Initially, I won't be supplying the names or enough details to identify the applications. In large part, this is because the world of English-speaking academics in Japan is small, and my goal is not to alienate them or blame them for their hiring choices. But I do want to chronicle what I think went wrong in each application. To that end, I change some of the details but still convey the lesson that I learned from that failure.
I first applied for an amazingly good posting, tenure-track or tenured hires at a 国立 university. They were making several hires as part of a big push to expand their programs directed at international students (and as I later learned their programs directed at Japanese students). I was told there were approximately 40 applicants for two positions. These odds are not terrible considering several of the applicants may be unqualified or underqualified or incompetent as English speakers.
Moreover, the process was managed by a non-Japanese who had control (as far as I am aware) over the hiring decisions. I corresponded briefly with her about the positions and felt that while I was not a perfect match for the field they were hiring for that my background and experience might give me a shot -- especially since they expressed a desire to have several faculty with different skills that were complementary -- and with a PhD in philosophy how wouldn't it be complementary to their more likely choices?
But alas, my applications was not even considered. As a first measure to cull the amount of applications to consider, they skipped over everyone who was not PhD in hand. I myself was not at the time -- though I a now and took that as a lesson to move up my defense date. Unlike America where you can hold off and a letter is sufficient to explain to the committee that you will graduate, Japanese universities and hiring committees expect a PhD in hand at the time of application.