Benigno D. Tutor, Jr.
Her visibility in the Filipino community in Japan, made up mostly of women married to the Japanese, has made her a poster girl for the Filipina who has made it.
If she’s a familiar face to many Filipinos in Japan, it’s because Joselin Kobayashi is the only Filipino personality who frequently appears in multimedia in Japan—print, TV, radio and of course, with this interview, the internet.
For close to ten years now, Joselin has been the Public Relations Manager for KMC Magazine, one of the most widely circulated monthlies in Japan published by Creative-K. Working for the marketing outfit of one of Japan’s largest telecom companies, Joselin is always at the forefront of its promotional blitzes in Filipino events.
Up until recently, she had also been the Tagalog public service announcer for 76.1 FM-Interwave. Her ten-year stint at the radio station ended when FM-Interwave was bought by TV TOKYO Broadband Entertainment, Inc. last year.
She has made guest appearances in such Japanese TV programs as Tokuchan 1chome 1 banchi (J-Com Kanagawa), Foreigners Living in Japan (a cable TV documentary), Sekai no Kamado Kara (Kanagawa TV), and Ohayo Nippon (NHK), among others. She was also a ubiquitous face as endorser at WINS Filipino Channel, after making a guest appearance in January 2004. She likewise appeared on a promotional video for NEC and did a narration job for Fujitsu.
The person and the image pleasantly jibe. The only thing that can surprise anyone meeting her in person is how so petite and svelte a woman can squeeze so many outsize roles gracefully at the same time. Little wonder that Joselin is easily the poster girl of the Filipina who has made it in Japan. She accepts this accolade with unpretentious modesty—and hastens to add that her success should not be construed in terms of material wealth.
Whether as part of a crowd or in front of it–as an emcee, presenter, endorser, etc.–she does not betray any jitters. If she’s in her element when surrounded by people, it’s because Joselin had an early start in the mass media in the Philippines. As a teenager, she already worked at the RMN Production Center in Cebu, where she was born and raised. RMN-Cebu produced soap operas which were re-created into stage plays upon the listeners’ request. Joselin recalls the time when TV was a luxury and almost every household, especially in the provinces, was hooked to radio drama as a means of entertainment. Her job then was not only as a radio talent but as a stage performer as well. The most popular dramas in the Visayas and Mindanao were re-scripted as movies.
After more than five years on that job, the economic imperatives of supporting her sibling’s education brought her to Japan as part of a cultural dance group in 1985. But unlike many of the young, starry-eyed girls of her time, Joselin was determined to carve a place for herself in the Land of the Rising Sun.
It was during her last stint in Tokyo that she met her husband, Kenji, with whom she eventually bore and raised three daughters, now aged 16, 14 and 10. From the start, Kenji and Joselin were kindred souls. Towering at 6’1 and handsome, Kenji at that time was working as a TV and stage performer. It was a whirlwind romance, the courtship spanning only a couple of months.
Joselin recalls, “Our relationship was so shaky in the early years of our marriage mainly due to cultural differences and language barrier. We thought we won’t last long. Of course, it always takes two to tango but I give him the credit for the strength of our bond as husband and wife and as family.”
That the positive influence is reciprocal is shown by Kenji’s conversion to Christianity. She is sometimes taken aback when he reminds her, “You should read the Bible from time to time.” Their three children have also been through catechism at the church.
Typical of many Japanese husbands who want their wives to stay at home, it took sometime for Joselin to convince him to allow her to work. Meanwhile, she secretly arranged for a part-time job at a printing company owned by their ninang at the wedding. When Kenji finally learned of it, he surprisingly gave his blessing for her to set out on a career in Japan. In fact, when the opportunity for Joselin to work as a radio announcer presented itself, via an advertisement in an English newspaper, it was Kenji who emboldened her to try. Having practically retired from radio work for almost ten years then, Joselin was diffident. She turned to her colleagues at the RMN for moral boost to enable her to muster the courage to produce a demo tape.Knowing that the opportunity to work in something one really loves is hard to come by especially in a foreign land, Joselin treasures her work as radio announcer and public relations manager of a monthly magazine.She had the gut feeling that the job was meant for her, and she got it in no time at all. Aware that most Filipinos settle for any job just to earn a living in a foreign land, Joselin could only be grateful, “I am so thankful to HIM for what I am now. My radio job is what I consider my first love and doing the same thing here gives it a deeper meaning and fulfillment. This job is not only a means of earning one’s keep, but is also a public service to our kababayan. Such opportunity is rare in this country.”
Career is important for her, but now that her three daughters are into the delicate passage to adulthood, Joselin feels she has to adjust her priorities. “I have to lessen my activities and work load to spend time with them. My kids are growing so fast. It will only take few years and they’re out of my wings. I may not be a model mother but am trying to be a good one. They’re all daughters and will eventually become mothers. At least I can set a good example to them.”