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HOME > Organization Overview > Internships and In-Field Learning > Creating an Intercultural City – Hamamatsu City > Intercultural Cities (ICC) > Interview of Local Foreign Residents :Vol.11 Firdaus Priyo Hartomo, from the Yataro Group Management Planning Department at Yataro Co. Ltd

Interview of Local Foreign Residents :Vol.11 Firdaus Priyo Hartomo, from the Yataro Group Management Planning Department at Yataro Co. Ltd

Sharing the education, culture, and cuisine of Japan with the children of Indonesia

After completing university in Indonesia, Firdaus spent a year working at a cotton spinning company before venturing to Japan at the age of twenty-three. His dedication to learning the Japanese language led him to study at the Shizuoka College for Foreign Languages for two years before perusing a postgraduate degree in Business Development Management at Shizuoka University. While job-hunting in Japan, he found that companies heavily emphasized “sales,” “number of employees,” and “scale” during their information sessions. However, these aspects did not resonate with him. When introduced to a representative from Yataro, they highlighted that their company values individuals of all ages. Choosing a career path focused on people rather than just corporate scale, Firdaus found his match at Yataro, where he has been an essential part of the team for a decade.

In a company valuing individual contributions, Firdaus spearheads the development of Halal-friendly Baumkuchen for Muslims and serves as a key contact for overseas expansion. In this interview, he sheds light on Indonesian culture and his experiences in Japan.

Can you share your experiences growing up in Indonesia?

I was born in Tegal, a city in Indonesia’s Central Java region, a 6-hour drive from Jakarta. Both my parents and grandparents were teachers. I have loved Japanese anime since I was a kid, and my younger sister and I would compete for the TV remote every Sunday. My sister looked forward to watching “Sailor Moon,” while I was a huge fan of “Doraemon,” and continued to watch it into my high school years.


Did watching “Doraemon” influence you to study in Japan?

I would definitely say that “Doraemon” played a pivotal role in my decision to study abroad in Japan. The manga inspired me to explore whether the scenes I had saw in the series mirrored reality in Japan.


Tell us about your life after graduating high school.

After high school, I left home and pursued a four-year degree in Business Development Management at a university in Bandung, West Java. Here I learned about starting new business initiatives and expanding market reach. Although I wanted to move straight to Japan following graduation, the popularity of studying in Japan in Indonesia meant it took a year to secure a student visa. Before heading to Japan, I worked at a spinning company, utilizing my management knowledge, and attended a Japanese language school weekly to learn the language. After about six months, I was able to understand about 10% of spoken Japanese that I heard.

Securing a student visa, Firdaus came to Japan at 23, undertaking two years of Japanese language study in Shizuoka. His academic journey continued at Shizuoka University, where he furthered his studies of Business Development Management at graduate school. During his graduate school days, he started a radio show introducing Indonesian life and culture. After graduate school, he joined Yataro, a company with which he had connections from his radio days, and for which he has been working for the past decade. In the second part of this interview, we will learn more about his life and work in Japan.

Was Japan as you imagined when you arrived at 23?

I found Japan to be an expanded version of what I had seen in “Doraemon” – the shape of the houses, people’s humor, and such. The people were kind, and it left an incredibly positive impression on me.


How was your experience studying Japanese?

I was able to grasp about 20% of the language after language school, and still faced many challenges in my daily life. However, immersion during graduate school significantly improved my proficiency. Exposure to Japanese through various forms of media improved my language retention, and my comprehension skills improved over time.


What drew you to Yataro after graduate school?

While other companies emphasized scale and sales, Yataro’s emphasis on valuing individuals resonated with me. I was introduced to Yataro through a connection made during my radio appearances in graduate school. I decided to join Yataro because I felt that it aligned with my personal philosophy of valuing people. Everyone, including the chairperson, has treated me very well since first joining the company.


What kind of work do you do at Yataro?

I am involved in the development of Halal-certified Baumkuchen for Muslims. The product is called “FUJISAN KUE LAPIS,” and it offers a delightful aroma of rich spices. I am also responsible for interpreting for foreign customers and overseeing Yataro’s operations in Indonesia.

日本福祉大学でハラル バームクーヘン説明中

Outside of work, we heard that you offer support to study abroad students, is that correct?

Cultures differ from country to country. For Muslims, the consumption of pork and alcohol is forbidden so it was hard to find halal food when I first came to Japan. Looking back on the struggles I had faced with the language; I actively engage in supporting international students so that they do not face the same difficulties I had. I provide guidance on Japanese rules and etiquette, and I am also available for consultation on various concerns. By sharing my own experiences, I aim to reassure international students and make sure they can live comfortably in Hamamatsu. I have taken on the role of a mentor (Career and Start-up Mentor and Consultations for International Students), serving as a senior foreign resident and advisor for foreigners in Hamamatsu.

How do you find life in Hamamatsu?

Hamamatsu’s blend of natural and urban living provides a comfortable environment for me and my four children. I was really impressed by how comprehensive Japan’s social security system, including childbirth allowances, children’s allowance, and insurance system are. While Indonesia also has an insurance system, insurance is only accepted in certain hospitals. When I went back to Indonesia for a bit, one of my children required medical attention, and despite having insurance, we faced substantial charges because the hospital didn`t accept our insurance at the time. I appreciate Japan for its ability to provide proper medical care for children.


It seems that being from Indonesia has given you a unique perspective on the parenting environment in Japan.

In Indonesia, families that can afford it often hire a domestic worker who takes care of various household chores for about 10,000 yen per month. For mothers raising children, having a domestic worker is a tremendous help. While Japanese women tend to do this all on their own, it appears that the burden on couples here is quite significant. This is just a personal opinion, but I feel that if Japan were to issue VISAs to domestic workers from overseas, it could potentially alleviate the burden on Japanese couples and even contribute to increasing the birthrate.

So what’s on the cards for you now?

In Indonesia, it’s hot all year round and the absence of distinct seasons have given rise to a belief that one can sustain themselves simply by planting seeds and growing their own food. This perspective has contributed to a mindset where the importance of work might not be as deeply emphasized. Punctuality, too, is not always prioritized, with many taking a more laid-back approach to time.

I aim to instill values such as adherence to rules from childhood in Indonesia. Additionally, I hope to promote healthier eating habits from an early age. Due to the warm climate in Indonesia, we often prepare food using high temperatures as a form of sterilization, resulting in elevated cholesterol levels and health issues. Given the average life expectancy in Indonesia of 60 years, my goal is to transform Indonesia’s dietary habits to mirror the healthier food culture observed in Japan. I aspire to act as a bridge, introducing the wonderful aspects of Japan’s cuisine, manners, and education, all with the intent of positively influencing well-being of Indonesian children.

We’re looking forward to hearing all about what you do next! Thank you so much for your time today.

(Interviewed on November 2023)

Firdaus Priyo Hartomo

Born in 1984, in Tegal, Indonesia
Came to Japan at 23
Father of four
Graduated from Shizuoka University Graduate School
Joined Yataro, a company specializing in the production of Western-style confectionery and bread
Currently, involved in the development of Halal products and other initiatives within the Business Planning Department