Skip Navigation

Living as an engineer in the Kobe I love

Ifuku Seimitsu Co.,Ltd. / Sales Department & Engineer (3D Printing)
Steven Carpels
Brussels, Belgium (Came to Japan in April, 2015)
University of Hyogo / Graduate School of Applied Informatics

Were you interested in Japan to begin with?

I’ve been interested in manga, anime, and Asian martial arts since I was a kid. Once a Japanese person moved into my neighborhood in Belgium, my interest in Japan really picked up, and I started studying Japanese eleven years ago. I came to Japan for the first time 10 years ago, and traveled around Kanto, Kansai, and Fukuoka.

Where and what did you study in your student days?

In Belgium, I got my masters in biology and zoology, and I started working as a high school teacher after graduation. Afterwards, a Japanese friend that I made when I was traveling through Kansai introduced me to the University of Hyogo, and I got my masters and doctoral degree in the Graduate School of Applied Informatics (Healthcare Information Science). While in Belgium, high school education is individualistic, I felt that Japan was different, that research is conducted through collaboration between the teachers and the other students.

Why did you choose Kobe?

Partly because my friend introduced me to the university here, but another big reason was the fact that I made so many friends when I came here to visit. I love Kobe’s beautiful scenery, how many opportunities there are for international exchange, and how easy it is to make friends. If I can, I think I want to live here forever. I was also hugely helped by the Kobe International Community Center (KICC) Scholarship, which I received from the second year of my Master’s until I graduated from my PhD program.

What do you like about Japan?

The most appealing point for me is how different it is from the Western culture I’m used to. I like how many seasonal events there are, like cherry blossom viewing and summer festivals, and how many social opportunities there are. Yaki-niku (grilled beef) and Belgian beer also make a great combination!

How did you study Japanese?

I largely learned through self-study. In Belgium, I went to a Japanese school that opened near my home, but classes were only offered once a week, so I made a point of actively practicing with the Japanese person who lived in my neighborhood. Before starting my job search in Japan, I passed N2 on the JLPT.

Ifuku Seimitsu Co.,Ltd. is a metal cutting/adhering manufacturer. What do your job duties look like?

At the moment I’m most involved in sales. There’s a lot of communication with people overseas, so I work in both English and Japanese. Since I sometimes design 3D data for 3D printing, I’m also getting training and qualifications, with the support of the company.

How did you find and decide on your current company?

I found my company at a job forum for foreigners hosted by Kobe City. Before then, I’d come to love Kobe during my student life, and had decided I wanted to work there. I like my current job, because I can use both what I studied in Belgium and what I studied in Japan. I’m also able to learned a lot through my work and through the education I get at the company, so I’d like to work hard to make sure it doesn’t go to waste. I think it’s good that Japanese companies still have a culture of lifetime employment and that they have substantial educational support.

What difficulties did you face in your job hunt in Japan?

In Belgium, it’s common to start job-hunting after you graduate, so in Japan, it was hard to be job-hunting while I was writing my thesis paper. I started searching in earnest around May, but I think it’s best to start studying for the SPI test and signing up on job searching sites a bit earlier (beginning in January, February).

What do you do on the weekends, or in your time off?

Recently, because of COVID, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home, and watching a lot of movies. Before, I used to play basketball with my friends and go drinking, or to karaoke, or out to eat. I love Kansai takoyaki and okonomiyaki. Also, there’s a Belgian restaurant in Kobe where you can eat tasty food with Belgian beer, so I often go there. When COVID lets up, I’d also like to travel around Japan.

When I was a student, I lived in Hyogo International House, and I used to participate in events put on by the Consortium of Universities in Hyogo. I did tea ceremony, introduced Belgium at international exchange events, and enjoyed all different kinds of exchange events with all ages and nationalities.

Please share a message for students who may be considering study abroad/working [in Japan].

If it’s your dream to study abroad or work in Japan, don’t give up on it! I’m sure your dream can come true, just as mine did.