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

Rob Sherling on August 28, 2019

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Wow, that's an awesome article! I loved reading it a lot 👍

Personally, one of my big goals is to have worked in different countries around the world for at least a year or two. One of them definitely is Japan, and I am working on my Japanese skills (though they are more around N5 haha). Reading about having the skills and the language being enough to land a regular job encouraged me a lot to further pursue my language studies, thank you!

I have a few pending questions, though:

  • Why do you work in Japan instead of anywhere else? What's your story? Did you grow up in Japan, or just moved there and stayed?
  • What's your tip or trick to learn Japanese (and Kanji...) self-tought, outside of Japan, alone in a fun and inspiring way, in order to get to at least N3?
  • What's your favorite food 😁

"Personally, one of my big goals is to have worked in different countries around the world for at least a year or two."

Absolutely 100% do it. If you have the chance and the means, it can be a fantastic experience. If it doesn't work out for you, you can always just leave. As long as you don't need to give something up (sell a house, for example), it's a surprisingly low-risk decision.

I'm really pleased that I could inspire even one person to chase their dream. It's entirely possible.

For the questions:

"Why do you work in Japan instead of anywhere else? What's your story? Did you grow up in Japan, or just moved there and stayed?"

I went to Japan for some pretty complicated, unusual reasons, but the short version is that I didn't really know what I wanted to do with my life. One day my Japanese teacher at university (more on that in a second) told me that "my accent wasn't very good and if I didn't go to Japan no one would understand me." I took that as inspiration to get out of my hometown and go do something new. I studied abroad for a year and learned a little in school and a lot in bars.

The full story absolutely deserves its own blog post, but I don't know if it's something that is dev.to appropriate because it has nothing to do with development, really. Thanks for asking though, I'd love to write about it someday and if I do I'll drop a link here.

After that year of study abroad I went home, finished my degree, and came back.

"What's your tip or trick to learn Japanese (and Kanji...) self-taught, outside of Japan, alone in a fun and inspiring way, in order to get to at least N3?"

I sucked BIG in school. I took Japanese for three years -one of them in Japan!- and only knew a few hundred kanji, got a D in my last kanji class, and spoke like a woman because I learned too much from my girlfriend from studying abroad. Here is EXACTLY what you want to do -

First rule: If it isn't fun, you're wasting your time. Consistency beats effort, and consistency needs fun. TV? Good. Textbooks? If you enjoy them. 17th-century Japanese plays about the joy of rice? If it means consistency, live that dream.
Second rule: AJATT. Google that, read some of his classics. Essentially - do as much in Japanese as you can, and that anything done in Japanese counts as study, so go wild. Movies, Games, anything, as long as you keep learning when you use it. You want to hoard media like a dragon hoards gold, and you want to be selective about what you keep. My rule of thumb was that all new media had between 2-5 minutes to impress me, or it went in the trash.
Third rule: Do Heisig's Remembering the Kanji. Get the latest edition. Do not get volume two, or rathe, only read the first and second sections (Radicals that always have one reading, followed by radicals that have two readings). The rest is not an efficient use of your time. Volume three is good for party tricks and remembering some name Kanji easier, so only do it when you both have time and need to satisfy a kanji craving. Doing Heisig should feel like meditation - I put on music, sound of rain, got a notebook, and studied. I did something like 50 kanji a day that way and finished in 6 weeks. It's really, really enjoyable. After that, either do the first parts of volume two like I recommended or just go read what you want (I strongly recommend manga that actually interests you because it's easier to digest).
Fourth rule: If it was worth learning, it was worth reviewing. Make a flashcard right then whenever you learn a new word. It takes about a minute, and then you have the word forever.
Fifth rule: Use Anki flashcards. I've been working on a managed, much faster, much better solution for Anki for a while now. Anki is free, and it's great, but you get what you pay for - it takes a lot of time and has a steep learning curve. I'm building an app - hoping to launch this year, and the prototype for the app took my flashcard making time from 2 minutes for an unknown kanji with sentence and translation to 14 seconds.
Last rule: Anki core 6k. Be resourceful and track that deck down - it should still exist out there in the corners of the internet. Incredible find. Do this while / after doing Heisig. I promise you that if you finish this deck, the first parts of volume two, and heisig that you will CRUSH the N3 and be ready to get the N2 grammar book and then crush that two. Do 50 kanji a day (work up to it, do what you're comfortable with, and never push yourself too hard because some guy on the internet said so with no proof), then do 30 words a day (same), and in about 200 days I would bet a goofy amount of money that the N3 would be childish for you.

Really lastly: Skype Japanese people you can meet online for language exchange sites to practice speaking. It's a good time. Be brave, talk fun - in short, try your best not to ask about the weather and boring things like that. Ask the things you want to know.

Wow, sorry for the long paragraph. I really tried to condense a ton of info and years of experience there - I could write a blog post easily the size of this one on how to do it and make it fun. I loved it.

Favorite food:
This one is a struggle. I'm gonna saaaaay.. Okonomiyaki. Really easy to make, even outside Japan. The trick is to chop the cabbage thin - almost (or even) shredded. Then get Okonomiyaki powder or make some from scratch. Make sure to cook the whole way through, and if you don't have the sauce for it don't even start because it makes the dish. Shrimp (mild allergy, but worth it), beef, pork-strip mix with sauce and mayo.

Thanks for reading that whole huge response, hope I answered everything. If not, let me know.


wow, thank you for writing so much! I'd love to read your article, if you ever create one. The condensed info here was more helpful than reading lots of the forum discussions I found.

I should have Heisig at home (learned the Kana from his book easily and got the first two Kanji volumes), but switched over to WaniKani, because I love how it makes reviews easy (in the beginning). Though I hate how I tend to forget Kanji and vocab which don't come up anymore... and how it piles up stuff to review up to hundreds of items a day. Probably one of the reasons why I started to do it irregularly and forgetting everything along the way.

I never really gave Anki full credit, because it became tedious to fill and everyone seems to have a favorite deck of varying quality. I will take a look at Anki Core 6K, though, and see how I can tweak Anki to my needs.

Also, AJATT. What are you doing to me? This site is like a (good) virus invading my brain, thank you 😂

Oh, and ping me for the app. You seem to create what you need and know what you do, so I want to give it a go.

I have no idea where I would post that kind of article - I feel like Dev.to probably wouldn't want random non-programming articles on it. Maybe Medium?

The only three anki decks that I think are any good -
core 2k (not necessary if you have 6k as it's included) for just doing the basics and then leaving it at normal conversation level
core 6k for advanced conversation
Heisig RTK because it's GOLD and takes out the card creation process.

AJATT is so, so feel-good. And you need that, sometimes. The motivation that it brings will carry you through the parts of your study where you don't feel like you're progressing.

Will ping for the app when it's done - I'm trying to do the front end part, and I am way, way worse at it than I am with the back end, so I'm kind of dragging my feet. :(


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.


Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with us, really appreciated.

Although I don’t have that level of Japanese, I’m currently working in Kyoto at a startup as Fullstack developer. I can relate to many things you’ve mentioned.


Thank you for reading!

Congratulations! Kyoto is a beautiful place to work with a thriving startup scene (especially, apparently, in games). If you ever need someone to talk to, just shoot me a message.


You're right, it's mostly startups only atm. Absolutely, it would be great to get in touch!
I see you studied abroad for a year, which university/school is it?

Kansai Gaidai in Hirakata. Loved it, and I've been to Kyoto a bunch - especially for indie game studio meets. :)

What a coincidence, I exchanged there for a semester too. Still meeting up with friends from there.

I can’t DM you because you’re not following me, but I would like to ask you about salaries and how to negotiate it here.

I should be following you now, but I linked a negotiation article that gives a really good foundation. Search for "negotiate", you should find it useful


Great post! I've been looking into moving to Japan for awhile and this answered a lot of questions I've had.

Might not be something you can answer but do you have any idea what the electronics or embedded industry is like in Japan? Or resources I could checkout to try and figure that out? I'm curious to what's in demand over there/what people use. I know traditionally a lot of Japanese companies will try and stick to parts from other Japanese companies but I'm curious how much of that holds up now.


Before I answer, just a clarification.

"I know traditionally a lot of Japanese companies will try and stick to parts from other Japanese companies but I'm curious how much of that holds up now."

Do you mean that you intend to import these things?


Not exactly. I'm trying to learn about product lines/toolchains/development tools etc that are particularly popular or in demand. The idea being that I can try using those things in projects to get familiar with them and of course put on a resume. Most electronics distributors carry parts from Japanese companies so buying them isn't really an issue.

As an example parts from Microchip, ST, and Texas Instruments are popular with people here in the USA but if you open up products from Japan you're more likely to find parts from Renesas, Toshiba, and Rohm. Some things are more universal like the use of ARM cores in microcontrollers/microprocessors but the development tools can vary quite a lot between manufacturers.

Likewise in the USA a lot of companies use Cadence OrCad/Allegro or Altium Designer for PCB design but I have no idea if those are equally popular in Japan.

Huh. I have absolutely no idea where to even start looking into that kind of thing, other than searching for relevant terms for your search in Japanese. I don't know anything about that field, unfortunately.


Any idea what the jobs are like on the security landscape? I want to be a penetration tester, one year left of school and interning as a security test engineer (lots of py programming for the most part) right now, and would love to move to Japan. I've been studying Japanese for 6 months now and have progressed pretty well. Started out with Matt vs Japan's lazy kanji deck to go along with rtk (at about 1175 kanji now in Anki deck), been using the Tango books (anki deck sentence cards 15 new words per day) to introduce new vocab, and I am reading(manga for now) roughly 2 hours per day, watching tv/anime 2 hours per day (with J subs),playing JRPGs, etc. in order to improve my Japanese. I think that sticking with this and gaining a few years of experience in the US would help my case when looking for a job in Japan, but that begs the question, what is the job market for security professionals like? In the US, it is huge right now. I'd assume Japan would be the same but I can't say for certain. When people talk about tech in Japan, they seem to rarely speak about security/networking/sys ad positions.


I have absolutely no idea what it's like for security because I have never worked in that field. Googling it in Japanese might give you some ideas though. :)


This is gold, man. Pure gold. Thanks for writing this. Curious: Ever consider getting a developer job back in the states? I gather that you haven't done software development in the states, but what do you think are the pros/cons of being a non-native (but relatively fluent) developer in Japan versus in your home country?


Thank you, that praise is really validating! :)

So. This could be an entire follow-up article of its own, but in short:

I'm considering moving back to the states in a few years. Not because I think I'd be happier programming there (I really don't mind either way), but because I think the things I can do there better fit my agenda. I would only go back if I had total, comprehensive health care though.

From what it looks like - being a software developer in America seems to be harder. Not because of higher skill requirements, but because the job ads are written by CRAZY PEOPLE.

Entry level positions that want a bachelors in CS and experience. "Junior" dev positions that have 4 years experience required. "Senior" positions that need 10+ years in a language that I read about once in my youth. I feel like I had an easier time getting an interview with Google than I would at some of these companies.

Japanese job ads tend to ask for what they actually need (they still overask sometimes, of course), look at your experience and projects, ask relevant questions, and then go forward based on mutual trust. They have this in America as well, but it's not as prevalent. Having a BS in CompSci isn't necessary for pretty much anything here.

However, America seems to also have more applicants for each job, so from what I gather the degree requirement is to make things easier on HR.

The other big plus is that fluent English/ fluent Japanese hybrids with good programming are SUPER rare, so it's a huge plus.


Hi! Nice article, i just want to ask, where can I get that "medium" or "startup" company information in Japan? Thanks!


Do you mean for companies that expect Japanese language skill, or for people who are technically proficient but don't have Japanese experience?


I meant for people who are technically proficient haha, I've got my JLPT N4 last year, I like Japan so much cause of their environment, so maybe I'll give it a try to work in Japan

I would suggest Googling jobs in Japan (in English, of course). That's definitely going to be the fastest way to find those kinds of jobs, because I don't know of any site that caters mainly to that audience. I just see them come up when I job hunt.


If you have the perseverance, one can get a really nice engineering position at Microsoft, Indeed or Google with really nice pay packages, no Japanese necessary at all, and free food (Google). Didn’t Google just open up a new campus in Shibuya? I think there are more and more American style tech companies in Tokyo.


I had a phone interview with Google, actually! Unfortunately they don't do 3/week employment and I'm working on my own project so it didn't progress after that. They seem super cool!

It makes sense that you wouldn't need Japanese for that. They wanted to have me be a cloud support top-level tech or something - basically, I would deal with Japanese customers and help fix their problems as the end-of-the-line last-resort measure. They said that was difficult to hire for because of the Japanese/English needs.

I imagine that the non-Japanese positions require even more skill, probably more than I have! :)


This was certainly worth the 30-ish minute read. Thank you for sharing your experiences! I especially liked the part where you tackled overtime and the "obligatory" nomikai (drinking parties) -- these are the biggest reasons why I always pass up on trying my luck in Japan. I'm currently a full-stack dev with N3 certification (although I'm already rusty haha). Reading about your adventures inspired me to seriously study Japanese again, and of course enhance my programming skills. :) Thank you!


I'm really happy that you found the read worth it, and it's always a good feeling to know you've inspired someone!

If you ever need help with your study, please let me know.


I've really loved this. You just broke a lot of things that I've took for granted over the Japanese work culture and even hyped me a little with the idea of trying what you've done. The main issue is that Japanese is not an easy language, though haha


You're right that it's a tough language! Language difficulty is 100% relative to your native language (learning Korean is easier for Japanese people that learning Chinese, learning German is easier than Japanese for English speakers, etc.), and Japanese doesn't seem to resemble many other languages.

My advice? Learn kanji FIRST if you're interested. I wrote another commend above about how to do it.

Thank you so much for your appreciation. I'm really glad that you enjoyed it.


Great stuff, spot on with most stuff from my experience except for being a freelancer meaning less salary. The amount of stuff you can bring in as tax deductibles is just crazy.

Can you recommend any of those companies that hook you up with freelancing gigs?


Follow me and send a DM so we can talk about it.


Really great article, I think I really needed to read this to give myself some more perspective!

I'm on my last year of university (comp sci., game programming focus) so I'm hoping to find a job in Japan once I graduate.

Hoping to get N2 this December... not sure if it's truly that important but looking at all bigger game companies, without N2 they won't even look at your application. I have 1.5 years in AAA already though so I'm not sure if that'll affect anything.

From whatever you've heard, how is it from indie game dev in Japan vs. AAA game dev? I'm more on the tools / backend side if that changes anything rather than being right in the middle of gameplay (which is a lot rougher from what I hear, and what you mentioned in your article).

And how important is getting N2, really? What's a more efficient way to study with the goal of communicating effectively in a Japanese workplace (focus in tech of course)?

Thanks again for this! You've helped motivate me to keep going and to sign up here just to leave this comment and give you a follow :P


I'm sorry for the slow turn around - I'm in the middle of launching a startup and moving!

I'm surprised to see that you need the N2 to even apply, but that might be because of the more stringent process involved with the expense of bringing in someone from overseas - I imagine that getting the N2 shows some level of ability as well as a probable dedication to sticking around Japan for a while.

Having experience in AAA is really, really useful for working at AAA places, but it depends on what you did there I imagine. If that experience translates into what you want to do at the new company, you're probably going to have a good time!

I'm certainly not ANY kind of authority on the state of gaming in Japan and indie vs. AAA, so please take this with a certain air of "My opinion based on my single experience at a mid-sized company about 4 years ago"-esque confidence.

Backend guys typically make more money and are harder to replace. They have the same hours as everyone else, and if a hotfix needs to come out it's almost certain that you won't be going home until it's done. After all, if a UI bug happens you can push out a patch next week. If payments goes down, every minute is a crisis.

Don't worry about getting N2 just to get N2 - get the skills that make N2 easy, and then get it so you have paper to show employers / a level of benchmarked progress for yourself. The most efficient way to study - learn a MOUNTAIN of vocabulary. Please forgive me for not linking, but if you look through the answers I left here, one is an essay of text with more-than-average likes. That should have the strategy you need. I did what I said there and went from N4 to ezpz N2 in about a year.

As for the focus in tech - I went into my first tech job with no idea what they were saying. I recommend just asking when you don't get a word. If you're a fun person and your coworkers are cool people, they'll find it endearing that you're trying to learn to be more fluent. Ask them "What is static page in Japanese?" or "Why is the slang for server down (like a fish)?"

Then write that down and remember it. Emphasis on remember. (I'm working on an app for that. I WISH IT WERE LAUNCHED SO I COULD PLUG IT HERE, haha).

Anyway, good luck and don't hesitate to email / comment here if you need anything else.


Thanks for the reply!! No worries :)

I think all the N2 requirements were for larger game companies, so I guess that may be different for smaller companies which may be more lenient in terms of your exact language skills? Not sure.

Vocabulary is definitely most important thing I agree! So much to learn :D
Do you have any tips for practicing listening for N2 level and such? I seem to be lacking a bit there.

Thanks for all these tips! I'll keep them all in mind as I keep working on N2 and finding a job. I'll also look out for that app when its launched :P


Awesome. I have a Japanese degree and just got some experience as a Front-end Dev. Always wondered if I could work in Japan


If your Japanese is good and your skills are relevant, you could certainly find work here.


What about if my Japanese is rusty (but used to be great), and my skills are relevant to Front-end? (JS, React, Vue, Node)

So, this is a bit of a tricky situation. I don't think it's the end-all be-all, but using the JLPT is a fairly okay way to gauge what your skill might be in the absence of any other data.

When you say "rusty but it used to be great", approximately what level relative to the JLPT are you talking about?

like back in the day I could have passed level 2, but now I'd need to hit the books pretty hard to work back up to that

Right. I would say that if you get to N2 level, you'll be okay. Lower than that, and your JS skills have to be really, really good. If you have an impressive project, you'll do well. Otherwise, definitely hit the books.


Your career is cool and inspired. I wish to have more advice from you. I am a fresh graduate Vietnamese student with a bachelor's degree in EE engineering with lousy programming skills, and I still live in Vietnam. My English is normal which is around 7-7.5 IELTS, and have no Japanese skill, but my twin brother has N2 so I don't really afraid about learning Japanese. I have a few experience in AI and currently building a chatbot for a company. Can you suggest to me which skill I should improve first, because it is hard to do both of them at the same time, and also to what stage those skills should reach before applying for a IT job in Japan ?. For your information, most of the offers for fresh graduate Vietnamese programmer is around 200k to 250k.


I think there was a problem with Dev.to's notification system. I kept seeing notifications for my articles, but couldn't actually read their contents. I am sorry for the delay in responding.

I'm not sure if this helps you anymore because so much time has passed, but:

Do the skill that is the most satisfying for you. If it doesn't matter then focus on programming first. Get a year or two of good, challenging, quality experience under your belt and then go for Japanese. I absolutely think you can focus on both, but it takes a lot of dedication and a good system.

Getting programming first will give you skills to live on while you learn Japanese.

"What stage those skills should reach?"
N2 for Japanese, no idea for programming.

I've seen plenty of Vietnamese programmers working here, so it's totally possible.

200-250k in what currency?


Thank you for your reply. Currently, I am trying to improve both Japanese and programming but the progress in Japanese is quite slow. And 200-250k is in Japanese Yen

That's very low compared to Japan, but the cost of living is also much higher here, I imagine.


Hello! Thank you for your article! I have a couple questions coming from every direction. So please excuse the randomness. 😂

Workforce ⭐️

  • What is the job scene in other big cities throughout Japan like Osaka or Kyoto compared to Tokyo? (Abundance of jobs, things to do, apartments to select from, etc.)
  • Is ageism an issue? I'm entering school later than my peers and will be graduating much later than them. I have some experience in software, but I'm considering on graduating in something else other than computer science to enter the workforce faster.

Apartment/Living ⭐️

  • How can I prepare for apartment hunting? Or, how can I spread my options out so that I have more apartments to select from once the rejection hits?
  • I want to continue my piano lessons, swim and play basketball. Would I be able to easily find any indoor facilities to cater towards my hobbies and stay healthy?
  • Assuming I know little Japanese would I be able to make friends with similar interests as my own?

Language ⭐️

  • Is it absolutely necessary to learn kanji? Can I get by with just knowing Hiragana and Katakana?

Thank you.


Amazing read, thank you so much for all the details, I got a lot of information here. I was wondering, since I am about to get my B's in Translation ( English-Spanish tech.), how is it that you made the jump from teacher to developer, because I am noticing a pattern here lol, what tools did you use to learn programming, how did you decide what language to choose, any certifications? (Microsoft, Oracle, etc.), do they help when trying to get hired? Because I am thinking about moving there through a Business Manager Visa ( I wanted to start a co-working Cafe in Fukuoka including some language-teaching in the mix while boosting my basic programming skills), but if there is a different way, an easier one, through Working Visa, then switching to Self Sponsored Visa, it would be awesome to get your insight on it.
Thanks a lot and I am sorry if this is too long, you seem like you got most of it figured out.


"From what I've gathered that is insanely cheap compared to NYC or the Bay Area."

Isn't it the case for literally the rest of the world? :D


Hahaha 100%!


I spent a bunch of years in Kansai. Don't really miss it. Well... maybe sometimes, but not really. =)


Oh! What part of Kansai? What did you do there?


Osaka, Shiga, and Kyoto. Went to grad school and worked at game companies.

I've never been to Shiga - it's really countryside, right?


Hello Rob. I am also interested in building my career in japan. Let's say I have 2 years of backend experience mainly Java, a JLPT N2 certificate and OCA certificate, are there much opportunities present already for me? and how much can I ask for a starting salary (considering it'd wouldn't be entry level) ?


I think there was a problem with Dev.to's notification system. I kept seeing notifications for my articles, but couldn't actually read their contents. I am sorry for the delay in responding.

This depends TREMENDOUSLY on so many things. I don't want to sound like a jerk, but if you read the article negotiation section (I assume you have), your actual skills in Java (not just time you spent at a desk where Java was in the job title), accomplishments, and the work you want will dictate a large part of your entire package. I would talk to a recruiter or two - you're going to get a much better answer. if you have JLPT N2, it should be pretty easy to find a recruiter who will talk to you!


Thanks for the long, insightful and beneficial article you've written, one thing i would like to know is, would emigrating to Japan be something hard for someone who comes from a ME/NA country with "Mohamed" being part of their first name? i read a bit about Japan's govt's view of Arabs and Middle easterners in general and found that Japan rarely accepts Muslims (I'm not one anymore but i think they'd count me as one of them due to my name and background) Thanks again for the great article.


I think there was a problem with Dev.to's notification system. I kept seeing notifications for my articles, but couldn't actually read their contents. I am sorry for the delay in responding.

I worked with a guy named Mohamed when I taught English. Great guy. Went to go rent a house - got discriminated against because he was black. It's not even a speculation type of thing - his white Ukrainian girlfriend went to scope it out, said there would be two of them, they said no problem. He went with her to confirm, they told them "The apartment is suddenly unavailable." After some back and forth, it turns out that the landlord didn't want a black guy living there. Japanese law makes this perfectly legal.

That being said, for the vast majority of your interactions, no one will care. I don't know anything about the actual emigration process itself for non-Americans, of course, but living here - I don't think you'll experience more-than-average ignorance for having that name as compared to any other name.


Thank you so much for taking the time to write this! I'm currently planning to start searching for tech jobs in Japan roughly a year from now, and this elucidated a lot for me. There are a few things I'm curious about, however, and hoping you might have insight on them!

  1. Like a few others here in this comment section, I am also registered to take the N2 this December. I'm confident with kanji, somewhat confident in vocabulary, but very behind in grammar. I just got back from a two week trip to Japan, and found that while I could read most signs, and idle conversation was doable, conversation was awkward at times and I made a few dumb mistakes (e.g., not knowing 話しかける so working my way around by saying 話すことを始める). I know this is part of the language learning process, but should I be concerned? On the path to speaking better with practice, are people in the workforce (assuming that yes, I generally know my way around with keigo) more likely to be understanding, or irritated to no end?

  2. In the game development world, typically my experience in the US is that conflict of interest is a really big deal, so I write my own games in my spare time, but work in tech fields other than game development. Is this a pattern I should continue in Japan? Or, are conflicts of interest really not a big deal, and I can freely apply for game development companies while also working on my own games?

  3. Being a foreigner seeking a tech job surely poses struggles on its own. I'm curious, did you know any women from other countries seeking jobs in tech in Japan? I don't have a lot of hope in that department.

  4. You mention a lot of places to more or less avoid - Bizreach, Wantedly, Gaijinpot. What are places that are worth looking for jobs in? I'm not afraid of using Japanese sites but once that I found from a google search seemed to have zero information about things like whether they would be willing to sponsor a visa. Assuming they would even reply to me, this doesn't give me the impression they would be very patient with me stumbling around when speaking the language, either.

  5. Also, in particular, I'm interested in working in cities outside of Tokyo, such as Osaka or Fukuoka. Is that going to be exceedingly difficult, especially in the hunt for my first job?

I instantly created an account just to ask this and follow you, once again, thank you so much for this post, and thank you for reading this!


I think there was a problem with Dev.to's notification system. I kept seeing notifications for my articles, but couldn't actually read their contents for months. I am sorry for the delay in responding.

I'm not sure if this will help you because it's coming months after you asked for it, but here we go:

1) How did you do?! I hope you did well, I'm always happy to hear about people pushing themselves to do better. Grammar, btw, - (GOD I WISH I WAS AN AMAZON AFFILIATE) 完全マスター・文法、N2
Absolutely awesome for learning grammar. Do the whole thing and review religiously. N1 Book was good, too

No, by the way. Don't be concerned at all. A few days ago I mixed up "Formal" and "Funeral" and said "I don't want a wedding that feels too funeral-like, you know?" before realizing and laughing with everyone. People in the workforce are super, super chill with you not knowing things. Don't worry about it as long as you actually try and learn the words. I don't imagine a lot of frustration for you being a learner, but I do image a lot of frustration if they have to teach you the same words often.

Also, Keigo is super, super overrated in most situations. Be polite and read the room, and you'll do fine (*this advice may not apply to Japanese or asian-looking people).

2) Ask the individual companies, but it will likely go something like this:
"What's the game?"
"x concept."
"Oh, that's not a clone of our game. Cool, have fun."

Of course, that isn't a guarantee and every company is different, but in general bring it up early at the interviews and you should be fine making that part of your contract.

3) Honestly, not that I can recall. I wish I could be more help here, but the Japanese women that I've seen apply for jobs didn't have a problem getting hired.

4) I would love to list sites, but I can't. I strongly encourage you to search in Japanese (I imagine your search was in Japanese, of course, but just checking). As for visa sponsorship - most companies won't say anything about it at all, really. The idea of hiring a non-Japanese probably hasn't even crossed their minds when they wrote it, so you'd have to approach them with the idea. Just ask when you apply.

If you have trouble speaking Japanese with confidence, that's going to be an issue to a degree. This is because you won't be able to say what you want, how you want. It's not so much "patience for stumbling" as "can we easily understand each other?"

Fukuoka - absolutely 0 idea.
Osaka - nah, there's a ton of jobs in Osaka. I've seen a lot of older companies, older tech, game companies, etc., but it for sure exists. Just filter the region on job search sites.

Please let me know if this helped you or if I missed anything.


A really detailed post. Thank you for the time!


Absolutely, my pleasure! Thank you for reading.


Cool, I’m extremely interested in moving to Japan. (Also a programmer, still learning Japanese, early 20s.) I think this was a nice clear honest overview, thanks for sharing!


My pleasure, thank you for the praise!


Awesome read! As a programmer for a fairly big firm in Tokyo, most of it was spot on!

Good japanese really improves your living experience here!


Agreed. Tremendously. Having good Japanese opens so many doors for you.


Thank you Rob for sharing your experiences !


Thank you so much for reading!


Great article. Enjoyed reading whole. Thank you Rob.


My pleasure, thank you for reading!


This is one of the best things I've ever read on the internet. Thanks!


Thank you, that means a lot to me!


Thanks a lot for writing this! Such an inspiration! Do you have recommendation to begin learning japanese? :)


Sure! This is a response to someone else.



Very helpful article!
Thanks from Tokyo.


Glad to help!


Very interesting read. Thanks for sharing


Thank you, I'm glad you liked it!

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