Software Developer Internships in Japan, Attending Japanese University, & Job Hunting as a New Grad

Photo of Scott Rothrock

Scott Rothrock

Community Moderator at TokyoDev

How do I get a job in Japan with no experience? Why are there no entry level jobs or ways to break into the industry?

This is one of the most common questions in the TokyoDev Discord server, and for good reason. The job board often only has positions for applicants at the mid-career (often starting at 3+ years of experience) or senior levels, with a dearth of positions for folks who have newly graduated or are changing careers.

One reason for this is that Japanese society (specifically, the hiring flow from university to a full time job after graduation) is structured in such a way that students are expected to hunt for jobs in their third year, while companies are expecting to hire fresh graduates. Due to this, in Japan, “entry level” jobs are often replaced with jobs for “new graduates” (新卒, shinsotsu).

This distinction may seem superficial, but the difference is that jobs for new graduates have specific requirements that the applicant has graduated from an educational institution within the last 1-2 years, and can also have unofficial age limits.

Given this, many people realize that a way to get a job in Japan is to go through the funnel as a university student and follow the normal flow to a first job, then gain experience.

This has some immediately obvious drawbacks:

  • You probably need to be fairly fluent in either English or Japanese
  • You need to be of the right age to enter university
    • Non-traditional students exist in Japan, but are an exception
  • You need the finances to be able to travel to, live in, and go to university in Japan

Lai Huynh Binh Minh (Hinm on our Discord server) is one of the people who has traveled this path and has a full time job lined up at Tokyo Techies for after he graduates.

Minh was kind enough to give me over an hour of his time for this interview, where we discussed his decision to study overseas, what his university experience was like, the process of finding his internship, how he thinks about his role as an intern, and how he fits into the international culture at his company.

One surprising thing to come out early in this interview was that Minh’s initial aim was to study psychology in the Netherlands – something that seems completely unrelated to working with software in Japan!

Unfortunately, we had some technical issues toward the end of the video (01:12–01:13) that distorted Minh’s audio for about a minute. After that segment, the audio returns to normal.

This interview should be interesting not only for people considering Japanese universities and internships, but for developers and managers at all levels. Minh talks about how his experiences have holistically contributed to where he is now, and how the open culture at Tokyo Techies is able to leverage that experience.

If you have further questions for Minh or Scott, please consider joining the TokyoDev Discord community, where they are both active.

More about the author

Photo of Scott Rothrock

Scott Rothrock

Community Moderator at TokyoDev

Scott is a deaf American in Japan. He was previously the principal engineer at a Japanese startup for over a decade and is currently a senior engineer and backend team lead at an American startup. He loves dogs and if you talk to him long enough, you will eventually hear about his dogs, Noa and Sophie.

🚀 Opportunities for English speaking developers in Japan

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