Desperate search for a job
The new chapter of Nishio’s life started with a conversation with an acquaintance. “A company called TYPICA is looking for someone with English skills to do interpreting during interviews,” said the acquaintance, who is a friend of Goto, CEP of TYPICA. “Are you interested? I think that’s the right job for you.”
The acquaintance is also a friend of Goto, CEO of TYPICA.
Five years earlier, Nishio was a sales personnel at a Japan-based trading firm. After a one-year stint at the company, he moved abroad and set up a tour guide business in the Netherlands. That was in December 2016.
“I had no connections or money. But I’m comfortable with meeting new people, and I thought I could use my English skills as a tour guide,” Nishio recalls. “I was confident I would be able to make it work as long as I put all the necessary information in my head and made full use of my communication skills.”
Once he made up his mind, Nishio went all in. To find prospective clients, he created a website from scratch and handed out his business cards at airports and sightseeing spots. Often, people contacted Nishio after seeing his frequent blog posts where he wrote what kind of person he is and what services he offered.
“At first, I thought I had to be an expert on a destination’s history and culture. But I realized at some point that first and foremost, people wanted to travel safely, rather than learn those kinds of things. That was a turning point.”
Later on, Nishio diversified his services to work as a personal assistant. If clients wished to do business in the Netherlands or Belgium, he joined their meetings as an interpreter. When someone asked him to go watch a soccer match with them, he did. And if someone said they wanted to go to Britain, he took them there. Nishio earned repeat customers by forging a personal bond beyond the typical tour guide-client relationship.
In December 2019, Nishio started a second job at the Japan desk of a Dutch-based lawyer’s office. His role was to be a bridge between legal experts and their clients, mainly those who wished to move to the Netherlands or start a business in the country.
Life was good, until it was suddenly tossed upside down in the spring of 2020. With the arrival of Covid-19 infections and the subsequent lockdown, economic activity came to a sudden halt. The pandemic delivered a particularly crushing blow to workers in the tourism sector, and Nishio was no exception. To make matters worse, he was furloughed at the lawyer’s office, too, because there was little arrival from abroad due to border restrictions.
Having lost all sources of income, Nishio started looking for a new job while receiving financial aid from Amsterdam’s government. He was desperate for a job. That’s when he happened to come across TYPICA.
“Given my circumstances, I was ready to take any job. Once I got started at TYPICA, however, I realized how meaningful this job is. It is especially rewarding when roasters tell me in interviews about their life path and how passionate they feel about coffee producers.”
Nishio joined TYPICA in February 2021. Initially, he split his time between various jobs, and worked just 20 hours a week at TYPICA. But he gradually began to shift his focus to TYPICA. Soon, he will be in charge of the company’s Europe team.
“I found it fun to deal with whatever tasks that came my way, be it contacting roasters, putting a shipment system in place, or finding a vacant property for our office. Above all, I was really happy to know that someone was counting on me and there was something I could do to help.”
The motive behind Nishio’s move to the Netherlands dates back to his days at a pre-college prep school.
Nishio devoted all three years in high school to baseball and nothing else. His grades were in the bottom 0.03%. Though he frantically studied from July of his senior year after his club activities came to an end, it wasn’t enough to get him over a passing mark for a university entrance exam. After graduating from high school, he spent another year at a prep school to study for next year’s exam. There, Nishio met an English teacher who would guide him on the path he is on today.
“That teacher walked me step by step through English all the way from a beginner’s level. I started to love English thanks to him. This is probably because my brain was empty, but I found it so interesting to learn grammar, new vocabulary, and sentence structure and make progress little by little. Before I realized, I was able to understand long English texts like those used in actual college exams. I felt a real sense of accomplishment.”
As Nishio became captivated with English studies, he started to actually use English to communicate with people. He went on to earn an English teacher’s license in university. During his teaching internship, he actively communicated with other teachers from abroad and made friends with them. Nishio, outgoing by nature, even traveled with some of them to New York.
Later on, Nishio started a master’s course at Rikkyo University’s Graduate School of Intercultural Communication. That was because he experienced different ways of thinking and different values firsthand through interactions with non-Japanese people. For his master’s thesis, he focused on the life stories of people living in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
“I like hearing stories from many people because there is always something new to learn,” says Nishio. For a curious soul like him, it was only a matter of time before he wanted to explore a world beyond Tokyo. As he yearned to use his English skills and get to know more people from countries all over the world, he started to dream about living in the Netherlands.
“The Netherlands is a comfortable place for expats to live in. The capital Amsterdam is especially so. 50% of its population are immigrants. The city is welcoming toward diverse cultures and values. I’ve spent five years in Amsterdam from my late 20’s to early 30’s, and it means a lot to my life.
Living here never gets boring because I get to know people with totally different values or languages from mine. Right now, I’m sharing a room with a Venezuelan and an Italian. One Christmas, my roommate cooked a traditional Venezuelan dish called Hallacus. Or at another time, I met up with LGBTQ friends and heard them talk passionately about their romance and just how deeply they are in love with their partners. This city always offers me a glimpse into a world I didn’t know before.
The same is true for my role at TYPICA. Now, I have a chance to talk with top European roasters, or join an international event with coffee producers as an interpreter. Every day brings me surprises and discoveries.”
To some, Nishio may seem bold and fearless, someone who acts without much planning. After all, he just up and started living abroad despite having no professional skills to fall back on.
“I guess I like the challenge of trying to get over a high hurdle.”
Nishio played baseball for 10 years. In elementary and junior high school, Nishio was consistently on a starting lineup in official games. His biggest dream back then was to play in Koshien Stadium, the venue of the national high school baseball championships. Pursuing that dream, Nishio entered a high school with an elite baseball club, which recruits top prospects from junior high schools in Shizuoka and beyond. Nishio, though, enrolled in the school through the conventional route; studying, taking an entrance exam, and passing. And the school wasn’t easy to get in, either because it is also an academically elite school. He devoted about eight hours every day to studying, and he did so for the whole 12 months of his senior year. His effort paid off, and he got accepted. He rejoiced, knowing that he would be able to join the school’s baseball club. What he didn’t know, however, was that he was in for a reality check.
“Everyone in the club was so much more muscular and skilled than I was. One first-year student threw 87 miles per hour. It was shocking to see the skill gap between me and the teammates who were scouted by the school. That said, for around two years, I clinged onto a sliver of hope that I would be able to outperform them one day.”
That hope didn’t come true. But Nishio didn’t dwell on it, even when the manager asked him to focus on supporting his teammates in his final year. Then came the summer tournament, the final chance for the team to qualify for the national championship. Nishio watched his team in the stands, rooting for his teammates. “I gave my batting gloves to one of the younger teammates. We lived together in a dorm. I was really happy when he hit a home run, wearing my batting gloves,” Nishio says, recounting that summer.
The team didn’t make it to the nationals. And Nishio’s high school baseball career, during which he never played in official games, came to an end.
“When it was all over, I felt completely burnt out. I knew I left it all out there. And above all, I realized the limits of my ability. From that point on, I’ve kept a distance from baseball. I have hardly even played a catch since.”
“In hindsight, I was reckless to hope to play in Koshien, considering my skill levels. I was also reckless when it came to university entrance exams. My first choice was the economics department of the elite Keio University. In the end, I failed my first entrance exam in my senior year and got into Nihon University’s College of Humanities and Sciences on my second try the following year.
But I guess being reckless without knowing that I’m being reckless is my strength. Rather than think too much and get stuck, sometimes it’s better if you stop thinking with your head and move ahead.”
In his recent conversation with Masashi Goto, chief representative of TYPICA, Goto said, “Your dream is easily achievable. Why don’t we create a future that far exceeds your expectations?”
“I was surprised at the scale of Masa’s vision,” Nishio says. “And I was convinced that TYPICA is the place where I can grow. My goal for now is to establish our online green coffee platform in Europe.
What I want to do with my life is…to live in Amsterdam for as long as I can. This is where I started with literally nothing, scraping by on odd jobs like food delivery and hotel housekeeping. This is also where I built new friendships even though I knew no one at first. People in this city, as I said before, respect diverse values. Now, Amsterdam is more than just my second hometown. This city is my youth itself.”
Nishio spent his teens chasing after the impossible, first trying to play in Koshien and then applying for Keio University. Now in his 30’s, he is chasing after a new goal with TYPICA in the Netherlands. Whatever his goals, he has always searched for something exciting, something he has yet to see. That is how he has lived, and that is how he will always live.