Presentation: Chicago-Osaka Social Services Exchange
• A presentation from participants of the sixth annual Chicago-Osaka social
services exchange “Lessons in Effective Social Services across International
Contexts” took place on April 14 at the Japan information Center of the
Consulate General of Japan in Chicago.
• The Osaka-Chicago Social Service Exchange started in 2008 with a focus
on understanding the needs and supports for the people with disabilities
and older adults, and a goal of improving systems and service delivery
to those vulnerable populations. The exchange has been held alternately
in each city and convened interdisciplinary professionals to build relationships
to deepen cultural understanding and share best practices related to their
varied work in human services.
• Six social service professionals visited sites in Osaka from November
7 to 13, 2015 and explored the theme of the sixth annual exchange “Outreach
to Marginalized Populations” with Japanese professionals.
• Akane Kumagai, Case Management Services Coordinator
at the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, visited facilities in Airin district
where many day laborers and homeless people lived. Literally, ai means
love, and rin means neighbors. She noted ads for daily employments and
vending machines, which sold a bottle of drink at 10 to 30 cents, cheaper
than other places. There were also stores in the district. They sold equipment
and personal items such as gloves, boots, and pants.
• She said that one of the things that stuck out for her was an inn in
the district. The hotel offered comfortable settings for day laborers
at an affordable accommodation fee of about $10 for a night. A commuter
doctor provided medication. The hotel service was exclusively for men
because almost all residents of Airin district were men.
• A homeless shelter offered about 200 beds in a room. It was clean place.
• Kumagai visited support and drop-in center for day laborers and homeless.
A social service agency provided psychosocial support such as karaoke
parties, outreach and art therapy activities.
• She also toured a Day Care center for marginalized families. The center
offered free meals and activities for children who were from ethnic minorities.
• In an activity of community restoration, day laborers and homeless were
doing gardening and planting flowers. She said that the activities were
giving them more community feelings even though many of them were moving
to different places.
• Kumagai saw writing by an Osaka resident at an agency where staff members
were dealing with mentally ill people. It read “The worst disease that
a human being can have is that they are not needed by anyone.” She said,
“That stuck out to me because even with my work in Chicago, what the marginalized
population needed is feeling connection to others. So a lot of times,
homelessness might be a result of feeling of disconnection. I thought
that it was a really important theme when you wondered why certain a population
• Akane Kumagai also spoke about LGBT movements in Osaka.
Progress on gender issues has been made in Osaka, especially in Yodogawa
• She met an advocacy group “Gender X”. The group has supported and educated
to increase awareness of LGBT issues and provided a rainbow colored mascot
on all ward officials’ IDs. The group also set up free space in the ward
office to hold LGBT programs twice a month. Yodogawa became the first
ward in Japan to officially support LGBT residents by efforts toward four
• Educational and anti-bullying pamphlets have been available for teachers.
The safety issue has been emphasized on protection of LGBT’s rights such
as workplace, inheritance, and blackmail issues related to outing. Two
gay lawyers, who were married to each other, have been working in the
• On behalf of Maria Loayza, who participated in the
tour to Osaka, Kumagai spoke about Japan’s aging population with information
provided by the Osaka Mayor’s office.
• Japan’s aging population is rising, and the birth rate is declining.
Regarding the rising aging population, 2025 will be at its peak. What
they learned about were social insurance, disability insurance, long term
core insurance, public assistance system since 1950, and Osaka’s third
position in Japan for aging population.
• Kumagai’s group visited Day Center for Korean elderly, who didn’t have
opportunities to study Japanese writing and reading when they were young.
They study Japanese language and history after they have a free lunch.
Besides, the center offers outside trips to interact with students and
volunteer groups to provide the elderly with a sense of joy and comfort.
• The group also visited a night school for elderly and foreign residents.
It offers up to a high school education. Its students, who were in their
70s and 80s, were mainly Korean, Chinese, and other minorities. Kumagai
said that the elderly students got a sense of empowerment through their
study. “It’s never too late to go to school,” she added.
• Leslie Cook, Director of Secondary Services at Giant
Steps, spoke about “Developmental Disabilities”.
• She visited Osaka Mayor’s office and had many discussions on the subject.
Two distinctions that she noted were separate support for physical and
mental/emotional disabilities. Another was support that was needed for
cognitive disabilities. Osaka government has supported more gymnastic
• She visited Elm Osaka Support Center, which has promoted advocacy and
education for those with autism. She said that many services have not
been provided in this field because information for needs was still being
sought. Advocates have been trying to break down the stigma, so that more
families would be open to seek help.
• The similarity between Osaka and the U.S. is advocacy. Advocates have
worked diligently to provide services for high area of needs and tried
to find how to provide them. Services are also needed to educate caregivers.
• The differences are overall educational services and diversity of needs
and programs. Financial support is also different. Osaka needs governmental
financial support while Illinois looks for donations and grants rather
than relying on government.
• The things she learned from the exchange program were: being passionate
about the care for the work, the needs for service and programs aligning
and more inclusive programs, challenges with lack of community and family
support, and needs for job creation for disabilities.
• Jonas Ginsburg, a clinical manager at Asian Human Services,
visited Sui Sui, which provided community-based mental health services.
Despite local opposition, the facility was established in 1999, and its
clients were mainly Koreans and Japanese. Its daily program included individual
counseling, peer support group, and hygiene support.
• After visiting Sui Sui, Ginsburg said that struggles of estrangement
were universal, and as advocates, their role was to support individuals
to feel “whole” with clients themselves and their communities.
• He also said that he saw the vulnerabilities of Japan, and the courage
of certain individuals to provide services, despite opposition and stigma.
• The presentation was hosted by the Chicago Sister Cities
International and the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago with generous
support of Mrs. Joyce Chelberg
Kumagai, Case Management Services Coordinator at the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE
Cook, Director of Secondary Services at Giant Steps
Ginsburg, a clinical manager at Asian Human Services