. For a first job, three interviews are fairly standard, some companies will also hold seminars and other events in between. All in all, you can expect the whole application procedure to take up to half a year in some cases. Japanese companies like to think that they hire people for life, so the vetting process can take quite a while.

  • In most cases you apply for the company, not the job

This one is mostly true for new graduates again. In Japan, having a bachelor’s degree is often the only requirement to be able to apply for a specific job. Thus, people often end up working in fields that have nothing to do with their major. This can be an advantage, but it also comes with the disadvantage that the company might assign you something which doesn’t suit you. You might have applied as an IT-engineer, but the company currently needs more salespeople, so that’s the job you get.

  • Expect job rotation

Somewhat related to the aforementioned point, many bigger, traditional companies have a so-called “job rotation” system. Every few years, you will be transferred to a different department where you have to learn a new routine from scratch again. The idea is that companies want their staff to be knowledgeable about all areas of their business. But unfortunately, you rarely get a say in this and are simply expected to comply. Sometimes this might even mean that you will be transferred to work in a completely different city or area of Japan.

  • Expect a low(ish) salary at first

The standard Japanese model is to start on a low salary, that will then slowly rise as you stay with the company and rise through the ranks. This all depends on the company and your qualifications of course, but it is fair to assume that your starting salary will be lower than for an equal job in a different country. This is again to provide incentive to the lifetime employment that many companies envision for their staff.

  • Expect a different working culture

While the working culture in Japan varies greatly from company to company, you can almost certainly expect it to be different from the rest of the world. A good analogy would be to think of a company like a school class. You are expected to participate but have little say in how the whole thing is run. If a certain decision is made, even if it directly impacts your career, you will most likely not be asked in advance and the decision will be made over your head.

I realize that these all might come across as a bit negative. Obviously, there are many advantages to working for a Japanese company and working in Japan in general. Think of this as a sort of disclaimer as to what kind of situations you might need to be prepared for.

News from Japan – Week 13

Hello everybody, I am back after a brief and unwanted hiatus due to private stuff. Hopefully, things will settle down a bit more going forward. Just as a brief update on the situation in Japan, the state of emergency is set to end on the 21st of March in all areas of Japan. Most prefectures had already lifted it, but starting from the 21st even Tokyo and surrounding prefectures will go back to (somewhat) normality. Infection numbers have been going down drastically, but it remains to be seen if it will stay that way after the state of emergency ends. The Olympics are still set to take place this year, but there is lots of talk about reduced spectator numbers or no spectators at all, so at this point, it’s anybody’s guess how the event will go. Anyway, without further ado, allow me to bring you this week’s news with commentary by yours truly.

Because I did not release a “News” article last week, I missed an important anniversary that I thought I should mention, so have an article about it. March 11th, 2021 was the 10 year anniversary of the terrible earthquake and tsunami, that devastated the Tohoku area of Japan and caused a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear power plant. The rebuilding efforts are still ongoing, but in a bid to show that Japan can overcome even a disaster like this, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a few videos that show what it is like now in affected areas of Tohoku. The article is somewhat short and fails to give any links to the videos, so let me help you out. The videos are released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs YouTube channel “外務省 / MOFA” and there’s a long version and a short version each.

外務省 / MOFA YouTube – Ten Years of Reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake
外務省 / MOFA YouTube – Local to global: New Discovery of Fukushima

NHK World – You can read the full article here

Next up, we have an article about the visit of some American officials of the new Biden administration to Japan. Before and after the election of Joe Biden as US president, there were some experts in Japan who voiced concerns that a non-Trump administration could be more China-friendly, which in turn could hurt Japans interests. To be honest, I could never really tell where they got that idea from and thought (and still think) that having an actual human being as the president of one of the biggest nations on earth is definitely the better option.

Usindopacom – You can read the full article here

Sticking with foreign policy, our next article deals with Japans response, or rather lack thereof, to the coup in Myanmar. As most of you will probably be aware, last month the military forcefully seized power in Myanmar, a country that is used to being under the rule of a junta. This time however, the people of Myanmar are determined to make their voices heard to the global community and have been holding protests against military rule every day. The military has responded with violent crackdowns, killing dozens of people since the start of the demonstrations. Other members of the G7 have responded by putting sanctions on the government of Myanmar. Japan is in a fairly unique position, as it has fairly strong ties to Myanmar. Japanese companies have invested heavily in the country and more and more workers from Myanmar come to Japan to combat the manual labor shortage. Nevertheless, Japan is one of few nations who have not imposed any sanctions. While they have condemned the coup strongly and demanded the release of political leaders, that is about the size of it. Japan can often appear a bit aloof and follows a hands-off approach, but maybe now is the time to finally do something about that.

HumanRightsWatch – You can read the full article here

Lastly, and again sticking with diplomacy, let’s talk about something that I had honestly no idea even existed until now, which is the city of Ishigaki in Okinawa. The disputed Senkaku Islands, governed by Japan but claimed by China fall under the jurisdiction of Ishigaki. China, in its usual schoolyard bully fashion, has put heavy pressure on Ishigaki, forbidding Chinese tourists from visiting the town in a bid to hurt them economically. In the face of this aggression, the citizens and council members of Ishigaki are increasingly becoming sympathetic to Taiwan, who share the same plight as them. Now they have put forward a resolution that calls for the central government to establish a “Japan-Taiwan Basic Relations Act”. I really do not know enough about this issue to go into any more detail, but I find it highly interesting so I recommend you check out the following article.

JapanForward – You can read the full article here

A lot of diplomacy and foreign policy, but I will leave it at that for this week. Let’s hope that the virus situation stays stable even when the state of emergency is lifted on Sunday. I hope you all will have a nice weekend and a productive next week. Read you soon (hopefully).

News from Japan – Week 11

The start of a new month is always a bit hectic for me, so it took me until now to get around to writing my next blog article. It’s finally getting a bit warmer again. Hopefully, that means that spring is around the corner as I am getting tired of the sheer noise that the AC makes. Anyways, here’s this week’s news with commentary by yours truly.

Japan is a country that is regularly struck by natural disasters. Earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods, if you can think of any type of disaster, Japan has probably experienced it in the last five years. To counter this, Japan is also one of the countries that has advanced research into disaster prevention the furthest. Underwater structures off the coast to block oncoming tsunamis, skyscrapers that are built with a kind of concrete that can flex somewhat, so the building can sway and absorb the shock of an earthquake, just to name a few. Now they are looking to share this knowledge across borders and to create a global standard for disaster prevention. It can never be a bad idea to create a global standard and bring more equality to the world, and it’s nice to see an initiative from Japan, where globalization usually lags behind a bit.

The Japan Times – Read the full article here

The next one isn’t strictly speaking news, but it came up in my feed so I thought to include it. In this column, Mr. Justin Whittinghill talks a bit about the gift-giving culture in Japan. As he rightly points out, this is a true conundrum to even native Japanese, with a lot of symbolism and hidden meanings that are hard to fathom if they are not culturally ingrained. To offer my own take, in Tokyo, at least, it seems like giving gifts is far less of a big deal. I have never even met most people from my apartment block, let alone have I ever received – or given – a towel from/to any of them. But when me and my wife got married, we did receive lots of cash from relatives and dutifully sent them gifts back. Age difference also seems to play a role in my experience, with people saying receiving gifts from people who are younger than them makes them uncomfortable.

Messenger Inquirer – Read the full article here

This one is news again. Trouble never seems to stop for PM Suga Yoshihide. This week his PR chief has resigned over allegations of bribery because she had a dinner in 2019 paid for by a Japanese broadcaster. So far so not-so-good, but the broadcaster also employs Suga’s son, which means that the PM is now directly involved in the scandal. This will definitely not help him recover his plummeting approval ratings, as there is also still a lot of anger regarding his decision to forge ahead with this years summer olympics and his handling of the coronavirus.

Tulsaworld – Read the full article here

Finally, we have an article about an archaic tradition – or one of many – in Japan, the custom that couples have to take the same surname if they wish to get married. Most other countries allow for pretty flexible names after marriage, with the couple taking on a double-name or keeping their old names, but Japan is one country where one party (99 out of a 100 times it will be the bride) has to give up their family name if they wish to get married. Personally I do not agree with some points that are raised in this article, for example some people claim that they are defined by their name which is something that I can’t entirely get my head around. But giving people more freedom of choice can never be a bad thing, and Japanese families will certainly not be destroyed just because mom and dad do not bear the same surname.

BBC – Read the full article here

That’s it for this weeks news and for the first article in March. I have made a regular content schedule for this month, so let’s hope that I can stick to it. Check back again from time to time to find out if theres anything new and interesting!