Follow this Guide to Get an Information Technology Job in Japan by@hjains

Follow this Guide to Get an Information Technology Job in Japan

Japan has one of the least unemployment rates among developed countries. Job vacancies in Tokyo exceeded the number of job seekers by 44% in May 2022. The job-openings-to-applicants ratio is 1.44 jobs for every job seeker in Tokyo, 1.18 in Osaka, and 1.24 nationwide. However, the ratio gets far worse when it comes to job openings for bilinguals with Japanese and English-speaking proficiency. Knowing anything new only comes by living it – at least for a considerable period.
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Himanshu Jain HackerNoon profile picture

Himanshu Jain

Himanshu is the Co-founder and Managing Director of ReachExt K.K. and EmploymentJapan.com.

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Exploring the Land of the Rising Sun by Working There


While growing up, I never had any practical experience or exposure to Japan, except for the occasional pictures of Japanese fans, Kimono-clad ladies, Japanese dolls, and samurai warriors with those eye-catching swords and fighting poses. On one side are those gorgeous ladies and dolls in Kimono; on the other, those Samurai warriors – mighty, formidable, confident but still looking peaceful and bowing with respect. Everything I heard always used to raise my curiosity. In fact, things sounded like fairy tales, something from the other world, and I always wanted to go to Japan to see it all. And the way destiny must have meant it, or was it my passion that paved the way – I ended up coming to Japan for a two-month IT project for an SAP implementation.


Japan was not all that the stories told me about it. Yes, it was different from those stories, but it was also different from what I had ever seen or experienced. And it was beautiful. I was a bit sad that this would end in just two months, mainly because I didn’t have Japanese language skills. But I wanted to stay for long, absorb as much as possible, experience it as much as possible, and live it.


Most of us wish to travel to other countries, experience different cultures and know new things and people. However, we generally end up seeing what other tourists see, experiencing a life that other tourists experience, and not the life of a local person, the life of that place or country. Knowing anything new only comes by living it – at least for a considerable period, which is a relative term.


During those two months, I met many other foreigners. Many of those had similar feelings that I had. They either wanted to come back or wanted to stay longer.


There are others who have not visited Japan but might have similar curiosity like what I had. This article is for all such people who wish to experience Japan and live it for some part of their lives. Before we move forward in that direction, let me share the other twist in my story. My two-month project ended over fifteen years ago, and I am still in Japan. And, it all happened because of passion and making that passion the driver to find ways.


A very common question in the air is, “How can I find a job in Japan?”. And for us techie people, the question is, “How do I get an IT/software developer’s job in Japan?”. Yes, a very natural question for someone curious about Japan and who wishes to experience life here. And the next question which follows is, “Can I get a job in Japan without knowing Japanese?” Let’s take a walk to talk about these questions.


Among developed countries, Japan has one of the least unemployment rates. As per the Japanese government’s figures for May 2022, job vacancies in Tokyo exceeded the number of job seekers by 44% in May 2022. During that month, the job-openings-to-applicants ratio is 1.44 jobs for every job seeker in Tokyo, 1.18 in Osaka, and 1.24 nationwide. However, the ratio gets far worse when it comes to job openings for bilinguals with Japanese and English-speaking proficiency, and that makes hiring in Japan quite challenging.

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The above facts show that there are many job opportunities for talent who can speak Japanese and English. And this situation is getting better for the job seekers, though not for the country, because of the fast aging and declining population. The about statistics is equally applicable to the information technology jobs as companies need more software developers than are available in Japan.


Knowledge of the Japanese language improves the chances of finding a job drastically. However, getting a job without knowing Japanese is not so difficult in the job market. Remember that word passion and gunning for the objective.


Finding an Information Technology (IT) Job in Japan

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While most information technology jobs in Japan require Japanese language skills, that obstacle can be easily overcome with niche IT skills like Cloud Computing, Data Science, Data Engineering, Automation, and Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning. However, many Japanese companies are opening up for foreigners without Japanese language proficiency. In addition, there are recruitment companies focused on candidates who speak English, whether along with Japanese or even without the Japanese language, which can be an excellent option for finding the right job. There are also dedicated Japan-focused job boards as another good option.

What if My IT skills are Not Very Niche?


Well, the good news is that not having very niche IT skills does not close the doors. The two reasons for that are as follows:


  1. As mentioned above, the overall demand-supply gap in the talent pool makes recruiting challenging in Japan, and that is making many employers open up to welcome IT professionals from abroad.
  2. Many small and medium-scale progressive Japanese companies and startups wish to have more diversity by employing English-speaking candidates to help them be more competitive on the global stage and to fulfill their vision for expansion outside Japan.
  3. COVID has changed many things – some for the bad and some for good. One of the good side effects is that companies have become more flexible, and some companies are even opening up remote jobs.

Obstacles to Finding an IT job in Japan from Abroad

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Though, in general, it is always more challenging to find a job in any other country without being there, in Japan, it has been more difficult than in some of the English-speaking countries like the USA, the UK, Australia, etc. Some of the reasons are as follows:


1. Face-to-face meetings have traditionally been more preferred in Japan

Face-to-face meetings have been an integral part of the Japanese working culture. Even for a short discussion where a telephone call can serve the purpose, Japanese people would opt for a physical meeting. Of course, things have changed post-COVID outbreak, but the roots do not go away so easily — the same with job interviews. Hiring an employee is a major decision, and it has been difficult for Japanese companies to select or reject a candidate without meeting them.


2. Language barrier

Even for bilingual Japanese, it is always easier to communicate face to face with an English speaker rather than over the phone, especially with accent differences.


3. Dependency on recruitment agencies

Traditionally large Japanese corporations have been following the Shūkatsu system for employment. This is about hiring employees from the universities well before they graduate. This system is also referred to as “aotagai,” meaning “buying rice before it is harvested”. Companies hire these students, train them, and then they would stay with the company for their life till their retirement. Still, this system has not disappeared from the Japanese mega-corporations but has changed significantly over time.


When it comes to hiring from the market, both Japanese companies and the Japanese entities of foreign multinationals depend heavily on recruitment agencies. And, when it comes to recruitment companies, they prefer candidates already in Japan.


How to get an IT job in Japan from abroad?


1. Recruitment Agencies

Recruitment agencies are always an option you should not ignore, even if the chances of success may not be great if you are not in Japan. The suggestion is to go for some of the large and some mid-sized ones. The pros and cons are that the large ones would have a more extensive clientele list, but you may not get the desired focus. On the other hand, the mid-sized recruitment agencies would have a relatively smaller client base, but you can assume more focus on your profile.


Some of the large recruitment companies for bilingual talent or even monolingual English-speaking talent, with and a major focus on information technology recruitments, are as follows:



On the other hand, some of the mid-sized fast-growing, and IT recruitment-focused companies are as follows:



2. Job Boards for Wider Reach

While recruitment companies work with a set number of clients, job boards tend to have a wider reach. There are many general job boards in Japan that are not specific to information technology only, such as DaiJob, CareerCross, Jobs in Japan, etc. On the other hand, job boards like

EmploymentJapan.com are built to focus on tech recruitment in Japan (bilinguals as well as only English speaking) and all kinds of Japanese-speaking bilingual jobs worldwide. Some other good IT-focused job boards and other resources are TokyoDev, Japan Dev, justa.ioHN Tokyo on SlackAngelList,  etc.


LinkedIn has been slow in catching up in Japan, but as of mid-2022, it has 2.6 million registered users in Japan. However, the important point is that any company which hires English-speaking talent would be present on LinkedIn. The only challenge is that applying directly to the hiring company is often ineffective. The reason is the large number of incoming applications and the high possibilities of them missing applications because of bandwidth.


3. Other routes to enter Japan and then find an IT job

It is always possible that you may not succeed in getting a software developer or other information technology job while you are not in Japan. However, if there is a passion combined with a vision, there are always ways to achieve things.


One proven way is to get into Japan with an unrelated job. Serve for some time while you improve your understanding of Japan, Japanese culture, and possibly the Japanese language, and then switch to an IT job.


Some of the jobs you can get in Japan without knowing the Japanese language are in teaching – especially English teaching. A few examples are as follows:


Teaching in International Schools

The number of international schools is continuously growing in Japan. One reason is the growing population of expats, and another is that many Japanese wish to have their kids study in English medium schools. All such schools need native or near-native English speakers as teachers.


Teaching English

Teaching English is an easy way to make your Japan entry. Being a teacher of native Japanese also gives us an opportunity to learn or improve Japanese language skills. Once you are in Japan, it is much easier to switch careers. The Japanese government has a good demand for English teachers for elementary and high schools. The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) hire ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) for this purpose. The requirement is native-level English for these positions.


As the third-largest economy, Japan has always been on the world stage. However, the economy also had a very high dependency on local consumption. However, those dynamics are changing, and companies have more international ambitions in some of the neglected areas, making them more open to embracing diversity. And that’s an opportunity for people interested in Japan and professionals who wish to add more dimension and diversity to their professional and personal profiles.


Finding a Job while You are Already in Japan

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Even if you are in Japan and looking for another information technology job, all the above ways are applicable, except that you will not have to think about ways to enter Japan 😊.


However, it’s not just about applying for jobs. Increasing your network and connections is essential even if you are not looking for a job change today. Networking is one of the most important ways to get or know about more career opportunities. Some of the networking opportunities in Japan are as follows:


Even if you are in Japan and looking for another information technology job, all the above ways are applicable, except that you will not have to think about ways to enter Japan 😊.


However, it’s not just about applying for jobs. Increasing your network and connections is essential even if you are not looking for a job change today. Networking is one of the most important ways to get or know about more career opportunities. Some of the networking opportunities in Japan are as follows:



Conclusion

Japan is different from many other countries with its unique culture, a modern country that also likes to keep its traditions alive. It has one of the world’s best quality standards with a very safe society. The changing dynamics of society, economy, and outlook presents many opportunities for foreigners to experience a different social and work culture, which helps personal and career growth.


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