Dr. Suzuki’s dream of the ILC Caravan has taken its first step forward with an event held in March in Morioka City in Iwate. It was a small gathering, with around 7 members of both the Morioka city government and the local neighborhood association. Sitting comfortably on Japanese tatami mat floors, Anna Thomas (Oshu City) and I chatted with our guests about the ILC and some what-ifs:

・What if the ILC is built, and a large number of foreign researchers visit the area?

・What if there are communication difficulties?

・What if they throw out their glass bottles with their plastic bottles!?

You may laugh, but people living in Japan will feel me on this one. To reiterate from Anna’s article a few weeks ago, municipal governments will collect the garbage from designated spots in the neighborhood, but it has to be properly separated and bagged, or else it won’t be taken away. Also, animals that make a real mess of these areas (well, crows. It’s mainly crows. Crows as big as housecats.) …and the municipality doesn’t clean that up. Who has to clean up that mess? You and your neighbors. Which means garbage separation is a place where relationships between neighbors might break down!

The public spaces within a neighborhood may be the property of the municipality, but the expectation is that they will be maintained by the people living there. Even if a garbage collection spot is placed in front of someone’s house, it’s not just their responsibility to clean it up – it’s everyone in the neighborhood. Ergo, you learn to be more respectful of the area because it’s your responsibility as well as everyone else’s. I feel like this is a very interesting and unique aspect of Japanese culture – and could be a reason that the country as a whole is so clean.

To facilitate the spirit of communication and responsibility, Japan has neighborhood associations, or “chonaikai”. A local neighborhood association may take care of some or all of the following:

・Spreading announcements and news from the municipal government. This is done through a kairanban, which is a clipboard with announcements. After you read the announcements, you sign or stamp your name, and pass it to your neighbors.

・Clearing out weeds and sweeping common areas like parks and public halls

・Collecting recyclables

・Disaster drills/evacuation drills

・Collecting funds for and installing traffic signs, lights, and nets for garbage collection spots (to keep out the dang crows)

・Crime prevention through volunteer patrols

・Cultural activities like local festivals, enrichment classes, and physical activities

Neighborhood associations are meant to be a link with the local government, as well as a place to get to know your neighbors. A fee is collected every year from every household in a neighborhood for their activities, so a president, treasurer and other officers are usually chosen/elected to manage the group and its finances. Neighborhood associations are usually hurting for active members, and this can be a good place to make contact with your surrounding area, especially if you weren’t born and raised there.

Like most things in Japan, the language barrier can be a huge hurdle to entry. However, most activities require just a smile and the will to help out. Plus, there are a lot of fun experiences to be had. By helping set up a local festival, you might get a chance to learn a folk dance (or in Morioka’s case, a Sansa odori dance). Get up early in the morning to help clear out weeds from the playground, and maybe your kindly old neighbor will bring you some delicious rice balls. Participate in the “Respect the Aged Day” festivities, and sing karaoke in front of dozens of senior citizens. It’s a two-way street. You could teach people your native language or lead a small class on your country’s cooking. There are many ways to give back to the community.


Are chonaikai welcome to the idea of foreign residents joining their ranks? The attendees of the ILC Caravan seemed excited by the idea. One man even said that he’d like to show a foreign neighbor to a local izakaya (Japanese-style pub) and have them try all the tasty food and sake Iwate has to offer. I think it was best put by one of the local leaders: “If you join a neighborhood association, we can tell you how to do things right so that all neighbors can get along.”


ILCキャラバンの取組 ~町内会でILC研究者の受入れを支援~ [15号]



・ ILCが建設され、岩手に海外から研究者が訪れると、岩手はどう変わりますか?
・ 外国人住民と地元住民の人間関係がうまくいかなかった場合にはどう解決しますか?
・ 外国人住民が資源ゴミで瓶とPETボトルを一緒に捨ててしまったらどうしますか!?





・ 市町村からのお知らせを回覧版で住民に伝えます。回覧版とは、チラシやお知らせをま
・ 公園や公民館などの公共の場の草取りや掃除
・ 資源ゴミの回収
・ 防災訓練・避難訓練の実施
・ 道路標識、照明、カラスを抑止するゴミ置き場用ネット等の設置へ向けた募金活動
・ ボランティアパトロールなどの防犯活動
・ 近所のお祭り、生涯教育、体操などの文化的行事の開催