One onerous aspect of working in Japan is one that most foreigners don't know about until they get stung by it; what is laughably called the "bonus scheme".
There are several different types of employment contract you can sign when you join a Japanese company. Each company has its own system, of course, but what seems usual is to hire someone under a three or six month temporary contract, which acts as a kind of probation period. After a successful run the employee may be offered a full-time contract which lasts for a year. This contract usually has all the usual benefits: health, tax, pension, etc. After this contract has concluded the employee may be offered another one, until the project is finished, or be offered a full-time "seishain" contract. This is basically a full-time contract which lasts, has all the benefits and the dreaded bonus scheme.
(Note: a few notable exceptions exist to this rule. Some companies do not offer "seishain" contracts, period.)
Say you blag your way into a 6,000,000 Yen/annum salary. First you need to tell me where you work and if there are any artist positions open. Under a part-time or 1 year contract your salary would be:
Now you are offered a "seishain" contract. This includes, you are told, a twice yearly bonus of 1 month each. "Great," you think, "I get my salary of 500,000 a month plus an extra 500,000 Yen twice a year!". Well....no, not quite. What happens is that the company withholds those 2 months from your salary and pays it out in two 1 month chunks twice a year. So the sum goes thus:
- As a foreigner, getting a "seishain" contract will show your next employer that you have been through the system, played the game, that at least one other company valued you enough as an employee to offer you the same contract it offers its Japanese employees. This means something.
- Slightly better job security. It's much harder to get rid of someone under a "seishain" contract. One year contracts can simply run out and not be renewed.
- For certain official institutions having a "seishain" counts in your favour. Be it trying for a loan, (re-)applying for a Visa or applying for permanent residency.
- It will go some way to help you integrate in your company. Being treated as badly as the rest of the Japanese staff means you've successfully become part of the whole. Whether this is truly beneficial depends on your doomed wish to become Japanese.
The most important thing is to be aware of this "bonus" system. Ask about it in interviews so you won't get a shock when your first paycheck comes in. Think long and hard before you sign that "seishain" contract. And if you do, never quit your job until you've received your bonus, or you'll be throwing away money.