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Working as a SW Developer in Japan?

Just wondering if there are any readers in Japan who could give me an idea of what it's like to work there as a Software Engineer.

How easy would it be to get a job, given that I don't speak any Japanese?  (Apart from "good morning" and a few other phrases that are not entirely appropriate to a business environment).

What's the attitude in general towards foreigners?

What are the salaries like?  Quality of Life?  Cost of living?

Thanks in advance for any tips.

George Dawes
Sunday, August 15, 2004

I don't know but prepare to wear a tie all day long.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Gaijin are not particularly welcome and lack of language will almost certainly be a problem, perhaps not from business perspective, but from social one.  Cost of living in urban areas is outrageous.  That being said, probably a fabulous experience for a couple of years.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

If you can't get a job in your native country, what makes you think Japan will want you? 

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Stop projecting your life onto others, muppet.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

If you don't speak the language and don't have exceptional development skills, I wouldn't recommend you go there. You won't be paid enough to compensate for the low quality of life there (google a bit to get an idea of what your appartment costs in Tokyo; Don't bother with other cities, as any worthy software company would be located in that city anyway), and your being a gaijin and who doesn't  speak fluent Japanese (reading doesn't hurt either :-)) will make you feel quite isolated.

For an Occidental, about the only positive thing in living in Japan is that you can walk to the ATM while leaving your car with the engine running, the camera you forgot on the train will most likely be waiting for you at the Lost and found, and you can take a walk in Tokyo in the middle of the night with no risk of being mugged (harassment by drunken salarymen is a sure possibily, however). Apart from that...

Sunday, August 15, 2004

This forum is apparently for expats living in Japan:

I particularly liked this one:'_ve_been_in_Japan_too_long_when%25%25%25/m_1051/tm.htm

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Haven't quite learned how to create a link on a message board yet, have we?

Sunday, August 15, 2004

haha, it's the apostrophe in the URL that confuses it :)

Sunday, August 15, 2004

If you are willing to work in a bank or consulting company there are thousands of english only development positions in Japan.  Depending on experience, you make 7 - 15 million yen a year.  This is plenty to rent a modest 1 bedroom apartment in Tokyo.  Rent in Japan is not as bad as this thread is making in out to be.  Things are expensive, but not so worse than New York or London.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

If you guys can't figure out when someone's impersonating me, then I give up.  Everybody's muppet.  How fun.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

a beautiful and clean country. good for working, traveling but not living (small and expensive house, foods are very expensive).

Sunday, August 15, 2004

I'll never forget the melon I saw in a Tokyo market a while back. A beautiful little musk melon. Only 12,000 yen (about US$110, IIRC). And I thought New York and London were expensive!

Seriously, though, I think Japan (esp. Tokyo) would be an amazing place to live for a year or two, assuming you could draw a decent salary. I get the feeling that gaijin never really fit in culturally no matter how long they stay, but I still think it would be an incredible experience. Just be careful with the toilets:


John C.
Monday, August 16, 2004

Interesting link.  Never mind the fancy toilets.  I have to sushi?!?
Monday, August 16, 2004

I hated the heated toilets in Japan. Some people like a nice warm toilet seat. Not me, because I know that it's ASS WARMTH!

Yet another anon
Monday, August 16, 2004

"I get the feeling that gaijin never really fit in culturally no matter how long they stay"

I used to work for a Japanese company here in the US.  One of my co-workers was a Japanese American (born in Japan but grew up in the States). I asked if he ever thought about moving back to Japan and he explained to me that he would never be perceived as Japanese.  The social bonds between the Japanese managers and engineers were tight, but he was always treated as an outsider.

On my one visit there, I saw "Japanese Only" signs posted outside many clubs.

Near my hotel there was a small, mostly empty street.  Every time that I walked down it, if a Japanese women was approaching from the opposite direction, they would cross to the other side of the street.

So, no, a gaijin would never be fully accepted in Japanese culture.

Yet another anon
Monday, August 16, 2004

muppet, I've come to see you as a generic entity on JOS rather than an individual.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Alex -

That's because you likely weren't here for my original posts, or didn't read them, or didn't have much interest (which is fine).  I'm sure that the generic "flavoring" of my name is what these clowns intended.  Good for them, they've accomplished something in their lives.

Monday, August 16, 2004

preface: i've lived in japan before, but as an english teacher, not as a software developer.

++ How easy would it be to get a job, given that I don't speak any Japanese? ++
-- honestly, i have no clue.  you'd probably have no trouble finding work as an english teacher, though.  ;-)

++ What's the attitude in general towards foreigners? ++
-- great!  especially if you're american.  japanese people have an inferiority complex about foreigners.

++ What are the salaries like?  Quality of Life?  Cost of living? ++
-- salaries = pretty reasonable.  quality of life = high except for space.  ie. great food, lots to do, clean.  cost of living = probably on par with larger american cities...

Monday, August 16, 2004

As another poster mentioned, it is possible to get work in the IT division of an American brokerage or investment bank, where Japanese language skills aren't so important.

I know, b/c I worked for one of those firms and saw first-hand what it was like in Tokyo (I was hired in NY, but was sent over there on a series of business trips).

The IT department consisted of mostly foreigners -- Brits, Aussies, Irish, and Indians.  There were only 2 Japanese, and the reason they didn't have more was that they couldn't find enough programmers who could speak English! (That was b/c all the middle and most of the upper management were American).

The upside on these jobs: Japanese language is not required, and these firms will pay you better than a Japanese company would.

The downside: if you're hired specifically to go work for them in Japan, you'll be considered a "local hire", which means all aspects of your status at the firm (salary, bonus, title, responsibility, workspace, vacation time, etc.) will be much lower than the typical ex-pat flying in from NY or wherever. Also, that industry is famously unstable: one or more bad quarters, and the IT group is forced to go around cutting staff.

anonymous financial IT guy
Monday, August 16, 2004

I've lived in Tokyo, and had a rent in the Shiki prefecture, which was 75 000 yens ( 700$ US, 850$ CDN ) per month. It was in a guest house, which I recommend over an anonymous appartment. You'll make Japanese and European friends there, and you will not feel alone. Especially in the beginning. Of course, this applies if you go in Japan alone.

If you're not in a hurry, I would invest some time ( say 1 year ) to learn Japanese before leaving. Learning hiragana-katakana + having a base in Japanese is important if you want to have a nice experience in Japan. While the new generation who is educated speaks English well, the older / rural people doesn't know English at all. I've often had stories like ordering a number three in a restaurant and ending with three number ones.

The cost of living isn't that expensive. You can go in "fast food" restaurants where you will eat Udon for a ridiculous price, given the reputation that Tokyo has of being expensive. The restaurants has the same tag price than in Montreal. Going out in nightclubs is an other story, though. The prices are insane out there.

Like some others said, Japan is a nice place to live, but only for an adventure of one year or two. The lack of space, the insane hours of worktime, and people always telling you "You cannot understand" since you're a gaijin, are quite a lot to cope with.

While I went in Japan in 2002, I'm thinking seriously of returning in Japan in 2006 for working as a SW developer as well ( or English teacher if I don't find any job... )

Eric V.
Monday, August 16, 2004

Make sure you have a job lined up _before_ you go.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Muppet, thats exactly what I meant, the personality of one "muppet" is now rather hard to pinpoint :)

You can't fight them, they now have a purpose in life. ;)

Monday, August 16, 2004

Does Japan have drug tests?

Monday, August 16, 2004

I was a software developer in Japan during a 12-month university co-op term.  My experience, and that of my colleague, is recorded for posterity at

I think it would be difficult to find a job after arriving in Japan.  The attitude towards foreigners was friendly and engaging.  The cost of living is high, while the standard of living was slightly lower than here in North America.  I found the cultural experience required much more adaptation on my part than day-to-day work.  Coding is coding.

You can find information on moving to Japan in Asia-specific business magazines.  While these are typically aimed at executives thinking of relocating entire teams, this is a good way to find labour market data for specific cities, along with info on taxation, insurance, etc.

Ryan Burkett
Monday, August 16, 2004

This will tell you everything you need to know (besides what the posters here that have lived in Japan have already told you).  The first topic pinned at the top discusses getting IT jobs in Japan.;act=SF;f=9

Don't listen to the people that just come here for 1 or 2 week vacation or know someone that works here.  They are quite different experiences.  Much like coding for 2 weeks or having a friend who is a programmer and then thinking you understand what it is about.

The longer you're here, and likewise, the longer you code, the more you realize you have a lot to learn :)  I've been here working as a software engineer for 3 years for 2 different companies (1 Japanese, 1 American) and have a ways to go in both (I did work as a Software engineer for 7 years in the states, too).  I love it here and have no plans to go back to the states as of now.

The most important thing which everyone else has already stated is Learn The Language.  But, that doesn't mean be fluent.  It just means do a little studying everyday.  Always be studying something.  Memorize 2 new words one day.  Next day memorize 2 kanji.  Next day read about life in Japan.  Next day, watch a Japanese TV show.  Have something to talk to people about.  Communication and understanding is very important.  I started studying 3 weeks before I left for Japan and am glad I did.

I love learning the language.  I think after learning plenty of computer languages it's interesting to compare and contrast learning a spoken language.

These are my opinion - no need for flaming-------

Thumbs up Tokyo:
Safety, Efficiency (train and everything), Service (customer is always right!), No Tipping anywhere, Women (MORE gorgeous, stylish, and caring then American women) - plus, No Fatties allowed :)

Thumbs down:
If you don't understand the language at maybe a 2nd grade level your experience will be quite different and slightly degraded.
Apartment prices (OTOH food and train is reasonable).

The real key is yourself.  Can you do what it takes to adapt to a new society and learn something new (not neccesarily just the language, but a new way of living)?

If you have a desire to live in a foreign country (like I did) get on with it before it's too late!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I've been living in Japan for over two years, and working as a software developer for most of that time. I live an hour from the center of Tokyo, and my rent is about $850/month for a 2 bedroom. (This is a hard deal to get - but my wife is Japanese)

Salaries are ridiculously low compared to the U.S.  A previous poster mentioned 7-15 million yen, but I think you would need to be fluent (native-level) in Japanese to come close.  I made $125,000 in NYC, and I am working for about 40% of that here.

I don't need to speak Japanese, although I do, somewhat. I don't wear a tie - usually jeans/t-shirt. The hours are not bad either.

It is very expensive here, and very hard to fit in. The safety level has not been exaggerated, though. There is a big lack of space compared to the US, although I used to live in Manhattan, so I am used to a smaller place.

The software created here is pretty low quality overall, although games are an exception to this. The company I work at would have scored about a 1 or 2 on the Joel test before I arrived. Now it is slightly better ;-)

But it is always an interesting experience to live here. And the girls are cute as hell, although, being married, all I am allowed to do is look. :(

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

I have a friend who is working in Japan (although not in software) - he works an average of 14-16 hours a day, and frequently works weekends. He gets a grand total of eight days holiday a year.

Apparently this is not particularly bad for Japan.

Mr Jack
Wednesday, August 18, 2004

More lies coming from someone who has "a friend"?

While Japanese surely do work much longer hourse on weekdays and many Japanese do work overtime for free on weekends, the part about 8 days off a year seems unlikely.  Maybe they are unable to take their 2 weeks vacation a year, but the Japanese have twice as many (15 -20 actually) national holidays off a year as Americans. The city closes down on many off them.  Unless the friend referred to is working in a convienance store or MacDonalds I doubt they have only 8.  A normal office worker or IT guy would have those 15-20 national holidays off.

Anyone stupid enough to seems pretty stupid.  How could you count on them to make good decisions on the job or for the company?

Anyone that complains they "have to work 14-16 hours a day" and weekends and has 8 days off a year surely just wants "kudos" for working so hard and getting so little.

I work in IT in Japan.  These beliefs of mine are worldwide.  Take them as you may.

$1 USD =~ 110 Yen.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

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