The two Chinese are about the same age and both plan to improve their future prospects by living in Japan. But the similarities end there.
The pair reflect the stark differences among Chinese heading to Japan from the booming coastal areas and the poorer inland regions that have yet to be swept up in the country’s economic growth.
A Yuncai, 19, is from the latter. She lives with her parents and two sisters in one of the houses that line the mountain slopes in the Maanshan district, more than an hour’s drive from Dali in Yunnan province, southwestern China.
The farming family earns about 10,000 yuan (about 140,000 yen) a year, an amount insufficient for their medical and education fees.
Yuncai plans to work as a trainee at a Japanese farm to help her family survive.
“Even if I land a job here, I can earn only 800 yuan a month. In Japan, I will be able to earn more and acquire advanced knowledge. I will remit my earnings to my family, except for living expenses,” she said.
Jin Shaohua, 20, comes from a much different background. Born into a wealthy family, Jin grew up in the coastal city of Suzhou in Jiangsu province near Shanghai.
His reason for going to Japan? He didn’t gain admission to Suzhou University.
Instead, he went to the Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, but his low scores denied him entry into the faculty of economics, as he desired.
His friend who was studying in Japan told Jin through the Internet, “Tokyo is convenient and beautiful.”
Unhappy at school and uncertain about his future goals, Jin decided to study Japanese for one or two years in Fukui Prefecture and then enroll at a Japanese university.
“I’m a little bit excited,” Jin said in early April at Shanghai Pudong International Airport waiting for a flight to Ishikawa Prefecture.
Yuncai’s parents were also a bit excited about sending their daughter to Japan, much to the surprise of Masaichi Tanaka, a 61-year-old farmer in Kamiita, Tokushima Prefecture, who interviewed the teen as a prospective trainee.
Tanaka visited their home in fall last year and asked the parents, “Don’t you have any anxieties about your daughter going to Japan alone?”
One of the parents replied, “We have no anxieties because Japan is a developed and safe country.”
Tanaka said he felt that Yuncai’s experience in the mountains had made her physically strong.
“Because her parents have such a (serious) manner, she must be a serious person, too,” said Tanaka, who chose Yuncai from among 20 people interviewed at a worker dispatch company in Dali.
After Yuncai graduated from a vocational school last year, she worked on the family’s farm. After being chosen as a trainee, she borrowed money to pay 40,000 yuan to the worker dispatch company, Dali Prefecture International Techno-Economic Cooperation Co., for procedural and other fees.
She underwent the company’s training sessions, which last for three to four months and can be likened to boot camp. Trainees wake up at 6:30 am. for a run and get no holidays. Between classes on Japanese and other subjects, they must follow stringent rules, such as how to fold futon mattresses and where to place their cups and socks.
If the company sends a trainee to Japan, it can receive a total of 900 yuan from the central, provincial and local governments.
China has eased its departure and screening procedures since 2004 because exports of workers have become a big source of income.
According to the Japanese Immigration Bureau, about 102,000 people came to Japan in 2008 as trainees in farming, manufacturing and other sectors. About 69,000, or nearly 70 percent, were Chinese, compared with about 28,000 in 2000.
Jin’s “training” for Japan consisted mainly of taking Japanese lessons in China.
He estimates he will need 2 million yen a year for tuition and living expenses in Japan. However, his father, who runs his own company, said, “I will pay all the money.”
Weng Danjie, also 20, left for Japan with Jin for the same reason: She failed to advance to the nursing department of a vocational school.
Weng, who met Jin at the same language school, also has an advantage in her plans.
Although her mother lives in Jiangsu province, her father is a Japanese living in Fukui Prefecture, who often travels to China on business.
Weng said she will live in her father’s house in Japan during her studies.
“If I succeeded in advancing to my favorite school (in China), I would not have decided to go to Japan,” she said.
Wei Haibo, who runs a Japanese-language school in Shanghai, said, “An increasing number of people are thinking about going abroad for studies because they failed to gain entry to their favorite universities or land good jobs.”
Thirty to 40 percent of the students in Wei’s school are considering a trip to Japan for such reasons, he said.
According to the Japan Student Services Organization, about 79,000 Chinese came to Japan in 2009 to study, accounting for 60 percent of all such students.