Kyle Gearhart

株式会社 nana music
iOS Developer



Hello current Longhorns and fellow alumni, my name is Kyle Gearhart, a UT Austin alumni and current resident of Tokyo, Japan. I have called the Land of the Rising Sun home for a total of two years of my life, and would love to impart a bit about my experiences living and working here in the hope that they may prove insightful to any person with an interest in making a similar leap.

My interest in Japan is probably quite similar to many other young American people these days in that it is rooted almost entirely in the "Soft Power" of Japan. Nintendo, Sony, Funimation, etc., managed to bound over the Pacific Ocean and introduce to me this intriguing and wonderful country and its culture at an early age. This truth, is why I can still confidently say that I know every lyric of the Pokemon theme song, as well as what in the world was ailing the Deku Tree in the Kokiri Forest.

It was this vague interest which guided my conscious self, sort of unknowingly, to choose Japanese as my foreign language of choice while pursuing my Computer Science degree at UT and to eventually add it as a second major. For me, Japanese proved to be a fantasic contrast with computer science, and I loved going back and forth between the two during my time in university.

An aside about Japanese study: my techniques were a little different than most others. In addition to normal coursework, I basically jumped whole-heartedly into the lifestyle presented to me by this blogger "Katsumoto" at His writing is what led me to discover "Heisig's Remembering the Kanji" and the Anki SRS which gave me an entirely new perpective and approach to learning the Japanese language outside of the classroom.

Although the ideas presented on that blog have sort of evolved since I discovered it in 2009, I still feel that the most important crux is still there to be found: that language learning is, and should, be fun. Personally, reading that blog flipped the psychological switch going from "can not" to "why not". It was this methodology of supplementary study, as well as the wonderful faculty and Japanese program at UT, to which I credit my relatively quick acquisition of the Japanese language.

That aside, my actual first visit to the real place of Japan was in the summer of 2011 for a six-week study abroad in Tokyo at Meikai University. During that time I cavorted around Japan with my fellow American study abroaders and Japanese university friends. That was one of the greatest summers of my lifetime. Traveling to Kamakura, visiting a maid cafe in Akihabara, playing a shamisen with a traditional group of Japanese musicians, and climbing Mt. Fuji were but a few of the precious memories from this short but sweet stay.

This experience succeeded in breaking the metaphorical ice with the idea of leaving the US to work, and allowed me to entertain the idea of moving to Japan for the first time. For those of you with similar aspirations, I certainly recommend doing a study abroad if only for a summer as it will allow you to honestly examine whether living here would be a realistic thing that you could actually be satisfied with once commiting to it.

Anyway, fast forward to October 2012. I'm a senior and it's time to find a job. I am walking in a massive exhibition center attempting to navigate the football-field-length aisleways at the Boston Career Forum: a job fair specifically tailored to help Japanese-English bilinguals find work utilizing their language skills. Dressed in the only suit I had, and holding tens of resumes I had hand-written the night before, I attempted to digest what exactly these Japanese companies did and determine if I would want to work for them. I had no idea what I wanted.

The forum was three-days long with interviews happening almost immediately if a particular company was keen following a viewing of your resume or meeting you. In addition to interviews I managed at the event, there were a few which I arranged or even had beforehand via Skype. This forum is quite possibly the best opportunity to quickly land a job in Japan, but it certainly takes a ton of preparation when you factor in looking at company information, sending in entry sheets to arrange interviews ahead of time, going to Boston, and hand-writing all those dang resumes. (I do believe that you could type them, and maybe you should, but I suppose I was trying to get ahead of the competition.)

This whirlwind of an experience ended with me having a single offer to work in Japan at the telecommunications company, NTT. This was absolutely surreal, following three interviews (all in Japanese), I was hired on, for life. The interviewers invited us that received offers to a fancy seafood dinner where they talked to us as if we were all already part of the family and were undoubtedly going to begin work in Tokyo following graduation. This was kind of un-nerving for me, although it was what I had wanted, it felt a bit like it was decided for me, I was thinking: "I haven't signed anything yet. I have other options. Should they be talking like this?." In addition, conversation that evening was all in Japanese, something that I was entirely not up to the task of yet.

Nevertheless, that ended up being my most interesting job offer at the time of my graduation, so I took the jump and flew to Japan in March of 2013. What met me on the other side was an entirely different world. I joined NTT with over 200 other people my age, 20 or so were other foreigners from Korea, Vietnam, China, Turkey, and India. We were put through three months of training in different departments: for me, it was single-month rotations in Sales, and Operations twice. Following this, the place and position of our work was decided for us and told to us in an interesting ceremonial fashion individually on the same day.

Friends of mine were sent to do Sales in Hokkaido, Kyoto, and Osaka, others left a month later to work in Europe or Southeast Asia, while the rest of us were placed in the various offices in Tokyo doing various different things. As an American, this system was very tough to be at peace with. It seemed like our fates were decided for indeterminate amounts of time, doing work which wasn't necesarrily enabling us to apply our learnings from university. Fortunately, I myself was placed in the Cloud Services Division which had me feeling that I'd be able to apply both my Computer Science and Japanese Language degrees effectively.

My time working there was certainly pleasant. I learned a good deal of Japanese, Japanese business customs, as well as about networking and cloud services. I was quite fond of my co-workers and felt a certain warmth emanating from a great deal of the people which I had regular interactions with. In addition, the huge number of similar-aged friends I made at the beginning of my employment provided tons of social opportunities for the weeknights and weekends.

Despite the pleasantries, there was a constant nagging which came from within me crying out against the fact that I was having no opportunity to do the programming work I had done in university and no definite prospects to do so in the future. I voiced my concerns to my boss, to Human Resources, and felt that they did and promised what they could, but in the end I decided to take matters into my own hands. I began to scour the web for ways in which to find programming work in Japan.

Through a domestic service called Riku-Navi, countless recruiters, LinkedIn, and events I found on, I continued a job-search which was fruitless for about 10 long months. During this time, I was working on average from 9-7:30 at my day-job and then trying to do my own programming work on the side to show the employers which I was also interviewing with in those few remaining pockets of time in my week.

I built entire iOS apps for companies, interviewed with about 15, and was rejected by all. Needless to say, I had some times there where I was just fed up with it all and questioned if staying in Japan would be good for me professionally and emotionally. It was also at this time that other friends of mine who had made the jump to Asia with me following graduation were heading back to the US to pursue work which could become a satisfying career for them. This was something I also wanted, and wasn't about to give up on Japan as a workplace just yet.

It was at that time that I discovered a newly launched job-search site called It was created by a Japanese venture company, and served to provide a way for small domestic startups to find programmers, designers, and business people to help their ideas take shape and flourish. This was where I got my break; this was where I found "nana", an itty-bity start-up making a music application for mobile and web. I immediately used the site to apply to "go visit" their office, and promptly received a reply from the CEO himself.

I visited them in a co-working space to find a small table crammed full of about 12 individuals under the banner of "nana music". I spoke with the CEO and lead iOS developer about my desires and they seemed to take an interest in me. That evening they asked me back for a second interview where I was extended an offer which would take effect once funding was recieved to pay me with.

Funding didn't come in for a few more months, but when it did I received a message from the CEO and was immediately catapaulted up to cloud nine. To do engineering work in Japan had been the plan all along, and I was finally granted that opportunity. I stared, elated, at the gigantic fountain in the middle of the cafe I had been programming in.

Anyway, I have now been working at this quaint venture company for almost three months and have loved every minute of it. Working out of a two-story apartment with other fun-loving individuals with similar interests is nothing short of amazing. I love the Agile development methodologies we use, and everything about my development environment: my very own Mac that I bring into the office each day.

Now that I'm happy with my job, I'm exploring more of my interests and just overall enjoying my time here to the fullest. There were some speed bumps along the way, but now I'm entirely satisfied with where I am in life and excited for what the future has in store.

That's my story.

Anyway, I'll end with what I'll call advice to anyone wanting to move to and work in Japan as a programmer:

1. You'll want to be able to speak, and hopefully read Japanese. This will be incredibly useful in your private and professional life here. It's like what my Indian co-worker said once: "It doesn't matter how fantastic your ideas are if you can't communicate them to those you're working with".

2. Although there is a possibility that you'll find programming work at the Boston Career Forum, I pray that you do in-depth research of your employer and double-check your work-content before you jump at any opportunity. Don't be shy in utilizing other methods like Wantedly, LinkedIn, or simply e-mailing a company via their official website. It'll be tough to find one which wants to sponsor your visa, but, if it's what you want, you'll find some way, even if that's changing jobs after gaining some experience in the US.

3. Get some side-projects going and put them on GitHub. If it's the case that you're interviewing without experience, these precious files on the web will become a great ally. Pointing to a working project on your own phone or on the web will put you in a much better position to land a job.

4. Develop your love for Japan. Explore its nooks an crannies. Listen to Japanese music, watch Japanese films, anime, TV shows, read a novel, heck, even eat a bowl of Gyuudon or real Japanese-style Ramen. Anything like this will help make that connection, your knowledge of, and developed interest in Japan will drive you whenever you find difficulty in your pursuit of work, or while adjusting to living here and leaving your homeland.

5. Have fun along the way.










 日本語の勉強について少し補足すると、自分の学び方が他の同級生とは少し違いました。授業以外には、見つけた「カツモト」というブロガーが書いた「言語学習生活」の中に心からのめり込みました。(ちなみに、彼のサイトは。彼が書いた言葉のお陰で「Heisig's Remembering the Kanji」と「Anki SRS」を見つけて、他とは違う観点とやり方で日本語の独学が暇な時間にできました。














 訪問先が渋谷にあるコーワーキングスペースでした。そこにあった小テーブルでぎっしり詰まった12人が「nana music」の旗の下で働いていました。CEOとiOSのリード開発者と一緒に自分の希望について話をしたら、相手に結構興味を持っていただいているような雰囲気がしました。その夜、二次面接の招待を頂いて、そこで会社の資金調達が出来次第に内定が確定されるということが言われました。






1. 日本語を話すことと読むことができたら、プライベートでも仕事でも非常に役に立つから、努力して身につけましょう。僕のインド人の同僚が「どんなに素晴らしいアイデアであっても、一緒に仕事しているに伝えることができないなら、価値はない」と言っていました。

2. ボスキャリでプログラマーの仕事を見つける可能性があると思いますが、業務内容をコミットする前に二度確認しましょう。Wantedly、LinkedIn、会社への直メールなどの媒体に対して遠慮をなくしましょう。ビザをスポンサーしてくれる会社を見つけるのがかなり大変だと思うますが、どうしてもそれがしたかったら、何らかの方法があると信じています。アメリカの会社で経験を積んでから転職するという手であっても。

3. プライベートでプロジェクトをやって、GitHubに段々コードを載せていきましょう。無経験の状態で面接を受けているのなら、こういうプロジェクトは貴重です。自分が作ったプロジェクトを見せられたら、その会社に受かる可能性がかなり高くなると思います。

4. 日本に対しての愛を育てましょう。隅々まで日本を知ろうとしましょう。日本の音楽、映画、アニメ、テレビ番組、小説、日本風ラーメン、牛丼、なんでもかんでも知って日本の好きなことをコツコツ増やしていきましょう。そうすれば、就活や日本の生活でつらい時が来ても、好きなことがちゃんとあるというのが励みになって、乗り越えやすくなります。

5. そして、精一杯楽しんでください。


last modified 4/16/15