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Visiting Japan in 2022: An interview with Andrew Oliver

As we continue to adapt to COVID-19's ever-changing tune, those of us in Japan welcomed recent news that the world's third-largest economy may begin to open again.

It's good news. Last year, those of us who needed to go home could either leave, but not get back, or jump through Olympic-level bureaucratic hoops to return. Now, locals and permanent residents can travel with relatively minimal requirements. More recently, people are allowed to visit family members in Japan (again, with considerable hoop-jumping required). Talks around carefully controlled tour groups being allowed visitation in the summer are happening.

At the Profile Tokyo office, we’re seeing clients returning. In May, one client who retained us on a recent search flew to Japan to meet a handful of top candidates. There was also another visitor – Profile's very own Managing Director, Andrew Oliver!

Andrew visited the team for the first time since the Japan office opened. We sat down to discuss his trip to Japan, his hopes for the business here and his experience visiting Tokyo.​

Q: Is this your first trip to Japan?

A: I visited previously on a business trip at the end of 2019, just before the pandemic. It’s safe to say a lot has changed since then! I've stopped through a few times to go skiing and visited once to meet with a prospective business partner. So, it’s the second time for business and the first time since we've established our own business here.

It's great to travel again and see people face-to-face. Especially in Japan, where I’ve gotten to meet and connect with the Tokyo team for the first time.

Q: How did you find the logistics of getting here?

A: It was a little complicated, but I had great help from Yuko (Profile Tokyo's Office Manager). There was a lot of paperwork, but the trip overall was excellent. I landed in Haneda, which was a great experience. Very smooth compared to a somewhat unpleasant and stressful experience than when I flew back to Europe.

Within two hours of touching down, I was in my hotel. The staff in the airport were great, and when I had an issue with the language, a friendly local stepped in to help.

Q: What have you been up to since you arrived?

​A: I purposely arrived on Friday to have time to adjust and deal with jetlag. I then took a walk, visited a few places – Shibuya crossing, got a photo – and had some great sushi at the hotel.

Q: Name some things you ate during your stay?

A: Some toro, some octopus, miso, a handroll with toro and scallions, and washed it all down with a couple of Suntorys. I liked it so much I went back the next day! I also ate some ramen in Roppongi at a nice little booth at the counter and a pork-based soup with minced pork and egg. I also visited Hie Shrine near the hotel and took a few more photos. I basically enjoyed being a tourist! It’s been a fantastic experience; Tokyo is such a great city

Q: Has Tokyo changed since your last visit?

A: It's difficult to escape COVID-19's impact. Of course, my experience being a visitor is very different compared to locals, but it feels like I've arrived in spring. Everything seems fine. It feels as though people are ready to get back to normal. Although things are vastly different, it feels like there’s a reset and an eagerness to push on.

Aside from that, there's that overwhelming sense of a mix of chaos and calm in Japan. It can be quite discombobulating as a foreigner, but it's calm because everyone is so nice. Of course, the big difference from the last time I was here is the COVID-19 side – but clearly, things are opening, which feels very positive.

Q: What are your thoughts on Japan business wise?

A: It is hugely exciting. We always had a long-term view, and Japan was part of the plan. The time and effort going into China slowed down the entry here. You could say we were a little bit late to the party. But we’re here now, and clients in Hong Kong, Singapore and China are already excited to hear about our Tokyo office. And, going forward, our WilsonHCG business will also utilize our expertise here.

Japan is a huge market. There is a ton of potential, which is why it was so important for me to be here to meet the team and interview potential new hires to extend our offering into Financial Service. The RPO business is expanding in Tokyo. And when the borders open more, and we all become more mobile, we will want people to come over and spend time here. It’s also important to get the Japan team over to our more established regions to meet clients there. Connectivity is so important. These are exciting times, but not particularly easy. But we have zero regrets for doing it at a tough time – we have a solid team here and lots of good vibes.

Q: Finally, Japan has a reputation for being a bit weird. Any strange or unusual experiences here?

A: Apart from the chicken cartilage (that the Tokyo team insisted I eat during our team meal), not really! I'm no Japan expert, but I did have some expectations, which have been exceeded. You forget how nice and polite everyone is. And it's just so good to meet everyone in person for a change! Food and drink make the world go round! There has been a lot of introspection on the changes we've been through over the last two and a half years, so it's great reconnecting face-to-face with people and finding out how things operate locally here. There is opportunity in adversity. I'm proud to be with so many amazing team members — it feels like our business is going through an awakening as Japan opens back up once more. This fills me with hope.


Looking to hire in Japan? Contact our executive search team in Tokyo.

From labour laws and compliance to the increasingly candidate-driven market, it can be difficult to find qualified candidates in Japan to fit your growing business. Our experienced team of consultants in Tokyo can help you navigate the challenges and complexities of the Japanese market, and attract and hire top senior leaders to drive your organisation forward.


Liam Hegarty, Associate Director, Profile, A WilsonHCG Company


July 2022

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