Career Fly Nomin(CF) : Thank you very much for your time today Oscar! We would love to talk to you about your experience working in Japan and how you landed in Japan and everything that is included!
So please tell us when did you decide to come to Japan, did you always wanted to come to Japan and work here?
Oscar(O): No problem, at all! I would love to talk and share my experience with fellow foreigners who are considering to come to Japan in the future.
So, in Hong Kong, it’s not usual for people to come to Japan for work, because they tend to go and work in western countries where they can utilize their English skills.
But for me, I always wanted to work in Japan. I actually started studying Japanese during my university times and I really wanted to work here after my graduation. But I couldn’t speak very well in Japanese, but had my confidence in writing, reading since I’m from Hong Kong. But speaking is very essential in job hunting and working in Japanese companies.
After graduation, I came to Japan for a working holiday in 2014. I initially didn’t have the plan to stay here for a very long time, but I had found a great opportunity to work here before my working holiday was over and joined my first company in Japan.
CF: I see, how did you do your job hunting during that time?
O: I used mostly websites such as Mynavi and looked for jobs, and I had looked for marketing jobs to utilize my language skill. At first, I was thinking of working in Kyoto, but they didn’t have many opportunities. So I decided to come to Tokyo, basically I was commuting to Tokyo for interviews and paid the commuting fee by myself. As a result, it took me about 1-2 months to find my job at the time.
CF: That sounds rough! Lol
O: Yes, it really was tough! Well, I thought if I have an opportunity like this to work in Japan, I had to take care of the commuting fee and take risks. After that, I had about 2 the interview and got an offer from the company.
CF: I see, please share with us your previous role.
O: My previous company was an Inbound advertising company and I worked there for about 1year and a half. I worked as a consultant, my responsibility was to making solutions, arranging ad plans for clients. But at the time I simply wanted to become a sommelier because I loved alcoholic beverages.
CF: Interesting! Did that goal influence you to change companies?
O: Yes, but to become sommelier, a person needs to work at an alcoholic beverage association for 3 years and need to get a certification. So I wanted to do a marketing role but also wanted to pursue that goal too. As I was searching on the internet, I found about Career Fly and was given this opportunity to join my current company at Kontatsu.
CF: That’s amazing that you had a chance to be connected with Career Fly.
Please tell us more about your current company!
O: I joined my current company in 2017 May, so it has been over 3 years actually.
My current company I think is a very great place to be working at, not only it matches my interest which is alcoholic beverages.
My role is global sales, especially Hong Kong and mainland China is my responsibility.
But I also have a chance to utilize my know-how from my previous position to challenge myself in this industry and not to mention it enables me to connect foreign countries with Japanese sake and it is very fulfilling and worthwhile for me.
CF: That’s amazing to hear! Did you face any cross-cultural differences and how did you deal with it?
O: Of course! There’s always a time where I don’t understand certain words or slangs, cultural differences. I think the important part is to have the other person understand you are a foreigner but at the same time, you also have to do your part to understand their part as well.
This way, communication would be smoother while working.
CF: What do you think about the merits and demerits of working in Japanese companies?
O: Hmmm… I think there aren’t many Japanese nationals who can speak English and experience living/working abroad so I believe this is a chance to grab foreigners to pursue their career in Japan. Since the world is becoming more and more global, international business chances are increasing everywhere, it could also be an advantage and merit for foreign nationals to work in Japan.
For demerit, as I have said before since the Japanese nationals who hadn’t got a chance to work/study outside of Japan, I think it is difficult for them to understand foreign nationals with different backgrounds/beliefs.
So I think in that case there needs to be a lot of cooperation on both sides to understand each other and have proper communication.
CF: Does that mean that you take a lot of initiatives to start communicating with others at your company? How does it go?
O: Yes, I take initiatives to communicate with my coworkers and since Japanese is mainly used for communication in my company, I try to explain myself in a way that is easy to understand so I prepare some script beforehand and practice what and how I would explain things in Japanese. As a result, it helped me and coworkers to have good communication with each other.
I’m glad that my coworkers are quite honest and they have already accepted me as a foreigner and they already know that there are some things I wouldn’t understand.
CF: Thank you for sharing that. You know in the media, the Japanese working culture is deemed to very negative with working hours and full trains, etc. How is your experience?
O: Actually, I never worked in other countries except for Japan.
But, based on my knowledge of Hong Kong they also work quite long hours there too.
I think there is a fine line between
what is worth and what’s not worth it for overworking.
For me, when I overwork it is because I want to and I love my job as it is very fulfilling for me and I would like to have our business succeed. So in a way, I don’t have any negative feelings towards overworking.
I also think that the Japanese working culture is more implicit. For example, when you propose something, they may not reject you right away, they explain and then reject you very kindly. I think in foreign countries, it’s definitely more straightforward and they say yes/no very clearly.
In Japan, you have you really understand how they express themselves and I actually think it’s the beauty of expression. So when I talk to Japanese people, I try to imitate them and try to strike a balance between foreigners being working in Japan. But when I speak to foreigners, I try to talk more directly at the same time make the other person feel more comfortable.
CF: I see, how long did it take for you to get to a point where you felt like you had acquired that skill?
O: I would say before I worked in Japan, I researched online a lot and try to know how Japanese people do business and their manner, I also used to watch many Japanese tv series, I also have some Japanese friends and my teacher who was Japanese and she would also teach and guide me in terms of Japanese culture and manner, so these gave me a head start.
But when I joined my company, I really tried to observe and instead of speaking first.
Such as seeing how Japanese people speak to each other, try to observe and learn from them is the best way which really helped me, so until now I never had a very frustrating time.
CF: Any advice to other foreigners who are considering to come to Japan?
O: I think before coming to Japan, you really need to think about what you want to do in Japan and why? Just because you like Japan doesn’t mean that your career would flourish here, and I would advise others to find out why and what you want in Japan.
I also believe you have to show others that you have the values – to be prepared too.
Not just because you are foreigner, how you contribute to the company and I think for the foreigners we are special enough to have separate language skills. But I think it’s not enough we need to have other technical skills as well.
“I want to become a global citizen in the future but my base is always Japan”
CF: So what is your next career fly?
O: I probably said this many times but since I really like alcohol(lol), this year I will take the sommelier test and while developing my career in marketing since I also love marketing.
Japan is my base, but I want to become a global citizen in the future. So in the upcoming years, I would try to go deeper in this industry, because I’m working in other countries I would like them to be connected and linked to Japan even more in the future.
CF: Thank you very much for your time and sharing us with your valuable experience. Good luck with your future endeavor.
We wish you all the best!
(Left)Nomin from Career Fly and (Right)Oscar from Kontatsu.
Our interview includes his job hunting, experienced at working in a Japanese company and his Career Fly in the future!
Chau Wing Kin (Oscar) from Hong Kong
He joined Kontatsu Co Ltd in 2017 and has been working ever since. He currently works as Manager at Marketing Department. His main responsibility involves Global sales aiming toward mainly Mainland China, Hong Kong.