Mechanical Engineering Jobs in Japan
Traditional engineering continues to be of vital importance in today’s Japan in the form of companies like Mitsubishi and Honda. Find out what the country has in store for engineers able to clear the language hurdle.
Mechanical Engineering in Japan
Mechanical Engineering can probably be called the mother of all engineering disciplines. Mechanical engineers combine knowledge in physics, mechanics, electricity and many others to design and manufacture machines and various structures.
Where’s the connection between Mechanical Engineering and Japan? Well, if there’s one thing that can be said about this country, it’s that it isn’t rich in natural resources. As a result, many companies began to implement strategies for the optimization of operations (業務効率化, gyoumu kouritsu-ka) after World War II. This, of course, also included optimization of mechanical equipment.
Nowadays, Japanese companies produce a variety of high-end technology, such as automobiles, aircraft engines, aerospace components, industrial robots, ships and many more. Japan is also known as a forerunner in domestic/service robotics as well as hybrid/electric and fuel cell cars. Naturally, the mechanically inclined should be intrigued by what the country has to offer.
Necessary Skills for Mechanical Engineers
Most Japanese companies don’t require a specific educational background as long as you have an engineering degree.
Since the typical Japanese company plans to keep its employees for a long time and trains them on the job, it is often no problem if new graduates “only” having solid fundamental knowledge. So, if your Japanese is good enough, you might be able to get the job even if you weren’t a straight-A student.
For mid-career entrants, some companies specify a number of years of experience in a certain field (e.g. at least 3 years in engine construction), while some just require “experience” in general. Anyway, be prepared to talk about what kind of work you did in the past and how you can use your knowledge to the company’s advantage.
If you’re majoring in Mechanical Engineering, look for keywords such as:
機械工学 (kikai kougaku) – mechanical engineering
機械系 (kikai-kei) – machine/mechanically related
機械 (kikai) – machine.
Standard requirements like being able to work in a team, communicating efficiently, operating under tight schedules and keeping deadlines, etc. all apply. In addition, because of the technological (and often development-related) nature of the jobs, many companies look for people with an analytic and/or creative mindset.
Unless the company has an English recruitment page (the overwhelming majority doesn’t), you can expect Japanese to be the main language at the workplace. Consequently, you should have advanced Japanese skills and have passed the JLPT at level N2 or N1.
Some companies require TOEIC scores for proof of English proficiency, usually between 500 and 700 points. However, what matters more than the test is the ability to communicate in English. If you’re a native speaker or have very good English skills, you might not have to take the test.
Where can you work as a Mechanical Engineer in Japan?
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (三菱重工業株式会社) is one of the Mitsubishi Group’s core companies. It is active in a wide variety of fields, including aerospace, automotive, environment, infrastructure, industrial machinery, and shipbuilding.
Industry: Heavy Equipment
Products: Aerospace components, machine tools, hydraulic equipment, engines, etc.
Nissan Motor Corporation
Nissan Motor Corporation (日産自動車株式会社) is a multinational automobile manufacturer with factories in over 15 countries. The company currently is the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles.
Products: Automobiles, forklifts, trucks
Konica Minolta (コニカミノルタ株式会社) is the result of a merger between Konica and Minolta in 2006. Since leaving the camera industry in 2007, the company now focuses on its production of printing and digital imaging technology.
Products: Copy machines, laser printers, measuring instruments, optical lenses
Hitachi Ltd. (株式会社日立製作所) is a diversified conglomerate active in a wide variety of areas, similar to Mitsubishi (Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have some ties in the thermal power generation business).
Industry: Electronics, Industrial machinery, Automotive
Products: Industrial motors, pumps and generators, engine components, elevators and escalators, etc.
Honda Motor Company, Ltd.
Honda Motor Company, Ltd. (本田技研工業株式会社) is mainly known for its automobiles and motorbikes. However, as a multinational conglomerate firm, it is also active in other areas such as robotics and power equipment.
Industry: Automotive, power tools, robotics
Products: Automobiles, motorcycles, lawnmowers, high-pressure cleaners, etc.
Not as well-known as Mitsubishi, IHI Corporation (株式会社IHI) is active in a similarly wide area of sectors: Energy and environment (boilers, power plants), infrastructure (bridges, offshore structures), industrial systems (turbochargers, machinery for ships) and aircraft equipment.
Industry: Heavy Equipment
Products: Compressors, aircraft engines, gas turbines, ships
Komatsu Limited (株式会社小松製作所) is best known for its excavators, which can be seen at construction sites around the world. In the area of construction equipment, it is second only to the American Caterpillar.
Industry: Heavy Equipment
Products: Construction and mining equipment, foresting and tunneling machines