Indians in Japan
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Indians on provisional release
Gursewak Singh composed his first letter to Japan's justice minister when he was 10. Almost seven years later, he is still writing. In all, he has written more than 50 let ters, but has yet to get a reply . The letters, all written in Japanese, have become more eloquent as Gursewak has grown up. But the message is unchanged -a plea to the Japanese authorities to recognise him and his family as residents in a country where he and his younger twin siblings were born and his Indian parents have lived since the 1990s.
“My family loves Japan,“ Gursewak wrote to then-justice minister Keiko Chiba on March 6, 2010. “We really don't want to go back to India. Please give us visas.“ In his most recent letter to the immigration authorities, he wrote: “The Immigration Bureau tells us to go back to India. Why do the three of us have to go back to our parents' country , even though we were born and raised in Japan?“ Gursewak's parents, who are Sikhs, fled to Japan from India in the 1990s.
For several years, they lived without visas under the radar of the authorities until they were put on a status known as “provisional release“ in 2001.
It means they can stay in Japan as long as their asylum application is under review.But it also means they can't work, they don't have health insurance and they need permission to travel outside the prefecture where they live.They are also subject to unannounced inspections by immigration officers at their ho me and they face detention at any time. There are currently some 4,700 people with this status living in Japan. Gursewak, who has never left Japan, has inherited his parents' provisional release status and all the restrictions that go with it.
That fate has exposed him and more than 500 other children who share his predicament to lives of perpetual uncertainty. These asylum-seeking children will soon face a stark choice between forced unemployment and working illegally .“Since I was born I've only ever interacted with Japanese people,“ said Gursewak, who is now 17, speaks the language with native fluency and considers himself Japanese.
Migration from India to Japan
As in 2022
Nirmal Singh Ranswal, a class XII passout from Champawat, Uttarakhand, steps out on the field with a measuring tape. On this particular morning, he needs to sow cabbage; between every two saplings, he must leave a precise gap of 30cm. For, that is the sowing pattern followed in large swathes of Ichihara located in Chiba prefecture in Japan, where he is employed.
With over 20% of the country’s population being over 65, Japanese agriculturists are recruiting farm labour from across the Indian countryside. About 18 people, including Nirmal, were the first ones to leave in 2022; there are hundreds more queuing up to fly out in 2023. The workforce on these farms, which is predominantly Vietnamese and Chinese, does not comprise mere labourers. Skilled Indian labourers are also now among those heading to Japan, thanks to a Central government-run programme.
Monit Doley, 31, who has a PG diploma from East Siang, Arunachal, worked at a local restaurant and grew paddy on asmall piece of land owned by the family for much of his life.
Japanese agriculturists are recruiting farm labour from across the Indian countryside. Monit Doley, 31 from Arunachal, worked at a local restaurant and grew paddy on a small piece of lan d. Now in his uniform, boots and gloves, he is in the middle of what is described as a “scientifically planned harvesting week” on a farm at Kawakami Mura in Nara. His routine begins at 3 am: they pluck veg etables early when there is natural moisture on the produce. “While it is a fact that Japan needs young immigrants from around the world for various jobs, it is about getting the right people with the right skills. Not only do they need farmers, they need soil technicians, horse breeders,” said Kavi Luthra, MD of a consulting firm that works with the Maharashtra government and f acilitates opportunities for local youth.
As per Central government records, until December 2022, 598 skilled immigrants left for Japan under a Technical Intern Training Pro gram managed by the National Skill Development Corporation. Of these, 34 were hired from Maharashtra, said skills minister Mangal Prabhat Lodha. Agriculture is one of the secto rs that Indian youth are eyeing.
The impact of Japan’s aging and shrinking population is visible in everything from its GDP and industrial output to the shape of its cities and public infra structure. More than 20% of the population is over 65 years old, the highest proportion of elderly in the world. By 2030, the trend will accentuate and one in every three p ersons will be 65 or older, and one in five will be 75-plus. “Japanese corporations want to recruit farmers, a class X or XII pass-out who has worked on farms or someo ne who has done a programme in agriculture or horticulture,” said Luthra. Apart from the salary which is largely repatriated home by the labourers, the company takes care of accommod ation in dormitories that are plugged to WiFi and also provides insurance.
The contract is watertight with clear norms for working hours and holidays, details of pay scales which range arou nd 1. 2 lakh yen (Rs 75,000) a month inclusive of labour tax, and with scope for overtime. Little wonder then that many daily wage workers on fields in India are signing up to send their children to Japan. Openings like a recent one advertised by a Japanese firm for picking Koyamaki (umbrella pines) sends Indian recruitment agencies into a fren zy; background research on the nature of work has to be thorough in order to recruit the right workforce.
“The work is not about growing plants or vegetables, but about climbing up the mountain, cutting and collecting Koyamaki that is growing on the mountain and carrying them down from the mountain. However, i t i s a job that i s also done by a 50-year-old Japanese,” says the Ko yamaki ad. Many Indians are willing to find their Ikigai (life’s purpose) in a role like this, picking pines of coniferous evergreen trees to be used as an imperial crest for members of the Japanese Royal Family. Shiv Kumar from Palwal in Haryana and Satish Kumar Shrivastav from Baniganj are among those who took the flight out last year after learning a smattering of Japanese. The first week in Japan w as “awkward to say the least”.
“After that, we have only seen the g ood bits of life here. Like, our company owner also works with us. No one is rude here. Even the smallest bits are planned and there is a lot of manuring they do to keep soil healthy,” said Shrivastav. Once Kumar got a call for being late by a minute after his lunch break. He switched to life per Japanese standard time after that incident. “I am never late to work, not even by a fraction of a second. I don't know how Iwill survive by Indian standard time i f I come back when my contract ends after threeyears. ”
2019/ Yogendra wins local elections, a first
‘Yogi’ becomes first Indian to win an election in Japan
A 41-year-old Indianorigin Japanese, who goes by the nickname ‘Yogi’, has been elected in Tokyo’s Edogawa ward polls — the first Indian to win an election in Japan. A naturalised Japanese, Puranik Yogendra won the April 21 polls, part of unified local elections held across Japan, the Asahi Shimbun reported.
“I want to be a bridge between Japanese and foreigners,” said Yogi, who is backed by the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan. Edogawa has the highest number of Indian residents (4,300) among Tokyo’s 23 wards, accounting for more than 10% of the 34,000 Indians living in the country.
“This is the first-ever victory of a naturalised Japanese of Indian origin in elections in Japan. This is also a recognition of contributions made by Indians towards Japanese society,” Shamshad Khan, author of ‘Changing Dynamics of India-Japan Relations’, said.
Yogi came to Japan in 1999 to study and started working as an engineer two years later. He later worked in a bank, and has lived in Edogawa since 2005.
Yogendra acquired Japanese nationality in 2012 and started pursuing a career in politics. “I felt the time had come for me to become Japanese,” he said. “I want to be an assemblyman (elected local body representative) who can connect with everyone regardless of nationality, age or even disabilities — through my 20 years of living in Japan,” Yogi added. PTI