How I changed jobs in Japan

Quick background: I am a Dutch UX/UI designer and I worked my b$tt off to be able to live and work here in Japan.

At the end of 2016, I managed to land a job as a UI/UX designer at a Japanese IT company creating mobile applications, websites and more, for clients like Docomo, Suica, Bandai Namco etc. With that, I was able to land a working visa for 5 years (yay!).

It went very well for about a year but then really crappy things started happening and I knew I had to try my luck for something else. The biggest issues with the job were project management, my manager, salary and the work not matching my skill levels.

I started looking for new opportunities and ended up getting an offer from Company B. Company B is a company specialized in HR consultancy and they created a platform based on their HR methods. They were looking for people to build their design department from scratch and told me they’d be happy with my experiences and skills as a foreigner since they want to globalize. So, thinking I’d be joining a company ready to globalize, I accepted the offer and from then on had to go through the process of quitting my job at Company A.

This was my first time quitting a job in Japan so I had to research the whole process and ask advice from the recruiters that helped me land my new job.

Most people are aware that Japan is a country of rules, manners, and etiquette and as a foreigner, you also have to take into account your visa status. I thought I would share the processes I went through and the experiences I gained by changing jobs as a designer here in Japan.

1) Looking for a new job and taking job interviews while still working at your current company

You will probably do this after working hours. My advice would be “Don’t tell anyone anything”. Neither while you’re searching nor when you’ve landed an actual offer. Try to answer phone calls, regarding new opportunities, away from your colleagues (and especially from your managers), and be abstract about your plans after working hours. I know that in Japan, depending on the sector you’re in, you are often expected to wear a suit for your job interviews. But if you are going to an interview after work, and your current company allows you to wear casual clothing, don’t wear the suit for your interview to work. It might sound silly but it will probably stand out quite a lot. Either bring the clothes you want to wear with you or just go semi-formal.

2) Boom! You’ve landed a job offer! Way to go! Now how do you tell your manager you’re leaving the company?

I took some advice from Savvy Tokyo’s article about quitting your job in Japan. The first thing I did was scheduling a meeting with my manager (scary…), to explain to him personally that I had found a new position and wanted to leave the company. When I did, he asked me “What company?”…
It’s better to not tell your manager what company you will be joining, especially if you’re not on good terms with them. If you want to give a polite answer just be abstract and describe the kind of company it is and the position you will fulfill.

退職届 Taishoku Todoke / Japanese Resignation Letter
After I told him I want to quit I wrote a 退職届 (taishoku todoke). Which is basically a resignation letter stating when your last day will be and why you are quitting. This Japanese site has templates and advice on how to write one. It’s okay to keep your letter short and use standard reasons for quitting. It’s mostly a formality. Don’t forget to sign it with your hanko or your signature.

At first, I wrote the resignation letter in Japanese by hand. Then I left it on the manager’s desk for him to read, because he was in meetings all day and to be very honest, I didn’t want to confront him.
This was, of course, a NO-GO (not much of a surprise but like I said, I wanted to avoid him). I got called for another talk and he explained to me that I need to hand it over to him personally and also instead of a taishoku todoke, I would need to write a 退職願 taishoku negai, which is more of a request/proposal to quit your job.

退職願Taishoku Negai / Japanese Proposal for Resignation
On the Japanese template site they also explain about taishoku negai. It is basically more of a request/notice of you wanting to leave the company. You write down a request of when you want your last day of work to be, hand it in and wait for the company’s response.

After hearing that I have to write a “proposal”, I was afraid I wasn’t taken seriously since I had a clear idea of when I wanted to quit and when I wanted to start my new job. In the end, I didn’t feel like writing the letter for a 3rd/4th time by hand and instead typed and printed it out. There was no problem when I handed it in and they agreed with my request eventually. If you like writing in Japanese write the taishoku negai/todoke. If you don’t feel comfortable writing in kanji then I’d say try your luck and just print it out. This whole process of getting my resignation date fixed took me 2–3 weeks because I needed to adjust my taishoku negai a couple of times. After the date was confirmed, I ended up quitting within 2 weeks since they took such a long time to come back to me.

The taishoku negai/todoke format and everything varies per company so be sure to ask about it during the meeting with your superior.

3) So I did all of this and got my last day of work confirmed, what now?Usually, your company has some guidelines for you to follow when you quit your job. Mine had some guidelines and HR took me through the necessary documentation I needed to sign. Be sure to have your residence card, my number card, passport, 年金手帳 (nenkin techou, pension notebook) , 雇用保険被保険者証 (koyo hoken hihokenshasho or employment insurance card) and hanko with you when you get at the point of signing the documents provided by HR. You probably received the pension notebook (it’s a blue little book) and employment insurance card (a piece of paper that looks like this) when you first joined the company.

I was also given a checklist of what to take care of on my last day. Basically, just act normal and civil as long as you’re still working at the company. Finish the things you were working on and/or leave enough documentation behind for the person who will take over your projects.

In Japan, it’s a standard to hold a 送別会 soubetsukai for anyone leaving the company. 送別会 soubetsukai is Japanese for “farewell party” and is usually in the form of dinner after work (yakiniku!). You will probably be expected to say a few (informal) words to your colleagues and (usually) the expenses will be borne by the company or department.

Other things you should take into account:

  • The type of visa you have. If you switch sectors you would need to change your visa. For example: if you switch jobs from digital marketer to biology professor at a university, this would mean you need to switch from Engineer / Specialist in Humanities / Int’l Services to an Instructor visa. More about each visa here
  • If you stay in the same sector you will need to send the Immigration bureau a notice that you changed employers, within 14 days. You can use this form . You can send this by post to the following address with a copy of the residence card enclosed:

To the Notification Acceptance Desk, The Residency Management Information Department,

the Tokyo Regional Immigration Bureau
5–5–30 Konan, Minato-ku,
Tokyo 108–8255

Also, write “The notification form is enclosed” in red letters on the face of the envelope.

If you have any questions or anything to add please let me know! I hope you find the right company and job for you here in Japan!

(I hope I do as well haha)

Dutch UX/UI designer living and working in Tokyo, Japan.