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Foreign students lured to Japan with unrealistic promises turn desperate

Signs soliciting people to study in Japan are seen in Katmandu, Nepal. (Mainichi)

Students in foreign countries are being lured into coming to Japan with sweet talk of how they can work while they study, and earn at least 200,000 yen per month.

    A Vietnamese student who now attends a Japanese language school in Tochigi Prefecture said they decided to do so when given a study abroad pamphlet from a broker saying they could earn U.S. $2,000 (approximately 200,000 yen) per month while studying in Japan. But when a staff member at a Tochigi Japanese language school was shown the pamphlet, he could hardly believe his eyes. "There's no way that's possible."

    Foreign students in Japan can work up to 28 hours a week if they receive permission from the Ministry of Justice. However, to earn 200,000 yen a month under such restrictions, the student must find a job that pays 1,800 yen an hour, which is very difficult to do. Some students were given false information that the 28-hour cap was for each workplace, and that if they wanted to, they could find multiple jobs to earn more money.

    Now, the misled students are paying for it.

    Nepalese student Roshan Khadka, 26, arrived in Japan in October last year and attends a Japanese language school in Tokyo's Takadanobaba district. A broker had told him that he could make anywhere between 200,000 and 300,000 yen a month, so he promised his family that he would send them money from Japan.

    Khadka prepared approximately 1.2 million yen for travel and matriculation fees by taking out loans from financial institutions. From this amount, brokers took about 150,000 yen to 180,000 yen as a "commission," according to a source close to the case.

    When Khadka arrived in Japan, the reality was vastly different from what he'd been told. He earns 75,000 yen a month from his part-time job making beds at a hotel, which is hardly enough to cover his 32,000-yen monthly rent and pay back 66,600 yen per month for the loans he took out for school. Since he also needs funds for food and a cell phone, instead of being able to send his family money, he now relies on money his family sends to him. He is losing sight of his original reason for coming to study in Japan. "Now I wish I could work more," he said.

    In some cases, desperate students run away, or become caught up in crime. In June 2015, a temp dispatcher in Tochigi Prefecture was arrested by Tochigi Prefectural Police for letting two Vietnamese men who had run away from a Japanese language school work illegally at a metal processing factory.

    On Jan. 20 this year, two Vietnamese men, one of whom was a former student in Japan, were arrested on suspicion of stealing some 40 tires in Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture. When questioned by Gunma Prefectural Police, the men said they had stolen the tires to sell them in order to procure money for living expenses.

    The concerns aren't limited to theft.

    "Unless we take swift steps to address problems with foreign students, we will have more and more foreigners staying in Japan illegally," a Gunma Prefectural Police official from the police force's foreign affairs section said. "This could make Japan a breeding ground for crime, and possibly allow terrorists to slip in without being detected."

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