Vietnamese expat in Japan gives lifeline for expat parents-to-be

Published:  11 Jul at 6 PM
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An increasing number of expats are settling in Japan, including couples who’re expecting a baby.

Japan is now increasingly popular with expatriates from Southeast Asia as well as the rest of the world, and the non-Japanese national birth rate is soaring as a result. Since 2017, the average number of non-Japanese births has stood at around 17,000, with expectant expat parents finding the notoriously difficult Japanese language a barrier to communication with doctors and midwives as well as to getting access to support and benefits.

Expectant parents settling in the Chiba Prefecture city of Kisarazu are more fortunate than most of their compatriots, as Vietnamese-born social worker Thuy Miura is there to help. She’s fluent in English, Japanese Thai and Vietnamese and is devoted to helping expat mothers-to-be get the right care and understand all their options. For example, one Vietnamese father-to-be arrived at her office seeking assistance, but had no idea he was entitled to a one-off healthcare authority payment of 400,000 yen to help with the cost of birth and new parenthood.

Miura appreciates the language barrier can be almost impossible to cross without help, as asking important questions are a waste of time if one can’t understand the answers. She’s devoted to being there for expats in this situation, especially if there’s been a problem with a previous pregnancy. One expatriate was 15 weeks into her pregnancy and was scared as she’d already suffered a stillbirth, but once Miura had taken her to a nearby clinic for an ultrasound confirming there was nothing wrong, she relaxed and was far less stressed.

Miura’s family lost everything due to confiscation of their assets at the end of the Vietnamese War. When she was 17 years old, she escaped to Japan, meeting up with the one person who could turn her life around. Misao Hanasaku adopted the runaway, finding her a place in a good school and taking full responsibility for the girl. As a result, Miura continued her education at university level, got married and gave birth to two children before taking up social work in order to fulfil her debt to her adoptive mother by helping others. Nowadays, she’s happy to give pro bono support to young expat couples, including practical help as well as advice. When asked, she says she’s inspired to help others the way she was herself helped when she first arrived in Japan.
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