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Student Voices: On Life and Learning in JapanRichard Medhurst

Naganuma School in Shibuya, Tokyo, has been teaching foreign students to speak Japanese since 1945. Its annual speech contest gives learners at the school the chance to step on stage and put their study into practice, whether they are at elementary, intermediate, or advanced level. At this year’s event on August 28, contestants were backed by an enthusiastic crowd of their peers bearing flags and …

Making It Memorable: Japanese Mnemonics for Dates and KanjiRichard Medhurst

Sometimes memory needs a helping hand. While English speakers use “Thirty Days Has September” to remember which are the shorter months, the equivalent for young Japanese children is the phrase nishi muku samurai (the samurai looking west). First of all, ni, shi, mu, and ku sound like the numbers two, four, six, and nine, representing nigatsu (February), shigatsu (April), rokugatsu (June), and ku…

Japan’s School Uniforms

In Japan, most schools have uniforms for their students. The distinctive, traditional outfits were originally inspired by military designs, but since the 1980s, new styles have emerged.

University Entrance Examinations

For many young Japanese, university entrance examinations are the first big challenge of their lives. Every year, hundreds of thousands of students do their best to get the scores they need to be accepted by their chosen universities.

Major Makeover for the University Entrance SystemIsoda Fumio

Japan’s university entrance exam system and high school education are on the verge of undergoing a large-scale reform. Factors driving the reform include changes in the university student selection process, wrought by the declining birthrate, and awareness that the current system is not doing enough to prepare students for a global world.

Japanese Children at School Around the World

With globalization sending more Japanese people overseas for work, an increasing number of Japanese children are getting their education abroad, many of them attending official Japanese schools. This trend is particularly noticeable in Asia as Japan’s business dealings steadily shift to the region from Europe and North America.

Speeches and Dreams: A Growing Generation of Japanese LearnersDavid McMahon

Japanese has a reputation as a fiendishly difficult language to learn. With its three writing systems, multiple levels of formality, and subtle, syllable-timed pronunciation, this unique Asian tongue seems to have put off a significant portion of prospective students for decades with the scale of the task facing them as newcomers. Even during the economic bubble years from 1986 to 1991 and the …

MOOCs: A Professor’s Reflections on Online Education

Massive open online courses have been on the rise in recent years, and in 2013 the University of Tokyo started its own MOOCs. These courses aim to provide widespread access to higher education via the Internet, but how effective are they in practice? We spoke to the university's Professor Fujiwara Kiichi to find out.

The True Benefits of Studying in JapanAlmoamen Abdalla

The noted nineteenth-century British scholar of Japan Basil Hall Chamberlain (1850–1935) commented in his 1902 work Things Japanese that in Japan there exists a “comparative social equality of all ranks and stations . . . The rich not being blatant, the poor are not abject . . . A genuine spirit of equality pervades society.” That spirit can still be felt today. Reading these words, I am reminded…

In With the New: The Seasonal Tradition of Entrance CeremoniesJames Singleton

The SL Square, named for the C11 steam locomotive on display to the west of Shinbashi Station, swarms on any given weekday evening with office workers on their way home from work—or on less steady legs, on their way home from after-work drinks. It is also a regular haunt for camera crews looking for “man on the street” sound bites to flesh out their news reports with perspective from veterans of t…

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