ASUNCION – Descendants of Japanese immigrants in Paraguay are drawing the attention of Japanese companies that have entered, or hope to enter, the South American country.
With many young descendants fluent in Japanese, companies are looking at them as a reliable workforce.
“It is easy to communicate with them and they pick things up quickly,” an official at a Japanese shipbuilding company said.
At a condominium in Asuncion, four Japanese descendants work on digitizing housing designs sent from System Design Co., a homebuilder based in Yokohama.
Work directives are written in Japanese.
Born in southern Paraguay, Estela Nakagoe, 30, works as a contact for the Japanese company. Despite living in Japan for just a little over a year, she is fluent in Japanese.
“I learned the importance of Japanese from my grandmother,” Nakagoe said.
Koshi Niibori, president of System Design, opened an office in Paraguay in 2013 to outsource some of the company’s work to Japanese descendants.
“We can place job orders in Japanese and the labor costs are low,” he said.
The number of Japanese descendants in Paraguay stands at some 7,000, compared with 1.6 million in Brazil and 90,000 in Peru.
Still, the number of Japanese companies operating in Paraguay has doubled to 14 since President Horacio Cartes took office in 2013. The former businessman has been pushing to lure overseas companies.
“Some other Japanese companies are considering doing business in Paraguay,” a source said.
Also, “the Japanese community in Paraguay has one of the highest Japanese language levels among descendants of Japanese immigrants in South American countries,” a diplomatic source said.
According to Hiromichi Maehara, head of an association for Japanese in Paraguay, most Japanese immigrants in the country settled there after 1955.
“Many first-generation Japanese immigrants are still doing well,” he said, adding that their descendants have had many opportunities to use the language at home.
Against this background, it was not uncommon for Paraguay-born descendants of Japanese immigrants to communicate with each other in Japanese, he explained.
The increase in the number of Japanese companies was also providing greater job opportunities for Japanese-Paraguayans, which was boosting motivation among children to learn Japanese.
The association runs 11 Japanese schools across Paraguay. “The language is the center of Japanese culture that should be passed on to descendants,” Maehara said.