Posted Jul 9 2007
I’m glad this program has helped you. I’m a public servant so I myself want to work with all people who want to learn about cultures from all corners of the world. I’m not sure if you all saw what you wanted to see, but I hope that the hospitality and feelings were understood.
Just for some context, what are some of the main differences between Tokyo and Ogaki?
I’m originally from Ogaki and live here now, but I lived in Tokyo for ten years. Ogaki is easier to live in if you have family. It’s much safer and people are more open and don’t hesitate to talk to strangers in the street. If you’re standing on a corner with a map, people will offer to help you. Merits of the local community can also be a detriment. Everyone knows each other. Of course, there’s a loss of some privacy, but neighbors won’t hesitate to help out. I feel safer. The workplace is less competitive out here.
Can you give me some background on the large number of Brazilians in the area?
Many Brazilians work on the line with textiles, cell phones, semi conductors companies. They’re what Americans call blue-collar workers. They come because the Japanese currency is stronger. They are willing to work at lower wages than Japanese and Japanese college graduates don’t want to work on line. The governments of Japan and Brazil have agreements which have made it easier to immigrate. I personally feel that companies need to be more responsible to Brazilians They should have orientations to local culture. They are often fired without warning. They have to find other jobs, which isn’t easy.
For the past ten years or so the Brazilian population has been pretty stable at around 4,000. Most are Nikkei (Japanese emigrants or their descendents) or are married to nikkei. They are more likely to stay because of relatives and they have a network in place. In terms of other Brazilians, the young ones who aren’t married tend to leave after a few years. They can make lots of money, but they seem to spend a lot of it here in Japan. They usually get bored.
They also spread out and don’t tend to congregate and create a "Brazilian town." I don’t know why. I need more observation. Maybe they just want their privacy. I don’t know. They are starting to make more of a community though, starting businesses such as the Landy Shop, which sells Brazilian goods, and restaurants. Maybe it will happen in 10 years or so.
Are there any cultural events?
They love dancing and festivals. Some who seem to be more active come to city hall and say they want to participate in the summer festival. At this festival many locals dance in a big circle and the Brazilians began to join in and set up food wagons. Not only do they participate in Japanese dances, but they also samba. We’ve gotten accustomed to it and many young people join in. Also, Ogaki City’s International Association started Japanese language classes for non-Japanese, mostly Brazilian.
The city provides rooms and waives the parking fee for the teachers, who are volunteers. The Japanese register themselves as teachers and the Brazilians register themselves as students. The goal is to make Ogaki more international. Brazilians are not strangers anymore. We’ve known each other for generations.
We have to help them march into the community. As one typical example, we have to show them basic rules like sorting garbage—burnables, nonburnables, recyclables, etc. We can’t just walk by and say "hi." We need to help them participate in the community. More are starting families and sending their kids to schools. Of course it’s the parents’ responsibility to teach and raise their kids, but we feel like it’s our responsibility to assist the families.
That’s very different from the U.S., where a lot of Americans don’t feel that it’s their responsibility to help out immigrants as it was their choice to move to the U.S. so they should have to adapt. In the U.S. people expect you to speak English, yet in most other countries people apologize for not speaking better English, even though we’re the visitors. Of course, the U.S. has a lot more immigrants so there’s a different pressure.
Yes, I understand. Assisting in education is hard because the students learn quickly, but language is still a problem. The teacher can’t slow down for one or two kids in the room. We hire Brazilian teachers to go to the school to help the kids, usually after school.
Where were they trained?
These teachers were not trained here, but in Brazil. This is more of a local think for Ogaki as we’re one of the main cities with this population.
Is the city information available in Portuguese?
Yes, as the population has risen, more use services. For example, babies born here are registered as residents. They need to have an insurance card. Babies under one year of age get free health care. Of course, many families apply. This is becoming a bit of an issue as many Brazilian mothers are single. This is very unlike the Japanese way. I apologize for saying this, but many do not know who the father is. In one recent case, a mother came to city hall for help. She had three sons by three fathers and living with a new boyfriend who wasn’t supporting her. Of course there are Japanese single mothers, but they’re small in number and tend to be so because of divorce (and the father helps out financially).
The government budget is limited so we can only do so much. The city provides translators to help Brazilians with documents. We now have three Brazilian translators working Monday through Friday to help Brazilians with documents. I feel that we’re doing a lot to help the Brazilian population. Sometimes I wonder if we’re being fair to other foreign immigrants. But then again, they’re the largest population. Overall, we’re worried about creating a caste of outsiders; kids frustrated with school, who might drop out. We are noticing more Brazilian teens who don’t speak Portuguese or Japanese well. They hang on the streets…there’s a rise in crime and street gangs. It’s not a big problem here yet, thanks to the volunteers, who teach them everything from dealing with the police to sorting the trash, as I mentioned before. Some things happen there that don’t make it to the papers, but we’re not having as many problems as other cities such as Toyota and Hamamatsu. Other cities have a gang problem. The Brazilian street gangs fight local Japanese youth and other Brazilians. They’ve had to deport some due to serious crimes. For lighter stuff, they might just go to jail; the same as Japanese.
What about other immigrants?
More Peruvians are coming and many Chinese girls are working for textile industries. Many of them come as "trainees." On the contract it says they’re being trained on skills and techniques but they end up working on the line. There are many young girls. I see them around. They say they’re here on student or training visas. The girls aren’t paid well. Some work seven days a week. They’re given a room and a small amount of money. They have to work because need money. Many Chinese cannot endure those conditions, working on textile lines, so many leave.
How does the government address this problem?
It’s hard to find. In extreme cases the police will conduct raids. This is difficult because many are legitimate students. The government really has to be like spies and investigate. The police try to monitor it. Some Chinese girls stay past visas and begin working in night clubs. They are viewed as being more fair-skinned and obedient. Japanese guys go to these hostess clubs and most of the hostesses are illegal (immigrants).
Do these girls come to the government for help?
Not really. Many Brazilian girls do, possible because there is a stronger Chinese network and many go to a larger city and disappear from Ogaki. Maybe because they’re here illegally and they don’t want to get deported.