Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan

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Hi Blog.  Here’s a nice write-up about a group called the Asian People’s Friendship Society, which is doing a very important thing:  Helping NJ help each other.  Up until now, we’ve generally had Japanese helping NJ assimilate into Japan, even though, however well-intentioned Wajin are, many if not most have little idea what it’s like to be a foreigner in Japan, or understand practically what it’s like to become a member of society when they always have been one.  Now this group is having longer-term NJ help shorter-term NJ learn the ropes.  It’s far better than the alternative frequently found in many NJ tribes, particularly the elite ones that enjoy Wajin Privilege, of oldcomers cutting newbies no slack — because apparently nobody ever cut the oldcomers any.  Fine, but that’s not helpful at all.  Let’s hope groups like the APFS break that vicious circle, and enable NJ to control their own agenda and thus their own lives in Japan.  Dr. ARUDOU, Debito

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Group drawing on long-term foreign residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan
by Tomohiro Osaki, Staff Writer
The Japan Times, Jan 10, 2017 (excerpt)
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/

Foreign residents in Japan may be at a disadvantage in some ways, but they are by no means powerless nor on their own, says Tokyo-based nonprofit organization Asian People’s Friendship Society (APFS).

In a recently launched program series, the organization is nurturing a new group of volunteers it calls “foreign community leaders” who will assist fellow non-Japanese trying to navigate life amid a different and foreign culture.

“Long-term foreign residents have incredible know-how on how to get by in their everyday lives in Japan,” says Jotaro Kato, the head of APFS. “I want people to know that there are foreigners out there who can speak perfect Japanese” and who can provide guidance if needed.

Targeting long-term foreign residents with a high level of proficiency in the Japanese language, the 30-year-old organization is spearheading the project to groom such veterans so they can help newcomers overcome a variety of everyday obstacles, such as dealing with language barriers, cultural differences and visa conundrums.

For its part, APFS has organized a series of lectures and workshops that are currently taking place every other Saturday in a community hall in Itabashi Ward, Tokyo, in which experts from many different fields discuss topics important to foreign residents. The issues covered include visa problems, labor laws, the welfare system and translation problems. […]

Particularly thought-provoking, she said, was a lecture on Japanese school education, which taught the class that the government essentially discriminates against foreign pupils by not making their enrollment compulsory, but merely “allowing” them to go to public school on a voluntary basis.

“This is the root of many problems, I think,” she said.

Further details are available at http://www.apfs.jp/

Full JT article at http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/01/10/national/group-drawing-long-term-foreign-residents-help-newcomers-navigate-life-japan/
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5 comments on “Japan Times: Group drawing on long-term NJ residents to help newcomers navigate life in Japan

  • “Up until now, we’ve generally had Japanese helping NJ assimilate into Japan…”

    This is different? A glance at the list of lecturers for their workshops reveals all but one are Wajin. That combined with the implementation of 「分かりやすい日本語」really beggars belief about how progressive this program can be considered.

    Additionally, I’m all for guidance to other minorities, but where is the group’s outreach to Wajin? We minorities must present a unified front, declaring our equality and rights, and make it clear we are not clowns, children, terrorists, or outsiders. It’s hard to see how a group that does not actively communicate that message directly to the Wajin majority can be expected to really make a huge difference.

  • Jim Di Griz says:

    Just my (disorganized) thoughts, but…

    ‘Foreign residents in Japan may be at a disadvantage in some ways’ according to this group. Hmm. Wouldn’t they be helping newcomers more of they told them the truth; the Japanese constitution does not afford NJ the protection of the law? Why bother to dress it up? Has someone got an invested interest to protect? Or are they apologizing for Japan?
    Again, why bother being anything less than truthful if the aim is really to help?

    ‘Long-term foreign residents have incredible know-how on how to get by in their everyday lives in Japan’. Shouldn’t that be something like ‘Long-term foreign residents have been exposed to how institutional racism and discrimination affects their everyday lives in Japan’?

    Basically, this is an organization run by Japanese (and who is financially backing them?) seeking NJ who have been ‘housebroken’, to apologize to new comer NJ IMHO.

    By NJ, for NJ. That’d be a start.
    But we don’t have that because Japan is super-skilled at carrot and stick bait’N’switch games that divide and conquer the NJ community by selling them the lie that if they submit to Japan’s ‘unique culture’ of discrimination, they will be rewarded. And in buying into the lie, they spend literally decades undermining other NJ (just as Greg Clarke has done), right up until they realize that the Japanese never intended to ‘make good’ on the deal (again, where’s apologist Greg Clarke the last year or so, since the J-cops blew him off?).

    The worlds third largest economy still has so few NJ working residents, they need special support groups? What’s wrong with this picture?

    — Gregory Clark’s latest writing is in Kingston Ed., “Press Freedom in Contemporary Japan” (2017: Routledge), where he has a chapter (for the record, so do I) entitled, “Pointing the Bone: A Personal Account of Media Repression in Japan.” (Once again, one of these “personal experience” papers.)

  • @ JDG

    Yes, I too saw that bit about “may be at a disadvantage in some ways” and laughed. It couldn’t be anymore vainly sugar-coated if they tried. How about the truth? “Minorities, especially non-citizens, are definitely still second-class in Japan, even in the 21st century.” I guess if everyone admitted that they might end up feeling obligated to actually do something about it, rather than sit around and make excuses about “cultural misunderstandings” and whatnot.

    To be completely fair, some of the “know-how on how to get by in [our] everyday lives” is not necessarily affected by racism. When to file taxes, where to go for help in the city office, what unusual things are illegal or not, etc. Oddly, though, in the list of “everyday obstacles” which writer Tomohiro Ōsaki elaborates for us, we have “language barriers, cultural differences and visa conundrums.” The American in me demands an Oxford comma before that “and,” but that aside, Ōsaki never bothers to even mention racism and discrimination as one of those obstacles. Not to mention that the “visa conundrums” he nonchalantly glazes over are mostly an intentionally constructed hassle intended to trip people up, with potentially very dire consequences.

    When you mentioned that it’s an organization run by Japanese, I figured I’d check out the organizing members. The list is here. Surprisingly, there are minorities present. Worth noting, of course, is that regardless of nationality or native language, all NJ names are, of course, rendered in “English” (Roman characters). Perhaps Ms. Garcia’s native tongue uses these characters, but given that the other three NJ 役員 very clearly appear to be from Asian nations whose languages are not based on the Latin alphabet, why the arbitrary decision to render them in Latin script? Why not 片仮名? Ah, because, of course, Japanese for Japanese, and English for “foreigners,” never mind if they can’t even speak it. This is extraordinarily telling. Any organization still subscribing to what essentially amounts to linguistic segregation cannot possibly be terribly progressive.

    The one line in the JT article that really has merit, though, is this: “‘Many Japanese people appear to think that they are somehow “above” foreigners and that it’s their job to help,’ said Rai, who has lived in Japan about 15 years.” (Yes, that’s a quote within a quote, within a quote. Love it.) This is the only time the article approaches the truth of the matter. I wouldn’t be generous enough to suggest the Wajin feel any obligation to help, rather to patronize, baby, and belittle minorities. That they feel “above” them is, however, most certainly true.

    As far as their money goes, the financial statement listed on their Web site indicates most of their budget comes in the form of donations. No mention as to who’s forking it over, though.

    On a final note, I think you and I are not the only ones who wish there truly was a “by NJ, for NJ” support and activism group. I am trying to create one. I think the critical factor in doing so is that the activities of the group must be conducted in Japanese, so all minorities (not just English speakers) can be included, and the message can be transmitted to all Wajin (not just those who can understand English). I don’t know of anyone else actively trying to do this, so I figure there’s no choice but to do it myself. Please contact me if you’re interested in being a part of it.

    — I would definitely be interested in an advisory role, if you’ll have me. But it’s probably best to keep my name out of it.

  • Dr. Arudō, I hope I don’t have to tell you that I would be absolutely honored to work with you. The first and foremost problem that needs to be tackled is how to get the word out and find people who are interested in participating.

    What would be the best way to communicate about this project? E-mail? Please let me know.

    debito@debito.org.

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