all 180 comments

[–]only_on_vhs 233 points234 points  (96 children)

I’m sorry things didn’t work out with the lab.

Japan has done an incredible job of convincing the rest of the world it is something it is not. You’re experiencing the real Japan and it’s shocking to many. This really can only be understood by living here.

There are still cool things to find and experiences to have in Japan besides a career. So long as the positives are outweighing the negatives, it’s a place worth exploring. Until the scales fully tip, why not stick around? Learning the language will be huge and will open doors you didn’t know were there.


p.s you’re not too old you can chill.

Edit: spelling

[–]_Kizz_ 60 points61 points  (73 children)

Japan has done an incredible job of convincing the rest of the world it is something it is not.

More like the world put Japan on a pedestal and portrayed Japan as something it is not just to realize that they are just like the rest of the world. Japan doensnt really care that much about what the world think of them, at least not more than other countries.

[–]rmutt-1917 119 points120 points  (17 children)

Japan cares very much about what the rest of the world thinks about them. The meaning of modernity and whether or not Japan is perceived as being a leader in modernity has been a fixture in Japanese history and nihinhinron for well over a century now.

Japan being put on a pedestal isn't a coincidence, it's fairly deliberate. The cool Japan fund, the Olympics, all the TV shows interviewing foreigners get them to compliment Japanese whatever, the JET programme, etc. It's all there to advertise a certain image of Japan to other countries or remind people that they live in a "modern" country.

[–]_Kizz_ 16 points17 points  (14 children)

The cool Japan fund, the Olympics, all the TV shows interviewing foreigners get them to compliment Japanese whatever, the JET programme, etc.

All the things you listed aren't what people outside of Japan associate with the country. Cool Japan was a failed project and was even criticized. The Olympics are also held by other countries as well? The general public is unaware of the JET program, I don't even know what it is exactly. TV shows that interview foreigners are made for Japanese audiences, and it's just a small genre among their other TV shows, which is a lot. (And tbh many Asian countries have similar shows as well because Asian enjoy seeing foreigners' reactions to their culture. It's not something exclusive to Japan.)

Of course every country has its own projects aimed at promoting its image for tourism and soft power. But it's all about business/money. In terms of cultural promotion, Japan really doesn't give that much effort if you take the scale of its culture and potential into account. And even if they do they didn't do a good job. Japan maybe is the second most talked-about country (behind the US) when it comes to global discussions about societal problems. These days people associate Japan with suicide, hikikomori, low birth rate, aging population, toxic work culture, weird products, perverts... (and tbh a lot of those are often overblown). You call that did a good job at promoting their country?

[–]anievo 11 points12 points  (2 children)

The cool Japan fund, the Olympics, all the TV shows interviewing foreigners get them to compliment Japanese whatever, the JET programme, etc.

All the things you listed aren't what people outside of Japan associate with the country.

It isn't about associating those programs and events with Japan. It's about getting people to Japan and ushering them through all the various tourist hotspots, 'delicious' foods spots and 'wacky' Japan experiences. Those people will go on to post about their trip online and talk about it to friends and family.

[–]_Kizz_ 2 points3 points  (1 child)

Do you even read my whole post? We are talking about tourism industry here. Of course they have to promote their image to attract tourists. It's work. It's business. I don't see how different it is from any other country.

Of course every country has its own projects aimed at promoting its image for tourism and soft power. But it's all about business/money.

[–]ZebraOtoko42 3 points4 points  (0 children)

I don't really see the problem with a country putting significant effort into improving its image on the world stage and trying to be a better country and a place where people want to do business and people with desirable skills want to move to. This is quite different from some other countries that seem happy to shoot themselves in the foot and then brag about it.

[–]CoordinatedApple1 39 points40 points  (42 children)

Huh? I’ve never a seen a country that is infatuated with how their country is portrayed overseas more than Japan.

[–]Andyk688 27 points28 points  (1 child)


[–]CoordinatedApple1 9 points10 points  (0 children)

Yea, Korea too, but Japan more.

[–]_Kizz_ 9 points10 points  (32 children)

Korea is way more overly obsessed with how other countries perceive them. Just look at how the government goes out of its way to support K-pop bands in reaching international audiences. Japan doesn't do that. Japan's anime, manga, music, and films don't give a shit about oversea fans, despite their huge popularity. Korea even has something called the Korea Foundation report, an annual report on the number of Korean fans in each country all over the world and their knowledge of Korean culture, showing off their "hallyu" influence (imo, it's cringe af). Japan doesn't do that, even though they have a much greater influence.

Also besides the US, I have never seen a country whose social problems are worldwide discussed and overblown as Japan. People only think of Japan when it comes to suicide and low birth rate but don't know that Korea has way higher suicide rate and lower birth rate lol. Korea is much more ahead of Japan when it comes to "promoting their image and hiding the problems".

[–]techjp 2 points3 points  (6 children)

Korea (both of them) and China are far more obsessed with this than Japan.

[–]CoordinatedApple1 -1 points0 points  (5 children)

I disagree.

[–]techjp 2 points3 points  (4 children)

And you would be wrong. In China people disappear if the government thinks they are casting the country in a bad light. It's an entirely different level to anywhere else besides perhaps North Korea.

[–]CoordinatedApple1 0 points1 point  (3 children)

Good point, although I was referring to democratic countries.

[–]techjp 0 points1 point  (2 children)

Huh? I’ve never a seen a country that is infatuated with how their country is portrayed overseas more than Japan.

Not sure which part of that is specific to "democratic countries".

Japan seriously gives very few shits about how the country is perceived overseas. A few well known cases in point that spring to mind immediately:

  • the senseless slaughter of 20,000+ dolphins every year in Taiji.

  • whaling that continues for no reason at all, in spite of international pressure to stop.

  • no national age of consent law (yes I know that today there are laws in every prefecture about it, but still).

  • it took decades before Japan finally signed the Hague convention on the child. There were many, many very well publicized cases of kids being abducted into Japan and never returned.

  • Japan protected Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori for years. He only faced eventual arrest & trial because he was stupid enough to leave Japan and travel to Chile.

There are many examples of Japan not giving any f#cks about how the country is viewed internationally.

[–]CoordinatedApple1 -1 points0 points  (1 child)

What the fuck are you on about? You claimed NK and China cared more about their overseas image. You examples contained a fucking authoritarian dictatorship and a communist country. I can also find cherry picked facts that prove otherwise.

[–]techjp 2 points3 points  (0 children)

You claimed, "I’ve never a seen a country that is infatuated with how their country is portrayed overseas more than Japan."

I gave you three neighboring countries off the top of my head (including South Korea) that clearly care more about their international image than Japan. Then you tried to walk it back with some BS about only meaning democracies. So I respond with a bunch of clear examples of Japan giving zero f#cks about international opinion, and now you get angry. Perhaps you should consider that you're biased rather than actually right.

[–]arkadios_ 11 points12 points  (1 child)

Japan certainly made huge improvements between the 60s and 80s, but so can be said of other countries in the region. They had their phase now it's others' turn

[–]Quixote0630 5 points6 points  (0 children)

More like the world put Japan on a pedestal and portrayed Japan as something it is not just to realize that they are just like the rest of the world

Nah, this is all Japan's doing. If sweeping shit under the rug and patting yourself on the back for the effort it took was an Olympic sport, they'd bag the gold every year.

I love this country, but it has been losing ground in almost every industry for two decades, and nobody has the balls to admit it let alone do something about it.

[–]Zealousideal_Pool_65 2 points3 points  (0 children)

It’s more about the carefully cultivated self image of Japan, which the rest of the world has bought into (thanks in part to the tourism industry, as well as various cultural fads going back as far as the 19th century).

It’s not necessarily that the Japanese are worried about the opinions of other peoples, but they are very much concerned with maintaining their (sometimes quite deluded) cultural mythology for their own sakes.

There’s a professor at Tokyo university whose area of expertise is just this: the historical identity of Japan, and its intersection with tourism and modern myths of the country.

[–]Hachi_Ryo_Hensei 0 points1 point  (1 child)

"Japan doensnt really care that much about what the world think of them, at least not more than other countries."

Half of the TV shows on in prime-time disagree.

[–]_Kizz_ 2 points3 points  (0 children)

nah those foreigners interview shows on Japanese tv aren't that many. I hear that mentioned in this subreddit all the time but you guys are just blowing it out of proportion lol. It's just a small part of their vast array of shows. Most of the time when I turn on the TV, it's food shows, not foreigners.

Here's the list of 30 popular TV shows in Japan, where's foreginers-related show?

対象期間は22年1月1日~11月6日。レ…:日経クロストレンド (nikkei.com)

[–]nihonhonhon 52 points53 points  (14 children)

Anecdotal, but a lot of my foreign friends in STEM are frustrated/disappointed. Meanwhile, I'm in the arts and humanities and I'm really satisfied with the opportunities here. There are tons of events and my department is surprisingly competitive.

It's literally the opposite of what I expected. I thought it was gonna suck cause of Japan being hyperfocused on the hard sciences, but I guess all that manga anime samurai movie existential novel stuff had its own effect on academia here.

[–]Akamiso-queen 18 points19 points  (11 children)

Want to agree. My STEM friends also complained about Japanese labs and the way things are done there. (Europeans and Asians as well as North Americans.)

I’ve heard good things about Okinawa University labs, but Okinawa in general doesn’t really have lots of super high level learners, so that may be more about the good stuff that foreign researchers are doing.

[–]Myselfamwar 14 points15 points  (9 children)

I believe you are referring to a very specific research institute in Okinawa which is loaded with non-Japanese

[–]Akamiso-queen 5 points6 points  (7 children)

Yeah probably. I just saw it on TV and heard some people talking about it.

[–]CorneliusJack 4 points5 points  (5 children)

Is it the one doing quantum research ? I think they deliberately picks a lot of foreign researchers

[–]tfburns 2 points3 points  (4 children)

Yes, OIST is meant to be an internationally-orientated university (probably the most internationally-orientated STEM research institute or university in Japan).

[–]CorneliusJack 6 points7 points  (3 children)

I was surprised when my friend accepted a post doc position in Okinawa for quantum research since it’s pretty cutting edge, and yet it’s in Okinawa lol

[–]tfburns 1 point2 points  (2 children)

Way nicer than Tokyo, honestly.

[–]CorneliusJack 0 points1 point  (1 child)

She doesn’t drive so that poses as a problem. Public transit in that part of Okinawa is pretty bad

[–]CorneliusJack 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Is it the one doing quantum research ? I think they deliberately picks a lot of foreign researchers

[–]tfburns 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Pretty sure you are talking about OIST. As of January, 81% of students, 63% of faculty, and 61% of researchers are non-Japanese: https://www.oist.jp/about/facts-and-figures

It's quite strong in neuroscience, physics/materials science, marine biology/ecology, general biology, and a few other areas. For its size, it is ranked quite highly, and last year one of the adjunct faculty won a Nobel Prize.

[–]grap_grap_grap沖縄・沖縄県 2 points3 points  (0 children)

You're probably thinking of OIST. Okinawa University is one of the lowest ranked private universities in Japan.

[–]univworker 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I'm in a humanity and don't have this experience at all.

[–]Sesamechama 29 points30 points  (3 children)

My two cents is that Japan was indeed ahead in scientific research in the past. A lot of major scientific discoveries we still reference today are attached to Japanese researchers. But at a certain point Japan stalled and has been coasting on this halo effect for the last few decades. I think the halo effect is going to come to an end soon if they continue resting on their laurels and don’t shape up.

In a way I feel like the science scene in Japan mirrors its corporate and tech sector, and progress is getting held back by old prideful Japanese execs who care more about whether their subordinates are sufficiently showing them respect than actual company productivity and innovation.

There’s also the brain drain situation where the top talents are getting lured away by lucrative offers from Chinese companies. So I’m guessing the bottom of the barrel is what’s getting left behind now.

[–]justgetoffmylawn 13 points14 points  (1 child)

Yes, it used to be. If you look at how groundbreaking so many companies were in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Sharp, Nikon, Canon, Sony, NEC, Toshiba, Hitachi.

At its peak, Japan had almost 50% of the semiconductor market. Now there are only a few niche areas where Japan still leads the world in tech.

It's a shame. If only I knew who I could fax about this problem.

[–]TheBrickWithEyes 5 points6 points  (0 children)

A bunch of those engineers went to work in Korea for Samsung because they were investing in new tech and they were rewarded. That is, they got to create cool shit again and were recognised for it. In Japan it kind of stagnated, and if you were lucky you got a MS Word template certificate saying "thanks for increasing shareholder dividends."

[–]Washiki_Benjo 12 points13 points  (0 children)

It's interesting because the economic conservatism that the old school cling to, came about and worked in a specific place and time. And, in that way built the present.

And, in the present it's a real struggle for the old gen to see that they really need proper reform.

Problem is, a lot of people tied into the structures will be seriously impacted. So, it's just bandaids until the buck can be passed one more time.

[–]fartist14 5 points6 points  (1 child)

Although the money and effort put into soft power is definitely a thing, I don’t think Japan ever tried to portray itself as immune to the foibles and flaws of human nature. That’s more done by foreigners obsessed with Japan, both here and overseas. There’s definitely a gap between expectations and reality but I don’t think it’s fair to lay that at the feet of the Japanese when foreigners since the days of Lafcadio Hearn have been fetishizing Japan and the Japanese as being somehow different and better than the rest of humanity. The thing I have a hard time understanding is why people buy into it so hard.

[–]WendyWindfall 0 points1 point  (0 children)

The narrative of perfect Japan is almost exclusively written by white males, so I would hazard a guess that it’s due to the availability of easy (and free) poon here?

[–]DoomedKiblets 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Well said, very well said

[–]_Kizz_ 70 points71 points  (15 children)

I honestly want to believe I'm unlucky and stepped on a problematic lab. However, work in this place became unsustainable, and I decided to leave before something unethical happened.

This is the beginning of a new virus spread isn't it?

[–]5hJack 48 points49 points  (8 children)

Seeing as it's 'unethetical' rather than 'dangerous', I'm more inclined to think it relates to IP theft and/or improper atttibution of publishing research (he says hopefully).

[–]tokyoevenings 41 points42 points  (2 children)

Or faking lab results

[–]5hJack 11 points12 points  (0 children)

Going for the trifecta!

[–]univworker 2 points3 points  (0 children)

But they told me that Okayama-Chiba thing was the first time false refereeing ever happened in Glorious DaiNippon ?!!!

[–]eric67 3 points4 points  (2 children)


[–]skankmaster420 2 points3 points  (1 child)

p values... who knows how they work?

[–]THE_CUNT_SHREDDERR 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I have a void in my memories where my Research stats class for my thesis should be.

All I know was my p values were high and I didn't like that.

[–]Nishinari-Joe -1 points0 points  (1 child)

Or selling lab animals to the wet market; happened 4 years ago and you know the rest of the story

[–]5hJack 3 points4 points  (0 children)

First time I've heard that particular addition to the theory, but yikes!

[–]superstorytime 30 points31 points  (5 children)

A bit unrelated but I have a hilarious story about being in Bali and meeting some russian students that worked at a bio lab in Wuhan. They wanted to borrow some money from me and pay me in Chinese rmb but i declined.

My wife and i joke around that us declining their request caused a butterfly effect that resulted in the global pandemic.

[–]OkAd5119 5 points6 points  (0 children)

As a indonesian who gone to bali alot i can attest that bali have its share of crazy russians

[–]Nishinari-Joe 3 points4 points  (0 children)

We found the actual reason for covid

[–]davinci_covid 1 point2 points  (0 children)

This is actually hilarious

[–]univworker 2 points3 points  (0 children)

username checks out.

[–]Interesting-Risk-628 -3 points-2 points  (0 children)

totally true story

[–]Toby_Dashee 54 points55 points  (18 children)

I am a fellow researcher. Maybe this is field/group dependent, but I was also disappointed with the science situation here. My experience has been also that here research is much more an individual activity with meetings, rather than a group effort. I decided to leave academia and currently I am looking for companies, but I have N2 and my wife is Japanese.

You could try to look for a job, but it's going to be hard. Have you tried looking for other post-doc/research positions? Do you prefer a job related to your PhD or are you willing to do something different? Why do you want to stay in Japan? Have you joined some researcher association of your country where you could reach some peers for advice?

Nobody knows what's best for you apart you.

[–]label627 52 points53 points  (3 children)

I'm also a researcher. August will be 11 years in Japan for me. I'll chime in too.

I've had 2 jobs here. My first boss was a bit of a sociopath. Always, and I mean always, suggesting that I do something I was uncomfortable with. I would just tell him, to his face, "No, I won't do that. It's unethical." That was usually the end of it.

Over the years, he learned to be better because of what I was doing. Or at least he learned what I would and wouldn't do, which means he learned some semblance of right and wrong from me.

In general I don't think this is uncommon in Japanese research. "Just don't mention that detail that hurts our results. We need to get this published." A crooked boss won't usually get much pushback from a Japanese person, but in the end, you are the one in control of your research, not your boss.

Learn Japanese if you can and want to. It's a good place to live. It'll be easier to find a job here if you're conversational.

[–]DifferentWindow1436 21 points22 points  (0 children)

I have no firsthand experience, however, our company sells a variety of academic journals and databases. We have several people that are ex-researchers, all very highly educated people, and I wondered why they would join our company. I mean, we get paid alright, but when you have a Phd in a cutting edge area, why??

Then I went to lunch with a group of them. What they said, was very, very similar to your description (plus some of the other comments).

[–]justgetoffmylawn 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Yep, I've heard this from friends in these areas. Beyond just 'don't mention that detail' which I hear in the US as well, but as far as, 'Well, this is the data we should have gotten.' Pretty disturbing.

That said, Japan is a very good place to live.

[–]Ariscia関東・東京都 1 point2 points  (0 children)

It's not just research, it's the corporate world in general. I have refused unethical practices (which is actually downright illegal if audited and caught) at work.

[–]Pure_Commission_7020 17 points18 points  (10 children)

I am not a researcher. But I work in IT/VFX and my work is connected to some technical researches. N2, japanese wife, 4 accomplished projects in 3 different japanese companies (one of them is super famous).

My experience is completely the same as you said: Individual activity with meetings. I can’t understand why, but japanese around me avoid collaborations at all costs. Result is always way worse than it can be. Seems all of them understand it, but they continue to ignore each other anyway. I’m curious if it really everywhere so in Japan?

[–]Toby_Dashee 9 points10 points  (4 children)

Exactly!! It drives me crazy. Like in the current project me and another person were basically doing the same thing, but each in their own way and nobody seems to be interested in combining the best of each. I even did some meeting saying imo we should in this way, showing my reasoning, but all fall deaf. Also, when the project is big, seems everyone is going in his direction without a global view or objective, which I find confusing.

[–]Pure_Commission_7020 7 points8 points  (2 children)

That’s interesting. Btw at one of my projects one guy had to switch his specialty to a slightly different one urgently. The result of his work was expected to be relatively not good, because some of the skills that was needed wasn’t developed at his previous position. I have all the skills needed to do his work. So I offered him to collaborate the way I’ll be in charge of some part of his work he isn’t good at, and he will take some part of my work that he can do well instead. He rejected it and ended up with a result, that he asked me not to see because he feels too 恥ずかしい. After the project was ended, he said that the deal was he felt too shy to ask me for help because he is about 15-20 years older than me.

[–]Washiki_Benjo 5 points6 points  (1 child)

Rockstar-ism. Everyone wants to be the guy that did the thing.

On a more serious note, I feel this is due somewhat with the goal/assessment/structuring in place.

Many times, lacking coherent, competent leadership people in these situations just do the "next best thing" which is "infinite monkeys/typewriters/Shakespeare" and periodically report back on perceived vs actual incremental progress on the first act and the ways in which they are fine tuning processes so that the figures will be better next time.... Everyone keeps their job, unit shows how productive they are, etc

Dunno about academia/research but seems this is how it works in corporate world

[–]Pure_Commission_7020 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I think it’s not the case of rockstarism both from my side and his side. There are a couple of reasons why I take care of the whole quality of a project. It’s not because I think I am a superman. It’s more about to take care of my personal professional future.

For example, in Japan there is no such a thing as a personal portfolio. (I regret that I found it out too late, but I like non-working aspects of Japan, so thats the problem I have to manage if I want to live there)

In other countries usually after the project was officially released I have a green light to present what I was in charge of. For example, if it is a film and I did some work to make a VFX simulations, I can put a shot of it in my portfolio and in most of cases I even can share wips, prototype results and another info about how it was done for community/my future employers. This way doing my job good at even a relatively weak project, I still have a chance to get a better project or a better position next by highlighting the fact that I was in charge of a well done part of the project.

In Japan all of it is strictly prohibited. All I can is just to put a line with the title of the film and a couple of words in my 職務経歴書。Which means if the film looks badly done overall, it kind of ruins my career no matter if the amount of work that was done exactly by me is at a good level itself. That’s why pushing a project to the next level is more about to save my foreign ass in the future, than to be a rockstar at the moment.

[–]Longjumping-Tie4006 -4 points-3 points  (0 children)

If there is any problem, it is all the Japanese people's fault. It is not my fault. People like this will not succeed anywhere.

[–]terribleedibles 7 points8 points  (0 children)

Graphic designer here. Japanese do not know how to work as a team, it’s astounding.

[–]futoncrawler 6 points7 points  (2 children)

Work as R&D scientist in a japanese company. Sure most of my work are individual activity, but I also do a lot of collaborations with other people, even from different department. It could be because the company I work for is not a very big company. But, from my experience I don’t think it’s everywhere in Japan.

[–]Pure_Commission_7020 1 point2 points  (0 children)

thank you for sharing you experience

[–]Toby_Dashee 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Good to know not everywhere is like this.

[–]futoncrawler 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Work as R&D scientist in a japanese company. Sure most of my work are individual activity, but I also do a lot of collaborations with other people, even from different department. It could be because the company I work for is not a very big company. But, from my experience I don’t think it’s everywhere in Japan.

[–]JHT230 4 points5 points  (2 children)

Another researcher here.

I am disappointed with the science situation overall in terms of the quality/impact of students and researchers given how much talk, attention, and money is given to research in this country. If you are at one of the top universities then it's not bad (the 7 national universities, TIT, Keio, Waseda perhaps) but at any of the other hundreds, forget about it.

However, I also realized that researchers and people really care more about engineering and applying science. Engineering departments seem to produce better results, and companies as well as academia, more than in other countries.

Despite this, I have a mostly good PI and mostly good project, and it's something I am happy to work so I've been happy to stay for now, although I'm not really set on staying in academia forever. The learning curve for getting used to work here was a bit steeper than I expected, but some of that is true to moving to any new place and research group, regardless of country.

[–]FluffyTheWonderHorse 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Wife worked at Keio (medical research). Was a shitshow.

[–]JHT230 2 points3 points  (0 children)

YMMV on Keio and Waseda I guess. I've met a few people from Waseda and heard that those two are okay but maybe not.

The 7 national universities and TIT are all (relatively) good though.

[–]InnerCroissant 27 points28 points  (0 children)

If you can afford to do language school, then go for it!

And this is only anecdotal, but I have a friend who was in a lab at a big public university and was absolutely miserable because the department was awful. She moved to a other university in another prefecture and is so much happier in a better team, AND working on stuff closer to her interests.

[–]tiredofsametab関東・東京都 21 points22 points  (0 children)

I started language school at like 35. My biggest regret is I stopped to take a job; I should've finished it. You're not too old!

[–]DoomedCleric 17 points18 points  (3 children)

I moved to Osaka when I was 38. Spent a year there, went to language school, now live in Tokyo and making enough money to think about having a house built somewhere in Japan well before I retire.

You're not too old. Go for it.

[–]OkBase4352 6 points7 points  (1 child)

Are you willing to share a little more about your story? Currently a University student here and I really want to make a relatively successful life for myself in this country. Reading all these horror stories bums me out. Making enough for happy retirement would be the dream but I'm a humanities student so maybe there's no money in that. 😬

[–]DoomedCleric 1 point2 points  (0 children)

So, I started late. Grew up in Incredibly small towns with no opportunity. Completely blew my 20s by chasing somebody who I thought was the one, and is now somebody I will never speak to again. Killed what little finances I had and forced me out of where I thought I wanted

My 30s started off rough. Moved back in with the parents in Reno, Nevada. The area still hadn't recovered from the crash of the economy, so I decided to go back to school to focus on network engineering and work temp warehouse jobs as they came, since nobody else was hiring. Did well enough in my 2 years of studying that I got to go to Suzhou, China for an all expenses paid networking collaboration in 2012. Tried to get tech work but no luck for a year. Almost gave up - when a friend I knew said he was hiring for a job in San Francisco. I interviewed and started out in the tech field full time. 4 years later, the company went IPO and I used the windfall to move to Japan. 2 jobs later, I'm now in cyber security and making twice as much money as I did in the states.

[–]_kimjongfun 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I’d love to know more as well!

[–]bcaapowerSVK 21 points22 points  (2 children)

PhD in Medical Science here, did my whole PhD here...and I don't buy this shit about "high-tech advanced country anymore", I have seen enough.

I have seen professors writing thesis for useless students with whole lab doing experiments as well... Or utterly incompetent idiots holding Assistant Professor positions or being in charge of certain equipment without any knowledge about it. I have also seen crazy micromanagement on personal level while completely ignoring any scientific feasibility of whatever project was a student assigned to ( something like being more concerned with proper pipette positioning then actual quality of data).

The amount of sheer incompetence and idiocy I have seen in my 5 years was incredible. This does not necessarily mean that there are no good researchers or labs.

What matters is whether your lab is led by a globally renowned PI (the kind which goes outside Japan, has international collaborations and publications) and is affiliated with a top-ranked uni/institute. Usually, the good way to filter these ones out is checking their English level.

[–]sykoscout 13 points14 points  (1 child)

I did a master's degree in chemistry here after working in a federal lab back in my home country and hooo boy was it a shock. The safety violations I'd see on a daily basis in my lab here in Japan would have been enough to get my lab back home shut down in a heartbeat. It was almost comical until one student had a serious accident and had to be hospitalized... it was at that point I decided I was gonna peace out after completing my master's rather than continue to PhD.

I think there are really good labs here and excellent research being done... just not where I was. I guess when it's good, it's good, but when it's bad, it's REALLY BAD.

[–]yipidee 8 points9 points  (0 children)

Safety in Japan is just lackadaisical in general. Basically your safety is your own concern, the reason there isn’t more accidents is because people are generally very conscientious about their work. Half the people I work with would have been fired/severely reprimanded by now if they worked like that in other countries.

[–]Kedisaurus 17 points18 points  (0 children)

You can go to a school and start learning Japanese at any age.

Just do whatever makes you happier, if you feel bad at your current work and that you have enough saving to support yourself while studying Japanese and researching another opportunity then do it.

[–]ImJKP 14 points15 points  (0 children)

What are you optimizing for? If two things you want conflict, which one wins? What's your utility function?

If you really want to live in Japan, the only place in the world to do that is Japan, and you take whatever knocks come with it.

If you like Japan but really want to make a lot of money, go to America and take vacations in Japan.

If you like Japan but really want to do cutting edge science, I dunno, not my area.

You need to think about your tradeoff logic, and no one else can tell you what yours should be. It's by definition unique to you.

For my part, I've decided I really like living here, but I have a hard requirement that I must be able to invest $X per year for the future. So, I look for jobs here first, and if I ever can't satisfy my criterion (not an easy criterion to satisfy these days, alas 😵‍💫), then I've gotta leave.

What's your decision logic look like? If you need to be in Japan no matter what, accept the consequences. If you prefer to be in Japan but only if criteria XYZ are satisfied, then articulate XYZ in as rigorous and concrete a way as possible, and then conduct your search. Don't make it a fuzzy "science lab that feels good" criterion, because then you won't really know if you've satisfied it, and the situation can change slowly and trick you.

[–]FlackRacket 9 points10 points  (0 children)

It's not childish to live the life you want to live, especially if your wife is onboard with it.

And you're not too old. I know a guy with kids in his 40s who just moved to japan last year and started studying. He's damn near conversational at this point

[–]Nessie北海道・北海道 9 points10 points  (0 children)

I have research clients in the medical field, and they seem to be doing legit research. They get published in serious journals, and I haven't heard of any shenanigans. This is at a prestigious uni in a respected department.

At the same university in a completely different department there was recently a case of academic fraud, and the uni came down hard on the person. I was privy to the investigation report. The perp was a foreign researcher, but his boss also got busted for not supervising him closely enough.

[–]daush 6 points7 points  (0 children)

I came Japan at my 30s. Took one year studying Japanese , never too late.

[–]jiafujang 7 points8 points  (0 children)

I'm 34 and in a Japanese school with my bf the same age as me ^ so no you're not too old !

I don't know if it's just us but our school is not really as we thought and to be honest we're losing a little of Japanese we have'. So (I do need a reality check too) maybe it is not all school and maybe you'll find a good one but for the moment to go straight to the point our school don't care about how they teach us Japanese because they assume we're all here for visa and work 😕

I too have a bad experience in Japan unfortunately for those who think that Japan has nothing to be hated about but I wish for you that the experience you're living in that labo is only there ☺️

[–]The-Real-Flashlegz 6 points7 points  (0 children)

Japan is both incredibly efficient and horribly inefficient at the same time.

[–]bakarocket関東・神奈川県 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Getting better Japanese won't help your research prospects, so if you want to stay in the field you are in, it might be better to explore options in other countries (or at other universities).

/Quit academia in Japan almost 20 years ago, so my advice might not be relevent. My wife is Japanese though, so we had a reason to stay.

[–]JanneJM沖縄・沖縄県 4 points5 points  (0 children)

Your first post doc by any chance?

I've worked in or with about 8-10 labs here as well as a couple in other countries. Japan doesn't really stand out a lot either way.

Think of every research lab as a small startup company with the PI as the founder; researchers as workers; the grant agencies as customers; and research papers as the product.

Like any small startup businesses the founder knows the tech, but can be completely clueless about management, personnel and legal affairs and so on. There are great startups to work in and there are horrible ones.

If you want a career in research you will inevitably encounter the full gamut of situations, with great groups and crappy ones; wonderful PIs and outright psychopaths. You will also realize that incentives are very skewed in science these days and that can easily drive unethical people to take shortcuts, steal results, harass and sabotage other people and so on.

30s is not too old for anything. Take this opportunity. Do realize that whatever you encountered professionally here is not the norm, and also not specific to Japan. If you continue in this career it's something you will need to learn to deal with from time to time.

[–]MarketCrache 2 points3 points  (0 children)

I have been similarly disappointed by Japanese companies I worked in but there are some good ones out there. Try to contact a specialist recruiter and explore your options.

[–]neliste関東・東京都 2 points3 points  (0 children)

If you are going to interact with people, being able to speak their language is a big plus. Since it's a matter about being able to communicate with people or not at all.

For the language school itself however, make sure to do your research well. Plenty language school have too many group projects, which is fine too since you have to speak with fellow students more. Problem is that most of them also couldn't speak japanese.

For otaku route though, reading visual novels is very good for boosting your level.
Plenty of my friends are able to hit N1 level in under 2 years. Including speaking, as they actually read the lines instead of silently reading it.

I tried language school too out of curiosity, couldn't really benefit from it sadly. But might be personal preference.

[–]AuroKT 2 points3 points  (1 child)

I'm in my 50's living in Japan and I'd say you have a good solid plan. Just stick to it. Good Luck.

[–]m50d 2 points3 points  (0 children)

If you did stay and study the language, what's your plan after that? If doing research here is now off the table then are you just throwing good money/time/effort after bad?

[–]starwarsfox 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I can only comment on the language school thing. about half my class was in their 40's. It'll vary depending on where you go

[–]Chonko_hikes 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Sorry it didn’t work out as you planned. My skill set is abundantly used in Japan but due to lack of language I can’t even find a gig. Furthermore I bet it’s grossly underpaid.

I’ve been to a language school and have friends that have been going for over a year and a half, they still haven’t passed N3 nor landed jobs that will secure their visas. Anyways point being if it’s not your main priority going to a school will only get you so far.

Realistically just do what makes you happy and go from there. Life is so short, live it

[–]herebecats 2 points3 points  (0 children)

To try and live in Japan and think its going to be great without knowing the language is not really feasible.

[–]udonkun 3 points4 points  (0 children)

Mostly agree with the other comments, but you could double check the institution you're at. My experience from my (kind of techy) field is that only a selected bunch of top universities do some acceptable level of research here, from my perspective. I would sometimes be happy if p-hacking or post-hoc hypotheses were the only problems. Most projects lack a discernible or even remotely meaningful research question. It's terrible.
So, if it's an option for you, switching to some place like Keio, Todai, Tsukuba, Waseda may help if you're currently at a small institution. "University" is a broad concept in Japan. Almost everyone enters some university after high school, so many smaller/remote institutions would not be considered a university in the West. Otherwise you can try to find a lab with a western PI.
Other than that, I don't know how many labs you have been to before, outside of Japan. Unethical research practices are not only a Japanese problem. Maybe you were particularly lucky before and particularly unlucky now?

[–]Chlorophilia 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Foreigner-friendly labs (and institutions) are the exception rather than the rule in Japan. I spent 6 months working in Japan during my PhD and, whilst I absolutely love the country as a tourist and met many wonderful scientists, it was enough to convince me that Japan is not a good place to be a foreign scientist unless you're literally fluent and, probably more importantly, totally tuned in to the culture. It's a sad state of affairs, but there's a very good reason why Japan has utterly failed to internationalise its research sector.

[–]tfburns 2 points3 points  (0 children)

Science is Japan is quite entrenched in conservative ways and is on the decline, much like most of its economy, really. It's also not very international and often nationalistic, which can be a huge turn-off. Learning Japanese will help you integrate, but be aware you will never be widely accepted here -- no matter how much you try to integrate, you will always be a 'foreigner' in the general public perception.

Personally, I think it takes a pretty unique personality on the part of foreigners who want to live here. You basically have to agree with and even actively continue some aspects of the culture which I have just criticised (directly or indirectly) above, I think. If you can stomach that, all power to you.

[–]HealthyPeach12 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I had a friend who is in your age group that lived the exact situation you described but she was a post doc and her lab experience and overall experience in Japan was very good. In two years she and her husband managed to get to N3 because the campus provided free classes.

It sounds like it’s not you but your situation that might be bogging you down. Taking language classes sounds like a great first step to getting the experience you want. Never too late! Hope it all works out for you.

[–]gehin 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Welcome to Japan! It is always like this. Accept or move on.

[–]coolkabuki 1 point2 points  (0 children)

No one else is saying this, but mhm also STEM here, dont make a break in your CV if you dont absolutely have to. Yes, you can make it in Japan with a gap as a foreigner, but you will be inferior to your (potentially foreigner and Japanese speaking) competition by that gap. Search out another lab - network first, ask people who already work there or you know you are in the right age bracket: apply to be a team leader yourself.

I also want to add that - as far as you write - you have not alerted anyone to what you perceive unethical? you left/decided to leave already, right?, so there are no way of reprimands for you, why not at least alert someone? Ethical labs dont grow magically, but from the constant self-checking. By not saying anything, (and maybe falsely putting this on Japanese work culture, though it seems more an issue of language or individual by how you are hinting that other foreigners involved), you are kinda contributing to the issue. If it truely still bothers you so hot as in your post, at least file a report.

[–]vkmenezes 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I have two PhD Brazilian friends with this same complaint. One is finishing her research and received a very nice offer to take over a lab that is encompassing her research but all these "downsides" are leading her to search the market. I will see them both on Sunday, hopefully with some good news.

[–]ezjoz 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Are we too old for this? Are we doing the right thing by staying and taking at least a year to study the language? Is it a good idea, or am I being childish?

You are not too old. If your visa and finances allow it, take the year to study. I came here on "easy mode" because I studied at a language school for one year before working here. Before that I studied the language in my home country too. Knowing the language opens up new doors, so I do think it's a good idea.

Best of luck to you.

[–]CeeBYL 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Unfortunately you came with some expectations and ideals that were not reality. Those expectations were that Japan is technologically or scientifically advanced compared to the rest of the world. If you did further research before moving you would have realized this is not the case.

There are very specific things that Japan is advanced and good at, but besides those things it's very much behind. The culture is also one that doesn't encourage change, so it's not helping in moving Japan to be more innovative.

I don't know your field, but if you're in technology and only care about innovation and research, I would recommend looking into South Korea. But from your post it seems there are other reasons you wanted to live here.

I think your plan of studying is not bad, and you should try to enjoy your time here while you have the chance.

[–]DoomedKiblets 1 point2 points  (0 children)

Researcher in humanities here. Gotta say… yeah, the universities barely even function less than half the time. It’s all kinda a farce. I recommend a long hard think about what you value in life, and look for putting yourself in a situation with people who value the same. I doubt you will find it here long term. I don’t think I will Either, ever

[–]Psychological-Yam537 1 point2 points  (0 children)

I think this is a common thing whatever field you find yourself working in here. The eikaiwa field alone is a disaster. From unfair and illegal practices by the owners to straight up discrimination against the employees. It’s left a horrible taste in my mouth for how Japan runs their businesses. It is no wonder to me why Japan has such a high unalive rate… their jobs are so stressful, unsatisfying and miserable (of course this isn’t the only reason). So glad to be finally moving home after 15 years in this country.

[–]Kelog13 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I can't provide any advice about the lab, but you're never too old to go to language school. There was a Taiwanese lady in my class who was at least as old as my mom, and my mom just turned 60. Most people were in their 20s, but many also in their 30s.

[–]Shirubax -1 points0 points  (0 children)

I don't think you are too old, and learning the language is certainly the way to go if you want to stay long term.

I have heard getting your first visa gets difficult after about 25-30, but it wouldn't be your first visa. You can look for a better job while going to the language school.

[–]LizaNP 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I was last year in a Japanese language school and at that time I was 31. There were also people in their 40s and 50s. I think you are never too old to learn something!

[–]nitefang -1 points0 points  (0 children)

I think you missed his point. The tv show is intended for Japanese audiences because they want to hear what foreigners say about Japan in the interview. The JET program exists to bring foreign culture into Japanese education because Japan wants to be able to understand it.

IDK if any of this is true but that is the point the other guy was making, I believe.

[–]shadowwork 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Ph.D. And professor in Japan here. Your observations seem on par with a lot of what I have seen. However, there are fantastic scientists here. I work in a medical school and am shocked by the production of my mentor and his spirit. He is kind and tough, ethical and full of great ideas. There are good people, but we have to find them or create an environment that attracts them. I’m quite happy here , though my Japanese is super bad. I’m learning, but am not perturbed by not fitting in with the rabble. I was 39 when I came here. Good luck with whatever you do.

[–]tunagorobeam 0 points1 point  (0 children)

If it makes you feel any better, I spoke to a Japanese professor who supervises lab work at his Japanese university. He is just as unhappy with the system as you but he can’t easily leave.

[–]3YearsTillTranslator 0 points1 point  (0 children)

In Japan loyalty is #1. Just look into recent and past scandals with companies or politicians faking data.

[–]yung_gran 0 points1 point  (0 children)

As a person with the most common inherited neurological disorder in the world, who could NOT find a doctor with a damn clue, even in the capital city, this is sadly the norm. Valuing traditionalism above all else does not produce the right environment for scientific innovation, or even modern scientific thinking.

[–]intekmdma 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Was a JSPS post doc fellow here in Tokyo at the age of 34 in 2019. Came here a bunch of times prior (from 2009) for language studies or clinical rotations.

Going to have to agree with you. The university I was at- the level of research was wayyy worse than in the US. And everyone was on the manuscript despite their level of involvement.

Too many social age-related structure politics.

Never too late to learn Japanese. It’ll just take a little longer with your other obligations.

Now I work in industry for an international company where I can go back and forth between US and Japan- spouse VISA makes it easy to bounce back and forth.

[–]ConfectionForward 0 points1 point  (0 children)

Here is the thing, Japan is way behind on science/tech. And I am not 100% sure if they are even getting on the right path. They are STUCK on this SDGs thing. They also REFUSE to acknolage where they are off course.
There are many global standards that japan simply ignores despite the ENTIRE world using and opt for their own implementation.
I have been able to profit from this as if you are able to position yourself correctly, the global standard will win out sooner or later over their proprietary implementation.... but you need to be okay waiting some time. This has a lot to do with why Japan is so far behind in tech I think. Also, keep in mind at the local gov level a LOT of descision makers will change jobs after 1 year, so making friends in local government may not get you as far as you would like......
This may not be too close to what you are experiancing, but it has been my experiance and my way to make things work in it all.
I hope it added a little to what you have experianced.

[–]Gold-Call-607 0 points1 point  (0 children)

I went to language school at 36 and I’m 41 now. Best decision ever. Don’t worry about age if you feel like staying and studying listen to your intuition to stay. Good luck!

[–]hambugbento 0 points1 point  (0 children)

What's your end game? Live and work in Japan until retirement?