Japanese firms hold in-person welcome events for new recruits

Many companies across Japan have brought back a rite of passage for new workers for the first time since the pandemic started. They are holding in-person initiation ceremonies to welcome recruits and mark the start of the business year.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking held its entrance ceremony for new employees in person for the first time in four years.

The event comes as the bank announced it would raise starting salaries by 50,000 yen, or 370 dollars. The company is trying to counter fierce competition to recruit workers as well as record high prices.

Ceremony at Mitsui Banking Corporation
Sumitomo Mitsui Banking held an initiation ceremony for new workers on April 3.

Toyota Motor also held a welcoming ceremony attended by about 1,400 new employees at its headquarters in Toyota City, Aichi Prefecture.

The company's new president Sato Koji, who officially took on the job on Saturday, gave a speech at the event.

Photo of Sato Koji speaking to new employees
Toyota Motor's new president Sato Koji gave a welcome speech at the event on April 3.

He said the firm is aiming to transform into a mobility company that delivers the value of travel to the world through cars. He asked the new employees to cherish their individuality, saying the key to change is vitality and innovation created by diversity.

The new employees will be assigned to their positions by the end of the month.

Survey: 80 percent of companies hold welcoming ceremonies in person

In the past few years, many firms have opted for online ceremonies due to the coronavirus. But a recent survey indicates that this year a growing number have decided to bring back the in-person events.

A survey of 612 companies conducted by job information firm Gakujo in late February showed that over 81 percent of the companies planned to hold welcoming ceremonies in person. The figure is up 14 percentage points from last year.

More than 90 percent of the firms said the scale of the ceremonies would be the same as before the pandemic, including the number of participants. Half of the companies said they planned to ask attendees to wear face masks at the ceremonies as part of anti-infection measures.

Photo of Sada Erika
Gakujo's Sada Erika says more firms are bringing back in-person welcome events.

Sada Erika, who was in charge of the survey, said even firms that mainly have employees work remotely opted to hold in-person ceremonies, which are seen as opportunities to get to know coworkers.

New Japanese astronaut candidate begins work at JAXA

As companies hold their welcome ceremonies, Japan's space agency also opened its doors to a new recruit. Astronaut candidate Yoneda Ayu went to work at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on Monday, pledging to do her best to become a capable astronaut while promoting the space industry and her country.

Yoneda Ayu at the office
Yoneda Ayu, new astronaut candidate, starting work at JAXA on April 3.

Yoneda and Suwa Makoto were chosen as astronaut candidates in February through JAXA's first selection program in 14 years.

Yoneda is a surgeon, and Suwa works for the World Bank. JAXA says Suwa is scheduled to join the agency on July 1.

Suwa and Yoneda will train with NASA and other entities. They are expected to be officially recognized as astronauts in two years.

Yoneda told reporters she felt both tense and motivated after receiving her entry badge for the JAXA office. She said she is very excited and is looking forward to learning a lot.