My Journey of How I Went From Teaching English in Japan to a Career in Tech With The Coolest Company in the World

Living On The Poverty Line

If you truly plan on living in Japan as an ALT, please, please, PLEASE, think seriously before you do, and do not make the mistake I did by not having at least some sort of Plan B or exit game. The salary and location of where you are located will have a huge impact on the lifestyle you can live.

That Japanese Man Yuta breaks down the salary of an English teacher quite nicely in the video above. He also does a great job of trying to make light of the situation of what could be done with what amount in this video: How Much Does It Cost To Live In Japan?

For a comical, yet frighteningly accurate, take on the stark reality of the various salary bracket levels one might live on in Japan, please visit Ken Seeroi’s post: Tokyo Salaries: All You Need to Know, as this is as comprehensive and grounded as it gets.

230,000 yen per month
If you like cold and dark, then this is the wage for you…

250,000 yen per month
Now you can keep the lights on until bedtime, and perhaps buy a blanket for warmth…

270,000 yen per month
If there were a practical poverty line, at least from a Western perspective, this would be it…

300,000 yen per month
Congratulations, you’ve finally made it off Skid Row…

350,000 yen per month
This is more money than many Japanese people will see in their lifetimes…

400,000 per month
Ah, Lives of the Rich and Famous…

Above 400,000 yen per month
Now you’re entering rarified territory. I’ve made this level of coin briefly, but frankly it wasn’t worth the effort required. Which is to say that I’m a lazy bastard who prefers evenings slamming cans of malt liquor watching sunsets over the Arakawa river to sitting at a desk surrounded by dozing salarymen…

Ken Seeroi, japaneseruleof7.com

I’ll give it to you straight — my salary while working for Interac was a flat 230,000 yen living in Sapporo. Now, I don’t remember the exact details of how much I paid for everything, but here’s what I needed to factor in for my basic needs:

  • rent
  • gas
  • water
  • electricity
  • internet
  • phone
  • transportation
  • food
  • student loans
  • health insurance
  • pension insurance
  • income tax
  • city tax

And all this is also not including going out at least once a week for a drink with colleagues, eating out, or just exploring in general to maintain sanity. If I remember correctly, my take home pay was well below 100,000 yen. And I’m also pretty sure there are some other miscellaneous things I’m forgetting to factor in here as well. But all I can say here is this: The Struggle. Is. Real. There was a time when I was seriously only living off of peanut butter and protein bars. Yup.


Jump to a Section

  1. Oh So Bittersweet
  2. Post-University Life
  3. Sapporo: My Second New Home
  4. My ALT Experience
  5. Living On The Poverty Line
  6. #NotAboutThatLife Part One
  7. #NotAboutThatLife Part Deux
  8. Learn To Code The Hard Way
  9. Democratize Publishing Part One
  10. Democratize Publishing Part Deux
  11. Welcome To The Chaos

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12 thoughts on “My Journey of How I Went From Teaching English in Japan to a Career in Tech With The Coolest Company in the World

  1. Thanks for sharing your story, Paulo. Even though I knew the outcome I still held my breath a little there at the end, nervous for you! The GIFs were perfect too. Congrats on finding a career you love and on your beautiful family as well!

  2. I believe they’re always hiring. Lol. How long did it take you to do all those self-taught courses? I’m planning to apply, and I’m pretty glad I ran into your blog. I think I might do the same thing you did – take a lot of courses to prepare myself for the application.

    1. I’m pretty glad I ran into your blog.

      Thanks for stopping by! And I’m glad you were also able find something useful 🙂

      How long did it take you to do all those self-taught courses?

      In total, give or take 3 years — a bit long, but this was on top of a full-time job, parenting, and not having any background in web development. And I literally dipped my hand into everything i.e. programming, digital marketing, design, etc.

      I might do the same thing you did – take a lot of courses to prepare myself for the application

      Yeah, that would definitely help! If I were to look back on what I could have done to prepare more effectively, maybe I would’ve considered focusing more on CSS proficiency, WooCommerce, and making sure I know how to work & navigate the WordPress.com platform like the back of my hand 😄

      I’d be glad to answer any other questions, so feel free to shoot an email anytime: https://peaeb.blog/contact/

  3. What a journey! I recently applied to become a Happiness Engineer, and I’m very anxious. This would be my dream job and I can’t wait for my first interview.
    I’m currently learning JavaScript with TreeHouse and Codecademy at the same time, using the second to practice rather than as the primary source of learning tool. I’ve also learned CSS, HTML and Python from Codecademy but I might need to practice and start working on some websites of my own, to experiment and stuff.
    While the degree I’m pursuing at university is not related to tech at all, I really want to be a developer and I think the best way to do it debt free is through self-teaching.

    1. I recently applied to become a Happiness Engineer, and I’m very anxious. This would be my dream job and I can’t wait for my first interview.

      Nice, and best of luck! If you haven’t already, check out the Happiness Engineer blog:

      https://happinessengineer.blog/

      I really want to be a developer and I think the best way to do it debt free is through self-teaching.

      Absolutely. Being self-motivated to continuously learn is an invaluable quality to have. Keep at it, and you’ll eventually find that many opportunities start opening up for you 🙂

  4. Hey,
    This is the very first time, I read any post for word by word without any break. Most of the time, I read few sentences and just get the overview.

    But your post and the journey to Automatic keep me curious to read what will happen in the next line.
    It will really awesome.
    It also encouraging me to do my preparations for Automatic.

    Thank you for inspiring. 🙂

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