For Japan-native Kenji Yoshida, a career in sports was always his dream. Although he had the passion and the work ethic, it was difficult to establish a career in sports in Japan. While he could have given up the search for his dream job, he didn’t. Instead, he moved to the Kingdom of Cambodia.
Yoshida, who is now the general manager of the Cambodian Tiger FC, said moving to Cambodia provided the opportunity to pursue his true passion: Football.
“When I worked in Japan, I tried to find a job directed at football because that’s what I love,” he said. “But In Japan, I couldn’t find a job because older people already get those positions. For young people, it’s harder.”
Now he manages a football team where both Japanese and Cambodian players work together to build a strong, united team. Yoshida said that what other teams lack in training is working together as team, which is why Cambodian Tiger FC focuses on instilling a united front on the field.
Being able to work in sports here in Cambodia started off as a way to gain experience to move back to Japan. However, with the experiences Yoshida has had, he said Cambodia has changed that dream.
“I have found opportunity in Cambodia,” he said. “Here, it’s a different way, its not part of the way to my dream in Japan. I can find what I want here.”
Now, he plans to set a game day against the Japanese national team and Cambodian Tiger FC.
Similarly, his employee and volunteer cheerleader Ayumi Irie came to Cambodia for career opportunities.
“I came here because I want to open [an event planning] business with friends in the next year,” she said, adding that it would be based in Phnom Penh. “It’s easy to build a company here in Cambodia. There is the US dollar, and it’s easy to start here. In Japan, it is harder, especially for young people. I [came] here and I love the Cambodian people.”
In the meantime, Irie works for Cambodian Tiger FC, doing office work in the day and volunteers as a cheerleader during game days, a job that she found through friends.
“Many of the Japanese companies hire Japanese people, she said. “And the Japanese community is very close here.”
As Japanese expat numbers in Cambodia grow, more young Japanese are finding opportunities in the Kingdom for careers and experience.
With over 200 Japanese companies registered with the Japanese Commerce and Industry and Association, and a plethora of smaller, independent Japanese restaurants and companies in the Kingdom, Japanese people can easily tap into an established network upon their arrival.
“There are so many opportunities [for young people] to be here,” said Jiro Kurokawa, president and chief executive officer of HUGS (Humanity United by Giving Support) and a Japanese expat living in Cambodia. “Many Japanese students go to a university in Japan, and some of them start working or studying in other countries for short periods of times.”
According to Kurokawa, the economy in Japan makes it more difficult to start and grow a business—a problem he doesn’t see changing in future years.
“[The] Japanese economy is very slow, so maybe in five or 10 years, maybe by 2020, the Olympics will be held in Tokyo and a very difficult situation may be coming after that,” he said, which is why, he added, that it is so imperative for more Japanese people to travel outside of their country.
“We have to think of moving [outside of our country] and have experiences in the world,” he said, adding that “most Japanese people can try many things in Cambodia. If they try and fail, they still get that experience. When they are young, they can try many things. It’s harder when you are older. However, the Japanese culture is too careful. They don’t like taking risks.”
According to the Japanese Embassy, there are about 2,300 Japanese living in Cambodia. Although according to Kurokawa, he believes the Japanese population is more like 5000 to 6000.