In Mie Prefecture there are many foreign residents living together alongside Japanese people on a daily basis, at work, in their neighborhood or at schools.
According to statistics (2015, 31 Dec) there are 41,625 foreign citizens living within Mie Prefecture. By nationality, Brazilians are on the top, followed by Chinese and Filipinos.
In order to help in the matter related to multicultural living, some citizens of foreign nationality join actively in several events and activities.
In Suzuka city, a Brazilian of Japanese descent, Ms. Matiko Hayashi, has been joining voluntary activities for 9 years. She works in a council at Makita Chiku Chiiki Zukuri Kyogikai and joins actively in activities for the residents in the community.
“Here in Suzuka neighborhood we have several activities, such as the Benten’yama Matsuri that will be held this month, at Hunter.
There is also the Wai Wai Haru Matsuri in April. In this event we hold several learning activities, such as Japanese games and toys to introduce them to children in general and foreigners because many of them doesn’t know some of these games.
And in another one that is held every year in August, the Ikada Nagashi, but this year it was not held. In a specified area of Suzuka River we produce polystyrene or pet bottle rafts for the participants in general, both Japanese people and foreigners, can use them together and enjoy this event.
We have monthly meetings to discuss about these events and they are held on Wednesday of the month. During these meetings we discuss about the events in the neighborhood, as well as in other locations where we can join voluntarily, giving support or in other ways.
“I join them because I like to make friends, I really like to make friends. Japanese, Brazilian, Peruvian, foreigners in general. I do join these activities because Japanese people living in the neighborhood are kind to us. They greet us, talk to us, even when they meet us at supermarket, at department stores, they always talk to us and greet us. And for me it is important, this friendship, this connection”.
“Yes, I recommend. Because is nice to make Japanese friends, because there is an exchange of knowledge. I myself can show them how to prepare Brazilian food, some words in Portuguese, they also teach us. This exchange is very good, it is valuable. This is the best award I have on this connection and friendship.”
We also talked to the vice leader of this council, Mr. Nakagawa Satoru.
“Within Makita Chiku Chiiki Zukuru Kyogikai, there is the multicultural group, in which Ms. Matiko Hayashi is in charge. She is the key on the part related to the community interaction, performing the role of mediator among adults and Japanese children and foreigners. This is Matiko’s activity.
“Instead of my role in this organization, but the fact Ms. Matiko Hayashi to be in charge for the multicultural group, foreigners living in Makita neighborhood now greet Japanese people on the streets or in another location in the town. The fact we greet each other brings tranquility for both parts, avoiding to emerge that doubt on who are the people. And what we can do is always talk to people, because our slogan is never pretend we don’t know people.
In Tsu city, we will introduce a study group of Japanese language, Ganbarukai, created through the hope of two Brazilian women. And today we will introduce one of them, Leonice Tanaca. Weekly, since 2005, she has been helping and encouraging Brazilians to study Japanese. In the 2008 financial crisis, the group received many Brazilians searching for Japanese learning because they realized the work market gives more value to those workers who understand more Japanese.
“In the beginning, this friend of mine called me, 10 or 11 years ago Brazilians found the life difficult here in Takachaya because they faced hard times with Japanese people regarding garbage dispose and other things. Thinking on all the hard times I passed through when I arrived in Japan, when I knew nothing, when I was not able to communicate to anybody, when I understood nothing about their culture, costumes, so I thought I could contribute some way. This way we kicked off Japanese classes.
“During the classes we don’t use a workbook or something like it, we don’t follow this style. But in the beginning there were only Brazilians and they were just in search to practice conversation, they wanted to learn to communicate to Japanese people, so until today the differential in our Japanese class is it, here we leave everyone feels free, the person comes and tell us what wants to learn.
Formerly, I mean 10 years ago, we didn’t have so many interpreters inside schools, the number was tight. And people faced many problems related to notices they used to receive from school, from city office, from everywhere. So, they brought them here and we solved together, and until today we help in filling out a curriculum when someone asks us to, teachers help them too. Not only me, but everyone working here, we believe that if a person learns more about the culture and costumes from the country he/she lives, for sure this person can live better.
“I find it very important, but we know how hard is the life for foreigners here. The workload is long, so it is difficult for them to join an event, but there are several ones being held on Saturdays and Sundays. If they are able to join a little bit, they don’t need to help to organize anything, but just to join the events I find it is very important. Because for me, my slogan is if you don’t know something, you need to look for and learn it because acquiring knowledge on that you don’t know, for sure the sociability with all will be better.
The classes have the participation of volunteer Japanese teachers, helping students in learning. Group’s coordinator, Mr. Tono’oka, is one of the people in charge for this volunteer group.
“There are many foreigners in Tsu city. I think that for foreigners can live together alongside Japanese people and they need a place where they can comprehend each other mutually.
Is the voluntary participation of foreigners important for the Japanese society?
“Yes, I find it is very important. In order to live together alongside foreigners, Japanese people also need to know their difficulties, what kind of help is necessary to live easily within the Japanese society. In addition to a place where Japanese people can have access to this information. Here at Ganbarukai we have the collaboration from many Japanese volunteers, and if they have this awareness, they can pass it to their acquaintances and it is very important because we can create a place where everyone can find safe and tranquility.
Foreigners living in Japan are part of the community and are member of the society. Work in groups that hold volunteer activities for the community will make the integration greater, promoting the mutual comprehension and helping on the creation of a multicultural society.
How about join the volunteer activities and events being held in the neighborhood or in the city you live? For sure you will make new friends. Surely, attitudes like this will help to create an environment where the living between Japanese people and foreign residents will be harmonious.