“Affirming Multilingual Signage’s Importance Together (Town Meeting Between Oshu City Mayor and International Residents)”

The original article was published in the Tanko Nichinichi. Read the original here.

The Oshu City “Town Meeting” (held by Oshu International Relations Association) where the mayor of Oshu City, Masaki Ozawa and international residents of Oshu come together to share their opinions, was held on March 19th in the Citizen Activities Support Center in the Maple building of Mizusawa ward. The participants exchanged opinions on the meeting’s theme of multilingual signage in Oshu city: how to make signage in public buildings, roads and other places easier to understand for international residents.

The Town Meetings are held to help form a network between local government and international residents, and foster multicultural respect, as well as in consideration of the ILC’s realization.

This year’s Town Meeting had 15 international participants from 7 countries in Asia and America, as well as 9 participants from the city including Mayor Ozawa and General Director of the city’s Collaborative Community Development Department, Sawako Fujiwara. The participants were separated into 3 groups, considering the facilities and places where multilingual signage would benefit international residents.

The places that the participants requested have multilingual signage or content included:  ▽ Guidance signs at hospitals ▽ Enrollment information for kindergartens and day care centers ▽ Information on how to separate garbage. The participants said many international residents had trouble figuring out where to be examined at hospitals when the people at reception did not understand English or their native language, and since signage in the hospital was only in Japanese.

Mayor Ozaki, after listening to the international residents’ opinions, said that “There are many issues that need to be sorted out into what the city needs to do and what the private sector needs to do, but we need to move forward with adding multilingual content to our facilities, signs and roads.” The mayor also stated that “I want the city to hold English and Chinese language classes for city employees, and make opportunities for regular residents to take classes if they wish.”

Ms. Keiji Inaba from Taiwan, a 33 year old part-time worker living in Shinjo, Mizusawa ward, said with a smile that “I have often had trouble not understanding the signs or labeling in hospitals and supermarkets. This was a good chance to directly tell the mayor what I want, which doesn’t happen all the time.”