Sayaka's search for adventure

Sayaka's search for adventure

By Elisha Watson

Sayaka's search for adventure

Hi everyone, my name is Sayaka. I’m from Miyazaki, Japan. Miazaki is on Kyushu Island, a quiet area in the south of the country. 

I wanted adventure after high school, and I dreamed of studying overseas. My family weren’t wealthy enough to pay for that, but luckily I saw a scholarship in a Japanese newspaper for the International Pacific College in Palmerston North, and because I had really good grades, I got it! 

Moving to New Zealand at 19 years old was very exciting. I did lots of things that I’d never done before: I met a group of friends who were selling South American clothing at markets, and we travelled together throughout the country, which was so much fun. We played pan flutes together and had a wild time.

Life in New Zealand was definitely different from life at home. The streets were very quiet, and shops closed so early! In Japan, it’s normal for shops to stay open till 10pm. New Zealand is also a very diverse place. So many people from all over the world live here and call themselves Kiwis - in Auckland most of all. This is quite different from Japan, where you only really see Japanese people.

I met my future husband at the International Pacific College, where he was studying Japanese. After we finished our studies we went back to Japan together. We lived in Tokyo, where my now husband worked as an English teacher and I worked in recruitment. It was quite a ‘sale-sy’ role, where I had to meet targets and find x number of jobs for people every day. I would leave home at 8am and come home at midnight. I did this for three years, but I couldn’t do it anymore. 

After we got married, we decided to return to New Zealand. We moved to Hawera, living with my husband's parents. I was lucky enough to get a job as an online translator translating Japanese newspaper articles into English. It was quite a lonely job working on my computer all day.

My husband then found a job in Wellington, so we decided to move. I wanted to do something different that wasn’t translating, and I applied for so many different jobs, but I wasn’t successful. It was hard, and I felt quite lost.

One day I was reading a newspaper, and I saw an ad for New Zealand Fashion Tech. As soon as I saw the ad, I knew it was something I’d be good at. I have always been crafty. You only live once so you need to do what your heart tells you to do. I was in my late 20s by then, and changing careers is very unusual in Japanese culture.

So, I went to Fashion Tech. I studied with people 10 years younger than me. It was really inspiring. They do a lot of work experience placements, and that’s how I found my first job in the industry working at Sue’s Repairs.

A former colleague then told me that she was opening a new alterations shop, so I joined her and helped her set it up. It was called Looksmart alterations, and I worked there for seven years. It was a lovely place to work, and I also had my two children during this time.

I was ready to work full-time, and I found an opportunity at a uniform company doing sewing, but I worked by myself in my own workroom and found it quite lonely.

One day, I saw a job ad for a machinist at Nisa. I had heard about Nisa a few years earlier, when Elisha started the business. I came in for an interview, and it went well! The atmosphere was really nice, and it linked back to my original goal of working for a NZ made clothing company. I was also just happy to see other sewers, and the idea of working as part of a team was exactly what I was looking for.

My first task was working on swimwear, which is quite a complicated and technical garment to sew. My colleague Luisa helps me out a lot. When I don’t know what to do, I can ask anyone for help, and everyone will chip in. It’s motivating to work with colleagues who take their jobs very seriously, who are committed to doing their best, and to be a part of that. We’re all paddling together in the same direction.

1 comment


  • Thanks for sharing your story Sayaka, and for continuing to share your gifts in Aotearoa/NZ. Enjoy your time at NISA.

    Mary Farrelly on

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