Thanks to Thomas for putting this issue up. I am having great Netscape difficulties doing this myself. Here is the press release I sent to several mailing lists on the topic:
SHIGA PREFECTURE BARS FOREIGNERS
FROM ITS PUBLIC HOUSING
Hello All. Want to try some people power? Got an issue for you that I think should not be left untouched.
Article from the Mainichi Shinbun yesterday states that Shiga Prefectural government bars foreignerswho do not speak Japanese (even those who bring along interpreters) from its public housing.
Have a look at the English translation I received from a news service. My comments and some contact information (should you wish to make your opinion known to Shiga-ken) follow the article.
> Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2002 16:48:16 +0000
> Shiga bars non-Japanese speakers from public housing
> OTSU -- Foreigners who do not speak Japanese have been barred from
> applying to rent apartments owned by the Shiga Prefectural Government,
> it was learned Wednesday.
> Even though the law governing public housing does not require
> Japanese-language ability as a precondition for moving into public
> apartments, the prefectural government enacted its own rules to bar
> foreigners, mainly Japanese-Brazilians, from its apartments.
> The prefectural government defends its requirement of Japanese-language
> abilities. "Those who can't handle daily conversations in Japanese tend
> to have disputes with neighbors if they enter public apartments," an
> official of the prefectural government's housing division said.
> A support group for foreign residents of Shiga Prefecture criticizes the
> practice as unfair. "It's unreasonable that only foreign residents can't
> enjoy these public services even though they pay taxes."
> There are prefectural government-run apartments for 3,100 households in
> Shiga Prefecture. The prefectural government allows local residents to
> apply to enter low-rent public housing on condition that they have never
> failed to pay taxes and that their income is below a certain level.
> Currently, approximately 150 households of foreign nationals are living
> in apartments owned by the prefectural government, and about 80 of them
> are Japanese-Brazilians.
> Foreign nationals had been allowed to apply to rent public housing if
> they have a one-year or longer residency permit.
> In 1994, however, the prefectural government enforced new regulations
> stipulating that those who apply to move in public housing must have
> sufficient ability to handle daily conversations in Japanese.
> In accordance with the rules, officials reject applications to rent
> public apartments if they deem that the applicants do not speak
> Japanese. The prefectural government does not even allow those who do
> not understand Japanese to file applications even if accompanied by an
> In sharp contrast to Shiga, the Shizuoka and Aichi prefectural
> governments that have a large Japanese-Brazilian population in their
> territories are actively helping non-Japanese-speaking foreigners to
> apply to rent their public housing.
> Aichi Prefecture, with a Brazilian population of some 51,000, holds
> seminars on public housing in Portuguese and has prepared brochures on
> such apartments in four languages, including English. Shizuoka
> Prefecture has also compiled similar brochures in five languages.
> The number of Japanese-Brazilians living in Japan to work has been
> rapidly increasing since the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition
> Law was amended in 1990 to grant second- and third-generation
> Japanese-Brazilians permanent residency status.
> Many of them desperately need public housing because they have
> difficulties in renting private apartments because their owners require
> tenants to find guarantors. (Mainichi Shimbun, July 10, 2002)
This is a pretty silly move on the prefecture's part. As they say, foreigners are taxpayers too, so they cannot be barred from public (as opposed to private) housing simply because of a language barrier. This was dealt with in the Azumamura Swimming Pool incident (issho.org - This website is for sale! - issho Resources and Information.), where a village in Gunma-ken named Azumamura barred all foreigners from a public pool because of alleged roughhousing by some Brazilians. Once the issue was raised publicly that Azumamura could not legally bar taxpayers (following a flood of emails, telephone calls, and media attention), the pool took down its no-foreigners sign and reopened to all.
The difference is, this time it's not just a pool. It is a place for people to live--a fundamental part of people's lives. Paid for by public monies. It should not be denied like this.
Background data about Shiga, in case you don't know:
Shiga-ken is the prefecture next to Kyoto, surrounding Lake Biwako.
Prefectural seat, Otsu-shi, population 1.3 million.
SHIGA PREFECTURAL GOVERNMENT
(Information and Statistics Division)
4-1-1 Kyomachi, Otsu, SHIGAﾂ 520-8577ﾂ JAPAN
Website http://www.pref.shiga.jp (Japanese and English)
I say feel free to make your discontentment known. This is one way people power can work. It worked in the Azumamura Case. It might work here too.
This is outrageious!! maybe some one should take the shiga prefecture goverment to court on grounds of "abuse of local powers and discrimination against tax paying persons" and everything else that they can think of, this would obviouly be too big a case for the average person but some form of goverment body such as "legal rights or equal rights" should step forward and take this case all the way to the high courts. ( I'm unfamilar with japanese goverments or goverment bodies, but there must be some form of action that must be taken before this is accepted as part of life in this fore mentioned prefecture)
Well, according to the Mainichi Shinbun, Osaka Branch, July 11, morning edition, page 28, the Governor of Shiga-ken has officially ordered a revision to this policy.
Got the text of the article from the Mainichi Osaka Honbu this morning. News this good should be widely distributed, not buried in a local choukan. The article in Japanese follows, with my translation below it:
BRIEF TRANSLATION (any errors are those of Arudou Debito)
SHIGA-KEN GOV ORDERS REVISION OF PREF HOUSING APPLICATION
PROCEDURES WHICH EXCLUDE NIKKEIJIN
(Mainichi Shinbun, July 11, 2002, Osaka Morning Edition, page 28)
Addressing the problem of Shiga Prefecture excluding Nikkei Brazilian applicants for prefecturally-run housing because of their lack of Japanese, Governor KUNIMATSU Yoshitsugu announced on the afternoon of July 10 that there would be a review of prefectural standards vis-a-vis Japanese language ability and applications.
This will open a path for Nikkei Brazilian workers, who live in fear of corporate restructuring when residing in company dormitories, to secure more stable lives.
At a regular press conference, Governor Kunimatsu stated, "(Having seen the Mainichi article, July 10 evening edition), I have confirmed this situation with the people in charge. They said that 'there are problems with neighboring residents', but I ordered them to review (mi naosu) this situation again."
At Hikone City, Shiga Prefecture, Lucia Okumura (42), a nisei Nikkei Brazilian who opens volunteer language classes and other support activities for foreign prefectural residents, said, "A review is obvious, and it's about time. I hope that they will grasp the real situation and create an environment which will include non-Japanese."
Now that's what I call a fast turnaround--within hours of the press releasing this information, the Governor issues a directive to remedy this situation. And I'm sure all the letters and emails sent by people like us to the Prefectural Office helped too.
Bravo for the Mainichi Shinbun for exposing this silly system, which had been in place since 1994, and forcing its revision not even overnight!
Who says activism and getting social problems out in the public eye does nothing to correct social wrongs?