Fuckity fuck!

Sorry for the drop-off in posting, dear Readers. Who knew that unemployment could be so time-consuming?

The past week or so has been a flurry of resume-bombing, recruiter visiting, freelance translating and binge drinking (big surprise on that last one there). I’ll get back into the blogging routine as soon as I can, but for now let it just be said that, for as long as I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve felt a certain sense of pride in the rirekisho category you see there on the left. I can safely say it’s the best English-language guide to writing a Japanese resume that you will find, period. It trounces a lot of the Japanese-language guides I’ve seen as well.

It is also, I’ve come to learn, sort of crap.

Last week at the Hello Work employment service center, my counselor turned out to be an absolute rirekisho wizard. Or sorceress, I guess. She claimed not to have been doing the Hello Work thing for long and wouldn’t tell me what her previous job was, but she took a pencil to my rirekisho and the suggestions she made were incredible. My rirekisho pops in a way it didn’t before, and it’s all thanks to her.

peI have also, at long last, encountered that most dreaded of rirekisho — the kind that must be written by hand. Jesus H. Fucking Christ. That was not a pleasant afternoon.

In any case, I’m going to have to do some serious updating to the rirekisho walkthrough to incorporate this new information.


Say a prayer for my rirekisho. Say a prayer for this gaping-ass hole in my mouth where a sideways wisdom tooth used to be.

And say a prayer for my groin. Just because, as I’ve mentioned before, I really like the word “groin.”

p/s – Do magazines here really need to feature Korean actor/girlyman Bae Yong Joon, aka “Yon-sama,” on no less than five covers? I put to you that no, they fucking don’t!

Writing the rirekisho

The following sample 履歴書 (rirekisho) and a blank template are available for download as Microsoft Word documents at the end of this walkthrough.

For ease of explanation, we’ll be looking at a rirekisho that’s already been filled out. Here’s what one looks like, split into two halves for ease of viewing. (Click any of the following images for a more close-up view. The red, circled numbers are for explanatory purposes and will not appear on the rirekisho itself.)

Now let’s look at each of the 6.5 sections (one of them bleeds over into the next column) one at a time.

Section 1 – Personal Info.

1. The date in Heisei
Dates on the rirekisho are rendered solely in the Japanese calendar system, wherein years are according to the reign of the emperor. (Japan-guide.com has a handy online converter that will let you plug in the year to find its Japanese equivalent.) This field is for the 現在 (current) date upon which the rirekisho was filled out; it should be updated each time you submit a resume. As you can see, the date is 平成20年8月4日, or August 4, 2008.

2. Your name
The 氏名 (name) field tells us that this particular rirekisho is for a young woman named Jessica Smith. Notice that this is rendered as ジェシカ・スミス. Yes, Japanese name order is surname first, but don’t flip your name to match: putting Smith Jessica in big bold letters on your resume is only going to look strange. It would also look strange to put じぇしか・すみす in the ふりがな line above, so just leave that blank.

3. Name stamp
This is where the 印鑑, or name stamp, goes. If you have one, great — stamp it on a sheet of paper, scan it, and attach the picture to your Word template. Otherwise, just leave this field blank.

4. Personal photo
Yes, you must include a photo of yourself. This may be completely outrageous in your home country (it is in mine), but in Japan, it’s standard. The only explanations I’ve heard for the photo are that it lets prospective employers know it’s really you when you show up for your interview (!) and that it helps said employers remember which candidate is which when making their decision. As feeble as these explanations are, the fact remains that the photo is a necessity, and there are some rules to follow:

・The size should be (height x width) 36-40mm by 24-30mm
・It should be a professional, passport-style photo
・You should be wearing business attire (guys, that means dress shirt and tie)

Sitting down in a photo booth and taking the picture yourself is always a possibility; personally, I slapped some work clothes over a pair of shorts, gave the specifications to the person at the photo lab and had her take it for me. In any case, once you have your photo, scan it and attach it to the Word document.

5. Birth date, age and gender
Our Mrs. Jessica was born 昭和56 8月3日, or August 3, 1981 in the Western calendar. Her age is in parentheses. The two options below are for 男 (male) and 女 (female), the latter of which is circled. The circle itself was accomplished by doing a screen capture of the document, trimming out the appropriate gender and putting a circle around it, all accomplished in glorious MS Paint.

6. Current address
Jessica is applying from overseas, so this field lists the katakana rendering of her mailing address, which is in English below. (If you’re applying from within Japan, your address will look as it does in Cell 8.) The ZIP code is next to the 〒 symbol.

7. Current phone number

8. Contact information
If you have a contact person in Japan (close friend, in-laws, etc.), place that information here. Otherwise, leave it blank. The 方 at the bottom corner stays as-is.

9. Contact phone number

Section 2 – School and work history

10. School history
This is the really odious part, where you list, in chronological order, all the schools you’ve attended since time immemorial. For whatever reason, a 入学 (entry) date is only required for high school — elementary and junior-high entries simply list the date of 卒業 (graduation). Because Jessica moved around a lot as a child, she decided to skip the line for elementary school altogether.

The method of notation in this section is rather straightforward, and uses the Japanese calendar system mentioned above. A few points of note:

・Some universities have multiple branch schools. In Jessica’s case, she attended the University of Washington at Tyler, or ワシントン大学タイラー校, where she enrolled in the 学科 (college) of Japanese.
・If you’ve attended some sort of educational facility and earned a certificate, note that here. As you can see, Jessica entered ABC Language School, where she earned a certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language. (See Section 3 for how this is rendered in Japanese.)

11. Work history
Jobs are also listed in chronological order. Any time you enter a company, list the company name followed by 入社. When you leave that company, use the stock phrase 一身上の都合により退社, or “Left the company for personal reasons.”

Section 2.5

Many of the points worth mentioning are in the company name. Whereas 株式会社 earlier appeared at the beginning of the names of companies that Jessica has worked for, here it comes after. Why? This company just prefers it that way. As for what 株式会社 means, it could be rendered in English as “Inc.” or “Co., Ltd.” or even “KK” (an appellation that more and more Japanese companies seem to be adopting). The point is, like the company name says, 油断大敵: lack of diligence is your greatest enemy. Take the time to make sure you’re getting the company information right. Not doing so could come back to bite you.

If you happen to still be employed while looking for a job, note this with 現在に至る, or ” up to the present.” The 以上 (finished) a couple lines down stays there to note that your school and work history is complete.

Section 3 – Accomplishments

12. Licenses and certificates
Yes, the very first thing listed in this field is that the applicant 取得 (received) a 第一種 (Category 1, or “normal”) driver’s license. And no, said applicant is not nuts for mentioning this. In a country like Japan, where so many people rely on mass transit, it’s not unusual that a lot of folks simply can’t drive. The Japanese note ownership of a driver’s license among their resume qualifications, and you should, too. You’d be surprised — it could nudge you ahead of another candidate.

The next thing listed in this field is a 資格 (certificate) for 外国語としての英語教育, or Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). If you happen to have that particular certification, that’s how you say it in Japanese. Also, Jessica 合格 (passed) Level 2 of the JLPT, or Japanese Language Proficiency Test. If you have no formal certification of your Japanese ability, or your skill level exceeds your current certification, there’s room to note that below.

Section 4 – More personal info.

13. Skills, reason for application, etc.
The first thing noted here is why you’re applying for this job. You can get creative, but feel free to use the stock phrase 営業経験を活かして、 [industry] の仕事にて活躍したい, or “I want to utilize my previous work experience and play an active role at a/an [industry] job.” (A quick linguistic note: the にてis a polite で, and there’s no need to use a 。unless separating two sentences.) If you feel you have relevant experience but not from a traditional work environment, just leave off the 営業 (work) part. If you want to emphasize skills over experience, substitute everything before the をwith 語学力, 計算力, or whatever 力 (lit. “power”) you have.

Next up is 特技 (special skills). This is your time to show off what you can do, so use it. Jessica lists Japanese first, and notes that through self-study and work experience, she feels (lit. “it can be thought that”) she’s gained a knowledge of Japanese at or above JLPT Level 1. She lists specializations in two areas of translation, which she separates with 及び, a much nicer-sounding version of と. Finally, she notes that she can use both Macintosh and Windows 版 (versions) of Office, and uses 等 as a way of noting she can do more without going into further detail. (Obviously, if applying for a technical job, you wouldn’t want to skimp on this part.)

Following this is 好きな学科, or subjects you enjoy. Just put whatever you like. This is followed by a space and 趣味, or hobbies. Reading books, watching movies and listening to music seem to comprise the Big Three of hobbies listed on rirekisho (including this one, where Jessica renders her watching of movies with the polite-sounding 映画鑑賞). If you can come up with something other than the Big Three, by all means do so. If you’re a guy and you can cook, that’s a conversation starter. If you own a Web site, I’d put that down as well.

14. Commute time
If you don’t live in Japan, or if you’re applying from inside Japan but from a location far removed from the company, just leave this blank. If you’re not sure where exactly you are in relation to the company, use Yahoo’s 路線情報 tool.

15. Number of dependents (excluding spouse)
Place the number of dependents next to 人. If none, insert “0.”

16. Spouse
Circle 有 if married, 無 if not. And yes, the next field gets even more personal.

17. Spousal support
Circle 有 if you support your spouse, 無 if you don’t.

Section 5 – Hopes and desires

18. Where, when and how much
This is sort of a gray area with no set definitions. The Japanese states, “If you have any particular desires regarding salary, type of work, work hours or work location, list them here.” If you know the company and know specifically which department you want to work in, type 勤務部署 and list it. If you don’t know, or have no preference where in the company you’ll be assigned, omit 勤務部署 altogether. Below that is 勤務地 (work location). Some companies run multiple branch offices; if there’s somewhere in particular you want to work, state that here.

Finally, there’s 給与 (salary). There are a couple different ways to handle this.

・If you know what you’re worth and that’s what you want, enter 年収[amount]万円以上であればと思っております. (Note the formal-sounding ~ばと思う form.)
・If you want to make as much or more as what you made at your previous job, use the phrase 前職と同程度(年収[amount]万円以上)であればと思っております. Substitute 現職 for 前職 if currently employed.
・If you’re going through a recruiter (who would likely be doing the salary negotiations for you) or you just don’t want to talk about money until you can do it face-to-face, use the phrase ご相談させて頂きたいと思っております, which basically means, “I’d like to confer with you about that.”

Section 6 – Legal guardian

19. Your guardian and you
Chances are extremely good you’ll be leaving this last section blank, as it’s only filled out in the event that you’re a minor (under 20 according to Japanese law). For completeness’ sake, the information requested is phone number, name and address.

Some employers request you submit a rirekisho along with an English-language resume. In cases such as these, it’s never a bad idea to make the HR person’s job a little easier and standardize your filename conventions. In Jessica’s case, her filenames would look something like Smith_Rireki and Smith_Resume.

And that’s it. You now know how to fill out a rirekisho. Here are a few MS Word documents to help you write one of your own:

rirekisho_sample, being the rirekisho we’ve just looked at, complete with the red circled numbers
rirekisho_template, a blank template for you to begin typing into.

Finally, don’t forgot to check out this previous entry which gives a bit more background info. on the rirekisho.

Know your rirekisho

These entries will show you how to write a 履歴書 (rirekisho), a Japanese-language resume and arguably the most commonly required document when applying for a job in a Japanese company.

I’ve tried to make this walkthrough as user friendly as possible, but by the very nature of the subject matter, I have to assume on the part of the reader at least a basic knowledge of Japanese. If you run into anything unfamiliar, copy-and-paste the term into an online dictionary like Yahoo Japan, or throw whole chunks of text into rikai.com.


The rirekisho is roughly analogous to the resume/CV, but there are some important differences. For one thing, there’s an incredible emphasis on past schooling — educational background usually begins at the elementary school level (though in actual fact, you can get away with beginning from junior high). In either case, be prepared to start digging up information on your old alma mater.

Before we begin, I’d like to bring up two things often said about the rirekisho:
・It must be handwritten
・You must buy a special form from a stationery shop or convenience store

These simply aren’t true. Not anymore.

Traditionally, yes, the rirekisho is handwritten (the rationale being that handwriting can give prospective employers an insight into their applicants). However, the advent of e-mail and online recruiting has changed that, to the extent that if you’re serious about finding a job, you have to be able to send your information electronically. This isn’t to rule out the possibility that you might encounter a hard-nosed employer who will demand your rirekisho be written by hand, but is it the norm? No.

As for the “special form,” rirekisho templates are in fact freely available for download. They are also, thankfully, rather standardized. The template offered here is your average, honest-to-goodness rirekisho.

If you’re still reading this and are ready for more, proceed to the next entry.

Working the Japanese office job

You know, if you were brought to Japan on a sweet expat package, or you came over of your own initiative with the drive to make a name for yourself and by scotch, that’s exactly what you did, I salute you. I do.

But for every one of you, I’d like to think there are a couple folk like me: people that came here with no real plan, arguably with no real skill set, yet nonetheless decided, “You know what? Screw it, I’m staying.” Unfortunately, that’s where things get a bit tricky. People fitting this profile tend to be (to draw a sweeping generalization) doing the English-teaching grind, be it on the JET Program or at some ungodly chain eikaiwa English conversation school. No offense if that’s you and you genuinely like what you do, but that was me and it got old fast. And I know I’m not the only one.

Being an English teacher outside of a university setting tends to mean, to draw another generalization, that you are keiyaku shain, a contract worker with substandard benefits and the ever-present possibility of being let go should your employer deem you not economically viable. No matter what you are told, eikaiwa (at least, big-chain eikaiwa) is not a career. So, what to do?

The obvious answer is to get a job that will treat you as a seishain, a full-time employee with all the benefits (medical, unemployment, paid vacation and national holidays, etc.) that entails. You may very well find something at a foreign company, but there’s a good chance that getting in the door will require a couple of the same things that a Japanese one would — namely, the ability to communicate in at least conversational Japanese, and a Japanese-language resume, the more common of which (yes, there are two of them) is the 履歴書, or rirekisho. I can give you a couple pointers with the former, but the latter is what made me want to post this information on the Net in the first place.

I was fluent in Japanese when preparing to send out resumes, but I’d never done a rirekisho before, and frankly the information out there — both in English and Japanese — was not very helpful. I spent a long time trawling different sites and comparing different formats before finally coming up with the resources that allowed me to snare the positions I’ve landed since leaving eikaiwa. This blog will allow me to share them with you.

Have the positions I’ve worked post-eikaiwa been, how you say, boring office jobs? You better believe it. They’ve been boring as fuck office jobs, entailing for the most part sitting in front of a computer all day, doing the occasional bit of work interspersed with refreshing Google News for hours on end. They have also paid $10-12,000 per year more than the average eikaiwa teacher earns.

Given the crappy wages of most eikaiwa teachers, this isn’t much to brag about. But considering the above-mentioned benefits and the freedom of no longer being anyone’s English monkey, selling out to the Japanese version of The Man, while soul-crushing in its monotony, sure beats the alternative.

This is where I find myself now — a salaryman, a Japanese office worker.

I am not a success, in that if “success” is a measure of monetary gain, the chances that you are now or will in the near future be earning far more than me are rather good. But I came here with no goal and ended up with one: to land a job that didn’t involve teaching English and to settle down here permanently, becoming a part of this society. And I’ve done it.

Those of you for whom this experience holds relevance, stick around. More from the front lines to come.