[From December Issue 2013]
Both from China, Urgenbayar and LIU Sichen work for Tokyo Business Hotel (Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo). Urgenbayar comes from Chifeng in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. Lui was born in Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang.
Urgenbayar came to Japan in 2004. After graduating from college in China, he spent two years searching for a job but was unable to find one. Thinking that as Japan was an economic powerhouse there’d be work, he enrolled in a Japanese language school in Hohhot for half a year. His nomad parents approved and gave him money after selling about a third of the livestock they owned.
After coming to Japan, he studied for a year at a Japanese language school and then went on to study at the Faculty of International Development in Takushoku University. His major was Japanese culture and language. The university alone cost 800,000 yen a year, and he struggled economically. One of the ways he saved money was to share the rent of a four-and-a-half-tatami room with a shared bathing room and toilet, with a student friend of Mongolian descent, reducing his rent to 22,000 yen a month.
“I worked at an izakaya (Japanese pub / restaurant) to pay for part of my living expenses. Teachers spoke slowly to me, but patrons spoke rapidly and were hard to understand. I had difficulties with honorific language, too,” says Urgenbayar. After graduation, HASHIMOTO Taiitsu, President of the Tokyo Business Hotel and the father of a friend, gave him a job on the basis of his good character. He first worked at the front desk. Now he’s a cook.
“I want to work in Japan for the foreseeable future because there’s no work in the countryside in China and the pollution is awful. In Japan, your salary is always paid and the food and water are safe. But I intend to return to China eventually to inherit my father’s job,” says Urgenbayar.
Liu came to Japan because she had studied Japanese in high school. “Japanese and English were compulsory. Teachers of the Japanese language were usually serious, but at parties they would liven things up with karaoke,” she recalls. She majored in Japanese at college and became an interpreter for a Japanese company.
The salary, however, wasn’t very good for a recent graduate. “Besides, while I was working with Japanese people, I felt my Japanese wasn’t good enough. So I came to Japan in 2010 and went to a language school for a year and then studied business Japanese at a post-graduate course at Musashino University,” says Liu.
The school and her living expenses of a little less than 100,000 yen a month were paid for with money sent by her parents and with her salary from her job at a convenience store. “My parents approved of my studies in Japan at first, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, they suggested I return. But I had just been admitted to a post-graduate course. I wanted to further improve my Japanese after graduation, so I got a job at this hotel. Besides, Japan is a convenient place to live.”
“At first, sushi disgusted me because it is raw, but I love it now. There was a period when I was obsessed by ramen, too,” laughs Liu. After starting to work at the hotel’s front desk, she began dreaming of having a shop or a hotel of her own in the future. “One day, a Chinese guest fell ill and I went to the hospital with him as an interpreter. That made him so happy that I was glad, too. In the future I’d like to do work that makes people happy. I’d also like to act as a bridge between Japan and China.”
Text: SAZAKI Ryo