What are the criterions to choose a "good" laboratory?

The best criterions, and the most easily to get from the professor that you have chosen, is to ask
  1. Could you skip the seminars/meetings in
    japanese if you do not understand the language.
  2. Are you free of your schedule
STOP 1. I do not say that if you waste some hours per week you will be unhappy. Similarly, many people in the world are not free of their schedule and are happy in their professional life!
SO? What is the problem? The problem is if you get an answer "NO" to the two questions it shows that your professor belongs to a certain type and therefore that induces many other things not specially pleasant (see the following).

STOP 2. DO NOT BE PRETENTIOUS! Do not think that the other people did not want to integrate the japanese society and that you are better than them, that you can understand the japanese culture, that you will be happy even if there are unhappy, and so on. This is a common mistake of young (and less young) people. The people who came in Japan are, in their great majority, very eager to know and integrate the japanese society, there are not better, but not worse, than you.
You can say that the japaneses who are in this laboratory must follow the rule imposed by the professor. Sure. And so? All people are the same, japaneses as foreigners. And if you are unhappy, they are simply also unhappy! However I do not say that it is not an interesting situation: you will learn many things (I mean personally). But you will not be satisfied with your professional life.

In the following I explain with the help of the survey what are the important points to have a satisfying professional experience in Japan. For some points you can check them only if you go in Japan. Therefore, if you have the possibility, I advice you strongly to: go to your laboratory one or two months before going for a longer period.
Or, if you cannot, always anticipate a problem and plan something if you get some trouble in Japan. For example f you want to do a master or a PhD, try to get an inscription in your country: you will have no problem to go back if your stay does not satisfy you. There have been some examples of people going back without diploma after one, two or even three years!

The best is to understand why the previous foreigners were not happy in their professional life and try find some criterions which can be useful.
To do that we can consider the question of the survey:
4.2. Do (did) you enjoy your stay in Japan in your professional life?
and compare the results of the people who have answered "a lot", "correct", "not".
We consider that the important points are those where the results are different and the unimportant points are those where similar. These differences are displayed below.

Important points:

a) To have relations with your boss and colleagues In Japan, very quickly you can find yourself isolated. It is therefore very important to have relations with your professor. However if your professor is very busy, maybe you will have no relation. In this case, statistically, you will be surely unhappy in your lab.
b) To have a boss/colleague Open/Friendly/Polite * The boss has a very important power in Japan, without comparison to the western country, and we OFTEN need him. With a "bad" boss, almost impossible to be happy at work.
** avoiding problem with the "japanese politeness": wide gap between what is said and what is expected
*** Possibility to work in a team
c) To have a good equipment (computer, experiment) * Do not think that it is because the Japan is a rich country that all laboratories will have the last of the technique. Far away. So try to check it before going, asking your professor exactly what he has. Do not worry to disturb him, he will ask a student to do it for him.
** In particular check if he your computer will be in English or japanese and, if you do not speak japanese, ask him if you will be able to install an English (French, German or what you want) version. Do not think that the answer will be automatically positive. And bring your version!
d) To be free of your schedule Statistically the people who are very happy are free of their schedule. A typical week in a Japanese laboratory is Monday-Saturday from 9:30 am to the "evening", which means, depending of the professor, 7:00 pm to 23:00 pm. And for some laboratories with some seminars-meeting on Sunday. To be free of your schedule is a guaranty which is important.
e) Do not have to assist to the seminar-meeting in Japanese if you do not speak the language. No, the answer is not obvious. For 52% of the people who are not happy they have to. The percentage is only of 33% for the people who are very happy. More than the time that you waste (in average 3 hours but this could go until 8 hours like in my laboratory) it represents a characteristic of the rigidity of your professor. An easy check must be done before going to Japan.

Non important points:

Which means no differences between the answers of the people who are "very happy", "happy" or "unhappy" in their professional life.
a) Money It seems that the salary is not the fundamental element to differentiate the people happy from unhappy.
b) Knowledge of Japanese Surprising the knowledge of the Japanese is not an important point. There is the same proportion for the 3 categories (very happy-happy-unhappy).
c) Number of presence at work Also not a criterion to differentiate the three categories. However the happy-very happy people (56 hours in average by week) work more than the unhappy (51 hours). But this last average is due to the people who have no contact with their professor. For the other the average is similar around 55 hours.
d) Holidays No differences of answers between the three categories: around 20 days by year.

More comments are accessible at Comments (in French!)
and you can make your own conclusions looking at: STATISTICAL RESULTS (in English)

If you have some questions or comments please send me a message:
loison(the usual sign)