Yesterday, there was a preliminary training session for the eighth Kawasaki Representative Assembly for Foreign Residents. As one of the new representatives, I naturally went along. The session was held in Kawasaki City Hall, in a meeting room on the fifteenth floor, which had quite a good view of the city. There were name badges and name plates for everyone, and great piles of literature in everyone’s place. I’ve not read all of it yet, but I hope I’ll be able to get to it before the first real session.
The training session started off with self-introductions; there are 26 representatives, and this time we have 17 different countries of citizenship (our Canadian is from China, and speaks better Japanese than English), representing every continent apart from Antarctica. Since there are no countries on Antarctica, that’s not really surprising. We then had a talk introducing Kawasaki, and explaining how the assembly works, before the chair of the last assembly told us a bit about it from his experience. Then there was a mock meeting, followed by a chance to chat with some of the other members. The lunch break was also good for that, so I’ve talked for some time with about half of the representatives already. I hope I’ll get chance to do that more over the next two years. We finished up with some messages of encouragement and advice from people who had been on the panel in the past.
The Assembly gets significant support from the city, as it’s established by ordinance. There’s a non-career track employee who works full time on supporting the assembly, gathering information we need, and two career-track employees who, I think, mostly work on supporting it. Having attended quite a lot of meetings last year, I know that the staff do provide a significant amount of information to the assembly, when they are asked for it, but they don’t participate in the discussions except when reporting on what they’ve found, so they really do support the assembly.
About the only thing I learned about the assembly’s procedures yesterday was that individual members are not allowed to submit materials for consideration. All documents submitted to the assembly must be prepared by the secretariat and approved by the chair and vice-chair, to ensure that they maintain neutrality. On the other hand, during the meetings the representatives can say whatever they like, so it’s not as if we’re being censored. (I imagine that people who hadn’t read two annual reports and attended five meetings last year learned more; certainly it seemed to cover all the important points.)
The mock meeting was very useful. We were split into groups of five and, after the initial diffidence, everyone in our group contributed quite enthusiastically to the discussion. We didn’t get sidetracked much, and we had a solid set of opinions to present to the full meeting. That seemed to be true of the other three groups, as well. The people who had been on the assembly in the past sat in on the groups, and they all commented that the discussion had been good, so I think everyone must have contributed. This is a very good sign; it suggests that the discussions over the two years will go well.
The first formal meeting is in two weeks. That’s when we are officially appointed, and elect the chair and vice-chair. Apparently, that will take up just about all of our time. At the second meeting, we decide, in broad terms, what we are going to discuss, and how we are going to organise the assembly; it normally splits into sub-groups, just like in the mock meeting. The real work of the assembly starts from the third meeting.
I’m looking forward to it.