• Kyodo


Life is tough enough for migrant workers who travel to Japan for employment. So pity those who lack a support network to help them through health care matters, workplace stress and general blowing off steam.

That is why employment agency Esperanca Estrela, which hires a large number of Brazilians for temporary work in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, helps its foreign workers and their families participate in social gatherings.

Esperanca Estrela President Hidetoshi Miyazawa, 54, said his annual barbeques provide an environment for his employees to let their hair down.

On a clear summer day in the park, the lively sounds of Portuguese ring out. Some, said Miyazawa, take siestas on the lawn while children frolic and toss balls around.

“Without communication and getting people to build relationships of trust, they aren’t able to perform good jobs,” said Miyazawa, who also invites his employees to take part in bowling competitions, company trips and other social gatherings.

The outings, the expenses of which are shouldered by his company, are a small price to pay for productivity.

“I want them to think, “Okay, now I can do a great job tomorrow!” Miyazawa said.

Japan saw a surge in the number of foreign workers from countries like Brazil and Peru after revisions to immigration laws in 1990, when residency rules for nikkei-jin, or Japanese descendants, and labor restrictions were relaxed. In cities of flourishing manufacturing industries, more and more immigrant workers engaged in factory work.

Some do not settle well. Vayron Jonathan Nakada Ludena, a Japanese-Peruvian man arrested in connection with the murders of six people in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, appears to have remained isolated from society.

Nakada, 30, worked in a food factory prior to the murders. A former co-worker said Nakada was always alone and seldom spoke to those around him.

Miyazawa said at his company the door is always open for employees to discuss any issues they might be having, personal or work-related.

“When there’s a good balance between a person’s work and private life it helps to ward off any trouble,” Miyazawa said.

Nikkey, a temp agency in Ota, Gunma Prefecture that employees about 200 Japanese descendants from Brazil, dispatches staff every day to accompany their foreign workers to their places of employment to make sure there are no health problems or work-related issues.

It might take more manpower, but the company said it also enlists Portuguese-speaking translators to accompany workers to hospitals when they fall ill.

Unlike the aforementioned companies, there are others that do not have the staff to accompany workers to government offices or hospitals.

A city official in Isesaki, where about 10,000 foreigners live, said, “I believe there are a large number of foreigners who don’t submit their notifications for a change of residence because they can’t do the procedures by themselves or they just don’t know the rules for residence registration.”

There are a lot of foreign residents who are not provided with municipal services or a proper support network. Nikkey President Jinji Tanii, 76, said that as a result, they fall through the cracks.

“The temporary employment agency has to take responsibility, and the key element is the management of personnel,” he said.

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