Cities demand more support for foreigners

A group of 26 cities and towns with large foreign communities adopted a declaration Wednesday calling on the government to form a new agency to comprehensively deal with immigration policies and beef up efforts to strengthen Japanese language education.

“More and more foreigners are expected to come to Japan as workers in the years ahead and it will no longer be an issue concerning specific regions,” said Yasutomo Suzuki, mayor of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture, at the group’s conference in Tokyo.

The gathering assembled about 470 people from the 26 municipalities in seven prefectures as well as officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, and three other related ministries.

Soichi Motai, mayor of Ueda, Nagano Prefecture, suggested that municipalities join hands with local companies to create funds to boost opportunities for foreign residents to learn Japanese.

A survey by the Immigration Bureau, part of the Justice Ministry, showed Japan had 2.15 million registered foreign residents as of 2007, about 1 1/2 times more than a decade ago.