tokyodev forum

Part time work while studying Japanese

Hi!

Recently I started checking job listings in Tokyo looking for part time development jobs but haven’t had any luck finding open positions. I know that the job market took a big hit with the pandemic but I was wondering if part time IT jobs are something common in Japan.

I have been working as a back end developer for a little over 6 years but my Japanese is almost nonexistent so I was thinking about applying for a student visa and spend at least a year learning Japanese. Meanwhile I could work part time as a dev to keep adding work experience for the HSP visa.

Does this sound possible? I’m mostly worried that morning classes wouldn’t work with the “standard” working hours.

Greatly appreciate any info regarding this.
Thanks.

I think Japanese language schools in Japan aren’t a very good way to learn Japanese if your goal is working in Japan. Maybe that sounds strange, but I’ve been going to three of them for about two years now. You may not even reach N3 after a year or more, and they don’t have as goals how to focus on Japanese for getting work (like interviewing) or working language at all. A text like “Minna no Nihongo” is not necessarily an indicator of such, either.

They will, of course, provide you with a legal way to stay in Japan while looking for work. But they could also take away from time you could have spent getting good and very recent development experience, which I think is the most important factor in trying to get work.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as part time development jobs. The places I’ve worked wanted developers to work full time and finish projects quickly for several obvious reasons. For example, so other companies couldn’t beat us in developing things and steal our business. Also, our skills were special, not easy to find, so they wanted us all day if they could get us. So I don’t think you’ll have much luck finding such jobs. But maybe you work in a different kind of development.

Hi @Tom4, thanks for replying!

While I was researching language schools I found mixed reviews regarding the quality of many of the schools. I think you could easily learn everything that they teach with consistent self study but that’s just my opinion and I definitely need the student visa to legally work there.

A few years ago I worked part time as a developer in a few European countries so I thought that was a common thing but I guess that’s not the case in Japan.

I agree that it would be way easier(and better from a career POV) to find a full time job and study Japanese on the side but I don’t fully qualify for a working/HSP visa yet.

To get a student visa, you need to be attending a Japanese language school full time. I’m not sure what exactly is considered full time, but I think you spend most of the day in classes. If you don’t attend those classes, you run the risk of having your visa revoked.

On a student visa, you can apply for permission to work up to 28 hours / week. In recent years, there have been some language schools that exploit this loop hole, recruiting students from mostly developing countries to come to Japan with the promise that they’ll be able to subsidize their study (or even come out ahead) by working a part time job.

In reality, these schools are taking advantage of the students and the system, placing them in jobs with poor working conditions, such as a factory, at sub-standard wages, and collecting money both from the students and getting kickbacks from the companies for placements. The schools turn a blind eye when the students end up spending the class time sleeping, because they’re so tired from working their part time job.

Theoretically, you could make it work, but I think it would be quite challenging to even find a good part time development opportunity, and even if you did, to juggle attending school as well.

Personally, if I was to come to Japan to study Japanese, I’d want to spend the time in actual focused study.

Hi @pwim, thanks for replying!

In the schools I checked out, which can be found in https://gogonihon.com/en/language-schools/, full time study(required for student visa) means 20 hours/week and morning classes are either from 8 to 12 or 9 to 13 in most of them. There are other schools (not in that site) with up to 40 hours/week but those are the ones with the most negative reviews.

Taking the 8 to 12 morning classes and working from 13 to 18 doesn’t sound half bad, at least to me. I think the difficult part will be actually finding a dev job with that kind of schedule.

One of the “shady” schools you mentioned reached out to a friend last year offering free tuition in exchange of working a crazy amount of hours in a food packaging factory in the middle of nowhere. Of course my friend declined the “great opportunity”.

It would be better if you mentioned what are your goals. Is your main interest in learning Japanese or finding a developer job in Japan?

I don’t know what kind of part time developer jobs are available in Japan but I went to two language schools and worked part time so I can comment on that.

When you come on a student visa your main purpose is to study. That means going to school Monday to Friday, plus time you will spend doing homework and studying for tests.
If you skip classes or come in late on regular basis your attendance rate goes down and your visa will be revoked.
Most schools have either morning (8~12) or afternoon (14~18) classes. There are 3 month semesters, at the end of every semester you have tests. If you fail tests you will have to repeat the 3 month curriculum.
You can work up to 28 hours a week, most people work in restaurants or convenience stores.

It’s important you look into the course intensity and homework load, some schools have a heavy curriculum that makes it difficult to work at all.
Also, keep in mind that although classes last about 4 hours it’s 4 hours of study so your brain feels burned out at the end of the day.

As for “you could easily learn everything that they teach with consistent self study”- Japanese is very different than English and even with a good self discipline you won’t be able to match the intensity of learning at school in a structured environment. The language is also too complicated to figure out everything yourself.

@Tom4
I don’t think it’s entirely true. Sure most schools don’t have a very modern approach to teaching but what you will learn depends mostly on the school choice and your own input.
At my school school business language and etiquette were taught. Also the study at language school begins with learning how to speak in polite form, if you plan on networking or doing business interviews in Japanese it’s essential.

I studied Japanese in Japan for a bit over two years while doing mostly freelance development on the side. I attended Yamasa in Aichi, and then TCJ in Yoyogi/Shinjuku in Tokyo. I’d highly recommend both schools as legitimate schools which will teach you Japanese and hold you back in classes if you don’t do good enough. (I’ve heard Yamasa underwent a change of ownership soon after I left in 2012 and isn’t as good anymore, but that was from a former employee so take it with a grain of salt.) At TCJ, I had classes for about four hours day; I seem to remember Yamasa had a longer daily schedule, but I can’t remember exactly. Both schools had occasional optional social events and extra classes and such. So I can attest that, so long as you can find someone willing to accept a half-day schedule (or you’re fine with being active for a full twelve to thirteen hours a day between both school and work), this is a pretty good way to spend some time in Japan and learn Japanese. Of course, becoming a freelancer and being able to make your own schedule helps a lot in that regard.

It’s important to note that you need to get a special addendum (I’m forgetting the proper term) on your student visa before you’re legally allowed to work one minute. It felt very formality-ish when I did it, and if all your clients are overseas in the first place there’s an element of “how will they ever find out” to it, but it’s always good to not give immigration folks, regardless of the country, a reason to take a second look at your visa.

Hi @Jedi thanks for replying!

My main goal is to find a developer job in Japan that would sponsor a working visa.
At the moment with 6.5 years of experience, no degree and almost no Japanese that seems like a long shot so I thought that I could learn the language while working part time as a developer to knock down 2 birds with 1 stone.

I was looking at the “medium-high” intensity courses, those seem to have a good balance between learning and not being all day doing homework. I’m also interested in the business Japanese courses but those probably require at least an N3-N2 level.

Hey @GarrettAlbright thanks for replying and sharing your experience, It’s always nice to hear someone that already went through this!

TCJ is one of my options and also recommended by a friend that went there on 2016 and had a great experience.

I thought about freelancing/working remotely for my current employer but as you said, it’s better to not have any grey spots on visa applications.

How did you start with your freelance career in Japan?

When I first came to Japan I actually continued to work with the American company I was with at the time. I was already telecommuting with them, so it wasn’t a big change in terms of workflow, but having to get up early and/or stay up late in order to communicate with my co-workers wasn’t working out well when I also had school during the daytime. So I quit them and found the freelance gig. I want to say that I found it through a Japan-focused special interest group board for the framework I was using a lot at the time (Drupal), but truth be told it’s been so long that I’m not sure - it could have been Craigslist too.

Of course, the good thing about freelancing is that you can work with clients based all over the world, so I wouldn’t suggest limiting yourself to Japan-based clients if you can’t find any (or any that pay well). That said you should still try to network like heck so that you can find someone who can transition you into a full-time job once you max out the two year limit on your student visa. This last step I ultimately failed at and had to go back to the States - though in my defense the economy was also not as good then as it is now.

@Jorahnma

You can study at the language school for up to two years, if you want to be on a student visa for longer than that you would need to be a university student.

I’m not sure if working part time will count toward building 10 years of work experience- immigration usually makes it clear that it’s 10 years of full time employment (part-time or freelance won’t count).

It might be possible that you can work remotely for your employer in your home country. The 28 hour a week work limit is in place so that people won’t abuse the system and come on a student visa while their main intention is to work.
I would recommend getting a consultation with immigration lawyer to clear it up in advance. Or you can ask the staff at GoGoNihon, I’m sure they know if you can work remotely to support yourself.

When it comes to schools I went to Yoshida(horrible experience) and then switched to ALA Academy Of Language Arts which was recommended to me by a co-worker who spoke a really good Japanese. ALA was amazing, and I would recommend it to everyone. Teachers make individual teaching materials and at the end of every semester they ask for your feedback on classes and inquire what would you like to focus on next. So you actually have a say in what you want to study. They are also very helpful if you have any questions or issues with work or life in Japan.