Our ‘Foreigners’ support for disaster’

Tohoku Help promotes ‘Foreigners’ support project for sufferers’ together with ‘Foreign Christian Association’ and ‘NPO Help with a smile’.
When the word ‘Foreigners’ is used in this project, it means ‘all those who have roots to foreign countries’.
‘NPO Help with a smile’ which is collaborating with us did research activity visiting all victims living in makeshift housing in city of Minami Sanriku. ‘The project of ‘Hope rice’ (Kibou no Okome’), which we had introduced on this page before, was thought up for its research activity.
Mr. Chiba, the chief director of ‘NPO Help with a smile’ wrote for a magazine. He seems to be feeling anew strongly about what he had been feeling before the disaster while he was going around the disaster-stricken area. We are sharing his thoughts. We hope to tell you our thoughts and would like to introduce you the contents below.
(Feb. 8th 2012, Naoya Kawakami)


The present state of International Marriage Problem and Agenda
-Coexisting of Non-Japanese Wives and the Local Community-

Help Smile NPO
Director Yoshinobu Chiba
『Social service’s Square』vol.143(Consecutive number of volumes No.508)
Quoted from the volume issued on February 1st 2012.

“When do you plan on leaving? I guess you’re going to vanish in a little while!”(Tohoku dialect is used in the original language)

These kinds of words had been whispered in the area, when non-Japanese women, married to a Japanese guy, came to the region. These women in great determination came to live and find happiness here in Japan, leaving even their own home behind. Most of these non-Japanese women were married to a spouse working in agriculture and Fisheries in rural areas, where there lacked brides. There existed the warmth of welcoming non-Japanese women for a bride, but the thought on the other hand also firmly existed, that these women had foreign nature. And because the people around were narrow minded, there were many instances where these non-Japanese women were unable to join in the local community, and they are apt to be left out, alone. What is even worse, there were times when these non-Japanese women had been eyed as if they were go-between of those who lacked virtue like a swindler or a kidnapper.

We, the Help Smile NPO, focus our work for those who had been caught in the midst of international marriage problem, or in lawsuit, and furthermore we give advice on how they could be a part of the local community.

In the midst of all this, Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami overtook the region on March 11th 2011.

The Help Smile NPO commenced an investigation in the wake of disaster near the coast, in places where the damage was most severe, on the situation of non-Japanese who became its victim. We worked side by side with “Sendai Christian Alliance Disaster Relief Network (Tohoku Help)”and “National Christian Liaison Council (Gaiki-Kyo)”.

There were 91,147 foreigners living in 5 prefectures (Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki) struck by earthquake. In Miyagi prefecture, there were 16,057 foreigners living before the earthquake. But after the earthquake their number decreased to 14,507, and we assume that 1,500 foreigners have gone back to their own country.

For example, there were 750 foreigners in Ishinomaki City, (the second largest city in Miyagi Prefecture) before the earthquake. But 200 foreigners had returned to their own country after the quake, which most of them were working as a trainee in a marine product processing companies. This number was ascertained on November 18th 2011 by the ward office of Ishinomaki City. We could see from this result that though the temporary resident have returned to their own country, most of the non-Japanese wives have stayed, and at present are wrestling against the hardship. We are currently under discussion with the Isinomaki City, of aiding non-Japanese in Ishinomaki City, and it is being geared toward working together with the government for questionnaire survey, and to give them aid based on this survey.

The Help Smile NPO is energetically visiting temporary housing at the present moment, in Minami Sanrikucho, Motoyoshi-gun.

Whereabouts of 117 foreigners has been confirmed in Minami Sanrikucho (16 are non-Japanese wives, and 43 are of permanent residence). This town was formed by the consolidation of smaller municipals called “Former Shizugawacho” and “Former Utatsucho” in year 2005. Both new and old government office was washed away by the Tsunami, together with the administrative function, and many workers died on duty. The town office is now in a temporary prefabricated housing at present. The temporary housing (60 housing, 2 of them are in the neighboring Tome City) in which the victim of the disaster is currently living are also prefabricated house, and since the temporary housing in Miyagi Prefecture did not have heat insulator, countermeasure is being worked out now by the government.

Because of such situations to the government itself, building up a community in a temporary housing area is impossible for them.

In these situations, we visit each temporary housing to deliver rice obtained for aid (“Rice Project of Hope” operated by Tohoku HELP project), and are investigating the life condition of non-Japanese wives.

Below are the two specific cases we would like to introduce.

A Chinese lady called C, lost her beloved in a Tsunami. Her house had also been washed away, and what was only left with her, was her two children in 3rd and 6th grade.

While many Chinese women returned to their country temporarily, she stayed in Japan for the sake of her children, and decided to live in a temporary housing. What is harder still, since her husband did not have life insurance, their life has been made hard by dire poverty.

She works 5 hours a day as a part time worker in a tourist house (an inn), yet their living expense is insufficient. She should have considered of “livelihood protection” or “educational fund”, thinking about her children’s future, and for her house, yet the problem was there. She did not know that the above said system existed.

A Filipino lady called S, lost her house in a Tsunami, and her husband was grievously injured and is unable to work.

She had been living in a temporary housing, but there were very few occupation left in the town, and she was unable to get hired for being a foreigner. In the end, she had to work away from home by going to other Prefecture with her 3 year old child. She comes back to the temporary housing only once every other week.

There are some non-Japanese wives on the other hand, who stated that they established deepened bonds with the local community, through living in the temporary housing after the earthquake.

“Regulations regarding to make and promote Multicultural Coexisting Community” has been established in Miyagi Prefecture on July 2007, but we could say that this hasn’t been pervading in the facet of living. There might have been lacking, a role as of pipe which connects government and foreigners, when the above regulation had been established. So the local people and we NPO, should work a role of a pipe. To put it in the concrete, we feel that the thing necessary, is a union of heart, and the sharing of information.

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