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The day I proposed this column to my editor back in 2008, I knew it would be a hard sell.

Fortunately, I had a track record. I had been writing Zeit Gist articles (45 of them in all) every two months or so for the Community page since 2002, and The Japan Times was looking for new ways to serve the community beyond pages commemorating Swaziland Independence Day (which is Tuesday, incidentally). International goodwill and advertising revenue are all very well, but what about offering practical information for non-Japanese (NJ) residents making a better life here, or drawing attention to emerging domestic policies that affect them?

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