Working in Japan

Contract Limbo and How to Deal with it

The period from January through March can be stressful time for foreign workers in Japan who are on annual contracts that don’t automatically renew.

Many BOEs and other companies don’t make a decision about the following year’s contracts until closer to the end of hiring season, which is usually around the end of March every year. So even though many workers at these companies have signed papers that outline their intention to continue with (or leave) the company, their contracts are not guaranteed.

As you can imagine, this usually leads to more than a few nervous workers out there all over Japan.

So, if you are one of these poor unfortunate souls in limbo, how can you combat this anxiousness?

The best advice I can give you is this: start applying for other positions.

One great thing about sending resumes to companies is that it’s free. While it will take time and energy to put together and polish an awesome resume, it takes the same amount of money to send 100 resumes as it does zero resumes.

So if you find yourself in the undesirable position of not knowing if your position is still going to be around in 3-4 months, the best thing you can do is hop onto and start applying to each job that you think might work for you.

Don’t be picky here. Any job within the realm of possibility is a great place to send your resume. You can dig into the more fine details of the job later.

Once you apply to a few places, as long as your resume isn’t horribad (go here if you need help getting it out of that zone), you will get some responses. You’ll probably even some opportunities to interview for positions.

So is now the time to decide if the job is right for you? No! My advice is to take any interview you are offered! Even if you have zero intention of accepting any job offer, take the interview.


  • First, it’s great practice that could come in handy in a future, more-important-to-your-career interview. The best interviewees are often the interviewees who have the most practice.
  • Second, they might knock your socks off! While research is good, sometimes you’ll luck into a great situation. Many people have career stories that start with taking an interview for a job they never thought they’d take.

Even if it doesn’t seem like a good fit for you, take any interview you can get.

Remember, at any point in this process, you might get the happy news from your current employer that they want you to stick around next year, or the sad news that your services are no longer needed. In either case, taking every interview is the right call!

There is nothing to lose by interviewing with other companies, and potentially quite a lot to be gained. There is no better bargaining chip than having a higher paying job waiting for you, and better than that, you might just find a better/higher paying job outright.

So instead of sitting nervously at your desk waiting for an email or phone call that will decide your fate for the coming year, be proactive and work to create better opportunities for yourself while your company is deciding what to do with you.


I'm Charlie and I've been in Japan since 2012. I started Live Work Play Japan to help foreigners in Japan to find their own version of success. I also wrote "The Smart Guide to Teaching English in Japan" which you can get on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book.

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