IT Help Desk Opportunities
Probably the easiest way for bilingual people to break into the IT field in Tokyo, if they don't have much IT work experience, is by joining an IT Help Desk. There is a perpetual shortage of Help Desk people because the position is considered entry level and thus people graduate out of it quite quickly, and also because it requires a unique skill set - which can be hard to find.
The primary consideration for an analyst, which is how the industry refers to Help Desk people, is the ability to communicate and to communicate on a level that the user can trust. Thus you really do need to be bilingual at a spoken level. At DaiJob we usually tell people that you need to have the equivalent of 1kyuu (JLTP) spoken Japanese or TOEIC 760+, essentially business level Japanese and English. Your reading and writing need not be so advanced.
People who would almost automatically qualify on the language requirement include those Japanese readers who have studied for a degree overseas, foreigners who have done a year as an exchange student outside the Tokyo area, Monbusho scholars, and JETs participants on the CIR track.
Once you have your Japanese qualification, employers are usually looking for some IT background. How do you get this if you haven't had a job in IT? Probably the best way is to start messing around with PCs and servers at home. Build your own server, set up your own network, create your own e-commerce web site, learn how to create and use a database tool like Access. Needless to say, you should also be absolutely familiar with Microsoft Office, both in English and Japanese, and probably be up to the level of being able to create Macros. There are plenty of correspondence courses around that will help you become familiar with the terminology and concepts.
Notice that I've focused on the hardware aspects of computing. You could also learn Java and Perl, but Help Desk work is usually all about computer users who are expert in their particular field, but somewhat helpless with common computer problems. They are typically managers, sales staff, and back office people that are unlikely to be developing software.
You may feel that you don't have the budget to play with and learn about computers, I would argue that JPY 100,000 spent wisely down in Akihabara, buying second-hand parts and building your own servers and networks can go a long way in helping you learn about the fundamentals of IT hardware. With a bit of searching you can also buy out-of-date software, particularly server software. The key point here is to get your hands dirty and learn the concepts. Also get on the Net and find one of the many explanations on different parts of computing. Be sure that you're totally familiar with the terminology, so that when you go into that first interview, you know what a hard disk partition is and how to set it up, or you know what a subnet is and how to get lots of users on to a single Internet connection.
Most people stay on a Help Desk for about 12 to 18 months. While they learn how large companies work, how to deal with people, and how to think logically and get things done. It's a challenging job and often you're the first line of defense for an irate user who is sufficiently frustrated that they can't be nice when they talk to you. But at the same time it is also a rewarding job, and nothing beats the feeling you get when you fix someone's problem and help them meet their deadline or produce an outstanding client presentation.
Help Desk jobs are most commonly found through outsourcing vendors like my own company LINC Media, in the BiOS Division, as well as many other quality vendors in town, such as Panache, Eire Systems, and others. Positions usually start at around
JPY 250,000 per month for people with reasonable PC-server knowledge and move up to about JPY 350,000. After that, you should be looking at a promotion to engineering, either as a desktop customer support engineer, or as a testing and user specifications engineer for a software development team.