Moving to Japan for an IT Job: Rupesh's Relocation Story

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Japan's tech sector is experiencing a very interesting shift. While electronics remain a strength, the country is pushing boundaries in areas like AI research, cybersecurity, robotics, and fintech. The Japanese tech sector is hiring international workers to address the talent shortage. When surveyed, about a third of Japanese tech hiring managers mentioned that their biggest challenge was the shortage of skilled candidates. About half plan to increase their headcount.

We spoke to Rupesh Agrawal, who found a Software Engineer job in Japan with the help of, a job platform for techies looking to relocate. He told us first-hand what it is like to live and work in Tokyo and how to move to Japan from India. Here's a recap of our conversation:


Rupesh's background

Home country: India
Time in the industry: 10+ years
Current tech stack: Golang, GCP, Kubernetes, and Microservices
Passions outside of work: Cooking


Rupesh's photo


What made you choose Tokyo as a work abroad destination? Was it by accident or were you actively seeking a Software Engineer job in Japan?

I was looking for options outside India, primarily to gain international exposure to the IT industry. I had a friend working in Japan for some time who had great experiences to share — and that's what pushed me to search for software engineering jobs in Tokyo.


You are now working at Mercari as a Backend Engineer. How many interview stages did you have to go through to get this job? How much time passed between the first interview and the job offer?

I had the first interview in early December 2019 and got the offer for the position in February 2020. There were four rounds of interviews: 

  1. A live screen-sharing coding round.
  2. An interview with an engineer from Mercari, which was primarily to test how I make tech decisions, handle teams, my exposure to microservices, etc. 
  3. An interview with a hiring manager, which was a mix of technical and behavioral discussions. 
  4. The final interview was with the VP, which mostly covered behavioral questions, but also included questions on my readiness to accept a new tech stack.

*The interview process may differ depending on the position and other factors.

25 Questions To Ask Your Future Employer (Before Relocation) →


Mercari actively hiring software engineers in Japan

Mercari is a community marketplace app that allows anyone to buy and sell using their smartphones. The company is always on the hunt for tech professionals who are interested in its mission and values, and they want to work with bold engineers, who use the latest technology, make autonomous decisions, and can take on challenges at a rapid pace. If you become part of the diverse Mercari team in Tokyo, you'll have a hand in developing the industry-leading app that brings millions of people together.


Mercari app

Here are just some of their open positions:



Mercari's office in Tokyo


Do you have any tips for those interested in landing a Software Engineer job at Mercari? What was your recipe for success?

To land a developer job at Mercari, you should be comfortable coding on a shared platform, so brush up on this (as programming language probably doesn't matter as much). Be open to new technologies and share interesting challenges (successes or failures). Microservices architecture experience is a big plus for Mercari.


How to get a visa to work in Japan?

When applying for a Japanese work visa, you will first need to obtain a Certificate of Eligibility (COE). To get a COE, your employer (in my case, it was Mercari) must submit an application on your behalf to the Immigration Bureau in the area where you will be working. This can take up to three months to process, so it is important to plan ahead of time.

Once the Certificate of Eligibility has been obtained, your employer must send the original to you so that you can apply for the work visa at the Japanese embassy or consulate in your country. It then takes approximately a week to find out whether your work visa application was successful or not.

Japanese work visas come in a variety of lengths, including:

The duration of your employment contract is one of the key factors that determines the duration of the visa you will be issued. You can apply for an extension of your work visa before it expires, as long as the requirements are met.

You can find more detailed information about Japanese work visas on the website of Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Alternatively, check out this easy-to-read guide.


Remember to apply for a Resident Registration in Japan

Upon moving to Japan, it is important to apply for a “Resident Registration” at the government office nearest to the place of residence within 14 days.


What kind of relocation assistance did you get from your employer?

Everything was covered by Mercari, from the visa, flight tickets and initial accommodation to the shipping of my belongings. The company really helped me through all the moving process by taking special care to guide me and my family.

Get personal relocation tips for Japan →


How long did it take for you to actually move after accepting the job offer during the pandemic?

As soon as I got the Certificate of Eligibility, it just so happened that international travels to Japan were banned and we could not fly to Tokyo. Due to the COVID situation, the plan was delayed but after around 6 months, I have been finally working at the company's office located in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. I appreciated Mercari's agility in the difficult situation.


Mercari's office in Tokyo


Is it hard to find an apartment for rent in Tokyo? Are most rental properties furnished or unfurnished? Where did you search for apartments?

Mercari provides flat search assistance. In fact, I received support in all aspects of my transition, from getting a phone SIM card, resident card registration and opening a bank account to finding a flat to rent.

Generally speaking, there are a good number of choices when it comes to renting flats. UR properties are a good option that can save on a lot of upfront costs, which are common in other types of flats in Japan. Most rental properties are unfurnished.

UR Housing and RE/MAX are good websites to search for flats.


A note regarding the costs of renting in Tokyo

As Rupesh mentioned, one of the main difficulties with renting in Tokyo is the cost. Initial renting costs are often around 5 or 6 times the monthly rent level.

The first cost is the deposit. This will typically be 1–2 months of rent, which is standard in most countries.

Once the deposit is secured, then there are agency fees, as almost all properties for rent in Japan are only available through a realtor. Agency fees typically amount to somewhere between half a month's rent, to one full month's rent.

On top of these, there are other costs, such as 'key fees'. These fees were first implemented after bombings during the war, when the emperor at the time placed a cap on rent levels to ensure rental costs would not skyrocket due to the limited housing available. To counteract this, landlords began imposing 'key fees' as a way for tenants to say 'thank you' for being allowed to live there. Despite the rent cap being removed, this fee unfortunately remains.

One of the last big expenses when it comes to renting in Tokyo is liability insurance. Many agencies will try and oversell or overcharge liability insurance, so it is important to be aware of what should be paid beforehand. Typically, liability insurance should cost around ¥4,000, or €25.

Once a rental agreement has been secured, the main ongoing costs will typically be the liability insurance, monthly rent and a maintenance fee (which is usually ¥10,000, or €62).


Is there anything else you should know about finding housing in Japan?

YES! When renting a flat or buying a house, Japan requires a guarantor or 'hosyo gaisha'. A guarantor, (hoshonin 保証 in Japanese), is a Japanese citizen who acts as the co-signer. Alternatively, you can also use a guarantor company (hoshonin-gaisha 保証人会社), instead of a personal guarantor. Your realtor may be able to recommend one for you to use.

To avoid the need to find a guarantor and reduce moving fees, you can live in a shared house (シェアハウス). Companies like Oakhouse and SAKURA-HOUSE offer accommodation: everything is in English and the flats are furnished.

Here's a quick list of websites (in addition to the ones suggested by Rupesh) where you can search for rental flats in Tokyo:



How much does it cost to rent an apartment in Tokyo? What is the average cost of household utilities?

Flat rental costs can vary a lot based on proximity to Tokyo, public transport stations, and other factors. On average, rent for a two-bedroom flat varies from ¥80,000–¥160,000 (roughly €500–€1,000), depending on the size and location of the flat. All household utilities for a family of four can be covered with ¥80,000–¥100,000 (€500–€620) a month.


How much does a one-bedroom apartment cost in Tokyo?

For a one-bedroom flat (20–40 square metres) in central Tokyo and popular neighbourhoods nearby, you can expect to spend ¥100,000 (roughly €620) or more, with monthly utilities amounting to ¥10,000 (€62) per person. Electricity is typically the most expensive utility.

You can read more about the cost of living in Tokyo here.


What percentage of your salary goes on taxes?

During my first year in Japan, I paid close to 10%. From the second year onwards, this increased as I also had to pay the resident tax.


A note regarding taxes in Japan for expats

All taxes in Japan, including income tax, are divided into 'national taxes' paid to the country and 'local taxes' paid to prefectures and municipalities.

Resident tax is an income tax that is paid to the municipality where you live. It consists of prefectural (4%) and municipal (6%) tax and is calculated based on your previous year's income. Hence, this tax won't apply to you during your first year of working in Japan.

How much income tax is paid to the country is calculated in 'bands'. If an annual salary falls within a certain 'band', then that is how much tax is deducted. The bands are as follows:

This is based on income earned by a person between January 1st and December 31st each year. In other words, you pay tax in 2024, for instance, based on your salary in 2023.


What are software engineer salaries like in Japan?

According to TokyoDev's most recent survey of 713 international software engineers working in Japan, the average annual salary is ¥8,500,000. Almost a third of respondents reported making more than ¥10,000,000, which is roughly €61,980 per year.

To easily estimate your after-tax pay cheque in Japan, use this calculator →


If you had to define public transport in Tokyo in 3 words, what would they be? 

Efficient, convenient, and punctual.


A note regarding transport: Is owning a car in Japan worth it?

Owning a car in Japan is complicated. Road laws mean that cars cannot be parked on the road. So when buying a car in Japan, it is mandatory to show the dealership proof of parking, and this parking spot must be within a certain radius of your residency.

Approximate monthly costs of owning a car in Tokyo:

The expenses and limitations of owning a car mean that many people in Japan use public transport for their commute to work. The Metro (subway) and buses are two of the most popular options.


Public transport in Tokyo


There are many different bus lines in the 23 wards of Tokyo, and many have the same flat rate of ¥210 per adult ticket (€1.30). The Metro ranges from ¥170–¥320 (€1–2).

Many people find that buying prepaid passes makes travel much easier. Tokyo offers such a card called PASMO, which allows users to enter the subway by simply tapping the card on the terminal.


What do you enjoy most about living in Tokyo? Is there anything you find strange or unusual?

I enjoy that daily life is stress-free. The great climate and a large number of beautiful parks are also worth mentioning.


Chidorigafuchi Park of Tokyo


Experiencing earthquakes for the first time was a bit unusual for me. My first experience was fun and a bit scary, but for people who have been living here for some time, it's a usual phenomenon and nothing to be worried about.


A note regarding seasons and climate in Japan

Japan is home to four very distinct seasons, which is something many Japanese people take pride in. Despite being a small nation, this island has the luxury of a climate that allows residents and tourists to experience tropical summers and arctic winters. While this will vary depending on where you live, each season has its own distinct traits throughout the year.

In Tokyo, spring and fall are milder in temperature, typically falling in the mid to high 70 °F/20 °C. Summer in Tokyo is known for being humid, with hot temperatures and sudden rainfall. Tokyo is lucky during winter, with the weather remaining far milder than cities further north. That being said, the capital still experiences plenty of snowfall and low temperatures.


By the way, are you learning Japanese? Or is knowledge of English enough to comfortably live in Tokyo? 

I am learning the local language. Mercari offers in-house language learning programs to help staff learn Japanese (or English for Japanese speakers). It's not absolutely necessary to learn Japanese, but it is beneficial, especially if you want to fully integrate into your new country.

Explore different Japanese cities here →


Can you tell us a little bit about healthcare in Japan?

Japan has a universal healthcare system that combines national health insurance with private plans. The NHI typically covers 70% of medical costs, with patients responsible for the rest (capped out-of-pocket expenses apply). Having a work visa makes you eligible for NHI. While some hospitals offer English services, availability can vary. Private insurance can help cover the remaining 30% and additional services not covered by NHI.

Mercari offered me complete health and social insurance. In addition to paid leave, I receive 10 days of sick leave from Mercari, 3 additional relaxation days, and up to 10 days of caregiving leave (5 paid) per year.


One last question: what makes Tokyo an attractive place for you as a software developer? 

Tokyo is a world-class city, and you can get the best of everything here. Technology here is evolving quite quickly, and a lot of technology companies are doing great work. Therefore, there are a lot of different opportunities to explore and find the right path for yourself. This is especially the case for game development professionals! Being a software engineer in Japan is a great experience. I will never regret moving to Japan from India.


Thinking about moving to Japan? Find a job first!

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading! Hopefully, Rupesh's story will help you decide whether moving to Tokyo for an IT job at Mercari (or another Japanese company) is the right choice for you. 

Finding a job is a key step in moving to another country. And finding a software engineering job in Japan is easier if you find a company that’s hiring internationally — and helping workers relocate to Japan. Your best option is, a niche job board for techies who want to relocate. The platform connects workers who intend to go abroad for work with companies that hire internationally and are willing to help you relocate. Check our board for IT jobs in Japan.

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