Thursday, May 30, 2013

About this Blog

My goal for this blog is to chronicle the process of finding an academic job in Japan. In the process, I hope to make this task easier for future non-Japanese approaching the job market. Apart from a from a few gaijin pot forum postings and other blogs, I have not seen any resources for the process.

I am going to make few assumptions. First, I am going to assume that you have a doctorate like I do. If you do not, there may still be a route through which you can get an academic job in Japan, but it might look quite different from what I describe here. Second, I am going to assume that you have at least some grasp of the Japanese language. If not, then your approach will need to be somewhat different. Third, I am going to assume that you are already in Japan. As with the language barrier, this may not make it impossible to find academic employment in Japan, but it will make it very hard.

As of right now, I am receiving a scholarship from the Japanese government, taking Japanese classes, and looking for a full-time academic position. From what my connections tell me, the process is complicated and time-consuming, specifically because of the role of コネ, which all of my advisers have told me are absolutely necessary for achieving academic employment here. There are several reasons for that, but at this point this feature is somewhat bizarre to me.

Thus, there's two sides to work on in finding work here: (1) connection building and (2) learning how to properly fill out the gauntlets of paperwork involved. In terms of connection-building, the key is getting admitted to Japanese academic societies (which requires the sponsorship of a current member and the possession of a PhD or proper departmental affiliation). After that, it just takes time and the awareness of people in these groups with which one drinks and socializes to build connections.

On the paperwork side, you are going to need a thorough grasp of Japanese -- but not just the language. The problem is that everything about the Japanese paperwork system is culturally ingrained and a little nuts. There are very specific things that I have failed at on the paper side in my first two applications -- but none of that really matters, because the applications were probably not even considered.  The reason is (or so I have heard) that many positions for foreigners (especially tenure-track) are decided before they are offered.

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