Who doesn’t want to work at companies in Japan like Nintendo or Konami?
But if you don’t have contacts of people in the industry, work experience, or Japanese-speaking ability, you might think it’s almost impossible.
Well, it’s not as difficult as you might think!
I’ll share with you how I found my job in the game industry in Japan, as well as some things that I wish I had known before I started, and a couple of mistakes that I made along the way, so you can avoid them.
Click on the image to watch the video:
Or, you can read the transcript here:
Many of you dream of working in the game industry in Japan. Who doesn’t want to work at companies like Nintendo or Konami? But if you don’t have contacts, work experience, or Japanese ability, you might think it’s almost impossible.
Well, it’s not as difficult as you might think!
In this video, I’ll share with you how I found my job in the game industry in Japan, as well as some things that I wish I had known before I started, and a couple of mistakes that I made along the way, so you can avoid them.
First, here’s a quick background about myself:
I’ve been working in Japan for more than 5 years. For the first two years, I worked in an IT company, the third year in an esports company, and now I’m currently working in a video game company. Altogether, I have three years of experience in two different video game-related companies.
Now, I’ll explain, step-by-step, how you too can find a job.
First, you need to decide what kind of job you want. Do you want to be a designer, a developer, or something else?
Then, research those job positions and see what kind of skills are needed so you have a better understanding of what is required and how much experience you need in order to get that job. For example, if you want to be a designer and you notice that most of the job listings are asking for people with knowledge of UI or UX, or programs like Visio, you’ll get a good idea of what you need to learn even before start looking for a job.
I’m telling you this because this was the point when I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life.
Let me tell you a story: When I came to Japan, I wanted to work as an IT consultant, which is what I studied in college. But when I was looking for a job in Japan, I noticed that I needed a lot of Japanese [language] skills, which I didn’t have at the time. My original plan was to study Japanese for a year and then find a job as an IT Consultant but becoming fluent in Japanese in only one year would be nearly impossible.
So, I needed a Plan B; I started looking for other jobs that didn’t require Japanese. That’s when I noticed that programming jobs were the way to go. But there was a problem. I didn’t know how to code. So, at the age of 23, I started from scratch. Basically, everything that I learned at college was a kind of a waste of time because I ended up changing careers. I’m a self-taught programmer without a degree in computer science.
I wish that in my sophomore year of college, I had started looking at some job openings. Then, I would have realized how much Japanese was needed so I can study more Japanese while I was in college, and I could have become an IT consultant and wouldn’t have spent so much time changing careers.
Once you’ve decided on your job and you know what you need to learn, the next step is to figure out how you’re going to get your working visa in Japan.
There are four main options:
The first option is to come on a tourist visa (which is usually valid for 90 days) and find a job while you’re here. This is the most difficult route. Few companies are willing to sponsor your visa and if you don’t speak Japanese (more about that later), and it would be almost impossible. I don’t recommend this one, but it’s an option.
The second option is to apply for a job in Japan from overseas. The company will sponsor your visa, and then you can move to Japan. This is quite competitive since there are many people around the world who might be interested in the same job. You need to do a lot of research on which companies are hiring from overseas, and make sure you have a solid resume. Only a few people that I know were able to pull this off.
The third option is the best one, but it might only apply to a few of you. If you come here with a “working holiday” visa, and while you’re here, you can find a job. Since you already have permission to work, it would be easier for companies to hire you, since they don’t need to go through the whole immigration process to get you the visa. That’s what Kirstie did. She got a working holiday visa and moved to Japan. However only certain countries are eligible, so unless you’re from one of the countries listed, you can’t apply for this visa.
The fourth option, which is the best one for those who can’t get a working holiday visa, is to move to Japan as a student, either to study Japanese or to enroll in a graduate school. This is the easiest option because you’ll already be living in Japan, so it’s less risky for companies to hire you. Also, the transition from a student visa to a work visa is quite smooth. The downside is that unless you get a scholarship, you need to pay the tuition fees yourself.
Of course, there are more options such as opening a business here, getting married to a Japanese [person], etc., but these four are the main ones.
So, to sum up, the first step is to decide how you’re going to move to Japan. If your country has a working holiday visa agreement with Japan, that’s the best way to go. If not, come as a student and then look for a job while you’re here. This is what I did. Five months before I graduated from college, I applied to a Japanese language school. One month after my graduation from college, I moved to Japan for good. If you want to go the student visa route, keep in mind that you’ll need to save a lot of money. You’ll need to sign up for at least six months’ worth of classes. Not all the Japanese schools can sponsor your visa, so you need to ask them.
Which school do I recommend? Just look for the cheapest one. The important thing is that you get a student visa. If you want to hear more about this, I can make another video telling my experience in a Japanese language school.
How did I find my job?
There’s a huge difference between finding a job as a new grad and as someone with experience. I can make another video explaining how I got my first job as a new grad, but spoilers! It was a nightmare.
Anyway, let’s get back on topic. If you’ve got at least two years of experience, the process is similar to any other country. You apply for a job; you send your resume, and then you get an interview. It’s pretty straightforward.
This is how I found my first job in the game industry. After two years working in an IT company in Japan, I applied to an esports company, then I got the job. Since I already had a working visa, it was easier to move to a different company. I’ll tell you in a bit which [different] websites I used, but for now, I’ll just say that the process is not that complicated.
Another essential thing is to research Japanese etiquette when looking for a job. Learn professional manners, like how to receive a business card and how to write a resume.
How were the interviews?
It depends on the company. At the esports company I worked for, I was a front-end developer, so the first interview was a technical interview, then I did a coding exercise and in the final interview, we reviewed the coding exercise. After that, they finally sent me the job offer. At my current job, I had a technical interview, then I was supposed to do a coding exercise. But since I had a good portfolio, they told me that I didn’t need to do it. Then, I had a second interview, and finally a third and final one with HR. The process wasn’t anything special.
How important is it to speak Japanese?
Regardless of what industry you want to work in, if you’re a new grad, you’ll need to have a good level of Japanese. Programmers, as well as some scientists and researchers, are an exception: if you’re any of these, you can probably find a job as a new grad without speaking any Japanese at all.
If you’ve got at least two years of work experience in programming, design, or QA, you can probably get away with this. The game industry is one of the few industries that require minimal Japanese skills. I know several people that work in the game industry who don’t speak Japanese. But, for pretty much anything else, like marketing, sales, and so on, Japanese is essential.
So then, what level of Japanese is required?
That depends on your company and the type of work you do.
In my first job in the game industry, I didn’t need that much Japanese since everything was in English. But, in my current job, communication among team members is in Japanese.
How about JLPT N2 or N1?
The JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) offers five levels of testing for Japanese ability. N5 is the lowest, and N1 is the highest.
N2 or N1 will only help you to pass the resume screening process. They won’t guarantee you a job. N5, N4, and N3 are basically useless. Several companies don’t know that they exist.
The N2 and N1 only proves that you understand Japanese, not that you can speak it. When I was finding my first job in Japan, I had two choices:
One, hit the books and study a lot just to pass a test.
Or two, build a portfolio, polish my programming skills and only focus on my Japanese conversation and listening skills.
I decided to go for the latter and it was a great choice. I still don’t have N2 or N1, but since my work is in Japanese, that demonstrates I have the equivalent proficiency. Having the certification would be great, but I won’t say that it’s a must or that you really need to focus on it if you’re a developer.
Compared to other industries, such as the anime or manga industry, it might be a bit easier to find a job in the game industry without speaking Japanese. But still, I’d recommend you have a good level of Japanese, since that improves your chances of getting hired.
Which websites should you use to find a job?
There isn’t a specific website for people that want to work in the game industry. If you don’t speak Japanese, there are a few sites I recommend:
For developers, angel.co and “stackoverflow jobs” is where I found my previous and current job.
Wantedly.com has some postings for gaming companies, both for developers and non-developers, but most of the positions require Japanese [speaking] ability.
Also, you can check Indeed, Robert Walters, and Michael Page.
For non-Japanese speakers, I feel the best option is to go to LinkedIn and select Japan as the location. Then search for something like “gaming recruiter” or “gaming talent acquisition”. A lot of recruiters that are on LinkedIn speak English, which will help your chances.
The last tip will be to get out and meet people in person. I met several people that work in the game industry through events on Meetup.com.
If you’re a new grad you might be thinking: “A new graduate with no contacts in the industry has no chance! It’s practically IMPOSSIBLE”.
I found all my jobs in Japan, including the previous and my current one where I work in the game industry without having any contacts. So, it’s definitely possible. Of course, networking and having contacts will make things easier, but it’s not a must.
But what you definitely need are Japanese friends or a partner who will help you to practice the interviews and explain the job-hunting process and other things. I’ve dated Japanese girls in the past, including one who had a Japanese teacher license, and she helped a lot to improve my Japanese during the whole job-hunting process. One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to make Japanese friends or date a Japanese partner. A good way to meet Japanese people is through a Meetup, which I mentioned earlier. For dating, I suggest Bumble or Tinder.
What do I do at my current job?
In my previous job, I was working for an esports company as a front-end developer, more specifically, as a React developer. You know how when a match is about to start, you’ll see the stats of the players, the score, and so on? Well, I was doing something like that. My team and I were working on a web app where the user can view the player, match and score stats before, during, and after the match. At my current job, I’m also working as a React developer and project manager, which includes building web apps for game administrators.
Many people complain that working in Japan is terrible. At my previous job, the esports company, the work conditions were pretty good, and I only did around 10-15 minutes of overtime per day. At my current job, the work conditions are fantastic, and no overtime. So, it really depends on the company.
First, build a portfolio. Whether you’re a developer or something else like a writer or designer, just have some work you can show off. If you’re in college, do a lot of internships, do some freelancing, and get some real-world experience. In my case, I’m a web developer, so I built my personal website, where I list all the projects that I’ve worked on.
Second, for most new grads, Japanese [language skills] is a must. Of course, if you’re a developer, you can probably get by without it if you have a solid portfolio. Even if you’re not a new grad and you have several years of experience, speaking Japanese will increase your chances of finding a job here.
Third, get your work visa. Your first job in Japan might not be the best and the salary might be low, but that’s OK. You can always find a new job once you have a work visa.
Let me tell you a story: The working conditions at my first job in Japan were terrible. They were super strict, and my salary was quite low. But, during that time, I focused on improving my skills, and soon, I found a new job in the game industry that had way better working conditions. And since I already had a working visa from my first job, the job-hunting process was easier the second time around.
Fourth, research the job-hunting manners in Japan and get a lot of Japanese friends. They will help you with all the processes.
My last advice and the most important is never give up. I know it sounds so easy, but it’s true. Many people dream of working in Japan…until they finally get here, and their dreams get crushed. Reality is harsh! Life in Japan is not full of rainbows and butterflies. My first four years in Japan were full of challenges. All my friends from college were working in the best companies and there I was, here in Japan, in a bad work environment and not making a lot of money. But I never gave up. I focused on improving my skills, learning as much as I can, and building a portfolio.
It’s been 7 years since I moved to Japan, and I still can’t believe that I’m here. You can do it too. It’s going to be tough, yes. But it’ll be worth it. It took me 4 years to finally achieve a comfortable lifestyle in Japan, but I did it thanks to my hard work and of course the support of many people who helped me along the way.
Living in Tokyo was one of my biggest dreams and moving here was one of the best decisions in my life. I’m living my dream and I couldn’t be happier.
If you want to work here, do your best. All your efforts will pay off.
Soon, I’ll be posting a video in which I interviewed people that work in the game industry and ask how they got their job here. If you want to know more, make sure to subscribe!