For most of 2021 and early 2022, under strict border controls, Japan stopped new entries of foreigners into Japan, including foreign students. However, MEXT scholars were given exceptions to enter, for which MSA is thankful. However, this came with the stipulation that new scholars had to pay for the full amount of quarantine expenses. These fees ranged from an average of around ¥150,000 to more than ¥500,000 in some cases.
This amount was an extremely heavy burden for many, considering that many students come from developing countries, left their jobs with the expectation of coming to Japan on time and had zero income due to not able to receive the scholarship while being overseas. Seeing this, MSA launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds and help reduce the financial burden on new students. For more information about the crowdfunding campaign, please see this link.
We received much support from students, alumni and partner organizations and would like to give recognition to our largest supporters by letting them show why they supported our efforts.
With World, sharing the same vision as MSA, demonstrated their support for MEXT scholars by kindly providing us with a donation of ¥50,000. We interviewed the founder of With World, Kazuya Tamura, to better understand the relationship between the company and international students in Japan.
Firstly, please tell us about what With World does?
With World is a company I started to solve problems foreigners face in Japan, such as companies having a negative image of foreigners and not accepting them into the workforce. I wanted to tackle the issue where many Japanese businesses did not see Japanese and foreigners on equal terms.
When I tried to imagine Japan’s future, I realized maintaining our growth, not to mention our current economical standards, would be impossible without the help of foreigners. I believe that in the future, we need to build a society where it is easy for foreigners to succeed with the help of Japanese people. I started With World to achieve that.
We mainly have three areas of activity. Firstly, we support businesses who want to employ foreigners. However, we do not only help in recruitment, but also in improving retention inside the company. We think about how what can motivate foreign employees to keep working in that position. Our second business line, which we have recently started, supports companies that want to expand their activities abroad. The third is a service targeted at the foreigners themselves. Other than providing career counseling on things like job-hunting and how to get full time employment, we also have specific activities to support their growth. For example, we organize business training courses and plan to support foreign entrepreneurs in the future.
What was the motivation behind With World’s donation?
The main reason I donated was because I believe MEXT scholars can contribute a lot to Japan.
Foreigners, especially scholars from MSA, mostly come to Japan because they have positive feelings toward the country. I wanted to make those people feel glad they came here. The one thign I could do to help them was to join the crowdfunding, which is why I donated.
MSA and I have been in contact since it was created, and I believe it to be a trustworthy organization. It has actual, concrete achievements in helping all kinds of international students, offering support on life in Japan and career development. I donated because I also wanted to show my support for MSA.
What message would you give to companies that want to be more inclusive toward foreigners?
With World showed its support through a donation, but in Japanese society donating is not a common thing to do. Therefore, I think many people don’t feel comfortable enough to just go and donate.
Japanese people don’t really know much about foreigners in general, and even less about MEXT scholars. Therefore, I would tell Japanese people to meet international students and talk to them. Understand why they came to Japan, what they study here and what are their aspirations for the future. I say this is important because it is exactly what made me want to help students.
Some people may worry that foreign students may not speak Japanese, but among them, including the ones in MSA, there are many who have received proper language education and can communicate very well. To companies who haven’t had contact with foreigners, I would say to try listen, and support if you feel like their motivations resonate with you.
What message or advice would you give to MEXT scholars?
Japan is a cautious society, and people always care about what others think. Our response to (opening the borders after the first waves of) COVID-19 was also done like that, with only gradual change. There are both positive and negative aspects to this. But this situation is now imposing a financial burden on students that absolutely do not come from wealthy backgrounds.
However, I hope they understand that doesn’t mean that Japan dislikes international students, but actually that MEXT doesn’t want people to put all the blame on foreigners when small problems happen. Even though they want to welcome all scholars, they still can’t because of the Japanese risk-avoiding mentality. It really was an unfortunate timing.
Nonetheless, after you make it to Japan, there will surely be many kind-hearted Japanese people around, so I ask you to think of the future in a positive light and hold on a while for now. I personally hope scholars don’t start disliking Japan because of this situation.
Big cities in Japan are very convenient, but the more you go to the countryside, the more you will meet people who are not used to foreigners, but who are also very friendly. When you get to Japan, I hope you can try new things, meet new people and live your time here to its fullest.