Now that you’re in Tokyo looking to start or further your IT career, you might want to look into attending tech meetups.
Tech meetups are events held online and offline, and attending them is a great way to form connections and establish yourself in the tech community. It could even lead to your next job!
In this Article:
- Common Types of Tech Meetups
- Differences Between Japanese and English Tech Meetups
- Where to Find Tech Meetups
- Attending Your First Tech Meetup
- Introducing Some Tokyo-based Tech Meetups
Common Types of Tech Meetups
Below are some of the common formats for tech meetups in Japan. Sometimes an event will be a mix, i.e. starting out with lightning talks, and leaving time for networking at the end.
Networking can sound like a scary word, but a typical networking meetup is just having friendly, unorganised chats with other developers and tech-adjacent people, over some food and drink. There’s no set agenda or schedule — it’s just about turning up and connecting with others.
Lecture-style meetups involve participants listening to a speaker (or speakers) share their expertise. This could be a presentation or interview with an expert, lightning talks from members of the community or a discussion delivered by a panel. It’s common for these events to be broadcast online.
Group study meetups, also known as mokumokukai (もくもく会) or benkyoukai (勉強会, study meeting), are intended for people to study their own topic-related materials together. By studying together around a theme, participants can easily consult with each other. Mokumokukai are held both online and offline, and usually have a schedule of introductions, study time, and then an optional review of what you worked on.
Workshops/hackathons involve hands-on participation and give attendees a common goal to work towards. These events are a good opportunity to gain experience or knowledge, and because everyone is working closely together it’s easy to communicate with other participants and form connections.
Differences Between Japanese and English Tech Meetups
On the whole, Japanese and English tech meetups are pretty similar — developers and technology-adjacent people get together and enjoy an event. However there are differences, some which you might not be expecting.
Typically people will use the language the event was advertised in. This means that even though we are in Japan, English meetups will attract mainly English speakers and people who want to practise English. If you want to make use of your Japanese skills, you should look at Japanese meetups.
Conversational Japanese will let you get by at networking events, but being able to talk about technology and code will help you better connect with other developers. A lot of Japanese tech vocabulary sounds similar to English! However, if you’re listening to talks or a panel, conversational Japanese might not be enough to follow a technical presentation delivered at native-speaker speed.
In Japanese there is a word, nijikai (二次会), which means second party or after party. This is a casual hang out after the event where people socialise and it’s usually accompanied by alcohol. While people at English meetups seem to chat a lot during the event itself, at non-networking Japanese meetups everyone seems to be very focused on the meetup, and save the socialisation for afterwards.
If you want to get more involved with the Japanese tech community, try to plan ahead so that you also have time to attend these after-events. And if alcohol isn’t your preference, don’t force yourself to drink — soft drinks and tea are available, and are now considered an acceptable choice.
Use of Social Media
Twitter (X) still remains the SNS of choice for Japanese meetups, despite having lost a lot of its popularity among English speakers. (Within English speaking tech circles LinkedIn seems to be gaining popularity instead.)
Often Japanese event details will include a specific hashtag, allowing attendees and presenters to easily interact with each other on Twitter. It’s not uncommon to see attendees live tweeting these events — without any images. That doesn’t mean you can’t take photos, just check beforehand if it’s ok, as some events/venues don’t allow posting to social media.
Where To Find Tech Meetups
One option is just to type into Google ‘Tech Meetups in Tokyo’ or ‘エンジニアのイベント’ (events for engineers). Joining online developer communities, such as the TokyoDev discord or HNTokyo slack, can also help keep you up to date on what’s happening.
However, if you want to check out more specific resources, the following websites are all used by various groups to schedule and advertise their events. You can find groups that interest you, follow them, and then receive updates when they have a new event.
Meetup is where you can find a lot of English speaking tech meetups, just set your location and search for what you’re into. The site is used globally to organise meetups, and has not just tech related events but basically whatever people are into.
Doorkeeper contains a mix of English and Japanese tech meetups, and also other non-tech-related events. It was built for Japan, and the interface comes in English and Japanese — just specify the prefecture and you’re good to go.
connpass features IT meetups held in Japan, and despite the interface containing English, the meetups are mainly in Japanese. If you connect your SNS account, you can share with your friends which events you are planning to attend and vice versa.
TECH PLAY aggregates information about Japanese IT events from Connpass and Doorkeeper, as well as allowing groups to publish events directly. The interface is all in Japanese, but meetups are tagged with relevant technologies and themes, making them easy to search for.
peatix has a variety of events in both Japanese and English. The interface is a mix of the two languages, but you can easily search for tech meetups by specifying the location and choosing テクノロジー／サイエンス (Technology / Science) from the dropdown.
Attending Your First Tech Meetup
Meetups can be daunting, but they’re a lot of fun and there are many benefits. You can learn more about current technologies, what people are working on, and what companies are operating in the space. Sometimes there will even be food and drinks, or sponsored swag.
Lecture-style or group study events are great if you’re nervous about meeting strangers. Since there’s something to focus on, the bar for participation is lower, but you still get to meet and interact with other developers.
If networking is your goal, be willing to start conversations and engage with others. Ideally someone will come and chat with you, but there’s no guarantee of that, so you have to be ready to be the one to approach people. It might help you to go with a friend, then at least instead of wallflowering you can talk to each other.
It’s important to remember that everyone there also wants to make connections, they’re not going to shut you down for saying hi.
So why not try attending some tech meetups in Tokyo!
Introducing Some Tokyo-based Tech Meetups
Below are some of the regular tech meetups I’ve been to. I’ve included a short description and the type of developer I think would enjoy attending them.
“Tokyo’s longest-running hacker networking event. Come on out and meet other entrepreneurs, startup founders, and technologists.”
HN Tokyo’s meetup is held at Shibuya, and a great place to meet other technology-related people. It’s a pure networking event (with some time set aside for announcements), so it’s best suited for people who have the energy to enjoy meeting and chatting with friends-to-be.
I introduced myself in the slack community with some art I drew and people were like ‘oh hey! I know you! You can draw! This is Michelle, she drew something cool!’ which was a really nice icebreaker. I met some really awesome people here, including TokyoDev’s founder, Paul. Everyone has different backgrounds and experiences, and it’s nice to be able to chat and learn from such a variety of people.
“TokyoDev helps international software developers start and grow their career in Japan.”
TokyoDev hosts semi-regular casual meetups for international developers living in Japan to meet and chat. The events are announced in the TokyoDev discord and anyone in the community is welcome to come.
For me, the fun part is seeing in-person people you usually only chat to online. It’s also a great opportunity to get a developer’s viewpoint on how things work at different companies, and discuss with developers how things should be built. The events have had a good gender mix so far, and we often go for nijikai after the event.
“Tokyo Rubyist Meetup (trbmeetup) is an event that seeks to help bridge the Japan and international Ruby and Ruby on Rails community.”
TRBMeetup hosts an in-person event “whenever people volunteer to speak”, or about every three months. It’s a great event for people interested in Ruby or Ruby on Rails, regardless of experience level. Despite it being an English speaking meetup, Japanese developers join as well.
I only just started my Ruby journey a short while ago, but the talks have been accessible and the other attendees are super friendly and helpful. There’s a small fee to attend, which gives you access to networking, talks, and a delicious mostly-vegan dinner.
“Meet other developers in Tokyo that use .NET and C#. Technical presentations, drinks, food, and networking.”
Tokyo .Net Developers Meetup is held monthly, in Microsoft’s Shinagawa office - which is the fanciest office I’ve ever seen. I spent 7 years working in .NET land, so I have a soft spot for it. The talks were quite technical, so if you’re really keen on .NET and C#, this is a good meetup for you.
“Women in Science Japan (WISJ) is a volunteer group whose vision is to address gender inequality in the sciences in Japan.”
WISJ events are a great space for women, gender minority persons, and allies studying or working in STEM in Japan. They regularly host online events like book clubs, and offline events like picnics or casual dinners.
Even though as a developer, I’m not a scientist, I’ve always felt super welcome at their events. I’ve been really enjoying the online book club, which provides a safe space for women to discuss and advise each other on common issues in STEM.
“Women Who Code is the largest and most active community of engineers dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers.”
WWCode Tokyo holds many regular events both online and offline. Although (unlike many tech meetups) ladies are the majority of attendees, anyone who is onboard with the goal and willing to follow the code of conduct is welcome.
The organisers are really nice and there is a huge variety of events, such as study sessions, workshops across WWCode Asia, and in-person Lightning Talk nights. The online study sessions were some of the first meetups I attended in Japan. I was able to connect with some amazing women who would provide me with advice on my career in Japan.
“Code Chrysalis is a coding school based in Tokyo with the only advanced full-stack software engineering bootcamp in Asia.”
Code Chrysalis hosts a variety of online and offline events, generally aimed at people working or wanting to work in technology. There’s always Code Chrysalis students or graduates around at these events, so I think they’re a good chance for someone who wants to learn more about what Code Chrysalis has to offer.
“Le Wagon is a coding school for startups, creative people and tech entrepreneurs.”
Le Wagon hosts a variety of online and offline events, and also collaborates with other community groups, allowing them use of the space to hold events. Le Wagon events are generally more geared towards people early on in their tech careers, or people hoping to get into the technology industry. They’re also a good opportunity for people interested in Le Wagon to ask the staff questions.
Findy hosts a lot of online lecture-style meetups on topics developers might be interested in. These are short, and many are held during Lunch, making them really easy to participate in.
The meetups are a good opportunity to hear from developers working in the industry, learn about the tech scene in Japan and practise your Japanese listening skills. While there isn’t much opportunity to network, the attendees and presenters are usually quite active on twitter during the event.
“Asakusa.rb is probably the most active regional Rubyist group in Japan.”
Asakusa.rb is a Ruby study group that runs every Tuesday, currently mainly online but sometimes offline. Many standout people in the Japanese Ruby community attend this event, so if you go you’ll at least be surrounded by experts.
I enjoyed going to Asakusa.rb, and the drinks we went for afterwards were pretty fun. I’ve been told repeatedly it’s an event anyone interested in Ruby can attend, and it’s ok that I’m just working on and studying really small things. This event is really suited for people who want to learn more about Ruby, push themselves, or are keen to contribute to open source software.
“Subculture Industry Developers Study Group is a study group jointly held by companies that develop and operate services in the subculture industry.”
A meetup for developers working or interested in the subculture industry. Through attending this I realised that manga viewer apps are technology companies in Japan. I also realised that my Japanese is not good enough to keep up with native-speaker speed. If this area is your interest, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about the technology and companies behind the subculture industry in Japan.
Exactly as the title says, this is a small, casual online and offline study group ideal for Japanese-speaking women in their 20s. I went to the offline meetup, and even though it was just the two of us I really appreciated the chance to chat with another woman working in the tech industry.