2024/07/20 22:26


Students are chosen as regional committee representatives



A Japan-first! Two university students are chosen as regional committee representatives

Regional committees were conceived from the idea of finding new forms of local administration, centering on volunteer-participation. So what do they do?

Nagoya University journalism student Lance Truong spoke with Shingo Tamaki (a fourth-year student at Nagoya University), and Koujiro Ohara (a third-year student at Aichi Prefectural University). They were elected to serve as representatives in the regional committee for Chikusa Ward in Nagoya, where they deliberated over how to allocate their fifteen million yen (around 180 thousand USD) budget.

Regional committees began on a trial-basis in Nagoya. In this system of regional self-government, committee members are elected to according to school districts, which have a population of 5000 to 15000 people. While all members are volunteers, with their budget of five to fifteen million yen and task of promoting discussions as representatives of local residents, they are vastly different to existing residents’ associations and regional liaisons.  Despite accusations of being a ‘dead letter local assembly’, all regional committee meetings are open to the public, with normal citizens able to freely participate and ask questions – a new form of local self-government.

   (Left: Tamaki, right: Ohara)

Q: Why did you decide to run to become a volunteer committee member?

A: (Tamaki) I came to Nagoya from Wakayama, and in my life as a student I didn’t have much involvement with my community, so I though it would be a good opportunity to learn about it. I also felt it would be a challenge to decide by ourselves how to spend a fifteen million yen budget, so I decided to run. 

A: (Ohara) I study Spanish and have an interest in the influence (Spanish architect Antoni) Gaudi’s buildings had on the cities they were built in.  I found our regional committee’s task, the‘preservation of historical buildings’, very attractive, so I ran.

Q: What did you feel in your experience as a regional committee member?


A: (Tamaki) While I also served as committee vice-chairman, there were not many other young committee members. However, I was surrounded by many people with rich life experience, from seniors to housewives, and they really listened to our opinions. I learnt that the ability of students to provide new ideas and put them into action can be useful for the local community. While there are many young people who show no interest in politics and don’t vote, if you can have an interest in your community, you can become responsible for how your society changes into the future.

In my family there are many police and public servants. I also served as student body president, so I guess I was always relatively surrounded by politics and social issues. Being able to take responsibility on deciding how to spend fifteen million yen of peoples’ taxes however was a really good experience – I keenly felt the weight of that responsibility. I learnt that in terms of your own community, there are many problems close at hand, and young people are able to contribute in areas like mobilizing help and doing the planning for events. I also think that my being chosen as committee vice-chairman reflected the large expectations of the other committee members towards the younger generation. Originally, politics shouldn’t be carried out by “special” people; there should be more roles for younger people, salarymen, housewives, representatives for the weaker in society, and others. Working this time as a community representative, I keenly felt the large expectations towards my generation. Also, to make the regional committees function better, I think we need the cooperation of city councilors. In order to listen to the voices of local residents, if city councilors can both accept and work with the volunteer regional committees, I think local governance will become more democratic, and the number of young people participating in politics will increase. In order to answer those expectations, I want to continue studying about politics and local governance.

A: (Ohara) Firstly, because I ran without any big expectations, I was honestly surprised when I got elected. Talking with other members in the committee meetings, I was able to learn about aspects of society that you can’t learn about in university. I was impressed by the committee chairman’s ability to coordinate such discussions while listening to everybody’s opinions. Working with a large budget and debating about the community I live in allowed me to appreciate again how great it is. When I told my friends at university about my activities as a regional committee representative, many of them showed an interest. The students at my university, majoring in foreign languages and other international-related subjects, tend to focus on larger world issues. I thought however that if people can become interested in their own community, this could also lead to solving those world issues.

Also, while I had studied about how Gaudi’s architecture influenced the formation of cities, by learning about and taking pride in the historical buildings of my own town, I developed an attachment to my community. I was also very happy when my university friends volunteered to help out at regional committee events. If even just one student gets involved with the people living in his community and develops an interest in it, I think this is a good thing. While I plan to study overseas in the future, through my work in the regional committee I was able to rediscover the importance of community ties and the wonder of Japan, and felt I have become able to talk about myself as a Japanese person.

Many local politicians in other democratic countries have another principal occupation; the volunteer aspect of their work (as local members) is strong. In this case, there aren’t many professional members of parliament (MPs) like in Japan. This trial of regional committees in Nagoya aims in the future to bring parliaments - which becoming more entrenched with professional MPs - closer to ordinary citizens. These two students, through their first experience in a regional committee, seem to have felt they have answered what was expected of them. This year there are unified local elections. It is important for young people themselves to carve out a new age, rather than leave their future to others. If they continue to act with this in mind, the adults of good will around them will give their support.

The World as Your Homeland!




The World as Your Homeland!

The 1st Asia Empowerment Forum

The 1st Asia Empowerment Forum was held November 7 at the Hotel Asia Centre of Japan in Minato Ward, Tokyo. Despite being called a “forum”, it was different from your usual government-talk fests. There wasn’t the kind of formal atmosphere where scholars present their research results. The running of the event was mainly conducted by students. Within in the forum’s keyword, “Asia”, there were many varied forms of “empowerment”, including multicultural society, health and housing, community, art, entrepreneurialism, volunteering, international marriage, love and emotion.

I received the forum program beforehand from my acquaintance Kazumi Miyazaki. Miyazaki-san publishes “Global Community”, a multilingual, international exchange-related magazine . He was also involved in planning the forum. Two days before, I had received an e-mail from Miyazaki-san explaining that the venue had been hastily changed from Tokyo University’s Faculty of Engineering to the Asia Centre in Aoyama. To chance venues at the last minute… it was with slight trepidation that I arrived at the forum.

The forum was sponsored by groups involved in international activities and a planning committee of volunteers. It was run by female university students from the East Asian student forum LEAF (Linking East Asian Future). Given it was their first forum, you couldn’t say that operations went entirely smoothly. Perhaps it was from lack of experience, but the host’s oratory style was slightly faltering. There was no official program in the materials that were on the desk. Such issues were more than offset however by the memorable messages that the forum promoted.

The opening featured “bugaku”, or military music not to be confused with the other “bugaku”, or traditional Japanese court music), a koto performance, and a song by a female Chosen-zoku, or Chinese person of Korean descent. The idea was to first capture the participants’ eyes and ears, perhaps aiming to create a “forum-like” atmosphere. Next,  a representative from the planning committee, LEAF’s Tomoko Wada , expressed the organizers’ gratitude for being able to gather people committed to Asia’s future and open the inaugural forum. After that, Pakistan’s ambassador to Japan, His Excellency Mr. Noor Muhammad Jadman, offered his congratulations as the representative Asian ambassador for the opening of the first forum.

The forum began with section A, “Multicultural co-existence, health and housing”. There were sections up to the letter G, with these seven “subcommittees” continuing in the midst of a tight schedule.  There were also representatives from various groups, including “Garuda Supporters”, who assist nursing and care worker candidates coming to Japan from Indonesia; Japan Property Management (Nihon Chintai Jyutaku Kanri Kyoukai), who find  housing for Int'l students and other foreigners;  and Daito Bunka University, who house foreign students in the Takashimadaira Apartments in Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward, and are making efforts to deepen their exchanges with the Japanese residents there.  For Japanese society, facing continuing population decline, the important issues being tackled by these groups are ones that must be confronted head-on.

Next on stage were both Japanese entrepreneurs and foreign entrepreneurs living in Japan. Gunyong Kim a Chinese of Korean-descent, utilised his  trilingual abilities to publish magazines in both Chinese and Korean. Indian resident Shyam Pyarauk, whose company WHCreation sells Indian coffee in Japan, spoke of his hardships, which were of great interest. While everyone knows about Indian curry, there are nearly no Japanese who are aware that India is also a coffee-producing country. Chinese resident Long Ri Cai  founded the company Sedai Keishou Katsugaku Ltd, a unique business that supports Chinese students in Japan. The company offers assistance from entry into school through to graduation and employment. It is also a supporter group of the Japanese government’s policy to increase the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000.

Chiaki Ainsworth , Executive Director  at the NPO Multicultural Family Support Centre, gave a presentation as part of the “Multicultural Communication” section, and captured the attention of the female university students in the audience. Mrs Ainsworth is Japanese, but her husband is American. She pointed at that in Shinjuku Ward one out of every ten married couples is in an international marriage. She also explained the toils involved, saying that “while international marriages are increasing, in real life mutual understanding is hard to reach, so there are many divorces.”

Another presenter who created a lot of excitement was Professor Kawan Soetanto of Waseda University. An Indonesian, he has four doctoral degrees in Engineering, Medicine, Pharmacology and Education, yet the essence of his classes remains to “arouse motivation in students”.  Accompanied by his own female students, Professor Soetanto held an actual lesson as an example, his passionate style motivating the whole audience.

Perhaps it was because of the “Soetanto Effect”, but after that discussions became more intense. In particular, organisations like LEAF, the student group promoting exchange with Asia, student groups from Tsukuba and other Universities, interpreter tour guides,  and student groups involved in international medical assistance all spoke about their efforts. They all appeared to be utilising their strong wills and proactively putting them into practice. Their efforts should be known to all those adults who complain that “today’s young people have no spirit”.

The forum was closed (albeit one and a half hours late at just before eight pm), with a Tsugaru Shamisen and singer-songwriter performance. If you were to describe the event in a metaphorical sense, you could call it a “boiling pot of multiculturalism”. Masanobu Yamamoto, one of the initiators of the event and president of the Yamamoto School, an organisation that gather’s people who aim to revitalise Japan, said, “This was our first time, but every year from now on I would like to hold  a forum every four months.”

Everyone, come and visit Yamamoto school!

Multicultural-related Magazine immigrants


(Translated by Lance Truong (Monash Univ.)





No.1 No.2
高島平団地、日本で一番大きく、歴史のある団地で日本の大学生と留学生が地域の活性化に目覚めて大きな問題に挑戦している。 新しい地域と大学の関わり方を探るため、このプロジェクトの発起人で、ある大東文化大学の山本教授と大学職員の井上さん、活動中の大学生、留学生や地域の人たちにお話をお聞きしました。


地域通貨「サンク」の普及活動や、団地の活性化事業や広告・出版・映像事業などの展開も計画中ですし、昨年まで学生だったスタッフ(井上温子氏 後述)も大学の職員としてプロジェクトに関わり、学生と地域の人たちが以前にもまして自主的にプロジェクトの企画、運営に携わるようになってきています。








大東文化大学 山本教授

山本 孝則 教授 大東文化大学 環境創造学部 環境創造学科 やまもと・たかのり 1948年東京生まれ。81年武蔵大学大学院経済学研究科博士課程修了。89年大東文化大学経済学部講師。92年同助教授。97年同教授。01年より現職。この間に94年独ハノーバー大学客員教授。主な著作に『現代信用論の基本問題』(以下いずれも日本経済評論社刊)『不良資産大国の崩壊と再生』『環境創造通貨』(共著)などがある。 山本先生が主宰する「環境創造学と環境創造通貨サンクのページ」の URLはコチラ ↓ http://members.at.infoseek.co.jp/tyamamoto/

teeth were organs



We want to teach the world this important truth.

What does it mean that over 7000 cases of illnesses show that "a tooth is an organ"?
Also, what can we do right now to reduce the cost of medical expenses?

Carving out one’s path with effort and gratitude!!

How a miracle was born from the efforts of two nursing candidates and their supporters
Two Indonesian nurses, Ria Agustina and Yaredo Febrian Fernandes , have miraculously passed Japan’s National Nurse Exam. They managed this after being here for less than two years and having to start from the basics. They have inspired not only many other nursing and caregiver candidates coming to Japan under Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), but also those who supported them from day-to-day.


《Two Indonesians pass the National Nursing Exam!!!》

Chinese exchange student at Lakeland University Ms. Suchintoya , from the MongoRian Autonomous Region, spoke with these two nurses.


Q1: Congratulations on passing the national nursing exam. Many Japanese are surprised that you managed to prepare in such a short time – how did you study for it?


A1: (Ms. Ria After I had been in Japan for two months, the people at the hospital showed me questions from the actual national exam. At the time I could barely read any of them. A lot of other candidates lost their motivation, but I figured that I was human just like the other Japanese nurses, so I swore to myself that I would pass the exam. After taking intensive Japanese language training for six months, I began to work in the mornings as a nurse’s assistant, and in the afternoons studied with the doctors in the hospital. Remembering kanji (Chinese pictographs) takes time, so what I did was concentrate on reading and understanding the meaning; I didn’t do any writing practice.
The doctors who supported me were also truly kind and thorough in their teaching. Because I was working on my Japanese while doing practical study, I was able to continue to work effectively without getting tired of it. Anything I didn’t understand I was able to ask on the spot and then put to memory.


A1: (Mr. Fernandes) It was really tough at the beginning, but seeing Ms. Ria’s efforts was encouraging. After coming to Sannocho Hospital (Sanjou City, Niigata Prefecture), I would work in the mornings, then from the afternoon onwards I was given thorough instruction on the national exam from the hospital director as well as many other staff. I worked at solving lots of questions (from the exam). We studied every day, and because many of the staff gave up their own busy time for us, we thought of our study as work, and from day-to-day figured out an effective method to pass the exam.
After six months of intensive training, I didn’t have time to do separate Japanese language study. After talking with the hospital doctors, I concentrated on solving exam questions instead, and memorized Japanese where appropriate as I went along. This worked well, and as a result I was able to do five years worth of past exam questions. I compensated for my lack of Japanese study by always carrying around a dictionary; whenever there was something I didn’t understand I would look it up and remember it. Then I would try to use that expression as much as possible. Being in an environment where you speak and think in Japanese is study in itself, so I was able to sense my improvement from day-to-day; this was enjoyable.

Q2: The Sannocho Hospital which supported you appears to have had a very homelike atmosphere.


(Bowling Tournament) 


(Everyone at the hospital at a barbeque)


(Ms. Higuchi, who was in charge of taking care of them)   

A2: (Mr. Fernandes) The hospital director Dr. Kamata said to us, “I am you Japanese father, so feel free to say anything to me.” This was really reassuring and allowed me to start my life in Niigata. In the same way, the hospital staff were also very warm, and sometimes strict; they treated us like a real family.
Thanks to everyone I was able to live with peace of mind and concentrate on my studies. During the holidays, in order not to become lonely other Indonesian (nursing) candidates took us to the towns where they were living and invited us to bowling and barbeques, so we had many fun things to do besides study. The kendo and volleyball clubs were also good for stress relief. After passing the national exam, we are able to repay everyone who had given their all-out support, so I was very happy about that.

A2: (Ms. Ria) We’ve also been introduced on TV, and when we went shopping people on the streets of Sanjou would call out to us and wish us luck. There is a lot of snow here so it is quite cold for us, but there were so many warm people both in the hospital and in the town. When I learnt that even the townspeople were supporting us, I swore that I would repay everyone by passing the exam. I still can’t get used to the cold, but I want to give it my all as a nurse.


(Everyone at Sannocho Hospital and Garuda Supporters)

Q3: Please give a message of support to all the EPA candidates working towards the national exam as well as other overseas students.

A3: (Ms. Ria) Because I was able to do it, everyone should be able to. Remember the feelings you had when you came to Japan and strive to achieve your goals.
(Mr. Fernandez) Ms. Ria and I encouraged one another in our studies. People have a tendency to isolate themselves when they study, but you and your friends should encourage one another and work hard. To be honest I had absolutely no confidence that I would pass the exam, but on the day the questions I had predicted came out one after the other. I think God also helped me. If you give it your all miracles will happen. We and everybody out there are supporting you, so please do your best to the very end.


(Mr. Fernandes saying her thanks at the passing celebrations)

For the first intake of EPA candidates who came to Japan in 2008, next year’s National Nurse Exam in February will be their final chance. Asking people, who cannot understand kanji at all, to pass this exam within three years, is very harsh. However, to put it the other way, if they are people who are able to persist even under such conditions, Japanese hospitals and society at large will undoubtedly give them a warm welcome. The story of Ms. Ria and Ms. Fernandez inspired the staff at their hospitals as well as the Japanese languages teachers who supported them. If the candidates work hard with gratitude and enjoy the warm support of others, they may be able to overcome their situation. For people who are confronting various difficulties, they should also be grateful to those around them, believe in themselves and give it their all.

Interviewer’s impressions

Interviewing Ms. Ria and Mr. Fernandes, what was impressive was the strong feelings of gratitude they had towards their companions (the hospital directors and others who supported them). Also, in their exam studies they didn’t simply work furiously, but gave proper thought to the tricks of studying and proceeded from there; I think this was the secret to their success. I believe Ms. Ria’s strong conviction that “if others can do it, so can I; if others can’t do it, I’ll show them myself”, led to her success, while Ms. Fernandez’s view that “nothing is impossible; rather than doing nothing, I’m better off doing something”, led to a miracle. I truly received a lot of courage from these two people. I think they will be a big encouragement to other overseas students as well.


Chinese exchange student at Lakeland University Ms. Suchintoya
We won’t give up for the future of Japanese healthcare!!



The Indonesians and Filipinos applying to become nurses or care workers via EPAs, as well as institutions that accept them, are decreasing year-by-year. Problems include the economic and manpower burden for these institutions, as well as Japanese language and national exam hurdles for candidates. In light of this present situation, Garuda Supporters, a volunteer group of specialists, is tackling these practical issues while listening to the opinions of both sides. In January of this year, Garuda Supporters submitted a policy proposal reworking the scheme to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). While receiving a certain amount of recognition, it has not yet led to any genuine improvements. Accepting this, Garuda Supporters hosted an open discussion at the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA) Global Plaza in Hiroo, Tokyo. The event, entitled “Outcomes of the EPA Acceptance Scheme”, gathered over 100 relevant people in the field including nursing/caring specialists, university professors, specialists on multicultural policy, veteran Japanese language teachers and NPO representatives. During passionate discussions, participants sounded out radical solutions to this serious issue.

According to Associate Professor Asato of Kyoto University, a specialist on overseas labour issues, the present situation is that all advanced nations rely on foreign staff for their nursing/caring personnel. In the US and Europe, the active involvement of Asian and other foreign staff is prominent. In Singapore and Taiwan, foreigners account for 99% and over 40% of total staff respectively. Internationally, competition to acquire nursing and caring personnel is already intense. Now is not the time to discuss the pros and cons of EPAs, but rather how we can accept foreign nurses and caregivers in a reasonable and reassured manner. The relevant parties (in the Garuda Supporters-hosted discussion) were able to join together and conclude a heated debate by agreeing to devote all their efforts in raising the issue with the authorities. If such constructive discussions are able to be conducted at various levels, serious issues, including the treatment of Japanese nurses and caregivers, will eventually be solved.

Garuda Supporters

Garuda Supporters is a volunteer groups consisting of specialists and business people from various fields. It was formed in order to call for improvements to the system of accepting nurses and caregivers based on the Japanese-Indonesian Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Their policy proposal submitted in January 2010 was praised by the relevant government offices and also picked up by the mass media, eliciting a large response.

Joint Representative/Director Wakako Miyazaki
Tokyo, Adachi Ward, Yanagihara 1-9-13
TEL: 03-5284-3706 FAX: 03-5284-3707
e-mail: info@garuda-net.jp homepage http://garuda-net.jp
(You can view Garuda Supporter’s policy proposal on their homepage)
(Translated by Lance Truong (Monash Univ.)

A life committed to the sea

The pro-diver who went from ocean “terrorist” to “savior”

Profile of Masanobu Shibuya
"If Shibuya can't do it, give up": this is how Japan's leading pro-diver and underwater construction expert, Masanobu Shibuya, is often described. Having worked on projects like the Honshi Bridge, Haneda Airport and the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line, Shibuya-san currently devotes his energies to ocean regeneration based on his extensive research, enjoying attention both at home and abroad.

Q: Please describe the path towards your current work protecting the ocean.


I began work as a pro-diver at 25. In the beginning, I lived by a creed of “longer than anyone, deeper than anyone”, and I took great pride in my diving ability and physical strength. At 32, I founded my own company. However, during our first big underwater construction project I fell victim to decompression sickness. During my three-month hospitalization following, I felt for the first time the weakness of the human body.
Other life lessons awaited me however. As company president, I failed to consider the feelings of my employees; I demanded too much of them, and one day they all quit at once and left the company.
I became very depressed after this, so I began to read books on spirituality and practice activities like yoga. As a result, I learnt the importance of considering the feelings of those around me. Through daily contact with nature and my wife, I began to sense things like the inner strength of tranquility and the strength of women. I became very grateful to my wife for her quiet but unwavering support, and rediscovered the beauty of the ocean that I came so close to forgetting; I realized that through my work I had been destroying this beauty. Looking back on past construction projects, my sense of remorse grew daily, and I began to consider quitting my career.

From destroyer to protector: the construction project that led to an awakening


It was in this state of disillusionment when construction of the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line began. The first job was to fix the ventilating device, known as “Kaze no Tou” (or the “Wind Tower”), into the water. Later, upon surveying this structure, I discovered sea bream were settling there. At that moment, I began to recall past construction projects I had worked on one after the other, and how fish would return to the area after they were completed. I had a realization - “Not all underwater construction is bad. If done correctly, you should be able to create an environment suitable for marine life to live in.”


From that moment on, I decided to dedicate my life to “development compatible with the environment”, and “education of the spirit through diving”. Originally not a specialist, I began to study by myself from scratch about marine life and plants. I returned to past project sites, and began to research the post-construction environment while taking photo and video records.
This style of environmentally-friendly underwater construction I was advocating began gradually to garner attention. I started to be featured on TV and other media, and the underwater world that I had been observing finally began to be shown to the outside world. After many years of quiet dedication to my work, it was truly a happy moment for me.
At present, the ocean around Japan is in a critical situation; the seaweed that fish and other marine life rely on for nourishment is declining rapidly. I want as many people as possible to know about this. If we care for it properly, it is more than possible to regenerate this ocean environment.

Q: Please give a message to the exchange students and other young people out there.


In the beginning, I was an “ocean terrorist”. Now though, I dedicate all my energy to protecting the ocean. At the moment you may be destroying the environment. However, it is never too late.
I think that in all people there is a wonderful and pure spirit. The strength to overcome adversity even when things are going bad, the ability to be kind to people; I think everyone possesses that kind of spirit. From now into the future, you will make many mistakes and face many difficulties. I want people however to occasionally get in touch with nature, be kind to others, and lead positive lives.


Interview with Masanobu Shibuya – my thoughts 
( Lance Troung Monash univ. Australia globalcommunity Intern student )

To be able to speak with a pro-diver who is respected not just in Japan, but also worldwide, was a valuable and unique experience. As a young person, meeting with someone who has had a wide variety of experiences was informative and made me think of my own future. Not only that, but when I heard about Shibuya-san’s activities in environment regeneration and his life story up until then, I realized that he was not just a leading pro-diver, but also a leading contributor to society, and my respect for him deepened. In our present world which is facing various environmental problems, I think people like Shibuya-san are saviors.

(transrated by lance truong monash University)

Good Experience Changes People and Organization

"Maternity" is the key word. There's nothing more important than keeping the "sense of giving spirit" between ourselves.
A ordinaly housewife became a movie producer. The first movie she made won the "Nikkei MJ Award" of the Nikkei's Regional Informatization Contest. We interviewed the producer, Keiko Echigo, who has lit people's minds and revitalizing the region through movie-making.

Would you like to tell us how did you became a movie producer?

As a part of the PTA activity, housewives gathered friends and hosted lectures and events. But first we were housewives who have never ever hosted an event, including myself. We did have various troubles but we, the amateurs, worked together as one and could manage to succeed in hosting the event. We had supports from the people in the region, too. After that, we met some young, energetic people who were engaged in movie-making. We thought it would be great to revitalize the region so I suggested to support the location of the movie in Shirakawa city. The movie-making staff was eager to make a film so it was settled. A movie that was made together with the local residents and the professional movie-makers. This was the start and I then established a film company and began to seriously engage in producing movies.
Through movies, everybody was sharing the same theme, which was a very natural thing, and I was so impressed by how the town was changing by being shooting a film. Those things that were never been able to change was possible to change through this. I found out and also felt that the important thing was not only the technology, method, money, but how much you can motivate people.

The origin of myself is maternity . I think this feeling, the sense of giving birth and raising children is also important in making movies and revitalizing organizations. Of course both raising children and producing movies don't go right on schedule, but by sacrificing yourself and flexibly dealing things for your family or for the movie, this can be also be said in maternity, too. Men's society, for what I think, is a society where you scramble. But in women's society, where there's a strong maternity, it is a society where you give each other. To protect important things at places where you need to make decisions, I think this giving spirit that women have, is evitable.

How do you think Japan will change from now on?

I think the ethnic movements will become more active, especially I think the connection with Asian people. And I think we need to give them the exchange students an original role. Interpreting, for example, it has a very important role, not just a mechanical one, but communication beyond cultures. It is important to look from the other point of view and give them a role and to be creative.

Freeing yourself from the mental barriers

Let's make Tokyo an accessible metropolis by hosting Paralympics!
Ms. Narita, a Paralympics swimmer, successfully competed in four consecutive Paralympics Games; win a total of fifteen gold medals, she also set thirteen world records. nicknamed "Queen of Water"
Q: We hear that you often give talks at schools. What is your message to children?


A: First, never give up too easily. And, never forget to appreciate your friends.
I really didn't like swimming growing up, but because I didn't give up, I managed to learn how to swim. After I set my goal to become a gold medalist, I just never gave up. I truly believe that if you don't give up your dream, you will make it happen. It's not always easy for me - training is tough and all. But when I look up, my friends are always there, cheering me by the swimming pool. And just looking at them makes me stronger and keeps me going. I'm swimming for them as well.

Q: You had a few major surgeries and hospitalizations. What makes you keep going? Where do you get your inspiration from?

A; I know there is always something wonderful waiting for me after mishaps like that. I never doubt this. That's why I never give up. Because I feel this way, I can deal with hard times with hope in my heart.

Q: Could you tell us some memorable moments from Paralympic Games?

A: I had opportunities to compete against a wonderful rival and my best friend, Kay Espenhayn from Germany, in Atlanta and Sydney. One day, I learned that she was in a critical condition, but I couldn't do anything for her because I was in the hospital myself. All I could manage was to make Thousand Cranes from origami paper for good luck in five days. I sent them over to Kay's mother, but they didn't make it - she received them a day after Kay passed away. This sad event renewed my determination to try even harder, for Kay, who died at age 34 without fulfilling her dreams. After the Paralympic Games, I visited her grave in Germany to share my gold medal I won in backstroke - Kay's strongest stroke. People like her, great rivals like her make my life so much more meaningful. I cannot thank people like her enough, and she will always be my rival.

Q: What do you think would be the key to hosting Paralympic and Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan?

A: To be free from our own mental barriers, I think. We need to change the way we think about people with disabilities. In Japan, people with disabilities like myself are limited to enjoying only certain activities. In fact, I have been swimming in competitions for people with no disabilities, but at first they denied me saying that no one with a disability had ever participated. So, I decided I would be the first one, and kept trying, and now they let me compete alongside swimmers with no disabilities. At first, I was always the last one to finish, but then I got better and better. One time, the audience started applauding after I finished, and it felt like they were cheering Mayumi as an athlete instead of an athlete with a disability. That felt great.

Elementary and middle schools started letting kids with disabilities study alongside kids with no disabilities. At these schools where they learn together, they never stare at me when I go visit them to give presentations. They just treat me as one of them. I hope more people will start watching us play sports, just as you would enjoy watching any sport. You will have a great time.



The key to being free from our own mental barriers, I believe, is to positively accept people who might be a little different from ourselves, whether the difference is that they are from a different country or they have a disability. That would make our own life much richer. "I have been lucky with people," said Ms. Narita. With such a cheerful personality and positive attitude, she was like a bright sunflower. No wonder the whole room lights up when she is there. Thank you very much for your wonderful stories.

NARITA MAYUMI Queen of Water

Ms. Narita, a Paralympics swimmer, was born in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa. She successfully competed in four consecutive Paralympics Games; Atlanta, Sydney, Athens, and Beijing. Not only she did she win a total of fifteen gold medals, she also set thirteen world records. She has been awarded the nickname "Queen of Water" for her explosive strength. Growing up, Ms. Narita enjoyed and excelled in all sorts of sports until when she was diagnosed with transverse myelitis. She was only in her early teens. As a result, she was paralyzed from waist down and was bound to a wheelchair. Currently, Ms. Narita enjoys cooking and driving in her spare time, and has been actively involved in raising awareness about people with disabilities. In addition to giving lectures all over Japan, she swam across Kagoshima Kinko-Bay as a part of a popular Japanese TV program "24Hour Television". This TV program was produced and aired by Nippon Television Network where Ms. Narita works, and showed her eight hour saga of swimming 12 kilometers across the bay. With a positive attitude that turns major surgeries and prolonged hospitalizations into new strengths, Ms. Narita is a true super-athlete who inspires everyone around her.

Students Society - "Tokyo for 2016 Olympics"

A student organization since 2006, which is actively engaged in movements to host the Olympics.
In 2006, voluntary university students started the organization to promote the Olympics, using their status as students. It was the Tokyo governor Ishihara's words on TV that motivated them; "I want Tokyo to host the 2016 Olympic games for the future youth." This student organization has been gathering signatures for the Olympic Bidding and visiting memorable places of the Olympics to make grass-roots movements of the bidding campaign. We interviewed Miss Morisaki and Mr. Otomo, who volunteered for the Olympic bidding.
Students Society - "Tokyo for 2016 Olympics"


They wanted to feel the "power of sports" through Olympics! visiting many cities, from Tokyo to Fukuoka on the Olympic Caravan, for two and a half months. They mainly visited universities, student organizations, and NPO. and travelling 6,089km for 77 days, appealing the new style of Olympics, considering the environment now and the disabled people.

Could you tell us more about the Olympic Caravan?

At the departing ceremony on December 1st, 2007, former Nordic skier, also the gold medalist Kenji Ogiwara came to see us off. During the tour we met many athletes, for example, Haruka Hirota, the Trampoline athlete of Beijing Olympics, Takashi Yamamoto, silver medalist of swimming at the Athens Olympics, Ryuji Yamamoto, baseball player of Hanshin Tigers. We also socialized with over 2000 people from various fields; universities, NPO, lawmakers, etc.



Local papers and radio stations spread our activities so thanks to them, we could send our enthusiasm of the Olympics all over Japan and could also listen to what the local people really think about this. We learned a lot from our Olympic Caravan.


Planning and Publication Manager: Kazuya Otomo (left) and Representative: Yuriya Morisaki (right)

Miss Morisaki, I heard that it was your experience of communicating with foreign people which made you want to join this movement.

My life has greatly changed since my encounter with foreigners during the World Cup. I was in the second year of junior high school at that time. I met a whole bunch of foreigners with face paintings in Odaiba and they all looked very excited, as if there was a festival or something. I just went up to the crowd and spoke to them, using my small vocabulary. They all listened very hard, trying to understand what I was saying and I was very happy about it. It made me feel I was a part of their group and that experience really changed my life after that. I thought, if I join this organization and the Olympics would really be held in Tokyo, Japan, maybe I could make the children have the same experience that I've had. I hope more and more new dreams will come up from the Tokyo Olympics.

Mr. Otomo, what's your impression of working as a member of this students organization?

I have joined various human rights activities and environment events but it wasn't what I really wanted. I wanted to engage myself in some social activities that got to do with my favorite sports. For this Tokyo Olympics Bidding, it is a little different from the past Olympics. There has been a clear proposal for the environmental problems. I think that this is a global problem which each one of us need to take responsible for. If the Olympics would be held in Tokyo 2016, everybody in the whole wide world would be more interested and have more positive feelings towards the environmental problems.

Let's support this bidding movement for the Tokyo Olympics which is directly facing the environmental problems of us human beings.

Students Society - "Tokyo for 2016 Olympics website

"Interpreter Volunteer Guide" - Why Now?

he world now is now moving towards a rapid globalized society. Japan too, is no exception. In metropolitan areas, international marriage counts 1 out of 10 couples and it is not rare anymore to see exchange students and workers from various countries around the world. But generally, Japanese people are still not mixing well with foreigners who are living in Japan. Much more, don't you think that most of them hardly ever are in contact with foreign tourists?
In the last couple of years, over 17 million Japanese people go abroad on business and travel. Many of them come home impressed with the "kindness" and "warm-heartedness" of the local people there.

The local people there are never as wealthy as the Japanese people but they live an active life and welcome people like us from other countries.


Don't you think it is now time for us to open our hearts and give the foreign people who come and visit or live in Japan a warm welcome? It is the important mission of the Interpreter Volunteer Guides to convey this feeling of warm welcome.
The Work of Volunteer Guides

Here's an interview with Ms. Fukaya of the Tokyo City Guide Club about the Interpreter Volunteer Guides.



Why did you want to become an interpreter volunteer guide?

Many interpreter volunteer guides have the experience that they have been warmly welcomed by the local people overseas. I, too, have the same experience. Many of us want to help, like tour-guiding the foreigners who come to Japan in return of what they have done to us.

What kind of a club is "Tokyo City Guide Club"?

Our group members have all passed the "Tokyo City Guide Test." It's an informal club. First we made small groups of our specialty fields and started the group by doing workshops and study groups. By continuous study groups, we've come to the conclusion that we all wanted to study more about the metropolitan city, "Tokyo". I think it's a great group. We walk around the city and study the history, culture, and the environment. It is a joy for us that we can directly learn them by walking around the city. Members have a great relationship, too, and we are quite satisfied with our intelligent group. I am pretty sure that foreign tourists will love our group.

How do you guide the tourists from overseas?

I think it's natural that after we have input all our knowledge at the study group and gain confidence, we want to spread this happiness to someone. We have 23 model guided courses at the moment and we guide not only tourists but we also have the opportunity to guide foreigners who live in Japan, for example, expats in Japan and groups of exchange students. We hear happy voices from them that they could really experience the Japanese culture.

Why did you want to become an interpreter volunteer guide?

Many interpreter volunteer guides have the experience that they have been warmly welcomed by the local people overseas. I, too, have the same experience. Many of us want to help, like tour-guiding the foreigners who come to Japan in return of what they have done to us.

What kind of a club is "Tokyo City Guide Club"?

Our group members have all passed the "Tokyo City Guide Test." It's an informal club. First we made small groups of our specialty fields and started the group by doing workshops and study groups. By continuous study groups, we've come to the conclusion that we all wanted to study more about the metropolitan city, "Tokyo". I think it's a great group. We walk around the city and study the history, culture, and the environment. It is a joy for us that we can directly learn them by walking around the city. Members have a great relationship, too, and we are quite satisfied with our intelligent group. I am pretty sure that foreign tourists will love our group.

How do you guide the tourists from overseas?

I think it's natural that after we have input all our knowledge at the study group and gain confidence, we want to spread this happiness to someone. We have 23 model guided courses at the moment and we guide not only tourists but we also have the opportunity to guide foreigners who live in Japan, for example, expats in Japan and groups of exchange students. We hear happy voices from them that they could really experience the Japanese culture.

Tokyo City  Guides

翻訳者 :tranlated by 下野佐紀子