Tokyo ready to set up non-Japanese advisory council

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government will launch this fall a council of about 25 foreign residents.

About half of the participants will be selected through public applications, and the remainder designated by the governor. A working-level group of metropolitan officials finished May 7 a set of draft policies for the council for finalization and public announcement May 16, sources said.

According to the draft policies, the council will serve as an advisory body to the Tokyo governor. The governor will “respect” advice and proposals from the council but is not obliged to implement them.

The scope of recommendations will be limited to the administration’s policies concerning foreign residents, the sources said. The panel will be the first of its kind at the prefectural level.

The establishment of the council is in line with recent programs implemented by the metropolitan government to expand participation by non-Japanese. Later this month, the metropolitan government will release a set of 10-year guidelines for promoting international policies concerning overseas exchange programs and foreign residency in Tokyo.

The city of Kawasaki launched a similar panel last year, and the Kanagawa Prefectural Government plans to create one next year at the earliest. Kawasaki’s council has 26 members, each representing a different ethnic group from the city’s 19,000-strong foreign population.

But the number and nationalities of Tokyo’s council members will not necessarily mirror the non-Japanese population. About 260,000 registered foreigners from 170 nations live in Tokyo, making it difficult to adopt a representative system, according to metropolitan government officials.

Seats for non-Japanese in Kawasaki’s council, for example, number 26, based on the guidelines of the Local Autonomy Law regarding the ratio of voters to assembly seats. If this guideline was applied to Tokyo’s 260,000 foreigners, however, 44 seats would be needed. Officials say this number would be too unwieldy for substantial discussions.

Still, the most sensitive issue for Tokyo will be deciding how each nationality should be represented, especially North and South Korea. The metropolitan government has not yet established the final details for representing these two groups, but the decision is expected by summer, when the government will compile its guidelines for the council after hearing opinions from Tokyo residents.

Council meetings are expected to be held four or five times a year, and panel sessions will be open to the public and the media, the officials said. The members’ terms will be two years.