Updated July 13, 2023

Black Companies in Japan: Everything You Need to Know


Japan Dev Team

Japan Dev contributor

If you want to avoid one thing when job hunting in Japan, it's "black" companies.

For some people, getting a job in Japan is a dream come true. Known as a global leader in technology, it’s not surprising that tech jobs are very much in demand in Japan.

It's true — tech job openings are everywhere in Japan. But before you apply, you have to do your research. It's imperative that you take note of what kind of company you’re applying for. There are great companies in Japan, but there are also what's known as "black companies".

So how can you identify these companies? More importantly, how can you avoid joining one? Read on to learn everything you need to know about black companies in Japan!

What is a Black Company?

If you’ve been considering working in Japan, you may have come across the term “black company” (or "burakku kigyou"). But what is a black company?

Well, there's no exact definition of what a black company is. However, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare provides three general characteristics for identifying them.

  1. Long work hours and unreasonable quotas are demanded from their employees.

  2. Little to no compliance with Japan’s Labor Standards Act

  3. Employees are always at a disadvantage when it comes to company decisions.

Put simply, Japanese black companies are companies that do not follow labor laws. That means they tend to have poor working conditions and an unhealthy work culture — and they should be avoided.

These companies are known to take advantage of their employees, often leading to employees having no work-life balance or in extreme cases, even death because of work stress.

What is karoshi in Japan?


Unfortunately, there have been enough instances of death due to overwork in Japan that there's a special term for it: karoshi.

Japan is known for its serious work ethic. Historically, long work hours and overtime have been normal occurrences, and even considered admirable by some companies and employees. In 1990, average working hours in Japan were 2,124 hours per year – 500 hours longer compared to countries like Germany and France.

However, longer hours come with more stress and health problems. In fact, WHO stated that long working hours are the cause of 745,000 deaths from stroke and heart disease in 2016.

Stress from work can cause serious mental health problems and sometimes leads to karoshi.

To lessen the number of cases of karoshi, the National Defense Counsel for Victims of KAROSHI was built. It's made up of lawyers and other groups, and they help anyone suffering from work stress or overwork.

Japan Black Company Awards

Creating a place for people to get help is a great way to lessen karoshi cases in Japan. But it doesn't solve the fundamental issue creating the stress in the first place: Japanese black companies.

In recent years, there have even been "awards" given to companies considered to be black companies by people in Japan. Founded in 2012, the Black Company Awards aims to raise awareness about black companies and expose their problematic practices.

Every year, they release a list of that year’s most “black” companies with the winner getting the “Most Evil Corporation” award. The winners are announced publicly, and they receive a copy of Japan's labor laws.

Characteristics of a Black Company

The nominees and winners of the Black Company Awards are chosen based on several factors. These factors are characteristics of a common black company in Japan.

1. Long Working Hours


Black companies in Japan are almost always identified by their long working hours. The general rule is that normal working hours should be 40 hours a week. If an employee works overtime, it must not go beyond 45 hours per month.

In addition, the government has set a line at 80 hours per month of overtime. Going beyond this limit is a danger to the health of the employees and it can even lead to karoshi. Any company that regularly goes beyond the overtime line are considered black companies.

Of course, compensation for overtime is required as well. Companies that force workers to do large amounts of unpaid overtime can also be considered black companies.

2. High Turnover Rate

Another sign that a company is a black company is the turnover rate. A high turnover rates means that there are constant changes in the company's personnel.

However, if large numbers of employees are leaving, and there are constantly new recruits, chances are the workplace is the issue. Problems like unhealthy work culture, low wages, or harassment within the employees are things that can lead an employee quit.

3. Low Salary


Compensation is an important factor when looking for a job. It is also a great way to know if the company you’re applying for is a black company or not.

A company that pays its employees below the minimum wage, or too low for the position, does not value its employees. These companies are less likely to offer fair raises, and far more likely to have a stressful work environment.

If something is too good to be true, there's usually a catch.

Another thing you must look out for is salary increases. If existing employees are not receiving salary increases after years of employment, that's another sign of a black company.

4. Little to No Vacation or Paid Leave

Employees are entitled to holidays and paid leave. Any company that doesn’t allow their employees to take paid leave, or a holiday, is a black company. In fact, they are a black company if they refuse their employees the benefits they are entitled to.

A company who also asks you to work when you are on a holiday is also a red flag. This just shows that the company does not respect your time or care about their employees' well-being.

5. Short Recruitment Process


While we wish for our job interviews in Japan to be a breeze, a short recruitment process can be a characteristic of a Japanese black company.

In Japan, the job recruitment process is usually long. It can include tests, interviews, and seminars. University students even start as early as the beginning of their final year when job hunting.

However, it's understandable that foreigners have a shorter time to look for jobs in Japan since they may have to deal with expiring visas.

Always remember, be wary of things that are too good to be true.

How to Avoid Black Companies in Japan?

Now that you know about black companies, how do you actually avoid them? The tips above will help you identify them, but here are some more concrete things you can do to make sure you don't accidentally join one.

Company Evaluation Websites


Do research on the company’s reputation. There are plenty of websites that collect assessments of former and current employees of the company.

Unfortunately, most sites are in Japanese but you can translate them if necessary.

Openwork: This website has a large database of company reviews and other data that will be extremely helpful in your search. It's the closest thing to the Japanese "glassdoor".

Jobtalk.jp: This website has over 3 million reviews and over 700,000 members all posting about their experiences working in their old workplace. You can see their reviews on annual income, employee benefits, overtime hours, work-life balance, and more.

Lighthouse: Lighthouse describes itself as one of Japan’s largest company evaluation websites. With more than 50 million views, Lighthouse presents company evaluations in graphs and tables. This makes the information easier to understand.

CareerConnection.jp: Similar to Lighthouse, this website also presents their reviews in tables and graphs. You can find out about a former employee’s annual income, bonuses, and even interview experiences.

For Tech Companies: Use Japan Dev

We built Japan Dev from the ground up to help people avoid black companies and find jobs with great work-life balance.

Our curated list of tech companies in Japan showcases vetted companies that hire foreigners and provide a genuinely positive work environment.

We don't post jobs from companies with low salaries or poor work environments, so rest assured: if a company is on Japan Dev, it's not a black company.



Meetups are not only a great way to network, but they're also a great way to get information about the industry.

A lot of tech professionals join them and there’s a good chance you can meet former employees of the companies you want to apply to.

These meetups can connect you to other people working in Japan as well. Especially as a foreigner, it’s a great way to know how a company would treat foreigner employees. And get to know a company through the eyes of a foreigner as well.

Check Out the Company


Another thing you can do is research the company. The simplest way to do this is to start by checking their website.

Nowadays, almost all businesses have a website or at the very least, a social media presence.

Check the company's job openings. As mentioned before, high turnover rates are a characteristic of a black company. If a company has a suspiciously large number of job openings, you may want to look into that.

Next up, you can check out the company’s office. If you get the chance to visit, there are three things you should look out for.

First is the appearance of the office. Sometimes the state of the office will help you evaluate the company, and whether they care about their employees or not.

Next is the atmosphere of the office and its employees. Interact with the employees to see if they’re rude or unfriendly. Do they seem happy to be there? Get a feel if the workplace environment has any tension among its employees.

If you’re there for an interview, ask about the workplace culture. If the interview tries to change the subject or avoid the question, it might mean there is a problem with their culture.

An interviewer putting too much emphasis on a company's good points can be a warning sign. as well This could mean that they're trying to hide the company's bad points.

Know the Labor Standards Act

Lastly, you should know Japan’s Labor Law to protect yourself. Even if you are not a lawyer, familiarize yourself with its important points. You can read a translation of the Labor Standards Act here.

Leaving a Black Company


Let’s say that despite all the research you’ve done, you find yourself employed by a black company. What do you do?

The first thing you should do is talk to your employer or the HR department. In fact, Japanese companies with 300 or more employees are now required to have an internal reporting system. If you have any complaints about your company or your coworkers, handle it internally first.

If that does not work, or your company does not have an internal reporting system, you can ask for help from the government. The government has set up aWorking Conditions Consultation Hotline that foreigners can use. The hotline provides consultations about work conditions in Japan in 14 languages including English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

But if the company you’re working for is truly a black company, the best thing to do is to quit. Japanese black companies are known for not making it easy for their employees to leave. However, under the law, companies cannot stop you from leaving. So don’t believe companies that say that you cannot quit — it's your right.

Before leaving the company, make sure to use all your paid leave and get your salary in order. If they refuse to give your salary, you can always seek help from the Labor Standards Inspection Office.

Then it's time to find a new company. Follow this guide and you'll be sure to find one far better than the black company you left.


Japan Dev Team

This post was written by our Japan Dev editorial team.