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Recruit Is Japan’s Top Contender for Global Internet Domination (bloomberg.com)
107 points by DyslexicAtheist 23 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments

I recently signed up to recruit to make a dinner reservation in Japan.

They used a lot of dark patterns for their email marketing. Bombarding me with multiple different newsletters I didn't sign up for and I had to cancel every single one of them separately. And nearly a week delay after sign-off. One of the worst non-spam marketing I had to deal with in the last years.

This is common practice in Japan. We desperately need our own anti spam legislation.

Yeah I just outright block the email addresses (the marketing email addresses are different from the informational ones). Recruit is particularly bad because there are soooo many services linked to the system

Recruit is one of the worst domestic companies in Japan. Their services suck, they are badly designed, they are not integrated, they have way too much workforce for the kind of business they are in, I could go on and on. If that's the best that Japan has to offer then the rest of the world is safe.

Man it's so depressing looking at what a giant Japan could be in the tech industry if they got their shit together politically, economically, and culturally to bring entrepreneurship and creative risk-taking back.

Their potential talent-to-output ratio has to be one of the worst in the world. Probably the worst if you look at their flashes on brilliance in the 1980s and early 1990s and what they could be today.

This problem goes well beyond their central financial mismanagement with stagflation.

Haha, it's true, man. I recently moved to Japan to live with family for a while. I interviewed at the top Japanese software companies in Japan, and even though I'm a senior engineer with 10 years' experience in FAANG in the USA, they felt like they were doing me a favor offering me 15 million JPY/year (150k USD at 100 yen per dollar, ~$130k USD at the time with the beefy US dollar). Tokyo is actually a little cheaper to live in than Seattle assuming you're OK with a tiny Tokyo apartment and a long Tokyo commute, but it isn't THAT much cheaper.

I tried to politely explain how and why people like me command the kind of salaries we do in the USA, but they just didn't get it. At 15M JPY I'd rather just work in the USA for a year, then take a year off in Japan, so that's what I ended up doing, haha.

All the local Japanese software giants are slowly being strangled to death on their home turf, and they're completely failing to compete internationally. It's a real shame, but oh well!

Sometimes I think the HN community is vastly out of touch with normal everyday humans, and comments like this validate it.

If you're making 7 million yen a year, you're making really fucking good money. If you're making 10 million, that company is really kissing your ass and you're essentially royalty. But 15 million is low?

Keep in mind that GDP per capita in Japan is only about 2/3 of America's, and also that the wealth divide is pretty much non-existent while America is basically two parallel societies: people who struggle to get by (or close to it) and the rich and carefree, and thinking 15 mil is low is just insanity. People would work 5 years at that job and retire to Okinawa with that cash.

>Tokyo is actually a little cheaper to live in than Seattle

That's an understatement. It's tremendously cheaper. You can get an apartment near your workplace, eat out 15 times a week, and still only spend half the money you'd spend on a decent in-city apartment in Seattle or SF.

>I tried to politely explain how and why people like me command the kind of salaries we do in the USA, but they just didn't get it.

Oh, no, they got it. They just wondered why someone thinks anyone gets paid that much. Not even most doctors are making that much. You basically requested CEO wages and thought they were crazy.

He isn't out of touch with reality. The economy works on supply and demand. He can make more money in country than another doing the same job, so he chose the country that paid him more. It's perfectly reasonable. It's not about it being a good or bad salary, it's just what the market will bear.

He can definitely get paid more in Seattle if he wants to. That's true. He will also have a cost of living that's pretty much double what it would be in Japan.

And true, it's an issue of supply and demand. He demanded too much and supply isn't there.

His problem is that he thinks they're strange for not just offering more money, not considering that, maybe, just maybe, a country with lower wages and smaller GDP simply can't pay people hundreds of thousands of dollars a year+bonus for jobs. When you think of it purely in the context of big number=good, then it's bad. When you consider Japan is a much cheaper country and there are other benefits (like not having to deal with ridiculously expensive American health care, good public transportation, etc), it's clearly by no means a bad deal. It's a deal probably nobody else in that company's history ever was or ever will be offered ever again.

> His problem is that he thinks they're strange for not just offering more money

I don't think he thinks they're strange, he's just surprised. When you visit France and can buy high quality wine for half the cost that you get in the U.S., it's surprising. When you go to Singapore and see that housing can often be more expensive than luxury apartments in NYC, it's surprising. Similarly, when you go to Japan and see people doing the same thing you do, but making 30%+ less, it's surprising.

Maybe the cost of living and government provided social services make up for some of this difference, maybe they don't. But having some initial sticker shock in the price differential can be pretty natural.

If he has a problem, it's that he thinks a unit of work should be valued equally , i.e., if I do X, it should be universally valued at $Y. It's a nice thought, and I'd like to wish it was true, but it's not how our economy works. The value of X is not intrinsic, it's based on what someone is willing to pay for it.

Coal mining in the U.S. in the 1950s provided a solid middle class foundation, but the same job today does not. Beethoven is clearly a better musician than most pop music, but few today would shell out money to listen to his music, while they would for many popular artists.

Hopefully from this, he can realize how lucky he is to have access to a country which, for a variety of reasons, values this type of production more than other places in the world.

It’s really not that programmers are more “valued” and everyone who isn’t paying them enough money to buy a new house yearly isn’t properly appreciating them. It’s that one country can afford to pay more, and it’s partly enabled by a massive wealth disparity.

Being surprised is strange. It’s like being surprised that people get paid less in Poland and that companies won’t pay as much for a programmer there. Nobody has the money to pay for $300000/year programmers in Poland. It’s the same virtually everywhere except incredibly expensive corners of the world, like parts of America and Switzerland.

For the same reason that China is trouncing Taiwan in tech hiring, you need to beat your competitors. What's reasonable to give to someone else to make them do what you want depends on what your competitors do.

Framing it as "think of what another Japanese person would be making" is all wrong. We can say the exact same thing about Taiwan, and we surely wouldn't say the way for Taiwan to move forward is to tell candidates, "You just don't understand Taiwan. It has a very different way of life." Those candidates will understand Chinese money, the same way this person understood American money.

Taiwan is also an absolutely tiny economy compared to China. That money has to come from somewhere. In the case of many countries, it means paying most workers peanuts while paying someone else 10x as much.

Some on HN are okay with massive wealth disparity and think it’s great for some international programmer to be valued far more than any local just because they worked at a company like Facebook. Some countries, like Taiwan and Japan, aren’t on that train.

And that's why Taiwan is in a brain drain to China and the US. Chinese companies don't need to make the same excuses as Taiwanese companies when it comes to money.

How’s it an excuse?

Hey, Afghanis and Sudanese people out there, want to fix your country? Just quit being poor. Pay money that you don’t have. It’s what the two largest, most powerful, wealthiest countries in the world do, so why can’t you? No excuse not to pay them the same as a Silicon Valley startup getting funding that dwarfs your GDP.

Aside from throwing people out on the streets and cutting wages for the middle class in order to support some yuppie JavaScript coders from another country, it’s not economically possible to just poof money into existence to pay ridiculous wages. I mean yeah, America does it and that works for some people here. Most people despise that.

You're looking at the economy and business in general completely wrong. You have a SERIOUS fundamental misunderstanding of how it works.

There isn't a fixed pool of X trillion dollars per year for all companies and government agencies to split up among workers.

If a company gives $300k to some guy in Silicon Valley, he'll turn around and give it to other people providing him with goods and services. They in turn spend the money on things they need.

That is the very definition of trickle down economics.

Spoilers: it's been thoroughly debunked. It factually does not work.

What people should despise is losing their best and brightest to companies overseas. You're talking about immigration, but that doesn't make a brain drain.

> But 15 million is low?

It's low relatively speaking to what that person can get in the US. When you are on the global market, you can compare between countries. On top of that devs are quite underpaid in Japan especially at the beginning of their careers, it's not an outlandish claim.

If you pay $130k a year or less, you can't recruit engineers with the talent to compete with the US companies

Just check out top Japanese software offerings and compare them to their American equivalents and you'll see what I mean

Mixi, Rakuten, LINE, Recruit, etc.

15 million JPY/year is a lot of money. If the wages in America are really that high, Japan has trouble recruiting top talent from America, that's for sure. It might be that the Japanese companies aren't lean enough to able to afford wages like that.

Btw. another data point: I am a junior software engineer in Tokyo and I currently earn a bit over 6 million. I'm able to live very comfortably with that. I'm aiming for 8-9 million, but I'd expect you have to be an actual rock star developer for anything over that.

Note that 150k is just the salary. I don’t know about Japanese compensation structure, but you can easily get >200k including bonus + equity at FAANG in a junior position.

Me and my family are living very comfortably with less than that, honestly. And I don't expect any noticeable increase in earnings at this point in our lives. I don't personally know and never have in these past few decades anyone earning more than 10 million yen. Maybe if we go back to the 80s.

The only one earning more than 10M who I know of is a senpai of mine who quit and got a remote Silicon Valley job. It’s a lucrative deal as you can live affordably in Tokyo. (Still, I suspect they’d pay remote workers somewhat worse...) As for myself, I wouldn’t move for 15M. The present-day U.S. sounds a great place to earn money as a SE, but it doesn’t sound like a good place to live.

If you have a good resume and can justify good software engineering skills in demand, it is not that difficult to get to 10 millions JPY or more, even outside the big foreign companies (Google, Nvidia, etc.). Indeed in Tokyo starts paying 9-10 millions JPY for people w/ 2-3 years experience after college.

I know people working in large Japanese companies with 15 years+ experience can make 15-20 millions JPY once they become principal and co.

It is true that Japan, like Europe, pays much more people willing to go management/product management/sales, compared to the US where you can stay on a technical path and make very good money, at least up to a certain age.

But please do not think that 6-7 millions JPY is good salary in Tokyo: it is not. The average salary in Japan is a bit below 6 millions JPY.

Source: I have lived in Japan for 7 years total, have been managing multiple software engineer teams and done the hiring in multiple roles.

Big cloud companies are also in a very good position to afford these salaries, mostly because their revenue structure allows for that. The same is not true for many other software companies or non software companies that also need software engineers.

Silicon Valley salaries are heavily inflated by a few big players and VC money. It doesn't help that we engineers get arrogant and think California salary is the bar for other companies. It's simply not affordable for many companies and the importance of one engineer does also not warrant the salary. Do you think a single software engineer is more important than a mechanical engineer, so he can demand a x multiplier in compensation from the same company? In a cloud scenario like Google maybe, but what if you write software for a car?

Factor in the Japanese attitude of "group harmony" and you get a system, where rockstars/10x/whatever get average salaries. Then your 150m is a pretty damn good offer at 150% increase of average starting salary for 10 years experience.

There are also differently impactful software engineering positions. The most common crud backend engineer and frontend "ui implementer" don't warrant the salaries Google and co is paying for them (though from what I heard from Google employees, Google hires a lot of talent for positions that don't need that talent). Sure there are very impactful positions, e.g. in tooling and infrastructure that can safe everyone else in the company hours of time. But what's the ratio to the engineers for day to day business? 1:5? Lower? Even higher?

15 million JPY/year is a huge salary in Japan, even in Tokyo.

I think your salary expectations have been skewed by your employment history.

It is not unreasonable at all. If you have 15+ years experience in domains in demand, 15-20 millions total is totally achievable, even staying in the Japanese companies. What is true is that many companies screw software engineers over, but if you are in Tokyo , reasonably good at your job w/ skills in demand, you can and should avoid those terribe companies.

Indeed it is. I could take quite a few years off with a yearly salary like that, as you say, even in Tokyo.

Comeon dude, don't settle for 10M JPY if you have enough technical competence to follow HackerNews

Go work in Silicon Valley for two years at 35M JPY/year, then come back to Japan and spend 8 years making games (or just playing them!)

Japan's software industry is toast, no point in investing even one second of your valuable time trying to prop it up. Even their home-grown businesses that fully understand all the intricacies of the local market are barely holding their own against the tendrils of US-based competitors, and they're never going to get any traction outside of Japan.

It's a different way of looking at things. I value raising my kids in a place where mass shootings in schools don't happen, and people walk on clean streets, as opposed to walking on trash and litter wondering if someone is going to mug you at any time. Or needing to buy, maintain, insure, drive a car, when you could take a clean safe comfortable train anywhere at any time.

The same reason why I wouldn't take a salary ten times better to live in the U.S. is why I also won't take a salary three times better in Japan that would force me into being married to my laptop and an abusive boss, as opposed to being married to my wife and working from home with much more modest earnings.

We have seen too many friends and relatives try what you suggest.

They work like crazy bastards for 20 or 30 years thinking of retiring with a massive fund, paying well for kids' education, getting a nice house, etc. They end up with mental illness, family who have never spent any time with them, sick from constant abuse, exhaustion, and overwork. If they don't kill themselves in the way. We call it karoshi.

Also, SONY for one ( there are others ) might disagree with your assessment, even in the relatively low place where they're at now.

I am with fiblye in that I believe you have vastly overestimated the costs of living in Japan and therefore the relative benefit of a higher salary in the US.

I am on my own ( which is not easy in Japan ) but many of my closest friends are manager-level engineers in big companies ( NTT, etc ) and rarely earn more than 5-7 million yen a year. This is with teams of dozens of people under them for which they are responsible. Reading your post is quite shocking for me.

Are you sure your friends disclose their actual salary? Or might they be underselling themselves to meet expectations and not disturb 和 (Wa)? Would be a very Japanese thing to do, wouldn't it?

It would, which is why I wrote "closest". Normally we do not discuss salaries. My wife was in charge of hiring in a big company as well and we're aware of where things are. But then, we're "average" people. As another comment points out, 6 million is the average salary, with which I agree. I do not agree 6-7 is not a good salary in Tokyo, as others also have said, 7 is pretty good money. Average of 6 means lots, and that's lots, of people earning less.

I don't know about NTT, but 5-6 millions JPY for manager-level roles in general is terrible, even outside Tokyo. W/ decent engineering skills, you should be able to get at least the double after enough experience in Tokyo.

If you want to check your market value, you may want to talk to a recruiter (a quite scammy business in Japan, but a good way to check your market value).

You seem to be in a higher 'middle-class' level than us. We don't see these numbers you mention. My wife was a recruiter for a few years herself.

Edit : And those 5-7 millions I mentioned often come with 10-to-14-hour workdays, by the way, plus Saturday on the laptop all day connected to work. I really wish reality was as you describe it. It is one of the reasons I'm freelance. I don't have the stamina for corporate Japan.

I am aware of the dread of the corporate life in large Japanese companies, and that many pay really badly. The numbers I have quoted are from people who worked in well known Japanese companies (Canon, Nintendo, etc.) and non Japanese (Pivotal).

They could be anectodal, but they often match what I see in salary surveys such as https://www.robertwalters.co.jp/content/dam/robert-walters/c....

Don't forget that in Japan there's not just the salary you have to account for. Many domestic companies pay for your accommodation (with it something worth at least 1.5 Million a year in most places), plus several other perks (rebates on certain services, additional medical insurance, etc...). So just looking at the salary does not tell the whole story.

While I know that to be so, none of my friends or relatives live or have lived in company housing. It's something we see in dramas, basically. NTT has provided first rate health care that you couldn't equal no matter what you paid for it on your own, though.

They should recruit from places other than the US. Engineers with as much ability and experience as you can be hired for far less from other Western nations.

In many IT departments in Japan (at least in foreign companies based in Japan) you will see a lot of Indians, so it's already happening.

Agreed. Their marketing push ( not sure with what actual practical purpose ) is remarkable and frankly, annoying, in daily life. Can't take a train, walk down any random street, enter any number of shops / offices / konbini / whatever, without seeing a sticker, ad, poster, clip, from one campaign or another from them.

Considering they completely lack internationalization/localization (at least on signup, on Hot Pepper and their Recruit account management page), it doesn't give me the impression Recruit has the right mindset to compete on a global scale.

While this is just a medium hard problem to fix technically, it's the mindset of most employees that would have to change. Good i18n/l10n requires some consideration of development (it's easy to create untranslatable text, when the technical structure of strings can't reflect foreign grammar), marketing/sales (you need different approaches for different markets) and management (giving time to do i18n right).

Currently Recruit shows the typical island mentality. Their consideration ends at the borders of Japan. Not a good place to start for global domination.

Recruit owns Indeed and Glassdoor, which are doing pretty well beyond Japan.

I imagine these are acquisitions that already did well before they got bought.

Glassdoor is also becoming increasingly known for letting companies "bribe" them to delete bad reviews.

The analogy with tencent and alibaba seems instructive, but not necessarily in a good way. They are both massive bloated platforms that do lots of different disconnected things not very well. e.g. the wechat messaging app contains subprograms for games, payment, flight bookings, etc you can't turn off. They only continue to exist because of network effects, and because they play nice with the Chinese government.

If Recruit works on the same model then they will have the same problem moving abroad that there is no one thing they are better at than an existing company

>They are both massive bloated platforms that do lots of different disconnected things not very well. e.g. the wechat messaging app contains subprograms for games, payment, flight bookings, etc you can't turn off

In an age where bringing users together and building ecosystems seems to count for more and more this isn't necessarily a downside. We're used to the startup and "move quick" mentality but conglomerates have been making somewhat of a comeback for a while now, and Google and Amazon aren't exactly 'non bloated' either, because I'm sure for many of their services there's some small company somewhere that does it better. (case in point, DeepL's translation is actually astonishingly good).

So maybe being a big scary monolith with government support is a good strategy to be a dominating internet company in this day and age and in the years to come.

I think your misunderstanding the goals of alibaba / Tencent. The derive their value precisely from their strategy of doing lots of things ok instead of one thing well. They are "platforms" not applications. And if they stuck to what they each did well in the beginning they likely wouldn't have been anywhere near as successful as they are now.

Also I think it's too early to tell whether how their worldwide expansion plans will play out. It's worth noting that between them they own a slice of most major tech companies in SEA. I wouldn't be surprised if thats not the only part of the world either..

In my view, recruit is a sales company. They have very strong sales team covering SMBs. That allowed them to build gurunavi (similar to Yelp), airregi (similar to square), and so on. Couple of years ago they started focus more on hiring top engineering talent and I think it is absolutely right move, but frankly I don't think they can compete grobally as tech company in near future.

I live and run a startup out of Japan and given the engineering talent here or lack thereof, I can almost guarantee that you won’t see any Japanese tech startup going global anytime soon. If anything, they will copy another global innovative company and dominate the domestic market but with no real innovation (look no further than the very mediocre Rakuten).

Gone are the days where Sony, Nintendo and others had what it takes to craft a quality product that was compelling to global audiences.

Japan has lost its mojo and the sad thing is that the conservatives forces are so strong that this country won’t attract any talent needed to change the bad bad status quo for the foreseeable future.

I moved to Japan to do research for my CS master thesis at one of the top5 universities. While I knew English is not spoken by most Japanese, I was honestly surprised that nearly all the CS students in my lab lack the English skill for daily conversations, let alone have a technical discussion.

Considering how international and English dominated CS is and only Japans best students get a place at this university, that is a very bad basis to create top software engineering talent.

I recently finished up two years working for a large cloud provider in Tokyo, where we would help Japanese companies build on our cloud... so I had a lot of exposure to different Japanese tech company practices.

The hardest part for Japanese folks working in tech is that most documentation for any service, framework or any paper is in English. This puts a high reliance on sites like qiita.com.

It often resulted in an unintended power hierarchy between engineers who could read the official doco in English, and those who became reliant on the English speaking in their team. Occasionally this would result in cases of pawa-hara or teku-hara.

Indeed, Japan consistently ranks dead last in terms of English proficiency among OECD countries. Heck, it’s even last among Asian economies including developing ones.

There’s hardly any i18n for apps/services/portals implemented in Japan barring very few exceptions with minimum and rough execution. The few times I tried to hire Japanese engineering talent, I was shocked by the extreme lack of English aptitude for those out of CS curriculums and we are talking about top universities such as Tokyo University (Todai) and other prestigious institutes of technology. I can’t help but think that Japan will sink deeper into mediocrity if they don’t fix their language problem.

It already starts at school. Learning English with Katakana leads to such an incorrect pronunciation that they basically have to relearn talking in English, when they eventually meet foreigners. I have been to multiple school visits as part of the university program and it's a sad state. But in my experience they are trying to improve it, e.g. by bringing us foreign students to the schools and raising awareness.

For "Sukiyaki Western Django", I've read that Miike just had his Japanese actors memorize the classic western drawl. And that's what it sounds like, to me.

This is also IMO one of the big reasons Japanese salaries are so low. The Japanese only know Japanese so they can't jump to better labor markets.

It's getting better at least in Tokyo where the job market has been heating up of late. People aren't as prepared to accept the same shitty salaries that they used to and companies that want to do well are realising that they need to pay their people properly. The companies that haven't have already lost their most capable devs with only the most mediocre, last cab off the rank types remaining.

There's been a trend for Japan to close upon itself in the past 15 years or more already, so going overseas and learning english has become more uncommon than ever. That, and the utter lack of interest to whats happening beyond their borders, is really damaging the future outlooks for Japan.

While I agree wholeheartedly with the closing part, and things are much different and insular than 30 or 20 years ago, I do not necessarily think this affects Japan economically seriously. We've been hearing about the coming collapse of this or that in Japan and the aging Japanese society apocalypse consistently, but I shudder at the comparison between our living standards and the other so-called developed nations on every trip overseas or to Europe. And more so now than I did 20 years ago.

> but I shudder at the comparison between our living standards and the other so-called developed nations on every trip overseas or to Europe. And more so now than I did 20 years ago.

What do you mean by that? That the living standards in Japan became comparably higher? I can only speak about the comparison to Germany, but the only thing that comes to mind are japanese toilets. Other than that they are pretty similar in my experience, with a few small advantages for one country or the other in different areas.

E.g. Germany has way better building heating and isolation standards than most of what I have seen in Japan. On the other hand nearly every building in Japan has AC. This comes from the situation that Germany needs heating for about 6 months a year, no cooling for about 5 months and cooling only for about 1 month. Kansai region on the other hand only needs heating for about 4 months, but cooling for about 6.

I don't dispute any comparison with Germany in particular as I have been there only for brief periods, and not for at least a decade. But I just can't see any country I've visited or lived in, whether in Western Europe or North America, getting anywhere close to the combined levels of public safety, quality affordable healthcare, excellent ubiquitous transportation, education, technology, extremely reasonable cost of living ( much as economists fear and malign deflation, much as foreigners keep falsely claiming Tokyo is expensive.. ), lack of social unrest, lack of inequality, lack of terrorism, lack of unemployment, etc.

Japan is not perfect, and has massive social problems, for sure. Pervasive and severe alcoholism, karoshi, women are second-class citizens, et al. A quake, a typhoon, or a volcano might wreck lives every so often. Not everything is cheerful and rosy.

But leave the economy and aging society out of it. For thirty years I've been listening to the aging problem and the stagnating economy. And every single year I see our lives and the lives of those around us not getting worse at the very least, and mostly improving, if ever so slightly.

I can't say the same for anyone I know in the States or Europe, especially from 2008 until now.

From my personal experience in the last five months in Japan, I mostly agree with you. By your metrics Germany is probably on par and a few other countries lack the economic power and/or the political will (e.g. the US could afford all that, but chooses not to).

> education

The general education seems to be good apart from the tendency of karoshi, already beginning with stuff like prep-schools. But as has been noted in the comments here (also by me) the English education really lacks behind. Surprisingly, I personally met more elderly with conversational English skills than students at one of the imperial universities.

> extremely reasonable cost of living (much as foreigners keep falsely claiming Tokyo is expensive.. )

Toyko is expensive. It's not a false claim. Yes it's affordable and the rent might be reasonable, if you lower your standards to accomodate for that. The average living space per person in Japan is 22.3m² and below 20m² in big cities [1]. In contrast to that the average living space per person in Germany is 43.8m². Nearly twice as much. On the other hand a 15m² flat 30min away from Toyko station costs about 45000 Yen per month [3]. That's 3000 Yen or 24€ per m². A 1-2 person flat 20min from Munich center (one of the most, if not the most, expensive city by rent in Germany) costs ~15€ per m². So I'm living closer and get 60% more space for the same money. Now consider that foreigners expect more space (see [1] vs [2]) and Toyko really is expensive for foreigners.

[1] https://resources.realestate.co.jp/living/how-much-living-sp...

[2] https://www.destatis.de/EN/FactsFigures/SocietyState/IncomeC...

[3] https://resources.realestate.co.jp/living/cost-living-single...

The comparison you come up with makes sense if you consider Tokyo a city, which it is not, it is a bunch of cities, some quite large on their own, from the 23 central "wards" to another couple dozen outer ones, etc. And in a very specific circumstance in your example, needing to be close to Tokyo Station. It is not comparable to a European capital like Munich.

If you live and work in Edogawa City, or Katsushika, or Nerima, it all falls down quickly and becomes quite cheaper. And why wouldn't you ? You don't go to get your birth certificate at Tokyo Metropolitan Government, you go to Nerima City Hall. The scales in your example don't match.

Same as if going the opposite way, say you live in Edogawa but need to go to work every morning to Akiruno and back to Edogawa. It's all Tokyo, but then commute gets crazy expensive and you can argue that way too.

Edit : And I haven't seen the variety and prices eating out anywhere else either. See if you can get a salaryman to take you around on a tour of not-so-secret 500en per meal shops.

Edit 2 : Regarding rent, I've always argued it's all in searching long and hard, which most foreigners have no time ( or interest ) in doing. The market is there. Heck, many towns are giving whole houses basically for free if you fix them, because it's cheaper for them than the cost of demolition and also fights depopulation in some areas -- yes, even in Tokyo. There are problems specific to renting to foreigners and the lack of anti-discrimination laws, but other than that, it's fine.


> If you live and work in Edogawa City, or Katsushika, or Nerima

I only used the data I found in the referenced article. I used the "budget" option that is "located outiside central Tokyo and about a 30- to 45-min train ride to a major Tokyo station." Edogawa city is even closer than that estimation (about 25minutes to Toyko station and less than 20 minutes to a major station). So if the numbers in the article are correct, the 45000en example I cited would be more fitting to something like Funabashi. For the places you mentioned the article claims 70000en/20m², so 3500en instead of 3000en per m².

You might be correct though that you have less reason in Tokyo to go to the city center compared to a German city, e.g. for work, entertainment and night-live.

Edit: Your abandoned houses example is very interesting though. I also had the feeling owning property a bit outside of the centers isn't that hard/expensive here. Especially as the houses are rather simple wood constructions.

> And I haven't seen the variety and prices eating out anywhere else either. See if you can get a salaryman to take you around on a tour of not-so-secret 500en per meal shops.

Oh yes. Food prices were one of the most surprising differences for me. Eating out can be surprisingly cheap in Japan (e.g. at these 500en shops or supermarket excellent bento area). It's amazing. In fact I haven't cooked a single time for myself while being here. On the other hand, prices in supermarkets are way more expensive than in Germany. I pay 50% to 100% extra compared to prices at Aldi or Lidl in Germany. Especially fruits (and anything fruit related), Jogurt (granted, not really a domestic product), bottled water and drinks in general. Even rice is about 100% more expensive (about 120en/kg for the cheap one in German supermarkets)!

This results in the funny situation that for me eating out at cheap shops in Japan is maybe 20-30% more expensive than cooking for myself, while in Germany eating out at cheap shops is 2 to 4 times more expensive than cooking for myself. In the end I can manage with ~900en per day in Germany, but have to cook myself 6 times a week, while I spend 1500en per day in Japan and eat out 7 days a week.

Edit2: Eating out foreign food in Japan (e.g. pizza) is extremely expensive though. While eating international cousine in Germany (including a lot of available Japanese sushi and Ramen restaurants) has absolutely no price difference to the domestic restaurants. Actually Chinese, Italian and Burgers are regularly cheaper than German restaurants.

Edit3: Bottled water is also an interesting one. The cheapest bottled water in Japan is about 8 times more expensive than the cheapest one in Germany. Yes the tap water has a good quality and is drinkable, but I'm a "water snob" and can't stand even a slight taste of chlorine and some other usual suspects. The only tap water I found acceptable was in Nagano.

That's what I mean with some countries being better in one area, while the others are better in another area. It's not that easily comparable and your expectations in another country are heavily influenced from what you are used at your home country.

> You might be correct though that you have less reason in Tokyo to go to the city center compared to a German city, e.g. for work, entertainment and night-live.

This is the misunderstanding most foreigners fall into.

There is no Tokyo City, there hasn't been for decades. You're travelling between cities, in Tokyo Metropolis, which is vast, think of it as a prefecture if that helps, since administratively speaking is closer to that. You can change cities by going from one train station in Taito to one in Chiyoda in a few minutes. Or spend 2-3 hours from Edogawa to Akiruno.

People do commute of course, millions of them from Saitama, Kanagawa or Chiba Prefecture into Tokyo. But it is equally normal for many other millions, and certainly desirable, to live and work in your city, which is one of many in Tokyo. So I take issue with "Tokyo is expensive"...

There are a myriad different offerings in living space in cities in Tokyo.

Setagaya, only one of the 23 central "wards" ( = cities, each with a City Hall and a Mayor ) has a million people. You can live, work, shop, go out and anything else you can think of without even leaving Setagaya.

To your point of foreign food in Japan, I find it to be of better quality than foreign food in Europe, where for instance 90% of Japanese restaurants are run by Chinese, and not that great, and Chinese restaurants have little or nothing to do with actual and good Chinese food. When in Japan you go to a pizzeria or trattoria where the owner / cook is Italian, or a Spanish tapas bar with a Basque owner, and they bring ingredients from Europe, that obviously is something you pay for.

Edit : I forgot to agree before on the very poor English skills of most Japanese.

I hope I'm not annoying you with my replies. I'm enjoying the friendly discussion.

> To your point of foreign food in Japan, I find it to be of better quality than foreign food in Europe.

That's mostly an illusion based on your expectation bias. Foreign food in Europe as well as in Japan is made to mostly cater for the local population. Pizza in Japan is twice the price and half the taste of most Pizza in Germany (in my small sample size of 2 pizzerias here, because I didn't like paying that much for something I don't like. Pizza is my favorite food though and I'm also very good in making it myself). But you probably like it more, because it uses less spices and Japanese food in general uses less spices. That's not an issue of quality, but of different expectation of taste.

I have been in Japan for 5 months and traveled for a month through 6 cities and to Okinawa, eating Ramen in every city at least once, but the best Ramen I had was still in Munich (by a Japanese chef). Not because the quality is better there, but because they added more species and more meat and that fits my taste. The sushi you get in German running sushi is mostly inside-out maki, with less nori and a higher amount of fish inside. I actually prefer it, but I would never say it's better quality than original Japanese sushi (I'm actually pretty sure the quality of the fish used is worse). Although I never liked miso soup before coming to Japan and I really like it here.

> Chinese restaurants have little or nothing to do with actual and good Chinese food.

Yes that's true and the same reason. Case in point, I personally strongly prefer German Chinese food over real Chinese food. Interestingly though "Chinese" food between Ireland and Germany have basically nothing in common but the name.

Well, this has gone off-topic quickly, but I certainly appreciate the notes comparing living standards and cultural differences. Whatever that may have to do with Recruit taking over the world, which I don't think is likely to happen at at all.

Certainly food talk is tricky, as it can be extremely subjective.

If you haven't yet, I recommend trying the local okonomiyaki in Hiroshima, cooked in front of you.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial should also be a mandatory trip for every school or university in the world.

Ah from my experience on HN derailing topics is acceptable as long as it stays constructive and new things are said. Also no one is forced to read a thread that already starts at ~3 levels deep, if he doesn't like the topic. It's really easy to just collapse that. I often really enjoy some threads that have derailed heavily, but tell me knew interesting things in a well written way.

I have seen the peace memorial. The children memorial close by left the most lasting impression. Ringing the peace bell was also a very special moment.

I only had Okonomiyaki in Osaka. Not cooked in front of me, but served on a hot plate built into the table and finished at the table with what I think was mayonnaise and dried tuna. It was good, but I will have no chance to visit Hiroshima again to compare.

Regarding water, I started drinking it bottled during the Fukushima accident in 2011, when in Katsushika City ( East of Tokyo ) they recommended not to give tap water to babies or young children for a few days when radiation readings briefly spiked. It took a few hours for bottled water to disappear that day... That one was scary.

Related, right now :


I'm having a little trouble following and replying the comments on multiple levels. Been a reader of HN for a couple of years, but a contributing user for only a few days.

> This results in the funny situation that for me eating out at cheap shops in Japan is maybe 20-30% more expensive than cooking for myself, while in Germany eating out at cheap shops is 2 to 4 times more expensive than cooking for myself. In the end I can manage with ~900en per day in Germany, but have to cook myself 6 times a week, while I spend 1500en per day in Japan and eat out 7 days a week.

I think the above explains most of my shock with food prices in Europe. Number 1, eating out is so much more expensive that it is ridiculous. And 2, I am used to all kinds of bento and so-called prepared meals in supermarkets in Japan, that simply do not exist in the West. I can buy ingredients in a Western supermarket and cook myself, or I can eat out, but I have no middle ( and for me the usual ) option to eat a cheap, but delicious and already prepared bento or similar meal.

But there's one more thing related to the above. All these fresh, short-lived meals in supermarkets and shops in Japan, start to get discounts in the afternoon, anywhere from 10% all the way to 70% as they get close to shutting down the store, because it's food that will be thrown away after that. ( Yes, it's a great and serious food waste issue. )

This system does not exist in the West. We've saved incredible amounts of money on high quality food going to shop at supermarkets and food stalls as late as possible over the years. A few of my favourite shops I have never been to before 19:00, ever ! Why pay 3,000 JPY for a sushi tray made at 7 AM and bought at 10 AM, when I can pay 1,200 JPY at 20:00 for the same sushi tray that was prepared at 18:00 and they will throw away at 21:00 ?

I would say when alone, I'm hovering myself between 1,400 and 1,800 yen daily for food, and very rarely cooking, because for one thing, I'd end up making the same exact food I buy ( or more appropriately, I should say the same meal ) and won't be as tasty, plus it'll take a time shopping and cooking that it's simply not worth the few extra hundred yen. Even 'junk food' ( by which I mean something like wakame onigiri or negitoro for instance ) is relatively healthy and dirt cheap. I wouldn't even know what to do with a 15 million yen salary, honestly. Crazy money.

> going to shop at supermarkets and food stalls as late as possible

Yes I do the same multiple days per week. It works surprisingly well here though. Rarely more than 3-4 boxes left on the shelf that has over a hundred around noon. Sometimes it was even fully sold out.

> I wouldn't even know what to do with a 15 million yen salary, honestly. Crazy money.

With higher salary easily come higher living standards. Bigger house, not looking at food prices so much, more expensive vacations.

I got by with 1.5million yen the last years, but could barely afford the 600million to 1 billion yen family house I would like to have one day (Munich, not SF!) even with a 10mil yen salary (6mil post tax) and no increase in living standards from the 1.5mil.

> With higher salary easily come higher living standards. Bigger house, not looking at food prices so much, more expensive vacations.

While I kind of understand it, I also see a difference in general between Japan and not just the West, but also many other places in Asia, notably Chinese cultures ( as referenced before, no discussions of salary for instance in Japan, and no showing-off of means even if you have them ) when it comes to contentment. To reach a point where you don't have to think about getting something better, and that's a decision to make, because there is always something better. As I also mention I keep hearing about 'stagnated economy' but I look around and I see me and everyone I care about being paid, living well. I don't care for 15 million as opposed to 4 in that sense.

お金持ち is easily thrown around slightly offensively in Japan, while in Taiwan callling you rich would be high praise.

I've downsized in many respects over the years. I could spend more on food now, but I don't need to. Used to live in a house 4 times bigger than now, and I wouldn't go back to it for anything now. I earned three times more 20 years ago ( and spent as much as I earned ), but as I also mentioned before, no money in the world is getting me into corporate Japan to die of karoshi or spend 90% of my time stressed, abused, and exhausted.

The only thing money could help with or improve in certain circumstances is health, which in the end is the only thing that really matters in life.

Living standards in Japan? You mean the minuscule apartments? The notoriously bad heating system (lack of isolation)? Overpriced food in general in supermarkets (with products made using 10x the levels of pesticides/fertilizers compared to other countries)? The fact that Japan rejected nuclear and now used coal and petrol to power its electrical grid (hence aerial pollution)?

Don't get me wrong, there are positive aspects to living in Japan, but there's a lot of trade-offs as well and level of life wise it's far from being all rosy in Japan.

With the exception of the ( usual, but not everywhere ) bad isolation, I can't quite agree at all. Maybe we don't go to the same supermarkets. I'm baffled by how expensive food is in Europe when I can buy the same products for less in Tokyo despite being imported ( Italian olive oil for instance ) and even niche ( the organic kind ) so there you go.

Agreed they compensated the closing of nuclear plants with coal and gas, as I already pointed out myself in another thread. But I'll take Tokyo's air any day over that of a European capital. Have you seen the grey mushrooms over them ? It's a world of cars and smog, not of trains.

Madrid, Paris, Milan :




Not to mention the fact that in many Western capitals you literally walk on garbage.

> Not to mention the fact that in many Western capitals you literally walk on garbage.

The discipline Japanese have in regards to garbage is astonishing. Especially if you consider how much plastic wrap they use. I was so surprised seeing basically no garbage on the streets, but also basically no public trash bins!

> I'm baffled by how expensive food is in Europe when I can buy the same products for less in Tokyo despite being imported ( Italian olive oil for instance )

I would be genuinely curious what part of Europe you are talking about here and what's the prices for what kind of quality of olive oil are in Toyko. I can imagine that for the UK or Ireland the prices are similar. Italian olive oil is imported and shipped to an island to the UK/Ireland as much as it is to Japan and the distance actually has a non-significant impact on shipping costs in that case.

Olive oil also ranges vastly in quality levels. I can buy the mid level for about 150en per 700ml, while I have to pay 600en per 500ml for "native oilive oil extra". The difference in taste is worth the four times price increase though.

In general I found Japanese supermarkets be way more expensive and eating out way less expensive than compared to Germany (can't speak for other European countries) as I have also pointed out here [1]. E.g. rice can be vastly more expensive, with rice in Germany being available in 1kg sizes for 120en/kg (even cheaper in larger sizes), while in Japan rice in 5kg or 10kg bags for 200en/kg is a bargain. Average rice prices are even cited at 466en/kg here [2] and foreign rice at 295en/kg cited as 20% cheaper and a good deal here [3].

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19238414

[2] https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?cou...

[3] https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Business-trends/Japan-s-pri...

Well, I really wish I knew more about Germany. Last time I was there was 2005-6 I think ?

My most recent trips have been to France and Italy for work and have spent many months in both. I can't get into specifics as well as you do with brands or prices, but I certainly found everything expensive, I do get that consumer taxes are over 20% ( as opposed to the 5% we were used to in Japan until the recent hike to 8% and the next that's coming to 10% ) but even taking that into account. Incredibly dirty, people in general very rude, and a general air of conflict and hostility everywhere that makes me wonder how Paris or Rome can be such popular tourist destinations.

Edit : Not to mention the ubiquitous soldiers everywhere with weapons deployed in the streets. Something else you don't see in Japan.

To me it seems like an indication of the differences in software vs other engineering that the conservatism that led to Japans world class mechanical and civil engineering acheivements has held back software engineering. For great cars, trains, electronics etc you can benefit from deep institutional knowledge(built by company loyalty and lifetime employment) and long product cycles. Whereas for software though there is the occasional airplane or medical device needing reliability, 99% of the time (and money) the move fast and break thing philosophy wins.

I agree with your general point (first paragraph) but second? Nintendo is doing just fine are they not? Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Switch Smash Brothers, Switch Splatoon. Labo, etc. The seem to be doing great, still making amazing quality titles compelling to global audiences.

Agree that Sony Japan has not done anything in a while.

>If anything, they will copy another global innovative company and dominate the domestic market but with no real innovation (look no further than the very mediocre Rakuten).

The real kicker was that Rakuten once referred to itself as "the Global Innovation Company".

The #1 largest market for GitHub is the US. The second largest group of users is from Japan. I'm surprised there aren't more startups from Japan. The people are tech savvy and the economic malaise exceeding 20 years should be pushing people towards entrepreneurship and risk taking.

According to Github’s own stats, Japan is eighth in both contributions and sign-ups.


Note that the way Github defines contributions is very fuzzy (signing up and opening a ticket is good enough to be considered a contributor). If we were to measure the number of commits or the number of lines of codes contributed I'd wage the picture would be quite different (and probably worse for Japan, but I could be wrong).

Bug-finding is contributing.

Sure, but it's not the same as being an actual developer.

oof. I've hired people just to find bugs.

I counter that economic malaise stifles innovation as it promotes playing it safe to protect your future.

Japan is definitely not savvy when it comes to software engineering. I'd say they're not really that tech savvy either. A lot of their tech is very dated.

From what I know, Japanese companies are pretty resistant to using new software technology. (Someone, please correct me if I'm wrong).

Hey, Japanese companies still require fax for many things, so your statement is absolutely correct :-) Joking aside, yes this is true. Most companies run on Excel.

True, and finding good talent here which is good with new tech is also quite difficult.

Why be an entrepreneur when there’s so much social glory in being a salaryman?

There is no glory in being in salaryman. I'm not sure where you heard that but salaryman has almost always been a derogatory term.

This was posted awhile back, is this inaccurate? https://www.kalzumeus.com/2014/11/07/doing-business-in-japan...

While they may be held back by Japan’s insular culture, that very weakness is also a moat.

Their business idea seem original: put yourself between customers and services.

Just another rent seeker

I remember Recruit developed one of Nintendo's first online platforms, Randnet [1]. After trying to pioneer in this space on each of their early consoles, only to see it fail to gain traction with their customers, Nintendo let online gameplay and networking take a back seat. Microsoft and Sony (and Sega) jumped on board that train with the very next generation of consoles and became leaders in online console gaming.

[1] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/64DD

They are also the holding company which owns Indeed.com

Yep. They are using Indeed talent and culture to help drive their expansion.

From what I know about the tech/talent there, it won't be happening any time soon

So it's a wannabe WeChat, basically.

I still find it very difficult to trust Bloomberg after “The Big Hack” was widely refuted without a retraction. Now whenever I read a Bloomberg puff peice like this, I’m wondering who’s agenda they’re serving. Who’s got all the Recruit stock that wants to see it rise? How much of the article is twisted to paint this company in a positive light? They’re not a trustworthy publication anymore.

Hey, folks thought Echelon was a joke in the 90's until Snowden showed that Echelon is child's play.

The Big Hack might be true or not, but it's not far fetched. There might be more at play here. Watch this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqQhWitJ1As&feature=youtu.be

> The Big Hack might be true or not

So where is even the evidence that it might be true? Bloomberg did a fluff piece without any data or evidence to support their claims. And worse than anything, they kept their story alive despite all the suspicion raised by other companies. That's pretty bad for a journalistic body.

> folks thought Echelon was a joke

I'm not sure what sources you refer to, but most people at the time thought that something like Echelon was true in some form or another. The main thing that Snowden did is to show evidence of wrongdoing, the extent of the data collection scope, and the complicity of numerous high profile companies.

The issue is that Bloomberg couldn’t provide any real evidence for their claims when pressed.

That's standard practice for media these days. One recalls the dozens of breathlessly reported then forgotten inside of a week "inside leaks" about "Russian collusion".

Few are denying that the Chinese Government spys, vacuums up as much data as possible and generally should not be trusted.

But the specific allegations raised in the "The Big Hack" appear to be without basis.

In my mind it looks more like "Weapons of Mass Destruction" BS that once saturated the media.

I guess to avoid having such a huge scandal[1] again, it makes sense to preempt any negative spin by admitting that they had problems, and putting focus on how they turned it around instead.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recruit_scandal

I was just thinking about that article the other day - do we know that a retraction was needed? I saw all the refutation but never saw Bloomberg back down, and honestly I'm not sure how these things normally work. I guess I'm just wondering why you're so confident Bloomberg was serving an agenda?

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