I haven’t talked about myself, particularly why I work for foreigners in Japan. So, here I’d like to talk about it by making a long story short.
The reason is simple. I have met many foreigners whose skills or experience are not sufficiently utilised here in Japan, and it’s simply a waste of people’s talent. Some (often Japanese) may say that a business level of Japanese proficiency is required, but is it always true?
An answer by an admin office for subsidy was symbolic when asked if foreigners can apply for a grant, as I wrote somewhere. They said, ‘Yes, non-Japanese business owners can apply for the government subsidy, of course, as long as they do business within the Japanese judicial system. Ah, and many business owners speak Japanese fluently’. In other words, you wouldn’t have access to a subsidy unless you understand Japanese.
While I admire many non-Japanese business entrepreneurs launching businesses and shops from scratch, I believe that had there been more help, more people would have been encouraged to start businesses here in Japan. I’m saying this because starting a business on your own is a way to crystallise your talent and potential.
Moreover, I wish that people coming to Japan from all over the world genuinely enjoy being here, despite the cultural and language barrier. There is still room for many foreigners to enjoy and develop your skills.
At the same time, my view and ideas reflect my experience as a returnee to Japan after a while. It was my mid-30s when I resigned from my first Japanese employer since graduating from the university. I went back to school to enrol in a Master’s degree in the UK. After completing the degree, I worked at several international organisations and was back in Tokyo. It took seven years until I returned to the city (I didn't intend to come back to Tokyo when I left, but I won’t talk about it as this is out of scope here).
During a job interview in 2016, an interviewer at a non-profit organisation in Tokyo told me, ‘oh, your profile is too high, hahaha!’ I didn’t understand what he said, and it took some hours to feel angry. It may sound silly, but I couldn't understand what the interviewer meant. With anger and disappointment a few hours later, I had to realise that there would be little room for me in Japanese employers. Very few Japanese employers would be pleased to hire someone with more international experience and background in journalism who is likely to be outspoken. Obedience takes more or less importance in Japanese corporate culture. In addition, my age, over 40 years old by that time, became a weakness in this society.
‘Horie-san, why don’t you start your own business? You have enough experience and should do it on your own!’ said one of my mentors. I didn’t know what entrepreneurship was at that time. ‘Don’t wait until someone hires you’, said the mentor with more than 30 years of experience as a business owner.
Since I had no idea what to do, I firstly did to understand what entrepreneurship is. And then, I started to generate ideas with the help of some books, including ‘A Technique for Producing Ideas’ by James Webb Young. And I am here now.
I may be writing too long while trying to make it short. Back to the topic, I work for foreigners in Japan to develop their businesses, but at the same time, it doesn’t limit to non-Japanese people but those struggling to get out of Japanese salary-men culture. It’s for all those who, including myself, wish to aspire to crystalise their potential as a professional.