Who not to hire
Of course many of the foreigners who come to work in Japan - teach English, work in entertainment, sports or business - experience culture shock and daily culture clashes. The motivation to assume stubborn, exclusionary cultural chauvinism (presuming that one’s native cultural ideas and behaviors are better) is strong. This is to be expected, and the best recruits for work here are people who have experienced other cultures already, who have traveled and can somehow convince employers and interviewers that they are not only competent, but flexible, trustworthy and reliable. But no one is immune, and even among long-duration expatriates culture shock and culture clash never disappear. They only wax and wane with the moment. There are many kinds of people in the world and each has their merits and virtues, and their faults.
For their part, Japanese are very polite and hospitable, but not welcoming in the same measure. It is easy for them to believe that all foreigners, no matter their length of stay or accommodation to the culture here, are mere temporary visitors bound to return to their native countries some day. Indeed, I think they prefer to believe so because it makes it easier to exclude foreigners from any social dialogue.
So these are among the obstacles to a fresh foreigner living and working happily in Japan: the difficulty of adjusting to the culture shock and the frustration of adjusting to the constant exclusion from society. Successful foreign residents need mettle in their personalities. Now, it is a terrible thing to say - but it is not said without cause - that there are certain people who have so consistently demonstrated themselves unreliable employees that Japanese employers feel confident enough to generalize and conclude not to hire whole categories of people.
Therefore, I can report that Australians, New Zealanders - and females of any nationality - are the groups most commonly (and not without reason) excluded from consideration in work such as English teaching. Personally, after teaching English in Japanese elementary, junior and senior high school for many years - and interviewing a lot of job applicants myself - I agree with their exclusion.
Time after time Australians and New Zealanders have demonstrated themselves to be more concerned with recreation than with work. (In Japan, the latter is the higher virtue.) At job interviews their concerns are more often than not, first, about salary, and, second, about time off. Although it is right and fitting for job applicants to be concerned with the benefits of employment, their persistence on these topics makes for a poor first impression and is a turn off for Japanese bosses. Japanese are looking for modesty, hard work, commitment, loyalty, and gratitude.
Commitment seems like a virtue singularly absent among foreign English teachers, and particularly so among Australians/New Zealanders who are famous for their easy-going nature. (Far too easy going than is good for them, as it more often than not turns out.) While written contracts in Western cultures are taken almost as sacred texts defining employer-employee relationships, in Japan a contract is a more nebulous, flexible thing, and Japanese do not understand the ease with which a foreign employee will leave one job for another - pursuing higher remuneration and better conditions, etc. (I have heard that the meaning of the Chinesekanji characters that translate as“contract” can more accurately be translated as something like “ongoing negotiations,” which admirably communicates the mutable nature of contracts in Asian thinking.) It is extremely common, and it is a gospel truth for English conversation schools, that a quarter of one’s foreign English-teacher workforce will not last the length of a one-year contract. In fact, most of those who break contract to change jobs will do so within months of the start of the Japanese school year in April. The summer time is a great time to break and run - during the gap between the end of the first school term in July and the start of the second term in September - and the classified ads of local newspapers are always thick in August for companies looking to replenish their suddenly depleted workforce.
Foreign women of all nationalities demonstrate a strong, direct self-interest that traditionally patriarchal Japanese bosses find difficult. They are pushy, opinionated, and loud to the point of stereotypic shrillness. They are apt to beg family reasons for sudden quitting: deaths in the family, pregnancies, marriages. I personally knew one British woman whose brother died three times, by her account, to explain gaps in her availability to work. I know another woman who quit suddenly in the winter, planning to return to America with her fiancé. But her plan didn’t materialize. She was granted her plea to be rehired after suddenly quitting, only to quit once again, without warning, a few months later and only a few weeks into the new school year. People just don’t know how to behave outside their own countries. They probably don’t know what constitutes proper behavior within their own countries either, come to think of it.