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“Randoseru” Backpacks Shed Childish Image as They Win Global Fans

Randoseru backpacks are a familiar sight in Japan, where they are universally associated with elementary school. Who would have imagined they would become a highly sought-after adult accessory overseas?

The Tightly Regulated “Independence” of Japanese ChildrenJames Singleton

A spate of recent reports in the Western press (including a video documentary) have noted the independence of Japan’s youngest commuters—elementary-school students and even younger children. This independence is held up in contrast with the lack of similar freedom in many other nations, particularly the United States, which has been singled out as particularly unfriendly to the “free-range child.”…

MEXT: What is it Good For?Taniguchi Tomohiko

Japan's education policy is in a perennial state of disarray. Education from kindergarten to graduate school is subject to constant tinkering reforms by the cumbersomely named Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, or MEXT for short. Each new intervention adds to the mountain of incomprehensible and counterintuitive regulations, and with each reform the quality of educati…

Declining Birthrate Changing Japan’s SchoolsHayakawa Nobuo

Schools in Japan, from elementary to high school level, are being closed at a rate of 400–500 schools per year. The major cause of this is the declining birthrate. Schools overflowing with children are a thing of the past and empty classrooms are increasingly conspicuous. Japan’s declining population is bringing deep change to its schools. The number of children in public elementary schools has…

Education in Japan: The View from the ClassroomShirota Akihisa

Japanese schools in 2011 began the staged introduction of a series of new academic guidelines designed to improve basic academic skills. To learn more about the new guidelines and better grasp the current state of Japanese education we talked to Shirota Akihisa, the principal at Wada Junior High School in Suginami-ku, Tokyo—a school well known for its pioneering and innovative approach to education.

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