Tokyo Dev

by Paul McMahon

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Salaries for international developers working in Japan

One of the questions I've been asked several times by readers of this blog are what are salaries of developers in Japan. There is a fair amount of data available about salaries for Japanese developers, but I wasn't aware of anything for international developers.

I'm active in the developer community here, so I created a survey which I sent out to my network. I got fifteen replies - not enough to come to any statistically valid conclusions, but got some interesting responses nevertheless.

In this article, I'll give the average yearly salary of developers based on several criteria.

First off, which is better, working for a company headquartered in Japan, or working for a foreign owned subsidiary?

Company TypeAverage Salary
Japanese Company¥8 million
Foreign Subsidiary¥11 million

Perhaps not surprisingly, international companies pay better than Japanese ones. Part of this could be that companies having subsidiaries in Japan are going to be established companies.

Related to this, how does the size of the company change compensation?

Number of EmployeesAverage Salary
150 or less employees¥6 million
150 to 1500 employees¥11 million
Over 1500 employees¥9 million

Mid-sized companies seem to pay the best. This could be because they are established enough that they aren't trying to penny-pinch, while still not so big that an individual developer becomes a cog in the machine.

Next up, are you paid better at a company where you speak mostly in Japanese or English?

Primary Spoken LanguageAverage Salary
Spoke mostly English¥5 million
Spoke English / Japanese equally¥10 million
Spoke mostly Japanese¥9 million

Well it turns out developers who mostly spoke English didn't get compensated nearly as well as those who used Japanese. There are probably a couple of reasons for this. First, if you are fluent in Japanese, there are a lot more opportunities available. Second, people who are using both English and Japanese are likely in a position where they are acting as a bridge between Japanese / International teams, which makes them more valuable.

Finally, what programming language should you use if you want to get paid well?

Programming LanguageAverage Salary
Javascript¥8 million
Ruby¥8 million
PHP¥5 million
Python¥7 million

PHP loses out here, so if you're still programming in it, maybe its time to pick up a new language.

I hope this data helps people get a rough idea of what salaries are like here, but remember to take it with a grain of salt.

Interested in job opportunities for developers in Japan?

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