Photo/IllutrationForeigners take the inaugural examination for the new “specified skills” work visa in Japan in Tokyo on April 14. (Naoki Urano)

Nearly 400 people, mainly from Vietnam, Myanmar and Nepal, sat for the inaugural exam for the new “specified skills” work visa in Japan.

The exam on April 14 was for the hotel industry, consisting of written tests on accommodation knowledge and oral tests about customer hospitality.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, which holds jurisdiction over the industry, said of the 761 people who applied to take it, 391 actually did so.

Many of the applicants were believed to be foreign students already working in Japan part time. The exam was held in seven cities, Sapporo, Sendai, Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Hiroshima and Fukuoka.

Those who took the exam on April 14 and successfully pass all the procedures are expected to start working at hotels and ryokan as early as this summer.

The first exam for the new visa was held in Manila on April 13-14 for the nursing care sector.

The government expects to accept a maximum of about 340,000 foreign workers under the visa, which took effect on April 1, over the next five years for 14 sectors that face serious staff shortages.

To obtain the visa, applicants must pass the exam and the N-4 level Japanese language proficiency test, which means they can engage in daily Japanese conversation.

They also need to pass a screening by the Immigration Services Agency, affiliated with the Justice Ministry.

The visa has two categories. Workers in the first category can remain in Japan for up to five years but cannot bring their families.

The second category of the visa allows workers to stay longer and bring their families. It is currently limited to the construction and shipbuilding industries.

A 38-year-old man from Myanmar arrived in Japan in time for the April 14 exam to fulfill his dream of working in the country, which he was forced to give up when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck in March 2011.

He first came to Japan in April 2009 as a Japanese language student and studied at a vocational school for automobile maintenance.

He was looking for a job, but gave up after the quake struck and returned to Myanmar.

The man said he wants to run his own hotel in Myanmar after gaining experience in Japan.