Dreaming of Moving to Japan from the Philippines
Art by: Maui Del Rosario

How I Moved to Japan from the Philippines?

…And why I did it

Dreaming of starting a life Japan? I had that dream when I was a kid and I made it into a reality. This is the story of how I moved to Japan from the Philippines!

Sailor Moon, Rurouni Kenshin, Yu Yu Hakusho, Card Captor Sakura, and Inu Yasha are just some of the animes I tuned in when I was a child that served as my window and my inspiration to relocate from the Philippines to Land of the Rising Sun—Japan.

Those shows motivated me to draw, write stories, and even study Japanese (but sadly, my level is still a beginner, LOL). Moreover, I also had an aunt who lived in Japan and sent us Balikbayan Boxes (boxes full of gifts given by Filipinos living abroad for their families in the Philippines) with tons of Japanese goodies! She also sent us pictures and postcards of the places she visited there. The one that stood out the most for me was her photo book about Hyogo Prefecture’s HIMEJI CASTLE. I was captivated by its architecture, so I told myself, “I’ll go there someday.”

Visiting Himeji Castle After Moving to Japan from the Philippines
The Majestic Himeji Castle

Brainstorming How to Relocate to Japan

For us, Filipino Passport Holders, we need to get a visa to go to Japan.

These days, it’s easier to get Visitors or Tourist Visa, but during the 90s it was quite challenging and those who travel are the rich. Hence, if you are struggling financially, like my family, it’s not a priority.

“How will I go to Japan?” I asked myself.

I thought of studying there, but I scrapped that idea because we don’t have money, I am not smart enough to get a scholarship, and my family weren’t very supportive― they are more practical and seem to avoid complicated things.

Then, I thought of working there someday. But what job?

Most of the popular jobs for Filipinos in Japan are midwives, nurses, entertainers (singers, dancers, or bands) or working in a bar as a host or hostess. But, those jobs weren’t for me.

Internet was still an emerging technology when I was a kid, so I can’t research that much for other options. Plus, asking my aunt for a favor was out of the picture— it was complicated.

As time passed by, that dream got buried more and more.

Digging a Forgotten Wish

I stopped watching anime, drawing anime characters, and forgot everything the idea of going to Japan. I became more “practical.’’

I then went to college and took up Mass Communication, because I like writing, TV, and Movies.

In school, I was surrounded by positive, supportive, and creative individuals; thus, my dream of visiting Japan one day was brought back from the grave!

Subsequently, I finished my studies, get a job as a Call Center Agent—it was one of the popular careers in the Philippines with a decent salary and benefits— but left it because it made me unhappy. I then decided to teach English to Korean students because it was becoming a lucrative gig in my country.

 

*For those who don’t know, English is the second language of the Philippines and many Filipinos are fluent with it.

So if you are thinking of traveling here, you won’t have a hard time communicating with the locals.

 

From Philippines to Japan

Nonetheless, I decided to use this profession as a stepping stone to land an English teaching job to Japan since it was also a booming industry there.

Getting REJECTED

I got an English teaching job for Korean students in my hometown. I worked there for almost 4 years. In my third year, I was starting to feel stuck and I need to move forward.

Going to Japan Gets Rejected

I finally started to pass my resumes to a couple of English Language Schools in Japan that are sponsoring overseas applicants. I never got a response from them, except from 1 school. And it was not for an interview, but a reason why I wasn’t qualified.

I was told that they DON’T RECRUIT teachers in the PHILIPPINES because they prefer to hire someone from a WESTERN country. I was heartbroken and thought it was a bit unfair that my teaching skills weren’t enough just because of my country.

I also checked out the MEXT (a scholarship program in Japan), but some of it has an age limit or the submission of applications has passed its deadline.

how to move to japan by MEXT Scholarship

My Ticket to Japan

I was running out of luck finding a profession that I’ll like. Many of my friends told me to just go back to being a CALL CENTER AGENT, but I didn’t want to. It wasn’t for me, but I do admire people who work in that field—it takes a lot of patience.

“It takes patience to be a call center agent”

Call Center Agent Before Moving from the Philippines to Japan

So, I kept looking for work at jobstreet.com and applied for a job that I thought was an online teaching job for Japanese students.

I got an email from a company inviting me to pass my resume to their website. This email also stated that if I was qualified, they will send me an invitation to a seminar, which will be held in Manila. Apparently, this ‘meeting’ was about their company overview as well as for recruiting Filipino teachers that they will bring to Japan.

I was like, “WHAT?!”

Curious and very much interested, I Googled their company— to see if it’s LEGIT— and passed my resume. I didn’t expect I will have a response because of all the rejections I got already.

Then I got one. 

Here are details of what happened next:

 

  • I went to a seminar in Manila. It was about the company, the teaching job, and the assistance that the company will provide when the chosen applicants move to Japan
  • After that, we took a written grammar test
  • A brief interview with the HR manager and the company president
  • We were then told that they’ll send an email, regardless if we made the cut or not. If you are one of the lucky ones, the next step will be included.
  • The next day, I got an email telling me that I passed and I will be interviewed again, plus I need to do a TEACHING DEMO (regarding English grammar, vocabs, or pronunciation) for 15 minutes. FINALLY! Working for the Korean English School was paying off! I knew exactly I was going to demo and how I’m going to execute it.
  • So I prepared and was scheduled for 4 pm, but I went there around 2 pm
  • The HR manager, who interviewed me, saw me and asked me if I want to start my demo because some applicants didn’t show up.
  • I said, “YES” with confidence, but deep inside I was nervous
  • I did the demo, interview, and I was told they’ll send me an email (again) if I was chosen. After 3 or 5 days, I still don’t have a response, I failed.
  • I can’t remember how long it took, maybe just a day or 2 when I got an email saying that I’M HIRED and they’ll send the paperwork I need complete to work legally in JAPAN!
 

Moving to Japan from the Philippines (Yey!)

After I got hired, it took me 7 MONTHS to move to Japan. My father and my sister lent me their money to help me finance my trip and my first month in Japan since I wasn’t going to receive any paycheck yet. It took me 6 or 7 months to pay their money back.

And then after a year of living in Japan, I finally visited Himeji Castle.

Visiting Himeji Castle After Moving to Japan from the Philippines
Posing awkwardly in front of Himeji Castle

Dreams do come true, but only if you take action. You might fall many times, but don’t give up! If the first plan didn’t work out, find other ways to get to your goals.

Surround yourself with POSITIVE people and cut off people who are dragging you down. This might be the most difficult one because what if it’s your family? For me, it was the case, but I kept on going and pursuing what I want. They saw that I work hard, and finally, they relented and supported my decisions.

Prove that you have potential and take risks to find success.

 

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