This session of the Kawasaki Foreigners’ Assembly is coming to an end. We still have about six months to go, but that’s only four normal meetings, so we have to get started on deciding our final report and suggestions to the city government.
In Sunday’s session, the Life and Society Subcommittee did manage to get started on that, but first we discussed the participation of foreign residents in society. It’s obviously very easy for foreigners to get isolated; it’s common to arrive knowing no-one, and there’s often a language barrier as well. There are a lot of ways for foreign residents to get involved in life in Kawasaki, such as committees run by the city, and the local organisations called Jichikai and Chonaikai. As far as the secretariat could discover, there are no city committees that exclude foreigners from membership, and the local organisations certainly don’t. However, the problem is how foreigners who have newly arrived in the city can find out about these organisations, and, once they’ve found out, how they can make the first approach. One representative suggested that the children’s groups that most of the local organisations run are a good way to start, and that’s certainly true for people who have children. Not everyone does, of course. The city probably can’t give information about newly resident foreigners to the organisations, because that would be a privacy violation, but it might be possible to tell new residents about the organisation; since the city knows your address, it can tell you exactly who to contact in your area.
Once people are involved in society, a lot of other problems get solved, not least the problem of a sense of isolation, and it can help with a lot of the problems of information flow. Once a foreigner has Japanese friends, then even if they don’t read Japanese, they have people they can ask to find out about things. Equally important, a foreigner who is involved in local society can make positive contributions to it. Of course, easier integration would also help Japanese people moving into the area, and there are quite a lot of them in Kawasaki, so if we do take this to the final report, I would definitely want to think about approaches that would be useful to both Japanese and foreign residents.
After that discussion, we went on to talk about what we would like to see in the report. We can make two, or just possibly three, recommendations. (The Education Subcommittee also gets to make the same number of recommendations.) On Sunday, we only got as far as everyone saying which subjects they would like to make recommendations about, and saying why. Everyone contributed, and I didn’t even have to encourage them too hard. Quite a lot of people wanted to address participation in society, some sort of survey of foreign residents, and the general flow of information to foreign residents. The residence conditions for parents, support for finding good accommodation, and the pensions issue were also raised.
So, the last thing we agreed on was how we would start the next session. First, we will vote on whether to have two or three recommendations. (I think we should go for two, because deciding on three in four sessions strikes me as very ambitious.) Then, we’ll vote for the issues. Everyone will vote for the same number of issues as there will be in the report, the lowest-scoring issue will be eliminated, we’ll all vote again, and so on until the right number is left. Since we are only going to vote, not discuss the issues, I think we should be able to get through that in about fifteen minutes, which will leave most of the session for discussing concrete content for the recommendations.
I thought the last session went very smoothly, a sentiment that was echoed by one of the other representatives. It’s a bit of a shame that we’ve got good at working together at the end of our term, but it’s also not really surprising. I am, at least, optimistic that we’ll be able to produce recommendations that we all support.