Tokyo, a vibrant metropolis blending the traditional and the futuristic, offers a unique setting for an internship. Working in this dynamic city can be an enriching experience, providing valuable insights into Japanese work culture and international business practices. Here are some tips to ensure you have successful internships in Japan.

Embrace Cultural Sensitivity

Japan has a unique cultural and social etiquette that is crucial to understand and respect. Simple gestures, such as bowing instead of shaking hands, using honorifics when addressing colleagues, and following gift-giving customs, can go a long way in building strong professional relationships. Understanding these nuances will make your interactions smoother and show your respect for Japanese culture.

Learn Basic Japanese

While many Japanese professionals speak English, knowing basic Japanese phrases can significantly enhance your experience. Greetings, polite expressions, and common office terminology can help you navigate daily interactions. Apps like Duolingo or language exchange meetups can be useful resources. Additionally, trying to learn the language demonstrates your commitment to integrating into the local culture.

Understand the Japanese Work Ethic

Japanese work culture is known for its dedication and diligence. Punctuality is highly valued, so always arrive on time. Be prepared for a hierarchical structure where respect for seniority is crucial. Showing initiative, even in small tasks, and being willing to work overtime when necessary can earn you respect and recognition.

Dress Appropriately

Business attire in Japan is typically conservative. Men should wear dark suits, white shirts, and ties, while women should opt for formal business suits or dresses. Pay attention to the company’s dress code, and err on the side of formality when in doubt. Your appearance can significantly impact the first impression you make.

Build Relationships with Colleagues

Networking is essential in any professional setting, and in Japan, building relationships (nemawashi) is particularly important. Participate in company events, after-work gatherings (nomikai), and other social activities. These informal settings can be a great opportunity to bond with colleagues and understand the team dynamics better.

Be Observant and Adaptive

Every company has its own unique culture and working style. Observe how things are done, from the way meetings are conducted to how decisions are made. Adapt your approach accordingly to align with the company’s norms. Being flexible and open-minded will help you integrate more smoothly into the team.

Seek Feedback

Regular feedback can provide valuable insights into your performance and areas for improvement. Don’t hesitate to ask your supervisor or colleagues for constructive criticism. This shows your willingness to learn and grow, which is highly appreciated in a Japanese work environment.

Be Respectful and Humble

Humility is a valued trait in Japan. Always show respect to your colleagues, regardless of their position. Avoid boasting about your achievements or comparing your experiences to those in your home country. Instead, focus on learning from the local practices and appreciating the differences.

Explore Tokyo

While your primary focus is your internship, don’t miss the opportunity to explore Tokyo. The city has cultural sites, modern attractions, and diverse neighborhoods. Visiting places like Shibuya, Asakusa, and Akihabara can provide a deeper understanding of Japanese culture and society. Balancing work and leisure will help you make the most of your stay in Tokyo.

Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Japanese work culture can sometimes be intense, with long working hours. It’s essential to manage your time effectively to avoid burnout. Prioritize your tasks, take short breaks when needed, and ensure you have time to relax and recharge. Engaging in activities such as sports, hobbies, or exploring nature can help maintain your well-being.

Understand the Importance of Silence

In Japanese culture, silence is often seen as a sign of respect and contemplation. Don’t feel pressured to fill every pause in conversation. Instead, learn to be comfortable with silence and use it as an opportunity to listen and reflect.

Leverage Public Transportation

Tokyo’s public transportation system is efficient and extensive. Familiarize yourself with the subway and train networks. Punctuality is highly regarded, so plan your commute accordingly. Understanding the public transportation system will also enable you to easily explore the city.


An internship in Tokyo can be a transformative experience, offering both professional growth and personal enrichment. By embracing cultural sensitivity, showing respect, and being proactive, you can successfully navigate the Japanese work environment. Remember to balance work with leisure to enjoy what Tokyo offers fully. With the right mindset and approach, your internship in Tokyo can be a rewarding and memorable journey.