Navigating Work, Culture, and Daily Life in the Japan
In this article, I would like to share my experience of relocating to Japan. I’m Mahdi, a 29-year-old DevOps Engineer, and I recently moved to Japan to work as a DevOps engineer at one of the biggest IT companies in Japan that has expanded into various verticals, including mobile and fashion, in recent years. Relocating from Iran to Japan, I encountered many new things, such as their streets, foods, and culture. I’ll discuss some tips that may be interesting for you.
1- How did I find an overseas job?
Let’s talk about the Japanese job market for DevOps engineers. As a DevOps engineer, it’s beneficial to know Japanese, as many Japanese companies prefer candidates with Japanese language skills. However, if you can’t speak Japanese (like me), your options may be limited. There are websites that can help you find English-speaking jobs in Japan, such as
https://japan-dev.com, where you can search for job advertisements and apply.
I received an offer from one of the recruiters on LinkedIn. I expanded my network connections on LinkedIn (with around 3,000 connections related to DevOps) and set my profile to
open to work. I also selected countries like Japan and South Korea and waited for recruiters to reach out to me. After a while, some recruiters messaged me, and I interviewed with them. They provided guidance on how to interview and helped me refine my resume step by step. They were very kind and helpful.
If you have a valid marriage certificate, you can bring your spouse with you. The embassy grants a dependent visa to your spouse, which also allows them to have a work permit with that type of visa.
2- Annual income & Tax
Japan has lower tax percentages compared to Europe or the USA, where you may have to pay about half of your income in taxes. If you earn between
$60k), you only need to pay
23% in taxes. The average annual wage for a senior DevOps engineer in Japan ranges from
annual income | Tax percentage
¥3m (~$2k) -> ¥7m (~$46k) | 20%
¥7m (~$46k) -> ¥9m (~$60k) | 23%
¥9m (~$60k) -> ¥18m (~$120k) | 33%
the average annual income for a DevOps engineer in Tokyo, Japan, typically ranged from
$80k) or more, depending on factors such as experience, skills, and the specific company or organization.
Experience Level | Years of experience | Annual income
Junior | 0 -> 2 | ¥6m ($40k) -> ¥8m ($53k)
Mid-Level | 2 -> 5 | ¥8m ($53k) -> ¥10m ($66k)
Senior | 5+ | ¥10m ($66k) -> ¥12m ($80k)
Specialized | ∞ | ¥12m ($80k) -> ∞
3- Home renting
Renting houses in big cities like Tokyo can be expensive due to the high population (approximately 37 million people) and the relatively small size of typical houses in Tokyo. For example, I rented a 37-square-meter house for
$700), and this was in a more rural area. Houses near subway stations tend to be slightly more expensive than others, and the city downtown area is the most expensive part of Tokyo.
However, if you’re a senior computer engineer, your income should be sufficient to cover your housing costs, and you may even be able to save some money. You can search for available houses on websites like
Initial costs of renting: Some houses may require a
deposit, which is typically equivalent to one month’s rent. Some houses do not require a
deposit at all (like my house). Some houses may also require
Key Money for the first month’s rent, which is usually equal to one month’s rent (but not required in some cases, like my house).
title | Min -> Max
first month rent | ¥50,000 ($334) -> ¥100,000 ($670)
deposit | ¥0 ($0) -> ¥100,000 ($670)
key money | ¥0 ($0) -> ¥100,000 ($670)
guarantor fee | ¥0 ($0) -> ¥50,000 ($330)
agency fee | ¥10,000 ($67) -> ¥40,000 ($270)
lock exchange fee | ¥10,000 ($67) -> ¥30,000 ($200)
fire insurance | ¥10,000 ($67) -> ¥20,000 ($130)
total | ¥80,000 ($530) -> ¥440,000 ($3,000)
From the second month until the end of your lease: You will generally only need to pay the monthly rent and utilities (such as electricity, gas, etc). If the landlord requires a guarantor, you will need to introduce someone or a company to act as your guarantor. There are companies that offer guarantor services and charge a monthly fee, which is not typically very high. For instance, in my case, it’s about
¥6,000 per month.
title | min -> max
monthly rent | ¥50,000 ($334) -> ¥100,000 ($670)
electricity, gas,... | ¥10,000 ($67) -> ¥30,000 ($200)
guarantor fee | ¥0 ($0) -> ¥10,000 ($67)
total | ¥60,000 ($400) -> ¥140,000 ($940)
Japan is indeed one of the top countries prone to earthquakes, and earthquake safety is a significant concern for many residents. It’s reassuring to know that the Japanese government has implemented rules and regulations for earthquake-resistant construction. Choosing a house built after
1981, when these regulations were likely stricter, is a wise choice if you want to enhance your safety during earthquakes. Additionally, staying informed about earthquake preparedness and having an emergency plan in place can further help alleviate concerns about seismic activity in Japan.
4- Work/Life balance
In my observation, I have not experienced any imbalance between work and life in Japan. I work from 9 to 5 with flexibility in my schedule and have a two-day weekend (Saturday and Sunday), just like in other places around the world. However, I have heard that many years ago, Japanese employers faced issues like
Karoshi (which means “overwork death”), but it no longer exists because the government has implemented various rules to prevent it from happening. Maybe in other industries other than IT, flexible hours in Japan do not exist, but I think the IT industry is very similar worldwide because I have not noticed much difference between my home country (Iran) and Japan in terms of work culture.
5- Japanese culture
In my experience, Japanese people are incredibly kind and helpful. For example, there have been times when I got lost in the subway, and when I asked for assistance, they quickly checked their mobile devices to guide me on the right path. On one occasion, a kind individual even accompanied me to the platform before returning to their own route. It was a wonderful experience, and I’ve found Japanese people to be very considerate and respectful. However, they tend to be somewhat reserved and reserved, and it’s not common for strangers to strike up conversations while waiting in line. This suits me fine as I’m a bit introverted, but it might pose a challenge for someone who is more extroverted and accustomed to social interactions.
One cultural difference that surprised me was the lack of handshakes. There were times when I unintentionally extended my hand out of habit, only to have someone politely decline, saying, “I don’t shake hands”.
Another cultural difference I noticed was the rarity of morning greetings like “Hello, Good morning, How are you doing?” at the workplace. Japanese colleagues typically don’t engage in extensive morning conversations; they prefer to begin their work promptly.
6- Japanese Language
There are international companies where you’re not required to know the local language to start working. In Japan, such companies are relatively rare, and I consider myself fortunate to have found one because I can’t speak Japanese at all.
I began learning the Japanese language after relocating to Japan. Speaking Japanese is relatively straightforward, with a simple grammar, but the writing system can be quite challenging. They have approximately 100 basic characters (Hiragana and Katakana) and over 20,000 advanced characters (Kanji, an old-fashioned Chinese writing system). Even native Japanese speakers sometimes struggle with certain Kanji characters, and there are Kanji whose meanings they don’t know. To be able to read a typical text, you may only need to know around 200 Kanji characters. So, in total, you need to learn 300 characters (Hiragana + Katakana + Kanji) to read a standard Japanese textbook. If you’d like to learn Japanese, I would recommend using the Duolingo and Rosetta Stone applications. In my opinion, Duolingo is better for writing and reading, while Rosetta Stone is better for speaking and listening.
In my observation, almost 99% of Japanese people can’t speak English, even among the younger generation. I typically communicate with them using Google Translate for assistance.
7- Japanese foods
In my home country, we don't have spicy foods, and we usually add a lot of salt to our dishes. Some of the Japanese foods can be quite spicy, like
curry, and you need to be careful with them. The first time I went to a regular restaurant in Tokyo, I ordered a random dish (curry), and when I started eating it, I found it to be very spicy, and I ended up drinking a lot of water because spicy foods don't agree with me. Japanese cuisine is generally low in salt, so you might need to add some salt to enhance the flavor.
There are also restaurants from different countries, such as Korean, Chinese, American (like McDonald's or KFC), and more. So, if you don't like Japanese foods, you can still find other options to enjoy while in Japan.
Convenience stores are prevalent throughout the city, and one of the most popular ones is
7-Eleven which is open 24 hours a day. You can buy your essentials at any time, and their prices are affordable. Additionally, there are stores that sell products from specific countries, which you can easily locate using Google Maps. For example, I found an Iranian store that sells products imported from Iran, and I found it quite interesting.
In general, Japan offers a vast variety of foods, restaurants, and stores to cater to everyone from different countries and preferences, ensuring that you can find something to satisfy your cravings.
8- Having a Mentor
When I joined the company, I didn’t know much about its internal environment and their technical aspects because a lot of this type of information is confidential, and nobody can share it on the internet. They assigned me a mentor to help me become familiar with the company’s internal workings more quickly. I hadn’t experienced having a mentor in my home country, but when I joined this company, one of the interesting things that happened to me was being assigned a technical mentor.
Talking to a mentor is quite informal, and you can discuss your daily routines, much like talking to a friend. You can also share your challenges in adapting to the new environment. My mentor kindly responded to me and guided me through both technical and non-technical issues.
9- Buying a car
Tokyo streets are very narrow, and typically, you can’t park your vehicle by the roadside. This was another thing that surprised me. You are required by law to reserve parking for your vehicle before purchasing it. Usually, people commute to work using the public transportation system, such as subways and buses. The Tokyo subway system is extensive and impressive. Houses located near subway stations tend to be a bit more expensive.
10- Automated Toilets
Toilet seats in Japan are truly remarkable. They are automated, and you simply need to sit down and do your business. They even clean you, so you don’t need to touch anything.
TOTO is one of the most renowned toilet seat brands in Japan, and you can find it in virtually every bathroom.
11- Clean Streets
You can’t imagine, but you won’t find any rubbish on the streets in Japan. Japanese people are incredibly clean, and you might not believe it, but there’s no garbage in public places. I’m not sure why, but it’s fascinating how people carry their trash with them until they get home to dispose of it in their own garbage bins.
12- Summer is the Worst Season in Japan
One of the drawbacks of living in Japan, especially in Tokyo, is the high humidity during the summer. The hot weather can make it even more uncomfortable. If you’re not accustomed to living in a city with a dry climate, you might find the summers in certain Japanese cities, like Tokyo, to be quite challenging. However, the other seasons, such as spring and autumn, are truly fantastic. Particularly in the spring, Tokyo enjoys wonderful weather, and many tourists visit Japan during this season to witness its unique natural beauty.
13- Cash Money
When I arrived in Japan, I didn’t have a credit card, so I used cash for all my purchases. In Japan, you can use cash almost everywhere, and so far, I haven’t come across any place that doesn’t accept cash. Even in the subways, you can load your subway card with cash using an automated machine. You simply insert money into the machine, and it charges your subway card. It’s so convenient. Some restaurants even prefer cash over credit cards and only accept cash payments.
I would recommend opening a bank account with PayPay or Rakuten Bank upon your arrival because you can use their cards at any store. I opened a bank account with SBI (Shinsei) Bank, and its services are not widely available; you can only deposit and withdraw from ATMs. I regret opening a bank account with this bank.
14- Booking Hotels: Online vs. In-Person
In my experience, reserving hotels online is approximately 40% cheaper than booking by phone or in-person. So, if it’s possible for you, consider using a credit card for your bookings. During tourist seasons like spring and autumn, hotel prices tend to be quite high, and you might want to explore options in the countryside. There are even capsule hotels that are more budget-friendly compared to traditional hotels. You can find hotels everywhere on Tokyo using Google Maps and compare their prices with each other.
15- Respect for the Law
It was fascinating for me to observe how people in Japan have a high level of respect for the law. For example, when people are at a pedestrian intersection, and the traffic light is red for pedestrians, no one crosses the road, even if there are no cars in sight. This was quite unusual for me because in my home country, people tend to be less strict about following the law. In the subways, you can always see people standing in line very orderly, and no one tries to jump ahead. You’ll find queues everywhere, even at the entrance of a place or when waiting to use a public drinking water fountain.
In conclusion, my journey to Japan as a DevOps engineer has been a transformative adventure filled with both challenges and enriching experiences. From the initial steps of securing a job to navigating the intricacies of daily life, I’ve learned valuable lessons about resilience and adaptability.
Finding an overseas job, especially in a country like Japan where language can be a barrier, required determination and strategic networking. Thanks to platforms like LinkedIn, I not only connected with potential employers but also received valuable guidance from recruiters who were willing to help me throughout the interview process.
Despite the challenges, the journey has been immensely rewarding. Japan’s rich history, breathtaking seasons, and unique cultural aspects have left a lasting impact. It is a place where tradition meets innovation, and where respect for the past coexists with a forward-looking mindset.
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