I’m a Programmer – It’s Official

If you were fresh out of school and moving to Japan for 10 years, what would you hope to achieve? No doubt you’d want to travel the country, learn about the culture and indulge in such oddities as Pachinko, Print Club, karaoke boxes and authentic sushi restaurants. But 10 years? You’d probably be keen to learn new skills and advance your career somehow.

Actually, I’m not so sure anyone makes a decision to move to Japan for 10 years. It just kind of happens. Usually, you come  for a year and teach English while experiencing Japanese culture, but when that year is up and you realize you’ve saved no money and haven’t seen or done all you wanted, you choose to stay… just a bit longer.

When I first came here at 21 years of age, I was confident that I’d find a good job in the I.T industry, after all, I had just graduated from university with a degree in Computer Science and expected doors to be open for me. I figured it would take two or three years to learn enough Japanese and then I’d be on my way up the corporate ladder.

How naive.

I studied the language hard for three years, passing JLPT 2, but by that time, I had lost touch with the fast changing pace of the IT industry, had no work experience in computing, and my Japanese was still far from fluent. It was then that I went to Tokyo for an interview with a recruiting company and failed miserably when they gave me a Japanese newspaper and asked me to read an article aloud.

That was a tough time for me, and still reluctant to accept a future as an English conversation teacher, I suddenly found myself as a network marketer in Japan, trying feverishly to sell enough vitamins to get myself out of teaching. Funnily enough, that experience, although a tremendous failure, was a wonderful education, putting me on the road to self-employment.

Fast-forward to 2009 and I’m now a programmer. At least that’s what my alien registration card says after today’s trip to City Hall. Although I’ve been running my own internet business full-time for a year and a half, it’s somewhat rewarding to be officially recognized as something I always wanted to be.

Funnily enough, programming is only a hobby of mine, but try explaining “Adsense Publisher” to the ladies at City Hall and you’ll understand why we settled on “programmer” as a job title.

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

12 thoughts on “I’m a Programmer – It’s Official

  1. Have to laugh at the “adsense publisher”description- I have a hard enough time trying to explain it to someone in English, much less Japanese. 🙂


  2. “indulge in such oddities as Pachinko, Print Club, karaoke boxes and authentic sushi restaurants.”

    I can see why out of the above choices, “programmer” seemed the best thing to put on the card. 😉


  3. Great post. If you’ve been in Japan for 10 years and studied hard for three, that sounds like you lost interest for the remaining seven. I’ve been studying hard for six years and I find that very understandable. It gets tiring.

    Congratulations on the new status and that recognition!

    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I think they’ve changed the format now, but since I just scraped a pass on JLPT2 (61%), the jump to JLPT1 which needs double the kanji and vocab, and a 70% pass mark, was daunting enough to end my studies.

      1. Indeed, it’s a funny grading system. A lot of people use the JLPT to set themselves targets and the first two are far too easy and the last one is a massive leap. I’ve heard that they’re putting a JLPT 1.5 or something in between levels 1 and 2. It makes sense.

        Don’t know how serious you are about being daunted but I freely admit to being quite intimidated by level 1, especially when I was starting out. Funny thing is that I passed it last year and I still feel like there’s a lot more I want to do. I do enjoy it though.

        1. The most daunting thing about the JLPT was knowing you could only sit it once a year, and if you failed, you’d be held back for a full year – quite a nightmare if you were counting on passing to change your job situation or even return home.

          I think they’ve upped it to twice a year now which is much, much better.

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