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Software development jobs in Tokyo (+Contractor roles for foreigners)

Zukias

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There's a few things I'd like to know about Software dev jobs in Tokyo. For the purposes of this post, assume I know Japanese, as this is a separate issue I have already been reading about.

Market for Software devs: Are software devs in high demand? Do several employers fight over you at once like in the UK?

Pay: A typical mid-level job in London using a popular framework/language such as Node.js, C++, JavaScript, Angular would pay £40-50k (¥7.3M). How much would I expect in Tokyo?

Contractors: Are contractor roles popular in Japan for foreigners? For a typical job paying £45k in London I could find a contract role requiring similar skills for ~£450/day (¥73k) in London. Is this large difference in pay between permanent & contractor roles also present in Japan? Also how do visa's work for contractors? Do employers sponsor working visa's for contractors? Or can contractors sponsor their own visa?

Any info would be much appreciated :)
 
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Uncle Frank

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I deleted your other post as requested. It's only 3AM in Japan , so you might not get your answers for a while yet. The first thing people will ask is your level of Japanese , speaking and writing. The other big question usually involves your ability to get a visa and what type. Your level of education and degrees you hold may affect answers you receive. From what I hear , usually people living in Japan have first crack at getting a job , but not always. Hopefully by tomorrow , some members here will help you.
 

Zukias

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Thanks for the reply.

From what I hear , usually people living in Japan have first crack at getting a job , but not always. Hopefully by tomorrow , some members here will help you.
I can imagine that is the case in most industries, but decent software developers are in high demand (in most places - hopefully Tokyo is one). Surely knowing English will give me an edge over most native Japanese though?

P.S. could you please edit my OP and change the £40-50k (¥45k) to £40-50k (¥7.3M)
 

Glenski

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assume I know Japanese, as this is a separate issue I have already been reading about.
Please tell us what level of Japanese you have. Like Frank said, it's important, and if you're telling us it's a "separate issue", it's not unless you really do have high level (JLPT number).

Whether a company values English is up to them. There are tons of company Web pages that are not in English, so they would probably not value English speakers. Sadly, too many companies, even those who deal with foreign clients, have not gotten the idea of globalization into their heads.

To see what sort of jobs are out there, go to Career Cross. Some listings will be in English, some in Japanese, but you can see the requirements anyway. I am not in your field, so I don't know most answers to your questions. Contractors are independent people, right? By that definition, I would expect that you couldn't get a work visa unless you were a company employee. Talk to a consulate or embassy near you to see if that's correct.

If you're a 24-year-old Brit as your profile states, you are eligible to get a working holiday visa, no employer guarantor or college degree needed, and work full-time or part-time as you like. FT jobs should not be long-term according to the letter of the law, but it's up to the employer to decide whether he wants to follow that.

By the way, what are your qualifications and education?
 

Zukias

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Please tell us what level of Japanese you have. Like Frank said, it's important, and if you're telling us it's a "separate issue", it's not unless you really do have high level (JLPT number).

Whether a company values English is up to them. There are tons of company Web pages that are not in English, so they would probably not value English speakers. Sadly, too many companies, even those who deal with foreign clients, have not gotten the idea of globalization into their heads.

To see what sort of jobs are out there, go to Career Cross. Some listings will be in English, some in Japanese, but you can see the requirements anyway. I am not in your field, so I don't know most answers to your questions. Contractors are independent people, right? By that definition, I would expect that you couldn't get a work visa unless you were a company employee. Talk to a consulate or embassy near you to see if that's correct.

If you're a 24-year-old Brit as your profile states, you are eligible to get a working holiday visa, no employer guarantor or college degree needed, and work full-time or part-time as you like. FT jobs should not be long-term according to the letter of the law, but it's up to the employer to decide whether he wants to follow that.

By the way, what are your qualifications and education?
Hey thanks for the advice. I have considered the Working Holiday Visa. Would I be able to use that to find a job which would then sponsor a working visa? I notice on the UK Japanese embassy website that it says the working holiday visa's are supposed to be for people who are primarily looking for a holiday, with work to help fund it, but it's not supposed to be for people primarily looking for work (which I am).

I have a university degree in Mathematics & 2 years experience in various areas of software development along with several home projects so thankfully I wouldn't be looking for an entry level position (which i've heard lots of negative stories about in Japan).

Also, I'm somewhere between JLPT 4 & 3. The reason I want to pretend it's a separate issue for now is because I want to know if to bother working hard for the next ~6-12 months on improving japanese with classes etc to maybe JLPT 2. But I will only be willing to do that if the situation for software devs is decent in Japan.
 
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Majestic

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You have two problems: 1) the administrative one of getting permission to reside and work in Japan, and 2) the practical problem of finding work as a contractor.

Right now, problem #1 is relatively easy for you to remedy through the working holiday visa. Make no mistake, getting permission to stay and work in Japan is no picnic, and usually means you must get a contract from an employer before you apply for your work visa, or marry a Japanese person. The work holiday visa makes the residence issue go away, but, as you mention, it is intended to permit young people to work temporary, part-time work as they holiday in Japan. I suppose it is possible to transition from a working holiday visa to a work visa, but others may have better info on that. Problem #2 is an issue no matter how you arrange to stay in Japan. Offering your services as contracted programmer is going to be a difficult gig. Unless you have rock-solid connections in the business community here, or in the industry in which you specialize, I don't think any Japanese company will reach out to you to solve their short-term IT problems.

Much more plausible for you to get hired on to a company as a regular, full-time employee in their IT department. Normally what happens is the company arranges a working contract for you, and then you apply to the Japanese embassy/consulate in your country for the working visa for Japan (or, it is also common for the company to help arrange the necessary visa). (← I realized I just repeated what Glenski already told you... anyway, now you have it from two of us).
 

jborchardt

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I'm in a similar situation as you are, Zukias. I am a software engineer as well and will be moving to Japan in July (on a spouse visa).
Regarding payment, you can take a look at gaijinpot or craigslist Tokyo. Most of the job descriptions list a salary range. Usually they are between ¥4M to ¥7M, depending on experience. Since you have been working in the job for two years you probably wouldn't be put in the ¥4M bucket, but I guess pretty close to it.
The required Japanese level is usually at least N2, many require N1; others just say "conversational".
As far as I'm concerned, payment in Germany seems to be similar to that in the UK and hence working under this conditions is not acceptable for me at the moment. Therefore I will just continue working for German clients remotely. Remote work without any physical contact to customers is rare but it is definitely possible. In your case you could get some issues with this model after that year of your working holiday visa is over. Unless you are by then married to a Japanese person or your business is strong enough to sponsor your work visa.
However in this one year you could learn what is possible and what not, try to build a Japanese customer base and see if you actually like living in Japan.
 

Glenski

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I have considered the Working Holiday Visa. Would I be able to use that to find a job which would then sponsor a working visa?
Sure you can. It's entirely up to you to choose how you use the WHV, as a stepping stone or a one-shot use. Regarding a stepping stone, you can use it for part-time OR full-time work, unlike what has been mentioned above. The main point is that any FT work is temporary. Employers don't always follow that rule, though. If you want to work FT for 6 months with a company promise to get hired permanently, that would be feasible.

You might also want to consider getting an internship / training visa. You can't technically get paid for it, but companies are allowed to give some money (basic living needs, I think, please confirm).

I have a university degree in Mathematics & 2 years experience in various areas of software development along with several home projects so thankfully I wouldn't be looking for an entry level position
As jborchardt wrote, I don't think you're looking at getting much more than entry level pay. A couple of years of experience is practically nothing, plus you don't know what Japanese employers want. And if you haven't got decent language skills, why should they consider you for anything moderately above entry level anyway? Help yourself by learning more.

By the way, considering the hurdles you face, why have you chosen Japan?
 

Zukias

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Sorry for the delay, I couldn't remember the name of the forum :p

Unless you are by then married to a Japanese person or your business is strong enough to sponsor your work visa.
However in this one year you could learn what is possible and what not, try to build a Japanese customer base and see if you actually like living in Japan.
Don't you need to have at least one member of staff who is a japanese national to get a business manager visa?

As jborchardt wrote, I don't think you're looking at getting much more than entry level pay. A couple of years of experience is practically nothing, plus you don't know what Japanese employers want. And if you haven't got decent language skills, why should they consider you for anything moderately above entry level anyway? Help yourself by learning more.

By the way, considering the hurdles you face, why have you chosen Japan?
I went to a Japanese language school in Osaka during a summer holiday in 2010 and apart from the heat, loved it (Japanese people, culture, Japanese cities). I am bored of the UK and want something completely different. I am aware the opportunities are very limited without knowing high level Japanese - but I find Japanese a fun language to learn and am willing to put the hours in. I'm just wondering what I could expect if I were JLPT N2 or better since I won't bother looking for work before then.

I'm disappointed to hear 2 years is 'nothing' - is this the general mentality in Japan? A couple years in the UK is considered mid-level. And it will be 3+ years by the time I go to Japan since JLPT N2 will probably take at least a year if I go ahead with this. Do employers not look at personal projects in Japan? This is the main way I find work in the UK. My university ranks ~55/120 in UK so my degree isn't a big selling point but as soon as they see my projects/blogs (which most small to mid-sized UK companies do take the time to look at) they become interested & a contract for ¥60k+ yen/day or ¥7.2M is realistic. With 3 years experience I can imagine it would be even more.

I'm not expecting London salaries in Tokyo, especially with how much cheaper property goes for but for 3 years experience I wouldn't accept any less than say, ¥5.8M/year. Do you think this is reasonable?
 
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Glenski

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日本法令外国語訳データベースシステム - [法令本文表示] - 出入国管理及び難民認定法第七条第一項第二号の基準を定める省令
(i) In cases where the applicant intends to commence the operation of international trading or any other business, he/she must fulfill all of the following requirements.
(a) The facilities to be used as the office for the relevant business must be located in Japan.
(b) The business concerned must have the capacity to employ at least 2 full-time employees in Japan (excluding foreign nationals residing in Japan under a status of residence listed in the left-hand column of Appended Table I of the Immigration Control Act) in addition to those who operate and/or manage the business.

(ii) In cases where the applicant intends to invest in international trading or any other business in Japan and to engage in the operation of such business, or in cases where the applicant intends to engage in the management of international trading or any other business on behalf of a foreign national (including a foreign juridical person; hereinafter the same shall apply in this section) who has begun such operations in Japan or who has invested in such a business in Japan, he/she must fulfill all of the following requirements.
(a) The office for the relevant business must be located in Japan.
(b) The business concerned must have the capacity to employ at least 2 full-time employees in Japan (excluding foreign nationals residing in Japan under the status of residence listed in the left-hand column of Appended Table I of the Immigration Control Act) in addition to those who operate and/or manage the business.

(iii) In cases where the applicant is to engage in the management of international trading or any other business in Japan, he/she must have at least 3 years' experience in business operation and/or management (this includes any period he/she has spent studying business operation and/or management at the post-graduate level) and must receive no less remuneration than would a Japanese national for comparable work.
 

Glenski

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I'm disappointed to hear 2 years is 'nothing' - is this the general mentality in Japan? A couple years in the UK is considered mid-level. And it will be 3+ years by the time I go to Japan since JLPT N2 will probably take at least a year if I go ahead with this. Do employers not look at personal projects in Japan? This is the main way I find work in the UK.
This is not my field. I suggest you ask people who are actually in your area of expertise. You could also ask Terrie Lloyd.
 

Majestic

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I think JPY 5.8M is reasonable. But I would say the general attitude of "I won't accept less than....", underlies a fundamental challenge for westerners trying to make it in Japan. On the one hand it is good to have clear goals and standards, so if that financial benchmark is important to you, stick to it. On the other hand, if working and living in Japan is important to you, you must realize that, for better or worse, making some sacrifices for longer-term goals is considered a virtue here. So while you and your peers in the UK place a certain value on your own experience, a Japanese company would be just as likely (if not more likely) to place a lower value on the experience, and place a higher value on intangible things like konjō, gaman, and ability to get along with others in the company.
So, if you really want to live in Japan and think you could put up with 4M a year for a year while you worked on your Japanese and ingratiated yourself with the company, this would add great value to you as a candidate here in Japan. (Notice I'm picking arbitrary numbers here. The number value isn't important for now. I am speaking about a general labor-management paradigm here in Japan). I think this paradigm is slowly changing, as the old values have probably outlived their usefulness, at least to some extent. Japan is in a weird flux right now, where the population is facing decline, the economy is stagnant, and people are no longer guaranteed lifetime employment. The labor market is somewhat constrained by customary hiring practices, where corporations tend to recruit university students before they have graduated, and students then transition straight from university into the corporate world. Strangely enough, in Japan there is a dearth of skilled IT professionals. It is a seller's market, but most of corporate Japan hasn't realized this yet (except for a few forward-thinking corporations).
 

WonkoTheSane

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The capacity to hire two Japanese employees is generally satisfied with an investment of 5,000,000¥ into the company.

You don't actually have to hire anyone.
 

mdchachi

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I found one datapoint at careerforum.net for IT Architect Consultant of Y320,000/month + Y430,000 bonus=4.27M. This seems on the low end. I made much more than this 20 years ago when I was in I.T. in Tokyo. I only had 3 years experience at the time. It was post-bubble period but in finance industry, a non-Japanese investment bank. Japanese wasn't required.

I think you'll see a discrepancy between consultant and employee like you mention except typically that is eaten up by the contract house that employs you. If you are suggesting you would be a directly hired consultant, I think that is relatively rare.

Given that you're in London, I'd try to get into one of the banks. Salaries are good and they all have Asian operations making it relatively easy to get to Tokyo or Singapore. Either by starting in London or potentially getting a role overseas right away.

I think it will be difficult to get hired into a pure Japanese firm especially without language capability. But there are various joint ventures and foreign operations.

How soon can you go? If you're a star (highly skilled and passionate) and willing to work on a WHV I might actually have a lead for you. The skills desired include node.js, C++ as well as Swift/Java, etc. I'm not sure of the pay scale though.
 

Glenski

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Just to add to mdchachi's point, if you want to transfer, there is such a thing as an intracompany transfer visa, but you have to be at the home branch for a year first.

Otherwise, if money on hand is "all you need" to circumvent hiring two employees, do you have 31,000 pounds? Personally, I'd really check that out, but also learn how you are going to do taxes and keep your books (in Japanese or English?).
 

WonkoTheSane

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Just to add to mdchachi's point, if you want to transfer, there is such a thing as an intracompany transfer visa, but you have to be at the home branch for a year first.

Otherwise, if money on hand is "all you need" to circumvent hiring two employees, do you have 31,000 pounds? Personally, I'd really check that out, but also learn how you are going to do taxes and keep your books (in Japanese or English?).
My business manager visa was granted based on sponsorship by my company which I funded with about 6,000,000¥.

The company has no employees other than myself.

I'd be happy to refer OP or anyone else to the firm which handled the company formation and visa application for me. They are not cheap, but they're good.

If OP decides to go this route I can refer him to an excellent and quite reasonably priced bookkeeper who will handle the Japanese taxes etc. He will, of course, still need to file taxes with the IRS.

OP will need a physical office (not virtual).
 
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