How do you network if you're outside Japan?

I’ve been reading around here for a couple days now and it seems like there is a Chicken and Egg problem here where you’re encouraged network and market yourself to the Japanese software community, but much of that entails actually having your person in Japan to attend stuff like Meetups inside Tokyo the city. Are there not ways to network reliably online or even better States-side without having to take the plunge?

I am at an intermediate level language-wise: between N3 and N2, with N2 in sight for next year.

Are you aware of any American multinational companies with a sizeable engineering presence in Tokyo? I am currently working for a company with a branch in Tokyo, but it’s a sale-oriented branch - no engineering positions there. A quick search of job openings also surprised me, as Adobe, Microsoft, Mozilla, etc. also seem to only focus on sales in their Japan offices. Either that or the engineering positions are below the tip of the iceberg that can only be reached via networking.

I wouldn’t come to Japan with the main purpose of my trip being networking - its too hit and miss to expect anything to come of it. Rater, if I was already coming to Japan on holiday, I’d attend some local developer events as part of it. It’s not clear if you have been to Japan yet. If not, I’d encourage you to come for a while first, as it will help you decide whether this is actually a place you want to live, and make finding a job easier (companies prefer people who have at least visited here before, preferably several times).

If I was to come to Japan for the express purpose of networking, I’d give a presentation at a developer conference or other event. If you do get accepted to speak at a conference, its possible that your company will pay for you to come here. Otherwise, local developer events are always looking for speakers.

In person networking is something of a filter. There’s a lot of people who would theoretically like to work in Japan. There’s far fewer who actually come out here. So just by coming here, you stand out. If you wanted to do something online, you’ll also need to find something exceptional you can do.

You’re right that many larger companies are primarily sales. That being said, I do know foreign developers who work at Microsoft and Mozilla. But they are people who were already living here. I don’t think it is so common for big companies to relocate overseas developers.

If your company does have a branch here, one option could be convincing them to allow you to work remotely from the Tokyo office. If you’re highly valued by your company, they might be willing to try this out rather than having you quit.

Hi Paul,

Great job reading my mind: I actually did consider the option of putting networking in as an objective for taking a trip to Japan. I was on the fence about it though; I know that networking events tend to be hit or miss even in the States.

I have never set foot in Japan, though your reply confuses me a bit: how is there any definitive difference from a employer point of view from a person who has never set foot in a country, and a person who took many vacations in said country? I mean aside from a recruiter knowing he or she saw me in person in the country, is there some official record somewhere counting “# of times ____ has been to Japan”?

My plan A for a while now has been the ‘convince present company to send me to Tokyo’ - I put it at 5% chance of success based off what I’ve gathered from veteran colleagues here at the Santa Clara office. I’m just at the intermediate level of engineers - neither junior nor senior - it’s doubtful my company would go out of their way to sponsor a work visa for me to break apart from my team (which is all in CA)

I do plan to visit sometime next year. When’s the best time/season you know in terms of cluster of networking opportunities? Like you said, I shouldn’t and won’t put networking as my main purpose, but I will try to squeeze it in if it works out. For speaker events - do most speakers do their presentations in English, or Japanese?

I have seen a colleague of mine work for a week remote from Israel while she was on vacation visiting her family. I joked about doing the same in Japan, at my company’s Tokyo branch as a “tryout week”, but I’ve read that is likely a no-no => working on a tourist visa. I feel like my chances for the internal-transfer might improve though if I could just interact with my company’s Tokyo office though. Any ideas?

People sometimes have an image of what like in Japan is like, but when visiting here, discover it is different. Maybe they end up finding a city like Tokyo to be claustrophobic. Maybe they don’t like being treated as a foreigner. Maybe having to communicate in a language they aren’t fluent in gets to them.

If you’ve never even visited Japan as a tourist before, there’s a greater chance you’ll be one of these people. On the other hand, people who have repeatedly visited here over longer periods of time show that there’s a good chance they will like life here. Of course there’s no way of actually checking it, but being able to talk about how your experiences here reinforced your desire to live here is more compelling than someone who just says they’d like the idea of living here.

For events, I’d say December has the least going on, and January, February, and mid-August tend to be quiet, but otherwise there’s typically something happening. For the language of presentations, it depends on the event. For events run by non-Japanese, typically it is English, and run by Japanese is Japanese. Even at a Japanese event though, I think they’d be interested in hearing from an international speaker like yourself, just because of the novelty of it. If you do want to speak, I’d suggest giving a presentation locally as a first step, as having an existing talk you can point to will help.

As long as your here for a short period of time, and contracted with the US entity, it should be fine. Companies send people abroad for business meetings all the time, and no working visa is needed for this. Certainly any connections you can make here will help, so I’d give it a shot.


Just a note from my side.
I was born in Germany and now I live in the UK.
Before I decided to move here, I did travel a couple of times to the UK.
It was really important to me, that I get to know the local life and that I’m able to adapt to the culture before I made my final decision to move here.

Thanks everyone for the advice. I know darn well I’m triggering a red flag if I’m thinking about moving to Japan in one fell swoop; I won’t make that decision lightly - I know I’m doing pretty well just staying here in the Bay Area with a 25 min commute, enough time to work on self-improvement, etc.

I just wanted to see what steps I could take to be more connected with the Japanese tech community. This might sound bad but I’ve always felt pity for Japan for being so associated with high-tech in people’s minds but having so little presence compared to the US or China in software. I thought I could try to help since I already know their language enough to communicate.