If you're an international software developer looking for a job in Japan, it can be hard to tell what your market rate is. Sure, there's data (in Japanese) for the market as a whole, but that doesn't necessarily reflect the kind of positions that international software developers hold here. So to better shed a light on compensation, I conducted a survey of international developers working in Japan. The following results are based on the average total yearly salary (including bonuses) reported by respondents.

Salary by years of experience in software development

Years of experience Salary Respondents
Under 2 years ¥4 million 19 people
2 to 3 years ¥6 million 32 people
4 to 7 years ¥8 million 62 people
8 to 15 years ¥9 million 57 people
Over 16 years ¥11 million 19 people

The compensation for developers participating in my survey is significantly better than that of a typical Japanese one.

For instance, this 2018 survey conducted by the Japanese government found that the average "System Engineer" (a roughly analogous position to a software developer) in Japan had 12 years of experience and an annual compensation of ¥5.5 million.

Salary by English / Japanese usage

English usage Japanese usage Salary Respondents
Never Frequently ¥6 million 17 people
Sometimes Frequently ¥7 million 22 people
Frequently Never ¥8 million 37 people
Frequently Sometimes ¥8 million 83 people
Frequently Frequently ¥9 million 28 people

I think there's two factors at play that explain why people who use primarily Japanese at their job tend to get paid worse than those using English.

First, English ability is something that is exceptional in Japan, and so if a company wants to hire an English speaking developer, they need to pay a premium for it.

Secondly, companies that recruit English speaking developers with little to no Japanese skill also tend to be looking for technical excellence, and thus are willing to pay higher salaries.

Salary by Industry

Industry Salary Respondents
E-commerce ¥8 million 17 people
Finance ¥11 million 28 people
Games ¥5 million 11 people
SaaS ¥7 million 23 people
Other ¥8 million 103 people

Respondents were spread across a wide range of industries, and in these results I'm only including the industries with at least ten respondents, so most of them fell into the "Other" bucket.

Salary by company size

Employee count Salary Respondents
Under 30 ¥7 million 42 people
30 to 99 ¥6 million 40 people
100 to 300 ¥7 million 33 people
300 to 1999 ¥9 million 23 people
2000 and over ¥11 million 48 people

As a general trend, the larger the company, the better the pay. Curiously, there's a small dip in pay going from a very small company of under thirty people, to a slightly larger one.

Salary by Programming Language

Rank Language Salary Respondents
1 Go ¥10 million 20 people
2 Java ¥10 million 34 people
3 Kotlin ¥9 million 12 people
4 Python ¥9 million 41 people
5 TypeScript ¥8 million 18 people
6 Ruby ¥8 million 53 people
7 C++ ¥8 million 16 people
8 Swift ¥8 million 15 people
9 JavaScript ¥7 million 84 people
10 PHP ¥6 million 11 people
11 C# ¥6 million 17 people

People could include multiple programming languages in their response, hence JavaScript being the most popular programming language.

The relative ranking of compensation by programming language is roughly similar to this Japanese ranking, though compensation in that ranking is much lower across the board. Java seems to be the main outlier in my results, falling in second place in my survey, but not making the top ten in that ranking.

Salary by location

Prefecture Salary Respondents
Greater Tokyo ¥8 million 168 people
Elsewhere ¥5 million 23 people

Most opportunities for software developers in Japan are in Tokyo. 88% of respondents were working for a company with offices in the greater Tokyo area (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama).

Survey Methodology

I announced the survey through the tokyodev mailing list, and through my personal social media channels such as Twitter. As such, the results are biased towards that of fluent English speakers (though often non-native speakers).

219 people in total responded to the survey. However, after restricting responses to those who said they were living in Japan, working for a company with offices in Japan, and were not Japanese citizens, and included a salary that was not so high or low to be an obvious typo, I whittled that down to 191 results.

When breaking down the results, I rounded to the nearest million yen, as I thought any more precise numbers would imply a significance that isn't there.

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