KIMURA, Manami

Author Tags: Advice

Author of an orientation guidebook for young Japanese visitors and students in British Columbia. [See below]

[BCBW 2004] "Advice"

Binbo Hima Ari: Vancouver Free & Easy Guide
Press Release (2004)

"I hope, no, I'm sure this guidebook has made Vancouver a safer place for Japanese visitors," Manami Kimura observed upon publication of the fourth edition of her Binbo Hima Ari: Vancouver Free & Easy Guide. "Though every edition included essential safety information, with this one we have made a special effort to make sure the safety message gets through," Kimura added.

The independent publisher herself came to Vancouver as an ESL student 10 years ago. "In part, I was attracted to Vancouver because of its reputation as a safe city. I now know that 'safe' is a relative term. Compared to New Orleans, Vancouver is absolutely safer. In fact, compared to most major American cities Vancouver is safer. But the 11,000 young people who arrive each year from Japan haven't a clue about the pitfalls of living in North American cities. They have street smarts built for the Japanese experience which are largely inappropriate on this side of the ocean."

Ms. Kimura's survival guide pulls no punches when introducing visitors to the scams, the come ons, and the predators on the mean streets of Vancouver. Things that Canadians take for granted can be perplexing, even deadly to Japanese young people.

In Japanese culture, for instance, teachers should be revered. Some sexual predators, pretending to be private English tutors, use that trust to lure young women into compromising situations. The result can range from discomfort to outright rape. Since Japanese women are loath to report highly personal details to police such predations usually go unreported. "Language is an additional barrier," Ms Kimura notes. "First of all we try to discourage our readers from getting into such situations. If they do fall victim to a crime then we encourage them to report it in the hopes that others can avoid the same kind of situation in the future."

"You've no idea how many students have been ripped off for their damage deposits," Kimura explains. "Many landlords make it a rule to keep the damage deposit when a student moves out, knowing full well that students aren't likely to come rushing back from Tokyo or Osaka for a few hundred dollars. Even if they did, language and unfamiliarity with the arbitration process are again huge barriers."

The Binbo Hima Ari: Vancouver Free & Easy Guide sets the record straight where sex, drugs and rock-and-roll are concerned too. Rules for dating and romance are culturally specific. While every Canadian teenybopper can usually discern the difference between a come on and commitment, young visitors from Japan tend to take everything at face value, hampered, of course, by language ability.

Kimura's 200+ page guide covers much more than Vancouver's dark side. "We have tips on how to study English, travel tips, how-to sections on basics like using transit or the telephone, the Canadian banking system, entertainment and shopping, travel, nature and the outdoors and just about everything."

Binbo Hima Ari: Vancouver Free & Easy Guide is published annually and distributed free of charge through the many shops and locales where Japanese long-term visitors tend to congregate. "You can even pick it up at the Vancouver public library," Ms. Kimura explains. "I'd recommend that every host family keep a few copies on hand for when their new charges arrive. That's when they are most vulnerable." A full listing of distribution locations can be found at the website.

Advertising support makes the Binbo Hima Ari: Vancouver Free & Easy Guide possible. "Our advertisers know that ensuring visiting students are street savvy is in their own best interest," Kimura stressed. "After all, visiting students and those on the working holiday program have a substantial impact on the Vancouver economy." According to the Vancouver Economic Development Commission, visiting students contribute $760 million and 2000 direct jobs annually to the local economy.

A rash of vicious attacks targeting visiting female students in recent years threatens to have as profound an impact on tourism from Asia as carjacking had on southern Florida. "I'm confident that informational efforts like Binbo Hima Ari and continuing efforts at liaison with enforcement and community agencies will enable Vancouver to live up to its reputation as a safe city," Ms. Kimura adds. "I'm sure of it."