National

Filipino worker with new visa category reflects on opportunities and challenges of living in Japan

Kyodo

Overseas workers in April took the first-ever exam for the newly introduced Specified Skilled Worker visa category.

One of them — aspiring hotel worker Magil Farah Piastro, a Filipino woman who took the written and practical exam in Nagoya — said, “I want to work at reception someday.” The 28-year-old received a letter of acceptance for a position at a hotel in late May.

Born and raised in the southern Philippine city of Davao, Piastro decided to come to Japan after seeing a pamphlet about studying and working here.

Along with a friend, she arrived at Narita International Airport in Chiba Prefecture in October 2017 as a student after just one month of studying Japanese.

When she arrived, Piastro recalls feeling anxious and cold wearing short sleeves and shorts in the chilly weather, finding Japan’s cooler climate to be quite different from the one she was used to.

She soon began attending Japanese classes at a language school near her apartment in Nagoya while working part-time at an izakaya (Japanese-style pub) after her studies finished for the day.

And after arriving home from work at around 1 a.m., she would study for another couple of hours.

“It was embarrassing, as I could barely speak Japanese (compared to my friends),” she said. “(But they) were working hard, and I decided to put in as much effort as I could as well.”

Not long after arriving, Piastro left the izakaya and began working at a new part-time job. But there were days when she found her work a struggle as she was often yelled at by her new boss.

She endured that workplace for four months before changing jobs once again, this time to a hotel, where she found the atmosphere to be more friendly. She continued to work as a room cleaner until the time came to take the exam.

Raised by a father who runs his own construction company, Piastro says her upbringing was “normal.”

After studying accounting at university, she worked at a local bank in the Philippines. She says she did not decide to move to Japan because of any particular objection to her lifestyle in the Philippines, and noted that, since she was the youngest daughter in the family, her mother opposed her leaving.

But people who work abroad are often regarded highly in the community, she said.

“I considered going to the United States because I can speak English, but the terms to be accepted for immigration can be tough,” she said of her decision. “I can only be there for a short period, and it’s also fiercely competitive.”

“Annual income in Davao is about ¥400,000 ($3,700),” Piastro said. “It took me two, three months to earn that amount working part time (here).”

Noting the perks of being in Japan, she said, “I can also learn a new language. I like the nature here, but especially like how kind the people are.”

“I already feel sad when I think about having to go back home,” Piastro said, as due to the conditions of her visa, she can only stay here for five years.

“Once the issues with my status of residence are resolved, I’d ideally like to work for a bank in Japan,” she said.