Working in Tokyo



Tokyo is an economic superpower. However, the Japanese professional employment laws, as well as the heavy need to communicate in Japanese, might pose a challenge for expats who would want to work in this city.

Economy and Employment 

Japan's capital city of Tokyo is considered one of the world's finance ‘command centres' along with New York and London. With a gross domestic product of approximately $1.479 trillion (based on a study done by Pricewaterhouse Coppers), Tokyo's metropolitan area easily has the largest economy for a city of its size.  

The Tokyo Stock Exchange is not only the country's leading stock exchange, but it is also considered the world's second largest based on market capitalization. The city also serves as headquarters for many international financial institutions, including several investment banks such as Citibank and Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation HSBC.

Tokyo, however, is more popularly known in the economic world for being a high-tech city. Its production of automobiles, electronics, and chemicals is the city's most outstanding achievement. Another important industry in the city, in aid to the manufacturing or production of Japan's technological wonders, is the services sector, which contributes about 73% towards the Tokyo's GDP.

Tokyo has very little farmland (that of which happens to be situated in the Western area of the city). Its forested areas serve more of a tourist destination than for production purposes; nevertheless, the agriculture industry contributes about 1.5% to Tokyo's promising economy. 

The city has about 5.9 million employed in its labour force. About 375,000 foreigners have been granted residency since 2005, and a significant 61% of this number were granted residency status for work or employment purposes.  

Getting a Work Permit 

If you already have an employer before going to Tokyo, then your company would be sponsoring your working visa. Most working visas are valid for one to three years and are renewable.

"There is nothing that the employers have to do such as paying for the visa or applying on behalf of employees. The process was very simple." - Ploychompu Srisa-an, Expat in Tokyo

Working visas are job-specific, which means that you would need to secure one specifically for the work that you were hired for. There are different fields for which this is granted, such as the field of journalism, arts, engineering, education, entertainment, business management, etc. 

"When you get a working visa, you can only work in your field of expertise. If you try to work in something different, you might be able to do it, but you will have problems when it comes to renewing your visa. Also, as a student, you have a limit of hours per week that you can work at part-time (and you need to receive a special part-time working permit at the immigration bureau). Visa should go well if you do your stuff such as paying your bills, taxes and don’t cause trouble."- Andre Moreira, Expat in Tokyo, Japan

Visas can be applied for in any Japanese consulate or embassy in your home country. Further assistance regarding work-related matters for non-Japanese residents is offered by the Tokyo Employment Service Centre for Foreigners. 

Work Culture 

Tokyo's work culture, despite the economy's Western influences, is still largely based on Japanese customs, beliefs, and traditions. They place great importance on age and hierarchy and have great respect for elders. 

Harmony (or the concept of wa) is also an important facet of business dealings and the work environment in general. Getting too aggressive or assertive, especially at the onset, would not be recommended. 

You would also find that most office tasks are done in teams or groups. This is because of the Japanese belief in consensus building (or nemawashi), which means achieving a goal through cooperation. 

It is considered rude to address your Japanese counterparts by their first name unless you have been given permission or are invited to do so. Using Mr. or Ms. before their last name is fine. You can also add the Japanese honorific ‘-san' after their family name instead. (Example: Mr Sakamoto would be Sakamoto-san)

Do not be surprised if you find smokers enjoying a good smoke inside the office premises. This is not considered prohibited or illegal in most Japanese workplaces.

Tokyo is a city brimming with employment opportunities; it is the dream cosmopolitan city for many expatriates. 



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