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re: Working in Japan: Myths, Realities, Compensation, Culture (By A Software Engineer) VIEW POST

FULL DISCUSSION
 

First off, I have to say this is very insightful. I'm beginning to think my experience was a bit out of the norm, since it was very different.

I worked for a terrible company as a web dev in Osaka. I am a non-Japanese person with decent Japanese (around JLPT N3, but took the N2 and failed mostly because my kanji wasn't up to snuff) and worked for a company that did not require Japanese ability, though it certainly helped. I experienced shitty management, petty rules that didn't make much sense, very low pay, and a lot of responsibility (but at least there wasn't much overtime). Mind you it was my first dev job, but even after about a year working there, when I started to ask for things (like flex time, pay raise) I was turned down. So I thought I could go elsewhere, and started looking for another job. Let me tell you it was very difficult to even get an interview in the Osaka area as a foreign dev with 1 yr experience and no N2 certification. I used multiple recruiters and job boards, but after months of looking I sort of gave up and started to focus on the Tokyo area. Now I still lived in Osaka at the time, which may have contributed to the lack of interest from employers, but there were certainly tons more opportunities there. I still didn't manage to find anything worthwhile.

In the end I decided to move back to my home country, and I found a job with the most amazing work culture and started having fun at work again. Within 2 years of leaving Japan I had moved on to another company in my home country doing remote work as a web dev, and there I earn more than double what I did in Japan, I can work on my own schedule, have a great work life balance, and the people are great.

I still hold strong feelings against ever going back to Japan to try and find another dev job, but judging from your article it seems like this is not the norm and people can have a great work experience there. I would only caution others to be careful about the companies you choose to work for there (also having N2 opens so many opportunities for you).

 

Your experience is absolutely normal. I would say that if your Japanese is around N2, you're at the gold standard - you can communicate reasonably well in a variety of situations and are very employable from a language standpoint. Below that, and you'll really struggle to find work unless you have enough programming skills to make up for it.

Recruiters - well, I imagine your opinion of recruiters is similar to mine. Even if they have nothing, at all, that is a fit for you they'll continue to suggest jobs because it's their job to do so. That must have been a very disheartening process.

"Within 2 years of leaving Japan I had moved on to another company in my home country doing remote work as a web dev, and there I earn more than double what I did in Japan, I can work on my own schedule, have a great work life balance, and the people are great."

That is fantastic and I'm glad to hear it! I think that's a pretty healthy benchmark - your salary should be nearly double in ~three years from your start if you started off on the low end. That's about how mine played out, too.

"I would only caution others to be careful about the companies you choose to work for there (also having N2 opens so many opportunities for you)."

1000% this. Be very, very, very choosey about who you work with, or you're going to have a terrible time. And of course, N2 level skills make everything much easier (note - none of my employers cared AT ALL about actually having the N2, it's the language skills that come at that level that make you attractive).

 

In hindsight I probably should have focused more on improving my Japanese while I was there. Still had an amazing time teaching English before becoming a dev though, so it wasn't all bad.

I'm glad you got to enjoy that! I wish teaching English were more of a career so the people who like it could keep doing it.

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