The working holiday visa is one way to come here, and while it makes things easier, I wouldn’t say it dramatically changes the situation. One attribute employers are looking for is commitment to living in Japan. In my case, I was determined to live in Japan for at least the duration of my working holiday visa, whether or not I got hired by a company, so I think that made me more attractive then someone who predicates living here on having a job here. The working holiday visa made it easier for me to stay here until I found a job, but in the end, I don’t think it had a big influence on me getting hired.
If you’re wanting to get a job here, I think you need to accept the risk of coming here without a job and possibly not getting one. So if you are wanting to get a job here, consider at what point in your career you want to take that risk. In my case, after graduation seemed the natural time for me, as I figured even if I never found anything here, I could get a job back in Canada. I thought it would be easier to do that at the start of my career than after I had established myself.
Because of how Japanese companies recruit people, traditionally there are two opportunities to get hired: before you’ve graduated and once you’re “mid-career”. From that perspective, you might be a more attractive candidate if you have some on the job experience. On the other hand, if you wait to come, you might end up missing the opportunity as your responsibilities tend to increase as you get older. So really what is the right timing is a question only you can answer.
I think no matter what your skill set is, it is possible to find some sort of job here. I wouldn’t come with the expectation that it would be easy though. There also isn’t a clear answer to which is the best route to take to come here. Here’s my comparison of the different options:
- Come over on a tourist visa for a couple of months and find a software job. I think this is least likely to succeed, but if you do make it work, probably the most rewarding career wise.
- Work as an English teacher. If you’re a native speaker, it’s basically a guaranteed job. You might not get compensated so well, but it is a pretty easy job. You could aim to do #1, and fall back on this if you can’t find anything within a couple of months. On the other hand, if you really try hard to find a programming job on a tourist visa but don’t succeed, you probably don’t have much greater chances after having lived in Japan as an English teacher.
- Intensive language school. This requires the biggest financial investment for you, as you’ll be paying to learn. On the other hand, if you can become a fluent Japanese speaker, it will open up other opportunities you didn’t have before.
Sorry if all this is pretty vague, but it really comes down to your very specific individual situation, and until you actually try it, it is hard to say what will work.