Salaries in Japan

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Salaries in Japan

Unread post by T.D. » Wed Oct 28, 2015 4:09 am

So recently started to look at potentially moving back to Japan and started really looking into the job market there. I moved back to the states about 9 years ago, not too long after Nova imploded.

So is it just me or are salaries still crap for us foreigners in Japan? Even non-eikaiwa jobs seem to be on the low side. Is my perspective way off?

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by lordCONAN » Wed Oct 28, 2015 7:06 am

Nah, I'm pretty sure they're crap. Especially if you think about the conversion to USD, but really the cost of living here isn't that bad, but yeah, starting salaries suck.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Wed Oct 28, 2015 9:30 am

Yes they suck and not just for foreigners. J peeps aren't exactly on the big bucks for the most part. And I saw something on the box the other day about how permanent employee positions (seishain) are steadily decreasing. Something like to 30% or so of the work force isn't and they reckon it'll reach 50% within the next 20 years or some such. They also said that the "middle class" was someone in the annual salary bracket of 3 to 6 million yen.

But as Conan said, cost of living here is pretty cheap/reasonable, at least compared to Oz or some places in the US (like Silicon Valley or SF). Even more so if you aren't in a big city.

Although, I know some gaijins on the BIG bucks working for foreign companies. (One guy is on 25 million yen per year.) So if you can snag a job at a gaishikei, who knows.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Wed Oct 28, 2015 9:33 am

The National Tax Agency has loads of data of you're interested. From the 2014 survey (PDF):

Average salary: 4.15 million yen.
Full-time employees tended to earn above the average: 4.79 million yen vs 1.7 million for non full-time employees
Male full-time employees earned on average 5.32 million yen while their female counterparts earned 3.59 million yen.
Salaries have been on the rise (about 1% per year) but that hasn't really covered the cost of rising prices here.

What kind of job are you looking for?

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by T.D. » Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:50 pm

Thanks for the advice gents. Despite the lower salaries, I can see how I would save huge back in J-land by reducing commuting costs and the overall collection of material shit that you tend to accumulate here in the States.

I'm open to doing most anything (except eikaiwa), but for the past decade I've been in B-to-B marketing, mostly in the tech sector; Inbound lead gen, web development, events, developing literature, etc. Probably little chance I could wind up in this industry back in Japan but going to keep my eyes open for other opportunities as well.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Oct 29, 2015 9:08 am

A good friend of mine is in sales in tech here. He's a VP, but then you know how that works, especially in sales: it's just a title so they can pay him more. He snagged the job out of the US but he's been in sales jobs in Japan for over a decade, all in tech for mostly US companies (one of his start-ups got acquired by a British company so he worked for the poms for a bit). There's always recruiting if you're open to that. Plenty of gaijins do that here. And BIG bucks if you work hard and are good/successful at it. There's always jobs at banks/finance companies and tech companies if you're technical. And back to sales, at my old company, Symantec, some of the big wig sales and marketing ppl based in Japan were gaijins.

There are opportunities out there for gaijins for sure. Not easy to get nor find, for sure, but if you look hard enough and can tailor your CV to meet the requirements for these jobs, you've got as much chance as anyone. Like any job, figure out what you want to do and can (qualified to) do, and then look for those jobs. Maybe even get a cert or do some study or something. Better than nothing if you don't have a degree or specialty in that field.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Thu Oct 29, 2015 10:02 am

How's your Japanese? Even if your spoken Japanese is decent, it will open doors. If you can write reasonably well, that will help, too.
If you want to land the good jobs that Mac talks about, you're going to have to develop a network in Japan. Joining the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and attending their functions would be a good start. :thumbsup:

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Oct 29, 2015 10:44 am

Without trying to be a contrarian Shawn, as I think the advice you offer is solid, and I do agree it's best to approach the task of searching for a job like a job and attack it from all different angles, especially for someone in T.D's shoes (that is, OS trying to come back), it is possible to land a good job from OS without said network. In fact some of the best jobs you can only land OS and get sent here. Or in the case of the top international schools, I'm told (by those that work there) that they'll ONLY hire from OS. So if you live here and want a gig there, even if you are qualified, you (counter-intuitively) have to leave the country to land such a gig. Case in point, the guy I mentioned earlier in the thread on 25 million was in NZ when he landed his current gig and was here on holiday with his (J) wife and interviewing for jobs to come back (he had lived here in the past). Although having said that, it would be more advantageous to develop a network for sure.

However, there is a MASSIVE caveat for those sorts of jobs: no you don't need Japanese at all (although like anything it would no doubt help in the interview as part of your skill set) but a lot of the guys (gaijins) I know in tech here are all technical. In other words they have skills that employers can't find, whether that be cause no one in this country is at their level or they are so few and already have gigs at other companies and can't be lured away. Gaishikeis also have a massive image problem with the Japanese. While they generally offer more money and better hours, J peeps are afraid of competition and of being fired. In a J company they can get stuck in their little rut and never have to worry about being fired (in their minds). But they feel, rightly or wrongly, that in a gaijin company that the pressure is on and if you don't perform, you're out the door. So they think they can't just skate along and have their 176 coffee and cigarette breaks a day and have almost nothing to show for their 12 hour shifts (although that was still massive problem in the department I worked in cause the engineers in the other two regions in our department always got so much more done than our J crew). And of course there is the double worry of a gaijin boss and speaking Engrish. That terrifies a lot of the nerds in tech.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Thu Oct 29, 2015 11:31 am

Fair point, Mac. You and I have different work experiences, I think. You've definitely worked in a very globalized office whereas I have been at a Japanese company trying to globalize.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Oct 29, 2015 11:45 am

Shawn wrote:Fair point, Mac. You and I have different work experiences, I think. You've definitely worked in a very globalized office whereas I have been at a Japanese company trying to globalize.
Outside of eikaiwa, I've had three distinct experiences: the gaishikei experience, and on top of that, my dept. was a global dept, it just so happened that one of the 3 main locations was Tokyo (the other two were Dublin and Culver City); the very Japanese company experience where I was the only gaijin, of any race or nationality, out of 300 or so workers; and Canon, which was in between both of those. In fact Canon may be close to the type of environment you're in now Shawn as they were a J company trying to globalize, with both teething problems and mixed results.

As for my advice on job searching, I'll admit though that anything I say should probably be taken with a grain of salt. My last job search 2 years ago ended with Google telling me "you're not Japanese enough," and a Japanese medical device manufacturer (I forget their name) telling me, "you don't fit our culture." Ah yes, open discrimination is alive and well in the employment market here! :box:
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by T.D. » Fri Oct 30, 2015 4:59 am

Fark me, I love you guys! :cheers: Thanks for all the advice. So there may be a ray of hope for me. I know I could get my language skills back up to speed in no time once I'm back over there. I was finally getting really good about the time I left (go figure).

I got a call yesterday from a Japanese recruiting firm here in the states called "TOP". Hoping they get back to me soon.

Now that ya bastards are all older, have you started to face any scrutiny or discrimination at all? I'm in my mid 40's now. Also, do you find that you have to do the 12-14 hour days every day like your typical salaryman?

Not that I'm a lazy cunt, but hey, I like a decent work/life balance.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:04 am

T.D. wrote:Now that ya bastards are all older, have you started to face any scrutiny or discrimination at all? I'm in my mid 40's now. Also, do you find that you have to do the 12-14 hour days every day like your typical salaryman?

Not that I'm a lazy cunt, but hey, I like a decent work/life balance.
No, not on the age discrimination front, but when I interviewed 2 years ago (43 now) I only interviewed at two places in the end. I wanted to go freelance but the wife wanted me to work for the man so my heart wasn't in a job search. When Google came knocking, I couldn't pass up the chance. So I interviewed with them cause I wanted to work there. Even if it meant going back to Tokyo and living by myself. The other job was local and was only cause my wife asked me to. Robert Walters sent a bunch of jobs my way, all for translation, but I wasn't gonna head back to Tokyo for a measly 6 million yen a year. Didn't make sense on so many levels. After those failures I just kinda pretended to job hunt but what I was really doing was building up freelance clients. Once I started getting work, there was no need to pretend I was looking for a "real" job anymore. The only discrimination I've found here was the color of my skin. But having said that, no doubt some age discrimination does exist. Actually Google asked if I didn't mind working for some who was younger than me but I don't think played any part in their decision not to hire me.

As for hours, well, I do some crazy hours, anywhere from 12 to 15 hours a day, usually 7 days a week (although I knocked off at 4pm y'day so there are those days as well; hoping to knock off at 5 today to hit the gym early and will knock off around 6pm tomorrow as well as I've got plans in the evening, and then Sunday I'm only doing a half day). But I work for myself and every minute I spend working I'm earning. If I don't need/want the money or need time off, I just turn work down. I actually turn a lot of work down these days simply cause I can't fit it in. But when I was at Symantec, my last gig, I worked 9 to 6, 5 days a week. Being a gaijin company there was no pressure to work OT. When I did it was cause I was overworked; I didn't have time for projects during the day cause I was busy with operations so had to do them after hours. A lot of that was cause I had a douchebag boss. But yeah I believe gaijin companies are far better for work hours than J cos. That may also depend on your position too.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:45 am

T.D. wrote:Now that ya bastards are all older, have you started to face any scrutiny or discrimination at all? I'm in my mid 40's now. Also, do you find that you have to do the 12-14 hour days every day like your typical salaryman?

Not that I'm a lazy cunt, but hey, I like a decent work/life balance.
What do you mean by discrimination? Scrutiny? Tons of it. Being a foreigner doesn't insulate me from scrutiny. I have joined the ranks of the salaryman and am in a career track position. I can see myself retiring as a hon bucho. With some luck, I suppose I could even be an executive. Barring killing someone or burning the office down, I have a job for life.

However, I still have semi-annual reviews and am accountable for what I do. The reviews are division-level reports where everyone gets together to present the status of projects they have been working on. It's here that you have to tell everyone why something is delayed or failed. (When you accomplish something, you can brag all you want.) If you can't explain yourself adequately (i.e. avoid giving lame excuses) you'll get reamed by management in front of everyone. You won't get fired for failure, but you probably won't get that raise or big bonus.

Being a salaryman, I was putting in those 12-hour days is a part of the grind. It sucks because I have a family and rarely see them during the week. Fortunately, our company is changing and is trying to reduce the brutal amounts of overtime. It's getting better and the long days at the office are decreasing. I'm getting my life back. :cheers:

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Fri Oct 30, 2015 10:51 am

MacGyver wrote:As for my advice on job searching, I'll admit though that anything I say should probably be taken with a grain of salt. My last job search 2 years ago ended with Google telling me "you're not Japanese enough," and a Japanese medical device manufacturer (I forget their name) telling me, "you don't fit our culture." Ah yes, open discrimination is alive and well in the employment market here! :box:
You're probably more knowledgeable than I am since I went from eikaiwa to my present job. Japan doesn't have much of a secondary job market, so job-hopping is still rare. As you get older, it gets even tougher. But that is with typically Japanese companies. If you have a marketable skill, you have a better chance at the gaishikei.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Fri Oct 30, 2015 11:08 am

Shawn wrote:I have joined the ranks of the salaryman and am in a career track position.
That's one thing I regret. I never was on any career track, at the J company I worked at or the American one. In many respects it is a blessing in disguise but at the same time, you never know. The guy I mentioned earlier in the thread started at Symantec 11 years on I'm guessing about 8 or 9 million and now he is on 25 million as he has gone three rungs up the ladder and other salary bumps along the way. In my 8 years I think my salary was a million yen more at the end than when I started....
Shawn wrote:I still have semi-annual reviews and am accountable for what I do.
God, I don't miss those. Went through them for the better part of 12 years at both J and gaijin company. Being in operations the whole time, it's hard to do anything outside of the box as your daily tasks are narrow and take up all of your time. Hard to show how amazing you are when all you do is the grunt work day in day out. Although what projects I did do, in my own time mind you, the boss was never impressed with anyway. Yeah I don't miss corporate life. I also found that your corporate experience is highly dependent on your boss.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Fri Oct 30, 2015 11:15 am

Shawn wrote:You're probably more knowledgeable than I am since I went from eikaiwa to my present job. Japan doesn't have much of a secondary job market, so job-hopping is still rare. As you get older, it gets even tougher. But that is with typically Japanese companies. If you have a marketable skill, you have a better chance at the gaishikei.
Yeah J companies actually are suspicious of anyone who job hops too much but gaijin cos don't give a toss. They just want the right person and generally they struggle to find someone here with those mix of skills, although my experience is in tech so that's technical skills and/or language skills, often both. So are less worried about your age or color of your skin, although surprisingly Google proved me wrong on one count. Although having gaijin friends who work there, my understanding is it was just the boss of that group didn't want a dirty foreigner poisoning her pure Japanese pool. This gets back to my earlier comment of corporate life depends on who your boss is. Actually one thing I found interesting at the time was that Google generally move their people around to keep them interested and most rarely stay in the same job for more than a few years but she'd been doing the same job for 8 years.... hmmmmm
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Sat Oct 31, 2015 8:43 am

MacGyver wrote: This gets back to my earlier comment of corporate life depends on who your boss is. Actually one thing I found interesting at the time was that Google generally move their people around to keep them interested and most rarely stay in the same job for more than a few years but she'd been doing the same job for 8 years.... hmmmmm
This is called "rotation" in my office. It's a part of being a salaryman. There is no fixed period for when this happens, but a person spending 10 years in one position is a prime candidate for "rotation." It creates managers who have broad knowledge within the company but who have no speciality. I'm not convinced that this is a winning strategy in a globalized business world. A kacho of mine came from finance to manage our website. He knew nothing about web management or social media. He was one of the reasons why I was putting in brutal hours; I just couldn't work with the guy. It made my job really frustrating. While I was pushing him from below, his superiors were crapping on him from above. He knew that he was way out of his depth, and over time, the stress of the job caused him to have a nervous breakdown. Sadly, it took his nervous breakdown for management to finally install a person who knew what they were doing. :smash:

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Sat Oct 31, 2015 12:25 pm

Yeah I think it's fairly common in Japanese companies, mostly so that those on the line/making the goods, etc. get a feel for what a salesman goes through and vice versa, or at least that was its purpose back in the day. Some companies may do it just because that's how it's always been done. Google do it because they want to challenge their people/keep them interested. I don't know that they actually force it on their people. I get the feeling that it is highly encouraged but not enforced, that is they don't make anyone change jobs. In this chick's case I mentioned, I just get the feeling from what I was told that that department was her little fiefdom and she wanted to run it how she saw fit, which was no stinking gaijin, even though a guy was specifically brought in to diversify her department. One thing I remember being told was that she was concerned I wouldn't be able to deal with the J dudes in other departments, such the lawyers, that they had to deal with on a daily basis. :huh:
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Wed Nov 04, 2015 8:36 am

Moving people around is one way to give them new challenges, I suppose. Where I work, it's forced. Management will make a decision and then tell you that next month you will be doing X. I'd hate to be the poor slob who gets told they're being transferred to a remote office. That seems to always happen just after they get married and buy a house.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Wed Nov 04, 2015 9:35 am

Shawn wrote:Management will make a decision and then tell you that next month you will be doing X.
A month??? Luxury. I've heard cases where they are told and are only given a few days to get their shit together and move.... :jaw:
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by Shawn » Wed Nov 04, 2015 4:12 pm

MacGyver wrote:A month??? Luxury. I've heard cases where they are told and are only given a few days to get their shit together and move.... :jaw:
I've heard of those stories but don't know of anyone who has suffered that fate at the office. The guys getting shipped overseas get at least 6 months warning in advance, but I suspect that has to do with the lead time involved with arranging visas.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by AsahiSupaSpy » Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:29 pm

MacGyver wrote: a measly 6 million yen a year.
Jesus. You are waaayyyy better at life than me. Nice one.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Nov 05, 2015 7:31 pm

AsahiSupaSpy wrote:Jesus. You are waaayyyy better at life than me. Nice one.
6 million by itself is not bad I guess (although most ppl I know in tech in Tokyo make far more; I don't know anyone on less than 10 and had I got the Google gig I was supposed to start on 9) but there was also the opportunity cost of having to live in Tokyo by myself with the wife here. Plus travel here (or her come to see me) every weekend, which starts to take a whack out of the salary.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by AsahiSupaSpy » Thu Nov 05, 2015 10:45 pm

You obviously made some better choices than I did. I get nowhere close to 6 bills a year. Never will. My high school gig is under 4. Cool fun, though.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:00 pm

Man, I feel the same with some of my friends/ex-colleagues, believe you me. And when I meet finance douchebags who are on 30 million plus, well, even more so. But then as I say some of these people are douchebags and I think a lot of the time they are dbags because of the money and sometimes power. I don't think a lot of these ppl I've met over the yrs on the big bucks started out as asshats but the money (and power in some cases) turned them that way. And to be honest freelance translating I make some nice scratch, more per month most months than I've ever made in my life, but if I did your hours and took your holidays, I'd make the same, if not less, than you, so it's all relative. And I see teacher friends like you working 6 or so hours a day, 5 days a week, and having 6 to 8 weeks off a yr (sometimes more depending on their school) and think damn that's awesome, but then their salary isn't the same as mine so there's always something. And I'm not a teacher's arsehole and enjoy what I do now far more than when I was in eikaiwa.

Speaking of which, time to knock off for the day. Looks like I'm in another stretch of 14 plus hour days for the next two weeks...
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by T.D. » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:29 pm

Yup, there is the whole work / life balance thing. Especially when children are involved. Now, I'm definitely not lazy, but really, I would much rather be done at 5pm each day so I can come home, help my daughter with homework, have a beer and enjoy at least a modicum of time with my family and make less scratch than be at the office til 7 or 8 and make a shit ton of money. Life is far too short to spend it in the office with a bunch of asshats you dislike.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by AsahiSupaSpy » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:40 pm

While a bunch more money would be awesome, I've never been one for responsibility, deadlines, stress and overtime. I tried that, and hated every goddamn second of it. Ambition, drive and competition just aren't my bag, I guess. I like to clock in, plan, teach, and fuck off. I got a couple nice bikes, a fantastic fiancee and beers in the fridge.

My fiancee is a banker actually, and makes shitloads more than I do. She also looks after some investing for me so I do have other revenue sources. Plus, when we have kids, guess who gets to quit and stay home. Just kidding, we haven't gotten there yet.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by T.D. » Fri Nov 06, 2015 12:10 am

Great timing for this conversation. Ironically, I just interviewed for a VP position yesterday, and my daughter told me she hopes I don't get it because she likes me being at home. I know I would love the challenge, but again, I like a nice work / life balance. The plus side would be getting a nice nest egg in place finally though.

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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by MacGyver » Fri Nov 06, 2015 8:54 am

I hear you all on the work/life balance. I definitely don't intend to keep doing the hours I'm doing. I reckon I worked about 330 days last year and would push 300 this year I reckon. And there are many 100+ hour weeks in there. Sure, some months I push 2 million yen (although I would average under 1) but per hour I'd prolly only make around 5K an hour. And I know I'll take a hit once I really start to slow down (actually I did have a slow period earlier in the year) but you/I can't work like this forever. I really enjoy (mostly) what I'm doing, not having a boss, and sometimes it's just hard to say no. Like, the other day I was offered a project that will last 2 weeks and pay a little over 400K. I'm already doing 2 other projects (one finishes today, I hope, but the other has some more to go) so I'll be working in parallel. Means I'll make more than 600K for 2 weeks work but also means I'll be starting now (before 8am) every morning and finishing after 10 every night for the next 2 weeks. I just need to say no but sometimes it's so damn hard to say no....
"Yous guys talk a lotta shit. I'm much more smarter than all a yous." - Samurai Jerk after being owned by the Let's Japan crew.

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T.D.
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Re: Salaries in Japan

Unread post by T.D. » Sat Nov 07, 2015 12:49 am

Damn Mac! Those are some serious effing hours you're putting in! That's awesome money you're making but yeah, once you break it down hourly it's not as attractive.

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