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Yoroku: To whom, and what, do we bestow 'residency?'

In Japan, many protagonists from manga are certified as "residents" of a related municipality.

    The trend is thought to have begun in 2003, when the Niiza Municipal Government in Saitama Prefecture registered Astro Boy as a special resident of the city, where the studio for Tezuka Productions is located.

    Crayon Shin-chan lives in Kasukabe, Saitama Prefecture -- the setting of the original work. Doraemon and GeGeGe-no-Kitaro reside where their creators lived in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, and the Tokyo suburban city of Chofu, respectively. Gigantor is a resident of Kobe, where a large statue of the robot stands, while detective Kankichi Ryotsu is of course registered at Tokyo's Katsushika Ward Office.

    There is no legal backing to these residencies; it's only municipal promotion for events like handing out special residence certificates bearing the illustration of the character. There are also cases of making "yuru kyara" mascots or locally associated animals special municipal residents as well. There aren't many people who would be angry to find out they lived in the same municipality as a beloved character, right?

    A humanoid female robot named "Sophia," equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) developed by a Hong Kong-based American company, has become a star in the robotics world for her diverse expressions. However, when Saudi Arabia announced it had given her citizenship in late October, there were outcries all over the world.

    While the move no doubt aimed to raise interest in the country's post-oil era robotics industry, Twitter overflowed with comments like, "(Saudi Arabia) doesn't even recognize (human) women's rights," and "Sophia will probably be the first robot to be beheaded."

    The situation was also influenced by many members of the Saudi royal family being arrested soon after, shining a spotlight on the authoritarianism of the government. What would Sophia, who called receiving citizenship an "honor," say if offered now?

    Japan is kind to robots. Isn't there a municipal government out there that would like to lend her a helping hand and offer her "residency?" ("Yoroku," a front-page column in the Mainichi Shimbun)

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