japanese architecture studios/avg salary?


I am thinking about moving and working in Japan and was wondering how much Japanese architecture offices pay for an entry-level architects.

I heard that it is pretty tough working there, but is it the same for a famous offices with a lot of ongoing projects? (ie. Ito, Kuma, Sejima...) can anyone give me the actual numbers?


Sep 6, 10 3:24 am

rough figure for sejima. - zero for the first six months.

Sep 6, 10 3:58 am

sounds like slavery


sounds like a lot of American firms


A friend of mine worked at a firm in Japan for a summer. They agreed to a small compensation, but they had to pay him in cash literally under the table. They would leave the money in a small box under his desk every 2 weeks.


to sum it up. Zero.

knew people from ito.

Sep 6, 10 4:03 am
zen maker

Millions! in yen not dollars hehehe

Sep 6, 10 1:34 pm

millions in yen would be good.

more like 140,000 to 200,000 yen/month if you are a proper staff in tokyo in typical office. if its starchitecture you seek and internship is ok then yeah it is about zero. i can't remember if ito and sejima cover transportation costs, but they might. typical train fare per day is about 600 yen, so if you are lucky you will make that at least.

a more corporate office will offer you 300,000 to 400,000 yen/month if you have some experience. that is a livable wage in tokyo even if you have a family.

to put in context rent for a small flat (say 25 to 35m2) in centre of city is between 50,000 to 100,000 yen/month. be ready to pay deposit and key money (2 months rent as gift to the owner - this is not negotiable usually)

now just to scare you off, my friend with a license and a master of architecture degree at japanese ivy worked for years for a small starchitecture office. the friend learned a LOT. wages were 140,000/month. that is good wage. friend did not need anything but money for rent because hours were 9am to midnight or later every day, essentially 7 days a week. said friend is currently one of the few I know who has some strong chance to become a starchitect. i never heard a complaint. that is what it takes to be architect here. we all have done it (myself i enjoyed my years of marathon hours immensely and would not trade for anything).

Sep 6, 10 8:27 pm

Thank you jump what about kengo kuma? I heard that office is little better

Sep 6, 10 9:16 pm

there are also the corporate firms, decent pay (not sure what it is right out of school), health care, commute costs, but working late and some weekends w/o star power

Sep 6, 10 9:41 pm

a friend of mine was offered a job at sanaa, turned it down to take a job at Nikken Sekkei (huge corporate office- 2800ppl) won't have to think hard to guess the reason.

Sep 7, 10 2:54 am

how kuma runs his office i know only second hand. he is by all accounts a rather good businessman and pays typical wages to start and as you move up wages improve. i do not know what that all translates to in real numbers, but would not expect much. i do know that his staff work very very long hours and also do quite interesting work. he also is happy to give responsibility to his staff, so it is a place of opportunity that is not common in lots of studios.

nikken sekkei is like som, but they also build what they design. they are an enormous company and pay is therefore better. the work is not amazing, and opportunity to be in charge are zero and will not likely improve. on other hand the quality of detailing and technical ability is quite high so i guess it would be a great place to learn the ropes.

sanaa is killer work place, in both good and bad meanings of the word. it will be interesting to see if they become more professional as they enter the post-pritzker phase of their career.

Sep 7, 10 3:15 am

sanaa last I heard was a brutal place. But that was a while ago so perhaps the post pritzer era is different

Sep 8, 10 3:59 pm

nah..i don't think sanaa has changed. when my friend was offered a job she was also told she has to bring her own computer with sw!!!

Sep 8, 10 5:36 pm

"sanaa last I heard was a brutal place."

I find this kind of funny considering their designs are so minimal and friendly...

Sep 9, 10 9:09 am

that's encouraging. I can do corporate.

Sep 13, 10 12:49 am

i know this is a little bit of a late reply. but may i ask what is meant be 'brutal..' (other than the working hours which i understand is very very long)

Nov 23, 10 2:55 am

how difficult is it for foreigners to break into offices like kuma, ito, sejima... and also more corporate japanese firms?

i understand our value to chinese firms, but would be surprised if we had the same level of welcome in japanese firms.

Nov 23, 10 9:51 am

if you don't know japanese language or the cultural nuances, I wouldn't look too far into the corporate firms -- all the japanese students are vying for these positions anyway.

the hiring process is rigid and formal: japanese students have to prepare their resumes/porfolios almost a year beforehand.

would agree with others, the hours are intense and the pay nothing, but if you can manage, you'll learn an incredible amount in a short time period.

Nov 23, 10 6:54 pm

you have a chance to get a job. you would be treated a bit different from the japanese staff (meaning if you stay long enough you WILL hit a ceiling while Japanese staff will not, even if you speak fluent japanese) which is both a good and bad thing if you are clever enough.

is visa an issue? i doubt many would be willing to support you unless they were hiring you as proper architect.

unlike mk2 i would say the less competitive places for foreigners are the large corporate firms. sure seems that way to me looking from the outside. not sure if any of those are hiring right now. good chance that they are not.

kuma is busy. entry exam is a day long which is pretty big investment of time and effort and i guess that means you need to be here...

i guess the thing is to just try and see where it leads...

Nov 23, 10 9:34 pm

This discussin is 5years ago.Do anybody know the recent salary?

Because as i know, in kego kuma ,intern salary is 50000 JPY for the first month and from the second month is 120000 JPY. I really want to know what is the price for formal staff for who has a master degree in architecture and with a 1-2 years experience?


As the disccusion above, someone say a person with mater degree and few years experience just 140000 JPY per month, i am guessing now the salary must rise a lot since the rent and everything rise a lot.50000 JPY cannot rent a small flat now in a the center of tokyo,25-35 m2 is not small at all,this price now can only live in a shared room just 10 m2.

Dec 18, 15 10:51 am

Do Japanese architecture offices work longest hours in the world? 

I used to work in a star office in China.It is also a low salary and long hours working place, but we don't consider Saturdays is a working day, we sometimes works at Saturday but it depends on the need. We don't work form 9am until midnight every working days.Sometimes we do the same thing, but just sometime, not every day.......we have alredy think that is too hard, i dont know how these people who work in japanese office survival?

I am totally freak out about that, why not just make it a bit relax, it will be more sustainable........

Dec 18, 15 11:14 am

From the Glassdoor, i found a lot of comment from variety architecture famous firms around the world,for example, SOM,ZAHA HADID,UNSTUDIO.  There is no other comment worse than kengo kuma in the length of working hours.The other star office in the other country also work carsy hours but noramlly just depend on projects need.but japanese office seem like forever work long hours.........never have a breathe, i think it is unhealthy for the employee.

Dec 18, 15 11:27 am

Hey everyone,

I am working in Japanese Starchitect firm for over 2 years now (2017), and I can assure you, all starchitects firms mostly the same. Long hours and really low pay. For single its ok, but for family it's really hard. Basically you get a bit better salary that staff at Seven-Eleven. It gets is so ridiculous sometimes, with all the overtime (which is not paid) you can make more working in convenient store.  

Anyways, here is the deal, in our office: 

For starters it's 130000 yen/ month, no transportation fee coverage unless you travel for business, bonuses are twice a year, usually around  a salary or two, depends on the year's income (despite the fact that projects fees and millions in dollars), for beginners it sometimes is 6  months salaries as a bonus to trick them to stay in office (but only for first time, then it is back to normal), as Japanese people feel guilty when they are overpaid, so they kinda pay respect to stay in the firm longer. (also exclude 50000 yen for taxes and other stuff, so consider only 80000 yen, where you still have to pay the rent which is around 50000 in the vicinity, and naturally food, but you can do ass most of the staff does and survive on cupnoodles)

For Masters situation a bit better, its 180000 yen / month - taxes, so 13000yen.

For experienced architects or people who came from other offices salary is about 250000 yen/ month - taxes, but do not get excited too much, as they compensate this with bonuses.

Working hours are ridiculous, really long hours. And productivity is not matching the time spent on work. In general people coming to office with the idea they gonna stay longer until midnight, therefore there are no intentions to work faster. Why would you, if you got so much time. As for myself I work fast and efficient, and finish all my work before deadlines and go home early, recently they really wondering how can I manage to go home that early and finish work in time without effect on the outcome quality. Magic!

Working in such place is a tricky, it depends what they have planned for you. They need people to do the dirty job, people with no strong plan for future or ambitions. So some people worked here for 5+ years and haven't done any designs or projects themselves. From the first day of my work I did my own design, which infact was chosen from the few other designs by the client, and that made good reputation as "Can do guy" for management and bad looks from old staff, especially those who worked there for few years and do only CG or touch-ups. 

Therefore saying it is really great place for fast learning is not exactly the true. They can keep you away from real architectural work.  

Design process is not as everyone think it is, you can't even imagine how many no-brainers we design, and then attach meaning and ergonomic schemes, when usually you do the opposite. And how every single project starts with Pinterest. Except the Boss, he is real deal, that why he is the Boss, he can generate ideas instantly, and also he is really good at manipulating people, gotta learn that from him. 

If you have any further questions, I will answer them, u can catch me up on Facebook. 

Mar 9, 17 10:11 pm

25k yen for a senior architect? that's extremely shit, how do you survive?


Barely making, but as I said, there are bonuses 2 times a years, and this is just enough to deal with accumulated bills. But experience wise it is amazing. World-wide projects and you get to know people, connections, workflow etc. But reading the contracts with clients and see how much they get for each projects, let you down so much! Since our staff is only 15 architects and 2 office staff where all the money goes haha.

P.S. After taxes it is 21K


Jeez, I made 300,000/mo teaching English in Japan working 35hrs/week.


I can't find you on facebook


hi, I'm an architecture student, trying for an internship in kuma.. tezuka.. sana .. jun aoki.. shigeru ban ...tatsu masuda.. still working on my portfolio.. is there a particular time on the year they take interns or is it all through the year? im really interested working there, dont mind thats unpaid either ^_^'.. wondering when would be the best time to send it..

Jun 27, 17 7:40 am

About internships, any office looks for interns any time (it's free labour for them, after all...) so you can apply simply sending your portfolio at the email you find on the website. Shigeru Ban and some others have very specific requirements on lenght, weight and format of portfolio, so just make sure you check the websites out carefully


Thank u so much i got into C+A tokyo and i guess I'll be going ahead with it... Thank you. Do you have any tips i should keep in mind?


What is the most popular software Japanese use ?

Oct 9, 17 4:00 am

JWCad or Autocad


Sketchup and Vectorworks


starting salary for new graduate or less than 3 years experience:
180.000-220.000yen/month depending on company size. Some try to fuck you over and offer less because you're a foreigner.

I can encourage everyone not to work in a starchitect office, at least not in Japan. And most of all don't do unpaid interships. You learn nothing.
The only benefit it has it looks good on your CV but in reality nobody gives a shit where you worked. Only experience counts and you can get that in EVERY office. Starchitects "only cook with water" like everyone else. They do nothing special of different. You won't "design" anything there, you will just do the (boring) planning work which is exactly the same in every office.

I have started an (obviously unpaid) internship at Shigeru Ban although I already had a master degree and a year of professional experience. The other interns where all student in their second year or so but still they gave me the same shit work. It was horrible. Long hours, steep hierarchy (among the regular employees), stupid boring work. As an intern there you are worth less than a dog there, the regular employees don't even greet or talk to you. They make you build models or fix some drawings at best. I quit after a short while, since I saw no benefit of continuing. I didn't learn anything, nor did I get paid, nor was the work interesting.  

I had several interviews afterwards. One offered only 130.000/month (minus about 20% taxes/insurance) and an employee claimed he earns the same low amount... yeah right. You can't possible survive in Tokyo for that amount. The company was small, only 3 employees though.  

Now I work in an office that does mostly interior design but the boss is a licensed architect. Starting salary 220.000/month for the first 3 months (trial) but I guess they are willing to pay more if you speak japanese or have a little experience. Afterwards I will be able to negotiate more. Don't know yet how much but I guess 250.000 will be in it minimum.  

It's sad that this industry pays that low unless you have 10+ years experience. I have friends in the IT industry who earn fresh out of university almost double than me (not in japan but compared to my salary in the same country)

Nov 12, 17 9:59 pm

I am an architecture graduate in India with a year of experience in residential projects and fluent in Japanese. I want to work in a normal size firm in Japan. Can anyone tell me what will be the average salary for someone like me? I dont want to necessarily work with a starchitect or live in Tokyo. Thanks in advance for the advice .


Fresh graduate architect in big corporate firms (Nikken Sekkei, Nihon Sekkei, Kume Sekkei, Takenaka, Obayashi, Shimizu, etc.)

+ Good salary (250k~ for fresh undergrads, 280k~ for fresh grads), if you work overtime there is a bonus (limited within a set amount of hours, though.)

+ Insurance, housing support, transportation, paid leave, vacation, bonus twice a year, etc.

+ Work life balance is good compared to starchitects offices

- You have to compete with top Japanese students and often people from top architecture universities in the world (preparation is the key)

- With your foreign mother tongue, an additional language fluency (normally English) and around N3 in Japanese is a great advantage (which literally means that if you're a foreigner you need to be trilingual)

- Only around 30 people are hired per year per company (both Japanese and foreigner), but your position is seishain (正社員) (official staff, not contract staff, which is immensely different with all the bonuses)

- Still you need to always improve your Japanese. It is important. 

Information got from people who have experienced the journey.

Nov 18, 17 2:59 am


I am an architecture graduate in India with a year of experience in residential projects and fluent in Japanese. I want to work in a normal size firm in Japan. Can anyone tell me what will be the average salary for someone like me? I dont want to necessarily work with a starchitect or live in Tokyo. Thanks in advance.

May 29, 18 6:11 pm

nothing has changed in the intervening years. Costs and wages are about constant for the last decade, possibly for 20 years.  Wages are low and hours are long in most offices.

We are not hiring, but we work 10am to 8pm mon to fri. The partners work extra hours and no days off, generally speaking, but we don't ask staff to do the same except in special circumstances. Architecture is a dog eat dog world and it is not easy in a world city like tokyo or new york. It creates perverse conditions that only make sense in this location. That is not a defense of how things are run, but it is the reality, like it or not. Every one is hustling.

If you want a normal life then the best option is to aim for a corporate position.

If you want to work in a star office here as an employee then I recommend going to uni here. It's the best intro to the offices. Sejima, Maki, Kuma, Ban are connected to Keio. Kuma is currently at U of Tokyo so going there is a good way to get into his office. Otherwise you can indeed try the roulette of submitting a portfolio and start as intern. There are hundreds running through the system every year. Not many become regular employees. I think is worth it, personally, just to see how things are done, even from the bottom. Just don't make any plans based on the experience.

May 29, 18 10:38 pm

Why work so many hours? Maybe make decisions without building 500 physical models. We have computers now. 

May 30, 18 6:14 am

Hi. Hope someone answer me. It will be a good thing when someone who work in japan as an architect. 

I'm an architectural student from Philippines and my graduation is next year 2019. Originally i'm a Japanese Citizen who grew up here in philippines and i'm not able to visit Japan in a long period of time. Also i am not capable of speaking the japanese language (although im planning to learn in a couple of months) after graduation im planning to move to Japan and I have several questions:

- is it possible for me to work as a fresh graduate (architecture) in japan?

- after my graduation i'm planning to go to japan. Is it okay if i don't have any work experience aside from my Work experience during Internship while i'm studying?  

-what company in japan is english-friendly architectural firm? And for fresh graduate, what is the most typical salary? 

And lastly..

-what you guys think is better? Working in a big and well-known company or just a small architectural firm?

Thankyou! Hope someone can help me. I really wanted to work in Japan. 

Sep 14, 18 4:58 am

the above thread literally answers every question you ust layed out. If you have Japanese citenzhip you will find some things easier but the rest is the same. Not acting Japanese will be harder for you. People will expect it if you look like you were born here. For the rest, well if you want to earn money then go to the corporate office if you can get in. Studios will take you for free for months and then let you go. Dont expect to get a job after 6 month free internship. The studios are not set up for that. Some stay, but its not an escalator. More like climbing up a muddy slope with pools of water here and there to wallow in.


Thankyou so much!

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