Abe Keita (Franciscan priest)

As I already mentioned in the last issue, this year the Soccer World Cup under the auspices of Japan and Korea is scheduled to take place and a number of events to promote friendship relations between both countries are jostling with each other. As a result, programs mutually organized by both countries, like sports, cultural and art events are being held in Osaka these days more frequently that in the past. At the same time, compared to ordinary years, the number of events that bear the theme of living together have increased. In contrast to this, some people criticize this move as trying to bring results that appeal at a human-rights-conscious Osaka town, and at the same time as being improvised and unnatural events.

The above are parallel shows displayed by the public relations office of Osaka City and its official education committee, but if one adds the ones held by the supermarkets and the commercial centers their numbers are much bigger. Aside all these international shows and consecutive plans at the city level that bear the theme of coexistence, there are those other ordinary moves that never stop. Here I want to report about them.

In Ikuno ward where I am living now there are many institutions and workshops where disabled people work. Long before the word living together became in use, there were a few institutions totally dedicated to the disabled.

For instance, the Franciscan Social Welfare Moral Corporation that runs Ikuno's Children Home, a day nursery, since 1973 is one of the model welfare institutions of the city of Osaka. This institution, stressing the importance of raising disabled children by living together since they are small with all the others, has dedicated itself to the education of children with disabilities, for the last 30 years. When the children leave the place, they face many difficulties for their future self-sufficiency and thanks to their efforts and those of their parents and cooperators a new workshop, called Red Dragonfly, was built about 20 years ago, near the welfare institution. Once the workshop got going, a new building was added a few years ago. They named it HOT, from the Japanese expression to feel relieved, and it provides space for meetings and counseling to address the problems of stress from work and tiredness of parents and volunteers caring for the children. The activities concerning the Ikuno's Children Home, do not stop with the care of children, no matter they have disabilities or not, but also continue with a follow up work. This is also a historical proof of managing to live together for 30 years.

Next, there is also another workshop, better, a Bakery that has attracted during the last 10 years many customers from the region. Its name is Kosari or bracken in the Korean language. The bakery was built in 1990 and serves also as a shop to sell bread.

Disabled people and their supporters make there bread without additives and sell it. This bread is especially well received by customers suffering from allergy and atopy, and over 10 staff-members work from early morning there to provide stable supply of bread.

The bread is mainly sold in front of Tsuruhashi JR Station and the City Hall, places where many people visit, as well as in workshops and institutions of Ikuno ward. People share the work in such a way that, the wheelchair staff sell the bread at fixed places in front of the City Hall and the railroad stations and the rest of the staff goes the rounds of customers.

Kosari has become one body and soul with the residents of Ikuno by mutual support and coexistence, by self-sufficiency and by supplying bread (food) to its customers.

Finally, I would like to introduce the Seiwa Social Center. Many seminars have been held here for the last few years. During the fiscal year 2001 different seminars dealt with Koreans in Japan, medical care of senior Korean citizens, strong discrimination concerning job seeking, the Registration and Immigration laws for foreigners, etc. Lawyers and other specialist staff of NGOs offered a wide information on each theme.

Many of the participants that attended such workshops were new staff activists in Ikuno and obtained knowledge about things they did not know before. The old staff deepened their understanding of new problems, and strengthened their attitudes about how to deal with the issue of living together with Koreans and foreigners in Japan.

This series of yearly seminars have continuously been held since many years ago and constitute one of the main activities of the Seiwa Social Center that has been doing social action work in the region for half a century. The materials gathered as a result of the seminars can be considered precious records of such activities. New seminars have been planned for the coming new year.

This time I concentrated in offering an account of some local activities that, although do not attract the interest of the big mass media as other events do, they definitely continue walking a path of a living model in the region to live all together.

* This article is based on data provided by Ms Kuwamoto Fumiko, Director of Seiwa Social Center. Those interested in further details please contact

Seiwa Shakaikan, Tel.06-6718-1750
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