National / Social Issues | Regional Voices: Tohoku

Multicultural advice center in Sendai busy with inquiries

Kahoku Shimpo

The Sendai Multicultural Center, a city-run facility established last year to help non-Japanese residents in the city, is seeing high volumes of inquiries from both overseas and Japanese nationals seeking advice on cross-cultural issues.

In the year since its launch in June 2019, the center has received 2,689 inquiries, including from international students in need of help with daily difficulties and people not aware of neighborhood rules and customs.

It’s staff, dispatched from the city-affiliated Sendai Tourism, Convention and International Association, provide consulting services in English and Chinese on a daily basis, while consultations in Korean, Vietnamese and Nepalese are offered once a week. Support using three-way phone calls with interpreters is offered for 13 other languages. (022-265-2471)

According to the center, 1,659 or 61.7 percent of the inquiries came from non-Japanese residents while the remaining 1,030 or 38.3 percent or so came from Japanese nationals.

Among non-Japanese nationals who contacted the center seeking advice or help were international students enrolled at universities located in Sendai, as well as non-Japanese residents who came with their families in Japan.

The center has seen a growing number of people seeking support in accessing services and dealing with procedures when one moves, gets married or give birth to a child.

About 20 percent of consultation requests were related to problems in daily life such as throwing away waste in the city.

Staff members have been responding to many inquiries regarding disposal of oversized garbage and have been assisting with advice on how to purchase the tickets required for disposal.

According to the center, many overseas nationals have also had trouble and have sought help with understanding rules on health checkups for babies and vaccination, which differ from those in their home countries.

“Many foreign nationals face challenges due to cultural differences or when dealing with regulations that Japanese people don’t experience problems with,” said Akiyoshi Kikuchi, 46, director of the center.

Meanwhile, most of the Japanese nationals who contacted the center were experiencing communication issues within local communities or businesses. One company was seeking information on disaster prevention in foreign languages for its newly hired foreign employees.

In another case, the center responded to a request from day care center staff struggling with a non-Japanese child who was refusing to eat meals there. After concluding that the problems stemmed from cultural differences, the center dispatched an interpreter to help the child’s parents and the day care center’s staff resolve the problem.

Sendai has seen an increase in its international population. As of late April, the population of foreign residents in Sendai stood at 13,817 and accounted for about 1 percent of the total population of 1.09 million.

Kikuchi believes that a growing number of Japanese residents see non-Japanese residents as part of the local community.

“Both Japanese and non-Japanese residents should be involved in building a multinational community here and I hope this center will become an important hub for raising awareness and a place where people can also turn for support,” he said.

This section features topics and issues from the Tohoku region covered by the Kahoku Shimpo, the largest newspaper in Tohoku. The original article was published June 29.

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