Japanese-Brazilian beats the odds to win place at university

Chunichi Shimbun

Rafael Yukio Kusuki, 20, a third-generation Japanese-Brazilian, has been accepted to Aichi Prefectural University, his first choice, after overcoming a host of difficulties — including homelessness — to continue his studies.

After Kusuki’s mother remarried he was forced to move out of his home and seek refuge at the Nowami consultation office in Ichinomiya, Aichi Prefecture, which supports the homeless. That was 1½ years ago and he now lives in the shelter, sharing a room with a man in his 20s suffering from social withdrawal and a former homeless man in his 60s.

He relies on social welfare to pay for his living and school expenses. Kusaki’s life was unlike any of the other high school students studying for university entrance exams, but even so he felt that “the environment was good” for him and said he “was glad he came (to the shelter).”

His parents moved from Brazil to Toyohashi, Aichi Prefecture, before he was born to make a better living, but they divorced before he entered elementary school. After Kusuki graduated from junior high school, his mother remarried an Australian, and the three of them moved to Australia.

However, within 18 months of living together, he felt that he did not belong in his new family, so he returned to Japan, asking for his older brother’s help. Kusuki lived with his brother and his wife, both 20 years his senior, in Aichi Prefecture.

He took the high school entrance exam two years later than most students and was accepted into Chita Shoyo High School in the city of Chita. His brother was unemployed and had no income, so they had to survive on one instant cup of noodles a day.

Eventually, Kusuki’s relationship with his brother soured and in the summer of his first year in high school, he moved in with a foster parent who had been introduced to him by a child consultation center.

However, his life did not improve as his foster parents forced Kusuki to work rather than study. He had to take on two part-time jobs, in a ramen restaurant and a convenience store, working until late at night. As he was not allowed to study at home, he had to secretly look over his notes from school under his bed covers at night.

“Studying was the only time I felt freed from my troubles,” Kusuki said.

But his efforts paid off, and he scored top grades against all odds. The following February, however, he suffered pneumonia induced by fatigue and had to be hospitalized. Feeling he could no longer take living with his foster parents, he went back to the child consultation center again.

That summer, he moved into the Nowami shelter, where he could study even though he was sharing his room with two others. But he had no study desk and didn’t want to disturb his roommates, so he started taking 50-minute train rides from Ichinomiya to his school in Chita, which became his precious “study environment.” He would open his English vocabulary notebook and math workbook and study during the commute.

Kusuki received a letter of acceptance from Aichi Prefectural University’s School of Foreign Studies on March 8. “I had almost given up so many times,” he said with joy.

Now that one of his dreams has been realized, he has set his sights on becoming a teacher. When college starts, he plans on volunteering at the shelter by giving lessons to Japanese-Brazilians.

“I hope Japan can become a society where foreign children of Japanese descent in a similar situation like myself can pursue their dreams,” Kusuki said.

This section, appearing Saturdays, features topics and issues from the Chubu region covered by the Chunichi Shimbun. The original article was published March 18.

  • Paul Record

    Amazing story of striving and thriving regardless of the odds!

  • Ericka Ares-Luick

    Very touching…he’s definitely in this world with a mission. Blessings galore :)

  • satcheluk

    I vow to not complain about my life for at least 2 days!

  • Donate to his account, can japan times provide his bank account details? we can all lend a help instead of just saying it’s a touching story