Complicated Situation for me

Hi Paul. this is Eric. I am so happy to finally find a place that I might be able to find answers to my questions.

It’s quite a long story, please don’t mind.

I am a web developer from Hong Kong, with almost 10 years of experiences. I am specialised in HTML5, CSS (SASS), Javascript (JQuery mostly), Flash (AS2 and AS3) and also PHP with Drupal for backend development. I did iOS (Objective-C) development too sometimes for my company. I am even a Java Certified Developer back in the days it’s still Sun Java.

I worked in different Agencies for Five to Six years as a Web Designer (In Hong Kong this means you need to know everything from HTML to Video Editing lol). Three years ago I set up a company with one of my ex-colleagues who is a graphic designer. We took web related projects mostly (mini sites, flash banners, online stores, company portfolio sites etc). As a startup we only got 2 ppl in the beginning so I am responsible for almost Everything (except hardware and hosting solutions), so that’s why I need to learn and master as many of different skills/languages I mentioned above for me to accomplish my jobs.

Now (actually early this month) I decided to part with my partner because of some issues, and I am on my own now. So how is this related to Japan? Well, I always wanted to work and live in Japan. I love Japanese Culture and Other stuffs. I had been studying Japanese by myself for almost 15 years now, I can read and write okay. However lack of chance to speak with natives, my oral and listening are very bad.

The chance finally comes. Now I am on my own, I have to think of my future. Either I fulfil my dream to come to Japan, or I continue my career in Hong Kong. I think if I chose the Japanese way, it would change my life, in a better way. I just don’t know how to start with.

I considered to set up a company in Tokyo, but after some searches on Google I found out that Money is the major concern. I don’t have 5Mil yen (at least) to set up a company in Tokyo yet and apply for the Investor Visa. Also I don’t have any connections there. So the best way may be come to Tokyo and find a job first, and build up everything gradually.

After reading posts on this forum, I saw a ray of light. Here comes my questions:

  1. Do company hire ppl without a working visa first and bother to help them to apply for it if they decided to hire that person? (I held a British passport)
  2. I don’t have a degree on Computer Science, I only got an Associated Degree of it. Is it impossible for me to apply for the Engineer Visa?
  3. Or should I come as a tourist and attend to meetups like Hacker News Tokyo first, to know people first and start as a remote freelancer maybe?

Thanks for reading such a long boring story, and hope you can help me out.


Generally speaking, companies in Japan will provide potential employees with visas. Sponsoring a visa doesn’t put much burden on the company. However, many companies look for developers that are already here as it decreases the risk for them.

If you have a university degree in computer science and a company wanting to sponsor you, you’re basically guaranteed a visa. Without a degree, it is still possible if you have ten years experience. I think this can include the two years you spent getting the associate degree. As the requirements for the case where you don’t have a degree are a bit more unclear, this might put you at a slight disadvantage at getting a job over someone who has the degree and same experience, but I don’t think it’s a big one.

Remote work isn’t so common in Japan, so it might be a bit hard to find a position that way. If you’re going down the remote work path, the easier approach might be to work remotely for an international company. Living here while working for an international company is a bit of a grey area. Doing it on a tourist visa is possibly illegal, but chances of getting caught are basically nil (unless you leave the country and immediately come back to get a visa extension).

Attending events like Hacker News Tokyo is a great way to build up your network. However, I wouldn’t expect to get a job right away out of them. If you’re really determined to get a job and are good at networking, you might be able to find something your first time round. More realistically though, it would probably take at least a couple of months to find something.

If you have some money saved up, one other option would be to attend a Japanese language school. You can work part time while on a student visa, so it could be possible to do some development work on it while you build up connections here. Since your reading and writing skills sound a lot more advanced than your speaking skills, you might find Japanese school boring though (and you do actually need to attend classes to keep your visa).

I can’t tell you which way to come here, as ultimately you need to make that decision yourself based on how much risk you’re willing to take. But I hope this helps.

Thanks @pwim for your reply!

Yes, I have considered coming to japan to attend to Japanese language courses as an option, but I want to find one that emphasised on speaking and listening. Since most of the schools do not solely focus on oral aspects (and you learn from daily communications there), I may need some time to figure this out. I may apply for short courses which I do not need to apply for a student visa (as I’ve heard it’s quite an exhausting and long process, not to mention the money problem), and try to build my networks while I am in Tokyo. I can still afford for the expenses for three months.

Hi Eric,

I, myself, just recently arrived in Japan to conduct several interviews at a few Tokyo startups. Like you, I didn’t have much experience or opportunities actually speaking Japanese before I arrived – my greatest confidence was in my reading and writing which was fortunately fairly easy to improve on my own time while working in the States.

Anyways, I was quite nervous about how well I would preform in the interview, because I knew that I didn’t really have true experience listening or speaking surrounded by natives in a technical capacity. I arrive a couple of days ahead of my first interview and… watched alot of TV! I had a few conversations with some restaurant staff, and people on the street, just to test myself and ease the nerves.

To my surprise, I’ve been doing just fine, all in Japanese. I believe that 3 things were key to my success that could apply to you to:

  1. I did prepare by spending a few weeks watching technical presentations and conferences online. If you can write Japanese you should be able to search pretty much any technical subject you like on youtube with a word like 講義 or something slapped at the end. From there you can just follow the 関連 videos.

  2. I also prepared by spending several weeks following articles on This is doubly useful because not only will you quickly learn technical vocabulary but also have opportunities to follow and get to know some Japanese engineers. If you write some articles about a popular technology in Japanese they’ll quickly endear themselves to you.

The best part about the above two suggestions was that it costs absolutely no money, I was able to do it before coming to Japan, and it helped far more than “general Japanese”.

In my interviews, my 敬語 was of course subpar, my grammar had lots of little holes, and I had to scrap together lots of sentence fragments to convey myself. But no one even reacted because in the end I was using all the correct technical words and could express my work experience, and ask questions related to, relevant technical expertise. That, of course, for any employer, is the most important thing: “Can you do this job competently? Tell me about it.”

I hope this helps, as I too was in a similar situation relative to my experience in speaking in listening before I came, but I think with some preparation you could do well without having to resort to wasting time in a school (which won’t teach you, by the way, how to speak on technical subjects).

Best of luck!