Discussing What To Discuss

It’s nearly two weeks since we had the second meeting of the Foreigners’ Assembly, and I’ve still not written about it. So, I’d better rectify that. (There are quite a few things I ought to write about on this blog but haven’t yet, I’m afraid.)

As I predicted last time, we did not finish early. In fact, we had to extend the meeting by fifteen minutes to get everything done. Somewhat surprisingly, however, it wasn’t the discussion of topics for discussion that held us up. We split into two groups for that, and in our group we first went round the room, with everyone getting five minutes to say what they wanted to discuss. Everyone had topics to bring up, and everyone stayed within the allotted time, and on point while they were speaking. I was impressed; with twelve or so people in the room, I’d expected at least one person to not be good at meetings. We then had a short discussion, which gave me an idea of who the talkative people are. I’m going to have to be assertive if I want to get a word in edgeways. (Unusually, the most assertive and vocal people were all women.)

I raised three issues. First, I’d like to see the city conduct a formal survey of foreign residents’ experiences of discrimination, ideally using the same format as EU-MIDIS, so that we get comparative data. At the moment, we’re working with purely anecdotal data, so we don’t have a good idea of what the problems are. Second, although the assembly has discussed Japanese language education provision for children many times, it has never formally discussed provision for adults, and I think that would be a good idea. Finally, I’d like to talk about ways to help foreign residents get involved in local society, both to prevent them from becoming isolated, and to give Japanese residents more experience of their foreign neighbours. In the long term, I think it would help with a lot of the problems that foreigners seem to face.

There was some overlap with the points raised by other people, but points about children’s education came up a lot again. I just want to pick up on a few of the suggestions.

First, several people suggested that the city should help with providing education for children in their foreign parent’s (or parents’) language. They talked about “native language”, but the problem is that these children’s native language is Japanese, because that’s what they speak most of the time. Actually, I don’t think this is the city’s responsibility. I agree that it’s important — I’m trying to make sure that Mayuki can speak English, after all — but I think it’s something that we should do for ourselves. The city arguably has a responsibility to make it easy for foreigners to integrate into local society, but I don’t think that extends to supporting foreign language education.

Second, it seems that people are still having significant problems renting property. One problem is that landlords apparently often require a contact who is either a Japanese citizen or, at least, a permanent resident. This is obviously tricky for new immigrants. Another is that many landlords will apparently still not rent to foreigners. This is a problem that the assembly raised more than a decade ago, and Kawasaki passed an ordinance saying that landlords should rent to foreigners (and the disabled, and old people), and establishing a system that provides guarantors for such people. However, it would seem that that ordinance has not had as much effect as might have been hoped. (This is a place where proper statistics would be a really big help, but we don’t have them.) So, I think that we should discuss this issue again, and make a new recommendation. Perhaps the city should pass an ordinance with a penalty attached; I’m pretty sure Kawasaki has the authority to do that. (It’s a special city, with most of the powers of a prefecture; the largest cities in Japan all have this status, apart from Tokyo, which has a unique governmental structure.)

Anyway, that went very smoothly, and both groups reported back to the main meeting. Our secretariat will prepare an organised summary of the points for the next meeting, when we will actually pick topics.

The next bit took a bit longer. We had to decide whether to participate in city events (we did), and then split the members up between the committees that would plan our participation. I joined the editorial committee for the newsletter; it seemed like the obvious home for me.

So, we made some concrete progress this time, and the flow of the meeting boded very well for the future. My impression from the earlier meetings, that this would be a good group, was confirmed.

I hope that we can actually achieve something. We’ll have to work hard, and together.

Security Problem

A couple of days ago, someone uploaded a spam script to my web host using my account. My hosting service have, of course, deleted the script, but the question of how the spammers did it is still open. The normal explanation is a stolen password, but I had a secure password, and I don’t use it for anything else, or tell anyone what it is. I also use a secure connection to connect to the service. Thus, this is a bit puzzling. I’m currently checking for malware, but there isn’t much for the Mac or Linux in any case, and I am rather careful about that sort of thing.

So, the problem is that I really don’t know how this could have happened. Obviously, I’ve changed my password, but until I know what happened, I can’t rule out further problems. This may make it difficult to contact me by email, and may lead to my website vanishing briefly. I really hope not, but, as I say, I don’t know what’s going on yet.

Update: I’ve scanned my computer for malware, and there wasn’t any. Thus, I still don’t know how this happened. Obviously, that makes it hard to protect against it happening again. So, please let me know if you spot anything strange on the site.

Redecorating

Yuriko’s just about finished redecorating the flat, and I’ve just redecorated my blog. I hope you like the new look; I think it’s quite clean and easy to use.

We’ve all got colds to varying degrees at the moment. Mayuki’s is making her sick quite a lot, but although we’ve taken her to the doctor, they say it’s just a cold. Given that she’s very definitely not ill while she’s not actually throwing up, I think that is quite plausible. Yuriko’s got a sore throat and is losing her voice, and I’m just a bit under the weather.

That’s a large part of the reason why I’ve not been updating the blog. Another reason is that I’m trying to get caught up on work. I made some progress today, but, of course, not quite as much as I hoped. Ah well, there’s always tomorrow.

Delayed Doll Festival

A hina doll display under a kamidana

So I was a bit late.

Yesterday, I put Mayuki’s Hina Dolls up. You’re supposed to put them up some time in February, and take them down by March 3rd. However, regular readers of this blog may be able to remember why that wasn’t a very good time for us to put the dolls up. What’s more, there wasn’t really space in the old flat; we had to move the electric piano and television. So, they stayed in their boxes for a while.

However, I didn’t think it was a good idea for them to stay in the boxes all year round. For a start, it’s a real shame to not get them out; they only come out once a year in any case. Added to that, I don’t think it would be good for them to be in the boxes for two years. The damp could well get to them; last year the dolls had a bit of mould on their hair, so I took the box out and aired them three times over the course of the year, which seems to have worked. So, they’re out so that we can enjoy them, and so that they will stay in good condition.

I’ve put them up in the Japanese room, under the kamidana, and it’s a nice combination. Very, very Japanese, don’t you think. According to Japanese superstition, if you don’t put the dolls away by March 3rd, your daughter will marry late. I don’t know what this lateness means.

Japanese Room

The Japanese room in our flat is finally complete. This room had the most thorough refurbishment, with a new floor (well, new tatami mats), completely redone walls, and a new ceiling. It was delayed because stripping the old wallpaper turned out to be a much bigger job than anticipated.

The light fitting and cupboard doors in the Japanese room

New light on a new room

The walls are white, but painted with a substance that mimics the look of Japanese paper, so that they are very slightly rough, and harmonise well with the other colours. The doors, both to the cupboard and to the living room, are covered in paper, with no borders on the cupboard doors. This was a deliberate plan to make the impression lighter and cleaner, because the wooden frame between the doors is still quite heavy, so a dark frame in addition would have been a bit too much.

Originally, the room had a light hanging from the middle of the ceiling, but that’s been replaced with two strip lights set along the wall, in a wooden setting, providing indirect lighting for the room. It’s still quite bright, but the light is gentler, and picks out the texture of the wall and the ceiling.

The woven cedar veneer ceiling

The woven veneer is actually on separate panels, even though it looks continuous

The ceiling was also changed, with a completely new ceiling put in. The surface is woven strips of cedar veneer, which looks and smells very nice. The whole impression of the room is very Japanese, and very calming. It’s going to be the guest room, so guests will be getting the nicest room in the flat. Of course, we plan to use it for other things when we don’t have guests; it will probably be where we eat, as well.

Room by room, the new flat is slowly getting sorted out.