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Embedded Racism: Japan's Visible Minorities and Racial Discrimination

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  • Sunday Tangent: Shinjuku-ku issues its own quadralingual guidebook to life in Tokyo.

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on May 31st, 2009

    Handbook for Newcomers, Migrants, and Immigrants to Japan\Foreign Residents and Naturalized Citizens Association forming NGO\「ジャパニーズ・オンリー 小樽入浴拒否問題と人種差別」(明石書店)JAPANESE ONLY:  The Otaru Hot Springs Case and Racial Discrimination in Japansourstrawberriesavatar
    Hi Blog. Turning the keyboard over to JK. Comments? Debito


    Hi Debito:

    Looks like your handbook has some competition:

    Guide to Living in Shinjuku

    新宿生活スタートブック:4カ国語で生活ガイド本--区が発行 /東京

    I don’t suppose Shinjuku-ku would be kind enough to release a “Guide to Living with Foreigners,” in Japanese aimed at the existing residents of the Ward….

    IMO「新宿生活スタートブック」 = ‘Read This Book, Become A Good Gaijin, And Don’t Cause Us Any Trouble”. –JK


    Debito here again:  Page down below articles to see sample scans of book.  I contacted Shinjuku-ku for copies, which they very kindly sent at their own expense.  Thanks.

    Personally, I think it’s a good college try, and every local govt should issue one of these to its NJ residents.  Better than not having a book at all.  And I appreciate that it’s quadralingual.  I assume they took the four top nationalities in their district and extrapolated languages (no Spanish or Portuguese, however.  Ah well.)  Get yourself a copy from Shinjuku.  Way cool.


    Shinjuku Ward issues daily living guide in four languages

    The municipal government of Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward has released the “Guide to Living in Shinjuku,” a daily life manual in four languages aimed at new foreign residents.

    The illustrated guide is in English, Chinese, Korean and Japanese with furigana phonetic readings above the kanji characters for easy reading. The guide covers details of moving into an apartment, such as the deposit and so-called “key money,” as well as etiquette such as polite greetings to neighbors after moving in, not playing music too loudly at night, and making sure to check with the landlord before getting a pet.

    The 74-page manual also covers practicalities of everyday living in the ward, such as separating garbage, procedures to follow in case of a natural disaster, bicycle manners and making it clear that smoking is prohibited on the streets.

    The manual is available at the foreigner registration desk at the ward office, and at the Shinjuku Multicultural Plaza in Kabukicho.

    The ward has also issued a new version of its English language ward map. The previous map was printed on a single large sheet of paper. The new version, however, comes as an easy to carry 58-page booklet of highly detailed maps.

    Both the map booklet and the living guide are available for free. Copies of either can be obtained by contacting the Shinjuku Ward Culture, Tourism and International Affairs Division at 03-5273-3504.

    (Mainichi Japan) April 12, 2009


    新宿生活スタートブック:4カ国語で生活ガイド本--区が発行 /東京






    毎日新聞 2009年4月7日 地方版






    14 Responses to “Sunday Tangent: Shinjuku-ku issues its own quadralingual guidebook to life in Tokyo.”

    1. Ken Says:

      >I don’t suppose Shinjuku-ku would be kind enough to release a “Guide to Living with Foreigners,” in Japanese aimed at the existing residents of the Ward….

      This can’t be serious.

    2. Brazilian Says:

      Seems nice enough. Covers the basic. The only problem is that most people who would appreciate the tips (the ones about behavior), are the ones who don’t cause any trouble to its neighbors (generally). Foreign Roppongi party-boys wouldn’t even read that. If they have read, they wouldn’t care (the majority of them, at least).

      I just find odd the Japanese government habit of not offering a Portuguese and Spanish language version. I mean, if you’re going to put 4 languages, adding 2 more is nothing, lol.

    3. Claus Says:

      I have lived in several wards in my Tokyo life, and this does not surprise me at all – Shinjuku has always had the best city services among them. :-)

    4. John Says:

      I like how they describe the upfront payments for renting a place as “complicated”. Seems like a nice way of describing how you are traditionally fleeced…

    5. Alexander Says:

      I live in Shinjuku-ku, and I’ve said this before on here. The Shinjuku government and city hall are absolutely top notch. They do a lot to help NJ here, offering free counseling and language classes as well as almost all official material in 4 languages. The Shinjuku police however need a bit of education about how to deal with foreigners.

      About the choice of languages – there are not too many Brazilians here, but many Koreans and Chinese. A large chunk of the ward is Tokyo’s “Korea Town” (more like a broader multi-ethnic town these days).

    6. Galapagod Says:

      It’s possible, and probably easier, to download a pdf version of this guide from here:


      — Much easier. Thanks!

    7. Jon Says:

      I have mixed feelings about these things. At least the Japanese is there, but how distracting to read:
      1) furigana on everything is quite an eyesore
      2) I half tried to read the Chinese translation before realizing that it is not Japanese

      It’s obviously aimed at “foreigners”, again emphasizing us vs. them. Same with the writing style.
      I highly doubt that the real Japanese edition has a section on words for body parts. It’s not like those words are part of a Shinjuku dialect…
      And why is there no mention of how to call a hospital that can deal with you in Japanese!?
      A foreigner is someone without Japanese citizenship. Correlating citizenship with linguistic ability is wrong and rather insulting.

      Years ago I received a similar guide from Setagaya, but only in English. I asked for the regular Japanese edition but was denied. I eventually received a copy from a Japanese friend. The content was radically different. I threw out the English one and kept the Japanese edition. I hope the real Japanese edition is more available in Shinjuku.

      — Nasty that Setagaya refused to give you the edition you wanted. The flunkey who refused you should be boxed ’round the ears.

    8. Oiooioio Says:

      You might be surprised, but that you are able to read and speak Japanese doesn’t make all foreigners in Japan able to read and speak Japanese.
      Many people are happy to get information in their native tongue because they can’t or even will to read Japanese.
      A picture with body parts is useful for this kind of people. The foreign version deals with problems that foreigners are more likely to face while the Japanese version deals with problems that Japanese people are more likely to face.
      The Japanese version with furigana is not intended for Japanese people, but for Japanese speakers that might not understand any of the other languages better than Japanese. As foreign Japanese speakers have wildly different abilities, they compromise with a version with proper kanjis and furigana. As ugly as it might be, it makes a difference for the words that they cannot read yet are able understand.

    9. Giant Panda Says:

      Agree with Claus and Alexander – If I recall correctly, Shinjuku-ku has the highest population of foreign residents of any ku in Tokyo (and the lowest birthrate, incidentally). I have always found their services to be excellent, and they really make an effort to provide things in the native languages of the majority of their foreign residents.

    10. km Says:

      This is a nice gesture. I think it’s a good perspective on the issues that become problematic between foreign people and their neighbors (or other relevant situations). I like the good faith that a little bit of education goes a long way.

      Also… something I’ve had to remind myself of continuously recently is the simple fact that the majority of JP people have had very limited exposure in terms of actual human interaction with NJ, particularly NJ who can speak/read/write the Japanese language. Thus it’s not quite as insulting to have someone underestimate your language abilities when viewed from this angle, although they ought to be overjoyed to accomodate you should the need arise, right? I think the majority of people would be.

      Nice post!

    11. Benjamin Says:

      This guidebook looks really good. I’ve actually never had a bad experience with a ward official in Japan. They tend to be very patient and used to dealing with non-Japanese speakers.

    12. Shinrin Says:

      It seems a quite good initiative at the local level, but I would suggest Debito`s handbook + “Handbook of Learning Japanese and Life in Japan” published by the “Bunkacho” in five languages, and available at this site.

    13. Random Says:

      I object to your use of the word “gaijin”. Please replace it with an acceptable alternative.

      — Duly noted. But I think the author is using it in the sense that others who wish to disparage NJ would use it: derogatorily, with the sense of irony.

    14. DiscoVolante Says:

      I also am a foreigner who lives in Shinjuku and this entire site ( is extremely useful. I have only had one incident wherein a policeman asked me several questions, asked for my ID, and then left me on my way, however, I honestly am wondering if there is a good possibility of being wrongfully accused for something here in Tokyo? I ask because I am used to this being common in places I have lived before (Manila and Mexico)….

      Please let me know what you think.


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