On the shop floor of a factory filled with the telltale scent of welded metal, Japanese-Brazilians are working hard to produce filtering tanks for lubricating oil.

“If the tank leaks, it will be big trouble,” an employee at a Bunshodo Corp. factory in Kani, Gifu Prefecture, said in fluent Japanese.

Just like the factories themselves, some Japanese-Brazilians in the manufacturing sector have become indispensable to companies in the Tokai region because they have developed their mastery of their craft to the level of artisans.

Twenty years have passed since the revised Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Law took force. The law opened the door for people of Japanese descent to acquire residential status in Japan, allowing Japanese-Brazilians, who have journeyed in the search for jobs and work experience in Japan, to play an essential role in making “Made in Japan” products.

Bunshodo, a maker of automatic labor-saving machines and ceramics-related machinery, is one company supported by such workers. It said it now employs three Japanese-Brazilians as assembly or welding engineers.

Marcos Vinicio Garcia Irala, 50, has worked for the company for nearly 10 years. He handles welding jobs, device installation and takes a leadership role.

Marcero Chiba, 36, is a skilled welder of thin stainless steel sheets that Japanese engineers have difficulty working with as well.

Jonhson Toshio Maeda, 36, who joined after being introduced to the company last summer through Marcos, formerly led the quality assurance section at a car body manufacturer in the region and is thoroughly familiar with such operations.

The three came to Japan in June 1990, immediately after the revised immigration law was enacted, and have spent their time working at several plants, developing the critical welding and assembly skills so valued by Japanese firms.

In the Japanese-Brazilian community, there is a growing interest in improving one’s skills as the economy continues to struggle.

“All of my friends went back to Brazil as a result of the economic downturn. But because I had welding skills, I could continue working in Japan,” said Chiba, who developed his prowess in stainless steel welding at a company in Aichi Prefecture.

Bunshodo has come to depend on workers like Chiba.

Bunshodo has more than 30 employees, including 11 production workers. The Japanese staff mainly consist of skilled engineers in their 50s and young staff in their 20s, with a dearth of skilled mid-level engineers.

This is because when the bubble economy collapsed, the company transferred workers from the manufacturing section to the engineering section to form a design division to stay competitive in the industry.

“Japanese-Brazilian workers fill in where skilled workers are in short supply. They are also very helpful in terms of handing down skills to young people,” Bunshodo President Hiroshi Kato said.

The company said it intends to continue hiring workers of Japanese descent as long as they are highly skilled engineers.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the local daily Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published Dec. 29.

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