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Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura’s statement that the Japanese government may require long-term residents “to have a certain level of Japanese proficiency” has been getting significant attention, particularly from mass media outside of Japan. I would like to congratulate Japan Times writer Kaho Shimizu for the balanced and informative article Jan. 16.

Historically, language has been used as a means of control. Therefore, I believe the statement by Komura is not surprising. While some media like Radio Australia have tried to associate it with human rights issues, I strongly believe that such a discourse, if developed prematurely, will only create divisions between foreign residents and Japanese nationals.

I would at least agree with the government that proficiency in Japanese would benefit long-term foreign residents, as I know that some long-term residents have never tried to master the language even after living in Japan for more than a decade. I am very sorry for them as I doubt they can really benefit from living in Japan.

However, rather than trying to build a barrier immediately, the government should establish a system to support those foreign nationals who have decided to contribute to our society in various ways. For example, recently we’ve heard of shortages of medical professionals in rural areas. The government could facilitate letting foreign medical professionals who are proficient in Japanese practice. The government should plan to train them rather than just screen them solely on the basis of language. I strongly hope the government has such plans in mind.

masaki oda