Greetings from Oshu City!

In Iwate, we share certain ideals about people coming here from overseas for the ILC. For example, we want you to live comfortably. We want you to feel welcome. We want you to be active and not feel isolated in your new community.

One thing that poses a barrier for that is the language barrier. What’s often brought up in discussions about this is 1. Japanese language education for new international residents, as well as 2. English language education (based on speaking and listening skills) for Japanese people. Of course both of these are important, but the problem with 1, learning the Japanese language, is literacy. The Japanese language uses on a daily basis some 2000-odd characters called “kanji” that stand between any new Japanese language learner and literacy. It depends on the person, but (in my opinion) combined with a full-time job, learning enough kanji to be literate enough to read the newspaper or fill out forms should take a couple of years unless you’re from a country with a related writing system, such as China or Taiwan.

So, in the meantime, how does an international resident fill out forms at city hall, read bus timetables, and find out general living information? Ideally someone fluent in English would always be around to orally explain things, but that is not always possible, plus it is way less efficient than being able to read the material in the first place.

Garbage in many languages!

I don’t know where these cute illustrations for garbage posters and the like come from, but I really like them. Check out that broken robot doll. Did you know that broken robot dolls and CDs are burnable garbage? Now you know.

The solution is simple: all that needs to be done is translation into English. Lots and lots of translation into English.

What is Oshu doing about this? First, I created an English living guide on Oshu City’s website here.

It may not appear very glamorous, but it’s special for a couple of reasons. First, as far as I know, it is the most comprehensive English language municipal living guide within Iwate, and has additional links to the best prefectural and national resources of living information. We are updating this site as needed to improve it. For example, after receiving feedback from friends who do not read Japanese, I recently added a graphic to hopefully make the Oshu City Disaster Preparedness website easy enough to navigate to reach the desired information and either try a translation service on it or ask a friend to translate it.

Second, I have translated English samples of city hall forms including the notification of marriage, notification of birth, forms involving medical subsidies, applications to get tax-related certificates and certificate of residence copies, and notification of moving in and moving out. Again, this may not sound exciting, but everyone coming to live in Japan will use some of these forms to move in or as part of the process for visas. Not only that, but these forms are not unique to Oshu. From what I can tell, notification of birth, death, divorce and marriage forms have exactly the same layout throughout Japan, and other forms may have differing layout by municipality but use the same or similar terms. Making the ILC candidate site an easy place to live is something that concerns an entire area, not just Oshu city, so we of course are making these translations freely available to anyone who wants a copy.

Third, our regional policy division just finished taking applications for subsidies for business in Oshu to make foreign language signage and materials. This time, eight businesses applied. The businesses included restaurants, a hotel, local tourist attractions and organizations involving transportation and tourism. You can look forward to new websites, pamphlets, and menus in English, and in most cases Korean, traditional Chinese and simplified Chinese as well. You will be sure to hear the details these brand new shiny multilingual materials from us in the future! We will also have the same subsidy in place next fiscal year.

I’ve often heard in talks about the ILC that it could become a place to showcase new ways of life, a new way to be for Japan. For example, the ILC candidate site could be a model for sustainability and green energy. This is a very exciting idea. I am just as excited about the possibility of this area becoming one of the most international resident friendly places in Japan, and we are working towards this ideal from modest beginnings, one garbage poster at a time.


今日はゴミの分別ポスター、明日は国際的なメッカ!※[7号]  トマス アンナ(奥州市)
※ 実際は、「明日」ではありません。