• Compiled By Takaya Kawasaki

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A foundation in Kyoto has begun raising money to help offer counseling services assistance to foreign residents affected by the recent Niigata earthquakes, the Kyoto Shimbun reports.

Kyoto City International Foundation plans to use the cash raised to provide foreigners in the area with psychological care, as many of them have been left shell-shocked by the seemingly non-stop temblors rocking the region.

“When it comes to relief operation for foreign residents after natural disasters, there always tends to be a time-lag due to the language barrier,” says KCIF.

According to the Nagaoka International Association, some 2,018 foreign residents were living in the city as of the end of September. Many of those have come from China, Brazil and the Philippines to study or work in mills and factories.

Though the 390 foreign residents forced to stay in evacuation centers after the earthquakes struck have now returned home, many are still suffering daily from stress, the organization says. Some foreign workers even lost their jobs because of damage to workplaces and business operations after the quakes.

The Sankei Shimbun reports on a recent forum held to discuss Japan’s difficulty in attracting foreign visitors and analyze what’s needed to make the “Yokoso Japan!” campaign a success.

Yukio Okamoto, a diplomatic analyst, suggested that high prices were not the sole reason for Japan’s unenviable reputation as a holiday destination, and said the problems for tourists in Japan begin immediately upon arrival.

He cited long lines at the immigration counter at Narita, which can takes one or two hours to get though, and an inconvenient transportation system from the airport to the center of Tokyo (another two hours).

Another critic argued a lack of shops that accept credit cards and difficulties for foreigners in using highways because of poorly displayed English signs have also harmed Japan’s tourist potential.

While none of the abovementioned problems are beyond solving (and some don’t even exist at all), the fact that this forum attracted hundreds of participants to begin with hints at what the Foreign Angle believes to be at the heart of Japan’s internationalization problems.

It’s obviously easier to hold a meeting to discuss a problem than to try and actually solve it.

As long as these matters continue to be addressed ad nauseum in meeting halls and debating chambers, it makes it difficult for those involved to view issues of internationalization as real or tangible, and thus to address them.

The Foreign Angle suggests that the next time a forum group wants to learn about some of the problems faced by foreign visitors to Japan, they should clear out of the community hall for the day and take a trip to Narita Airport.

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