IT Internships in Japan

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This photo was taken by the author himself, on his first holiday ever since his arrival (as a full-time student) in Japan. This trip was possible because of the salary he earned from his internship.
This photo was taken by the author himself, on his first holiday ever since his arrival (as a full-time student) in Japan. This trip was possible because of the salary he earned from his internship.

Have you ever wondered how to get an internship in the IT sector in Japan? What are the tips and tricks to get one? Through this article, Jan Wira Gotama Putra, an international student from the computer science (artificial intelligence major) background, living in Tokyo, shared his experience from the IT-industry perspective.

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Why an Internship?

Gaiining working experience meme. Photo source: careeradvice.careers24.com
Gaiining working experience meme. Photo source: careeradvice.careers24.com

Have you ever seen that meme? You are required to have experience before getting your first experience. In the currently ridiculous world, one cannot exaggerate the importance of having an internship. Some universities even require internships to graduate. Putting the half-joke aside, if finding the right job/company is analogous to finding a partner, an internship is analogous to the courtship process. On top of getting real work experience and salary (paid internship), an internship provides you with the opportunity to know more about a company’s working environment and exercise problem-solving skills. It is also a chance for you to make an impression, which offers you advantages should you apply for a full-time position at the same company you interned at. I have heard that some companies even require you to be an intern before applying for a full-time position.

Types of Internship

According to my experience in Japan, there are three types of internship: company visit, development (Engineering) and R&D. The company visit is known as 見学 (kengaku in Japanese), in which you may observe the environment of the company. This typically lasts from one to three days. For some reason, many companies in Japan call this an “internship”. The second and third types are the more serious ones. In the engineering internship, you will work on finding a solution (commonly, a demo-able) of real problems. R&D internship is probably a little bit special, as they target graduate students. Basically, you are expected to produce papers during your internship.

Engineering internships commonly last 2 weeks, while R&D typically last 1 month. In general, students intern during the summer holiday (August–September), 4-5 working days/week. In some companies, you may “extend” your internship (engineering, R&D) as a part-time job (negotiable in many places—in fact, I experienced this myself). I have experienced all types of internship mentioned above, and seriously recommend having internships. From an experience of working with real customer data and trying new tools (Engineering), to writing papers alongside researchers working in the company (R&D), internships enrich yourself and your CV. Furthermore, you may get some side benefits, e.g., a “holiday” when presenting your R&D internship result at an international conference.

The author visited Ha Long Bay (Vietnam) during his business trip. Some conferences include sightseeing in their conference program. Photo by author.
The author visited Ha Long Bay (Vietnam) during his business trip. Some conferences include sightseeing in their conference program. Photo by author.

Salary

There are unpaid and paid internships. Unpaid internships usually last shorter, and companies do not expect much. In paid internships, they expect real results (of course, money given). In my experience, the salary usually ranges from 1000-1500 JPY/hour, but some can offer more, e.g., 2500 JPY/hour. Basically, the salary depends on the company, but it will not be lower than the minimum wage. The higher the salary, the tougher the competition. While the salary is similar to normal part-time jobs in Japan (e.g. in restaurants, tutoring), internships look better on CV since it is closely related to your major (if you want to work in the same field as your major).

VISA

As an international student, you are required to get the part-time job permission before doing an internship. The work you can do is capped at 28h/week (on normal school days) and 40h/week (on holidays). If you live outside Japan and want to do an internship in Japan, you may need business/engineer visa (please consult with the company and related agencies).

Requirements

As an international student, you might be worried about the Japanese language ability requirement. But, there are many IT companies offering internships (and full-time jobs) without requiring any Japanese language ability. All internships (paid) require certain technical abilities, for example, knowing programming language X or framework Y. In R&D internships, experience in writing papers might be important (again, experience required to get experience).

How to Find Internship 

  • Scouted by company HR (via LinkedIn, etc.) → least likely
  • Job search website, such as rikunabi and mynavi.
  • Job fair and internship f Personally, I got my internships via the internship fair held in my university. Companies gather around, do a quick pitch (2 mins) to attract students, and you can roam freely to booths.

Process

Process for applying for an internship

The first step for applying an internship is filling the entry sheet or providing your CV to the target company. The entry sheet is kind of filling an extended-CV, with the format provided by the company. They sometimes even ask you what you do in your free time. It is best to highlight technical abilities in the entry sheet/CV, and demonstrate that you are nerdy enough or very interested in the IT industry, e.g., contributed to open-source project(s), published paper(s), won programming competition(s) and participating in hackathon(s). The second step is taking an online programming test. In some cases, the test is basic mathematics and IQ test. If you pass the test, they will interview you in the last step (might be technical or not). These steps are required for an engineering internship. In the R&D internship, you may skip the “test” part. Instead, they ask you to talk about your research during your technical interview.

Tips

  • Fill the entry sheet/work on your CV seriously (actually, prepare for all steps). Think of applying for an internship as analogous to applying for a full-time position. The steps involved are rather similar (while full-time position may require even further interviews). Remember that this is an opportunity to make an impression. As I said before, you may get advantages if you have interned before.
  • Remember not to neglect your schoolwork if your internship is extended as a part-time job.
  • NO OVERWORK! (VISA violation).