I live in Tokyo, AMA.

Amazon cayde-6
Jun 25, 2018 116 Comments

Been here for 2.5 years. Looking to relocate back to Seattle for family reasons (better support network for our kid).
(About to go to sleep, so I'll answer in 8 or 9 hours)

EDIT: Got a lot of responses. Thanks!
Here's a more easily accessible format in case you want to reference it later.

https://www.reddit.com/r/AskEngineers/comments/8ujdmz/the_im_interested_in_moving_to_japan_faqama/

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TOP 116 Comments
  • Oracle Feenans
    You gaijin? I heard japanese can be racists towards non japanese living in japan. True?
    Jun 25, 2018 6
    • eBay NKTM33
      Japanese probably treat non-Japanese better than white Americans treat non-white Americans
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      True!
      I had the best resume a realtor had ever seen.
      N1 fluency in Japanese.
      I studied at the "Harvard of Japan" for a year.
      5 year visa (longest duration).
      High paying job at a huge company.
      Stable work history.

      5/6 landlords didn't give a shit. "no gaijin".

      You will also not receive service at probably 95% of "adult... services", if you're into that.

      When I was in college, a few part time jobs I applied to straight up told me they didn't hire foreigners.

      But once you're settled in, it's not that noticeable. Your average encounter will be pretty friendly. I'd say it's more rare to experience it.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Flagged by the community.

    • Oracle Feenans
      ..and tons who wish they could cut it in japan but not smart enough to do so, like natureman, so instead vents in an anonymous app.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I do not wish I was Japanese. Having experienced both countries, I am so glad I was educated in the US (for HS and college at least) and also that I didn't have to work at Japanese companies.

      I am as assimilated as I want to be, and I like that I am different (for the most part). TBH, there's a bit of a celebrity status, especially since I can speak the language. It takes a lot to learn the language and I don't think I'd be nearly as good at English as I am at Japanese if I was born Japanese.

      Tangent:
      God, English is a Trainwreck of a language. I am so thankful that I didn't had to learn it as a second language.
      Tomb, comb, bomb. Why don't any of these rhyme!?
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Amazon Fr00pid
    @cayde-6 this is one of the best non-sensationalist Blind threads, hands down! kudos + thanks for taking time to write such specifics
    Jun 25, 2018 2
    • Amazon Fr00pid
      Everyone else, if you found this even remotely piqued your interest, give this man a “👍 Like”
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Hey, thanks!! :)
      I wish I had this info before I transferred. I was also really interested in the questions I'd get. Super glad I can help inform!

      This was more popular than I expected. Thinking about replicating on Reddit. Last info I found on there was pretty dated.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Facebook / Eng Togkfke
    How's the pay and hours? Are you at Amazon Tokyo?
    Jun 25, 2018 7
    • Shopify rbHz64
      A car is much more necessary in Seattle relative to Tokyo lol
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon Trillion
      Try 1.5k in tempe downtown walking distance from amazon with seattle pay and no car
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng
      Bfskndksbs

      Amazon Eng

      PRE
      IBM
      Bfskndksbsmore
      we get free orcas. Not great but the rest you can just use Uber for.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Many people can get by without cars in Seattle, but you are pretty constrained to Seattle area.

      Personally for me, none of my friends and family live in the city. Either east side, north side, or Renton area. When I lived there, I felt like I *needed* a car a few times a month, but that was just me.

      In Tokyo, trains take you literally anywhere in the country (of the 4 main islands).
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon / Eng
      Bfskndksbs

      Amazon Eng

      PRE
      IBM
      Bfskndksbsmore
      I see. That makes sense.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Bloomberg iaYM02
    Are you big in Japan?
    Jun 25, 2018 1
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Lol. Yeah, I'd say so.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Amazon Pokebowl
    I heard it was easy to internally transfer to Japan (or anywhere with the pay cut) but extremely hard to transfer back to the US so people might get stuck overseas. Is this true?

    Oh and supposedly transferring to tends to be a promotion +1 level or potentially 2 whereas from leads to a demotion?
    Jun 25, 2018 3
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I don't think this is true. I interviewed last week with a team in AWS in Seattle and I believe I'll be getting an offer by EOW. I'll update the thread in a few hours, I have a chat with the manager soon.

      I also don't think the promotion demotion part is true, either. I don't know anyone that transferred above their level, and I can tell you right now if the offer that I get is for L4 SDE, I'm interviewing at Google.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon Pokebowl
      Got it. I was kind of hoping the 50% pay cut was mitigated with a title bump or something but that doesn’t sound like the case. True that Tokyo might not be as expensive as Seattle these days but still not 50% cheaper.

      Did you consider internally transferring to Amazon or did you straight up just interview externally? Was there friction? Would love to see if Google tried to low ball...
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Talked with the manager, but he was only answering questions I had about the team. Results come tomorrow.

      Exactly. After a certain point, cost of living doesn't really matter. When the difference is 200k and 100k, even if cost of living is higher in Seattle, it won't be 100k more. Maybe 10-20k? It's a huge difference in total comp

      I only considered interviewing internally. At the time I was a QAE I and there was a lot of friction because of that. Even though I built out extensive automation infrastructure, people see "QAE" and think "test monkey". My first position interview was really shitty, but I only had 1 SDE interview and 1 manager interview. Didn't click with either person. And the SDE definitely looked down on me because I was a QAE. eventually I found a team that I clicked with, and the manager took a chance on me. Now I'm SDE II, so suck it, other managers who turned their noses down on me. :p

      This time around, I miiiight interview externally, but I really like the team I've interviewed with. I don't think I'll need to get an external offer. Contractor to FTE, I negotiated +10k base. Tokyo transfer I negotiated +10% base of their offer. This time around, I'm hoping for 145 base and 55k RSU. We'll see if I can pull it off. I think I'll get close.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Amazon Trillion
    What made you move to japan for an engineering role? Never heard that before.
    Jun 25, 2018 7
    • Amazon Trillion
      The reason i asked was ive been obsessed with japanese martial arts since teenage and wanted to learn it first hand living in Japan, but i never thought it was practical. Im a sde 2 in Amazon im just wondering how easy will it be for me to transfer to Japan for a 3 years period as a sde 2, and then come back to the states. I dont speak any japanese too. Also if you wanted to live in japan why u wanna come back to US now
      Jun 26, 2018
    • Amazon Trillion
      Ok i reread ur post and think its coz of family reasons u wanna move back
      Jun 26, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Yeah, super easy to do this as SDE 2.

      Yeah, it's a combination of things, but also has to do with lame projects and a very low salary. I'm 9.5M yen with 15k USD in RSUs. It's definitely enough to live on, but I want to save more.
      Jun 26, 2018
    • Amazon Trillion
      I speak 0 japanese will this be a huge issue? Also if i make around 200k in usa how much equivalent jp tc i should be looking for
      Jun 26, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Not an issue at all for work. Most of the engineers are foreigners. You'll also be able to get by out in the real world. But I'd suggest taking Japanese classes. Amazon will pay for it here.

      That would probably equate to maybe 9.5M-110M yen and about 15-20k in RSUs per year? I have zero knowledge of the pay bands here, but I believe 200k is just above middle for US? I make about 9.5, but that's after a 10% raise from promo to L5. Not sure what it would be exactly. Whatever they offer you, negotiate for more.

      It is plenty to live on. You can get a nice place for 150,000/month and a nicer place for 200,000/month. If you want to live further from work or get a smaller place you could get rent as low as 80,000/month, with a 30 minute train ride. Restaurants are very cheap for lunch. Maybe 700-1100 for lunch? Very cheap compared to Seattle. Amazon will pay for your daily commute fees. Spending power is low, though. Media is really expensive. Do some searches on Amazon Japan for common stuff.

      FYI, my take home is about 600,000/month to give you an idea about taxes. No need to pay for health insurance plans. The government has you covered.

      In a month, I spend 144,000 on mortgage, 36,000 on maintenance, about 15,000 on electric + gas (total), about 3,000 on water, about 5,000 on internet, about 80,000 on food for 2 adults, 60,000 for "allowance" for myself and wife, 3,000 on phone (LINE mobile!!! If you go through SoftBank or docomo, or other big players, expect 10,000/month), about 150,000 on miscellaneous stuff, and try to save the rest.

      Let me know if I'm missing anything expense you are thinking of.
      Jun 26, 2018
  • Autodesk omni
    Did you just apply for Tokyo positions? How did the visa work?
    Jun 25, 2018 3
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Yup! I just applied.

      Visa was taken care of by a company hired by Amazon. Mine was tricky because I didn't major in CS. There is a law that a work visa applicant must have a degree related to the field of work, or have 10 years experience.

      Since I am majored in Japanese, they added "required to translate Japanese in addition to coding" to the job description, and boom. Visa.

      They'll figure it out, whatever the case is.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Salesforce tc400
      Lol thanks for this info
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Sure thing!
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Twitter Natureman
    Do u have an Asian fetish?
    Jun 25, 2018 0
  • New SuBi51
    This is the best thread I’ve read in Blind ever. Thanks a lot for taking the time.

    My wife and Iove Japan very much, we’ve always talked about “living there for some years”. However we have 2 kids (less than 3 years) and I’m concerned it would be hard for them.

    Since you mentioned that your kid was one of the reasons to move, do you think moving there is a bad idea ?
    Jun 27, 2018 6
    • New SuBi51
      Thanks a lot, this was very helpful!
      Jun 28, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      My pleasure!!
      Jun 28, 2018
    • New SuBi51
      Also! Did you get the offer? Fingers crossed!
      Jun 28, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Thanks! Turns out he wanted to talk to my boss, who is out this week. I'll be waiting another 5 days or so, haha. But if I didn't get it, I assume I'd have just been told already. I'll post the result here when I hear!
      Jun 28, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Finally got the offer. 177k TC for L5 SDE
      138,890 base and 19 RSUs next year (1750 * 1.15 * 19).

      Seems low for 5 yoe. I already pushed back and have a call with the manager in a few hours.
      Jul 18, 2018
  • Apple Lionel!
    What are some must visit places for tourist in Japan if I can plan a visit for 1 week?
    Jun 27, 2018 4
    • Capital One / Other 102
      CoCo Curry
      Jun 27, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Life size Gundam
      Katsu Midori sushi in Meguro. Not super fancy, but the absolute best conveyor belt sushi I've ever had. Even better than some sit down places I've been. They are a small chain, but the one in Meguro is the only conveyor belt one, so they get the same source as the sit downs, but at conveyor belt prices.
      Tokyo Tower
      Sky Tree
      Ghibli Museum (must obtain tickets about a month in advance)
      Okonomiyaki
      Taiwan Maze Soba (a Japanese creation, despite the name)
      Akihabara
      Imperial palace
      Meiji jingu
      Harajuku
      Shinjuku
      Shibuya
      Jun 28, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Some of that was just food
      Jun 28, 2018
    • Capital One / Other 102
      I love Uogashi Nihon-Ichi, Kindenmaru, and Mutekiya too
      Jun 28, 2018
  • Dropbox Pickup
    How much bukakke
    Jun 25, 2018 1
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      There are places for that.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Deloitte XiSA74
    Is there any American things you miss while in Japan?
    Jun 25, 2018 4
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      American internet. God, Japan is so technologically behind it drives me nuts sometimes. It's like the internet from 10-15 years ago. Apps suck. Japanese websites suck. Internet banking and apps suck. One of my banks *prevents* you from using special characters in your password.

      Streaming services exist, but they're not anywhere near as ubiquitous as they are in the US.

      I also miss how cheap Blu-rays are. 35 bucks for Zootopia? Come on.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Internet is shitty, but FAST, though. Gigabit everywhere.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Deloitte XiSA74
      Thanks OP for the info. I love Japan, hope one day I can work there too :)
      Jun 26, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      My pleasure!

      Definitely! Also, I use Deloitte for taxes every year via Amazon. Shit's complicated. I'm going to ensure that stays in my contract after moving back to the US. You guys are life savers.
      Jun 26, 2018
  • Google meui60
    1. Do you know if unvested stocks earned in the US keep vesting in the US? 2. Understand that salary is lower, but are savings about the same in terms of dollars?
    Jun 25, 2018 3
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      GREAT question!! Yes!! Stock that was granted in Seattle continues to vest at the agreed to schedule. It will still be 100% taxed by the US, but you'll get some of it back. Taxes are such that the fraction of time spent in a country during a vest will determine how much tax goes to that country.

      Example: you have a 2 year vest and transfer with the last year vesting while you are in Japan. Once it vests, US takes the usual tax rate, but should return about half of that back because half of it was "earned" in Japan. Japan will then apply their tax rate to the other half.

      2. No, savings is still less. Because cost of living isn't toooo drastically different, but you make a lot less,you really end up taking a bath on savings.
      Like, currently for my family of 3, we end up saving about 700 USD a month in cash. In Bellevue, it would he about the same (after 3k rent and a 1k car payment...Tesla, baby), we would end up saving about the same in cash (except we'd also pad our "allowance" by an additional total of 700 bucks). Then you look at stock. 15k gross value in the RSUs in Japan vs 30-50k in the US. Pretty big difference, IMO.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      *not a tax rate of 100%, but US will still tax at the same rate they were before Japan.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Once you start getting grants in Japan, the US takes zero taxes and Japan asks for taxes on it in January.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Facebook saqin
    Why did you wanna go to Japan in the first place?
    Jun 26, 2018 1
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      It started with martial arts when I was in elementary school. Always liked Japanese food, and in high school, anime, judo, and Japanese language. But when I started studying the language, I got super into it. I've been aiming to live here since I was a teenager been 10 times before moving including a few study abroads (1 year in college, 2 weeks, and another 2 weeks in HS).

      I've always liked the craftsmanship that is in Japan. Watch Jiro dreams of sushi. Perfectly captures the "shokunin" spirit. That guy is like 90 and he still chases perfection. There are LOTS of examples of this, but I love that about Japan.

      And Tokyo is just super convenient. Trains go everywhere in the country. Don't need a car. I live 5 minutes from Meguro station. So 5 minutes away from 5 grocery stores, 2 or 3 clinics, a few dentists, a mall, transportation of course, and dozens of restaurants. Love the convenience here.
      Jun 26, 2018
  • Facebook supichai
    Have you partaken in soaplands?
    Jun 25, 2018 6
    • Facebook supichai
      Good wife
      Jun 26, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Yeah, she knows what's up.
      Jun 26, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I went. If you go, definitely get nuru massage. That's what is worth it. Wasn't a huge deal, but worth trying at least once.
      Jul 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Recommend paradise inn. They cater only to foreign clientele.
      Jul 25, 2018
    • Facebook supichai
      Nice
      Jul 25, 2018
  • Apple Lionel!
    Did you start working in Japan after graduation or moved from Seattle? Is it easy to get permanant residence if you wanted?
    Jun 25, 2018 5
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I transferred internally after a few years at Amazon in Seattle.

      PR is very attainable under certain circumstances. There is a point system. You get points for age (younger is better), salary, work experience, and Japanese ability. 80 points means that you only have to live in Japan for a year to get PR. 70 points, 3 years.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Look at the Excel sheet and find the tab for regular workers (not researchers or business owners).
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Apple Lionel!
      Awesome thanks. How long for citizenship after getting PR?
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I think 5 or 10 years. Note: be really, really, REALLY sure about throwing away your current citizenship.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • New / Product
    zeekerton

    New Product

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    Amazon
    BIO
    Hi!
    zeekertonmore
    How comfortable is your life there compared to Seattle? Does money go further?
    Jun 25, 2018 4
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Very comfortable. If you buy a place (and have permanent residence), you're looking at interest rates as low as 0.495% (mine).

      I have a 500k USD condo and I pay about 1300/month. 33 year loan. Plus about 350/month in maintenance for the building.

      Groceries are a bit more expensive, but worth it.
      Restaurants are much cheaper. Like, 800-1000 yen for lunch. Monthly grocery budget for 2 adults is about 800 bucks (my situation, not counting baby expenses).

      Convenience stores are AMAZING and have great food (for a convenience store). I regularly get a crispy lettuce sandwich, onigiri and can Coffee for breakfast at the shop outside work.

      Spending power is pretty low, though. Most consumer goods are really expensive. New release 4k Blu Ray is about 65-80 bucks. Old Blu Rays (Disney and marvel as examples) are 35-40 bucks.

      But Netflix and Hulu are here and have American and some Japanese content.

      Internet speed is awesome. Gigabit in most places. But apps and Japanese webforms are fucking terrible. Most things feel like the state of the internet 10 or 15 years ago. One of my banks prevents you from using special characters for your password. Swear to God.

      A lot of foreigners find it difficult to get a credit card. Especially if you are under 30. Just got to UFJ Mitsubishi. Open an account and you can get a debit card you can use online.

      All in all, I love it here (aside from work - projects I don't want to work on and a low salary compared to the US).

      We live 5 minutes from a major train station, which means 5 minutes to dozens of restaurants, a handful of grocery stores, some pharmacies, a few clinics, and a mall.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      My salary is quite enough to live on. But I want to save more money.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • New / Product
      zeekerton

      New Product

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      Amazon
      BIO
      Hi!
      zeekertonmore
      Great details, thank you OP.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      My pleasure!
      Jun 25, 2018
  • New / Product
    zeekerton

    New Product

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    BIO
    Hi!
    zeekertonmore
    Do you have any take on how big the cryptocurrency craze is or was there compared to United States? Do you own any bitcoin personally?
    Jun 25, 2018 2
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I haven't been into the crypto scene. But I think it's more known here. There's even a few big name stores that accept bitcoin. Don't remember which ones, but they charge like, 20% more if you pay in BC.
      Jun 25, 2018
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I don't own BC. :( Missed out.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Boeing / Ops Airbus
    Is amazon japan mostly for SDEs? Or is there place for us non engineering muggles?
    Jun 25, 2018 1
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      Lol, Muggles.

      Yes!! There are TPMs, SDMs, UX designers, etc.
      But the more you get into the business side (vendor managers, TAM, site merchandiser, etc), the more you will probably be required to speak and be literate in Japanese.
      Jun 25, 2018
  • Facebook / Eng TCYOE
    Visiting Japan soon, what do you recommend doing at night that is friendly to gaijins in Tokyo/Shibuya? I’ve heard a lot of bars/clubs are no gaijins.
    Jun 25, 2018 1
    • Amazon cayde-6
      OP
      I would say that's probably rarer. Shinjuku has a good bar scene where you can do some serious bar hopping. If you are super concerned about getting turned away (a really terrible experience. It's really a shitty feeling), then stick to Roppongi! You may also find some ladies (or men) there that are very into foreigners.

      Shibuya also has quite a few clubs that are foreigner friendly. There's even a soapland that caters specifically to foreigners, if you want that experience. It's in Kawasaki, I think it's called paradise inn.

      The most tourist-ey thing is "robot restaurant" (also in Shinjuku). I took my American boss there on a business trip (before I moved here) and he fucking loved it.

      Sky tree or Tokyo tower are also great at night.
      Jun 25, 2018