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Last updated date:2024/1/18

Yokohama Association for International Communications and Exchanges

This week, I want to introduce something that makes me proud to live in Yokohama, making it a welcoming place for foreigners. I mean, apart from the general awesomeness of the city!

As the title indicates, I’m going to introduce the Yokohama Association for International Communications and Exchanges (YOKE). Such associations exist throughout Japan, but YOKE is one of Japan’s earliest endeavor toward developing economic exchanges and promoting friendship with partner cities, celebrating 30 years of activity this year. Few organizations predate YOKE and Kanagawa prefecture has always been a forerunner of international exchange.

International Festa

Although YOKE started as a facilitator for economic exchange and friendship, with the rapid rise in number of foreigners, it has followed suit by offering activities and services that corresponded better with this new reality.

One word that would best describe YOKE’s current activities is “support”. The most basic, but nonetheless essential form of support it provides is counseling(外部サイト). Whether you just arrived to Japan or moved to Yokohama from another part of Japan, or maybe you’ve live here for a while and even speak Japanese fluently, you will ultimately face a situation you have never encountered and have no idea what to make of: YOKE can help. People at YOKE give advice on what course of action to take and which forms to fill out. Should you need, YOKE can dispatch volunteer interpreters to help out with those procedures ( check the website for applicable services(外部サイト)). They hold a database of local volunteers who will gladly help out.

The consultation services are offered in English, Spanish and Chinese. YOKE also manages International Lounges(外部サイト) in Yokohama, namely the Tsurumi, Naka and Minami Ward lounges. Other lounges also provide counseling, but are not directly under YOKE. In all, there are 10 lounges throughout Yokohama where you can seek consultation!

Reaching out through culture

Finally, let me introduce the language classes offered by YOKE(外部サイト). Like most of YOKE’s activities, they rely on volunteers and are meant as support for foreign residents in their Japanese studies. As a matter of fact, when I walked in on the day of my visit, class was in progress. Students were practicing emergency calls. It was very practical and unlike anything I had seen before. There were people from the actual services, such as firefighters helping with class. Rarely have I seen such involvement in language training! Even students with more limited vocabulary took part practicing calls, showing them there is nothing to be afraid of and that speaking the language of the country you live in is important for matters that go beyond everyday life. Furthermore, at YOKE, classes take two forms. There are traditional classes in classrooms and classes that take place outside, in the city, to get practice speaking with people by participating in events. And let me say that Yokohama hosts a lot of events all the time!

Practicing emergency calls

(Cette page en français)

Note: All links are for the English version of the YOKE website, but the site also has chinese, korean, portuguese and spanish versions.

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