Allegations that GOJ’s Hello Work refuses NJ applicants, as evidenced by “Japanese Only” employer Zeus Enterprise of Tokyo Ginza


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Hi Blog.  Here’s missive from a JKY, who claims that government-run unemployment agency Hello Work not only segregates by nationality for job offers, but also promotes companies that refuse otherwise qualified candidates just because their hiring practices are “Japanese Only”.  He provides evidence that Zeus Enterprise Inc. of Tokyo Ginza is doing just that.  Since the Labor Standards Law forbids employment discrimination by nationality, the fact that a GOJ agency is doing this is shocking indeed.  But hardly out of character, alas.  Have a read.  Blogged with the author’s permission.  Arudou Debito


October 22, 2010

Hello Debito, I’m a Chinese-Canadian living in Japan and I am very supportive of your effort on anti-racism in Japan.

You mentioned in your website that you welcome people to submit “Japanese only” signs if they see one. So I decided to do so although this is from a company website on recruiting, not an actual shop sign.

I’m currently in the middle of looking for a job. I’ve been living in Japan for 10 years and because of my Asian look, Japanese language skill, and my adopted Japanese last name (from my wife), I have been facing less discrimination when applying a job, compared to many other foreigners. However every time when I visit the hellowork’s foreigner section, I can always hear some employers routinely refusing applications from foreign residents, especially those from regions such as Africa, Middle East, and Southeast Asia. The foreign residents section itself is a discriminatory practice too as foreign residents have no other choice but are required to visit a segregated “foreigner section”, even though in my case I do not need any language interpretation or counselling on Japanese life.

When I visited hellowork last week, as usual I have the staff phoning hiring businesses to introduce me as an applicant. Because all the jobs I apply require high level of trilingual (English, Japanese, Chinese) skill, most companies do not mind my background as a foreigner, however Zeus Enterprise, upon hearing that I’m a foreigner from the hellowork staff, rejected me as a valid applicant, saying that this position is for “Japanese only”.


What I feel frustrated is that as a government agency, and as a “specialist” to assist foreign residents, hellowork’s foreign section never actively counter-argue with employers. In almost all instances they’ll simply say “I understand” and hang up, without stating that it’s a discriminatory practice and is against general human rights.

I also find it appalling that Zeus Enterprise even dare to indicate their “Japanese only” requirement on their website. (Most companies nowadays only reject verbally but do not dare to write so explicitly on job postings).

I’ll follow your suggestion to visit the local Jinken Yogo Bu for a discussion.

It will be great if there are more discussions on job discrimination against foreign and foreign-looking residents with legal employment right in Japan.

All the support from Chiba.

JKY, Chiba

27 comments on “Allegations that GOJ’s Hello Work refuses NJ applicants, as evidenced by “Japanese Only” employer Zeus Enterprise of Tokyo Ginza

  • If your J language skills are native level,
    just apply to them directly and never mention your nationality.

    You would be in a unique position to be able to get your foot in the door
    and at least ask them in person why it’s “Japanese only” when the issue comes up.
    If you have native level Japanese and English, then while they’re kicking you out the door
    make sure to tell them how insanely stupid they are to turn away the best applicant
    on a technicality.

    Noticed that other jobs on the website DON’T have that condition.
    Perhaps they are assuming the bilingual coordinator must have perfect Japanese
    skills (and not perfect English, etc) to be able to do the job to their satisfaction.
    And thus assuming only Japanese nationals have perfect Japanese.

    BTW, “Japanese only” is not entirely rare. Saw it a few times in those magazines/websites for haken/temp agencies for day-workers, etc.
    Maybe they just don’t want to go through the hassle of spending 30 seconds to check a visa? Or don’t want to have to check all foreigners’ Japanese skills are sufficient and implement some kind of testing program (but isn’t that what the JLPT is for?) Should be illegal.

    Some jobs would legitimately be limited to Japanese nationals, such as certain government jobs.

  • My experiences are a little different.
    A few years ago it seemed that my job was about to come to an end. I went to my local (Shibuya) Hello Work. No problems and I reviewed a few options. They also kindly suggested that I try the HW in Roppongi, which apparently specializes in jobs for NJ. Ideally there would not be a separate location for NJ, but as I was still able to use the regular HW, I would not classify this as discrimination. I went to the Roppongi office and looked into several job postings. The people there were nice and kindly called up the companies that interested me to try to arrange interviews. I cannot remember the company names anymore, but several of the companies that I chose refused to even meet me because I was NJ, even after the HW representative tried his best telling them of my various linguistic and technological degrees, certification, experience and long-term residence. Following this, the HW representative seemed sincerely apologetic and embarrassed and told me companies were not allowed to do that and said that he would remove their postings from their database. All in all, I received fair treatment from the staff at HW.

    How such jobs get posted in their database is more likely the problem. They seem to be scanned in with likely little or no review. HW could do a better job screening them, but I would not go as far as saying that they are actively trying to discriminate.

  • Eyeinthesky says:

    Hello work is a reality check for anybody who thinks Japan doesnt discriminate. I been down there countless times, and 90% of all calls made resulted in “gaijin wa muri or iranai” I am qualified for the job. There are lots of cleaning jobs and yakiniku shop hell jobs etc but nothing good. I see so many guys down there, just begging for anything, its really sad.

  • Eyeinthesky says:

    Not to be disrespectful, but this has been going on for years down at hello work. Perhaps its not as overt in Academia, but I think you should try it out for yourself. I was offered a dream job of delivering furniture, only later to be recanted because they worried about how a gaijin face would affect their clients. Another time I was told that the company had never had the experience of hiring a foriegner, so they could not start with me. Another time they said a Chinese had worked for them, but never an American, so I was off limits. The Filipino guy next to me was catching hell. He finally landed his dream job, something to do with “drum cans” use your imagination. I overheard the counsler talking with the companies, they were very straight “Filipino dame desu!” The south american guy had it no better on my right. I heard lots of dream jobs having to do with “bento” “soji” and “dry kuringu” and some “sara arau” for him. Poor dude looked depressed. If there is a law prohibitting discrimination, it aint enforced.

  • Refusing NJ is just one of the countless list of Labor Law violations Japanese “black companies” listed in HW are performing (such as refusing overtime payment).

    This particular case definitely demonstrates discrimination against NJ, but when looking at the bigger picture, the fact is that the whole nation is facing more and more illegal employers.

  • It baffles me that they would word it that way… all they need to say is “Japanese must be your first language” and it immediately becomes… BAFFLING, since if they want a bilingual person chances are that at least one of the two languages isn’t going to be completely native, but not in my opinion offensive. If the job requires language skills, “native” is one possible required level that doesn’t seem too unreasonable (and isn’t racist, as a zainichi Korean or anyone else who was born and raised here in a Japanese-speaking home would be eligible).

    I wonder what the reasoning behind something like that is. If they’re rejecting Asians, it can’t be looks. What are they really afraid of?

  • Level3-san, when Japanese write “Japanese-native level” or “English -native level” they usually mean nationaliy, and this is the way to advertise their conditions without being accused of discrimination. I’ve been over this already, arguing with HR or 就職案内agencies.They always say that we foreigners don’t have the ability to understand all these 巧妙なnuances and phrasing and stuff(that’s exactly what I was told ).

  • Just as Norik says, “J language native level” & “English-native level” does usually mean the nationality of the applicant, in my experience. It’s a waste of time to keep applying if your nationality doesn’t match the “native-level” language skills stated as required; again – speaking from my experience. They don’t really care if your linguistic skills may be impeccable (e.g., you can have a PhD from the UK, written in English, or from Japan, written in Japanese), If you weren’t born in an “Anglophone” country, or in Japan (for J language-native level), you’re usually doomed. To be fair, I have to say that I’ve seen ads that specify that for an applicant to be consider to have language skills near the native speaker level: “at least 12 yrs of education in English (or Japanese)…” and no nationality requirements.

    Although, as you can see, I’m not a native speaker of English, I feel comfortable using it and I’ve been twice in the U.S., in a technical school and grad school. However, just last week I was denied twice when applying for jobs, b/c of my nationality. I had applied for work at two different U.S. institutions in Tokyo, and in both cases I was told I wasn’t a valid candidate b/c of my SE European nationality. One place said so explicitly, the other was subtly expressing the same notion. But, one’s institution’s HR staff told me that their reasoning was that, unlike in the case of Japanese, Korean, German, … nationals, I’d have to wait 2 weeks to get a U.S. visa, to go on a business trip. (Japanese, German and some other nationals go under the Visa Waiver Program.) To hire me is just too bothering for the institution, it seemed. Well, of course.

    BTW, speaking of language skills requirements, it happens in schools, too!
    There’s an international high school for expat kids that teaches in English solely, here in Tokyo. The school’s requirement too is that for a kid to be admitted “at least one of the parents must be a native speaker of English.” Last year we once had thought it’d be nice to have our kid enroll there, but when we noticed the language requirement, we just felt really bad about the school. Besides, my J spouse and European I aren’t _native_speakers of English, so the school has the right to refuse us. Sorry I digress!

    There have also been J companies (all this year) that would tell me they needed the native-level English language users and that I didn’t qualify. Again, one needs to be coming from the UK, NZ, Australia, Canada, or the U.S., apparently.
    I’m not even sure if this is really discriminatory or just “atarimae” (around the world?), as I’ve noticed similar nationality related restrictions when I was looking even for unpaid internship in the States.

  • Seems a bit strange that a company would cut off their nose to spite their face like thus. I am sure there are some, but doubt there are that many Japanese who speak both Chinese and English to business level.

    Conversely, I have met more than a few native Chinese speakers here who speak both Japanese and English well.

    Seems that this company is shooting itself in the foot through its own bloody minded stupidity.

  • I find it curious that nobody here pointed out what actually caught my eye (and would disqualify me and many Japanese):

    the age discrimination.

    Most Japanese aren’t going to empathize with the Japanese-only clause (regardless of whether this is right or wrong). But I guarantee you that they’ll care about the age discrimination. Especially if they’re 36 and not in a stable full-time job.

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    Eido, to their credit, it does say “23 to about 35″ (35歳位), so I doubt that a 36-year-old would be refused for that reason alone. A brief survey (using the scientific method of asking two linguistics-minded native speakers sitting near me) would indicate that people up to 37 or 38 can still be “about 35”, but after that you round up to 40.

    I actually bumped up against that on the opposite end when I first arrived in Japan and was looking to move on from my miserable eikaiwa job. The upper limit is approximate but the lower one is strict, and two different headhunters said that they couldn’t place a 21-year-old in such a position, even with the same 4-year degree as anyone else, because Japanese graduates are all 22 or over. ^_^;

  • Age discrimination isn’t actually legal anymore. But I do see ads “Must be a high school graduate, having graduated from high school no earlier than Heisei 12.” or something… which is basically age discrimination, unless it took someone DECADES to pass a high school entrance exam, they want someone in their 20s, plain enough. They always find away to get around it (and this may just be me being an overly sensitive female, but does it seem like the main requirement for a woman to get a job is to be young and Asian… i.e. a pretty face, regardless of experience or anything else?)

  • Age discrimination is illegal here?
    Seriously, I had no idea. It’s so blatant everywhere I assumed it was legal.

    Every company is still basically taking the attitude that Japan still has lifelong employment, so they don’t want to hire people who are a “mere” 20 years from retirement. Plus all the other “this is the old system, anyone who differs from the system is absolutely unacceptable.”

    I’ll soon graduate from J grad school, I hope to find a job here, but am quite worried that since I worked a few years and went back to grad school, that my age will lead to refusals to even accept an application. If I go home, my work experience will be a boon.

    But these days, it’s total bullshit. Nobody (except civil servants) has a guarantee of lifetime employment anymore. Get laid off when you’re 40, and you basically fucked, doubly so if you’re a female. Yet Japan is whining about a “labor shortage”.

    Is there ANY anti age discrimination group in Japan?

    — What do you care? You’ve already said on the Web elsewhere that something like the Otaru Onsens lawsuit (a group of people who fought racial discrimination, not age, but discrimination nonetheless) was a “tiny” thing. If you did find a group, no doubt you’d find some way to demean or diss them for their efforts as well.

  • Just checked the page. The 「日本人限定」 line has been removed. So, maybe they heard something from someone?

    — So it has. Well, good. “Tiny” efforts sometimes do pay off.

  • And we assume that just because they removed the line from the website, they are also changing their policy? I mean, it would be nice to be able to assume that.

    In a way, I tend to appreciate racists at least being publicly racist, so we can know who and what they are. Tales from Hello Work seem to indicate that many more employers will not hire gaijin anyway, but don’t advertise that fact. Entrenched stealth racism only becomes apparent when gaijin happen to apply for work.

    When they’re dumb enough to admit it openly, going to court becomes easier. If they don’t advertise their racist policy, they can always claim (just as sexists, ageists, classists, etc. always do) that the person isn’t a victim of a universal policy of discrimination, but that the individual just “isn’t qualified” or was “less qualified” than the successful, majority race applicants. The employer just rewrites the evaluation system so that the minority applicant gets fewer points than the majority applicant.

    — I see. So more fool us people only trying to help others through our “tiny” efforts, for they wind up driving these discriminators’ practices into the woodwork. Yet open discrimination merely enables what you call “tiny” court cases anyway. Best to let it lie out in the open and do nothing about it? You speak with confused (and forked) tongue.

    Have fun looking for a job after you finish your college degree in Japan. And don’t bother asking us for help later. Just appreciate the racists, you gaijin.

  • Gilesdesign says:

    I have a friend from Peru now living in Japan who was trying to use hello work.
    His father (half japanese) was working in Japan’s factories druing the 90s boom which meant as a child he had a great education back in Peru and got a degree in advertising and publicity design in Lima despite his parents both working in factories they were determined to get their kids out of that poverty cycle. On graduating my friend worked for a year in Peru’s leading newspaper El Comercio as well as 365 publicidad on ad campaigns for big latin multinational corporations like grupo gloria. Unfortunately with the downturn in economy and reduced factory work his parents were financially unable to return home and enjoy the rest of their lives together with their family. As the riches they were promised by Team Japan deteriorated, so did their dream to go home. So instead, their two sons (with the help of a little japanese blood) moved to Japan to be with their aging parents and catch up on that missed childhood. A teary eyed reunion, as the parents saw their kids for the first time in 10 years. The two sons are now in their mid 20s, university educated and knowing they owe all that to their parents who broke their own hearts being away from their kids in the hope of giving them a better future..
    Sorry back the point…
    So…My friend started with factory work making car doors as that is all he could find at short notice available to latin people. Every weekend he would search for jobs in his trained field and study japanese even working on graphic and web design projects overseas via the internet. Work has since dried up in the car factories and with a “last in first out” system of redundancy he finds himself without a job. After numerous rejections from Japanese ad companies. He became aware that to get a good job he has to learn business level japanese so when hello work offered free japanese classes he jumped at the chance. Unfortunately the classes tailored especially for south americans were only teaching japanese related to factory work so he was learning words like welding, painting, cardboard box, fork lift truck. To his disappointment hello work had put him in a category of work without his choosing based simply on his race. So there is little hope of them helping him as latinos = factory fodder according to hello work. He has now become depressed thinking he is a disappointment to his parents as he discovers the hard way an eduction counts for nothing here when government run organisations pay more attention to your race than your credentials.

  • Age discrimination seems to be alive and well here.
    When looking for a job at local city halls, my husband who is Japanese BTW, has found many ads with age limits; often 30 or 35.
    It’s so ridiculous.
    Sorry to digress, but lifetime employment isn’t really the norm now, but when you quit a job and seek a new one you have to start at the bottom again. (rank and pay) Your previous years of work have no bearing. That’s also hideous.

  • Re: #13

    “Every company is still basically taking the attitude that Japan still has lifelong employment, so they don’t want to hire people who are a “mere” 20 years from retirement.”

    Actually my husband works in HR at a Japanese company and that’s not the reason he gives for not wanting to interview older people (his company tells him that he can’t refuse to interview someone because of age, and they did remove the age-related lines from their recruiting ads, but it’s harder to change an unwritten prejudice). He says it’s because first of all, computer skills are a requirement for the job and 50- or 60-somethings are terrible at computers (to which I say, give them a chance to take the typing test and if they fail, by all means reject them because of THAT… but not everyone over 40 is computer illiterate), and secondly, because the more experience a person has the more “corrupted” their way of doing things will be by other companies, companies want a clean slate to mold in their own image.

    Whatever the reason, though, it really doesn’t make sense. If you want to decline to hire someone because they have low computer skills or bad habits, that’s fine. But you can’t tell whether someone has EITHER of those problems if you don’t even invite them to the interview. The same could be said about NJ “not understanding all the fine nuances of company culture.” Invite them in for an interview, you might be pleasantly surprised.

  • I think we are going little bit off topic, because the article was about discrimination based on nationality(NJ-ness).As for discrimination, I have experienced sexual discrimination, marital status-based discrimination along with gaijin discrimination too. But this is another story.
    Maybe it will help if we cooperate for a list of companies who reject their applicants based on nationality. Many people who visit this site will see it, and maybe something will change (hopefully).
    I could start with several names. How about this as an idea? Do you think this will help?

    — Happy to help collate.

  • Eyeinthesky says:

    Creating a list that long would require a dedicated link just for that topic. I cant get a job even at the local supermarket, Johnathans or any other min. wage paying job just because Im a forigener.

  • Here are some names. When I was still at school, and my schollarship was about to expire, I had to find some (any) part-time job to pay my expences until I graduate.So I was looking here and there, applying like any other university student.
    In Tsutaya, they told me directly they don’t hire foreigners.
    In Seijo Supermarket, they told me that seeing a gaijin お客様は引く。
    In Maruzen bookstore the HR pushed away the journals with my publications on Japanese literature and culture, which I brought to prove my Japanese language skills, and asked me “Do you understand me as I’m talking like this?”
    The Chunichi shinbun had big sign on their door advertising “Help wanted”, but when I applied, they told me they had already found somebody, and they’ve just forgotten to take off the sign. The ad stayed there for over a month after that.
    The company Goldendance, while I was there, refused to several other foreigners, just because they were foreigners.
    There were many others, but I’ve already forgotten their names-maybe in attemt to keep my sanity.

  • Eyeinthesky says:

    I once got a job with a security company that hired foriengers to do guard duty at the UN building in Tokyo. Most of the foriegners were all bilingual or better. So the bucho or whatever comes out and instead of acknowledging the level of Japanese, he said, “nobody speaks perfect Japanese, not even us” It was some sort of attempt to show control, so nobody could be above them. so its like you do the effort to learn Japanese, once you learn it, you dont need it. Ive encountered this allot. Got to say, it stays with me, something I cant just brush off to isolated experiences. What Norik describes goes on here everyday.

  • ‘To his disappointment hello work had put him in a category of work without his choosing based simply on his race. ‘

    The poster above talking about his nikkei friend’s experiences has nailed it. Just one thing that’s even more twisted and ugly than he show it. Your friend got his language lessons ‘based simply on his race’. If he had not been ‘del ojo’ (nikkei), he wouldn’t have qualified for the lessons. So even though they categorised him as factory drone, they did gave him kind of priveleged status as a nikkei. Any common and garden Latin American without the appropriate blood composition (at least 25%) would have been turned away from the language lessons.
    The J-government sponsors various schemes which are exclusively for nikkeis. I guess in slave days, they’d have been termed quadroons (but don’t quote me, I might have got my percentages mixed up).
    My own husband’s experience at Hello Work in Kanagawa was being told that most jobs he saw info about was for Japanese only. He enquired about one reserved for disabled people, as a toilet cleaner at Haneda airport, and the clerk rang HR at the airport and said ‘I’ve got someone disabled for you here, but he’s a foreigner…’
    Go anyway except the gaijin corner at Roppongi Hello Work, and I’m guessing that most foreigners’ experiences will be similar.

  • There is no better place to witness in your face discrimination than hello work. Somebody should make a documentary about it. Pose as someone looking for work and cycle through all the rejection and document the answers you get from employers.

  • newbiefront says:

    These are not “allegations” that Hello Work is allowing discrimination against foreigners, its very real. I was just at Hello Work today, looking for something to supplement my income. Several of the jobs in their computer have recent additional information added to them, that is “gaikokujin dame” The Hello Work counsler went to call the place for me, but quickly said, Ah! kore dame da. Gaikokujin dame datte” when viewing the job on another computer they have, like a database. Companies will add it to the job description if they interview allot of foreigners. Its perfectly ok it seems. The people on my left and right were experiencing the same thing. Counsler call, then you hear “Gaikokujin dame ka…arigatou gozaimaus!” then tell the applicant “gaijin dame”. Seen it many times. So your actually saying there is a law against this? Doesnt seem that way to me.

  • “Unfortunately the classes tailored especially for south americans were only teaching japanese related to factory work so he was learning words like welding, painting, cardboard box, fork lift truck.”

    LOL. Been there done that. The “minna no Nihongo” book series was actually once geared towards those kind of people. Then you could go down to Ishikawajima or whatever its called or Komatsu and get your forklift liscense, welding, tamagake etc. All the courses were a joke, I mean who learns welding in 3 days? I couldnt read the kanji test so the Japanese guy takes me into another room and reads the question then says..maru? batsu? Id go for the maru and he would shake his head so then I choose batsu and get it

  • Reading many job adds you see many of this stuff. Some very direct, such as Ritsumeikan` highschool non-Japanese only (at least they are fare enough to discriminate against anybody). Others slightly more subtle, “you will be joining an all female team” Servecorp an Australian company!! Really wanting to have a job I even applied for it and got invited for an interview to be told my Japanese was good enough but that I probably would not be able to handle Nagoya-ben. They did not bother to check it however.


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