The 10 most popular Japanese Companies in 2020
What are the best companies for your first job in Japan? Based on the activity of real students looking for their first job, Japanese recruitment sites published the most popular companies among students that were job-hunting in 2020. While most of the top companies are Japanese ones, many of them are also actively hiring foreigners, so take a look! (※This article was initially published in September 2018 and last updated on January 21st, 2021.)
Top 10 companies
First, here’s a look at the overall ranking. The results are based on a survey of job search platform provider Gakujo, reflecting the answers of around 6,500 students preparing for their job hunt.
Ranking last year: 1st place
Unbeaten and still at place one for two years in a row is Itochu, one of the big Japanese general trading companies (総合商社, そうごうしょうしゃ).
B2B traders outside of Japan typically focus on a specific type of product or industry, but Japan’s general traders have it all. Itochu trades in textiles, machinery, metal, food, energy, chemicals, housing, and information and finance. The fact that the business is built on so many pillars translates to job security for a lot of job seekers. Itochu and other general traders are also known for relatively high salaries.
In addition to being open to all kinds of job seekers from inside Japan, Itochu is also accepting applicants from abroad. Last year, the application window for students of foreign universities was October 1st ~ October 29th.
2. JTB Group
Ranking last year: 3rd place
JTB Corporation is Japan’s largest travel agency. The company started out as the “Japan Tourist Bureau” in 1912 and were originally government-owned before being completely privatized in 1963. Active both inside and outside of Japan, they organize travel for Japanese and non-Japanese people alike, making them a top choice for many students who are interested in work with an “international” touch.
2020 was a hard year for travel companies. JTB is no exception – they aren’t accepting any new university graduates this year.
Ranking last year: 2nd place
One place down, but still in the top three is food giant Ajinomoto. The company is named after their original product (that you can still buy today), a MSG flavor enhancer first patented in 1907. While they have expanded since then, their product palette is still focused on food-related things such as seasonings, soups, sauces and sweeteners.
The company is active globally in a total of 35 countries. In Japan, Ajinomoto recruits new graduates in the fields of R&D and Production, Sales and Marketing, and Corporate.
Ranking last year: 7th place
Marubeni is another general trader. Originally part of Itochu (final split in 1949), the company is present in 68 countries around the globe. It trades in food, chemicals, energy, metals, electricity, and products related to forestry and infrastructure, among others.
The company is accepting applicants regardless of nationality, providing they can manage to get through the same application and screening process as their Japanese peers. New graduates are recruited in two very vague categories: 総合職 (そうごうしょく) and 一般職 (いっぱんしょく). Of the two, the former leads to a more career-oriented path that involves being dispatched to other countries for longer periods of time.
Ranking last year: 6th place
H.I.S. is another big travel agency. In addition to selling package tours, the company is also involved in the hotel business and owns the “Huis Ten Bosch” theme park in Nagasaki, a popular leisure destination within Japan.
Similar to JTB, H.I.S. stopped their recruitment of fresh graduates for 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19. Additionally, they announced in December 2020 that they would also halt all new graduate recruitment for 2022. Due to this, it’s probably safe to assume that both H.I.S. and JTB will drop out of the top 10 this year.
6. Asahi Breweries
Ranking last year: 8th place
Products of Asahi Soft Drinks are omnipresent in Japanese stores and vending machines, with their main products being alcoholic beverages as well as a wide variety of soft drinks.
In terms of proceeds, Asahi is the third biggest player in its industry. If you’ve ever been around Asakusa, you’ve probably seen the company’s headquarters in the shape of a beer jug on the banks of the Sumidagawa (with the (in)famous Asahi Beer Hall right next to it).
New graduates can start in two positions: technical (R&D, brewing, packaging, engineering) or general office work (sales, international, marketing). Foreigners are free to apply and are subject to the same selection process as Japanese applicants.
Ranking last year: 12th place
Shiseido is Japan’s largest cosmetic company, mainly producing skin/hair care and fragrances. Its long history (established in 1872) and world-wide recognition make it easy to see why the company is so popular among job seekers. Shiseido also has the reputation of being a women-friendly company, promoting a balance between work and child-raising, among others.
At the point of updating this article (January 2021), Shiseido has not released any information on fresh graduate recruitment for 2022. The signs point to the company temporarily halting out-of-university recruitment due to Covid-19.
8. Dai Nippon Printing (DNP)
Ranking last year: 9th place
DNP is one of Japan’s two big printing companies (the other one being Toppan). Befitting of its “giant” status, DNP covers the whole range from regular books, magazines, and dictionaries to posters and photo imaging.
However, they have also branched out into information communications beyond the paper medium into marketing and information security solutions. It may be this part of the company, associated with content business and IT, that’s driving popularity in the last few years.
DNP is recruiting new employees for the following job types and positions:
– Technical (R&D, system development, product and process development)
– Design (director, creator)
– General office work (sales, planning, corporate)
Ranking last year: 107th place
Nintendo is probably the highlight of this year’s ranking, with a sudden jump from 107th to 9th place. This kind of change shows how volatile these rankings can be. The release of Pokemon Sword and Shield at the end of 2019 as well as Animal Crossing in the spring of 2020 probably played a huge role in boosting the company’s popularity among student job seekers.
Nintendo is recruiting new university graduates in six different categories: Engineering (software), engineering (hardware), design, sound, planning, and general office work. For some categories, you can apply multiple times per year, but some only have one entry date. So keep your eyes peeled!
10. The Oriental Land Company
Ranking last year: 4th place
Oriental Land Company is the owner of both Tokyo Disneyland and Disney Sea, which makes it an instant top choice for many Japanese students – Disney Magic at work. This year, however, Oriental Land dropped pretty far from its former 4th place.
Applicants can start in the areas of theme park management, engineering, product design, food preparation, and general management. Recruitment through the big job portals like MyNavi and Rikunabi as well as their official website usually starts around April.
Beyond the top 10
Aside from Nintendo, a big winner in 2020 was the sports equipment maker ASICS, jumping from place 198 in 2019 to place 19. Could the Olympics have something to do with this? ANA and Sony Music Group, on the other hand, dropped out of the top 10, to rank 16 and 32 respectively.
11. Megmilk Snow Brand Corporation
12. Lotte Group
13. Morinaga & Company
14. Mitsubishi Corporation
15. Meiji Group
17. Amazon Japan
18. Kao Corporation
19. ASICS Corporation
20. Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Looking at the list, you’ll notice that almost all of the companies are Japanese – in the top 20, Lotte (Korean) and Amazon are the only exceptions. In the top 100 were also Sky (45th), Accenture (73), LINE (74) and Google (82th). That’s only six out of 100!
Part of the reason for this, of course, that it was Japanese students who were asked for this survey. However, it can also be taken as a pointer that if you want to play in Japan’s big league, you have to play by the (Japanese) rules.
Best Companies by Specialization
Japanese recruiting for university graduates is centered around dividing students into humanities and science graduates.
Thes rankings below, based on a survey from MyNavi, give a little more insight into which companies are popular with the two student groups is aiming for.
Best Companies for Humanities Graduates
- Tokyo Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co., Ltd.
- Oriental Land
- Sony Music Group
Best Companies for Science Graduates
- Suntory Group
- Toyota Motors
- NTT Data
- Meiji Group
Keep your eyes open
You probably know many of the companies above already from your home country or have encountered them during your stay in Japan. If you look at the complete company rankings beyond the top 10, you will also see many great Japanese companies that you may not yet be aware of.
Small companies are looking for foreigners
While many companies in Japan still struggle with hiring foreigners, more and more companies are opening their doors to candidates from abroad.
It is not only the big companies that are changing their recruitment outlook. Small companies also welcome foreigners. As a popularity vote, this list favors big companies, but companies with less than 30 employees make up 50% of all places hiring foreigners in Japan.
This development is really good news.
Search in Japan
Even if they don’t specifically state it on their websites, most Japanese companies are open to hiring foreigners. However, non-Japanese applicants usually have to go through the same recruitment process and meet the same conditions as Japanese candidates. In these cases, fluency in Japanese is a must, sometimes well beyond passing N1.
To increase your odds, staying in Japan for the duration of your job search is advisable. Candidates studying or living in Japan have better chances to adjust their schedules to the sometimes long-winding Japanese recruitment process, and some companies do not accept applications from anyone living outside of Japan.
If you can’t come to Japan, another option is to use services that connect foreign job-seekers with companies in Japan. One of these services is Diversity HR from Zenken Corporation, specializing in young engineers from Asia. After creating a profile, you’ll be matched with open positions that fit your background and requirements. To find out more about the service, read about it in our article here The button below will take you to the entry form directly!