Last year, the Alien Times spearheaded a petition drive to encourage the city of Tsukuba to establish an immigration office. About 1000 signatures were presented to the city, and last fall, the city officially adopted the petition as its own position. They are presently petitioning the national government to set up a local immigration office to meet the needs of the foreign community in Tsukuba. Hopefully it won't be long before the long and inconvenient trips to Hitachi or Otemachi will for the most part be a thing of the past.
Another area of concern for the international community is the difficulty particularly newcomers have in getting around the city. As there are two areas that we feel petitions could be an impetus for change, there are two separate petitions to sign.
The first involves the bus system, which is run by a private company. For several years, requests have been made to Kantetsu to at least put numbers on buses and bus routes. At present the only place where bus destinations are written in western alphabet is at the main terminal (Tsukuba Bus Center). On the buses themselves and on the signs at all other bus stops, all bus and route identifications are in Japanese only. Since the drivers rarely (if ever) speak English, it is not uncommon for foreigners to find themselves at a loss as to which bus to get on. It seems like such an obvious thing for the bus system of "the international city" to do, and yet this simple act of internationalization has yet to be accomplished. Thus, a petition to get the bus company's attention is needed.
The other petition involves the naming of streets. One fact of life in Japan that all foreigners (and even the Japanese) find frustrating is the difficulty in finding some place of describing to someone else how to find it. The big streets like Higashi Odori have names with street signs, but to find anything in between, you are pretty well limited to describing landmarks. ("Turn right at the Seven Eleven and go to the third street. Turn left and look for the third apartment on the right"). The main problem with such a system is that it is awfully easy to get lost. There are, for instance, a lot of Seven Elevens out there, and if at any point you make a wrong turn, it is very difficult to figure out where you are or what to do.
Recently, the city has, for some reason, named one average street and even put up a street sign. The street that runs from the Chinrai Ramen place on Higashi Odori one light south of Minami Odori and in front of Ninomiya Park (a good example of how we have to describe a place here in Japan) is now called "Sengen Dori". That is what needs to be done to all of the streets in Tsukuba. It would be one more relatively inexpensive step towards true internationalization.
One suggestion that has been made in the past that would be appropriate to the "Science City" is to assign the naming of a street to each of the national institutes who would then poll their own scientists to name that street in honor of a famous scientist in their field. Not only would that add to the science atmosphere of the city, but it would also foster an appreciation for history. Imagine being able to tell someone that you'll meet them at the corner of Einstein and Newton Streets! But even if that is judged to be a bit much, having streets like "Cherry Blossom Lane" and "Maple Street" (in Japanese, of course) would be just fine. Anything, in fact, would do just as long as it is a recognizable name.
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