Japan-based Game Programmer interview advice

First post here after joining nearly a year ago.

I’ve been in contact with a Japan based game developer about a potential programmer job for a while now, I had the first stage interview a couple of weeks back which happened to be my first ever Japanese conversation, it went much better than I expected and had little problem understanding them, though the conversation was fairly casual without many probing questions. They got back to me the other day requesting a second interview to evaluate my ability to work using Japanese in a business context. I have little knowledge/experience of talking about programming and work related tasks in Japanese so I’m a little worried about this. I’ve started looking through the Japanese Programming Vocabulary course on memrise Japanese Programming Vocabulary - by Persona4Yu - Memrise but I’d like to know if anyone here has had a similar experience and can offer advice on how I can best prepare for this in less than a week. My work environment is mobile game development using Unity and C#.

Some info on my Japanese ability, I took the JLPT N3 in July and eased through the listening section of the test but really struggled with time on the other areas, I think I may have scraped a pass overall. I’ve largely neglected vocabulary and grammar so most of what I say is pretty broken Japanese. During the first interview they were very impressed with my ability and said that at my current level I’d have no issues clearing the N2 exam (though I personally doubt this), saying that they have no problems with my everyday conversational Japanese ability but want to know how well I can manage myself in a business context.

Sorry for this scrambled mess of a post but I’d really appreciate any advice you have to offer.


JapanesePod101 has a business Japanese series. I’m not sure how advanced or basic it is though.

Maybe you could hire a Japanese tutor for the next week to help you with business Japanese?

Are you living in Japan? I’m surprised that listening was easy but vocabulary and grammar were not. How have you been studying/using Japanese? Speaking and listening are definitely my weakest skills.

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I’ve never been to Japan, I started seriously studying Japanese 1 year ago, but I’ve been habitually watching Japanese anime / TV shows for over a decade now, I kind of gradually picked it up and so listening is by far my strongest area.

I hadn’t considered a tutor, that does sound quite helpful, thanks. I’m a little reluctant but it would probably help me to come across more confident in the short term.

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I would highly recommend getting N2 before applying. It seems to be the standard for foreigners.
I also would like to get a job out of teaching in Japan so I’m afraid I can’t be of too much help.

I think watching more colloquial Japanese programs would help you with your conversational Japanese studies.
Anime will not be good enough. What TV shows are you currently watching without subtitles? I recommend this site 美女学 - Youtubeバラエティ動画倉庫 if it still works to catch up on the history of some talk shows. (Don’t mind the AKB48, it’s from my bookmarks from a long time ago.)

Other than that, perhaps actually going to Japan might be good on your resume too. I believe programming is the same worldwide so as long as you have experience in programming, you have a shot!

Good luck in your studies!

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There are employers here that won’t even consider you unless they see N2 on your resume.

HOWEVER, since you have already gone through an initial interview, just proving your ability will be enough. You pick up a lot and fast in a Japanese working environment (exhibit A, actually took the N2 in July. Joined my company barely a N4 in late 2015). Every employer I have spoken to has said to me ‘Why did you even take the JLPT? You don’t need it.’ But I prefer to have it on my resume to step through the door lol.

My only advice is to drill in your keigo/sonkeigo/kenjougo, learn vocabulary according to your profession and practice. Japanese people are very forgiving, and as long as they understand the gist of what you’re saying in the beginning it’s okay. Make Japanese friends and talk to them too! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

Also I also recommend watching TV shows but with Japanese subtitles. It helps with sentence structure, reading speed and if you don’t know a word you can guess it by reading the kanji or learn it by said method.


Look up a twitter personality called Gaijin Hunter. He has worked and lived in Japan for many years and now is a big Monster Hunter player and commentator. He has worked for Sony and may be willing to help you.

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This sounds like you are already doing nicely! They are approaching you actively, so they are considering you a good candidate.

Companies usually plan with a training phase, and if your programming skills are already what they want they probably consider to bring you up to speed with your language ability. You have already shown good results without the benefit of someone Japanese to talk to, no one would expect you to write their new company outline in Japanese in your first week.

They probably want to make sure that

  • you understand your work tasks without too much hassle
  • get along with co-workers
  • you want to learn and improve.

There is only so much you can do in a week, a tutor sounds like a good advice. I would rather rely on my technical skills (what they are actually after) and hope to convince them that language gaps are fillable in a finite timeframe, and that my language skills are enough to get the work done from day one.


Thanks for the advice everyone. I’m sure they don’t expect me to overhaul my Japanese ability in the couple of weeks between interviews and already have a decent grasp of my speaking ability, I think all I can really do is brush up on a few key areas. For now I think the best approach is to prepare answers to some of the more obvious questions and learn how to talk a little more in detail about my core strengths.

I’m really proud of you. I will be starting my job in Tokyo this Fall as a programmer as well, but it does not require any Japanese level in the working environment (of course I need the background blah blah blah)

I am excited for you! I hope you do well in your interview and hear from your experience in a full Japanese working environment


Where at? How did you find it? I’m also looking for programming jobs in Japan with no Japanese required. :slight_smile:

I went to Japanese job sites and searched for keywords like “Unity English”, “Game English”, “Unity 英語”, “ゲーム 英語”, “プログラマー 英語”. There really doesn’t seem to be very many, especially if you don’t currently live in Japan, just keep looking now and then is all I can advise. Hopefully you can understand why I’m not particularly inclined to share the company name for this role here.

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Rakuten hire programmers and use English in the workplace. Probably a pretty shitty work environment but there you go.

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Why would you say that? Do they have a reputation?

I would suggest you pick up a Japanese CS book and skim through it. Probably something you’re already familiar with, like a basic intro to C or Python or whatever.

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Because it’s like a bottom tier programmer job here. Working for Rakuten is like the English teaching of the programming jobs. In general, it’s gonna be low salary with little benefits. However like English teaching, that doesn’t mean it will be inherently awful but you should know what you’re getting into and accept the good with the bad. To be honest, I don’t have any experience with them as I’m just English teaching right now, and programming is not my field of expertise, but I know a little about that sort of job and have met many many software engineers and programmers out here. I would say it’s the second most common non-service job that foreigners have.


Programming jobs don’t pay as much in Japan as they do in the US. Outside of salary and benefits did they have other comments about Rakuten? Like, is it a hostile working environment? Bad work-life balance. Etc.

I don’t know anything specifically about Rakuten, sorry. Have a look on Glassdoor or read around on forums. In general it’s Japan, so you’re gonna have to work hard. Its probably going to be tough going at times because there are things you are going to have absolutely no control over, especially that kind of low-level non-management kind of job. You can live and work in Japan, get a nice full time salary, but the trade-off is that it’s grunt work so you’re going to want to find something better anyway. Overall though there are many worse ways to come here and work for sure and depending on your skills you might be able to find better work. Once you’re in the country it’s obviously a little easier to find other jobs.

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I found it via tokyodev

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I’m on the tokyodev mailing list, but it’s not very active. How did you find your job there? You went to one of the meetups in Japan?

I actually had subscribed when I started Wanikani and basically piled up every email until I felt ready enough to apply to some that caught my interests. Thankfully I caught their attention soon after!

I will learn as much Japanese as I can over there. Ingrain the language inside my mind.

that is true, recently. Unfortunately :confused:

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