Saturday, August 16, 2014

How to Resign from Your Job in Japan


You slam your fist on your boss's desk, then storm out the room - like a boss - and you're a free man.

We all wish quitting is as easy as what we see in the movies, right? But reality is different. It is more difficult - even more so if you're working in a foreign country.

I know this is a rather "unpleasant" topic to write about (because it's about "quitting"), but I would really like to share my experience and help fellow foreigners working in Japan who are thinking of quitting from their companies.

There are many reasons that people quit their jobs and people quitting after only a few years is not a surprising phenomenon in countries other than Japan. Yes, Japan is somewhat an exception because people tend to stick to their first company throughout their whole career life - and that's like their whole lifetime! That's how dedicated the Japanese are. Of course there are many exceptions but those who stay for a lifetime probably outnumber them.

Quitting your job can be really intimidating and scary, much more if you are working in a foreign country. So of course you would want to leave smoothly, without burning bridges(unless of course, you had a really unpleasant experience that you just want to forget and start fresh). But this can be really tricky, especially if you work in a Japanese company. First, there's the language barrier. Are you able to clearly convey your intentions? Second, which is a very important factor, is the difference in culture/business practices. In the US, or other countries, you can probably just submit a resignation letter to your boss, take all your stuff, and leave without much of a fuss. In Japan, it's a rather lengthy and not exactly hassle-free process, but if you want to resign smoothly, you have no choice but to follow their customs.

So let me share my experience and some tips for foreigners in Japan. I would like to stress that this is how it went down for me and things may be different depending on the culture/practice of the company.

1. Talk to your boss about your plan months before.

First of all, as a law in Japan, you have to inform your direct boss at least 1 month before your planned resignation. The worst case is 2 weeks. If you inform them less than that, it would be considered very rude, and it might cause a problem especially if you're leaving in the middle of a project. Your boss has to find someone to replace you and make sure that the "turnover" goes smoothly, so if you inform them less than two weeks before your resignation, you're not exactly giving them enough time to do all that. What's worse is, you might get held back until they find a replacement.

One thing that I would like to emphasize is "who" you have to approach first. In Japan, you have to talk to your immediate supervisor first. It's not the HR people and especially not the president. You have to tell your immediate supervisor and he will be the one to report to the higher-ups about the situation.

You might be asking why? There are 2 reasons for this: one, he will be the one to find a replacement; two, his management skills and position as your boss might be questioned if you skip him and go directly to HR because it will seem as if you do not trust his skills enough to let him handle the process of talking to the higher-ups.

Another very important thing to remember is to KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Until your resignation has been finalized and approved by the company, do not go blabbing about it to anyone else, especially if your boss has yet to report it to the higher-ups. It will cause rumors and might accidentally reach the wrong ears.

2. Submit a 退職願 (taishokugan)/退職届 (taishoku todoke).

After having secret meetings with your boss and when you get the approval from the company, you might be asked to submit a formal letter stating your wish to resign. This is called the 退職願. Companies in Japan usually have their own format so you can ask your boss for a copy or if your company does not have one, you can search the Internet for a sample.

In other cases, as was with mine, I was not asked to submit a 退職願. Instead, I was asked to submit a 退職届 (taishoku todoke).

The 退職願 is just that - a "wish" or "request", as signified by the "願" the kanji for "wish". It is only a statement that you want to resign and submitting it does not mean that it has been approved by the company. However, you can also submit the 退職願 when you approach your boss for the first time.

A 退職届, on the other hand, is a document you submit after talking to your boss and getting the approval of the company. It should contain the agreed date of your resignation as approved by the company, your new address and contact info, and in some cases, the reason for your resignation. Again, your company might have a format so ask your boss for it.

In deciding the date of your resignation, you can actually make use of this chance to use up all your remaining paid leaves. For example, if you decide to resign on the 31st and still have 5 paid leaves left, you can negotiate with your boss to use them up and take a leave from the 27th until your resignation date. You can also use this chance to make arrangements for your new job, or if you're going back to your country, then you can use this time to process your papers.

Once you've submitted your 退職届, your boss will now probably call a meeting with your section and announce your plan of resignation. It is only after this time that you can freely talk about it to other people.

3. Do your part for a smooth turnover.

In the ideal scenario, you should completely finish all tasks assigned to you before you leave. But let's face it. There are times when you just want to leave as soon as possible, even it means leaving right in the middle of a project. It is during cases like this that I cannot emphasize enough the importance of informing your boss ahead of time. This is to give your boss ample time to find someone to replace you, or if not, do the necessary adjustments and rescheduling to the project you will be leaving.

Until you leave, it is your responsibility to prepare all materials necessary for the job turnover. If a replacement has been found, then you will have to teach the replacement what you have been doing and where to go from there.

4. Don't forget to say "Sayonara".

So now that your resignation has been approved, and the turnover is going smoothly, the time to bid farewell has finally come.

On your last day, it is part of Japan's culture to go around the office and give your parting "greetings" personally, especially to the people who you've worked closely with, your boss, and your friends. As for the other people, it is not necessary.

Nowadays, with email being a major means of communication, it has also become common to send an email addressed to everyone in the company, including the president, thanking them for taking care of you, etc. You should also state when you are leaving but you are not, by any means, required to state the specific reason for your resignation, as that can cause ripples, especially if your reason for leaving is some kind of dissatisfaction towards the company or trouble with a colleague. You can just say "for personal reasons" and that will be all there is to it.

So on your last day, the flow will probably go like this:

     1) 1-2 hours before the end of the working day, send a generic email to everyone (you can copy from the Internet)
     2) After sending the email, wait for at least 30 minutes to give them time to read your email, then you can start going around to greet the important people personally.
     3) Finally, return all necessary items to the company, like your ID, company pin (社章, if you were given one), insurance card (保険書), uniform (if you have one), and sometimes your stamp (印鑑), as well. Anyway, as for what you have to submit/return to the company, you will probably be instructed by HR.

And now that the greetings are over and done with, it is time to say "Sayonara". BUT! Before you leave the office on your last day, make sure you have cleaned up your desk and deleted all "unnecessary" files and logs from your computer.

Some tips and advice:
1. Before talking to your boss about your plan, make sure you have organized your thoughts so you can communicate your reasons clearly. Yes, you will be asked why you want to quit. While it is appreciated to be honest about it, there are times when the real reason is really not something that you can say without stepping on a couple of egos or igniting a fire. During these times, I guess it is okay not to tell them and just make up a polite excuse.

2. Once you've told them, there's no turning back! So you have to be very sure about your decision and stand by it. It may be okay if the company tries to persuade you into staying, but it's a whole different story if you take back what you said. It's not a very good manifestation of character.

3. Don't forget to express your gratitude. In Japanese, show 感謝 (kansha), if you want to leave with a good impression.


Either you look for a new job, if you haven't already found one, or you return to your country. If you decide to continue working in Japan, do not forget that you will have to continue paying your taxes (住民税 or 県民税) from the previous year. When you resign, either your company will settle the payment for you (meaning, they will deduct everything from your final month's salary), or they send the documents to you and you pay it yourself. Either way, you have to settle your taxes or the tax bureau will be on your tail.

My previous company did not deduct my taxes from my salary (because they said that nothing will be left if they did that) and just had the documents sent to my new address. In this case, I had a choice to pay directly at the City Hall, or submit the documents to my new company so that they can deduct it little by little from my monthly salary. I chose the latter option, as the amount I had to pay was too big for a one-time payment.


So I guess that's about everything I can share regarding this topic. Like I said, my experience might be different from everyone else. But if there's one thing that's common to everything, it's notifying your boss early because I think that will be a great factor for a smooth resignation. It is also the most difficult part -  at least for me, it was. As they say, the first step is always the hardest. But once I took that first step, it was a smooth process until my last day. I guess I was also blessed with a very kind boss because she was very understanding and supportive of my decision.

I have to admit that I do have some frustrations with my previous company, but the things I am grateful for outnumber them greatly. Indeed, I am very grateful to my previous company for giving me the chance to work in Japan and for equipping me with the skills and knowledge necessary to survive here, but I also do not regret leaving.

Anyway, I hope that this post will be of help to anyone who wants to quit their companies in Japan. I hope it goes smoothly for everyone!


  1. Hi, hope you can answer my question. :) Paano ka nakahanap/nakatanggap ng work sa Japan? 19 na kasi ako gusto ko din sana magtry mag work abroad. Paano ka nakakuha ng visa? Sana masagot mo tanong ko wala kasi akong idea kung pano.

    1. Hi! I'm sorry for the late reply.

      I'm an IT graduate and I took this certification exam called PhilNITS. It just so happened that there was a company from Japan looking for PhilNITS passers so I had my interview with them and luckily, I got accepted. The visa processing was all taken care of by the company.

    2. philnits passer din ako. anong company yan?

  2. Hello, How many years did you stay in that company before you resigned?

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