Loving Japan: A Journey of Personal Growth Part 2

I left off in Part 1  with me not getting a job from the internship at the hotel and agreeing with my parents to find a job by Christmas of 2014.

After my parents had left and I received my job hunting visa, the first thing that I did was go to the career counselor at Doshisha for my MBA program and ask for his advice. He helped me with the Japanese version of my resume, and just with that I was given an edge over some other foreign candidates searching of jobs. He also introduced me to a Japanese company that was looking for an American person to work for them, and he thought that I was a good candidate. This connection actually was the job that I ended up taking in the end, but I also went to a placement agency in Tokyo to help me find a a job, which I got a few job interviews through. The process to find a job was actually a lot smoother than I thought it would be.

The first Job

I accepted the job from the OEM manufacturer that the career counselor at my MBA program knew personally. To be very honest, I did not have any interest in the manufacturing industry at all and my main goal for taking this job was to get an inside look into a real Japanese company and to improve my Japanese skills. I did not want to stay at this job more than a year, and in the end I only stayed a year and one month.

My job at the company was 「ISP担当」(ISP Tantou) on the Manufacturing Control team, which basically means the person in charge of inventory, sales, and production, along with international sales and going to an international trade convention during the summer in Europe. I was taking over the position from a Japanese woman and I only had two months to learn from her before she left the company. I was the only westerner working in Japan for this company, and I was in the branch office as well. My Japanese was only conversational level, and this was my first job out of university and my MBA program, so this was a huge amount of pressure to learn the entire job from scratch, with no knowledge of the company at the beginning. If I had to go back and do anything over again, I would have sat down with the woman I was learning from and taken more notes, but I really had no idea of the extent of the job at the time and I didn’t know where to put my efforts. My philosophy at the time was “learn from watching and experience”, not necessarily from taking notes.

While I was doing the job, I did not realize how important the job that I did actually was until after a  year working there. I can only remember thinking the entire time “My salary is not enough for me to be doing this amount of work” and “Why are they expecting so much from me and pushing me so hard?” I thought I was doing the job properly, but in reality I was just causing the other members of the company to work harder to pick up the slack of me not understanding Japanese fluently yet and my lack of discipline and organization. Throughout this learning curve, I came home crying many nights back to my apartment near work and I was feeling more alone that I ever had before.

The Boyfriend

I don’t normally talk about my boyfriend on my blog, as I choose to keep our relationship private, but as he was a part of the reason how I kept my head afloat during my year learning curve period, I thought I would mention him and how he influenced me.

I met my boyfriend at the end of April 2015 through my best friend, and now roommate, Meghan. They were friends from university, and she had always wanted us to meet, purely as friends, as she thought we would get along very well. We hit it off very well and we began dating at the end of June…. The catch was that he moved back to England right at the same time, so from the beginning it was a long-distance relationship. During the hardest time of my job, we always spoke in the mornings as I walked to work from my old apartment and those are some of the best memories I have of that time and what became my strength during that time. He really was one of the reasons I was able to keep on for so long and my loneliness began to dissipate, even just a little bit. To this day, I have learned so much from him and he keeps on pushing me to be the best version of myself.

a New Beginning

After a year, I began to get a handle of my job properly, I moved in with my best friend into the actual city of Osaka in September, and my loneliness was basically gone at that point. One thing that  I could tell wouldn’t change though was that I lacked passion for what I was doing. At that point, I was mentally tired and I was being pushed towards picking up the international sales part of my job more, or we could not go to the trade show in the following year. I still did not have total control over the main part of my job yet, and I came home crying many nights still, being mentally challenged with dealing with co-workers that I did not get along with and being forced into doing things with my job that I did not think had to do wth my job. Since it was something I was not passionate about, I decided it was time change jobs into a field that I really wanted to go into. It just so happened that a job opening came up at the company that my best friend works at doing editing and content creation for a new website launching in the new year. I booked an interview and I was offered the job just before Christmas of last year, Christmas 2015. The day after coming back to work at the new year, I spoke with my boss and after a many rounds of debating, my date to leave the company was the last working day in January of 2016.

I always tell people that the hardest part of living in Japan for me is not life here, but the work culture. I have gotten used to everyday life here in Japan, but the working life I still have a hard time understanding. Sometimes I still come home crying at night and feel overwhelmed, but I always try and tell myself that someday this experience will payoff and I will become a better person because of it. To me, understanding I am a guest in this country and I can’t change ingrained business practices very easily is more important than fighting every little thing that comes my way. It is all about choosing your battles wisely. This leads me to feel unappreciated and undervalued sometimes, but I just keep the faith that taking the time to be understanding is the best way to work in another culture, not just Japan. I love Japan and its people and I am still on this journey of understanding the culture, a never ending journey of discovery.


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