Tips for understanding a Japanese design job ad

When job hunting in Japan there aren’t always English language job ads and you may need to read a Japanese one.

Job postings found on Linkedin and are usually in English as they target international designers. However, there aren’t as many jobs posted in Japan on LinkedIn and Justa as there are on local sites. When using sites such as Wantedly, Geekly or PooleJob you will find many listings…in Japanese.

If you don’t have a high level of Japanese language you might think “Wait, how am I supposed to read these? Should I even apply?!” Ok, don’t panic. You can still understand what they are looking for with a little effort.

Let me share with you a personal experience; Years ago I sent a huge amount of resumes to many companies, without speaking any Japanese at all. Almost all of them kindly replied to me. Half of them invited me for an interview. Two of them made me an offer. This was my first attempt to work in a Japanese company and the time when I learnt to “never surrender”.

The main reason a job posting is written in Japanese is… honestly, the companies usually don’t speak English. Or most of the time they are looking for Japanese speaking employees.

When looking for a design job position in Japanese you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of job ads.

You will find that some companies just want Japanese employees and frankly, there is nothing you can do about it. Some companies are more “open-minded” and they accept international staff… but only if they are able to read and speak at a business level of Japanese.

When looking for a design job position in Japanese you’ll be overwhelmed by the amount of job ads. With so many job postings, your chances to find the right one are high!

In my opinion, it seems like there are never enough designers in Tokyo.

Here’s an example of a Japanese job listing with English translation. Ganbatte!


Above is a screenshot of a Job Posting on Mdn ( Click to enlarge.

グラフィックデザイナー募集 – gurafikku desaina- boshuu

We are looking to hire graphic designers for both part-time and full-time positions.

Hours worked
While working hours might be standardised in your home country, in Japan they vary company to company. So it is important to get these details correct.

残業 – zangyou – overtime
I’m sure you’ve all heard that there is a lot of overtime work done in Japan and long hours. Well it’s true in the design industry here too. It is common in Japan to write this as “残業有り” zangyou ari – we do overtime work

Now we could talk about “zangyou” for eternity but to keep it simple: Some companies do, some companies do not. If you’re working in advertising then it is expected, if you are working with a tech startup there may be little to none outside of crunch time.
It is not very easy to understand it from the job posting alone, the best thing you can do is try to get more detail during an interview. don’t be afraid to ask – it is not uncommon to do so. Some companies specify in the job posting they don’t do overtime by saying “ちゃんと8時間労働” – chanto hachijikan roudo – we work exactly 8 hours.

Paid holidays are usually 10 working days but can’t be taken until you’ve worked for the company for 6 months (before that any leave taken is unpaid). Some companies also have summer and/or New Year’s Eve vacations as well.

Required experience and salary
Minimum salaries for a low level designer in Tokyo start from JPY 180,000 (USD 1,490) monthly. However depending on your skills it can be much higher. To tell you the truth, most Japanese companies will not offer you a salary that is internationally competitive. They will only offer you the local rates regardless of your previous salary or experience. However global companies and companies founded by foreign nationals will usually be willing to offer a salary in line with global rates.

Job postings for Designers with more than 6 years experience and fluent Japanese can expect around ¥5-6 million per year

In my humble opinion living in Tokyo on your own requires an annual income of 4.5 million yen minimum (about USD 36000). Less than that that and I believe living in Tokyo will be be rough. Job postings for Designers with more than 6 years experience and fluent Japanese can expect around ¥5-6 million per year, depending on the size of the company.

Another important detail is the refund of commuting expenses, insurance and bonuses. These can change your monthly salary as some companies will deduct them before tax and others will factor them into your wage.

Bonuses are usually the equivalent of one or two months salary and paid once or twice yearly. This largely depends on the company’s annual earnings. Commuting expenses should always be refunded if you are a “seisha’in” (full-time employee.) However, if you are working as “haken” (temp) or “furi-ransu” (freelance), your commuting fee is considered to be factored into your hourly rate. Taxes you pay are calculated on your previous year’s income, so the tax you have to pay during your first year living and working in Japan will be very low.

It is standard in Japan for companies to put you onto a 3 month trial period to begin with. Some will even ask for 6 months.

Once you have made your application, you can expect to hear from the company sooner rather than later, sometimes within one week! But some larger companies will take a long time and may not contact you at all. However I have mostly found that Japanese companies will always respond, even if to say that you were not successful.

Japanese people use Facebook like LinkedIn (see our article here for more details). It is not unusual to get contacted for a Job posting through a friend request on Facebook. So, before you refuse a stranger’s friend request on Facebook double check that it hasn’t come from the HR department of a company.

So with this information you can tackle reading a Japanese job ad… or at least get the gist of it. Good luck and next time we will cover the application process including Japanese resumes and how to get through an interview!

These are four job ads we selected from Poole, MdN and Geekly. Try to read them!

1) サイボウズの製品やクラウドサービスのUX/UIデザインを担当するUX/UI デザイナーを募集!

2) 自由な発想や新しいアイディアを創造できるデザイナーを募集します!

3) 大手メーカーのクリエイティブを動かすデザイナー募集

4) 2D/3Dデザイナー(ソーシャルコンテンツ)

Riccardo Parenti

Italian. Art Director, interaction design enthusiast, occasionally photographer. Riccardo is the founder the TGD community, starting the LinkedIn group when he first moved to Japan in 2010. He is also a volunteer for Behance Tokyo. He loves to spend his free time seeking and exploring abandoned buildings in the Japanese countryside.

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