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Ask HN: I started a company in Japan but I'm in over my head
193 points by ownerthrowaway on June 11, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 157 comments
So, long story short, I invested 50k USD into incorporating a company in Japan (a 株式会社) and now I'm realising I probably don't have what it takes to make this work.

A bit of background: I've been in Japan since 2011, doing a mix of programming, studying and English teaching. I've never managed to keep a programming job longer than 6 months, so realistically I was mostly supported by English teaching.

I like living in Japan but I haven't been able to progress my career much. I thought maybe I would have better luck starting my own company so I paid an judicial scrivener to incorporate a company and I invested all my savings into it. Another reason for starting the company was to allow me to extend my visa.

Well, after starting the company at the start of this year I realise I was hopelessly naive. I haven't really managed to do anything (the same problem I had when I was working for other companies). I've only really managed to use my bank account recently. I've got lots of forms and paperwork that I'm supposed to file but I don't really know what its for or how to fill it in. I've very much in over my head.

I haven't managed to release any software or do any consulting.

What is my next step? I have honestly thought about suicide, or just fleeing the country. But I want to do the right thing, I don't want my actions to reflect badly on other foreigners in Japan.

Does anyone have any advice about what to do next, or how to avoid getting into scrapes like this in the future?

Do you want to continue operating a business? If so, then you probably want accountants to handle the paperwork / filings part of running the business for you. You should expect to pay about ~$10k a year for this all in, including the service in English that (reading between the lines) you likely require.

If you cannot operate a business, then you can have accountants wind down the operations of the current business. This will not reflect particularly poorly on you, especially to the extent that the business was more a paper entity than something with material operations. (Failure at running a business is not exactly prized in Japan; infelicitous choices in paperwork can be taken care of.)

I would be happy to give you the name of an English-speaking accountancy in Tokyo that can help you with either of the above. Please feel free to send me an email; my address is in my profile.

You should probably speak to a mental health professional. I don't have a great recommendation for one here; consider asking your friends or, in extremis, your local city hall for a referral to an English-speaking one. If the health-oriented parts of city hall don't have a ready answer the internationalization-oriented part (hopefully) does; this is a Top 10 ask for them.

I'm curious why it costs so much to handle the paperwork/filings for a company that sounds like it's essentially dormant. Is that just normal in Japan?

Also is 50k the cost of incorporation or the capital required to incorporate in Japan? If so, if he/she dissolves the company can she get some of that back?

To the original poster, I wish you all the best, sincerely, you can get through this, and like others have said you can make back the 50k, try not to worry about that, that only pays for a couple of years of private school for a little kid where I live.

To your first question: this is simply the cost-of-doing-business here, driven (largely) by Japan's expectation that the company is the primary interface between a citizen and the government, and therefore the company bears responsibility for sending a licensed professional to the relevant offices approximately monthly bearing filings relevant to their employees, and this licensed professional has the opposite of economies of scale if they're taking in filings for 1 employee. (There's also a premium built into that price for service in English, which is something most accountancies in Japan can't offer in-house.)

It is not particularly expensive to incorporate a company in Japan and, while capital requirements were once in the $30k range, they're functionally $0 now. I will not speculate as to the original poster's financial circumstances.

As a point of contrast, my family’s 株式会社 spends about US$2,000 or less annually. This is without English support, though.

> 株式会社

To save other folks the trouble, Google Translate says this translates to: "Ltd.".

Google Translate is essentially correct, but Wikipedia has more details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabushiki_gaisha

It's more like a corporation, specifically one which issues shares.

Added: There is a separate classification which is virtually identical to U.S. LLCs (because it was modeled after them), called 合同会社.

It appears he formed a Co., Ltd. (Company Limited) which is a private/unlisted stock corporation.

A Kabushikigaisha is roughly equivalent to a C Corp in the US. You’ve probably seen the abbreviation K.K. after Japanese company names before.

I put in 50k because that is what is needed to get a business manager visa. Right now it is sitting in the company account. I'm sure I could get some of it back if I closed the company.

If the $50k is your paid up registered capital, you can loan out the money back to yourself as a loan to director or even another legal entity (such as a US or foreign corporation, LLC, LP, etc.). The $50k of registered capital (the investment to secure the visa) would remain on the balance sheet.

Perhaps you could remain in business and assist foreigners with setting up Japanese companies.

> Perhaps you could remain in business and assist foreigners with setting up Japanese companies.

Someone with an empty shell business, limited or no Japanese skill and no Japanese cofounder is precisely the last person I would ask advice to set up my company there.

I wrote a comment further down, but I wanted to say that I've gotten a lot of advice from business owners over the years. I have many family members, and my own great grandparents all the way down my generation were all business owners, including many, many relatives.

I've had multiple business coaches and personal advisors as well, and across the board, all of them would tell me that you need to have a full and complete plan before even starting out creating a business.

I did it by the seat of my pants and paid dearly through some near disasters. But I never had 50k invested up front. If you had a viable plan to make this work, you just need to work your plan. If you don't, you should seriously consider pulling out as much money as you can and take this experience as a solid life lesson.

Those that won't quit don't really talk like you are right now in your original posting. My sense is that you have skills, talent in other areas and were trying to get happiness through an area of life you don't excel at.

I hope you figure this all out, all the best to you.

Thanks for your advice and your experience. I have an accountant but he doesn't speak English. I feel anxious contacting him. Realising how much he is costing me (about 3200 USD a year) is one thing that set me off.

I read in some of your past posts about how your accountant needs to fit your business. I think I made a bad choice of accountants. He works very much on paper and can't understand why I'm not going to visit clients etc. I very much feel like we're talking at cross purposes.

I've been going to counseling and I found it very helpful. I started going when I couldn't handle my past job. They gave me the advice that maybe I was more suited to working for myself than working for a company. I usually feel very good after visiting them but it quickly wears off.

If you're feeling down and need someone to talk to, I can really recommend /r/KindVoice. You can be as anonymous as you want, it's just a community of people who want to help others when they need it the most. They also have a discord server, so it's a bit more of a direct interaction than through reddit.

As others have mentioned, the paperwork can wait. Your accounting entries are immaterial at this point. Do you have an international health insurance plan that has mental health coverage such as Bupa or Cigna Global?

But you wrote: I've got lots of forms and paperwork that I'm supposed to file but I don't really know what its for or how to fill it in.

How about this idea: maybe there are some action items there for this accountant?

Just want to point out that it doesn't necessarily cost this much ($10k) just for an accountant.

My accountant is ~$200/month + ~$1k for special end-of-year reporting/filing and ~$1k for beginning of year (~April in japan) reporting/filing. I spend none of my time thinking about anything other than the bank balance and we meet whenever to discuss what the business can/should be doing.

Unfortunately, I can't 100% verify that what my accountant does is the highest quality accounting there is, since I'm not an accountant, but I haven't gotten even a whiff of impropriety. No angry letters from the city office or anything either.

hey my company has 1 person (me) and i paid only 10,000 jpy per month for a visiting accountant.

Hey please head to hntokyo.io and join the HN Tokyo slack and I think you'd be able to find some help.

Also, there's a meet up this week on Thursday (I think -- https://hntokyo.doorkeeper.jp/) if you're free to come to that, and you can meet some of the community.

I also know a fantastic accountant that has helped me since I got to the country, along with a great lawyer that has helped me renew my visa every year as I run my own tiny tiny consultancy.

Feel free to email me as well -- I am in just about the exact same boat as you except I went the 合同会社 route. Please don't do anything rash until you at least attend the meetup this week https://hntokyo.doorkeeper.jp/ and talk to some people who can help.

[EDIT] - Considering the off-chance that you don't go to the meet up or contact me -- what you can do is actually get a contract position at a software company in Japan (check out AngelList, Glassdoor, whatever), you can actually find a company that will contract with your company DIRECTLY -- then you can put some money in the bank and feel like you're being productive.

Also, I've never known anything to generate better motivation to work on your own stuff than building someone else's stuff. So I'm sure after a few months you'll find some more motivation to work on your own stuff.

You probably need to dump your accountant -- sounds like they're not anywhere near useful enough -- I use http://www.mimaki-tax.com/.

Thanks for the invitation, I would love to take you up on it but Tokyo is a long way away from where I live.

I've actually had multiple freelance contracts locally but I've never managed to do any of them really. I had one making a business database of properties for a realtor where I couldn't make any progress and just stopped contacting them. I want to email them to apologise but I can never bring myself to do it.

If you frequently stop contacting people and are remorseful but can't get yourself to take action (it sounds like you have this issue) and have had problems "escaping" other situations (thinking of suicide or just leaving the country, etc.); try to reframe your situation.

There's a couple of ways to think about this: 1. What's the worst thing that could happen to you if you disappoint someone?...really, there's not much. Also, worse-case scenario to anything in life is you get punished with jail and/or fines. You are in control of your destiny in these cases. Don't think that there's no way out...there's always a way out. You sound like someone that likes challenges - think of this as a challenge that you have to solve. In the end; for what you have invested, what's another $5k (for a good accountant and/or house-keeping of documents) if it solves your headaches and you can stay in Japan? Try to find a mentor or someone who has been in similar situations to you.

The "escape problems" that you suffer from are caused by anxiety and/or depression. It will take a while to train your brain to think differently and come to recognize these situations as they happen. Try to do a bit of retrospective analysis of how you got to your current predicament and what you could've done differently. This will help you avoid similar pitfalls in the future. Try to plan your days out, then your weeks, then even months or years. This will help you prepare for issues that might arise and prevent new problems from creeping in. Make sure you make time for introspective analysis on a daily basis...and try not to put off anything on your "to-do" list for longer than a day or two. You'll feel much better for it.

Lastly, exercise and meditation will help you a lot. Good luck and know you're not alone in these problems!

Good for you for being willing to admit that. If you have that level of crippling anxiety you need some medication asap. I speak from experience and I know how hard it will be to take that step (or any step at all), but things will get worse if you don't. The easiest way to do this is also a bit daunting but necessary. Go to your local hospital now. Tell them you are having endless and crippling panic attacks. Idk how the Japanese are about prescribing this kind of stuff but you must get a script for something like a Ativan or Klonopin. The goal is to reduce your anxiety temporarily- long enough to enable you to find a way forward with a clearer head. I know you will read this and not want to do it. Or you'll say to yourself that you know you should but then you won't. Summon whatever will you have and do it now. Just shut off your computer and get up and walk out the door.

I have one suggestion if you are getting contracts you are good at selling. Why don't you sub contract the work then? Or work as a salesperson for outsourcing companies in India or even US?

I was thinking the exact same thing. Hell, I’d almost take some off his hands haha

Even if you don't live in Tokyo, I would encourage you to check out the HN Tokyo Slack; we're fairly active and at the least, we can all give relatively local (to Japan) advice and a shoulder for commiseration.

It's OK, freelance contracts can be really hard, I've had one go south very quickly. While it (maybe?) doesn't matter now, you might have been better served by setting them up with wordpress + a real-estate specific plugin (there are lots, some even free). Basically what they were asking you for seems like a real estate specific CRM system, and the CRM world is very very deep and flush with pre-built/other options. Those kind of ideas are often best farmed out, a lot of places will think they need custom software but really don't (or at least you shouldn't write it though it would seem fun).

If it wasn't too long ago, maybe you can make it up to them by hosting a Wordpress instance (or some other low-cost-to-you CRM tech you didn't have to write) and offering a solution to them for free for a year or something as an apology? An apology would probably feel better for you if you had something to offer them in addition to just the words.

Either way, definitely hang out in the Slack! I don't know where in Japan you are, but there's a lot happening in the Fukuoka area, and I think there's a HN Kansai that just started as well. Not sure of anything to the north but maybe there is!

Also, being able to even find freelance contracts locally is pretty difficult, so that's a great accomplishment, keep your chin up! It seems likely that you have the skills necessary to make it work just need to find the right way to apply them.

If you're located in the Kansai region I can introduce you to a counsellor who speaks English.

What are the main reasons that you can't finish contracts? ( be honest )

I lived in Japan for two years and I want to point out something that you've said that struck me. "I don't want my actions to reflect badly on other foreigners in Japan." This wouldn't have made any sense to me before. I found that in Japanese culture, the identity of the self is wrapped up in the role of society. You're too worried about your role, your 建て前(tatemae). This is different from the West, where individuality is celebrated.

I had to move back home and spend a lot of time with my family to be reminded that I am much more than a gaijin in Japanese society. I've been out of Japan for three years and I still think about it every day.

You may already be cognizant of this, but I wasn't, I didn't realize how it was affecting me. Do you have family or friends back home that you can talk to about your troubles? This isn't financial or business advice, this is personal advice. I know you're protecting your 建て前 but you should consider that it's just a construct, it doesn't define you, and it's not worth killing yourself over.

I’ve only been in Tokyo for three months, and have already caught myself in this self-awareness paradox: you have to be extremely self aware that you don’t offend others around you, yet your own needs / wants come later.

I recognize that it could potentially have negative effects on one overtime, but I see this as a fair trade off for the abundant safety and civility in Japan.

Welcome to being a minority. It can be just as bad to be one in the US without proper support. Life is hard for everyone.

As the other commenters note, this is part of what it means to be a minority; internalizing this is one of the personal benefits of extended travel.

That said, a lot of people go through this when they're new to Japan. People are so unusually polite/friendly that it makes you self-conscious of your own habits. Eventually you become more familiar with what you're seeing, and you're able to relax and be yourself. I think it took me about six months to stop worrying about offending people -- perhaps not coincidentally, this is when it became easier to make Japanese friends.

(Also, it's essential in order to learn the language. You have to be willing to barge ahead with communication, regardless of politeness. This is still a challenge for me.)

I feel that it can often help that foreigners (especially Americans) have a reputation for rudeness that has become accepted as “cultural difference”, such that people are not as offended when a gaijin does something that would be considered offensive coming from a Japanese person.

This is how I feel living as a foreigner in Germany. It's not Japan specific. Most of the migrants share similar feelings, especially those who come from developing countries.

> Honne and tatemae are Japanese words that describe the contrast between a person's true feelings and desires (本音 hon'ne, "true sound") and the behavior and opinions one displays in public (建前 tatemae, "built in front", "façade").[1]

I have always felt uncomfortable with the concept of "inside face and outside face". It comes off as disingenuous and dishonest.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honne_and_tatemae

> I have always felt uncomfortable with the concept of "inside face and outside face". It comes off as disingenuous and dishonest.

Or is the unsubtle expression of the concept uncomfortable?

Americans do the same thing; you can see this in the casual talk Americans also have with cashiers or wait staff. Just because you're friendly and chatting doesn't mean you actually want to be friends and go out and do something together.

The Culture Map by Erin Meyer expresses this idea as a spectrum from a peach to a coconut: on the one end, you get a soft exterior with a hard interior; on the other, a hard interior with a soft exterior. The point though, is that everyone does this -- just in a different way.

I've known some Japanese people who've gone to the US, been confronted with the super friendly casual American attitude, then been horribly offended when it turned out that that friendliness wasn't "real." Part of this is the stereotype that Americans are "honest and direct," and part of this is that Americans tend toward the peach end of the spectrum, while Japanese people tend toward the coconut end.

We do it in the West as well, it's just a formalized structure in Japan (and possibly other East Asian countries, but I can only speak from experience with Japan).

"Hey it was really nice seeing you! We should totally catch up some time." ~American Tatemae

In the UK were I live, every time I get service at a shop the shopsperson smiles at me.

I am pretty sure that's not because I am such a smile-inducing person. Rather the position requires it.

Is that disingenuous and dishonest, or simply a social convention that people adhere too without overthinking it?

We all do it, it’s just the Japanese are more poetic about it. Read Marx on social masks.

I've been here for three years and gave up on the deep self introspection not long after arriving. If it helps you, remember that you're not Japanese and never will be, nor will you ever be held to the same standards (although they're not particularly high - some of the "Japanese manners" I've witnessed here have been downright abhorrent). I've seen a few founders with that mindset who have done quite well for themselves here.

I read that, and having never been or lived in Japan, I thought it was an odd statement to make, though I'm half-chinese, so I have some idea how important 'face' and 'shame' is in some societies. Hoping that OP reads this and your last sentence.

Sounds like you need to focus on yourself. There are many unanswered questions in the situation you've described:

1. Why are you in Japan? Is it a good place for you?

2. Why have you not been able to hold a programming job?

3. Why have you found it difficult "to do anything" with this or while with other companies?

4. Why are you concerned with what the Japanese people will think of other foreigners in relation to your actions?

5. How much of your savings can you recover from the company?

You seem like quite a self-aware person and yet your question lacks many of the contextual elements other people would need to help you. I think you need to talk this over with someone in person - probably someone with experience.

Four can be answered with this similar article. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/jun/09/everyd... When I lived in Japan, I noticed a pretty interesting dynamic play out in that many of my white friends had complaints and voiced concerns that were extremely common in the black community back in America. My black friends complained way less about the racism/xenophobia in Japan.

It comes down to wanting to be accepted, without needing to constantly be vouched for. when you know the default view of you is negative you want to improve it not only for yourself but your community, especially if the acceptance will lead to a noticeable higher quality life for everyone.

1. I came here after graduating college and really liked living here, so I stayed.

2/3. I've had three so far. The first one was a startup (I was an employee) that ran out of money. The second I spent 6 months working there but I couldn't concentrate on the work and couldn't produce anything. I don't think I committed any lines of code in 6 months. I was ashamed of my performance and quit right after renewing my visa. The third job I was there for 2 months. I felt even more pressure after doing poorly at the previous job. I felt so confused even when just setting up the environment. I barely managed to do anything in 2 months and used to just hide in the toilets sobbing. I felt ashamed and couldn't handle it anymore so I quit.

4. Foreigners have lots of trouble getting apartments etc in Japan. If I just pack a suitcase and get on a plane leaving everything here in the lurch I'd feel bad because it has effects on other people.

5. Maybe 40k?

I feel like points 1 + 2/3 are in pretty stark contradiction to each other, honestly speaking. Work is a pretty important part of life (if one must work that is). It's clear that you're finding the work culture there dispiriting and uncongenial.

If I were you I'd get my money out and take an extended trip home (if that is possible for you). You're worrying about other people at a time when you need more care than they do - after all "they" are a pure abstraction let's face it.

To put it simply: Put on your own oxygen mask first.

On points 2/3, have you found a community of like-minded people (likely expats)? It pales in comparison, but I moved from somewhere where I had a tight-knit community to one where I was a hermit and found it very demotivating. Talking to other people about our work and interests helped me get out of my slump. This is not a substitute for seeking professional help, but a complement that worked for me. It sounds like the HN Tokyo meetup (if you live in Tokyo) or reaching out to many of the replies here from people living in Japan would be a good place to start.

Since you ever only worked professionally in Japan, perhaps it's time for a change and try out other places. Especially a place where language barrier won't hinder you.

Sounds like you're still relatively young, go out on a new adventure. Don't be constraint in one place, you can always go back to Japan someday.

Some scientific technique you have here at approaching problems!

First, relax.

A company is just an entity that allows you to pay less taxes overall.

Don't worry for not having been able to start much.

Regarding all the paperwork, go to the tax office (or the relevant offices) and ask them for help. They are always willing to help. Be honest and sincere and they'll sometimes fill the stuff in your place if necessary.

One thing you can do is shift your English teaching activity to the company. That's good for your taxes.

Do not hire an accountant for anything right now. You'll lose money.

I've lived here for 22 years, had my company for 12, I'm not doing anything magic with it but it pays the bills.

Send me a mail if you want.

I lived in Japan and understand what you're talking about. Never started a company like you or brandelune but I have done endless piles of bank paperwork and software tech support in Japanese. Message me directly if you want to talk more, but I would apply for a software job in your home country and if you land it then move out of Japan. If the software applications don't land you anything then I would stay in Japan as an English teacher and use your software knowledge to connect you with higher paying clients like traveling software engineers or software company managers.

> I have honestly thought about suicide, or just fleeing the country.

Make sure to tell your closest friend about this. There's no shame at all in anything that you've tried so far. And your life is worth way more than corporate success in a country that drowns itself in bureaucratic paperwork.

Also, please seek some emotional support, e.g. from https://www.samaritans.org (free, confidential, non judgemental).

Just so that you see it again: Suicide as a fix for this situation is ridiculous. (Please note, I'm not saying that you are ridiculous for feeling this way)

Its a perception error like considering amputation for a nasty paper cut. Your sense of scale is just a little muddled right now. If you find yourself seriously considering this, find someone you trust and talk about this so they can help you get some perspective.

Crashing a business isn't "a life of eternal shame" bad. Its "laugh with buddies at a bar later" bad.

I know the feeling, but having wound down a business with a similar asset profile, I can say that it is better to be nursing credit cards a few years later having learned scores of valuable lessons than it would have been jumping off a bridge. My life is objectively and subjectively better having gone through owning a failing business than it would have if I had just run. Hang in there, it gets better, and better things await you!

If I were you I would try to be realistic and cut my losses. Follow the advice of getting an accountant and focus on what is important for your company. If you had a good reason to start it then you should persist if it is appropriate, however if you where dreaming too much either change your priorities or cut your losses. Its your money at the end of the day.

As in terms of career wise I dont think a failed business is such a problem - as long as you can sell it in a positive light. Career wise being an English teacher is the bigger problem I think. Many People that I know from Asia - foreigners and natives - look down on these so called "white monkey jobs".

Also its strange that you use "suicide" and "my actions to reflect badly on other foreigners in Japan" in the same paragraph. If you are depressed you shouldn't care how other foreigners look by your actions.

If you haven't lived in a high-visibility, group-centric culture like this, you don't understand why it's not strange for those two things to go together at all.

There is no "should" with depression and mental illness. You could well say 'you "should" feel better because it's just chemicals in your brain and what you are feeling isn't really real', right? But depression comes in all shapes and sizes and doesn't make rational sense, which is why it can't be treated that way.

The way I understood it is: "By failing my business other people will think because I am a foreigner and I failed my business most other foreigners are failures as well and I don't want that"

My point is that he shouldn't let hypotheticals like that keep him from doing what is best for him, especially if suicide is in the cards.

I feel quite ashamed of being an English teacher too. Whenever I meet someone at a party I always say I'm a software engineer, even though I know that's not really true.

When I write my resume I just don't write the months on so it appears I was working at the companies for 1 year instead of 2-6 months. That way I can claim I wasn't an English teacher.

Hey man, keep your head up. I understand how difficult it can be running a business especially in a foreign country. A good way to keep your cashflow positive is to get contracts and outsource them. You can email me if you need a hand as I am also a software engineer, I could be of help.

There’s no shame in being an English teacher. I’ll be honest, you’re probably providing more valuing teaching English than half the software engineers at most startups.

Is it possible to make life work there as an English teacher in Japan if you find a way to shut the business down reasonably gracefully?

Hello, I also had a company where I was in over my head, that stressed me massively and I had to liquidate once. Before I happened to come to Osaka, where I am for 8 years now with many ups and downs.

Oh, I also have an organization here, that I am not sure what to do about. But in my case I learned from previous experience to stay cool about it and focus on the tasks ahead.

What you experience here is the weight of your own expectations. A lot of work has accumulated. You are here and you feel like it is not enough: you are not enough. I would like you to know: you are enough. Your work is sufficient and tomorrow will be another day to grow a little more.

As part of dealing with my deficits I help organize the local community here. When I arrived I didn't notice that the isolation in Japan can quickly reach dangerous levels and without social contact one can easily get sucked down a vortex.

There are many people here trying to reach out to you. Count me in as one of them. Next step is to open up - in person - to someone in a position to help you. You might not think that this person exist (even with the offers here), but I think you could be in for a positive surprise.

Hey, I’m in Japan as well and also started a company here before.

Message me, and let’s chat about your situation. I can share my thoughts and buy you lunch somewhere sometime soon: hello@benguild.com

+1 for reaching out to Ben

He's actually one of the people I thought of while reading this post. We spent a bunch of time together in Japan and elsewhere. Solid guy.

If OP is still in Japan in Autumn, I'll be around and happy to meet then too.

Small software business owner/consultant here...

First, it sounds like you've got unsolved personal issues that are going to prevent this from working. Taking good care of your mental health is key to making any business work. Getting off the ground is a marathon, not a sprint, and you need a certain amount of mental stability and long term thinking to ride out the highs and lows that are part of the process.

Second, I'm not sure of your familiarity with Japanese culture or language, but if Japan is quite foreign to you, I'd have thought that's making things much harder.

Last, unless you can afford to and are willing lose all the money, don't mix up your personal wealth in business ventures. It's much better to bootstrap and be learn to be profitable right from the off with tiny amounts of money than lose your life savings because you've no idea what you're doing. Keep your money and the business' money separate and grow slowly.

For anyone else contemplating starting a company: don’t do it until you absolutely need it. You can look for customers and/or work on a software product without being incorporated. Nobody will care whether you’re actually a CEO in a company registry. When you’re ready to charge people and send invoices — that’s the time to start a company.

At age 24 I made the mistake of thinking that having a company will magically make my work more meaningful and make people take me more seriously. I didn’t lose any substantial money, but it would have made sense to postpone actually registering the business for maybe a year or so.

The scary part is not some paperwork — it’s finding those customers. Tackle that first.

(Edit: this applies to solo founders only. If you’re co-founders, get your IP and equity agreements formalized ASAP.)

> how to avoid getting into scrapes like this in the future?

It seems that your intention was to use your investment as motivation to further your career, i.e. "Once I own a company I will get awesome stuff done".

I recognize the line of thinking (from being there!). It is not "hopelessly naive" it's more of a bias, the other side of the sunken costs fallacy. "If I invest in this I will find the motivation to perform". Same principle for paying an annual lump sum to the gym and then never attending.

Though it seems the lesson is "never use fear of loss as a motivator", fear of loss is simply a variable in a complex formula. You can't rely entirely on it to get things done.

I think you've hit the nail on the head here. I definitely think part of me was thinking "I can't get motivated but once I start the company all of it will fall into place."

It can be helpful to find yourself a business partner. They provide a feeling of obligation and camaraderie that helps you to get going and keep going through the tough parts.


I wasnt going to reply until i saw that you were considering suicide.

You arent a failure, and we all enjoy having you on this earth. No matter what you decide to do with your business, please consider staying here with us.

Go to the beach. Eat some good food. Take a hot shower and go on a date with someone who is down to earth.

Even if everything all goes to shit and you are flat broke, you can still live an awesome life, especially abroad.

You took some risks. Seek outside professional help and advice. Hire an intern.

Good luck, i believe in you!

I know you’re trying to help, but I think saying empty, insincere platitudes like “we all enjoy you here” doesn’t really help them or the situation. It certainly didn’t help to hear that from strangers when I was in a similar position.

Exactly, and saying things like "You arent a failure" to someone who has quite obviously failed at their attempts to be a software engineer and business owner is sending the wrong message. If somethings is going wrong with your life, it's not helpful to ignore that and pretend everything is great. The cognitive dissonance involved with that will put a huge strain on you, and possibly make the problem worse.

From what the OP has said, it would seem that in their current state they are not capable of working as a programmer right now. I would recommend getting help for the depression and anxiety first, and then working on software engineering skills until they are more confident and capable. The 50K USD should allow them some leeway to do this without needing to find work immediately, which will help.

Good luck.

Failing at something doesn't make a person a failure or else we would all be failures. Do you really thing extra compassion towards a person contemplating suicide is such a bad thing? Or is being 100% correct in your words more important? I know we're on a message board, but OP is a real person with real feelings in a pretty fragile state right now.

I could have been clearer, I suppose - of course I'm not saying that the OP was a failure, but I was saying that they failed at the things they attempted, i.e. software engineering, and platitudes that gloss over this aren't helpful, since the cognitive dissonance and load will often make the mental issues worse.

I'm sorry you feel that way, and I can understand where you are coming from.

I don't know if you believe me, but I genuinely enjoy this person's presence. Seriously. He is providing interesting information, and he is a talented programmer. We are all in this boat together.

I believe that all humans have the capacity to be awesome to each other. I believe he needed to hear that we want him on this earth, even if we don't know him in person.

> he is a talented programmer

Where do you get this from? As far as I could tell from their comments here, the OP is emphatically not a talented programmer?

Anyone who dares to attempt is talented. Success is variable.

Not at all - its pretty much the exact opposite. Anyone can attempt, those who are successful are talented.

Surely it couldn't hurt, right? I could argue that you calling his words empty and insincere could hurt more.

I am a bit shocked at the comments people are making in this thread. Someone who is acutely anxious and depressed about their business challenges should never be told that they are a failure and that we don't care about their emotional distress from their business problems.

I care that this guy exists. Even in his darkest hours, I want him to continue living. This trouble he's going through will pass. He is still a healthy human being, whether or not his business fails.

There is so much stuff left for him to experience in his life. Empathetic humans like myself must remind him that even if he loses all his money, he can always rebuild.

Yeah, it's pretty upsetting to see the lack of compassion in here. I think it is just harder for some to imagine real people on the other side of HN comments (or any online comments). If we were all in a room talking to each other, instead of a message-board, then we would see far more empathy and kindness.

I'm glad you're here to be a kind and compassionate voice.

Same to you :) Business doesn't need to be a zero sum game. We can all help each other out if the stars align properly.

I remember back when the banks made loans to businesses, and the business owner was really only responsible for daily operations. It was the bank's money to lose. If the business didn't work out, it was the bank's loss, not really the CEO's.

Now the risk is all on the founder. It is a digital gold rush where the founder must provide their own shovel and pan, and if they don't find gold quickly enough, then they'll starve.

It doesn't need to be like this. You can walk away from the gold mine.

First off get some help/guidance.

Call a suicide hotline, even one in the US if you are considering it.

The answer to this isn't suicide or fleeing the country.

Consider winding down the company and getting out the funds you can. Close it properly to avoid any future tax issues.

Reach out to patio11 (Patrick McKenzie) he's born in the US lives in Japan. He's commenting here. Try to connect with him privately.

He can probably help you get to an english speaking accountant.

Occupy your mind/time with positive things, exercise, communicate with friends and family, see the sites locally. Do things you enjoy.

As far as staying in Japan, talk to patio11 about that.

Business/Job sounds like you want to have your own business. It's tough staying motivated working for a company or having your own.

Get some advice on winding down your company, getting your money out of it and staying in Japan. You'll feel better once those are sorted out.

Would it be possible for you to move back to the US close to friends and family to reset and plan your next move?

It's hard creating your own company and it's hard wanting to create your own company while you're working for someone else.

Check out Rob's stair step process on StartUpsForTheRestOfUs.com.

Rob's wife might be able to help you out too: https://zenfounder.com/consulting/one-on-one-consulting/

Check out these:



I think patio11 should be your first go to on this. He should have lots of relevant advice.

Good luck, take care of yourself.

> I haven't really managed to do anything (the same problem I had when I was working for other companies).

I've seen this same pattern in the software industry repeat itself many times, at all levels. People are not hitting the level of success they want, and think that doing their own company will solve all the problems. But it doesn't. As you have found, the reasons your career stagnates will normally also cause struggles when you are the boss. Instead, I recommend that you first learn to be productive in any environment, for any boss. Then you need to start finding better bosses and environments. And finally decide if you, personally, are the best boss for yourself. This is a process that take time, effort, and lots of honest self-evaluation. But you'll be a more successful and happier person for it.

I don't know your details, but it sounds like your next step on that path would be to get somewhere that you are comfortable and happy outside of work, so you have more energy to reflect on why you struggle at work. Find a mentor/coach to help you figure out why you are not productive, and fix those problems. Once those are fixed, you will have the chance to choose your next move from a place of productivity and positivity, not desperation.

Sounds like you'll throw good money after bad for some time pursuing this business when not even close to revenue.

Given your mental health issues, it may be best for you to pack up go somewhere with more social support. That might mean staying in Japan but working a regular job. Don't worry about your reflection on foreigners in Japan. In fact, handling mental health issues responsibly is something that Japan needs to do a lot more of.

$50k USD is not a lot of money. You can save that within a few years in many countries.

The brightside is you haven't went into debt. That would make the situation infinitely worse. Unfortunately, your runway has run out so you have to return to a regular job like a regular person.

$50k USD is not a lot of money.

I think we've hit peak HN.

$50k is a lot for people in general, but not if you are starting a company. Especially one in another country with different laws, culture and language(s) to what you are used to.

I had a similar thought, but I guess it’s true in the context of considering suicide over it.

Absolutely, the potential of a human being, especially someone who has taken the initiative to move to another country is far more valuable, he/she can make millions over their lifetime. It's a lesson learned.

..what a nostalgic user-id. Reminds me of the good old days on rllmuk..

For anyone wondering:



Seems to focus mostly on video games. Was started in 2003. Clearly has its own unique culture.

That guy. :)

Whether peak HN or not, it's not a lot of money in any place in the developed world, especially for a programmer.

There are people with $30K salaries with credit card debts larger than this...

There's a lot of good advice in this thread.

I'd +1:

- Seeing a mental health professional. This has a stigma, but don't let it be that. It's just a safe space for you to air thoughts and process them. It's been invaluable to me. I've seen some recommendations for Tokyo Counseling [1] and plan to visit them myself.

- Grab a bilingual accountant / assistant. I only see a very small side of my company's business, but ( from banking to general business customs ) things are much different than anything I experienced in the US.

- When you're ready -- I would sit down and look at your monthly spend and realistically plan out the next x months. If possible, reach out to friends and family to develop a fallback plan so that it relieves some pressure. Even if your business doesn't pick up, you get to keep your experience and keep moving forward with life.

>I haven't really managed to do anything (the same problem I had when I was working for other companies)_

It sounds like you're either too tired or burnt out to actually put the energy into what you want to do. I have most of my energy at the beginning of the day. If I say, "I'll go work out" or "I'll skip studying X this morning and do it tonight" it will never happen. So, maybe looking at your most productive times of the day to see if you can put some more structure around getting things going.

Best of luck

1 - http://tokyocounseling.com/english/counselor/

See if you need to get treated for ADHD. I was in a similar situation as you, and actually reaching out to a psychiatrist helped me immensely.

Years later I have a solid business, a work routine and can actually focus on holding projects and things without having allergic reactions to run after the next squirrel - and without abandoning something I have a sudden averse reaction to.

I want to just iterate that it's been far easier to treat this than I imagined in the first place. I've been struggling with getting this kind of help for a few years, knowing that I cannot fully concentrate - and doing far too much online research instead of just moving my ass ( which is a common issue ).

The Psychiatrist at first thought it was due to a "lack of discipline" until I explained to him that I locked myself in for 2-3 months to work on my own projects, just to clean up the whole house and do everything else, instead of the projects I wanted/needed to work on.

The only thing you need to research is which medicine you can be prescribed, as some of them are not allowed in Japan. But enough foreigners went through this process, so there should be a fair amount of online literature to guide you through this https://www.reddit.com/r/japanlife/comments/3s86ur/psa_getti...

Of course this is only in case you feel like you have these symptoms, and that they've led you to where you are now. It's a common occurrence with entrepreneurs.

First of all you should contact TELL (Tokyo English Life Line) [1] for support. Your mental health is much more important than anything else. Money and jobs will come and go, but you need to take care of yourself first. TELL can help you with counselling, or just as someone to talk to when you are feeling down.

Japan can be very tough for founders (I founded and ran a business for 14 years there -- see bio). I was lucky that I had a co-founder, and I would urge you to find someone with whom you can work with, to share the load, to cover the tasks that you can't do, and to make the experience that much less lonely.

I wouldn't worry about what others might think of fleeing the country. Once you are away from Japan, no-one will care but you. So again, you need to ensure your own mental health whatever happens.

While I am no longer in Japan feel free to get me on Skype for a chat anytime (ID:sparkzilla).

[1]https://telljp.com/ Tel: 03-5774-0992

Moving (reboot) is better than suicide (shut down). There is always a reboot option.

It doesn't reflect badly on other foreigners. Nobody remembers people after they leave.

I was in a similar situation many years ago teaching English in Japan. I didn’t really enjoy teaching English, but transitioning into a programming career just didn’t seem feasible at the time given where I was living (far from Tokyo), my lack of Japanese language ability, and my lack of experience as a programmer.

So I decided to leave and move to the Bay Area. I spent a decade there building up work experience and saving money, until an opportunity came to move back to Japan. It’s worked out well, I am financially independent with a job that I mostly enjoy, and having moved away for so long and then returned I am really confident now that this is where I want to be living.

I would suggest that you consider a similar path if possible. I personally found it so much easier to develop my career in my home country, surrounded by all the opportunities that SV offers programmers.

I can’t really comment on how best to go about filing all the necessary paperwork for your business, but if possible I would recommend trying to do things according to the letter of the law. As you’ve no doubt already learned Japan can be fairly strict with regards to process and paperwork, and I would hate for some misstep now to come back to bite you later e.g. when applying for a visa. But this is of course all secondary to taking care of yourself right now.

And that brings me to the suicide part. I’ve also been there at one point in my life, suicidal and so depressed I could hardly get out of bed for months at a time. I had this horrific tunnel vision, and the things that were stressing me out at the time made me feel hopeless even though there were plenty of opportunities to be happy staring me in the face every day. But gradually I got better, learned to cope with my problems, and I honestly think those hard times helped me to better understand myself, my limitations, and shaped me into a person who is genuinely grateful for all of the amazing things that have happened in my life since I failed at suicide.

It sounds like you’ve had a pretty serious setback - but it’s only temporary. I hope you are able to get back on your feet again soon!

I've thought about moving back to the UK to develop my career. The two things that hold me back are the accrued residence time in Japan (I've been here 7 years, if I stay another 3 I can apply for permanent residency). I'm also not convinced I would be able to hold down a programming job, given my past performance. At least in Japan I can teach English part time and keep a roof over my head. I've been doing a couple of evenings of evening classes for the past 5 years and they give me some sort of financial safety net.

I’m curious what your reason is for not wanting to make a career out of teaching English. Is it unfulfilling? Stressful? Or does it not provide you with a path to permanent residence?

The way you talk about it, it sounds like you’ve actually got a pretty good thing going.

Your description above of your programming jobs on the other hand sounds pretty miserable... to the point where maybe a career in programming just isn’t for you. (Obviously I don’t know you well enough to say this with any certainty. It could just be the circumstances of those particular jobs didn’t work for you).

In some ways I enjoy English teaching, but I don't think there is any career progression. I don't think I could ever really get paid any more really than I am now. I don't think I could ever really support a family etc.

I know a few guys who have taught English now for 10+ years. They've got families and houses and are able to get by alright. They are able to supplement their income with side jobs (teaching private lessons, freelance graphic design, translation work, etc), which is a form of career progression. It's true you probably won't get rich teaching English, but it seems like it's possible to enjoy a pretty decent standard of living in Japan on a modest salary. And the fact that you were able to save 50k is proof of that. That's more than lots of people are able to manage - probably enough for a down payment on a house here, in fact.

I saw in a previous comment that you said you are ashamed of being an English teacher. Don't be. You're performing a useful service that people are willing to pay for with their time and money. That's something to be proud of and I would even go so far as to argue that the benefits to society of teaching English are a lot more tangible than a LOT of programming jobs.

Not really trying to steer you in any direction. As I mentioned above, teaching English was not for me - I really hated work environment at the company I was working for. And your concerns about career progression, salary, and status are definitely valid. But on the other hand, I have seen that it's a viable option if you choose to go down that route.

I don't know how much good advice I have, but I've been in a similar situation, so I can at least offer sympathy. I spent three years building up my translation work to get "self sponsorship" and then got dumped by the agency that was sponsoring and providing the bulk of my work. Now I'm back working in-house at a Japanese company. I don't regret having taken a shot at self employment, even if it was a little over optimistic. And at least I know what I was doing wrong. So I say just take it calmly and do what you have to do to stay here and keep working and at the end of the day it's all still forward progress.

First, treat the depression, then you will be able to see yourself how to move forward next. Starting a company to sustain yourself is not a bad idea. You, however, need to find your place in the market. Keep pivotting until you find what you like that is providing enough for your lifestyle.

In my experience, it takes 2 to 3 years for a new online business to start to have stable income, you will get there, just never stop fighting and do not give up. Find a partner to support you in life, find network circles for friendship and business.

Being away from home is tough, we all been there. Making a step back is also not something bad.

I wouldn’t worry about your actions reflecting badly on other foreigners. I don’t think that’s really your responsibility.

As far as future advice goes, I think you likely invested too much money up front. It sounds like you may be short on cash. I would have likely started the company somewhere cheaper than Japan (or just not as a KK which is an expensive option). For example, Estonia is pretty cheap (about 200USD, then 60USD a month for banking/accounting). I’d have found another way to keep your Japanese VISA going. Either some kind of student visa (Japanese study) or another option... Japan is much less strict than other countries and I know people who have stayed (traveling outside the country every 6 to 9 months to reset the visa) on short term visas for years.

As far as what to do now, it’s hard to offer good advice. You seem to have 3 options for the KK: keep it going, shut it down, or ignore it. If money is an issue, I’d be tempted to do whatever is cheapest.

I would then probably keep at the English teaching until your situation has stabilized if you can stand it.

After a while I’d slowly (and cheaply) try to bootstrap something, if that’s what interests you.

A KK in Japan is currently the least expensive option. Basically all you need is to pay for the registration paperwork (about ¥300k) and what used to be a minimum capital of ¥10 million has now no minimum.

There used to be Yugen (limited responsibility) with a minimum capital of ¥3 million but it disappeared with the new KK law.

That was about 12 years ago.

Depending on your VISA type you can also operate as a sole proprietor (kojin jigyo) as I understand it. I think that’s cheaper and easier?

I’d still just be tempted to set something up in another country and operate via that until things started to pan out.

My advice : abort everything. You seem to need mental support and that's ok, everybody does at some point. Go back to a place where you feel secure and have family/friends/anything that can help you. Throwing 50k USD into a company that has no purpose is insane. Doing so after multiple years of being unable to produce anything is beyond insane.

It sounds like you have a dysfunction with decision making and productivity. This is something you need to deal with.

It's OK! It happens to a lot of people. This is something you can study and improve.

I highly recommend reading a few books on productivity and making good decisions in order to correct your behavior.

My recommendations are:

- Deep Work - Cal Newport

Will go into detail about how to learn new things and accomplish large projects.

- Smarter Faster Better - Charles Duhigg

Goes into the psychology of motivation, accomplishing large tasks, setting goals, and making better decisions.

- The Adventures of Johnny Bunko: The Last Career Guide You'll Ever Nee - Daniel H. Pink

A cheesy and poorly drawn manga-style career guide with some surprisingly good advice on career advancement and fulfillment. This one is a short read but I can't help but think back on it and reflect on it's lessons from time to time.

Do you have any less virtual forum to discuss this? Family? Friends? The Internet is a terrible medium for dealing with emotional downtimes.

Sometimes it can be better NOT to discuss with friends and family - they are much more likely to tell you what they think you want to hear in order to cheer you up.

Honestly really proud of HN right now. Skimmed this expecting to see a lot of comments condemning and belittling this guy, and instead see a lot of support. Hopefully not just because the bad comments got deleted. Rare moment for the internet.

There's lots of great advice in this thread, but much of it is not direct enough for someone suffering from depression and anxiety, which you obviously are. I have struggled with it on-and-off my entire adult life. What you need right now are clear simple marching orders that you can follow.

1. You are in no position to run a business right now, and in no position to live alone in a foreign country without extensive support from family and loved ones.

2. How your actions will reflect on other foreigners is totally irrelevant to your situation. Your fixation with this is a symptom of anxiety. Right now you believe you are be watched and judged. In reality, one week after you leave nobody there will remember you or care. You are free.

3. Tell your accountant to wind down your business immediately. Do not equivocate or listen to arguments from him. If you need help, someone on this thread who is familiar with Japanese language and customs will surely advocate on your behalf.

3. Find friends, relatives, or loved-ones that you can lean on for support and GO HOME now. You can always come back when you are better. This is not a permanent decision, you are just getting back on your feet.

4. Get professional help as soon as you get back. When evaluating who to stay with, ask yourself this "will they make me seek help and hold me accountable to keep getting help" That's the friend/family member you need right now.

Once your steady and on your feet again. You can start to re-build your life.

Good luck and godspeed. Not many people know what you're up against, but I do. You can do this.

I'd go the opposite way: Stop the company right now. Focus on teaching English. Maybe create English-Teaching-Products. You have succeeded on something. You have to understand that this is not easy and does not always come to your "hands".

If you like programming, do it on the side. You can make a lot teaching stuff.

Are you in Tokyo? I don't know the city but I know that big cities make you lose your identity of "self". If you are in a small neighbourhood move to a big unidentified one where you can lose your "self-identity" awareness. It'll help remove the social pressure. You won't think about "people" or what you should do. It helps to focus on what really matters.

Don't seek a medical professional. There are three reasons for suicide: 1. you are mentally crazy (you are not obviously), 2. You are socially challenged and 3. long term injury pain (I don't think this applies?)

I think it is 2. So if it is, just move to a big city/compound or leave Tokyo. That should be your priority at the moment. From my experience, I'd advise strongly against seeking a "medical professional".

A lot of people have offered great advice, so I'll keep my comment short.

You are not your company, your company is not you. Believe it or not, most (as in 99%) of businesses fail eventually. By trying your hardest you've gained an experience that will hopefully stay with you your entire lifetime. If/when you choose to start a second company, you'll have an entirely new respect for the process and have much higher chance of success.

I've been there myself. Financial/business stress is incredibly toxic, but remember that your bank account is not you. You are not your financial mistakes. These are just 'things' dictating areas of your life at the moment. You will get through this.

Listen to some of these suggestions, as I imagine most of the people who felt compelled to reach out see themselves in this post, like I did.

The only technical advice I'd like to suggest is creating structure for your day and ruthlessly sticking to it. When I was closing down my first business - that's what I had to do. I had to lock down all my hours in a day and focus on moving in the right direction.

Good luck to you. And remember - this business isn't your identity. It's just a piece of context.

> I have honestly thought about suicide, or just fleeing the country

I'd suggest fleeing the country of those two options.

Seriously though, there's no shame in acknowledging there's nothing for you in Japan and heading home.

I recently moved to a new country and that's literally my backup plan. As shitty as it may sound, if everything goes south, I'm just going to get on a plane and go home and start from square one again. Sometimes that's the best option.

> I haven't really managed to do anything (the same problem I had when I was working for other companies) > I haven't managed to release any software or do any consulting

First, don't seriously think of suicide helping anything. You leave a wake. Second, based on what I quoted above, I'm wondering.. Why? Why have you done anything? Are you preoccupied? (Relationship, socially, etc). Do you have ADHD? If it's something that can be fixed/treated then focus on that. If it's just a reality, find ways to work around it or consider other options.

I must say, this sounds incredibly familiar and the way I've always seen it played out is the person realized that "knowledge work" just wasn't for them. For some reason, some people aren't wired to sit at a computer and crank out work. Their minds wonder, productivity falls, depression sets in, they feel like a cubically caged animal, etc. I know people that drop out of college, or don't mesh with the post college corporate world, and albeit a few years later they have pivoted to start a commercial/residential service business. Landscaper, plumbing, HVAC, etc. These all can pay well (in the US) and are entrepreneurial if that's what you're after. Not saying this is right for you - just examples I have seen other people go through.

So, my recommendation is you do some soul searching. If you're not writing code, and have a history of being unproductive at that, don't start/build/focus on a software consulting company. It will fail or make you incredibly unhappy. It sounds like both are happening right now. Also, maybe talk with a life coach. I think you need to explore some options and be realistic with yourself, they can help you with this.

Best of luck.

You need to find someone to handle accounting/tax filings for you. This is exceedingly common, especially for smaller and one-person companies. You outsource all administrative work. It's also usually possible to find expats that speak your language and that charge very reasonable money for this.

This should take care of freeing up your time for actual work, but it's up to you to fight your procrastination.

I suggest you contact the LDS missionaries in Japan. Almost all of them are English speakers. They can connect you to service-minded locals who understand Japan and westerners very well. They can help you arrange counseling. If you wish to keep it secular, just say so and they will honor it. Same goes for confidentiality.

Go to Mormon.org/missionaries or call 877-537-0003.

Which part of Japan are you in? There are two very active Slack communities (Tokyo & Kansai) that can help you even if you can't do face to face with anyone (http://hnkansai.slack.com is use; can't recall Tokyo's off the top of my head, but sure someone will supply it)

I think you would benefit greatly by finding a partner of some sort. A business partner might be good down the road, but for now just a "mentor/stick-shaker" type to keep you motivated and on track with things. It can be very, very hard to do what you are alone.

You sound like getting work & getting things set up is not an issue, just keeping them going. Come join us and find someone to just check your progress each week to get you out of the rut. Little weekly progress checks may sound corny, but if you're a one-person show they can make all the difference


Paperwork and forms are 0% of what you should be doing. That's just basic accounting stuff that should be generic and cheap for them to handle if you're just one guy doing consulting. It shouldn't take up any of your energy or be a cognitive burden.

It's hard to say what you should be doing because it's hard to get a read of what you have been doing to begin with. Which may actually be because you weren't doing anything? Like have you just been sitting around in an office trying to deal with minor bureaucratic issues like forms all day every day? Where did the $50k go?

A company is just a way to describe a legal entity that you create to do money making activities within. What money making activities did you start out planning to do? How did you plan to get people to pay you for them? Which actions have you taken to get people to pay you for them? Which aspect of that do you think is holding you up.

It's very concerning that you don't speak at all about things like "I keep adding features instead of just releasing" with regard to a software product you had decided to make or "I get meetings but never any interest once they find out about my rates" on pursuing consulting contracts. Instead choosing to talk about forms.

I highly recommend just getting a junior developer position somewhere. You'll be alright. No reason to kill yourself even if financial failure was a reason to kill yourself. Programming is an in demand profession and having that skill puts you ahead of a lot of people who may have more money in the bank, but far less earning potential.

If you struggle with making yourself actually do work when left to your own discretion, so you can teach a class fine but put in front of a code terminal find yourself day dreaming or whatever, look in to an ADHD diagnosis as well as productivity methods based around lists. I have to plan my day out with ver detailed todo/checklists otherwise I sit around doing fuck all.

I'm not going to give advice, because I feel like we think the same. I can very easily imagine being in your situation.

It sounds crazy to people who think you are considering suicide because paperwork is too difficult.

But really its that you are getting stuck, confused, and not able to get control of your life or make an impact where you work. You feel like things that should be easy are blocking you. You would like to be a master at your craft but your worried you will never contribute anything of value.

Just realize that these are very common things that many people feel. I had never even heard of "impostor syndrome" before I began programming. And you might not see the path right now, but you are not far from finding a different world where you make it through those obstacles. And in time you may become an expert at whatever field you choose.

Suicide does not solve anything and is a stupid move. Your own life is more valuable than the life of your company. Kill the company and move on.

> I don't want my actions to reflect badly on other foreigners in Japan

This is a false problem. First of all, you are not responsible for the behaviour of all the other people in Japan. Second, foreigners had done much worst things in Japan than you. The bar is pretty high. If japanese can forgive Hiroshima, they can and will forgive your sins.

If you have paperwork to fill and do not understand it, you need either a consultor, a lawyer or talk with the government. You are losing money, and earning money is the purpose of having a company, so maybe your company must die. I bet that there are legal ways to close down a company in Japan. Ask for the Japanese equivalent to bankrupt (破産した).

My recommendations, for what they are work, are based on what worked for me. Learn programming and CS. Work for a large, well run, company as a developer for a few years--you will learn a lot about software development at scale; Next, support yourself doing consulting in a field you are interested in--you will learn a lot about what clients want. Finally, start a company to address the needs using the insights you've gained.

From where you are right now, it may not be easy to follow this advice. Perhaps you are ready to jump in at the consulting stage. Would it be easier in the U.S. (that is if you are a U.S. citizen)?

You need a local Japanese business partner to make this work. Otherwise, stop now or go home. What type of legal entity did you open? Can you actually work for your company? Do you have the proper visa? Please provide your contact information for us to reach out. Would be happy to talk. I own a US C-Corp with a subsidiary in SE Asia. It only works because I have a local partner that I've known for 5 years that I trust.

> What type of legal entity did you open?

It's written in the post: a kabushiki-gaisha.

Hi, I don't know if you are still reading these comments, but I wonder if your situation had improved, or if you were able to find help or support. I am happy to help out, as I'm sure many others are, if you need someone to talk to.

Maybe try to write to this guy: https://www.youtube.com/user/wybuchajacebeczki/about He's pretty famous Polish Youtuber/entrepreneur/Video maker who has companies in Poland & Japan - maybe he will be able/willing to help you.

I normally just lurk here on HN but your post hits a lot of empathy from me, so I've logged in finally to share my thoughts.

Businesses come and go and they are not more important than your life. And money is not more important than your life.

First, you should congratulate yourself on taking such an impressive personal risk by moving to a vibrant, different place -- you sound like a very interesting person. Be glad that you are experimenting in life because that's all we really get during our time here -- a chance to try new things. Many people never find the courage to do that, and those who do quickly learn what you have learned, that experiences are unpredictable when you stray from the norm. This is a good thing and it means you are putting yourself out there in the universe to see what is on offer. Now it's time to deal with the next step.

I feel your pain. I know exactly what it is like to feel backed into a corner when the short-term view is a combination of stressful and terrifying.

But it's only the short-term view. When I look back on those moments in my own past, the details are long forgotten, the misery is remembered and I remain glad it is in the past.

Wise man once said: This too, shall pass. And it will. I promise you that. Get through the darkness, there is light on the other side -- guaranteed.

What you need to do is minimize the stress in your life and take responsibilities off your plate -- starting with the business, the work, the overall lifestyle, all of it needs to be reduced or minimized or removed entirely for awhile.

Put yourself in a position where you can do nearly nothing for awhile, except reflect, get some positive interactions with whoever you are close to in your life, whether it is friends or family (or no one, if you are truly comfortable being alone), and don't ask anything of yourself except to take a life pause with no other demands.

During that downtime, give yourself permission to do nothing, to explore your creativity and interests with no pressure to make anything come from them. In the absence of pressure, life has a way of illuminating the real goals.

Japan is always going to be there. You will enjoy it more and perhaps even prosper well if you first learn to relax and enjoy life again without so much pressure.

It's fine if you end up losing a little money to close the business, and maybe even leave Japan for awhile. It can be very stressful to live abroad, and Japan is arguably one of the most challenging because of how different the culture is (assuming you are coming from somewhere in the West).

I have lived all over the world and done so without much money, and it has not always been easy. Feel free to contact me if you need someone to talk to.

Did you contact a support group like TELL Japan? I don't know exactly what you want, but you should talk to someone. Look for some meetups. I don't know anything about running business either, but people say the networking is always the key.


Better call a Western support line than a Japanese one, especially for a foreigner. I know someone (Japanese) who used such a service recently and their mental state was worse after speaking with the volunteer.

In case you haven't taken a look at the site, this is a service for foreigners who live in Japan.

Please don’t take your life.

There was a thread recently about someone having lost the passion for programming and the top comment was about how they went on a journey of self discovery with a counselor and realized their personal identity was personally defined by their job instead of all the other things they do.

You have no obligation to make anyone look good. Just find your reset button and press it very hard.

> But I want to do the right thing, I don't want my actions to reflect badly on other foreigners in Japan.

In this situation where your health and quality of life are suffering, the right thing is what is best for you NOT what is best for others.

Hey I'm in Tokyo, feel free to reach out (email on my website, in my profile). I can just talk about tech, career advance, etc. in an informal way but sometimes you just need to talk to someone to realize yourself where you are at the moment.

>What is my next step? I have honestly thought about suicide

Because you lost 50k? Who cares. Even if it was all your life's sayings, at best you'll need to work some more. You can always shut the company down if it's not profitable.

If you need more people to talk to you can also join our Hacker News Kansai Slack channel: https://hnkansai-slack.now.sh/

Lots of entrepreneurs and developers in there :)

Do you follow any Gaijin programmers or entrepreneurs who live in Japan?

You should try contacting the guy at Kalzumeus Software (https://www.kalzumeus.com).

Please call: 03 5774 0992. Its a hotline that can offer some relief.

what is the focus of your business?

This is one of the more important questions. You need a vision for your company aside from "be my own boss" something to build or look forward to. Are you wanting to do consulting or do software contracts? Or some sort of product / type of products maybe?

There's something oddly uplifting about all the responses in this thread put together that I haven't experienced in a long time.

Maybe try running the company with a partner if possible. Can help you share the burden and have some one to go through the experience together.

Mate, there are things you can do. Hop on the Tokyo slack, come have a chat in the #advice channel.

i am foreigner started a small company in Tokyo in 2014. i dont have many papers to fill in except annual tax report. what kind of papers do you need to submit?

You can get through this. please do not do anything drastic. :(

Startups are hard. Just one roadblock or failure at first attempt and you are thinking about suicide. What happened to - never giving up, or picking yourself up from a failure and starting again

My business advice is to get help, which it seems like you are starting by asking here. Good job. But sometimes what you really need is to heed good advice that you don't like.

I hate paperwork, but I have people who are rockstars with it, so they do that. I am primarily the innovator, sales and programmer. I like design and many things, but I realize when others can do a better job, faster and cheaper than I can, and I take advantage of that.

But when I was starting out, I only had myself, and I had to do _everything_. This included all the paperwork. It sounds like you primarily have a motivation issue, look into sources for helping with this. I listened to the audiobook version of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle [0], there are at least a few brilliant ideas in there that will help anyone. I am a workalohic in some ways, but I feel perpetually lazy and behind, yet run my own business and spend more time working that most. Go figure, yet I still hit procrastination walls on some topics, like paperwork or billing, etc...

The reality may be that you made a huge mistake, and just need to own up to it, and get as much money back out of this venture as you can. But if you want to own up to current and past failings and make a go of it, keep trying.

But, I have to say that the reason my business worked is because I simply wasn't going to do anything else. Period. You couldn't force a normal job into my hands, when I wasn't working for clients, I worked for myself. I have short, medium and long term plans and I stuck on a drive to do them all. If you simply don't have this, or if you try to create this drive and fail to do so, it's better to close up shop and find the thing you can do.

Having 50k in the bank is pretty damn cool, you have some skills at managing money to get that far. You may want to reassess your primary abilities and refocus to something you are actually good at. Right now, making software doesn't seem to be it. Or maybe it's the software you are focused (or not focused on, har) that you need to reevaluate. Maybe there's a project that isn't as financially viable, but you would actually finish it.

Last word of wisdom, decent software that is finished and working is worth more than perfect software left undone.

I hope you figure out your problem. I have a brother in Japan teaching English, I know there's not a ton of money in it, but he is happy and satisfied with his life. Being happy/satisfied may is perhaps more important to consider...

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Solving-Procrastination-Puzzle-Concis...

Man, I've been there.

It seems your fundamental challenge is you aren't getting things done. If you can't accomplish things, this indicates you are missing critical, learnable skills that can change your life for the better.

Don't worry so much about the immediate details of your situation and take steps to address your ability to accomplish what you set out to do.

Perhaps you have untreated ADHD or mild depression. Perhaps you don't actually enjoy coding, but just think you do.

Or if not, very likely you have counterproductive habits, which will take time to change but luckily there are fantastic resources out there.

I would recommend you read all of these:

How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big - Scott Adams

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Steven Covey

12 Rules For Life - Jordan Peterson

The War Of Art - Steven Pressfield

So Good They Can't Ignore You - Cal Newport

and if those don't help, you might have ADHD:

Driven to Distraction - Edward M. Hallowell

Meanwhile, make as much human connection as feasible, so you remember there's more to life than your career.

Changing how you operate to be more effective and aligned with your goals isn't an overnight project, but it is totally possible and you will get there.

-- edited for grammar and formatting

>I don't want my actions to reflect badly on other foreigners in Japan.

too late

Alright, let's get this started. I recognize myself in your words, and I guess that's why I am about to spent one hour writing this.

If I use a lot of "I", it's mostly so you can understand that you are not alone.

What you have is called depression, it paints everything black, and everything includes the good things. I have had tough shit in the last years, it's hard to tell what brought me down, but here I am, here I were. I am a considerably better those days.

Depression dude... You know you should talk, but you can't talk. You know you should go out but you can't go out. You know you should ... but you can't. A friend once told me "I won't tell you to have a nice day, I know it won't be nice, I will just tell you to have a day". There were days where I stayed in bed, all day, once I spent more than 30 hours in my bed in a row, without any other sickness, dragging myself every six hours or so to the bathroom, I wasn't even sleeping.

The thing is that you can't pinpoint any exact problem, everything is a problem. It bangs in your head "I have never achieved anything, I am a fraud, nobody loves me, why does it matter". I am a pretty enthusiastic philosopher and ... trust me... focusing on the lack of sense of life really adds more to this.

We are actually in the perfect industry to have those doubt... I mean I go to conferences where I see people having anxiety attacks for they are not transpiling from the last version of their shitty scripting language #joke. But more seriously, entrepreneurship, software, all this "positive thinking" and "we will change the world", it's the Instagram of professional life. Everybody pretends so hard to be hype but a lot of people are feeling lagging behind.

I won't go in length about the suicide ideas, because I don't want to inspire this. Some ideas come one day in your mind, and they can stay hidden in the back for long. Let's say I had them.

I am better now, not perfect but better. I still have this thoughts, I still have bad days. But when days are bad, I try to just "have a day". I am fascinated by how much things can look totally different between the good and the bad days. The bad days, I could quit my startup, tell my partner and employees to go fuck themselves. The good days, are good, I guess I can appreciate them more after this, they got some extra flavour. I can be a nice person to work, or live with.

It's hard to talk. Even when I am able to tell someone "this day sucks" or "I am heavily depressed", I can't tell why, I don't know. Some people are really uncomfortable when you almost cry for no reason in front them. I don't really blame them, or their poor comments, they try, some are afraid that's ok.

"That's ok", that's valid thing from them and for me. It's a good mantra. We usually slam more shit over the shit, and we bang our heads against the wall "Why am I like that?"... Leave it be! you are already feeling like shit, let yourself some air.

And I guess you wrote this post in a "down". The few words that helped for me were "that's ok" because all the rest seemed impossible.

I have been very bad for months, there were one or two days in the week where it was bearable / I was feeling good. Just hiding it from coworkers was a challenge, working from home helped to hide it, but not to get better.

There are a few things I can recommend because that worked for me, but it's easier to work on them on the good days.

1. Stop blaming yourself. Really, you are ok, but I will extend on that later. When you feel not able to do anything, just don't do anything. You will survive. You feel time craving, do a list, pick one and only one thing to do. Related cool music that inspired me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOS00ttAblQ 2. Meditation. It feels like the magic hippie trick, I tried a few times without effect. I paid a subscription in an app to motivate myself. I was like "this helps some people I need to try more, because everything else failed". I took me two weeks of practice, everyday, to feel undeniable benefits. I am kind of addicted to it, when I stop I go down in three days. But that's not an addiction that kill you, if twenty minutes of my day is the price, I will gratefully pay it. If I am correct the founder of Headspace started the project after a burnout. This simple information gave me a lot of hope at that time. 3. See someone. I was (and still am) seeing a shrink during that time, he helped a lot. Less than meditation but a lot. Maybe consider medication, I always refused to try but some friends reported heavy benefits, others reported addiction. 4. Let people come close. It's time to reconnect with family, or friends. Or maybe, when you feel like it go to meetups. Don't let the sad version of you, cut the happy version of you from the rest of the world. For example, when I was working as an indep, I asked to an old relative to call me every morning, she was happy to do so and it forced me to drag out of bed and interact a bit. 5. When you start to discuss with people you realise that you are not alone. And indeed you are not. A lot of people are experiencing what you experience, I am sorry for our big human civilization, but that is not a problem we seem to fix very efficiently. Knowing I was not alone, did not fix the problem, but made me think that if some survive, I should eventually to. When I opened to people, a lot came with their own story, and a lot are better today. It does get better. For some it last months, for others it last years, ... but it's feasible to go out. 6. Make the most of the good days. You think about something nice you should do? You feel the energy to do it? Then do it! Now! 7. Start to note the good moments, note what makes you happy. I know that going out helps a lot, nature, sport, ... so I try to practice those more.

End of the depression thingy. But I think this is the first and one thing, you should work on.


The rest doesn't matter much, because you need to work on the above before anything.


I don't know if you are working or studying in Japan... It's a bit confusing. If you are starting your career, take some time to grow, to find your rythm or a place that fits. If you are not there is always the opportunity to do the exact same thing. Questioning yourself is a proof of maturity, just accept those little pieces of doubt. Maybe you could find a mentor to help you get better. You can be a better professional.

Anyway know that it is hard to ship, very few people manage to do it by themselves.


You have invested 50k to achieve your dream, "all your savings" ... You have a pair of balls that many people would love to have. You say it yourself, some of this money is recoverable, so you just paid a bit to stay in Japan, which seems like a dream to you.

The money problem are easy to work on, at least partially. I don't know your precise situation but a lot of things can be reduced, in your personal lifestyle or in the company. Just go to the bare minimum... It's often easier than you think.

If you fear about going broke, think about it. You may have family or friends, you know some people will always be there. It may not be what you expected, but if (and I am not sure it's an option) the worst case is to go back to your parents ... so be it.


It is just a symptom of this depression but let me get on a specific point. You are labeling yourself as a "fake programmer" and "hiding english teacher". Maybe it's hard to keep a job as a foreigner, maybe it does take some skills to teach english, maybe you are just doing you best to settle here, but you choose to take shame of this situation.

If you are a fraud on one thing it is the following: you are not the asshole you pretend to be. You think that your problems are coming from you, you try to improve. You care about what how your behavior could impact other foreigners... Look at you.

Look at myself in the mirror and say "thank you" to the person you see.


I have written in the past paragraphs all the things that I would have hated to read... It seems so easy. It is not. But those are things to think about. We are often the one person creating our own problems.

PS: if you need to have a call with someone, I can offer a talk, just comment back we will find a way.

why do this? a girl? also begs the question on how you did get that kind of money. i could help a little on the programming stuff if thats needed.

>also begs the question on how you did get that kind of money

As if 50K is too much money to be able to have?

i did not mean to imply that.

While in Japan, I'd suggest finding some friend you can watch a specific anime with: Trigun.

You'll learn something important: Your ticket to the future is ALWAYS open.

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