If Japan is serious about “welcoming” foreign workers, one valuable step it could take to make them feel less excluded would be the wider adoption of the English language.

Japan is Japan, of course, and there is an obligation on those who would like to live and work there to learn the language. No question. But that can take some time. For example, on arrival in Japan, dealing with signage, goods and services in Japanese only can be not only daunting but also off-putting.

Is it too much to ask, for example, for product user guides and instructions to be bilingual so new arrivals can safely operate their heaters, air conditioners, water heaters, stoves, etc.?

Japanese manufacturers provide bilingual documentation in other countries, but not at home. Non-Japanese may only be a tiny proportion of the whole population, but showing consideration for their language needs is one area where the world-famous politeness of the Japanese people appears to have deserted them.


The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.