IT jobs in Japan remain to be one of the most attractive positions, whether you're in the heart of their capital city Tokyo or in the bustling port city Yokohama. With catchphrases like "no Japanese required" or "overseas applicant welcome," many might be oblivious to the nooks and crannies of the high-paced industry.
If you are an emerging IT professional who wants to nail that dream developer job, you've come to the right place. Recruitment processes, visas, IT certifications, and important networking hacks—we've got you completely covered in this article.
This article is a subsection of our ultimate guide to jobs in Japan.
IT Industry in Japan
How big is the IT Industry in Japan?
Simply put, the IT industry in Japan is pretty huge, and it’s not showing signs of stopping. Japan has only beaten the United States and China as the third-largest economy—and the country’s position as a global hub of technological and IT innovation plays a big part in achieving that. Japan propelled many groundbreaking technologies: mobile phones, LED lights, laptops, and satellite navigation and led the world into entering the fourth industrial revolution.
To put it all into perspective, Japan’s IT industry takes about 3% of the world market and shows the high potential for consistent growth in the future. The market size in 2021 is predicted to scale to 13 trillion yen. Tech brands looking to expand their market have since established their companies in Japan’s capital city Tokyo or the iconic port city Yokohama.
So how prospective are IT jobs in Japan?
One word: very prospective. A survey conducted in 2020 showed that the United States holds first place in holding the most number of IT workers, followed by China, India, and finally Japan.
- United States (4.8 million IT workers)
- China (2.7 million IT workers)
- India (2.1 million IT workers),
- Japan (1.1 million IT workers)
While there seems to be a gapping difference between Japan and other countries, there is a rising demand for IT engineers in Japan.
On one hand, the IT industry in Japan is growing in the technology-forward world, yet there is a lack of workers with many positions that remain unfulfilled. From job boards alone, around 100 programming jobs are vacant. According to Japan Times, by 2030, Japan will have to confront 600,000 IT-related job shortages. In light of this crisis, companies are looking into skilled foreign IT engineers from Asia and the US. The government is also loosening and revamping its policy to encourage more IT workers in entering the country’s IT job market.
And it's not rocket science to see why: due to the limited number of programmers and competitions, companies are much more open to hiring people from overseas for IT jobs than other professions.
Here's a great video explaining how Canadian Youtuber Mustaga became a software developer in Japan.
IT Jobs in Japan vs the US
You might still contemplate which IT-leading country is a better choice. In terms of base salary, take a look at the table below for the average salary between Japan and the US in 2020.
The annual base salary for IT jobs in Japan is significantly lower than in the US, but the same thing can be said for the cost of living. While it varies between cities, rent in the US (especially in New York) is half as high as the average rent in Japan. According to the Independent, the cost of living in Japan is 17th highest in the world, while the US ranked 15th.
Tokyo Dev did a survey of more than 300 IT professionals in Japan. More than half of developers made under ¥8 million per year, but the average salary was ¥8.5 million per year.
Perks of the same job in these two places also differ. For example, many US companies give their employees stock options to buy shares of the company, typically discounted. This also exists in Japan (called juugyoin mochikabu-seido), but you may notice that these are offered by big and international startup companiesJapan. However, Japan’s welfare program is fulfilling and has great merits compared to that of the US.
Recruitment Process for IT Jobs in Japan
IT and tech companies offer great working perks and conditions with attractive salaries, but you might wonder what their recruitment processes look like. We've curated some of the screening and interview processes on leading IT companies in Japan to take you one step closer to landing that dream job.
Zehitomo is an emerging startup company that matches freelancers and small to medium-sized local businesses with consumers in Japan. The company is committed to building a platform to help them expand their business and have since been looking for promising developers with relevant experience to join the company.
They adopt Silicon Valley-style working culture, with unlimited paid time off, and use English as its official language. Currently, the company is looking for senior and leadership positions.
The usual steps for interviews are as follows for junior to senior positions:
- Initial document screening followed by a phone screen
- Pair programming with the employees at Zehitomo or coding interviews with engineers
- A take-home coding project. Candidates are given 3 business days to complete them. This is mandatory for remote interviewers.
- Final interview with head engineer and executive advisor
- Job offer
Think that this is the perfect company for you? Visit Zehitomo Recruitment page to apply!
Cooori is a company that provides an AI-driven educational and efficient-learning platform to help Japanese people learn English and improve their TOEIC scores.
The company upholds the Scandinavian working culture, discouraging overtime among engineers, and employs 70% of workers of foreign nationals as of December 2020.
Their engineering job positions covers one screening and five interviews:
- Initial document screening
- Interview with lead software engineer where candidates are asked to complete a small project (online).
- The second interview involves explaining the project and getting feedback on the assignment (online).
- A casual meeting with team members. This interview is done either online or offline.
- Discussion with CTO/PM as the fourth interview (online or on-site).
- A short chat with CEO (online).
Think that this is the perfect company for you? Visit Cooori website to know more!
Mercari is Japan's largest C2C marketplace and first tech unicorn. The e-commerce company allows anyone to buy and sell items using their smartphone with inexpensive shipping. They have partnered with companies and konbini for convenient delivery options.
Mercari has a large ratio of foreign employees from around the world. The company uses a mixture of Japanese and English, and they provide language study programs to help members of different nationalities to communicate.
The selection process for engineers consists of:
- Document screening
- Technical assessment. Applicants will have to satisfy provided conditions through code. Engineers will review the code.
- Interview to determine culture fit to determine if the applicant is the right fit for Mercari. The number of interviews may change depending on the situation.
WOVN.io is a website localization service that provides features for businesses websites to be available in multiple languages. Around 80% of their engineers are from abroad. English and Japanese are both official languages at the company, and engineers can enjoy flexible working hours.
The steps of the recruitment process for engineering jobs at WOVN are:
- Document screening
- Coding challenge
- Skill check interview with engineers or managers
- A follow-up meeting with HR
Final interview with CTO or VP of engineering
Think that this is the perfect company for you? Visit WOVN.io website to find out more!
Cryptact is a fintech start-up that enables users to manage all of their investments ranging from stocks to cryptocurrency in one place. The company was established in 2018 by members with financial and IT talents and has since launched Ideabook, another service that helps people to find investment information.
Cryptact uses both English and Japanese for their company but mainly uses English for the development team.
The company's interview process includes:
- Initial document screening
- The first interview to confirm resume and basic cultural feet
- Tech assignment if necessary (depends on skill)
- Second interview to discuss more in-depth tech elements
- A final discussion with directors
Think that this is the perfect company for you? Visit Cryptact website to find out more!
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Education for IT Jobs in Japan
Formal Education for IT Jobs in Japan
Many companies prefer IT workers with some level of formal training, either a certificate, associate or bachelor’s degree. Relevant programs include Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Information Science. An associate degree allows you to enter the IT field in less than two years. Bachelor’s degree in IT takes up to four years but offers greater coursework such as business and technology innovation that can potentially boost your salary.
Master's Degrees are also in great demand. These may create more opportunities for professionals who are seeking career advancement or higher positions in the field. Postgrad studies at top-tier schools are also available in English. Common Masters are Masters in Information Technology or Technology Management. Following these courses is not a compulsory step, but they are useful because they can prove that you can get through 3-4 years of studying an advanced topic.
IT Schools in Japan
In recent years, the number of programming academies and schools for beginner-level foreigners has increased. These types of courses allow you to become independent and find an occupation as an entry-level programmer. They are expensive and require full-time study, but they provide great courses. There are also less intensive courses, but they require much more time to be completed.
The majority of these programming schools or boot camps are in contact with companies that offer entry-level programmer positions. They could introduce you to companies that are thinking about enlarging their businesses. If you prefer to enroll in a boot camp rather than a university course, our advice is to look for the ones that last for a year for complete training.
Here's a list of programming schools in Tokyo:
Here's a list of online programming schools you can learn at home:
Qualifications and Skills for IT Jobs in Japan
Approved IT Exams and Certifications
Japan recognizes several approved exams for Engineering/IT professionals that can help you get a professional visa and increase your acceptance rate. These exams are offered in Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh, China, Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Mongolia, and Vietnam. PhilNITS examination—covering both practical and theoretical questions—can be taken for non-Filipinos who are in the Philippines, but please note that you do have to fly to Manila to take the test.
A great thing about passing any of these approved exams will make you eligible for an Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa and add five points to your Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional visa.
In addition to that, going the extra mile to earn certification can show employers that you have the skills and training for the job. Common certifications include:
- A+ and Linux+ certifications offered by CompTIA.
- Microsoft Certified IT Professional
- Cisco Certified Network Associate credentials.
The International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium is the largest IT security training for IT professionals and offers a range of certifications.
Skills Relevant to IT Jobs in Japan
There are several skills you should develop if you want to find IT jobs in Japan, and the first thing you should do before you venture to the job market is to assess how attractive of a candidate you are from a Japanese company’s perspective.
1. Japanese language skills
To sum it up, the better your Japanese, the broader your job options will become. Even though there are also a lot of opportunities for people who only speak English, if you cannot speak any Japanese, you are limited to a number of companies—not to mention that you have to prove to the employers that you have exceptional technical and development skills.
Demonstrating an effort to learn Japanese can impress recruiters or employers even if you’re not apt with the language yet. The least you can do is to enroll in Japanese classes and demonstrate your willingness to improve.
Japan Switch offers some great affordable lesson plans for beginners to intermediate with a strong focus on improving your conversation and speaking skills.
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2. Communication Skills
Some companies prefer to hire purely autonomous engineers who work solo and only collaborate when they need to connect their work together. Other companies have much more collaborative cultures encouraging mentoring and the exchange of ideas. They work across many teams and groups or they provide solutions to those people who are not tech-savvy. Moreover, they write a lot of emails, proposals, and design documents for different targets. For this reason, they should have good communication skills, both at the oral and written levels, in either English and business Japanese.
Communication also plays a big part in broadening your network. You'd be surprised by how many opportunities (and interested recruiters) are there at IT conferences.
3. Technical Computer Skills
At the core of it all, IT jobs are about your technical ability. The savvier you are at software and programming tools, the less likely you need to have advanced Japanese ability. You must have a deep knowledge of computers and the most common software.
Every software—which means every program to be run by a computer or machine—is written in a specific programming language. The programming languages most used in Japan are:
Visa for IT Jobs in Japan
You will need a working visa to work as an IT/software engineer in Japan. There are three possible visa options: Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa, Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional visa, and Working Holiday visa.
Check our full guide for visas in Japan if you want more information on this!
Engineer/Specialist in Humanities/International Services visa
The Engineer/Humanities visa is the most common visa for IT professionals in Japan who do not traditionally come from an IT background or related academic programs.
We’ll break it down in this simple scenario for you: You are an English teacher in Japan with a working visa sponsorship from the school. You’ve enrolled in intensive IT boot camps and found yourself an offer to work as a backend engineer. Immigration does not prohibit you from changing jobs even if your academic and professional experience is unrelated. If you have this visa, you can work as an IT professional regardless of how you originally got it.
Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional Visa
This visa has a unique point-based system that you need to accumulate through JLPT, salary, academic background, and professional experience (among other things). To be eligible, you need to have 70 points.
Different criteria give different points to the overall calculation. Holder of a Masters (20 points) and Bachelors degree (10 points) at a Japanese university (10 points) will need to acquire 30 more points. If you are below 29 years old (15 points) who hold an N1 JLPT certificate (15 points), then congratulations—you are now eligible for the Highly-Skilled Foreign Professional visa!
Working Holiday Visa
To be eligible for a Working Holiday visa, you need to be a citizen of the approved countries that hold an agreement with Japan such as Australia, Canada, Canada, the UK, and Germany. You are not technically allowed to accept a job offer, but it is an excellent option for entry-level IT professionals. After the visa expires (12 months), you will need to change your visa status or a company that can sponsor a normal working visa.
Types of IT Jobs in Japan
The IT sector includes a wide range of activities that can be classified into different types of jobs. Here’s a list of some of the IT jobs in Japan, with their description.
1. Software Developer
This is one of the most demanded IT Jobs in Japan. Companies are constantly looking for foreign programmers to add to their business because they need them to expand their businesses.
- Back-end developer: the back.end developer is the programmer who focuses on the server-side of an application;
- Front-end developer: the front-end developer is the programmer who takes care of the user interface of a website and its design;
- Full-stack developer: the full-stack developer is an all-round figure that does the activities of both the back-end developer and the front-end developer. Becoming a full-stack developer is difficult due to the wide range of activities he should do. For this reason, the common working situation is that of teams, where back-end and front-end developers work together to create the software.
According to the level of experience, you can find an IT job in Japan as:
- Senior developer: a senior developer is someone who has the experience and knowledge to work with vaguely defined problems and come up with a reasonable solution autonomously;
- Junior developer: junior developers tend to require more assistance in terms of breaking down an idea into problems to tackle and in terms of the implementation. Experience can make a difference in choosing the right technical tradeoffs to make and how to craft codes.
2. Machine learning developer
A machine learning developer is an IT expert, whose objective is to use data to train models. They are used to automate processes like image classification, speech recognition, and market forecasting.
3. IT Project Manager
When you have gained lots of experience, you could become an IT Project Manager. The IT Project Manager takes care of the management of software development projects, plans the work, and coordinates with internal figures of the company and external consultants.
4. IT Consultant
An IT consultant is a person expert in the field of business information technology, who guides companies about how to use information technology in the best way possible in order to achieve certain business goals or objectives.
Leading Companies for IT Jobs in Japan
Considering the increasing weight that technologies have in our life, the easiest answer to the question above is almost every type of company. In the 21st century, if a company wants to stay on the market and be competitive, it should be able to deal with all the new technologies that exist. Thus, it needs someone expert in technology between its human resources.
If you are truly hoping to become an expert in the IT sector and create a career in this field, probably you may be the most interested in this one. In Japan, there are about 10,000 startups, so there is a great demand for IT workers in these types of companies. Some of the startups in Japan are:
- Mercari, a 2013 Japanese e-commerce startup
- Cookpad, one of the oldest Japanese startups managing Japan’s largest recipe sharing service;
- Connected Robotics, a company that creates and develops robots for use in the kitchen to overcome the shortage of workers
- Kudan, a software company founded by Japanese entrepreneur Tomohiro Ohno
- AlpacaJapan, a technology company developing a financial system platform
J-Startup provides a detailed and thorough collection of startups in Japan focusing on technology, manufacturing, and the IT sector.
Almost every company offers IT positions in their businesses. This is particularly true for the companies of large size, which work also beyond the national borders and are already consolidated.
If you are an experienced IT professional, you can look for this opportunity. Freelancers currently have more opportunities than in the past years. Japan, like the rest of the world, likes the flexibility that freelancers can offer and is starting to introduce more job offers like this.
Check out other related articles from BFF Tokyo:
Guide to Freelancing Jobs in Tokyo
Salaries for IT jobs in Japan
Giving a complete description of how much an IT worker in Japan earns is quite difficult because earnings change according to different things. First of all, the most important factor is the company that you work for. Another important (but not necessarily essential) factor is your degree level. If you have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree it could be easier for you to gain higher incomes. Your knowledge about programming languages and the years of experience influence your final income too. Finally, the earnings of the IT sector depends on the company you are applying to, on the type of industry, and on the type of work you do. For instance, a software developer will earn more than an IT technician.
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Where to find IT jobs in Japan
So where do you find IT jobs in Japan? What companies hire foreigners?
Full-time and Part-time positions
There are several ways to find IT jobs in Japan. One of the most useful alternatives is to search on Social Networks and job advertisement sites. Here are some examples of sites where you can find IT jobs in Japan:
- LinkedIn IT Jobs
- Indeed IT Jobs
- Glassdoor IT Jobs
- Rikunabi IT Jobs
- Japantimes IT Jobs
- JobsinJapan IT Jobs
- GaijinPot IT Jobs
In addition to the websites above, where you will find not only IT positions but also whatever type of works, there are also specific job boards that provide only IT positions in Japan. Some of the most known job boards for IT jobs in Japan are:
Moreover, as I already said, Japan is becoming the land of startups. According to this reason, some job boards for startup positions have been created. These websites have the main purpose to connect IT professionals with the majority of Japanese Startups. Some examples of job boards for startup positions in Japan are:
Another way to find both full-time and part-time job opportunities is by checking the website of the companies you like. Some of them have a specific area, usually called “join our team”, “work with us”, or “career”, where they publish their job opportunities, with skills, knowledge, and competencies you must have in order to apply for that. Otherwise, they give you the opportunity to send your CV as a spontaneous application.
Recruitment Consultants in IT
Finally, getting IT jobs in Japan can be facilitated through enrollment into some recruitment agencies. This type of agency connects individuals with opportunities that suit their interests and abilities. Some recruitment agencies are international and specialized in many fields. Between them, there are Michael Page, Robert Walters, and Hays.
Recruitment Agencies for Developer
Furthermore, in Japan, there are also recruitment agencies specialized only in the field of information technology. They help IT engineers and developers find good opportunities. Here is a short list of IT recruitment agencies:
IT Communities and Events
Joining IT events or giving talks at conferences in Japan showcases your interest and skill as a developer. You can start by giving small presentations at technical events in Tokyo. During this time, you can stumble upon many potential employers or recruiters who are eager to find fresh talents and offer interviews.
Some of the annual conferences recommended by Tokyodev founder Paul McMahon includes Rubi Kaigi, PyCon Japan, Node Gakuen, and Scala Matsuri. Anyone can apply as a speaker at these events, and it’s a great opportunity to broaden your network among Japan’s developers and IT professionals.
Check out other related articles from BFF Tokyo
Guide to Networking in Japan
Working as an IT freelancer has both pros and cons. On the one hand, you can gain higher incomes. On the other hand, you must find your clients on your own and it is riskier. In order to find IT freelancer jobs, you have mainly two possibilities. Firstly, you could look up the websites of the companies you are interested in, as per the full-time and part-time jobs. Secondly, Japan gives the possibility to enroll in some websites for freelancers. These are websites that connect freelancers with businesses. You have to sign up, describe the service you are offering, explain your tariffs, and then wait to be contacted by businesses or privates who need the service. IT kyujin Nabi is the number one site in the IT field. Other websites for IT freelance jobs in Japan are: