Are women member of the Diet abandoning their duties if they are pregnant?

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Pick of the week from Japan, 14 – 18 August

15 Aug. Takako Suzuki, a member of the Diet, “I cannot consent” to be accused of duties abandonment, because of pregnancy

A female Diet member who reports the pregnancy is often criticised as the duties abandonment in Japan. Against background that the country has a very small number of women involved in political decision-making process,  some advocate need for maternity and parental leave for the members of the Diet to facilitate women to join in the policy debates.

The ratio of the Congresswoman of the Japanese House of Representatives is 9.3%, and it is the 164th of the world, according to a survey of the Lower House undertaken by an international organization “Inter-Parliamentary Union” announced in July.

It is surprising that there is no official rule of maternity or child-care leave for members of the Diet or assemblies of the local governments in Japan.

It is even amazing that it is not unusual to see some people criticize those women members of the Diet who are pregnant, because “they are abandoning the duties”,

Why do women still have to be criticised because of pregnancy in the country where the gender equality is established in the Constitution?

Good news at least is that women members of the Diet started fighting against those criticism, as Ms Suzuki does. It is a sad reality of Japanese society but one must admit that women must stand up and raise their voices against unreasonable criticisms that block their professional development, even in the 21st century.

  • 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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JR East is acquiring operation rights of a British railway company

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Pick of the week from Japan, 7 – 11 August

11 Aug. JR East to strengthen its overseas business, acquiring operation rights of a British railway company

JR East (a major railway company in Japan) announced that the company had acquired the operation rights of a railroad network of approximately 900 kilos of the central part of the U.K. owned byWest Midlands in cooperation with Abellio, a railway company of the Netherlands and  Mitsui & Co., Ltd., a major Japanese trading company. JR East will be responsible for train operation management and organisation of a railroad diagram for approximately ten years from this December. It is naive that JR East participates in the operation of the railroad service abroad.

JR East has been a part of the state-owned railway company for decades., even since its privatisation and divestiture in 1987.

Now the time for a big change is arriving. Japanese specialists of railway operations will be working for a UK domestic railway company. From one domestic business to another– what a leap it is. This is a fundamental change for the staff transferred to the UK. While there are ample professional skill sets for JR East to bring and apply to operate the British company, the way of doing would be largely different between the two companies.

Exposure to other cultures is the last thing which a domestic giant, such as an ex-monopoly national railway company, would experience.

Globalization is reaching little by little but steadily to the most unexpected companies snd their people in Japan. A number of such events, large and small, will drive the Japanese population to look outside the country as their partners and 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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No working mother in picture books for children?

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Pick of the week from Japan, 31 July – 4 August

3 Aug. No working mother in picture books for children? Barriers blocking telling stories of various families

I am a journalist of 35 years old with a daughter of two years old. My wife who also has a full time job alerted me recently that little picture books tell stories of a family where both parents work. 

The number of double income household has surpassed the number of single income one since decades. This fact however is not reflected in children’s picture books in Japan.

The journalist in the article interviewed authors and publishers of children’s books and found a still conservative attitude of the publishers. One publisher said, “We can’t go into detail of a model of a family as one family model will make people with other types of family feel “it’s not for me”.

Is it the only reason?

Why publishers are so much afraid of including working mothers in children’s books, despite the fact that population of mothers who are housewives are less than those who have a job?

I see here a strong Japanese attitude of being afraid of the change. Any change will create unexpected consequences in expected and unexpected ways. This is what the Japanese almost automatically try to avoid.

It’s not data that convinces the Japanese, but the perception. Thus publishers stick to an outdated model of a family as it is safer than taking consequences of a change.

Such an attitude support stability of the Japanese society. This however is a double-edge sward. For the same reason, Japan is keeping a half of its population in a stereo-typed image.

  • 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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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.

Tokyo 202Logos

  • 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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