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Henry is a 21-year-old Brazilian from Sao Paulo who moved to Shizuoka, Japan with his parents at the age of 15. Approximately two hours away from Tokyo, Shizuoka is a town that is heavily populated with Brazilians. At the age of 15, Henry dropped out of high school. Henry secured a job at a Kanto Auto Works Ltd, Toyota factory. However, he did not know Japanese, nor did he know about Japanese society. Being a Brazilian blue-collar worker, he experienced racism and discrimination. “When I first started to work in the car factory, people discriminated against me for my age and race. Although I tried not to care, I had a very hard time getting used to the environment.” Looking back now, he regrets making the choice to abandon his education. Henry has several friends who at the same age, made the choice with their parents to Japan.
Patrick came to Japan from Sao Paulo when he was 16. He also works at a car factory. He says, “I wanted to continue going to school in Japan, but I did not understand any Japanese. I was also scared that society will not accept me.” Being a 16-year-old boy, he wanted spending money, which is also why he decided to be a blue-collar worker at a Toyota car factory. He used to spend most of his income on partying and clothes until recently he decided to go back to school in Brazil. Now he is saving money for his return.
Alex’s experience was similar to Patrick’s. “I’m half Japanese, and I have heard and read about Japan. I think Japan is fun, and filled with dreams,” says Alex. He also specified, “Some of my friends come here to work because the money we earn in Japan is much higher than what we earn in Brazil.”
According to the Japanese Ministry of Justice more than 286,557 Brazilians now live in Japan. Shizuoka has one of the highest concentrations of Brazilians because of cheap housing and numerous car and food factories that offer jobs. For Brazilians who do not understand Japanese, factories are the only place where they can work. In Japan, for young Brazilians the average wage per hour in a factory is between 900 yen and 1,200 yen, or approximately $11 and $15. In comparison, young Brazilians without a high school diploma in Brazil earn less than $300 per month.
Throughout the two years in Japan, Alex, and Patrick have learned the importance of education. Now, Patrick’s and Alex’s plans are to go back to Brazil and finish their high school education. However, due to their love for Japanese culture and the high paying jobs, they desire to return to Japan following their graduation.
Despite the number of high school students who drop out of high school, Brazil’s economy has been growing since the late '90s. According to NHK, Japan's national broadcasting organization, Brazil’s GDP has increased 7.5% since last year. Brazil may become the next China in terms of economic and population growth. Brazil’s success could impact the number of Brazilian teenagers who come to Japan looking for work.
The photograph shows industrial structures set against the mountains in the background in the town of Shimizu in Shizuoka Prefecture. The image is available under a Creative Commons Attribution license on Flickr, © m-louis.
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