The Tsukuba International Network (TIN) was organized last year to coordinate efforts to improve various aspects of life in Tsukuba for the international community. Headed up by Tokio Ohska of the High Energy Physics Laboratory, TIN consists of representatives from a variety of institutes and organizations (including representatives of local government) that deal with or serve the foreign community.
Among the successes TIN has had in its efforts to improve things is its lobbying of the Kantetsu Bus Company to give numbers to all bus lines and include "romaji" (English alphabet) names on bus stops. Although the bus company had been requested numerous times by a variety of individuals to take this simple step, it simply didn't want to bother, and so it took a group effort to convince them that this was not only just good for the community, but for their own business as well.
Likewise, TIN has been lobbying to get local banks to accept foreign credit cards for cash withdrawals at their ATM (cash) machines. Japanese VISA cards, for instance, are generally accepted at ATM machines in Europe or America, but the reverse has not been true. This has often been a big problem for short-term visitors to Japan. It is taking some time, but clear movement in this direction has taken place, and hopefully, within a short time, this problem too will be a thing of the past.
At the most recent meeting on June 27, a variety of topics were discussed, including reports on such topics as "Halal Food" for Muslims coming to Tsukuba, helping the local police to be more sensitive to language problems and encouraging them to learn some English, seeking to change local election laws so that long-term foreign residents can vote in local elections, and coordinating web sites concerning aspects of life in Tsukuba. The international school is also a perennial topic of discussion. In addition to supporting the already existing Tsukuba International School, various proposals to expand educational opportunities for not only children of foreign residents, but also Japanese who are returning after long stays overseas.
As TIN desires to address all areas of life in Tsukuba in which members of the international community are experiencing problems, suggestions and requests are always welcome. Send comments to Ohska san at ohska[at]post.kek.jp and/or to Shinichi Ohshima at ohshima[at]trao.aist.go.jp
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