42 out of 68 Board of Educations favor good command of English in the selection of primary school teachers

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Pick of the week from Japan, 24 – 30 July

30 Jul. 42 out of 68Board of Educations favor good command of English in the selection of primary school teachers

Having English class becoming compulsory in elementary schools from 2020, the Boards of Education of each prefecture put emphasis on recruiting talented persons having good command of English. Based on a questionnaire survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) with 68 Boards of Education in charge of recruitment of primary school teachers, forty two Boards said that they offer favor system in the recruitment exams to those who have high English competence, such as allowing additional points or exempting them from some of the exams.

It is definitely needed for the Japanese education system to introduce English to children earlier than now (presently at the age of 12). It is well known that the earlier the foreign language education starts, the quicker children become familiar with the languages.

What is essential however in language education is to develop ability of children to communicate in foreign languages. This point has not been taken into account very much in English education in the country. Instead, Getting good marks in English exam has been often regarded as high competence in English.

I have learned that the thrust of nationally determined curriculum of English education will be have stronger emphasis on communication that before. What is needed for Boards of Education  is to recruit future teachers who are capable of teaching communication in English, rather than getting good marks in paper exams.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020 provids an opportunity to raise interests in foreign countries for Japanese children

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Pick of the week from Japan, 17 – 21 July

20 Jul. Learning world national flags and anthems in a class in connection with Tokyo Olympic Games, in a junior high school in Tokyo

Leaning the national flags and anthems worldwide leads to awareness of the world diversity — based on this thoughts, a class was held to learn world national flags and anthems in Oshima Nishi junior high school in Koto-ku, Tokyo (the number of enrolled students 385). The class was a part of “the world friend project” promoted by the Board of Education of Tokyo. The project is intended to provide impetus to learn the countries in the world before the Tokyo Olympic and the Paralympic Games will be held inTokyo in 2020.

Japanese society is still homogenous compared with European countries. People have limited opportunity of direct interaction with foreigners. It is a good idea to use Tokyo 2020 event to give opportunity for children to raise interests in foreign countries.

For majority of the Japanese, it goes beyond imagination to know that having more than two passports are legally allowed in most of European countries, over 25 % of population in Switzerland are foreigners, meaning those who do not have Swiss passport, or I can walk over national border between France and Switzerland in the woods outside my village.

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  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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The green is wet in Japan

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Pick of the week from Japan, 10 – 14 July

13 Jul. Dragon flying down from the sky — the art in the rice field in Amakusa, Kumamoto

With rice of different colors, the rice field art makes in full bloom you in Yamaura district of Matsushimamachi Kyoragi, Kamiamakusa-shi, Kumamoto. The work is created by local high school students who planted five kinds of rice, including the ancient rice, in June. One may enjoy it until the middle of October.

The Japanese green is wet — every time I look down the Narita area from the window of an airplane when approaching to the Narita International Airport, I see the difference in the green color of rice field, woods and orchards between the impression of the green between Japan and Europe. The European green is dry.

The Japanese traditionally planted the young shoot of rice by hand. This still is the practice for most of the farmers.

Hence the art like the one in the photo is possible.

Rice growing is very labour intensive. It requires villagers to get together and work together to maintain infrastructure needed for rice growing. Water supply system, cultivating the land in early spring, to name just a few.

An american business man I met said that he had been frustrated by “the group culture” by the Japanese when he has been stationed there. He wanted to talk to a person but Japanese always responded him as a role player in a group to which he/she belongs to.

I think he should have modified his communication to be appropriate in a group culture, forgetting the American way. The American green is dry, as compared to Japanese.

A group culture sometimes produces such a beautiful scene by planting the rice by hand according to a carefully organised plan.

田んぼアート

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Typhoons, earthquakes and Japanese culture

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Pick of the week from Japan, 3 – 7 July

4 Jul. The t typhoon 3 landed near Nagasaki-shi, 115 people gone to refuge, danger of landslide

7 Jul. Heavy rain continues in Kyushu region, death toll reached 8, continued caution called for

Since the Typhoon 3 went ashore near Nagasaki-shi, Kyushu region on 4 July, very heavy rain still continues in the order of 200 to 300 mm per day. Eight people died, 26 were lost, and 570 villagers are isolated because of the road disaster as of 7 July. Local municipalities directed evacuation to about 49,000 residents.

I am so sorry for people who lost lives, houses and had to leave home.

Japan is full of natural disasters throughout its history; typhoons, earthquakes, volcano explosions and tsunamis to name only a few. The Japanese lived with such horrible natural power, which is far beyond human control. People just had to live with it.

Typhoons and small earthquakes were not unusual in everyday life since my childhood. I have taken them for granted.

It was a discovery for me to know that there are regions where the earth never quakes, no typhoons comes and mountains do not explode all the sudden. This region is Europe. I know there are volcanos and earthquake happens in some parts of Europe, but these are in far smaller scales and frequencies than those in Japan.

What are consequences of the climate on people’s way of thinking, values or culture?

Though I don’t want to think that human mind is shaped by the climate of the place people live, I must admit that one should not neglect substantial influence of the climate on culture. Natural disasters may influence people’s way of thinking.

The Western people who live in Japan and well integrated in its society are often frustrated by the Japanese because they are patient too much. In the Westerners’ eyes, the Japanese appear to prefer to do nothing and wait for storm to go away, rather than fighting against it.

In my eyes, on the contrary, the Western people do not hesitate to take actions to remove causes of their problems, or even fight against them. People do not hesitate to ask questions when they don’t understand something, and negotiate with the neighbors to cut trees in the neighbor’s garden if they block the view of the lake from their window. Such attitude has pros and cons. I don’t judge such attitude. I’m merely talk about a simplified observation of the Western reactions to problems.

It is wrong to explain cultural differences by simple reasons such as the climate. I however think it reasonable to take into account in thinking of reasons of the differences what the climate teaches to human beings in different regions of the world. This teaching continues for centuries, generations after generations. No wonder the Japanese do not try to control or fight against the super power of the nature as they know earthquakes, typhoons and tsunamis go beyond the human power.

It is not surprising to see a trace of the habit of ” just living with it” (or being patient) in the day to day habit of the Japanese.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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Would joint-economic activities in Northern Territories be the first step for Japan to build a way to wisely live together with its neighbors?

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Pick of the week from Japan, 26 – 30 June

27 Jun. Departure of the group for site investigation for the Russian-occupied Northern Territories, looking into possibility of joint-economic activities

A public-private joint investigating group to move forwardjoint economic activitiesin the four northern Islands left Nemuro-shi, Hokkaido by boat on 27th of June. The group will visit  three islands of Kunashiri, Etorofu and Shikotan until July 1. They will investigate a way to develop businesses in three areas of “fishery and food processing”, “energy and infrastructure” and “Tourism, real and medical services”.

It is a good idea to pursue economic solutions that would benefit both Japan and Russia.

The Northern Territories have been over dispute between the two countries since the WWII. While there has been sensitive power politics involved, this is a high-level story. People on the ground needed industrial and social development, as well as means to benefit from the rich resources from the sea.

The national border has been an absolute barrier for the Japan as the country is surrounded by the sea. The sea protected Japan from foreign invasion for centuries, while kept Japan isolated from the rest of the world at the same time.

Those days are gone.

One can easily travel over the sea by airplanes. One enjoys information exchange over the Internet without traveling over the sea.

It’s time for Japan to learn how to better live with neighboring countries.

In this regard, the Japanese have much to learn from Europe, especially small countries. The Europeans, especially those in small countries, know how to live with strong neighbors well having learnt from the history.

For example, the Canton of Geneva is surrounded by French territory by 80% of its border. Geneva is connected with the rest of Switzerland for only 20% of its Cantonal border. Naturally about 70,000 people commute to Geneva from neighboring France everyday. These people are called “Frontiers”, are granted with their proper work permit  and have a special tax status.

In terms of politics, national boundaries are soft in Europe. Boundaries have been changed over centuries. They are never solid iron walls.

It is often economic benefits that softened boundaries, the EU a typical example.

It is time for Japan to learn how they may benefit from the region by sharing benefits with its neighbors.

  • The news items referred here are picked up from “Asahi Digital”, and translated by Europe-Japan Dynamics. The cited titles or articles are not an official translation by the Asahi Newspaper.

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