Every month, our "Close UP" series introduces a selected organization in Tokyo who aims to promote international exchange and the support of foreign residents in their community. For this month, we feature Shinjuku Multicultural Plaza in Shinjuku City, the metropolitan town also known for the nation's busiest entertainment district and the largest Korean community. We asked Yoshitaka Yagihara, Manager of the Multicultural Department of the Shinjuku Foundation for Culture and International Exchange, about how the city supports foreign people's daily lives.
The facilities of Shinjuku Multicultural Plaza ("Plaza") can be used for many purposes, including collecting information, making friends, and learning Japanese. As the local center for promoting Japanese language education, the Plaza offers Japanese language classes regularly and opens a monthly International Exchange Salon where people can enjoy chatting in Japanese and other languages. A variety of helpful information are available at the reference corner. At Shinjuku Foreigner Center located within the Plaza, visitors may ask questions and obtain necessary information about visa (status of residence) before they go to the immigration office. (NOTE: no visa application is taken at the center)
Reception desk: Ask any questions about the Plaza. Communication space: Anyone can use the room to meet friends, study Japanese, and collect information.
Reference and information corner: Books on different cultures and languages, public service information, other useful information for foreign residents are available to view. Some brochures and flyers are free to take home.
Japanese language volunteers putting materials in order.
At the Plaza, we provide the consultation services in Korean, Chinese, English, Thai, and Burmese. The services are free of charge. About 70 percent of the foreign population in Shinjuku is Korean and Chinese, so we have scheduled the consultation service almost everyday for Korean, Chinese and English at the Plaza or the Shinjuku city office. To find out the schedules, please contact the Plaza or visit the Plaza's website.
Foreign residents consultation corner: One-to-one consultation service is available in different languages.
Over 10 percent of the city's residents is now foreign nationals. The largest population is Korean, followed by Chinese. There is a French community in the Kagurazaka and Ichigaya areas. The number of Burmese is increasing around the Takadanobaba area as well.
Like the large Korean community that has long existed in the city, it has its own history and culture. To build a successful multicultural community making good communications with each other is important. At the foreign resident registration counter, we always give visitors a copy of "Guide to Living in Shinjuku," a guidebook that explains rules and customs respected in Japanese society. Although the city today may often be represented by high-rise buildings and commercial districts near the Shinjuku Station, much of the city has been residential for a long time. We want foreign people to know about Japan and Japanese people, and we Japanese want to do the same and learn more about foreign people. Our goal is to create more opportunities for people from different cultures to meet and talk.
We have supported school age children of foreign residents mainly by providing translators who can speak their languages. We will add after-school and evening academic assistance programs to the system to help them learn Japanese language and keep up with their school work better. For a new after-school program, we plan to promote communications between school teachers and volunteer tutors via a log book so that they can share information about the children's progress. For an evening program, we will provide academic support at different local facilities. Once they master the language, children will start making Japanese friends and will be able to understand the classes more easily as well. We hope our new system will successfully get on track, as we believe these programs are essential and fundamental for our efforts to establish the multicultural community in the city.
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