Message from our IAP members

NameLiam Phelan


IAP Time2019 ~ Now

Current WorkplaceAlps Alpine Co. Ltd., Ireland

Application and Getting Started

I joined Alps Alpine as an IAP in November 2019. I applied for the position because I had long held an interest in Japan and thought that working for Alps would provide a unique and challenging opportunity to develop skills in an interesting and expanding sector. I also saw the chance of getting to live in Japan as a great way to further learn about the country, culture, and language first hand.

After arriving the first 2 weeks were spent at the HQ in Tokyo, and they were useful for gradually getting used to working in a Japanese environment instead of diving into the deep end. It also allowed for the opportunity to see different parts of Tokyo.

Alps was of great assistance in moving to Japan. They arranged the flights and accommodation, and were ready on day one to sort out the important registrations which are required by law. It was nice to have some of the pressures of moving to a new country reduced.

While this picture was taken on a different trek, the sunset reminds me of the time I was walking beneath migrating birds on my way back from Tajiri.

While this picture was taken on a different trek,
the sunset reminds me of the time I was walking beneath migrating birds on my way back from Tajiri.

About Furukawa

Working as an electrical engineer, my work in Furukawa was carried out across a few different environments. About half of my time was spent at my desk in the office, which follows the traditional Japanese open office layout. The majority of the rest of my time was spent at a workbench in a different building, where I had access to a variety of instruments for analysing the projects I worked on. Despite my background being a degree in Physics, I found my co-workers quite supportive in explaining concepts which I would not have had a deep depth of knowledge with.

There is always some conversation in Japanese occurring, so it is important to learn the language to remain up to date on everything. My superiors and colleagues made an effort to talk with me in English. However, I think it is more beneficial to have a solid grasp of the local language, so that one is more aware of what is being said and the risk of something being lost in translation is reduced. This naturally requires studying the language regularly in one’s own time unless you have the good fortune to be fluent already. The work culture was distinct from anything which I had experienced so far, everybody in the office chips in to handle tasks such as cleaning.

Ultimately, I came to work for ALAP during a period of change. When I first arrived, we were still using the old uniforms and changing rooms. The redevelopment work on the site also began during my second winter here, the sight of the construction site at night was quite cool. Other changes such as telework were a direct cause of the pandemic. I think it was a rare opportunity to see how a large company handles large changes from an external source.

Frozen glacial lakes are cold.

Frozen glacial lakes are cold.

Outside of work

As I said, I came to Japan towards the end of 2019. Unfortunately, the corona pandemic would begin in China two months later. As such, I found myself with reduced opportunities to engage with the local culture. Prior to corona, I had attended a futsal training session at the local gymnasium and had some fun at that but it was not something which I kept up. Aside from hanging out with fellow IAPs once a month or so, I did not find much opportunity for socialising outside of work. When it came to travelling and enjoying the local vicinity, I generally stuck to solo-travels and relied on my bike to bring me to new sights within range of Furukawa. Which was not in itself a bad thing, and probably a more unique experience than I would have otherwise had by riding only the same trainline to Sendai and then using Sendai as a hub for further destinations.

I have learned some invaluable lessons during my time here. It was the longest time which I have spent away from home, so it provided me with an opportunity for self-reflection. I would recommend applying for an IAP position to anybody that wants an opportunity to challenge themselves while working for an innovative company which will support your professional development.

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