In recent years, changing jobs has become a lot more common.
Previously, long-term (or even “lifetime”) employment was the norm. Quitting your job was mostly seen as a last resort by many.
But nowadays, a lot of people are on the lookout for their next role. And that’s a good thing.
Liquidity in the labor market pushes employers to provide better work conditions and benefits. It incentivizes employees to keep themselves up-to-date while allowing them to experience different companies and find what they like.
However, quitting isn’t the most pleasant thing to do. Especially in Japan, with all the cultural norms and manners you need to follow, quitting your job can be daunting.
It's a form of confrontation, after all. No one really enjoys it, and a lot of people aren’t sure of the best way to handle it.
However, the Japan Dev team is in support of better work conditions. As I explained in my post, where I talked about why and how I started Japan Dev, I believe that there are always great options out there.
This is why I’d like to explain how to quit your job in Japan in case you need a change and alleviate the potentially tough circumstances that may come about.
In this post, I’ll give you the rundown of the whole process, how to handle tough conversations with your boss and coworkers, as well as all the documents you’ll need.
So what are the general norms around quitting in Japan? Let’s find out.
What Documents to Submit for Quitting a Job in Japan
First things first. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with the documents you’ll need to quit your job.
There are a few different documents you can prepare to put the termination process of your employment in motion. Let’s take a look at these documents and what exactly they’re for.
Retirement Notice vs. Letter of Resignation
Essentially, there are three documents you can submit to your employer to quit: a resignation letter(退職願), resignation notice(退職届), and retirement notice(辞表).
It all depends on the company, but usually, the consequences of submitting any of these are the same. The main difference is that a letter of resignation leaves it up to your employer whether they’ll accept your resignation or not.
Notice of retirement or resignation, on the other hand, is simply notifying your employer that you’re quitting. In the event that they accept your resignation, you’ll end up with the same result either way.
It’s also possible that your company already has a form you can fill out to submit your request/notice without needing any of the letters/notices I mentioned here.
As each company works differently, what’s important here is to ask your company’s HR department about the particulars. You can also ask your immediate supervisor which forms your company requires you to submit when quitting.
When to Quit Your Job
Timing is everything, especially if you don’t want to burn any bridges as you quit.
Assuming you want to end things on good terms, before quitting, you’ll need to give proper notice to your employer to allow them to find a replacement for your position.
According to the Japanese Labor Standards Law, the legally determined notice period is 2 weeks prior. However, this is a rather short period for finding a new employee, especially if you’re working in a niche field.
In practice, it’s a good idea to notify your company about 1 month before you quit.
You can start the process by setting up a meeting with your immediate supervisor first, although this isn’t required by all companies. If you’re not especially accustomed to the inner workings of a Japanese workplace, I recommend doing things in advance to avoid any hiccups.
Also, you can read up on my post on the tricky parts of navigating a Japanese workplace, where I explain how to handle tough and tricky situations in the workplace.
Another thing to note with the timing here is that, unless working at your current job becomes unbearable, I always recommend not quitting before lining up another gig first. This is rather important because you can only be unemployed for 3 months tops if you’re in Japan on a work visa.
You can find out more about this in my post on unemployment in Japan, where I explained the unemployment process and how you can get unemployment support from the government.
Speaking of which, there are a few other issues besides your work visa that you’ll want to consider before making the decision to leave your job.
Things to Consider Before Quitting Your Job in Japan
As I explained, your visa situation might complicate things for you if you’re not careful. However, that’s not the only thing you should consider.
For instance, you might have a new job lined up. You’re ready to quit and all, but is this new job within the scope of your visa type?
Work visas are issued specifically for distinct areas of expertise, and you’ll have to find a job that’s in the same field as your previous one (the one you got your work visa with). However, at the end of the day, it’s all up to the immigration office.
It’s best to be careful when changing fields, and consulting the immigration office is the way to go if you’re unsure about what to do. You’ll also want to consult your potential new employer regarding the renewal of your visa and learn whether they’re willing to help if needed.
When it comes to your prospective job search, I wrote an elaborate guide on how to find a job as a software engineer in Japan, where I cover all the details.
Another thing to consider before quitting is the housing situation. As many companies offer housing to their foreign employees, you’ll have to find a new place to live if that’s the case with you. I recommend looking for new apartments alongside your job search before you quit. And please note: your job status can impact your ability to rent an apartment. Most real estate companies want to see “stability” — i.e that you’ve had a steady job for as long as possible.
So if you’re thinking of quitting, make sure to think about your living situation first.
Again, I have a guide on finding apartments in Japan for foreigners to get yourself up to speed on the subject.
Now that you got the basics down, let’s take a look at what the actual process of quitting your job looks like and explain everything you need to do step-by-step.
Step-By-Step: How to Quit a Job in Japan
Here’s the process of quitting your job, from idea to realization.
Giving Notice and a Letter of Resignation
This is the first step in your resignation process. As I explained, giving your company at least a month’s notice is a good idea here, but you’re legally obliged to give notice two weeks prior in any case.
If your company doesn’t have a specific form or document you can fill out to resign, you’ll have to prepare a letter of resignation yourself. And if you work at a tech company — especially an international one — no letter will be necessary. You can simply have a chat with your manager.
An important point here is to clarify whether you’re being “forced” to resign or not.
If you’re not resigning on your own accord, you can state that this decision was made “due to retirement recommendation” — 退職勧奨に伴い (Taishoku kansho ni tomonai). This way, you’ll be reserving your right to claim any unpaid wages or damages from your employer legally in the future.
Essentially, a resignation letter should include the following:
Planned submission date of the letter;
Name of your company and your superior;
Your role at the company, as well as the department you work in;
Your clear wish to resign/quit, along with your reasoning.
Prepare for the Handover
You might be leaving, but the work will continue. If you want to make a graceful exit, you’ll have to hand over everything on your plate that’s in progress. That includes your current projects and tasks, as well as all the scheduled meetings and plans for the following months.
If another employee is already taking your place, you can start training them as soon as you give your notice. However, a more robust approach is to prepare handover documents.
It’s also possible that the company might hire someone entirely new to replace your position. Making sure to include every detail in your instructions is a good way to save time here, as the new employee may not be familiar with how things work.
Finally, if you’re working with clients personally, make sure to let them know by preparing “goodbye emails.” Although this isn’t essential, maintaining good client relationships certainly can’t hurt.
Returning Company Belongings
Before leaving your position, one of your last responsibilities is to hand over any company belongings that you have.
In case you might forget one or two, here’s a brief list of all the things you may be asked to hand over.
Company ID and/or badge;
Business phone, laptop, and other electronic devices;
Company insurance card;
Any work-related documents.
Obtaining Necessary Documents
As you need to hand over company belongings, your company also has a responsibility to provide you with some documents.
You’ll need these for your unemployment payments, your pension, and your tax responsibilities. Make sure that nothing is missing, as you probably don’t want to contact your ex-workplace, even if you part ways on good terms.
Pension book, or 年金手帳 (nenkin techo): This is self-explanatory — you’ll need it to keep track of your pension insurance.
Withholding Slip, or 源泉徴収票 (genzenchōshu-hyo): This document shows the amount of tax you pay from your monthly salary.
Resignation certificate, or 退職証明書 (taishoku shomeisho): A document showing that you are currently unemployed — you’ll also need this for unemployment insurance.
Turnover Slip, or 離職票 (rishoku-hyō): You’ll need this for unemployment insurance and for applying to HelloWork, the official unemployment agency in Japan.
Saying Goodbye to Coworkers
Honoring one another and showing appreciation to others is a big part of Japan’s culture.
I already talked about this extensively in my post on Omiyage, the Japanese gift-giving culture. When leaving your job, you’re expected to say goodbye and maybe even prepare small gifts for your coworkers.
Unless you’re leaving your company on bad terms, your coworkers will most likely throw a small party on your behalf to say their goodbyes. If you don’t want to be embarrassed, you may wish to prepare small gifts for mentors.
What About My Remaining Vacation Days?
Before I go, there’s one more subject I’d like to tackle that gets brought up frequently. If you’re new to Japan and its customs and laws, you might wonder what will happen to your remaining vacation days when you quit your job.
In some countries, you can get paid your salary for the remaining days before leaving, but that’s not customary in Japan.
Instead, you can remain employed for the extra days and take them at the end of your tenure. For example, if you have 10 unused vacation days, you can set your “last day” of work 2 weeks after when you actually want to quit, and simply take those 10 days off.
There may be a small number of foreign companies that do offer to pay you directly in exchange for vacation days (instead of making you do the above), but if so they’re an exception.
As I explained in my post on vacation days in Japan, using up all of your remaining paid vacation days before you leave is the best move here.
You may wonder if companies will look down on you using your days like this, but don’t worry. It’s quite commonplace, if not actively expected (especially at modern companies).