Photo/IllutrationA 19-year-old Indonesian technical intern trainee works on the Yamakamimaru, who joined the crew about two months ago. He said he could not move at all at first due to seasickness. (Naoko Kawamura)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

ISHINOMAKI, Miyagi Prefecture--After this coastal city and its fishing industry was devastated in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, unlikely heroes emerged amid the stormy times.

In the past five years, dozens of Indonesian technical intern trainees have helped the recovery of the fishing industry here.

"Being a fisherman is known as ‘3K,’ and fewer and fewer young Japanese are interested in becoming one,” said Yuji Kimura, 46, owner of the drag-net ship Yamakamimaru and the chairman of the NPO “Ishinomaki gino jisshu kyogikai” (Ishinomaki joint council for technical intern program).

The initials “3K” stands for “Kitsui, Kitanai, Kiken” (hard, dirty and dangerous), which is slang in Japanese that is often used to describe labor intensive, unfavorable jobs.

The Ishinomaki fishing community started to take in trainees from 2007, in response to an outcry of a shortage of crew members from ship owners. The program was interrupted by the March 2011 tsunami, but it was restarted in 2012 after ship owners set up the local NPO to take better care of trainees.

Currently, there are 95 Indonesian technical intern trainees in Ishinomaki working and learning from 23 ship owners.

In 2013, the NPO created scholarships to provide financial assistance to Indonesian children in poverty to attend fishery schools in Indonesia.

“We could get back on our feet early thanks to the technical intern trainees,” Kimura said. “We want to support (Indonesians) like how we were helped here.”

The Technical Intern Training Program aims for international cooperation through sending educated interns back to disseminate acquired technical skills in their homeland. But in reality, it is not easy to achieve the fundamental aim as the fishing boat equipment and systems differ from their country to what are utilized in Japan.

When the NPO launched the scholarship program, the West Java government promised to loan fishing boats free of charge to trainees upon their return to their homeland, to make the most of the technical intern program and spread the fishing skills acquired in Ishinomaki.