I mentioned this over on Debito, and I’m not sure I ever did so here.
It is without an argument that you are at a disadvantage if you try to work in Japan without the language, which takes you some time (usually several years) and effort to master.
BUT, even if you do know the language, that’s no guarantee that you get to make a career in Japan.
I call these the Three Cards of Japan. Here they are:
Card One – “You don’t really speak the language.”
Card Two – “You speak the language, but you aren’t Japanese. We don’t have a problem with that, but it can be a hindrance in innumerable other ways.”
Card Three – (for Americans of ethnic and lingual Japanese background) “You may speak the language, and even look Japanese, but you don’t understand the wa, so you’ll never fit in here.”
(By the way, I met any number of Japanese who’ve told me they don’t get the wa, either. They are usually too busy trying to read the air (read the handwriting on the wall.))
It’s excuse, on top of excuse, on top of excuse. If you are studying Japanese and read me for advice, I have to tell you that if you get good at Japanese, your only real guarantee is that you will more likely than not get handed Card Two.
There is of course the Lehman Shock Bonus Card circulating around. I think that’s the one used on Japanese in Japan. But that excuse won’t last forever.