Updated February 14, 2024

Is Japan a Good Place To Work As a Software Engineer?


Japan Dev Team

Japan Dev contributor

Let’s face it, traveling and moving house across countries – and even continents – has never been this simple in the history of humanity. 

So, naturally, finding a place where you can get the most out of the value you create has also become much easier and, therefore, tempting for many of us.

This is why Japan is a popular destination among tech professionals who are looking for a happier life. 

With a wide variety of visa options and a flourishing and inviting tech startup scene that’s backed by the government, Japan has been putting in the work to become the best place for skilled professionals from all over the world.

In this post, I’ll explain the current landscape of software engineering jobs in Japan and answer key questions about the quality of work life for software engineers and the typical compensation they receive.

I’ll also discuss the country's living conditions in terms of costs, safety, and climate, so you can make a well-informed decision about your career and life in Japan.

First, let’s briefly talk about software engineering in Japan.

The Current Landscape of Software Engineering Jobs For Foreigners in Japan

As I already mentioned, Japan has been a desirable location for tech professionals for a while now. While the country’s tech industry is growing at a rapid pace, the country’s population has been on the decline just as extremely, which has led to a scarcity of talent in the sector.

What’s more, Japan has been putting a great emphasis on tech startups and smart city solutions with its wide range of initiatives. You can read up on these in my posts on Shibuya Startup Support and startups in Japan, where you’ll see that the country has been creating great incentives for businesses and tech professionals to migrate to Japan.

In addition to these, there’s great interest – and even greater job opportunities – in fields like data science, AI, machine learning, and cyber security in Japan. These fields are mainly affected by the talent shortage and are open to foreign talent.

What’s more, even the statistics suggest that the software industry is among the top industries in Japan that contribute to the creation of new jobs in the country.

However, this trend affects more than just the software industry or the tech industry in general. Many other industries are experiencing digitalization, which is why the demand for IT jobs is increasing in nearly all industries

So, is it hard to find a software engineering job in IT in Japan? Let’s see.


An Undeniable Demand For Software Engineers in Japan

Japan’s job market has unique characteristics that set it apart from the rest. I explained this in posts such as job-type vs. membership-type employment and job hopping in Japan, but long-term employment has a whole new meaning here.

Being employed at the same company for life is a part of the traditional business culture in Japan, so naturally, the country boasts impressively high job security rates. 

In fact, according to numbers obtained from the OECD, Japan ranks the lowest in terms of labor market insecurity while having the third-best unemployment rate.

This, essentially, means two things:

  • There are very few employable people in the market,

  • Those who find a job usually leave the job market for good.

What’s more, the tech scene, especially with the recent popularity of tech startups, has been growing rapidly, with new businesses joining the scene every day.

So, are software engineers in demand in Japan? The answer is yes – there’s always a demand for new talent, and this demand is growing exponentially stronger too.

Foreign Software Engineers Are Especially in Demand

As you can tell, Japan is always in need of new talent when it comes to software engineers, given that pretty much all the other sectors need IT professionals as part of their digitalization journeys.

That being said, Japan currently has a soft spot for foreign software engineers specifically, as the country places great emphasis on corporate diversity.

It’s no secret that cultural diversity is one of the key drivers for companies’ success on a global scale, which explains why hiring foreign talent is more popular in Japan’s tech scene than ever before.

Diversity doesn’t just allow companies to compete globally but provides new perspectives and know-how, so companies put greater emphasis on hiring foreign talent, even if it’s remotely from overseas.

Are Software Engineers Paid Well in Japan?


As I explained, there’s quite a demand for software engineers in Japan, especially foreigners. Naturally, this increased demand reflects on the salaries of software engineers in the country as well. In general, it’s safe to say that software engineers get paid well in Japan.

That being said, an often-posed argument in this regard is that the engineering salaries are lower in Japan compared to other popular destinations for foreign programmers, such as the USA, Germany, The Netherlands, and Scandinavian countries.

Taking this argument at face value, you may be tempted to convert the salaries from each country into a single currency and see which one wins by sheer amount. However, this approach doesn’t help reflect reality and is certainly not an indicator of how well you’ll be able to live in the said country.

I talked about this to a great extent in my post on the real cost of living in Tokyo, but living in Japan can be quite affordable in many ways. For instance, eating out can be cheaper than you think in Japan, as there’s no tipping culture here.

What’s more, while the average software engineer's salary may not be as impressive compared to other countries, the average salary of a foreign software engineer is considerably higher according to statistics

Numbers show that the average base annual salary for a Japanese software engineer is ¥4,832,944, and it can even get up to a whopping 9 million yen for some. I get into a lot more detail on salaries in my post on software developer salaries in Japan, which I recommend you check out.

All in all, even if it can be argued that software engineers don’t get paid as well in Japan, as a foreign candidate, the higher demand offers you quite a competitive pay.

Is Japan a Good Place to Live?

While you may be convinced by the promise of a competitive salary, you might also wonder if living in Japan is really for you. 

It’s natural to hesitate when it comes to moving to a country with such a unique and strong culture, so let’s talk briefly about the other aspects of living in Japan that aren’t job-related.

Living in Japan Is Safe

I have a whole article dedicated to this topic, so check it out if you want to learn more, but Japan is as safe as it gets.

Indeed, Japan is among the safest countries in the world and ranks as the 10th safest in the latest Global Peace Index. 

If you’re worried about the safety of moving to Japan and living here by yourself as a foreigner, you’ll be glad to know that the country’s violent crime rate is at a tiny 0.3 per 10,000. So, you usually have nothing to worry about.

What’s more, the strong culture of respect ensures that even the simplest daily interactions are handled respectfully and helpfully. In general, you’ll be living in a society that strongly dislikes being rude, which brings about a sense of peace and serenity to everyday life.

Living in Japan is Convenient

One thing Japan does best is convenient and efficient living. Once you move here, you’ll notice just how many things are designed and engineered to provide the best experience possible. 

You’ll frequently come across tailor-made gadgets and items for everything – from heated toilet seats to vending machines that provide you with fresh smoothies, Japan has thought of everything and implemented it way long ago before you even knew you needed it!

What’s more, the “konbini” stores you’ll find on every corner (usually a 7/11 or Lawson’s) give convenience stores a whole new meaning, offering everything one might need at a moment’s notice, at any hour of the day.

Also, it goes without saying that Japan has a system in place for everything daily life-related. So, all you need to do is learn some basic ground rules, like taking out the trash at certain times in designated locations, as I explained in another article

As long as you do things correctly, you can trust the system to handle the rest, which is a big convenience considering even train schedules can’t be trusted in some countries.

Last but definitely not least, another big convenience of living in Japan comes from a robust healthcare system. You can get insured for very affordable prices, and see a specialist when you need it without having to worry about the costs, which might even be a reason on its own to move to Japan if you’re coming from a country with a less-than-ideal healthcare system.

What’s more, eating healthy in Japan is very affordable, and it’s easier for everyone to maintain good health, which leads to fewer people becoming obese, as I mentioned in my post on why Japanese are so thin.

Potential Downsides of Working in Japan as a Software Engineer: Things To Consider


Living and working in Japan as an engineer is desirable in many ways. As I mentioned throughout my post, there’s a high demand for engineers and other skilled workers in Japan, and this need is growing fast too. 

All that said, just like anywhere else, living in Japan isn’t without a few “cons.” Whether these potential downsides will affect you or not is up to you, but I’d like to mention them just in case.

The Language Barrier

Perhaps the biggest hurdle you’ll face when living in Japan is the language. Living as an expat, this may not affect you as much initially. 

However, as I mentioned in my post “Do People Speak English in Japan?”, even if you live in an expat-central area where everyone speaks English, there will come instances when speaking the language will be extremely more convenient for you, such as handling official business at government agencies.

So, if you’re in it for the long haul, it would be in your best interest to start learning Japanese, even if slowly. Also, in some cases, you may want to consider preparing for the JLPT, the Japanese proficiency exam. You can read my post to find out whether you need to take JLPT or not if you’re unsure.

Country-Based Nuances in Software Project Management

Another potential con of moving to Japan as a software engineer has to do with how things are handled at the office. As it can be a hit or miss for many, it’s best to briefly explain it.

You can refer to my article on agile management in Japan for details, but basically, Japan has historically had its own unique project management system, which continues to this day. 

What’s more, the country is also going through a major shift toward an agile management style in businesses, which the country had a unique version of, even back when the business landscape predominantly adopted a waterfall style. 

So, depending on what type of company you’re working at, you can expect things to be managed differently than you’re used to, which may be a dealbreaker for some.

Living Smaller, Literally

One last point to consider before moving to Japan is that if you’re used to living in large spaces, you might struggle to find a place to live. 

I delved into more detail on this topic in my post on finding apartments in Japan, but houses in Japan are usually smaller than what some people may be used to. Especially for those from the U.S., Japanese houses will pose a brand new challenge they may not be willing to face.

If you’re okay with living smaller, however, this challenge can turn into a blessing, incentivizing you to declutter, which can reportedly lead to a less stressful and overall happier life.

Final Verdict: Is Japan a Good Place To Work As a Software Engineer?

As you can see, as long as you’re able to handle the few minor downsides I mentioned in this post, living in Japan as a software engineer is pretty sweet.

Just take a look at my post on unicorn startups in Japan

The government’s long-term goal of making Japan a startup and, therefore, innovation powerhouse is ambitious, and hinges on attracting a continuous flow of highly skilled professionals. This is the driving force behind the startup visa and all the other incentives I detailed in my post on Shibuya Startup Support.

In addition to all this, adding the safety and convenience of Japan on top, which can even be a sole deciding factor for those who want to start a family, it can very well be said that Japan is one of the best places to live and work as a software engineer.

If you want to learn more about moving to Japan as a software engineer, here’s a detailed article that answers many common questions on the topic.


Japan Dev Team

This post was written by our Japan Dev editorial team.