Japan’s start-up scene is definitely up and coming. While it is much more international than other industries in Japan, most of the events are still geared towards Japanese speakers. I developed a list geared towards professionals, digital nomads, and global citizens who want to work in Japan but have not mastered Japanese to a business level.
In this list, you’ll find:
- Content: English content written by locals who are either startup founders and/or developers in Japan. They offer candid and practical advice for people who want to get jobs.
- Job Boards: Ones with English job listings
- Events: Regular events to meet people in
- Conferences: International industry events (with price tags attached)
- Media: More Japanese content as an FYI, but some of these companies may be hiring foreign talent as well. Have a click through to get a feel for the scene.
1) Great Content
If you’re thinking about coming to Japan, it’s worthwhile to do a bit of background reading to get yourself acquainted with both the place and the startup & developer culture. This list is by no means exhaustive – just my personal favourites.
Masaru Ikeda (writer of the Tokyo Startup Digest) and his team are writing about Japan’s apps, startups, and tech industry in Japanese and English. Get an idea of which teams to join in their English features section!
Disrupting Japan is a series of interviews hosted by Tim with Japanese founders who are growing their ventures and disrupting Japan. It’s a refreshing insight into what’s going on to address many of the issues on the ground.
Paul is the co-founder of Doorkeeper.jp, the leading event-booking platform in Japan. He’s part of the handful of tech founders such as Jason Winder (MakeLeaps), Patrick Mckenzie (Starfighter and Kalzumeus) whom have made Japan their home. He has some articles sharing tips on how to find work for developers.
Danny is the founder of the Smart Doll. His blog’s called ‘Culture Japan’, but he has some insightful and candid pieces on how he built his career and company in Japan as a foreigner. He also has a great post about doing a good resume, and he shows his as an example.
Patrick isn’t a startup guy per-se, but he’s started several successful small businesses and consulting service. He also has an open-door policy to help developers and startup people. He has written some of the best content that I’ve seen for freelancers, talking salary, and technical pieces on A/B testing, SEO, and product development.
2) Job Boards
Wantedly is a clean startup-oriented Angelist-cross-LinkedIn with an English interface. Most of the jobs are in Japanese, but it’s still worthwhile to make an account in case you get scouted! You can specify your searches to include ‘English’ or ‘Foreign Nationalities Welcome’.
Justa is a clean job board with a fair number of opportunities from local and international firms (I’ve seen Booking.com and Pintrest on there). The Japanese opportunities still outnumber the English ones, but there are enough options.
This is a general job platform, but there are plenty of developer job listings.
This is one of the leading job platforms and web portals for life in Japan. Definitely worth a check out!
This is an Asian Tech and startups job board.
This go-to for startup jobs only has a handful for Japan, but they do get updated, so it’s worth checking once in a while. Note that sometimes the searches for ‘Japan’ and ‘Tokyo’ are different, so you should try both.
Since this site is Hong Kong focused, it only has a handful of jobs for Japan, but the upside is that the companies that do list there are probably more out-of-the-box.
3) Events and Meetups:
Organized by the Tokyo Startup Circle, Bootstrap Lunch happens ever 2 weeks in Shibuya at the Fab Cafe. As the name suggests, the event is for people interested in bootstrapping their business (think Lean Startup Methodology). Make sure you register Register on Doorkeeper by clicking on the link above. They take place every second Saturday of the month.
Hacker News is Y-Combinator’s news section. It’s organized by the founders of Make Leaps, one of Japan’s successful startups. The event is casual (with some presentations and more focus on socialising) and usually well attended. It’s hosted at Super Deluxe once a month.
Startup Weekend has been around in Tokyo since 2009 and has taken on a local flavour since. Rather than going to all the events, look specifically for the “International Startup Weekend” events that use English. Regular startup weekend events happen each month. The English ones take place every few months.
MoMo is one of Tokyo’s longest running tech events (10+ years). The events are fairly frequent, but not always on a Monday. Since mobile and startups have a big overlap, it’s no surprise many founders are here, even though it appeals to an even wider audience.
Even though UX can be applied to big and small companies, this event still attracts a fair number of people from the startup ecosystem (designers, developers, etc.). It’s hosted at the Gengo offices. Presentations are done in English and there are snacks provided. There’s a 500 JPY entry fee. It’s usually held monthly.
This is an event that brings designers and developers together. The presenters mostly come from the startup circles and present on pretty interesting projects. It’s not just a pitch platform; since they’re usually fairly early stage, there’s a lot of audience interaction. They also serve Japanese craft beer. They’re hosted by the AQ Office every few months, but used to be once per month, so check often since they’re capped at 50 people.
Fuck Up Nights is hosted by the Tokyo Impact HUB in Meguro with presentations from founders on their not-so-successful ventures. The Impact HUB is a nice space to work out of, so consider doing that for a bit and get to know the entrepreneurs who share their offices.
They happen usually on the 2nd Thursday of every month and are usually themed, with pre-scheduled topics and guest presenters for the first hour, and an open-networking for the remaining 2 hours. They’re usually once per month on Thursday evenings.
This Meetup group has both presentations for their monthly events and study groups. They’re also open to members suggesting a meetup, so if you want to meet people try sending them a message! They’re usually at the Shibuya First Place on the 8/F 渋谷ファーストプレイス (8F), but make sure you check when you sign up.
They’ve been having meetups since 1994 and still have Nomikai regularly. They’re mostly social events. Register using Doorkeeper. They usually happen every 2 or so months
Caven basically hosts these out of his office at KDDI to help people motivate each other to work. You can bring your own food and snacks! They happen on weekends.
The Institute has a fair number of free events in addition to their flagship is a 4-month program for start-up founders. Check their schedule.
There are some pretty big international tech and startup conferences that happen annually in Tokyo. Unsurprisingly, the tickets are priced for businesses, but if you’re curious, have a look:
- Tech in Asia Tokyo: Fall / September
- TechCrunch Tokyo: Fall / November
- Pioneers Asia: Spring / March
- Slush Asia: Spring / May 2016 (15,000 JPY)
5) Media Platforms
I would say since about 2015 Japan’s tech and startup scene has exploded. Many organizations, investors, and establishments have been around before that watershed year, but now it’s visible — even to the Japanese themselves, which is a critical sign. I’m still working on the list, so please help add!