Japan Life: My Experience Working as a Software Engineer in Japan

It’s been almost 7 years now since I started my career here in Japan and so far it’s been great.

Company 1: The Stepping Stone

I came here the Summer of 2013. Working as a Software (Bridge) Engineer for an IT company in Shin Yokohama; which mostly do printing related software.

This is your typical Japanese company but with most of the employees (Software Engineers and Testers) being Filipinos. The high ranking employees are mostly Japanese with a single Filipino manager. We were like 30 to 50 Filipinos working in two offices; both are in Kanagawa Prefecture.

Pros:

  • No urgent need for Japanese language since most of the employees are Filipinos.
  • There are company dormitories so no need to worry about your accommodations and utility bills.
  • Our HR lady handles all matters related to Japanese ward office and immigrations.
  • Sponsors working visa and basically the one who will fly you to Japan.
  • You feel less home sick since you are around with a lot of Filipinos who you can talked to most of the time.
  • Do company outing like Philippine companies once a year.
  • Provides flight fare money for a Philippine vacation once a year.

Cons:

  • The technology stack is pretty much outdated and you work most of the time with printer related technologies.
  • Low to mediocre salary which is not much of an increase from your salary in the Philippines.
  • Long and unnecessary meetings.
  • The dreaded Japanese trademark overtime work. Like 9AM to 10PM work hours most days of the week.
  • Taking long paid leaves is frowned upon.
  • No good coffee.

Overall, it’s not a great company but somehow tolerable. I left the company after a year and 10 months of working there. I still hang out with former colleagues specially during winter because we snowboard as a group.

Do I regret working for this company? Not really. It was an easy way to get a working visa and I had great company with my friends there (Nothing beats movie and karaoke nights with fellow Filipinos). I just had to leave at some point because it’s a really not a good place career-wise.


Company 2: The Good Place

The second company I worked for in Japan is an e-commerce company whose Engineering team is mostly composed of foreigners. This company really helped me develop my software engineering skills and gave my career a great push. This company has good business relationships with Rakuten, Google and Yahoo.

Pros:

  • Little to no Japanese language requirement since the team communicates in English.
  • Good salary and great salary increase every year.
  • Good and skilled colleagues. I enjoyed a lot of our technical discussions. Even our non work related talks and lunch conversations were nice.
  • Great Manager and Head of Engineering. Tasks and schedules were rarely a problem since both of them are very knowledgeable with software development.
  • Meetings are only held when necessary. We use Slack for communications.
  • Great work life balance. You can work at home 1 day per week if you want.
  • The technology stack is good and as long as you can properly document and do it, you are free to use any programming language and framework you like.
  • A year before I left, we started working on Machine Learning and Blockchain related projects.
  • Free good coffee.

Cons:

  • The business model of the company started to go bad. This is mainly because our e-commerce website is pretty much dependent to paid traffic from Yahoo and Google. In our defense, we did try to improve our organic traffic but it just didn’t help a lot.
  • The Sales and Engineering team has a cultural difference. It doesn’t happen all the time but sometimes you feel there is a communication issue.

I stayed for this company for 3 years and 6 months and I learned a lot while I was there. The company allowed me to do my tasks how I want the them to be done which is a great thing for a software engineer.

So why did I left this company? I would stay if I like and the company did try to ask me to stay. The thing is, I felt like it was the right time to move. Both my manager and our Head of Engineering already left the company months before I did and it felt like I have no one to learn from anymore.


Company 3: The Better One

Aside from the above mentioned reasons for leaving my previous company, my current also gave a generous on-boarding package to persuade me. Basically all the benefits that I am receiving from my previous company plus more paid vacation leaves, higher salary and nice modest working environment where I’m free to do whatever I want as long as it’s aligned with the business goals of the company.

Being a FinTech company, most of our projects requires extra security considerations. Right now, we tackle finance problems with the use of Machine Learning, Blockchain and Cryptography. Kinda nice set of technologies to work with specially nowadays. Japan is laidback in terms of using newer technology, most of the companies I know are using Java and PHP/Wordpress for their systems.

Pros:

  • We are a start up company but backed by a big company.
  • We work with the tools and technology that we want and we are free to do Research and Development.
  • Great benefits and salary which surpass the package I received from my previous company.
  • Same work life balance and no unnecessary meetings so far.
  • Great boss and colleagues.
  • Nice coffee machine where I can drink much needed coffee.
  • Office is in Central Tokyo. Restaurants are a little pricey but we have a great selection for lunch outs.

Cons:

  • We are a start up company so it is a bit risky. We need to make sure that we can create services that the Japanese people will want to use.

I have been working for this company for about 5 months now and it is still going great. We had an issue with our first project related to Japanese regulation but we have a great team so I believe we will be able to finish it on schedule.

We’re only a few people working in our team here in Tokyo and we share the office with our sibling company. I’m new to the company but they have been very welcoming and helpful. We had company brainstorming sessions held in Karuizawa Prince Hotel last November 2018 which was a nice experience.


So there you go, this is the summary of my Software Engineering life here in Japan so far. Do I like working in Japan? Hell yes!

Language barrier and cultural differences will always be a nuisance at first but I think as long as you are openminded, you will have a good time working here in Japan.

I am really lucky to have worked in these companies (even in Company 1) and I hope you find a good working place here in Japan too because it’s really nice in here. Enjoy working but enjoy exploring Japan at the same time. We need more work life balance here for everyone.

If you have comments, questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below. Have a great day!

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Cost of Living in Tokyo 2019

No doubt the cost of living in Tokyo is one of the highest in the world. It even ranks as #1 in Asia for Highest Cost of Living Index (2019) according to this site.

Here is an estimated breakdown of my current expenses so you’ll get the feel of how much you are expected to prepare every month. I live alone but I have friends who visit and stay sometimes.

A) Monthly Rent and Utilities Cost in Yen
Apartment Rent
2DK layout; 35sqm
90,000
Electricity (in winter time) 5,000
Water 2,000
Gas (in winter time) 3,000
Mobile Phone
Sim Only Contract
3,200
Home Internet
FLET’S Hikari fiber; 1Gbps
5,000
Total per month 108,200
B) Meal Expenses (Work days) Cost in Yen
Breakfast 300
Lunch 1,000
Dinner 800
Total in 21 days 44,100
C) Meal Expenses (Non Working days) Cost in Yen
Lunch 800
Dinner 800
Total in 9 days 14,400

Total Monthly Expenses = A + B + C.

= A) 108,200 + B) 44,100 + C) 14,400
= 166,700 yen (or ~80,000 pesos) per month

Remember the estimate above doesn’t include recreational expenses like travel, dining and drinking out with friends, and buying furnitures and other stuff.

Note: In Japan, drinking parties with colleagues could happen a lot more often than you expect. You can refuse to join but joining helps to “build” team spirit.

Living in Tokyo

I’ve been living in Tokyo (in Suginami and Setagaya) for about 4 years now (and another 2 years in Yokohama). It definitely costs a lot more to live here in Tokyo specially when you compare it to living in Metro Manila. Before I moved here in Japan (Mid 2013), I remember I could live with a monthly budget of 30,000 pesos.

I live in a residential area of Tokyo but I work in Central Tokyo (Nihonbashi). Lunch in Central Tokyo on work days are expensive but I work as a Senior Software Engineer on a great international company so it’s not really a concern for me right now. That’s also a reason I have some leeway on the size of my apartment even though I live alone.

My apartment is 2DK which means I have 2 bedrooms, a dining+kitchen (DK) room, and a separate area for bathroom and laundry. It is 7 minutes from the nearest station.

Reducing the estimate above is very possible. For example, instead of renting a 2DK apartment, you can also rent a smaller studio type one (e.g.1K or 1R) which costs from 50,000 yen to 70,000 yen. Even cheaper if you are willing to walk more from the station. You can also go for a sharehouse which is also cheaper than having your own apartment. A sharehouse is like dormitory. You rent your private bedroom but the living is shared. You may or may not have your own private bathroom.

You can also cut expenses by preparing and cooking your own food. Buy ingredients in supermarkets and prepare your lunch and dinner ahead of time. I’m not sure how much you will save from this but I guess it will be about 20-30% on your food expenses.

Living in Tokyo is financially hard specially for us Filipinos since most of the time we have families who we need to support back in the Philippines. I’m single but I send money to my parents every month.

There you go. You now have an idea on how expensive living in Tokyo is. If you have questions, feel free to comment or send me a message.

Snowboarding in Japan

Hakuba
Hakuba

We, Filipinos, don’t experience snow and winter in the Philippines. This is the main reason many of my foreigner friends here in Japan would usually be surprise when I tell them I love snowboarding.

I live in Tokyo for about 6 years now and every winter season, I find time to go to ski resorts on weekends. I will usually go on weekend snowboarding together with friends or former colleagues.

We book group ski/snowboard packages online which come with the following inclusions:
Round trip bus ride from Tokyo / Yokohama to the ski resort
– 2-Day Ski Lift Pass/Ticket
Rental gears (jacket, pants, ski or snowboard, and boots)
– Overnight stay on a Ryokan (traditional Japanese inn; with dinner and breakfast)

Some of our usual snowboarding destinations are:
Hakuba in Nagano Prefecture
Zao in Yamagata
Naeba in Niigata
Myoko in Niigata

We’ll be organizing some group snowboarding trips this February and March. We’re not sure where to go yet but I know we will enjoy the snow again.

Feel free to comment or send messages.

Why I like here in Japan

I’ve been living here in Japan for almost 4 years now. I know that there are a lot of good reasons to live and stay here for good. These 5 reasons are on the top of my list.

1. No time wasted in traveling.

One of my biggest issue when I was still working in the Philippines is the amount of time wasted because of traffic jam.

Here in Japan, trains are almost never late. Riding trains to get to work and to travel for vacation is very easy and efficient. It can be very crowded during rush hours but it is still tolerable for me than to wait in a non moving vehicle.

2. Japan is a peaceful and safe country

Japan is consistently in the top 10 of most peaceful countries in the world.

3. Fast internet connection.

Japan has good internet speed compared to my home country.

This is very beneficial for me due to the nature of my work. And because I enjoy watching a lot of movie and tv series online.

4. Nice places to visit.

Japan has a lot of tourist destinations.

From Hokkaido to Okinawa, the tourist and adventure spots are very accessible.

5. Better career opportunities.

Not all people will agree with me on this; specially people who already had the chance to work on better countries. But compared to the Philippines, I have a better career in here.

Hello World

The title of this first blog post is self serving because I am a software engineer; “Hello world” is usually the first sample code snippet we see when learning a new programming language.

So basically, what I’m doing here is learning new skills; writing, basic photography and image editing. I need a platform where I can showcase (naks!) my new skills to my friends and collect feedbacks. And the easiest and cheapest platform that I thought was having my own blog site.

So in my next blog posts, you will likely see articles related to my favorite subjects; daily life in Japan, coffee (there are a lot of cool coffee shops here in Tokyo) and technology. I will also be posting articles with a lot of pictures whenever I go traveling around Japan or the Philippines.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you will enjoy your time reading my posts. Thank you!

Note: Please don’t hesitate to call my attention if you see any problem with my post; be it grammar or factual errors.