This Filipina Content Creator Has Been Living and Working in Japan for 8 Years Already
She gets real with us about what it's really like trying to make a living in Japan.
We spoke to Kaila Ocampo, co-founder (along with her partner) of the Rainbowholic company (rainbowholic 株式会社) that sells and promotes kawaii Japanese stationery to the foreign market. She started out being an online shop manager and a part-time English teacher before transitioning into a full-time content creator.
When she first moved to Japan, Kaila started out by going to language school for a year. “That was really helpful for me,” she shares. And unlike most people seeking work in Japan from the Philippines, she was able to work for her brother’s company that was still starting out back then. She worked for his company for around six years.
“I wanted to try a new experience [and] applied for part-time English teaching jobs,” she says. It was not so difficult for her to apply because some companies needed teachers since some of their employees were quitting and going back to their home countries. But unlike her case, she says applying to regular Japanese companies might not be as easy. “Because you are competing with Japanese people, too. And they have certain rules or standards (Japanese resume),” Kaila further explains. Some companies would also require an N2 Level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. Her advice? “I recommend watching YouTube videos or reading articles on how to ace your interview or application.”
We asked her for tips and advice on how to get started on applying for a job in Japan. Here’s what she had to say.
Get acquainted with their culture.
“I think that before coming here, one must really research about Japanese customs and manners. Compared to Filipinos, Japanese people are a bit more reserved and there is such thing as ‘reading the air.’ What is culturally acceptable in the Philippines may be looked down upon here. For example, talking in the train or making phone calls while on the train might be considered rude to most people.”
Know the language.
“Even if your goal is to study Japanese here, I do recommend learning basic Japanese first, so that when you come here, you would know a few phrases and can understand basic Hiragana to get by. There are many Facebook groups that are also helpful (Tokyo Expat Network, etc.) and I do recommend joining these groups so you can have a grasp of what it’s really like to live in Japan.”
Sort out your requirements.
“I think the best place to get information is the Japan embassy’s website. Make sure that the company who would want to hire you will help you process your work visa application and sponsor one for you. If you have a degree, it is easier to apply.”
But that’s not all. Kaila reiterates that working for a traditional company in Japan might not be what most people think. “I think most people who grew up watching anime, Japanese dramas, or movies would think that Japan is a perfect country just like in the content they consumed,” Kaila says. But after living in Japan for eight years now, she has also observed that there is a lot of work-related pressure in Japanese society. “I think in Japan, ‘working hard’ is more appreciated rather than ‘working efficiently/smart.’”
She also shares that there are some customs in traditional Japanese companies that foreign workers might not be familiar with such as not going home earlier than your boss even if you’re already done with your tasks. There is also the nomikai culture where you’re asked to have a drink after work. “It’s not a good thing to reject invitations unless your co-workers or bosses are really more modern,” she says.
Kaila also emphasizes the importance of being prepared mentally. According to her, when there is a train delay and the reason is “passenger injury,” it could mean that someone jumped off the train. There is pressure to perform well in Japan’s work culture but mental health is a very serious matter. You need to be prepared to take on those challenges without pushing past your limit. She confesses, “At first, I was surprised to learn about these issues and the dark sides of Japan, but I have grown to understand everything and the roots of their mindset. First world problems versus third world problems are real. As someone who is not originally from here, adapting (with an open mind) is the only way to survive (just like in any other foreign country.).”
She talks about her culture shock as a Filipina living in Japan on her YouTube channel.
Having said that, Kaila would still recommend living and working in Japan. She explains that although her experience hasn’t always been good, it has also allowed her to not just save up but also grow as a person. “I have become more open-minded now, too, even though Japan is conservative [in a different way from how the Philippines is conservative]),” she shares.
And more importantly, she notes that Japan can be a great opportunity for anyone who wants to support their family. She reminds anyone who want to work in Japan to make sure that they’ve researched enough before agreeing to or signing any contract. That includes checking if the salary offered to you is a livable income as living in Tokyo or main cities could be more expensive than living in the countryside. She says, “Some companies or language schools can be really shady, too, so to prevent from being scammed, please do your research well.”
For Kaila, living in Japan has also made her mentally stronger. While she thinks that you can experience both the good and the not-so good things while working in Japan, she also notes that you can always go back to your home country if in the end, it doesn’t work out for you.
As for her, she still has dreams to achieve in Japan. “I’m willing to experience both the good and not-so-good while still in this Japan journey. If you have a Japan dream as well, it’s worth a try.”
Photos courtesy of Kaila Ocampo