Driven by worries over Beijing’s strengthening control over education in Hong Kong, a man left the region to have his children educated in Japan.

It has been a year since Kelvin Cheng, 35, opened a restaurant in Yokohama.

While working in Hong Kong as an aspiring cook, Cheng, a native, realized that something was going on with his young son.

Cheng started questioning education in Hong Kong after seeing his son crying hard when coming home from kindergarten and not having much time to have fun amid intense competition.

He was frustrated by the fact that toddlers who cannot even speak properly are receiving patriotic education. Even 3-year-old kids had to listen to the Chinese national anthem during morning assemblies at kindergartens, Cheng said.

While spending time participating in demonstrations to show his dissatisfaction with politics, including education policy, Cheng decided to move to Japan with his wife and two sons.

Cheng chose Japan as he had stayed in the country before on a working holiday.

In late October, 2019, he moved to Japan alone, planning to have his family move later.

He thought it would not be hard for him to open a Hong Kong restaurant in Japan, but things did not go as he imagined.

It took him eight months to find a place to open his restaurant as it was difficult for a foreign national to rent a place. He stayed at minpaku, a type of private lodging service, until he became able to earn a stable income.

Cheng managed to open his restaurant with support from other Hong Kongers who have been living in Japan.

Administrative procedures and lease contracts are “very unfriendly for foreigners,” said Seiya Hakugawa, a freelance writer who supports Cheng.

The restaurant, called Hachijuminato, or ’80s Hong Kong, allows customers to enjoy the atmosphere of food stalls in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

On weekends, many Hong Kongers, including students studying in Japan, visit the restaurant.

Cheng said; “Before, they were just customers, but now, they are my friends. They love me, they love Hachijuminato, they support me.”

“They are my treasure in life,” he added.

On one weekend in December, some 60 people, including Japanese, gathered to celebrate the first anniversary of the restaurant.

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