Japan, Japan, sagot sa kahirapan

Japan, Japan, sagot sa kahirapan” (English: “Japan, Japan, the answer to poverty”) is a phrase of unknown authorship but which probably originated in the late 1970s[1] or early 1980s[2] Philippines, which portrays Japan as a land of opportunity as reflected by stories of many Filipinos, especially entertainers,[3] who found success and lifted themselves from poverty by working in Japan.[4]

Still from @jeadelosreyes’s Tiktok video Japan Japan sagot pa nga ba sa kahirapan?

The phrase was uttered by Ai-Ai delas Alas in her noontime show Magandang Tanghali Bayan,[5] which further popularized the adage in Philippine culture.

“Japan, Japan, sagot sa kahirapan” has become a catchphrase[6] or a running joke[7] even as the original Filipino entertainers have been mostly replaced by other Filipino migrant workers working blue-collar jobs in Japan.

In popular culture

Poet and author Romulo P. Baquiran, Jr. wrote an article about his experience living in the Japan for the 2014-2015 edition of Tomas, literary journal of the UST Center for Creative Writing and Literary Studies, entitled Aestemasu: Japan Japan Sagot sa Kahirapan.[8]

In June 2023, Tiktoker and Japan resident @jeadelesreyes posted a video lamenting the weakening value of the Japanese yen and wondering whether Japan is still the land of opportunity mentioned in the popular phrase:[9]

Hi Japan!
Kumusta ka naman?
Bakit tila parang hindi na ikaw ang dati ko nakilala
Noong ako’y nagsisimula pa lang.
Parang ayaw ko na yatang maniwalang
Japan, Japan sagot sa kahirapan.

In May 2028, Filipino actress Alex Gonzaga posted an Instagram photo[10] of her posing with her mother on a street in Osaka, Japan with the caption “Ang sabi nga nila: Japan, Japan sagot sa kahirapan!” (“As they say: Japan, Japan the answer to poverty!”). The post received backlash from netizens who perceived that she was making fun of Filipino migrant workers in Japan.[2:1]

“Ang sabi nga nila: Japan, Japan sagot sa kahirapan!” Alex Gonzaga’s Instagram post.

In September 2022, SPIN.ph columnist Joel Orellana wrote an article entitled Japan, Japan, sagot sa kahirapan! regarding the increasing number of Filipino basketball players playing for Japan’s B.League because of the foreign league’s better pay:[11]

Hindi mo kasi masisisi ang mga basketball player na maglaro sa mga bansang ito… Hindi sila naiba sa ibang OFWs na nakipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa.

Dahil para sa nangangarap na Pilipino, “Japan, Japan, sagot sa kahirapan!”

In October, 2022, as severe tropical storm Paeng was devastating the Philippines and Philippine president Marcos’ unknown whereabouts became a source of national speculation, actress Agot Isidro posted on X: “Japan Japan. Sagot sa hirapan.”[12] which was interpreted by netizens as insinuating that the president was in Japan[13] while the Philippines was experiencing hardship.


  1. History Of Alex Gonzaga’s Controversial Caption ‘Japan, Japan, Sagot Sa Kahirapan’. Jero Jhen A. 25 May 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2024. ↩︎

  2. The context behind Alex Gonzaga’s much-bashed caption. Malasig Jeline. 25 May 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2024. ↩︎ ↩︎

  3. Drag Before Pride. Tantiangco Aya. 12 July 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2024. ↩︎

  4. Child Protection in the Philippines: A Situational Analysis. Yacat Jay A. Save the Children Child Protection Initiative
    in Southeast Asia and the Pacific 2011. PDF Page 49. Retrieved 20 January 2024. ↩︎

  5. Culture Vulture #10: Japan. Morales Jeffrey. 13 August 2013. Retrieved 20 January 2024 ↩︎

  6. How to: Apply for Tourist Visa to Japan for Philippine Passport Holders. Shelly Viajera Travel. Retrieved 20 January 2024. ↩︎

  7. Alex Gonzaga draws flak for “Japan, Japan sagot sa kahirapan” post. Franco Bernie V. 21 May 2018. Retrieved 20 January 2024. ↩︎

  8. Aestemasu: Japan Japan Sagot sa Kahirapan. Baquiran Romulo P. Jr. PDF. Retrieved 20 January 2024. ↩︎

  9. Japan Japan sagot pa nga ba sa kahirapan? @jeadelosreyes on Tiktok. 29 June 2023. Retrieved 20 Janaury 2024. ↩︎

  10. “Ang sabi nga nila: Japan, Japan sagot sa kahirapan!” Gonzaga Alex on Instagram. 20 May 2018. Retrieved 21 January 2024. ↩︎

  11. Japan, Japan, sagot sa kahirapan! Orellana Joel. 7 September 2022. Retrieved 21 January 2024. ↩︎

  12. “Japan Japan. Sagot sa Kahirapan.” Isidro Agot. 30 October 2022. Retrieved 21 January 2024. ↩︎

  13. Agot Isidro nagpatama: ‘Japan Japan, sagot sa kahirapan’. Abante Tonight. 30 October 2022. Retrieved 21 January 2024. ↩︎