In 2012, just over 160,000 foreign students came to study in Japan. By 2017, this number had soared to more than 260,000, a record high, according to the Japan Student Services Organization. At least 100,000 of these were in Tokyo.
In addition to studying fields in which Japan is considered strong, such as manufacturing, information technology and engineering, many are also taking courses related to service and design. But why do these students choose Tokyo?
According to Tadamichi Kawakami, deputy director of the Japan Hotel School, there has been a 30-40% rise in the number of people interested in enrolling in recent years.
"Because a high level of Japanese language is required, this does not translate into a huge increase in the number of foreign students actually attending, but many still want to," he said. "Before, the bulk of foreign students were from countries like South Korea and China that can use Chinese characters, but starting four or five years ago, students from non-Chinese-character-using countries like Vietnam and Myanmar became more noticeable."
The increased job opportunities in Japan is partly a result of the rise in tourists visiting Japan.
Su Myat Zaw from Myanmar studied for two years at a Japanese language school before enrolling at the Japan Hotel School. When selecting a school, she researched the different conditions in various countries.
"In Myanmar, the best hotel jobs are thought to be in Dubai, Tokyo, Seoul and Hong Kong," she said. "Japanese companies are numerous in Myanmar and have deep ties. There are also many young people in Tokyo, so there seems to be many chances to get a good job. On top of that, transportation is extremely convenient. So I chose Tokyo."
For customer service jobs such as at hotels, work visas in Japan require specialized skills. This means that foreign students at the Japan Hotel School take the same courses as Japanese students.
"In Japan's case, the hospitality part is very meticulous," Kawakami said. "Service is polite not just at hotels but also at convenience stores and supermarkets. We make foreign students learn the same level of detailed customer service. It can be hard for them, but by studying at this school, their strengths grow so that in the future they can be active in hotels and other settings."
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