Expats working in Tokyo participate in one of the largest metropolitan economies across the globe. According to a study by the Brookings Institution, the city created an annual domestic product of nearly 1.6 trillion USD in 2014. Despite the preceding worldwide financial crisis, the earthquake of 2011, and the recession Japan was recently facing, Tokyo’s economy largely remains the powerhouse of the country.
Beyond the city limits of Metropolitan Tokyo, the Kantō Region around Tokyo is Japan’s most urbanized and industrialized area. The people working in Tokyo and other cities of Kantō-chihō create around 40% of Japan’s economic power. This amount is comparable to the entire gross domestic product of a smaller country like Italy.
The March 2011 earthquake and the resulting reactor failures of a nuclear power plant in the Fukushima region had a definite impact on the country’s overall economy. While some sectors bounced back fairly quickly, the huge repair costs and the recurrent energy shortages had an adverse effect on Japan’s economy.
Moreover, Japan’s economy officially entered into a mild recession in 2012, with traditionally strong industries, such as consumer electronics, semi-conductors, IT, or the chemical industry, being uncertain about future prospects. However, since the end of 2012 the Japanese government has been pursuing a clear course of expansion which is very hard to accomplish due to the high government debt level. Expats working in Tokyo should thus keep an eye on current developments.
Expatriates interested in working in Tokyo have a huge advantage if they are employed in one of Japan’s growth sectors. Reflecting both the challenges of Japan’s aging population and the nation’s vanguard position with regard to sophisticated technology, certain fields are relevant for foreigners. Medical technology and the healthcare sector, industrial design and brand marketing catering to “silver” consumers, bio-tech and nano-technology offer employment opportunities for highly qualified staff.
Anyone keen on working in Tokyo or its neighboring cities might also find a job if they bring professional experience in more traditional industries. Yokohama, Tokyo’s neighbor to the south, is especially strong in the international shipping business — small wonder for a busy port city. Quite a few expats thus found themselves moving to Yokohama instead, about a 90-minute commute from Tokyo’s central wards.
Apart from Yokohama, working in Tokyo could mean relocating to places such as Kawasaki or Saitama, too. Squeezed between Tokyo and Yokohama, the former is not only home to several well-known brand names from the field of high-tech (e.g. Fujitsu or Toshiba), but also a regional center for Tokyo’s heavy industry.
Or if you don’t mind working in Tokyo’s northern environs, you could settle in Saitama as well. It is an important regional hub for food production, automobile engineering, the manufacturing of optical products, and the pharmaceutical industry.
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