When does a new year in Japan really start? The obvious answer would be January 1, just like many cultures throughout the world. However, there’s another “New Year’s Day” in Japan, and that’s April 1. When spring is in full swing, cherry blossoms bloom and life begins anew.
Introducing the Japanese Fiscal Year: Nendo (年度)
In addition to the calendar year, much of Japanese society also follows the fiscal year, known as nendo, which starts on April 1 and ends on March 31 the following year. The government officially runs on this schedule and many businesses tend to follow suit. Nendo permeates all layers of society. The school year, from elementary through college, begins in April. Large, traditional Japanese companies hire and start training nearly all of their new recruits simultaneously in April as well.
Learning to Live with Multiple Calendars
Upon moving to Japan in 2009, I had to adjust to many Japanese traditions and customs. Fortunately, the nendo system wasn’t one of them. Having arrived in Japan mid-career with a business background, my life in the U.S. had already conditioned me to deal with fiscal years. I just had to learn which aspects of Japanese society followed the calendar year and which ones followed the fiscal year. Presently, I work with multiple companies, and their chosen fiscal years may vary. Therefore the most important thing for me is being aware of any clients that have an atypical fiscal year (i.e. October to the following September).
That being said, if you are coming to Japan as a student or seeking to land your first full-time job here, you’ll definitely want to familiarize yourself with how the fiscal year works. If you don’t account for differences in admissions and hiring practices between your country and Japan, you may end up wasting significant amounts of time or, worse yet, missing out on unique opportunities.