A Japan-returner with an entry visa missing


[dropcap font=”0″]I[/dropcap]t will take me a few lines to well convince you of this confusable title. In my previous writing, it was described that some 15 years ago I had been in Korea unexpectedly. Sometime in the past, it was very popular with people to go and work abroad such as America, Japan and Korea for earning money. After resigning from working for the Internal Revenue Department, I ran a business of my own—jaggery brokerage shop in Mandalay, to be exact, at no.217, 30th street, between 84&85 streets. Being situated near our famous market-place Zegyodaw, my purchasing and selling depot was accessible for many customers and it was far successful, hence the accumulation of a relative wealth as salary men go. But after 1992, the business slumped down. During that period, accompanied by my brother, I visited about Yangon to meet my bro’s friends, with a view to finding for a new business. One day, we were speaking with bro’s buddies at their Seven Star Myanmar-Korea joint-venture agency office near the 8th mile junction when two aliens came in. While sitting aside, someone asked me to write an endorsement letter of the company for visa extension of the guests, in English. Thus I was on friendly terms with the one, and afterwards we met at the office very often. Before I returned home, he asked me whether I had a desire to work at his clothing manufacturing factory in Korea. My bro told me to accept the offer and I easily nodded. Very soon, he sent to me an affidavit letter, necessary particulars and an air ticket to apply for an entry visa at the Korean Embassy through the agency office. Thanks to the warm and friendly Korean’s help, I came to Korea safely at the time when many were trying to get visas with difficulty. I did not say a word about my itinerary to my friends and acquaintances. They too asked nothing to me the decorum of my sudden trip, seeming to take it for granted that I need not work abroad. During my stay there, I had many advantages—getting friends, making money, learning Korean language and getting a chance to visit about Korea. Just at the advent of my stay and work there, I found it a little difficult to acculturate the new environment. Generally speaking, I led a peaceful and cushy living throughout my life. I am telling these just to inform our readers that greed led me to a life of severe risk and danger.
While living in happiness there, a friend of mine came to contact me to join them in their attempt to go to Japan illegally by boat, saying we were to earn the double amount in Japan. Much had not been known and thought of, apart from being arrested by the authorities concerned if caught in the act of stowing away. My Korean boss liked me for hard working and favored me, promising to take me to Philippine in 1995 to set up a new factory but just a thought of tidy income to come into my pocket monthly induced me to misappropriate the trust of my employer, finally deciding to sail across the sea without letting any fellow-workers in the factory know my departure. Our transit place was at an inn in Pusan. While staying there for a night, we, altogether 15 or so, began to be disappointed. The inn was too small to accommodate us. But I knew it was impossible to withdraw any longer. On arriving on board, I nearly abandoned myself to despair, knowing that I made a great mistake. We all were furtively led into a little cabin at the bottom of the ship. The place was too narrow for our group to have had enough leg-rooms, as if we were chickens stuffed into a chicken basket to send to a butcher house. Throughout the journey, we were given a meager amount of instant food only. It was difficult for us even to urinate onboard. Korea is not far away from Japan, but it took us several days to reach Japan because the ship seemed to delay intentionally in order to avoid the investigation of the Japanese Immigration Department. One day we heard a man come to call us, knowing that we reached the destination. Before letting us leave the boat, the crew made us clean ourselves. They saw us off at the railway-station and I noticed that the place was Kokura. From there, we proceeded by train. But it stopped at Kobe because nearly all of the rail-tracks were ruined by the earthquake. So we had to take a bus to a place, the name of which I did not remember any longer. At there, we—me and my Myanmar friend named Ne Oo –made phone calls to our friends in Tokyo. At their instruction, we had to proceed to Tokyo, where we departed each other.
My friends were very kind-hearted, letting me stay at their house in O-TSUKA  for a week or so.  During idle stay there, my being unemployed made me ruminate about my itinerary. With hindsight, I came to realize that the trip I chose was of great danger and we were like putting ourselves as sacrificial things on the altar of the sea god. Boat-people’s lives are dangerous. Yet they had chances to attempt for their survival when in danger, whereas our lives would be in vain in time of emergency as we had to stay in the hull of the ship with the door locked. After getting a job at a Chinese restaurant “Ko-hien” in “Roppongi”, I moved to O- saki to live with other Myanmars. Kohien was famous for its excellent Chinese cuisine. On Friday and Saturday nights, it was so congested with customers that late ones had to wait for their turn in queue, to savor their favorite dishes. At the very start, I was low paid at 700 yen per hour, and I found it very difficult to communicate with my fellow-workers as I knew nothing about the language and lacked the knowledge on the job. My working hours was from 8a.m to 6p.m—10 hours in all including one hour break in the afternoon. But we were paid for 10 hours.
Sometimes I had to work overtime on some busiest nights, with my wage double paid. I was granted a day-off every Sunday. Especially, on these days I paid a visit to pagodas and other places of interest with my Myanmar friends. Among them were flea markets which we called Se-pyar-zay in our mother tongue. And in my leisure hours I had a chance to study Japanese by watching TV and reading books on the Language written in English. On Sundays, I used to buy an English newspaper. As time passed, my language ability improved and I was better at my job. My colleagues nicknamed me Mr. Punctual. Here it will need a few explanations. We were required to use time-cards to record our working hours. On arrival and departure, we clocked in and out. At the very first day of my working there, I arrived at the job very early, for fear of being late for the workplace. The chef of the night-duty woke up and he told me how to use the time-card. My first-ever arrival time was 7: 11a.m. From then on, I always clocked in on at 7: 11a.m exactly, except for the day, “Toxic scandal on the subway train by Ohm gang” when the whole rail network temporarily broke out. After one week of my employment, the manager, the owner’s son, called to tell me that the company would not grant me any excess allowance for every-morning-early-hour. He went on to say that I need not come before 8 a.m. He was the only man with whom I could speak in English. I nodded, but I never failed to come to work on time punctually. To my great astonishment, I was given out extra money for early hours on my first pay-day. Later I came to know that the boss liked punctuality and workaholics.  In fact, most of foreigners working in Japan were overstayers. Among them, many had no visas—some were sailors who disembarked their ship unofficially and some were like us. In case, we were found working in jobs or going about downtown, we sure would be deported to our countries. Being illegal immigrants, we were nearly always worried about being arrested and deported while working, commuting from home to work, about on holidays.  Japan and any other developed countries have been attracting alien workers for long. Admittedly, the place in which we were may be likened to an oasis for us, but it cannot necessarily give us pleasure to the full. Much as we devoted ourselves to our works — especially at restaurants— we had no access to deluxe eateries with our own money. Bar a few young spendthrifts, we could ill afford to spend money as we wish, because our minds were occupied remitting our hard-earned money to our families once it got into our hands every pay-day.
Time spent there, in spite of living under stress, can be said to be bonanza years for us. Unavoidably, the loss of family life, suffering from stress and being exhausted attend the pursuit for wealth and other advantages. By working abroad, we learnt to love any kinds of jobs and eagerness occurred to us to emulate Japanese and Korean’s arduous efforts and perseverance. The exclamation, “In vino veritas” is a Latin word. Its literal meaning is “truth under wine”. In other words, it means under the influence of alcohol, a person tells the truth. Being intoxicated, I am not telling these. I felt remorse at the way I chose to go to work in Japan. The decision was completely wrong. In fact, our fates can be assumed to be sealed to face misfortunes once we entered the hull of the ship. If an accident or any disaster happened, the crew who took money for our illegal voyage would never try to save us. If so, we who were unregistered passengers would never be accounted for. I may be a good-for-nothing citizen of my country, but it would be a great loss for my family if such an incident occurred to me. They would surely feel sorrowful for the rest of their lives, knowing nothing my whereabouts. Time passed by swiftly. But whenever I had learnt from newspapers that some boat people were in trouble at sea, the nightmare which still remained in my memory scared me on, as a hangover. Concurrently, I was itching to disclose my personal experiences to younger generations and warn them not to choose the wrong way as I did. I would not like to live to regret, keeping all my feelings to myself. Out of impatience to live there any longer, I surrendered myself to the Japan Immigration Office, of my own accord. For the violation of the Japan immigration law, I had to live in custody for a few days, and then I returned to my country. Whatever it is, I am complacent about my present existence. If I had a chance, I will yet to write about the lovable two countries and the people’s spirits that are worth emulating.
Personally, I want today’s youths to study or work abroad. Now that more overseas-job opportunities are available than before. Less than expected as the numbers are, you need to choose the right way and wait for your turn to come with patience. Our country needs our youths’ labors and contributions, so as to be able to build up into a prosperous nation. Would that this confession of a Japan returner with no entry visa missing is of great help and use for ebullient youths.
May our young people take lessons from grave errors of their elders!

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