#01 - On creating Japan Life Stories

- with Paul Gaumer -


Welcome to Japan Life Stories, your new podcast connecting you directly to foreigners who built a successful life and career in Japan.

My name is Paul and I'll be your host on this show.

As this episode is the very first of our series, I'd like to use this opportunity to introduce myself and share more on the concept of Japan Life Stories.

About the show

If you are interested in Japan, in its culture and in knowing more about the daily life of many expatriates here, this show is for you.

If you are planning on moving to Japan and have a thousand questions on the process and opportunities laying in the country, this show is even more for you.

Each episode will be a conversation with a foreigner who built a life in Japan.

They might be working as teachers, developers, photographers, mangaka or factory workers, in the city or in the country side, being here for 2 or 20 years.

All of them experienced a different Japan and will share their insights on their journey.

As a reminder, you can also find us on our website JapanLifeStories.com, where all the written versions of the interviews will be posted, as well as show notes, articles, links and resources shared by our guests.

You will also find on the website additional resources on how to kickstart your life in Japan, build a successful career and get started on YOUR journey.

By the way, we've just release a free book sharing our best tips on how to travel to Japan on a budget, and in some cases even for free!

Check it out on JapanLifeStories.com

Who Am I?

As you'll hear my voice quite a lot, let me share who I am, for our first life story.

My name is Paul Gaumer and I'm French, as you might have guessed from the accent.

I have lived exclusively in Japan for the past 10 years and am know traveling back and forth between France and Japan with Yukari, my wife, and my 2 years old son.

During these 10 years, I've had the great privilege of experiencing many unique situations. Some that foreigners will probably experience. Others more confidential that might never occur again.

But while I still have a lot to learn about Japan, I believe all these experiences gave me a solid understanding of the country's subtleties in terms of language, culture, work environment, official and tacit rules. And there are a lot of them!

My background

Just to give you a bit of context, here is a brief timeline of my background:


I started studying Japanese at University in France in 2006. After several summers spent in the country doing various activities, my business school sent me spend my graduation year at Meiji University, Tokyo. This was in 2010.

Being a university student in Japan was a fantastic experience and I can only encourage anyone having a chance to be an exchange student to do so.

Working Life

After graduation, I started working in the recruitment industry as a head hunter for the financial & technological markets.

I worked for two companies, one American (Robert Half Japan) and one British (Robert Walters Japan), both giants of the recruitment world.

While these were two very tough years, the experience has been invaluable and created the foundations of how I have been able to conduct business later on!

We'll probably have a chance to discuss the recruitment industry into more details during a later podcast episode with industry experts. Recruitment is actually a big player many foreigners will have to deal with at some point in their careers and there are a few keys that can help you navigate a bit easier.

Recruitment is also a very interesting opportunity to get a first job in Japan.

Looking to extend my marketing experience, I moved in 2013 to a product company and started working as an export manager for a french sports manufacturer (Babolat VS).

I became part of a very small team of 3 in charge of the whole Japanese market, operating from within a very traditional Japanese company, part of the Sumitomo group.

You might have heard the name before, but Sumitomo is what used to be called a Zaibatsu after the War (now Keiretsu). In short a giant conglomerate with business activities impacting many of the sectors you could have in mind: finance, industry, travel, entertainment and so on.

Working 3 years as a small independent unit within a traditional Japanese company was a mix between Lost in Translation, the Office and Wall Street.

More importantly, it taught me how the Japanese working culture works, how it differs from its occidental equivalent and once more, how to navigate its layers. The Japanese work environment is a very deep topic and will be discussed into more details with different guests during future episodes, so stay tuned.

During that time, I got the chance to work on the launch of a very innovative product: the world's first connected Tennis racket. Being new to IOT and to the tech field in general, I enjoyed working with developers, app development and innovative technologies. Enough to give me personal startup ideas.

Becoming an entrepreneur

I soon started to learn how to code by myself, using online tutorials and articles.

After failing to launch my first business idea, I realized my love for coding and wanted to learn more. This is how I discovered the concept of a coding bootcamp.

Coding Bootcamps are short-term, highly-specialized schools teaching you software development in 9 weeks or more.

None were existing in Japan and as I didn't have the budget to study in the US, I enrolled for a school in France called "Le Wagon".

Long story short, I came back to Japan shortly after graduating from the bootcamp and decided to scratch my own itch by launching Le Wagon here.

Why? If I had been looking for a coding bootcamp in Japan, there were high chances others might too. And there were!

Our team helped over a hundred talents change their lives through programming, including many of them finding a job and settling in Japan.

Launching and developing a company here has been another extraordinary adventure.

From finding a co-founder, incorporating, creating a market and a brand, hiring talents and finding customers, organizing events to eventually selling my activities, many lessons were learnt, which I intend to share progressively. Stay tuned!

What's next?

This was a brief summary of 10 years in Japan:

  • Student Life
  • Corporate Life
  • Entrepreneur Life

But thinking back about it, there has always been a common theme to all these lives: help people succeed in Japan. Help them get a comfortable life here. Help them navigate the maze.

And this is the reason why we decided to create Japan Life Stories:

  • Help YOU navigate the maze
  • Help YOU benefit from the life experiences of many other foreigners who settled in the country
  • Guide YOU through the many contrasts of this wonderful society.

Living in Japan is a dream for many, it was mine (it still is) and we truly hope Japan Life Stories will help you achieve your dream.

New episodes will be posted during the next few weeks, so make sure to subscribe to the podcast on Itunes or in your favorite podcast player.

Again, you can find us online at JapanLifeStories.com and you can also contribute to the podcast. If you know any foreigner living in Japan with an interesting life story, a unique hobby or activity and would love to hear them share their story, send us an email at


We'll make sure to follow up!

Thanks for listening and see you in the next episode!