An Insider's comments on Japan's high tech business world

* * * * * * * * TERRIE’S TAKE – BY TERRIE LLOYD * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of news & information from Terrie Lloyd, a long-term technology and media entrepreneur living in Japan.

General Edition Sunday, Apr 15, 2018, Issue No. 940

– What’s New — Internships – a Legal Try-out for Non-residents
– News — Internet censorship about to start in Japan?
– Upcoming Events
– Corrections/Feedback
– Travel Picks — Wisteria in Fukuoka, Scarecrows in Tokushima
– News Credits

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Internships – a Legal Try-out for Non-residents

With the rise of foreign tourism into Japan now accounting for almost 1% of GDP (predicating for FY2018), an interesting phenomenon is occurring. More “foreigner-to-foreigner” jobs are opening up, where speaking fluent Japanese is less important than the person’s primary skill set. This of course has long been the case for software developers, whose coding language is equally understandable to a Japanese developer, even if they can’t speak to each other directly. Instead it is the experience, speed, and elegance of their solutions that gets them a job. For what it’s worth: foreign full stack web applications developers are in short supply in Japan.

But now the pool of job roles where Japanese ability is less important is starting to expand. Employers in the travel sector, ranging from hotels and bus companies to adventure trekking and cycling companies, are looking for foreigners who can deal with other foreigners. The job roles being offered are becoming more diverse too, including guides who speak not-so-mainstream languages (e.g., Cantonese or German), online marketers, designers, editors, writers, photographers, videographers, foreign sales channel managers, road bike and hiking course planners, camper van mechanics, adventure tour leaders, sports specialists, etc. In most cases, if the person doesn’t speak Japanese, then English will be the common language, so of course the hiring firm does need to have at least this language skill – which in the inbound travel sector is not so unusual.

This is not to say that foreign applicants with Japanese skills won’t get the same job first, generally they will, because those people are just easier to integrate and they don’t need hand-holding on basic tasks involving local suppliers. But the reality is that there is a worsening shortage of suitable candidates at suitable prices, and so companies are finding it easier to hire from the international marketplace, and use their existing staff to fill the language gaps. Companies heading down this path are finding that the world is a big place, and thanks to anime and Japanese cuisine there lots of young talented people interested in coming to Japan to work. We previously covered this phenomenon in Terrie’s Take 938, describing the burgeoning Japan-Indian recruiting pipeline.

——— From Veggie Burgers to Carrot Cake ————–

Our commitment at Alishan Organics is to give our customers the best of western organic foods, but prepared with a Japanese twist. That’s why our menus cover such a broad range of styles and tastes. If you’re just getting to know us, why not visit our cafe by the river in Saitama? That way you can try out a variety of dishes and decide for yourself. Choose from an Amy’s organic pizza straight from the oven, a mouthwatering veggie burger packed with seasonal greens and reds, or if you’re feeling chilly, a filling vegetable curry with rice. And although we’re healthy minded, we don’t skimp on desserts. Favorites include Jack’s scrumptious carrot cake, vegan brownies (of course with vegan ice cream), and baked banana cheese cake.

Our Cafe:
Our new online store:

[…Article continues]

But even while Japanese travel firms are willing to hire skilled foreign staff, they nonetheless still want to meet their candidates face-to-face, and if possible to watch them perform. This is the reason why the Asia-to-Japan (A2J) company is bringing hundreds of Indian engineers to Japan at its expense, so that it can produce these people for interviews and fill temporary positions designed to prove that the new arrived foreigner has what it takes to be valuable to the hiring firm.

For now A2J is just one company, and we suspect that given the risk factors involved (i.e., winding up with a bunch of temporarily employed unhappy candidates who haven’t found jobs yet and thus creating some seriously bad social media PR), we think it will be a while before this temporary-hire-then-buy recruitment method becomes common. So in the meantime, if you’re a small Japanese firm, foreign owned or otherwise, how do you get candidates that you can evaluate before bringing on them board as permanent employees?

The answer is: bring your applicants in as interns first, and get mutual agreement that if the internship doesn’t work out, there are no legal implications for either side. The following commentary is based on practical experience and opinions given by the appropriate authorities, but if readers want to actually follow through on these ideas, you should seek your own legal advice first.

One of the biggest hurdles for Japanese potential employers wanting to hire a foreign employee is that it entails lots of upfront cost and risk. Not only do you have to find someone compatible, but you also need to commit to a contract to be able to evaluate them, then to process all the Immigration paperwork involved in hiring them. This is just too much of a stretch for most firms. But what they don’t realize is that an intern coming to Japan for a 2-3 month try out does not need an employment visa. Instead, a Visitor’s visa will suffice – and so the contracting and the immigration paperwork doesn’t need to be committed to until after the person is evaluated.

How is it possible for an intern to locate to Japan and yet not have a work visa? Isn’t that illegal? Well, the crux of the issue is whether the intern is being paid or not. Immigration’s rule is that visitors to Japan may not receive payment for employment, but as it turns out accommodation, transport, food, and direct expenses (when supported with receipts) are not considered to be personal remuneration. So this makes it possible for companies to cover basic costs and for interns to try out in Japan without having to break the bank.

Once the financial responsibilities are clear, it becomes a much easier exercise for the Japanese firm to put their opportunities out on the world’s social media, and wait for responses. We think one of the best ways to reach intern candidates is through Linked In, as many young graduates realize that they need to showcase their skills and network on the platform. For good results, you want your posting account to have more than 5,000 followers or connections, and you want to be doing personal postings rather than paid recruitment ads (which we find don’t really work very well). Another good resource is student alumni groups on Facebook, although these are smaller and take more time to negotiate with for permission to post the internships to.

Just like finding candidates in Japan, the posting of positions on foreign social media is an ongoing exercise, where you want members of your online audience to have time to absorb your opportunities and think about them.

There are also some new channels popping up (not sure how ethical they are), such as international internship position recruiters, who charge interns a fee to find interesting opportunities overseas. These firms certainly make it easy to register with and to be matched with their incoming flow, but of course are geared to applicants from advanced economies, where the interns or their parents can afford the costs involved.

…The information janitors/


— Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition 2018 —

Tokyo Star Bank’s new initiative, the Foreign Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition 2018, gives foreign entrepreneurs an opportunity to become the next star in Japan’s business scene. The Grand Prize winner of the competition will be awarded a whopping JPY1,000,000 in funding. Only foreign nationals living in Japan or foreign-born Japanese are eligible to apply. In addition to judges, the final selection stage will also be attended by venture capitalists and private equity funds looking for new businesses in which to invest.

The deadline for applications is June 8. Applicants must submit several documents including a business proposal in Word or PowerPoint that is up
to 20 pages long. For more information, visit

+++ NEWS

– Internet censorship about to start in Japan?
– EPA with EU will be signed in July
– The penny drops, Monex has bought Coincheck
– Chinese firm buys Takata

=> Internet censorship about to start in Japan?

In the name of Intellectual Property (IP) protection, the government appears to be floating a trial balloon to see the public’s reaction to internet censorship. The balloon being floated is ever-so-nuanced, and has a very good chance of passing. It involves a report from the Cabinet Office which calls for the government to encourage private web hosting companies to block public access to sites deemed pirate sites. The sites being named are Mangamura, Anitube, and Miomio, all of which receive massive numbers of users (938m last year) both in Japan and globally. ***Ed: Of course if the government had an actual case against these three companies, it could simply instruct the police to raid the firms involved. The inconvenient problem is that they all function as search engines rather than serving the pirated content, and furthermore that many of the actual pirate sites are hosting their content outside the country, or so prolific domestically that they are uncontrollable.** (Source: TT commentary from, Apr 13, 2018)

=> EPA with EU will be signed in July

Cheaper cheese will shortly be a reality, as Japan and the EU are looking at a July 11 signing in Brussels for a free(r) trade agreement between the two bodies. The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) conditions were finalized last December, and the final ratifications by the governing bodies of both partners are expected to wrap up in early 2019. Trading under the new agreement is expected to start in April, 2019. ***Ed: Apart from cheese the agreement makes EU beef, pork and wine cheaper; tariffs on Japanese cars and shoes will gradually be removed or eliminated; and geographical product namings, such as feta, will be recognized, allowing EU producers to enjoy product visibility with Japanese consumers that they currently have to share with producers of other countries.** (Source: TT commentary from, Apr 13, 2018)

=> The penny drops, Monex has bought Coincheck

Now we know how Coincheck has been able to claim that it will compensate those users who had their Bitcoins stolen from the exchange in a hacking heist earlier this year… the company is being bought by one of Japan’s largest FX trading companies, Monex. In the deal, Monex will pay about JPY3.6bn to acquire 100% of Coincheck’s shares. Monex says that it will introduce best practice governance and security to prevent a recurrence of the hack. Under Monex, Coincheck hopes to be licensed and back in business as early as June. ***Ed: One thing we do know is that Monex has a VERY competent IT and operations team, a reflection of Mr. Matsumoto’s own banking background.** (Source: TT commentary from, Apr 6, 2018)

=> Chinese firm buys Takata

Not sure what the Japanese government or the big Japanese car companies were expecting when air bag maker Takata filed for bankruptcy last year, but we were surprised that the government didn’t move to try to rescue the firm with one of its many reconstruction funds. Instead, they left the company to its own devices and as a result, a US entity which is controlled by the Chinese, has bought the firm lock, stock, and barrel. The buyer was Joyson Safety Systems of Michigan, and its parent is the Ningbo Joyson Electronic Corporation, a US$4.7bn (but with a lot more assets than that elsewhere) company based in Ningbo (Shanghai). ***Ed: Ningbo doesn’t seem to be that substantial, given the size of the deal, so we can only imagine that they were the best of a limited field found by the Takata brokers, considering the potential for future lawsuits.** (Source: TT commentary from, Apr 11, 2018)

NOTE: Broken links
Some online news sources remove their articles after just a few days of posting them, thus breaking our links — we apologize for the inconvenience.


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*** In response to our article on TT-938 about the funneling of Indian talent to Japan, we had this interesting first-hand account from a reader. Anonymous, of course.

=> Reader says:

Thanks a lot for your response and asking me to share my experience.

I came to Japan 7 years ago for a internship with a small company in Kyoto. I didn’t speak Japanese at all back then. Japan felt like a next-generation country, everyone was so kind and polite that I immediately fell in love with it and decided that Japan is the place I wanted to be. The same company offered me a full-time job post-internship. After graduating back in India, I came back to Japan as a full-time employee.

Over time, all those kind and friendly people turned in to horrible foreigner haters for reasons I never knew (I believe it was a cultural acceptance thing). You know how Japanese local grads are treated like babies and given so much training and support? Well, I was never offered training and in fact I had to learn and develop my work by myself, getting customers from overseas etc. To my surprise, my colleagues had a negative reaction to my hard work and gradual success. So I left after a couple of years.

Since my Japanese had improved, I found a new employer (a large company) which seemed to be promoting globalization and had a serious target of hiring foreigners (about 10%). Somehow, I was convinced that as a big global company they would be more accepting of foreigners, and so I joined one of their divisions. True to their words, there were indeed about 12-15 foreigners and 200 Japanese in my division. Unfortunately, I was placed under a horribly abusive boss, even though everyone knew about the personality of this person. He never trained me or shared any necessary information with me. I would work hard on weekdays and study in the weekends, so that I could become skilled and competent. Indeed, my colleagues were surprised how I was able to deliver results despite this rather crazy guy – who hated me even more when senior management raised my grade after the first year. But the most shocking thing about that company wasn’t just my experience, it was that ALL the foreigners had similarly very unpleasant experiences. EVERYONE was abused in some way or another…

It became apparent that the local Japanese staff viewed the foreigners hires as someone convenient to off-load useless work to, without any training or support, so that the Japanese young people taken on at the same time could be slowly trained like babies and become future, loyal assets. So, of course, most of the foreign employees left. One guy was abused so badly that he left without notifying the company. I remember one senior Japanese guy saying something terrible about my colleague, completely without justification if he had bothered to research the reason, and this compelled me to leave both that firm and Japan three months later.

I left Japan for the following reasons:

1. Although, I still love Japan, I could never feel a sense of belonging there. When you live and work in place, you want to connect yourself to its social environment. The constant feeling of, “Hey, you don’t belong here!” can become very tiring. I wonder how long-time foreign residents deal with this feeling? For me it affected my self esteem and emotional well-being a lot.

2. My Japanese did improve a lot in seven years. In my personal opinion: one can learn the language through textbooks and become proficient in Kanji. However, conveying emotions and feelings with your colleagues and friends can really only be done effectively through the spoken word. And to do that properly, you need to be a native speaker. I wonder how some long-timers bridge this gap? Especially those in senior positions in Tokyo. Do you go native or do just accept that you are permanently a foreigner?

3. In case anyone thinks I might be a mis-fit, I’d like to state that before I left Japan, I had 2 solid offers from gaishikei companies. Unfortunately, these were only made on the basis of my then-intermediate language skills. In the seven years with my Japanese employers, I never had a single opportunity to do any formal professional development. I’m now based in Australia, I love the social environment here, and I have recovered my “gaijin genkiness”. The economy is not so great, so that’s a black mark, and in comparison, Japan offers unmatched work stability. But I’m not sure that I could return and try a second time to call Japan “home”.


———- Bilingual vet clinic opens in Azabu ————

PetLife Veterinary Clinic is opening its doors in central Tokyo from March, providing bilingual (Japanese/English) services for both the domestic and international communities. The clinic provides experienced veterinarians with many years of experience serving families and their pets using the latest technology. They have a compassionate and welcome approach and aim to nurture close bonds within the local community.

The official opening is March 6. Pet owners are welcome to come visit and check out the new center.

1F. Daiichi Bldg., 2-3-5 Higashi Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0044.
TEL:03-6807-4058 Website:


=> Kawachi Wisteria Tunnels, Fukuoka
Flowing gardens of purple, pink, and white

Tunnels of wisteria bloom the length of a football field – that’s why people from around the world come to this majestic garden hidden in the mountains of southern Japan each spring in late April and early May. The millions of tiny hanging blossoms meticulously arranged by the master gardeners here have achieved a level of fame that brings a steady flow of visitors to Kawachi Fuji-en on the outskirts of Kitakyushu.

Wisteria, or fuji in Japanese, a wooden vine that can be found naturally climbing trees in the Japanese countryside, is cultivated to produce an otherworldly grandeur here. Although you can find many outstanding wisterias around the country, such as the giant of Ashikaga Flower Park, near Tokyo, dating all the way back to 1870, the distinguishing feature of this garden is its gorgeous tunnels of flowers.

=> Nagoro Scarecrow Village, Tokushima
The village with more scarecrows than humans

Deep in Tokushima’s Iya Valley, in Japan’s smallest island Shikoku, lies a village inhabited by more scarecrows than humans – almost a 400 to 30 ratio. Iya Valley on its own is quite an inaccessible place, with rental cars being the best way to explore the winding roads that lead to Mt. Tsurugi, the second highest mountain in western Japan. Buses are few and far between – there are usually only four per day on average that run between Awa-Ikeda or Oboke station to the Kubo terminal, and those going to Nagoro and beyond are even more infrequent.

If you’re taking the bus, the total journey from Awa-Ikeda Station to Nagoro lasts almost three hours. You’ll know you’re there once you alight as a throng of scarecrows laying about will greet you. There are scarecrow farmers, woodcutters, children, and even of U.S. President Donald Trump.



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