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Multicultural Power Project

2012–2013

In 2012, with funding from the Toshiba International Foundation, JCIE conducted the “Multicultural Power Project,” which entailed a survey on the topic of “foreign residents and local communities” in Japan. In this study, foreign residents active within their local community were interviewed, their societal roles analyzed, and the way in which Japanese society should treat foreign residents was examined. The final report, “Revitalizing Local Communities and Utilizing Foreign Residents,” was also featured in Asahi Shimbun (4/6/2013, Japanese only).

Overview of Findings

1. Diverse contributions

As the population continues to shrink, foreign residents play an important role in maintaining stability within local communities. Foreign residents who were interviewed in the study had varying backgrounds and were making unique contributions in eight areas—information distribution, exposure to foreign cultures, NPO leadership, regional events leadership, local economic revitalization, support of the local economy, Japanese culture support, adoption of new viewpoints and lifestyles. These contributions either could not or were not being handled by Japanese people, and thus their contributions were important to revitalizing Japanse society.


2. Undervaluation

However, the majority of the local community views foreigners as being different in nature, and those foreigners who are active in the community tend to be dismissed as just another “strange foreigner” without full consideration of their contributions to society. Even foreigners who receive support from women and children are not properly recognized by others for their efforts.


3. Future Trends

While there are over 2 million foreign residents in Japan, there has not been much attention placed on how they revitalize local communities. However, there have been steady initiatives carried out at international exchange organizations and elsewhere to empower foreigners, and there have been some successful examples. As the population continues to decline, constructing an environment in which foreign residents can reach their latent potential is becoming increasingly important for Japan’s local communities. In order to make this a reality, it is essential that foreigners in Japan receive the necessary support, that Japanese attitudes toward them are changed, and that interaction between foreigners and Japanese is encouraged.