The Tsukuba International Network (TIN) is a consortium of people representing various research institutes, city offices and volunteer service clubs that deal with the needs of the foreign community as a part of their job description or mission statement. The group meets regularly to co-ordinate group action to bring about changes for the benefit of the foreign community. It was instrumental, for instance, in finally getting the bus company to put numbers on the buses and English at the bus stops.
There are several issues TIN is presently working on. Included in this issue of the Alien Times is a questionnaire designed to get data on the educational needs of foreign children. In addition to helping Tsukuba International School with its needs (such as finding a new location), TIN is also trying to foster better understanding and additional options for foreign children in the Japanese school system.
Another area where a major push is underway is requesting the immigration office to set up at least a part-time office here in Tsukuba. Thousands of valuable work hours are wasted every year by foreign researchers and their Japanese hosts having to spend most of a day going to Tokyo or Hitachi to get simple things like visa extensions and re-entry permits. Several years ago the Alien Times drew up a petition to the city council for this purpose and it was officially adopted by the city. Since then, nothing has happened, and so now TIN is leading a new effort to put pressure on the national government to take this logical step. One branch of the national government is making a big push to dramatically increase the number of foreign researchers in Japan (with a large percentage of those being in Tsukuba), but another branch has so far refused to take this small step in facilitating that move. It is estimated that there are about 25,000 foreigners in the area that would be served by this office. Hopefully, this new push, which will also involve the prefectural government, will be effective in getting the immigration bureau to follow through.
Other actions being taken are to encourage the local cable network ACCS to include more English language information, including a brief list of available programming and schedules. Also, TIN is in conversation with the local chamber of commerce concerning the designation of stores where there is someone who can adequately function in English. They are considering having stores with English-speaking personnel put up signs saying "English Spoken Here." Hopefully, it will not say "Engrish Supoken Hair" of something like that!
TIN encourages you to let them know what other areas of concern you would like to have them work on. You can send your suggestions through the Alien Times or through the international office of the city or wherever you work.
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