Journey of a Japanese expat


Taq Yoneda, 30-year-old graphic designer from Japan sought out Canada after listening to Canadian bands Simple Plan and Sum 41. THE PROJECTOR/ Alex Mercer

Taq Yoneda is a 30-year-old international business grad whose most dramatic moment at Red River College was fainting in the halls of the Notre Dame Campus.

“I don’t want to blame Red River, but my school work definitely contributed to that,” said Yoneda.

Yoneda, originally from Japan, was trying to balance school and work at the time. After graduation, Yoneda got a job at Digital Exchange PR in Winnipeg’s Innovation Alley as a graphic designer, and he’s got some advice for students when it comes to looking for a job.

But how does a Japanese expat find his way to Canada and then decide to settle in Winnipeg?

Yoneda’s high school had an international students program. He applied to go to Canada because he listened to Canadian bands Sum 41 and Simple Plan (this was back around 2003).

There were only a couple of spots open. Acceptance into the international student program was based on test scores, and there were many other smarter kids in his opinion. Yoneda knew two things: he thought it’d be nice to travel, but he definitely wouldn’t be doing that based on his test grade.

When his teacher announced the first winner, it was a girl. She was expected to be chosen, and the classroom burst into applause and cheers. The teacher called his name as second. No one cheered. Yoneda paraphrased what his teacher said to him.

“You won? Are you going?” Both questions.

Yoneda was of course going. He ended up in Shellbrook, Sask., a town of a little over 1000 people. He split the remainder of high school between Shellbrook and Japan. He still spends Christmas with his Canadian family as he calls them, since they’re so close to Winnipeg.

Yoneda majored in intercultural communication at Ryukoku University in Japan, and he was able to get money for “research” to do overseas. Yoneda took full advantage of that to explore the rap scene in New York, and live in Vancouver.

After university, Yoneda stayed in Vancouver. After spending so much time travelling, he noticed Canadians live up to the stereotype of being friendly.

“In Japan, you say ‘Hey how’s it going,’ to a stranger, and you get a very reserved ‘Hi,’ or stare back,” Yoneda said.

Yoneda thinks one of the reasons he enjoyed his time away from Japan so much was that he was more gregarious than what’s typical there.

He lived in Vancouver after university. But due to the high living costs, he had to look elsewhere to live.

“With a million dollars you can own two houses in Winnipeg,” said Yoneda. “In Vancouver, you’ll still die in debt.”

In order to get permanent residency, Yoneda would have to get post-secondary education in Canada. He applied to RRC.

Yoneda says entering college was a stepping stone to gaining Canadian citizenship more than anything else, but he did learn one thing he recommends to all students.

“Networking,” said Yoneda. “I look at my classmates who didn’t network, and it took them a lot longer to find jobs.”

Yoneda’s current job at Exchange Digital PR came about because his instructor, Scott MacAulay, brought Yoneda to Innovation Alley, through which he met his boss.

Recently, Yoneda finger-painted a portrait live for charity and sold the painting for $1000. Yoneda and his friend/business partner at Innovation Alley, Joel Miyazawa (another person Yoneda met by networking, he pointed out), are looking to hold similar events in cafés in the future.

“As long as paint doesn’t get in the food,” said Miyazawa.