Tokyo to launch foreigners’ council

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government formally adopted a set of policy guidelines May 16 to launch a local council of foreign residents to reflect their opinions in administrative policies concerning the foreign community in the capital.

The metropolitan government will begin accepting applications from non-Japanese residents in Tokyo for council membership sometime before fall. The council’s first meeting is expected to be held in late October or early November, metropolitan officials said.

Registered foreign residents 18 years or older who have lived in Tokyo for one year or longer are eligible to apply, they said.

A member will be accorded council member status in the capacity of an individual, not as a representative of a certain country, region or ethnic group, the officials said.

About half of the members will be selected from the public applicants and the remainder designated by a committee under the governor, although both levels are subject to change.

The common language of the council will be Japanese, and it is desirable that members be conversant in the language. But an interpreter can be present, and the metropolitan government is considering providing one if necessary, the officials said.

About 260,000 registered foreigners from 170 countries live in Tokyo, or 2.2 percent of the population of the capital.

The metropolitan government now has 292 policy councils, but only 13 have non-Japanese members, who in total number 17, or 0.21 percent of all panel members.

The policy guidelines also call for efforts to increase this percentage to 2.2 to closer reflect the percentage of foreign residents to the population of Tokyo.

The policy paper reports, “For foreign residents, there have not been enough ways to reflect their opinions either in their (local) region or in administrative procedures,”.

Of the 260,000 registered foreign residents in Tokyo, Koreans accounted for the largest share, at 36.1 percent, followed by Chinese at 28.4 percent, Filipinos at 7.1 percent, Americans at 6.4 percent, British at 2.4 percent and Brazilians at 2.2 percent.