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.


  • 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.


  • The technology stack is pretty much outdated and you work most of the time with printer related technologies.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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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!

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 UtilitiesCost in Yen
Apartment Rent
2DK layout; 35sqm
Electricity (in winter time)5,000
Gas (in winter time)3,000
Mobile Phone
Sim Only Contract
Home Internet
FLET’S Hikari fiber; 1Gbps
Total per month108,200
B) Meal Expenses (Work days)Cost in Yen
Total in 21 days44,100
C) Meal Expenses (Non Working days)Cost in Yen
Total in 9 days14,400

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

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.

Japan Holidays: 10-Day Golden Week 2019 and New Emperor’s Coronation Day

Yup, you read that right.

Starting April 27 (Sat) until May 6 (Mon) 2019, there will be a rare 10-Day non working holiday because of the annual Golden Week celebration and because of the new emperor’s accession to the throne.

This will be the first time in about 200 years that a living Japanese emperor will step down from the throne.

April 27 – regular Saturday
April 28 – regular Sunday
April 29 – Showa Day (Monday; original Golden Week day)
April 30 – Abdication ceremony of the current emperor (Tuesday)
May 1 – Accession of new emperor (Wednesday)
May 2 – Public Holiday (Thursday)
May 3 – Constitution Memorial Day (Friday; original Golden Week day)
May 4 – Greenery Day (Saturday; original Golden Week day)
May 5 – Children’s Day (Sunday; original Golden Week day)
May 6 – Children’s Day (observed) (Monday; original Golden Week day)

This 10-day holiday will definitely be a very busy week for all of us. As of writing, available flights from Tokyo and hotel accommodations are starting to run out of available slots.


  • The last enthronement ceremony was held in November 12, 1990 for the current emperor, Emperor Akihito.
  • After modern Japanese emperors die, their names are changed to reflect the era in which they ruled. Emperor Akihito will be renamed Heisei (meaning “peace everywhere”).
  • The emperor’s birthday is a national holiday in Japan. December 23 is the current Emperor’s Birthday (Akihito). The next emperor’s birthday is February 23 (Naruhito).
  • Naruhito will become Japan’s first emperor who was born after World War II.
  • Akishino, the younger son of current Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko, will be the first in line to the throne after Naruhito’s coronation.
  • In 1817, Emperor Kōkaku was the last emperor to abdicate his throne.

UPDATE: The Abdication Ceremony of the current emperor and the start of the Japanese Reiwa Era will happen this Golden Week but the actual Enthronement Ceremony will happen on October 22, 2019.

Related Post:
Japan: New Era and October 2019 Enthronement Ceremony

OFW in Japan: How to get an OEC when you just moved to another company?

UPDATE: April 17, 2019

For some reason, I think they changed the rule again. The person who processed my papers said that “verification-only” are only applicable to those who weren’t regular employees to begin with (i.e. those who came as students, dependents, intracompany visa holders, etc.). Otherwise, since I was already registered in the bm online and only changed jobs, I was given the OEC here and don’t have to go to the POEA office in the Philippines.

Ish (from the comment section)

Source: https://blog.thefilipinogaijin.com/2018/10/16/ofw-in-japan-how-to-get-an-oec-when-you-just-moved-to-another-company/comment-page-1/#comment-30

If you’re living far from the POLO Tokyo office, I recommend you call or email them first to check the latest OEC procedure. Here is the Tokyo POLO office’s contact page.

Original Post: October 16, 2018

Recently, the POEA just released a new resolution about changing the process of obtaining a OEC.

I went to the POLO office in Tokyo just to found out that they recently changed the procedure and now I need to go to the Philippines POEA office to get an OEC.

What are the changes?

  1. Tokyo POLO will now need to verify your employment contract
  2. There will be no issuance of OEC in Tokyo POLO. They will only verify your employment contract then you will need to present it to POEA in the Philippines to get an OEC.

Who are affected by this change?

  1. OFW who are not yet registered in the Balik-Manggagawa Online Processing System (bmonline.ph).
  2. OFW returning to Japan the first time after you moved to a new company (i.e. change employer).

What do you need to do?

  1. You need to prepare the following documents
    • Copy of photo page of your passport (original to be presented; valid at least 6 months before your intended departure)
    • Copy of Residence Card (with valid visa)
    • Copy of Insurance Card (original to be presented)
    • Signed written statement (letter form) addressed to Labor Attaché Marie Rose Escalada (indicating all necessary details how you were able to enter Japan and manage to get a job/change employer)
    • Employment Contract (signed by you and your employer; in English or with a signed English Translation)
    • Employment Certificate or proof of existing employment such as payroll slip or valid company identification card (if you’re working for more than 6 months for the said employer)
    • Release letter or Employment Certificate issued by the previous employer
    • Company Registration “Tokibo Tohon” (with English translation; signed by translator)
  2. Go to Tokyo POLO and submit the documents
  3. After they verify your Employment Contract, schedule an appointment using bmonline.ph.
  4. Submit the verified Employment Contract in a POEA office and receive your OEC (Note: there are POEA satellite offices so you don’t need to go to the one in Mandaluyong)

Yeah, I know. That’s a lot of documents, right? Shoganai 🙂

You can read the actual resolution document in here.

PS: You might notice that the documents in the resolution document is not the same with the one I listed above, but those are the list of documents Tokyo POLO just asked me to submit when I did my last visit there. Feel free to contact them if you want to make sure.

How to Find Software Engineering Jobs in Japan for Foreigners with No Japanese Requirement

It goes without saying that looking for a job in Japan without Japanese language skill is very hard. Most of the job posting searchable through Google and GaijinPot Jobs are not really helpful in looking for tech companies hiring people that can’t speak Japanese.

Luckily, the number of companies and start ups in Tokyo which are willing to hire English-only speakers are increasing year by year.

Here is a website with a list of good companies (that don’t suck) hiring Software Engineer. Check out the ones with No Japanese requirement.

Here is another website with a curated list of jobs specifically for English speakers.

Rakuten, the Amazon of Japan, is also hiring software engineers for their different departments and teams. I know a lot of foreigner working there and they say the company is promoting the use of English.

Create a LinkedIn account, make a good profile and make yourself searchable for recruiters in Tokyo. They can help you find companies matching your skills.

Good luck!

How to Apply Chinese Tourist Visa in Tokyo (for a Filipino Citizen)?

This year, I was able to travel multiple times from Japan to China with little to no hassle at all.

As of this day (September 2, 2018), here are the details for the Chinese Visa application:

How much is the application fee?

The 30 day single entry tourist visa application fee for a Filipino is 9,400 yen. You will pay the fee when you collect your passport (with the visa) and you can pay with cash or credit card.

What are the required documents?

1) Passport
Original passport with at least six months of remaining validity and with blank visa pages, a colored photocopy of the passport’s data page and the photo page if it is separate.

2) Visa Application Form and Photo
One completed Visa Application Form with a recent 6 months colored passport photo (bare-head, full face) against a white background (size: 48mm x 33mm) attached. If the accompanying children on the same passport are also on the tour, their photos should be stuck on the Application Form, and related illustration is required.
There are two ways to prepare your application form. You may complete an Online Application Form (where a Visa Centre provides such service),  print it out and sign it; or, you can download the application form from our website and fill it out manually and sign it.

3) Residence Card
You will need to present your Residence Card and submit a copy of it. Please note that you may need to copy the back side of the Residence Card if your latest address is written in there.

4) Photocopy of previous Chinese Visa (if you previously had one).

5) Applicant’s round trip flight booking and hotel reservation.
Make sure that the flight dates and the hotel booking dates matches because the Visa Centre staff will check this information strictly.
If applicants can’t provide the hotel reservation, instead of staying at friend’s, relative’s place during holiday in china. Please provide the invitation letter and the inviter’s Chinese ID (front &back) copy or foreigner’s residence permit and passport copy .
The invitation letter should contain:
(1) Information of the applicant: Name, gender, date of birth, passport number and etc.
(2) Details of planned visit: arrival & departure date, tourism destination, expenditure arrangement and etc.
(3) Information of inviter: Inviter’s name, contact number, address, inviter’s signature and etc.

Where to apply for a Chinese Visa?

To apply for a Chinese Visa, you should go to the Chinese Visa Application Service Centre in Tokyo (not in the Chinese Embassy).
Address: 8th floor, Kamiyacho Prime Place, 4-1-17, Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Please note that it’s closed on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays.
Business Hours:
– Submission of applications: 9:00 to 15:00
– Payment and collection: 9:00 to 16:00

For more details about the Visa Centre, check this link.

When you go there to submit the application

  1. Make sure you have your passport, application form and all the required documents.
  2. Get a queue number from the staff in the front desk.
  3. Wait for your number to be called.
  4. When your number is called, submit the documents.
    The staff will give you a Pickup Form indicating the visa application fee and the day when your passport (with Chinese Visa) will be available for collection.

When you go there to collect your passport with Chinese Visa

  1. Make sure you have your Pickup Form with you. Also make sure you have the payment for the application fee.
  2. Get a queue number from the staff in the front desk.
  3. Wait for your number to be called.
  4. When your number is called, get your passport (hopefully with the Chinese Visa on it).

Additional Things to Know

  • The Visa Centre has a photo booth in case you need one for the passport photo. Last time I was there, it costs 800 yen.
  • The Visa Centre also has photocopying machines and personal computers connected to the internet which you can use to copy or print your hotel booking, flight itinerary and previous Chinese visa.

Japan: Shibuya Halloween Parade 2017

The Shibuya Halloween “Parade” is an unofficial event which occurs during the Halloween nights near Shibuya Crossing. This event showcase the gathering of people wearing Halloween costumes and cosplay outfits.

This year, since I work around Shibuya area, I decided to take some pictures of people in costumes before I go home.

There were a lot of people (both in costumes and not) but you can still feel that the whole place was safe because there were also a lot of police maintaining the peace and order.

Overall, the event was really nice and I will probably take pictures next year if I’m still here in Japan.

Japan Adventure: Climbing Mt. Fuji

Early this Summer 2017, me and some of my friends climbed Mt. Fuji. That was second time climbing Mt. Fuji and up until now, it’s still the most brutal thing I ever experienced.

I’m not really that fit when I did the climb. I was usually short of sleep and lung capacity is not really that good anymore. But luckily I was able to reach the top despite a couple of minor hiccups.

The Plan

  1. Ride the bus from Shibuya to Mt. Fuji 5th station
  2. Eat dinner in the 5th station
  3. Start the climb at around 8pm
  4. Reach the summit before the sunrise
  5. Eat and rest for a while on the summit
  6. Climb down back to the 5th station
  7. Ride the bus back to Tokyo

Things You’ll Need

  1. Good hiking shoes
  2. Gloves
  3. Good jacket for the cold night
  4. A rain coat
  5. Flashlight or Head lamp
  6. Energy bars and/or small snacks
  7. Water (in my case, 2 liters is enough)

The Climb

Our group had 6 members; 2 Filipinos, 3 Koreans and 1 Japanese.

We started our adventure on Shibuya. We met there and rode the bus which took us to Mt. Fuji 5th Station.

We then took a quick dinner in one of the restaurant in the 5th station.

We started the preparation for our climb. We bought some wooden walking sticks. Those wooden sticks helped us during the climb as a support for uneven land. There are also stamping area in every station where you pay ~500 yen and the staff would put a “station stamp” in your wooden stick.

This year, because we have some first time Mt. Fuji climbers in our group, we decided to climb the Yoshida Trail again. This, as far as we know, is the easiest of the trails going up the summit. There are 4 trails to the summit; Yoshida, Subashiri, Gotemba and Fujinomiya.

We started our climb at around 6pm and it started relatively easy. The weather was very nice compared to my first climb the previous year. The climb from the 5th to the 8th station was very smooth. I didn’t even had to wear my jacket yet.

By the way, after the 7th station you will notice that there are a lot of 8th stations. Another fun fact, there are mini stores and vending machines in each stations where you can buy drinks and food. The prices are more expensive but that’s the cost of convenience.

By the time we reached the 8th station, it’s already very dark and cold. We started to wear our down jackets and turned on our head lamps.

The climb between 8.5th station and the summit was very difficult for me. The wind was becoming stronger and colder as we climb up. I only brought three Snickers bars with me that day and as pointed out by some of my friends, my jacket wasn’t really think enough for the cold winds of Mt. Fuji. This was around 2AM to 3PM.

So after 10 hours worth of climbing and two incident of public puking near the summit. Me and my buddy were able to reach the summit at 4AM just in time for the sunrise.

There were a lot of people climbing in queue starting the 9th station and there are more people waiting for the sunrise in the summit.

In the summit, we ate some food inside a ramen restaurant and stayed there maybe for two good hours to rest our bodies before we climbed down.

Final Thoughts

Overall, it’s a great experience. I am not really a fan of climbing mountains but I enjoyed physical and challenging activities. However, now that I climbed Mt. Fuji twice, I am not really sure if I still want to climb it next year.

Again, it’s definitely the worst feeling I ever experienced in my life physically; the cold and strong wind, the fatigue, the dizziness and the headache.

Let’s see next summer if I’ll climb it again. 🙂

Travel Japan: Hokkaido during Summer

Hokkaido is one of the more famous places in Japan aside from Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto.
It is the topmost island of Japan where the cold wind still blows even when the summer breeze is already in Tokyo.

Usually when people talk about Hokkaido, it’s about the snow festival and the cold weather. Being the topmost island of Japan, the temperature can go below zero degrees Celsius during winter days.

So last August, me and two friends decided to spend our summer break in Hokkaido; splitting our 6 days (5 nights) adventure between 3 nights in Furano & Biei and the remaining 2 nights in Sapporo.

The summary of our plan:

  1. Fly from Tokyo to Asahikawa Airport
  2. Stay in a Furano hotel / airbnb
  3. Roam around Furano and Biei
  4. Travel to Sapporo area with bus or train
  5. Stay in a Sapporo hotel / airbnb
  6. Roam around Sapporo area
  7. Fly from New Chitose Airport back to Tokyo


We kinda wasted a lot of time before doing our hotel booking so most of the cheap and good ones are already booked. If I remember it correctly, we’re almost a month away from the trip before we did the booking. Luckily, we were still able to find some good deals.

B&B Furano

First, B&B Furano. This pension house might not be a luxury hotel but the rooms are good enough for travelers like us. The house is near bus stations and it’s walking distance from some restaurants and 7eleven. The breakfast meals are also great.

For 2 rooms, we paid 75,000 yen for 3 nights.


Next, Mystays Premier Hotel in Sapporo. This one is a really nice hotel. Complete with amenities like restaurants and hot spring bath inside the building. The hotel is within walking distance from the city center.

For 2 rooms, we paid 57,000 yen for 2 nights.

The Tourist Spots:

Me and my friends didn’t really stick on a fixed itinerary and schedule. Here is the list of the places we checked out during our trip.

Farm Tomita (Furano)

Flower Land Kamifurano (Furano)

Zerebu Hill (Biei)

Furano Cheese Factory (Furano)

Patchwork no Michi (Biei)

Shirogane Blue Pond (Biei)

Otaru (near Sapporo)

Shiroi Koibito Park (Sapporo)

Sapporo Beer Museum (Sapporo)

Soup Curry GARAKU (Sapporo)

Genghis Khan Restaurant (Sapporo)

This restaurant serves lamb meat for Yakinuku. We waited over 2 hours just to be seated in this famous restaurant and maybe that’s the reason I was too hungry to take pictures. 🙂

Final Thoughts

Our Hokkaido trip last Summer will definitely be on the list of my favorite trips even though we were kind of relax in our itinerary and weren’t able to go to other tourist spots.

Hopefully in the future, I’ll get visit this place again and enjoy the food and places we weren’t able to try. Maybe during winter for a change. 🙂