Southeast Asian trainees on standby as Japan’s entry ban ends

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Indonesians study Japanese in West Java, Indonesia, on Friday.

HANOI/JAKARTA — The lifting of Japan’s ban on some new foreign arrivals opens the door to Southeast Asian workers who have been waiting to fly to the country for the government’s technical intern training program.

Of the 350,000 trainees in Japan as of the end of June, most came from Southeast Asian countries — about 200,000 hailed from Vietnam.

“I want to make money quickly so I can send funds back to my family,” said Nguyen Thi Huong, 19, who plans to work at a seafood processing plant in Aichi Prefecture.

Nguyen had been working at a garment factory in northern Hai Duong Province while waiting for the entry ban to end, but the factory closed due to the impact of the pandemic.

Trinh Tuan Anh, another trainee, had to change his plans when the company he was supposed to work at in Japan went bankrupt in November last year.

Trinh, 26, was later hired by a construction company but was not able to travel to Japan because of the entry ban. “If I can’t go to Japan now, I may not have another chance,” he said.

Since the start of Japan’s pandemic-related entry restrictions in January, a Hanoi agency that dispatches trainees has sent more than 1,000 applicants back to their hometowns and made them take Japanese language lessons online.

An agency official said, “Business has been tough because the entry ban meant fewer trainees,” adding that the agency would start sending trainees to Japan again by the end of this month at the earliest.

About 30,000 trainees in Japan hail from Indonesia, where preparations are underway to start sending workers again.

Twenty people were practicing Japanese on Friday at an agency in Bekasi, West Java, that dispatches trainees.

Muammar Fikri, 23, who was hired by a dairy company in Japan in January, said he studied Japanese for three hours a day.

“I want not only to learn dairy farming skills [in Japan] but also expand my network of contacts in preparation for when I return home.”