Foreign Salaryman (in Japan): The Blog

By SalarymanJim, 18 March, 2016

Salaryman - def. a Japanese white-collar businessman (Merriam-Webster),

OR  - an essentially useless, often inebriated japanese man, characterized by gray suit, blank expression, an inability to think for himself (Urban Dictionary).


I thought I’d start a blog documenting, as much as possible, my life as a salaryman in Japan.  Maybe it’ll provide an insight for potential overseas applicants to corporate Japan.  Maybe it’ll put you off applying in the first place.  Maybe it’s my attempt to reach out to people like me, trying to balance I want leave work on time and in the office Western values, with I’m damned if I’m going to be the first person to leave and go home values that prevail here in Japan.

According to the salaryman definitions above, I don’t qualify to write this blog.  I’m not Japanese, and I don’t drink very much.  No comment on the latter characteristics.  Since coming to Japan though, I’ve always seen the salaryman in two ways; one - as a kind of Chandler from friends type, self-deprecating, uniform on the surface, doing work that nobody is interested in.  The other way is much more concise; they don’t teach English.

Salary .. woman, man, or person?

In Japan it seems to be office lady / salaryman.  I’ll go with salaryman, if I may.  I am male, and salary person doesn’t come up much in search engines.  

In this blog I won’t be mentioning any names (of co-workers, companies, rivals e.t.c).  I won’t got into the specifics of what I do, in large part because I myself don’t have much of a clue.

Getting more specific as to what qualifies me as a salaryman; I work in one of those big shiny skyscrapers near ‘salaryman town’ Shimbashi, Tokyo - like one of those in the image ..

.. but not actually one of thsse!  The office is on the 14th floor and the smoking rooms have views worth at least 30,000 yen (were they a hotel room).  I have my own business card, I usually come home late from work, I spend most of my time knackered, go to lots of meetings, introduce myself to lots of people, carry a MacBook at all times (it seldom gets opened outside of an office), and for lunch I can often be found in places like the image below, shoulder to shoulder with my fellow foot soldiers of Japan’s economic army.

Where I might fail on the salaryman front, is that I rarely wear a suit, I don’t have one of those shoulder bag/briefcase hybrid things, I don’t clock in/clock out, there’s no weird collective stretching/exercising in the office, no bell sounds to tell everyone to start work, very few post-work drinks (or am I just not invited?), I usually get to miss rush hour on the train to work (although I rarely get a seat), and I’d be really surprised if I’m here until retirement.

So there you have it, brief like a salaryman’s lunch!

For more on life in Japan as a foreign salaryman see my blog here …