Development gigs in Japan

Hi all,

I’m currently in the pursuit of a new development gig - my preference being something in Japan. It’s a place I’ve long been interested in and my trip there in 2012 really sold it as a place I would like to live and work.

I’ve started looking at job listings but majority of positions I’ve seen require that the applicant currently resides in Japan and can speak Japanese. I’m currently in New Zealand and my Japanese ability is very limited. How much are these factors going to weigh against me?


If you aren’t already here, you’ll be at a disadvantage to any other candidates who are already here. You’ll also miss out on job opportunities in the first place, as many interesting development positions recruit by word of mouth. So if you want to live/work here, the best thing to do is actually come here. New Zealand has a working holiday visa agreement with Japan, so if you’re under 30, that’s one easy way of getting here.

As for language, it really depends on the kind of company / position. Obviously if the company is entirely staffed by Japanese, you’ll need to speak Japanese to get a job there. On the other hand, if the company already has an international developer team, you won’t necessarily need any Japanese skills. In my case, I didn’t have any Japanese ability when I came here, but as the development team I worked for communicated primarily in English that wasn’t an issue.

Getting hired here comes down to the combination of your language and technical skills. If you’re a fluent Japanese speaker you don’t necessarily have to be a great developer - you’re ability to communicate between Japanese and international developers should be enough to get a job. On the other hand, if you don’t have any Japanese skills, you’ll need to be a pretty good developer to get a job here.

Another option to come here is the JET Programme where you’ll act as an assistant at Japanese schools. I know several developers who started out as a JET and then became developers. Because you have a fair amount of free time, and you’re often placed in areas without much of an international presence, it can be a great way to ramp up your Japanese skills.

Thanks pwim.

I had considered the JET Programme but didn’t end up applying given my age (I’m almost 28) and what friends have shared with me who have been or are JETs.

The working holiday visa might be an option but it’s a risk given that it’s only for a year after which you can’t apply again. Am I correct in thinking that if I found a position while there that I would be sponsored for a work visa?

The working holiday visa is a good option for getting started. With it, you can work at pretty much any job, which is great from an employers perspective, as you can start working right away. Once you have a job, as long as you meet the qualifications for the Engineering visa (a relevant university degree or 10 years experience), you can get it pretty much automatically. So your only risk is if you come here and don’t find a job within a year, you’d have to go back to New Zealand.

Does using a recruiter make a large difference? I’ve had hit-and-miss experiences in general with recruiters (their whole model is based on trying to push as many people to companies as possible, but some are better than others), so curious how it is in Japan.

Also - is it looked down on to not have a current job there? One option I could pursue is to take a huge leap of faith and move over with my family (my wife is Japanese, and the kids have Japanese citizenship) - that would mean that I could live there, as you note is the most advantageous position. However, I would most likely be coming over either without a job or by trying to get the easiest job - as an English teacher (which I have done - before Nova went belly-up). Economics being what it is, companies here are far more interested in candidates that are currently employed. Wondering how much that’s true in the development world.