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  • Japan Times on proposal to convert Itami Airport into “International Campus Freedom City”

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on January 25th, 2010

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    Hi Blog. Young-Turk Osaka Governor Hashimoto has been suggesting some interesting reforms recently, one of them, according to the Japan Times, is to close down Osaka Itami Airport (relocating all flights to KIX), and to use the land for creating an international campus, where international schools and universities would be located and the lingua franca English.

    On the surface of it (regardless of the efficacy of essentially creating a Dejima for ideas and culture, nestled right next to Osaka proper), it’s an intriguing idea with great potential, and not one that in principle can oppose (what could a move like this hurt if successful, except the natural insular order of things, which does deserve some change).  It’s already incurring a lot of opposition from entrenched interests (read full article at JT site).  What do other Readers think?  Arudou Debito in Sapporo

    Airport wars roil Kansai region
    Osaka, Hyogo leaders clash over hub plans
    The Japan Times Friday, Jan. 15, 2010

    By ERIC JOHNSTON Staff writer
    (pertinent excerpt)

    Under [Osaka Gov] Hashimoto’s plan, Itami [Airport]’s 400 hectares would be turned into what he calls the International Campus Freedom City. Up to 20,000 people, including many foreigners, would live in the area, which would be home to international schools and universities. The common language would be English.

    “To turn out talented workers of international stature, all elementary, junior high and high schools in the international free city will be instructed in English,” the plan reads.

    “Along with international schools and universities, home-stays with resident foreigners will provide practical education to students and all signs in the city will be in English. Young people from around Japan who want to improve their English will gather, and it will become a tourist spot, with shops and tourist facilities reminding people of overseas,”

    The governor envisions an influx of highly skilled foreign workers in certain sectors who would serve as language tutors to interested Japanese students.

    “Along with attracting highly skilled foreigners who specialize in biotechnology, new energy and other strategic industries like cutting edge medicine, incentives such as reducing income and residency taxes for foreigners who offer home-stays to Japanese wishing to learn a foreign language in a native linguistic environment could be given,” the plan reads.

    Ido also sees an international future for Itami, but one where foreigners arrive and go elsewhere, not live, work or serve as language tutors and tourist attractions…
    Full article at

    59 Responses to “Japan Times on proposal to convert Itami Airport into “International Campus Freedom City””

    1. Mumei Says:

      1) Vehemently oppose if the “lingua franca” has to be English. If Japanese is not good enough for Japan, then at least Chinese would make a better lingua franca.
      2) Highly oppose if it specifically targets foreigners rather than humans.

    2. Andy7 Says:

      If this goes through, I’ll move to Osaka.

    3. Name Required Says:

      Sounds like a great use for an unneeded airport. Maybe they could offer free or low-cost JSL classes, just for kix.

    4. darridge Says:

      Hmmmm, the cynic in me thinks create a gaijin ghetto, everyone in one place, easier to police, doesn’t matter if they mess up the recycling…

      I mean a foreign tourist spot in Japan? Why not JUST GO STUDY OVERSEAS.

      Wouldn’t it make sense to internationalise Japan by better integrating the overseas community with the Japanese one, not by creating an overseas community for the Japanese to interact with? I mean there already is one of those. It’s called the rest of the world.

    5. sebarashii Says:

      Sounds a good idea if done properly and with due thought for all people who may find themselves there. Also agree with #1, the “lingua franca” shouldn’t be English alone, but open to all who may want to contribute. The world is not a fully English speaking entity after all! How about the many people who speak Japanese in Japan, and the other languages it’s residents and nationals speak? Include them into the mix and this has the potential to be a positive thing for everyone involved! Treatment as a fully fledged human is also invaluable. Would love to see if it actually happens though…

    6. Taylor Says:

      So essentially he is proposing a U.S. military base (w/o soldiers & weapons) for Japanese people to visit, homestay with a foreign family, and improve their English – and you have no problem with it?
      It looks like a zoo that offers lodging. “Come look at the foreigners in their native surroundings”

      Another attempt at segregation….

      BTW – I was at Narita last week, and the J staff at the airline check-in counter ABSOLUTELY would not speak to me in Japanese. I speak J very well, and still… maybe she is the kind of result Hashimoto has in mind….

    7. Jerry Says:

      God I hope not, Itami is only ~15 minutes from our house and would add 1-2 hours to our commute any time we visit (not to mention train/taxi fare from Kobe/KIX)…

    8. Jerry Says:

      addendum: the wife tells me this has been being discussed for about 20 years…

    9. Brad Says:

      The idea sounds half-baked. I don’t see how they’re going to lure 20,000 highly-skilled professionals in high-demand areas to leave lucrative positions in their home countries for an uncertain future in Japan. Coincidentally or not, however, this is the sort of project that makes for huge construction payouts and pork for everybody involved so I’m not surprised at all about this proposal.

    10. Mark McBennett Says:

      As the people, ideas and culture wouldn’t be confined to this so-called “free” city, the comparison to Dejima doesn’t really nail the problem with this idea. I’m all for paying less income and residency taxes and sending my kids to a high-quality, government-subsidized international school. But who is this project really supposed to benefit? Presumably “highly skilled foreigners who specialize in biotechnology, new energy and other strategic industries like cutting edge medicine” would prefer to put those skills to good use rather than “serve as language tutors to interested Japanese students.”

      Given the description and aims described above, I think a more appropriate name would be “GaijinLand.” (Don’t forget to buy your big nose and blonde wig at the souvenir shop)

    11. Doug Says:

      I think this is a potentially great idea. It is nice to see some politicians in Japan thinking out of the box and with an open mind on ways to lower government waste, potentially improve the economy, and include foreigners.

      1. Kansai airport is going broke. I use Kansai very often and I have seen a consistent decline in passenger traffic over the past 5 years.

      2. Presently in many cases it is cheaper and more convenient to fly through Incheon to reach domestic destinations in Japan. At Incheon you can make these connections without changing airports. If the present Itami flights moved to KIX domestic connections would be drastically improved and landing fees at KIX could be reduced due to higher volume.

      3. Itami is in a crowded residential/light industrial area. It is an inconvenient and potentially dangerous location for a major airport.

      4. Kobe airport (built after more than 50% of Kobe residents signed a petition against the airport) can be re-evaluated. The airport started with flights to many locations (Sendai, Kumamot, etc.), many of which were terminated shortly after the airport was opened.

      5. The potential of the Itami area for such an endeavor is excellent. Location is good and plenty of space

      6. As for Mumei’s comments – Comment 1 stating the “linqua franca” has to be English – Sure have many languages spoken. Regarding Comment 2 by Mumei – I disagree completely…let it target foreigners – I can see only positive coming out of this.

      7. Osaka and the Kansai area are dying economically. I have watched this slow death over 11 years. This is a “stimulus” type project that might be worthy of consideration as I believe there are many Japanese of many ages that would find this idea to be very intriguing – The ability to learn about other languages and cultures inside of Japan.

      8. Regarding International Schools – Most of the conventional International Schools are in Kobe (Canadian Academy, Marist, St. Michael’s, and the recently relocated German school). However I believe there is still opportunities for schools that would target Japanese kids that have lived overseas and returning to Japan and Japanese kids that wish to study overseas. I could see some of the foreigners being interested in putting their kids in this type of school.

      I think Hashimoto’s intentions are genuinely good! Bravo to the guy. He is thinking out of the box in a non xenophobic way with ideas that actually include foreigners in improving Japan’s situation.

      A refreshing post in my eyes…nice way to start the week!


    12. Jcek Says:

      Great idea Kansai needs jobs, and putting money in this type of open-minded education format all sounds really great. Being a Osaka city tax payer I’d rather see this being built than more shopping malls or giant robot statues.

    13. Jake Says:

      I support the idea of scrapping Itami, but primarily for aviation reasons. The current aviation situation in the Kansai region is terrible. Granted, part of the problem is that the international airport (KIX) is so far away from central Osaka, but a high-speed rail system would fix this (and I believe this is part of the proposal). Kobe airport is a useless airport, but it’s been built, so diverting a select amount of domestic traffic there, with the rest going to KIX, would be a much better idea. Whatever the measures taken evolve into, you don’t need three major airports, all with capacity for widebody aircraft, within – what – 50 or so miles of each other?

      The freedom city idea is interesting, but it sounds almost like segregation. If you’re going to spend that kind of money on internationalization, wouldn’t it be better to allocate some cash to integration programs?

      — Or perhaps ethnic schools in Japan.

    14. Karl Says:

      So it creates a ghetto for English speakers, only brought here to provide an English environment for the benefit of Japanese people?

      It’s kind of like what schools such as Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University are doing; bring over foreigners who can speak English and little to no Japanese so that Japanese people can practice their English.

      Hashimoto’s program has the same flaw as the universities: they never ask why would native English speakers voluntarily want to do this?

      No sir, I don’t like it.

    15. Jack Says:

      While the state of English education in Japan has been improving for years, we’re still years if not decades behind many other developed countries. If this could somehow help, I can’t entirely dismiss it. However, it doesn’t sound like a very coherent vision so far; more of a “build it, and they will come” than a sound business plan. Are they relocating a major university there, or starting a new one, to get English students? Does their tourism plan consist of stacked neighborhoods of foreigner districts, a la “little LA” next to “little London” next to “little Sydney”? It sounds a little forced…

      Mumei, not trying to pick a fight, just curious; why would Chinese make a better lingua franca than English? Both internationally and in Japan in particular, English has a lot of momentum behind it.

    16. Tim Says:

      An interesting idea that Hashimoto got from his trip to Korea. I’m not sure how I feel about it. Anything that promotes English and multiculturalism is a good thing in my book. However, anyone who has driven around the Itami area would say…. “Ewww. Why would I want to live here?” KIX is in accessible. Kobe airport a joke, and the advanced industries he wants to bring would only steal from other parts of Japan trying and having limited success at doing the same thing A similar initiative in Kobe, for example.

      With the number of Japanese children decreasing and the number interested in studying English also on the wain (another Japantimes article), what I see happening is an ghetto like enclave, compete with amusement park and hotels, being built. Something akin to Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki, Rokko Island in Kobe, or Disneyland. It would then only be a matter of time, where the unique foreign enclave would be sold abroad to bring in students from other nations to study English in a “natural setting”.

      I would be happy to accept a student now. I don’t need to live in Itami.

    17. Graham Says:

      Not sure about this, since it can be seen as “quarantining foreigners” from the rest of the Japanese-speaking society. Having one corner of the town speaking English can mean that the rest of the town can enjoy themselves without having internationalism shoved into their faces.

    18. Mattokun Says:

      There is no way that the vested interests in Monbukagusho and other Japanese universities would allow for the introduction of new “international schools and universities”. Where would they even find qualified staff to fill the administrative and faculty posts for this? Furthermore, a Japanese Governor would not have the budget or the fiscal authority to introduce such a project without approval and huge budgetary outlays from the central government ministries, especially Monbukagakusho, METI and probably Ministry of Finance. In an era where the DPJ is at least attempting to make major cuts to the national budget, I can hardly see any central government support for something like this.

      This sounds like one more of those government-led megaprojects supported by a few well-intentioned politicians (and bureaucrats looking for amakudari posts) seeking to improve economic conditions in their constituency and a whole bunch of construction companies salivating over the idea of easy contracts. I do not see how such a facility in which government plays such an important role would encourage any kind of large-scale job creation in the private sector, which is what Japan needs right now. I suppose it is based on the idea of “creative clusters” and “industrial parks” but as places like Odaiba show, even if you build these facilities, it does not mean that anyone is going to come.

    19. mashu Says:

      I am with the crowd that asks–Why would someone from another country want to come here? What makes it attractive to professionals already working in highly skilled areas?

    20. Doug Says:

      Wow I am amazed at all the backlash this idea is receiving. Here we have a young politician willing to try something different that might work and we have foreigners ripping him a new one.

      You have to think of this as not only an English teaching endeavor but beyond that.

      I am not an English teacher. I am an engineer that has run a business in Japan for over 10 years and see lots of potential benefits to this. I do not see this as an “English teaching” only endeavor but potentially alot more than that.

      Mark says, “Presumably “highly skilled foreigners who specialize in biotechnology, new energy and other strategic industries like cutting edge medicine” would prefer to put those skills to good use rather than “serve as language tutors to interested Japanese students.””

      There are other opportunities for foreigners (many actually) to put skills to good use and this type of plan can be used to incorporate such folks. There are alot of opportunities in Japan (still) for entrepeneureal minded tech folks.

      We should be commending this guy for actually having the balls to suggest this type of radical change and inclusive policy.

      — Let’s see what people think in general. I’ve just put up a new blog poll on this, in the right-hand column of any blog page. Vote early, vote often!

    21. Mumei Says:

      Jack wrote:

      > why would Chinese make a better lingua franca than English?

      Worldwide Chinese is the by far the most spoken language in the world. Even allowing a wide margin of error, this is clearly well more than double that of English.

      The two largest NJ population groups in Japan are 29.5% Chinese and 26.5% Korean.

      Of course there is no direct correlation between nationality and language ability, but I think it is fair to speculate that a large portion of each of those groups speak either Chinese or Korean. (And hopefully Japanese as well.)

      To be blunt, I strongly believe in 郷に入っては郷に従え (“when in Rome…”). If the Japanese speak Japanese, then so do I. I have made Japanese my primary language for the last 15 years.

      But if all Japanese want to speak to each other in a another language other than Japanese, then Chinese makes the most sense internationally as well as domestically. Korean may make a good second choice domestically.

      > Both internationally and in Japan in particular, English has a lot of momentum behind it.

      I suppose it depends on what you mean by “momentum”. If immense time, money, and effort, then I would agree. But the reality is that outside of tourist spots, English essentially does not work anywhere in Japan. I honestly can not recall the last time that I have actually had a real spoken English conversation with a Japanese speaker.

      Internationally, when I go to Korea, for example, communication is much smoother in Japanese than in English.

      — But in terms of a second language, English is the most frequently spoken, not Chinese.

      We’re getting off track. Back on topic.

    22. Karl Says:

      Doug, I think many of us are having issue with this because it’s not terribly “inclusive.” It doesn’t aim to integrate foreigners into mainstream Japanese society, but indeed does the opposite by trying to restrict them to some sort of English ranch. I think it would only serve to “other” foreigners into an “international” (which in Japan often means “English”) environment. I don’t see the inclusive part of this.

    23. jonholmes Says:

      I l be the third person to concur with the following:
      Why would someone from another country want to come here? What makes it attractive to professionals already working in highly skilled areas?

      I know Japan needs more people to pay into the city tax/health insurance fund, and foreigners are the easiest to coerce into doing so, by tying it to the visa.

      In return, we from overseas can enjoy Japanese culture, 4 unique seasons, anime etc.

      Ok, I m being overly cynical on a Monday morning, but again, from a work/life perspective, why come here for longer than a year, expecially if one isnt married?

    24. Justin Says:

      This new institution of higher learning needs a good motto. How do you say “Separate but Equal” in Latin?

    25. mameha Says:

      This gaijin island idea sounds like pie in the sky.

      But I would be happy for Itami (and Kobe) airports to be shut down, despite being a local resident.

    26. stuart Says:

      If a ‘foreigner zone’ is created, landlords outside the zone won’t feel the least bit concerned if they deny foreigners accommodation, because ‘they can always stay in the ghetto’. As time passes, fewer non-japanese would be integrated into the social fabric of the rest of the surrounding cities.

      There is a city in China which is already like this: Chinese people travel there for the tourist activity of spotting foreign people.
      There is a town in Korea which is set up to have English as the main language. The foreign people working there are like a cross between Disney workers and English teachers. Can you imagine ‘living’ at a theme park with your life on show? Can you imagine this being one of the only options for residence in the area? Other than misguided university students and lazy English teachers, I doubt many others would want to sign up, with the potential exception of the lechers.

      I am completely convinced that the Japanese Government doesn’t actually want the majority of Japanese people to be able to speak English well, because fluency with the rest of the world makes them more likely to: 1. become internationally minded (less conservative) 2. leave Japan for a better life elsewhere. The evidence for this lies in the painfully backwards teaching methods at the schools. This leads me to ask why there should be a compound set up for international activities, what is the goal of the project? Obviously it’s not a sinister plot to round up the foreign people, but there are some very serious potential problems with the plan.

    27. M&M Says:

      Why on Earth call it “International Campus Freedom City”? It is pretty awkward and hardly helps one of the prime objectives of the project (i.e. to promote English).
      Apart from the name, I think it is a great idea. Like or not, English is the common language of international business and tourism. This seems like a creative way to make it more accessible. I am sure there are many people who want more than the classroom experience but for whatever reason cannot get overseas.
      It would be good to see businesses/universities come first and the housing to grow organically around the area.

    28. Jeff Says:

      “We should be commending this guy for actually having the balls to suggest this type of radical change and inclusive policy.”

      If indeed it proves to be inclusive and not a “Gaijin Ghetto”.
      Since this is implementation dependent, best to offer constructive concern early, and often.

      (IMHO, temporary ghetto, but what do I know without seeing the whole proposal? Except that I’ve learned to be terrible, terrible jaded about the best intentioned plans that is…)

    29. Romain Says:

      I think it is a good idea to have an international language university/center ; However, it would be a good idea if it focuses on various foreign languages and cultures, and not only English.
      Of course, English is necessary in today’s world, but considering the size of this project, it would be a much richer idea to create a unique place dedicated to various foreign languages, rather than another English school.

    30. surenuffandyesido Says:

      Basing my opinion on a decade of living in Japan, I have to say this is a terrible idea and guess that there is some awful nihonjinron thinking at its base. In all my time here I have never seen the government do anything sincerely to help foreign communities exist, integrate or progress.

      Remember this is the country who paid down and out foreigners to leave, the country who doesn’t afford foreigners healthcare/pension/insurance.

    31. Mumei Says:


      I too am an engineer and have never taught English.
      But our experiences must be very different.

      > We should be commending this guy for actually having the balls to suggest this type of radical change and inclusive policy.

      No offense, but what exactly do you find inclusive about the proposal? Foreigners there will not be able to participate in normal Japanese (language) society. Without that there can be no assimilation into the rest of society.

      Rather, it seems to be almost entirely designed to exploit foreigners as English teachers for the benefit of Japanese. Quotes:

      -“The common language would be English.”
      -“all [schools] schools in the international free city will be instructed in English”
      -“home-stays with resident foreigners will provide practical [English?] education to students”
      -“all signs in the city will be in English”
      -“Young people from around Japan who want to improve their English will gather”
      -“foreign workers in certain sectors who would serve as language tutors to interested Japanese students”
      -“foreigners [to] offer home-stays to Japanese wishing to learn a foreign language in a native linguistic environment”

      If this actually happens, I imagine that we will start seeing 伊丹留学 replace 駅前留学 campaigns.

      Besides, Japan does not have a sufficient population growth to warrant more schools. Existing schools are already struggling to fill classrooms, and increasingly more and more schools are closing down.

      — Regarding the last point, it’s a bit weak. People can go to more than one school, and can do it all their life. We’re not just talking about primary, secondary, and tertiary education here.

    32. Marius Says:

      In case of earthquake: close the campus freedom gates!

      Or am I mixing my Osaka gov and Tokyo mayors?

    33. James Annan Says:

      Well, I think the gaijin ghetto is a pretty ghastly idea, it sounds like someone watched The Truman Show and entirely missed the point.

      Regarding why qualified foreigners would come to Japan, one reason is that local job opportunities in the home country don’t always match up well with the workforce, however well qualified they are. It is certainly quite common (and indeed generally considered beneficial, in terms of broadening experience and contacts) for scientists to migrate. Japan tends to have rather good facilities, at least in some fields.

      It may be worth mentioning that Japan has already created some of these gaijin ghettos on the scale of single scientific institutes, including the one I work at. They are generally (though maybe not always) linked to a short-contract system to prevent any long-term influx of foreigners, the intention seems to be that we come over for a few years, teach the Japanese how to do science, and then bugger off home when we have served our purpose. Of course it doesn’t work because you can’t really “teach” people without some meaningful managerial authority over them, which requires the foreigners to have some power, which is fundamentally incompatible with being kept as “honoured guest” status aka house-pet.

    34. Eric Johnston Says:

      Thanks to all who responded to this article. I’d no idea so many people were so interested in this subject. The comments were all helpful in thinking about how to follow up.

      Just to provide some further background, Hashimoto’s idea is quite similiar to one that Kuuki(sp?)Chuma, a former Osaka Diet member, proposed about a decade ago. In Chuma’s case, he wanted to turn the city’s manmade Maishima island, which sits in Osaka harbor, into, literally, a modern day version of Dejima.

      Chuma’s proposal came at about the same time the city wanted was bidding for the 2008 Olympics on the same island. Chuma explained to me in an interview that he envisioned the major consulates in Kansai, international schools, and major foreign businesses relocating to Maishima, where “foreign” housing would be available for those residents who chose to relocate there. The idea went nowhere due to a lack of political support in Tokyo and Osaka.

      The Kansai business community has long favored such a scheme, and Hashimoto’s plan for Itami is, as one person above indicated, simply old shochu in a new bottle. Ironically, these plans seem to target Westerners and “English-speakers”, not the greater numbers of East Asians who are arriving to study, work and live in the Kansai region –numbers that are only expected to increase further in the coming years.

      Given that his popularity remains quite high (67 percent according to one TV poll) and given his ability to massage the local media, some of whom rely heavily on his comments and appearances to boost their advertising revenue, it’s no wonder old plans supported by local business mandarins that never went anywhere 10 or 20 years ago have been dusted off and given new life by a popular, politically ambitious governor who fundamentally shares the views of the senior madarins.

      The question, though, remains if Hashimoto is serious, or if this idea is simply another strategy to keep his name and face in the media. Given the relative lack of attention in the local Japanese media the Itami plan has received, my guess is that he was presented the idea by supporters and approved it without really thinking too deeply about it. Certainly not as deeply as those who commented on this forum have considered the issue.

    35. Mark Hunter Says:

      My, my, cynical bunch today. Well, I guess I am too! Of interest to note is that Sophia University just revamped its philosophy re English entrance requirements and are looking at moving to a totally communicative type of evaluation. If this type of entrance requirement were to spread throughout the country, then Japan might have a hope of becoming like Singapore where one is not a freak of nature for openly and enthusiastically using one’s second language skills. My point is, that until the powers that be really want change in English output skills from Japanese people (students), then Mr. Hashimoto, as well-intentioned as he seems to be, is spitting in the wind. The education system must change first. I believe the system can be changed, but that almost no will to do so exists at the enforcement level of the Education Ministry, for that would require taking on the universities and cram schools and essentially making them do an abrupt 90 degree turn. There is too much money at stake for that to happen. At the very least, the new Itami zone would have to be 100% tax free to companies and individuals to make it attractive. Hats off to Hashimoto for at least trying to think outside the box a little, though.

      If anyone is familiar with P & G on Rokko Island, perhaps you might shed some light on the corporate tax issues and subsidies provided by governments to have their Asian headquarters there, as well as Canadian Academy’s (K-12 International School nearby) move to Rokko Island as part of luring P & G to the island. How is P & G doing on Rokko Island and what might this mean for a future Itami zone? Anyone know anything? Or are there better industry examples than this?

    36. Jake Says:

      The more I think about it, and the more I read others’ thoughts on it, I don’t like it. It’s basically taking the mistaken Japanese methodology of internationalization to an extreme level. Not only are they importing foreigners by the boatload a la JET and eikaiwa, but they are creating a virtual gaikoku right here in Japan.

      No, the money should be used a) to streamline the air travel situation in Kansai by beefing up KIX as an international hub and a a convenient domestic travel option (hint: get ANA and JAL to pair up with JR for all-inclusive discount tickets that cover both the airfare and train fares) and b) to expand programs for Japanese teachers of English to spend a year abroad to develop their English skills and gain some international perspective (a reverse JET).

      I like Hashimoto — he seems to be a very different breed than the other crusty politicians in Japan, and I like the idea that he’s focused on a solution that solves both the aviation woes and adds an attractive (on the surface) international project. If anyone would lend an ear to the opinions of foreigners, I think it would be him.

    37. Hoofin Says:

      Isn’t this what Temple University Japan purports to be doing? Offer an international style education delivered in English?

      I don’t want to shoot down someone’s good idea, but it may just be that the city has abadoned airport space that they don’t know what to do with. So they are inviting others to “dream along” with them and get an albatross out of the city treasury. That sounds very Kansai, in fact.

    38. Kimberly Says:

      Bottom line to me is, it sounds like segregation of a sense, which I obviously can’t be in favor of.

      If things don’t change in society as a whole, I see those “international” schools operating the same way that the English-language universities in Tokyo too. Japanese graduates are seen as somewhat elite, while NJ graduates are still not given the same opportunities to get one of those cushy “lifetime employment” jobs striaght out of school, despite having graduated from a Japanese university.

      Also, I don’t see this working at all (even if I was in favor of it, it just wouldn’T work practically):
      “home-stays with resident foreigners will provide practical education to students and all signs in the city will be in English”

      …so, they intend for this to be a city of foreigners who live the exact same lifestyle that they would be living in their home country? What would be the incentive for these families to come to Japan then, if they had no interest in ANYTHING Japanese? You would have to pay me QUITE a bit of money (and even then I’d probably say no) to move to a country that I didnt know anything about, to live in a bubble where my language was spoken, but to have the rest of the country remain seperate and foreign to me. And what about the simple fact that it costs EXTREME amounts of money to live a Western-style lifestyle here? Are they going to provide American-sized plots of land for these expats? Two Hummers in every driveway? What would be the incentive to move overseas, and to live the exact same lifestyle you’d be living in your home country, only in a smaller space and with higher price tags on everything? That just… doesn’t make sense. My husband and I are actually considering becoming a host family to an AMERICAN college student… anyone who lives here for long enough to really establish a family here (while granted, some people do keep more of their culture of birth than I did) usually “become Japanese” in at least some aspects. I don’t see anyone other than English-otaku and Japanese kyoiku-mamas wanting to live in the bubble at all.

    39. Mutantfrog Travelogue » Blog Archive » What to do with an obsolete airport Says:

      […] on the property where everybody speaks English. People are already raising hell about this idea over at Debito’s blog. I think it’s a silly idea (as presented, anyway) and will never make it out of committee, […]

    40. Doug Says:

      Wow I am amazed at all of the negativity. And please realize I am usually a critic of Japan, the police, the segregation, the racism, etc, etc, etc,,,I have experienced it all!

      First…Mumei. Cool to hear from another engineer! Hope you are doing well in Japan. Are you in Kansai? If so would be interesting to talk.

      Have you taken the time to contact the Osaka prefecture about this proposal? Are you willing to get involved? Why not join me in writing Hashimoto-san (I have done this already) and expressing an interest to get involved, invest some time, and try to make an impact on how this goes forward. Maybe we (if we really are activists) can make a difference by forming a committee of foreigners to advise on this project. If you are not willing to do that it is hard for me to take your comment seriously. I have met with the mayor of Osaka about Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) issues and I found him to be receptive to new ideas. Mumei there might be some very cool things you could do associated with this project.

      For the other dissenters, are you willing to try to get involved, say your piece, and then see what happens? If you are not willing to at least try I do not know what to say.

      I kind of tie this together with the issue of previous comments about child care. My wife, when we first moved to Japan, also American, did not speak a lick of Japanese. We had 2 young kids and she could not work. What did she do? She started a day care center with a woman from SE Asia and a Japanese women. The day care center went on to be quite successful, my wife went on to get a job she loved. My kids had a great experience. She had no government program backing her up, no people willing to support her, and plenty of people telling her why it could not be done rather than why she could succeed. Needless to say I am a lucky man.

      Frankly speaking, alot of you guys and gals on this blog speak Japanese better than I do and probably have a higher level of education. It would be really great if you would give this guy (Hashimoto-san) that I think is genuinely trying to be inclusive a chance. If he screws up then flame on!

      I have Japanese and foreign friends and business acquaintances here in the Kansai area salivating over this thing, not only in a business way, and seeing potential beyond the “English teaching” realm. Some see this as a way to bring together rather than divide Japanese and foreigners. One of my very conservative friends, Japanese, 55 years old, sees this as a great idea (and he does not see this as a “foreign zoo”).

      Instead of being defeatist and killing this idea out of the gate why not invest some time and then if it fails and turns out to be what you say it will be, complain at that time (heck even tell me “I told you so”). I do not mind crow…even the road kill variety. If I get shot down by Osaka fu I will be happy to post here and state that I was wrong.

      Guess I am sticking my member out on the chopping block (in the blogosphere) on this one but I am amazed (Eric would be happy to talk to you about this as a long time Kansai resident) that people are unwilling to take a bit of initiative and try to take an idea and attempt to get involved and help formulate it into something we might all be in favor of. It has been done before and can definitely be done again.

      If we are interested in activism and making Japan better we should not shoot down a guy’s idea without trying to do something.

      If we feel we cannot have an impact or change anything without trying, then we are defeated. I am not a defeatist. When I do become a defeatist on Japan then I am checking out permanently. I cannot understand why other folks would stay either if the truly feel they have no say.


    41. Jon Says:

      Tim mentioned that Hashimoto likely got his idea from a trip to Korea…have these sorts of projects already been created over there? If so, how successful have they been?

    42. Level3 Says:

      Just a few obvious questions. Who will be in charge of this English zone? Who will run it? Who will make hiring and admission (for “students”) decisions?
      I suspect the answer to all 3 questions is “Japanese bureaucrats”, and thus, I oppose the plan.

      Creating a virtual gaijin zone under Japanese management? Sounds like eikaiwa on a massive scale. No thanks.

      If the quasi-mayor of Gaijin Town and the CEO of Gaijin-Zone Inc. is not going to be Japanese, perhaps I’ll rethink my initial opposition.

    43. Mumei Says:

      First of all, more details on the project here (particularly #5):


      Thanks for the response. As much as I love the Kansai region, I’m in Tōkyō and have not had much of a chance to make it make there for almost a decade.

      As for getting involved, let me think about it some more. As I tried to make clear above, I am firmly against the proposal. There is much that I can put up with, but I find this proposal sickening and offensive. Thus participating in it as is would be quite difficult. However, I am willing to write those reasons down and send them in for consideration / discussion.

    44. darridge Says:

      I am as surprised as Doug is, about the negativity here, about the positivity here (care to tidy that sentence up anyone;)). I can’t see any positive aspects coming out of the idea at all. Aside from how is it going to happen (ie as others mentioned how are you going to get people to move to Japan to carry on as they would in their country), what positive benefits does anyone really see coming from this??

      Talk above about the ‘gaijin zoo’ seems right on the money to me, and if anything it drives more of a wedge into relations – i mean the foreigners have to live in their own area, they are so different!! They cant POSSIBLY live in Japanese communities…

      Isnt one of the main points of this blog and Debitos activism to show the similarities in everyone, not underline the differences?

      — Yes, but let’s appreciate a move towards tolerance if there is the potential for it in a public policy. Otherwise, we’re going to get people saying, “You’ll piss on any proposal we make!”

      In application, the “Freedom City” may become ghettoized, but that’s for us to point out and take measures against as people build upon the proposal.

    45. carl Says:


      “There is a city in China which is already like this: Chinese people travel there for the tourist activity of spotting foreign people”

      Name? I’ve never heard of it but would be interested in knowing more.

    46. Layla Says:

      A real “international city” in Japan is an extremely ambitious idea, but it doesn’t mean that good can’t come out of it.

      Possibly, foreigners who live and work in Japan and speak Japanese won’t feel like moving there. However young people or young families that want to work in Japan for a couple of years getting some experience in teaching or other industries, might benefit a lot from it, as well as Japanese people who want to study languages but can’t go abroad for different reasons.

      I just really hope that they make sure many countries and cultures are represented. The whole international=English idea is driving me nuts.

      It would be also nice if there was one place in Japan where you could find books in different languages, doctors that speak them and I don’t know, imported foods and clothes. It might be just a gimmick, but one that many people can enjoy.

    47. H.M. King Joe Says:

      “It would be also nice if there was one place in Japan where you could find books in different languages, doctors that speak them and I don’t know, imported foods and clothes.”

      How about Tokyo? :)

    48. Layla Says:

      Other than Tokyo! 😉 And maybe cheaper than Tokyo….

    49. AET Says:

      Hands down – hell no. I already live the Eikaiwa nightmare enough hours of the day. Now they want to keep the English-speaking Westerners all in one comfortable, easily patrolable spot, for their benefit. I’ve already been segregated at a Japanese university and remain segregated at my job. I don’t need to be segregated further. We’re human beings, damn it.

    50. Level3 Says:

      I suppose the other big problem is obvious to most longer-term residents of Osaka.

      Osaka’s pretty terrible history of failure with big government works projects.

      The (world’s longest, but still too short to serve anyone except a few locals) monorail that was supposed to serve as a beltway train for the whole city.
      Festival Gate.
      Our sinking, disused Kansai Airport.
      Our pathetic bid at the Olympics.
      The largely unoccupied World Trade Center, tallest building in Western Japan.
      etc. and quite a few other new, unused facilities in Nanko.
      Our brand new, and not-so-conveniently-located (and still understaffed) Immigration Center in Nanko.
      Does anyone use the sports facilites on Maishima?

      (Hasimoto IS trying to close down and repurpose buildings, move government office sinto the unused WTC floors, etc. Great ideas)

      One main reason to support our Governor’s initiaitive is the plan to close Itami Airport and make some sort of use from it, while funnelling planes to KIX.

      But I just see an English Ghost Town by 2025.

    51. André Oliveira Says:

      It could be worse. It could be Kansai or Kobe Airport.

      On a more serious note, for people looking to first step into Japan, this could be very helpful, but for long-term, as mentioned before, it would just be a NJ ghetto, they’d probably apply different laws for it as well. Also as mentioned before, people interested in molding it into something better should write a proposal to influence the project directly.

    52. Behan Says:

      Call me cynical, but this plan just sounds like a way of exploiting NJ for English practice.

    53. Shore Gidwani Says:

      I think its a great idea! You should just make sure that the top chief executive branch of the organization is of high English-language caliber. even if that means including someone without a Japanese name and face and passport.

    54. Cameron Says:


      we already have something like this in Kansai. It’s called Rokko Island. For those who don’t know, it is a man-made island. It is separated out from the rest of Kobe and has an isolated feel to it. It has a large, highly skilled, non-Japanese population centered around the main employer on the island, the P&G regional headquarters. There is an international school, the Canadian Academy, who teaches in English. There are English signs everywhere, many of the businesses have English speaking staff, etc.

      I once took the Rokko liner (the train that takes you to the island) at 8 am and I heard people, Japanese people, speaking to each other in English. Outside of my classroom, I have never experienced that before. When I used to live in Eastern Kobe, and felt like I needed some time away from Japan, I would go out to Rokko because it always felt like I had just left the country.

      What I think makes the environment in Rokko so attractive, and why it works so well, is that it arose naturally, organically. It was not artificially created by the government. Which is why I don’t think that the proposal for Itami will work. It will feel like a theme park because it will be artificially created.

    55. Name (required) Says:

      My employer is presently moving its warehouse from Osaka to Tokyo (close to Haneda) because Itami airport does not offer flights after 20:30. Closing down this really easy to use airport would cause even move international companies to move to Tokyo. Sounds like the opposite effect of creating an international city doesn’t it?

    56. Ken Koga Says:

      There are other languages in the world besides English. Its sad that Hashimoto doesn’t seem to recognise that. If it was a multi-language and cultural learning environment, I’d be interested in supportin it.

      As it stands, I can only speak for myself but as a long term foreign resident here, an eikawa encampment is a place I will avoid and not recommend.

    57. Stewart Says:

      As a former (9 year) resident of Kobe (Kita-ku) who used both Itami and Kansai Intl. frequently, I think this proposal smacks of the same foolishness as the anti-democratically built Kobe Airport. This latter facility flounders because it was built for political purposes, against the loudly expressed will of the city residents. Where I lived, only Itami was convenient, which is all the more true for most who live in Osaka. The other two are perpetually financial basket cases since natural economic demand shows that only Itami is really convenient for the bulk of the metropolis’ residents. Forcing closure of the overused one thus compelling all to go to one or the other of the underused facilities, would come at great cost to consumers in both time and transportation costs will assuredly hurt, not help the Kansai region.

      Given the reality of English as a worldwide language of international discourse, if the government is going to build such a school, I don’t see anything wrong with the Japanese government focusing on it alone in some sort of international education area, but it should not be done at the expense of Itami!

    58. Dunc Says:

      Most of the rich people and businessman of Osaka live in the northen part of Osaka, while KIX is at southern Osaka, which is very far away and inconvenient for them. Even though KIX has many international flights, I know many Japanese people in Osaka who prefer to fly from Itami to Narita and depart from Narita to go overseas, instead of departing from KIX because KIX is too inconvenient.

      — That’s hard to believe, given what a crappy airport Narita is, how long a layover Narita changes require, and how much trouble it is generally to insert another airport departure in your itinerary.

    59. Mark Hunter Says:

      Since Air Canada pulled out of KIX, the Itami – Narita – Toronto route has become a real money maker for all concerned. KIX – U.S. destinations is still good, however. KIX will continue to decline until there is a drastic reduction in landing fees. It’s all rather sad, as KIX is a great airport, once one gets there. This all means that Itami is not going to close anytime soon.

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