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Career Education Career Education


Learning for the “Real Life” after School
                                                                                          FRONT COVER
                                                              KidZania (pictured), an “Edutainment Town” in
        through articles — March Issue                        Tokyo, is a popular destination for school-age
                                                            children, one that enables them to get hands-on
                                                              experience of a broad range of jobs, including
                                                             airplane pilot, firefighter, doctor and chef. Such
                                                           experiences can only bolster the career education
                                                                     now being offered at Japanese schools.
                                                                                            (TADASHI AIZAWA)

Career                                               Japan is undertaking a range of policy initiatives to
                                                     better connect young people in Japan with the
Education:                                           world of work. The Japan Journal reports.
Learning for the “Real
Life” after School
An Unwavering                                        Masakazu Yamazaki, playwright, critic and
                                                     former chairman of the Central Education Council,
Enthusiasm                                           looks at the history of education in Japan and the
for Education                                        roles it has played in society.

Trust-based                                          Iichiro Kono, president of the Institute of National
                                                     Colleges of Technology, Japan discusses the
Training                                             characteristics and goals of these distinctive higher
                                                     education facilities.

Flexible                                             Koji Takahashi, director of the Office for
                                                     Administrative Reform at the Ministry of Education,
Education                                            Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT),
                                                     comments on the introduction of “special structural
                                                     reform zones for deregulated educational services.”

Building                                             Yukie Hori, vice senior researcher at the Japan
                                                     Institute for Labour Policy and Training, explains
Bridges to the                                       Japan’s initiatives and vision in respect of
World of Work                                        internships.

 2     Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
Financial                                                     The Central Council for Financial Services
                                                              Information supports the economic activities of
Planning for All                                              Japanese citizens by offering financial education
                                                              and financial services information. Koichiro
                                                              Shibuya, the Council’s deputy director-general,
                                                              explains these efforts.
Reworking                                                     Professor Yoshio Higuchi, an expert in labor
                                                              economics at Keio University, examines changes in
Employment                                                    Japanese management in relation to employment
                                                              practices and discusses some medium- to
                                                              long-term approaches to related issues.

The New Energy                                                Recipient projects for the thirteenth New Energy
                                                              Award were finalized in December 2008. Masaki
Award                                                         Yamada examines the status of new energy
                                                              development and application in Japan as seen
                                                              through the winning projects.

Yokai and the                                                 Kazuhiko Komatsu, a professor at the
                                                              International Research Center of Japanese Culture,
Japanese                                                      discusses the world of Japanese monsters.
Mind’s Eye
Signs for All                                                 Pictograms such as those depicting restrooms,
                                                              elevators and wheelchairs were introduced in
Times                                                         Japan at the time of the 1964 Tokyo Olympic
                                                              Games. Their roots, however, reach back much
                                                              further than that, as pictogram designer Yukio Ota

Three Lanes to                                                According to data released in February by Japan’s
                                                              National Police Agency, road accident fatalities in
Safer Roads                                                   2008 were at their lowest level for more than fifty
                                                              years. Advances in automobile safety technologies,
                                                              improvements to the road system itself, and tougher
                                                              regulations have all played a part. With a focus on
                                                              the last of these, Gavin Blair explains the reasons
                                                              for the decline in road deaths.

The Land of the                                               Despite dark clouds hanging over the Japanese
                                                              and world economies, at Japan’s annual solar
Rising Sun                                                    power exposition the sun was shining. Tony
                                                              McNicol reports.

Dollar figures in the issue are calculated using a conversion rate of one dollar = 92 yen.
Edited and published by the Cabinet Office, Government of Japan.
The views expressed in this magazine by interviewees or contributors do not necessarily represent the views of the Cabinet Office or the Government.

                                                                                                                             Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   3

Career Education
Learning for the “Real Life” after School
Creating ties with the professional world is clearly positioned as                                   tions, thereby laying the foundations
                                                                                                     required to harness human resources
one of the objectives of education in Japan, with the significance                                   over the medium to long term.
and purpose of career education explicitly outlined under newly
revised curriculum guidelines and the government’s Basic                                             National Policy
Education Promotion Plan. The Japan Journal reports on some                                          The government began to promote ca-
of the specific policy initiatives now being undertaken to better                                    reer education in earnest at the end of
                                                                                                     the 1990s, initially in the form of pro-
connect school children in Japan with the world of work.                                             fessional awareness education, as a
                                                                                                     preliminary stage before students em-

                                                                                                     barked on internships. This was in-
      n a policy speech to the 170th ses-                 Strategy sets out four visions of what     spired primarily by a report published
      sion of the Diet in September                       will be required to achieve its aim of     in December 1999 by the Central
      2008, his first since assuming of-                  “new growth” in the face of a declin-      Education Council, entitled Improving
      fice, Japan’s 92nd Prime Minister                   ing population, namely creating a          Links between Elementary/Secondary
Taro Aso declared that Japan would                        “global innovation center,” “new           Education and Higher Education. The
push full steam ahead with a New                          value,” “a nation rich in human re-        report stated that “career education
Economic Growth Strategy designed                         sources” and “a country in which peo-      needs to be provided from elementary
to stimulate demand and generate new                      ple are confident in their national        school onwards, in line with different
jobs through the creation of new in-                      wealth,” through initiatives such as       stages of development,” using the
dustries and technology. In a subse-                      the creation of “a virtuous cycle of in-   term “career education” for the first
quent policy speech to the 171st ses-                     novation and demand.”                      time within the context of specific
sion of the Diet in January 2009, Aso                         One of the specific policies set out   proposals to the education authorities.
similarly stressed the need for eco-                      in an effort to achieve these goals is          According to Research Coordina-
nomic growth founded on reform, set-                      that of developing human resources as      tor Teruyuki Fujita from the National
ting out a focus on job and market                        the root source of innovation. The         Institute for Educational Policy
creation based on the New Economic                        Growth Strategy aims to promote “in-       Research’s Guidance and Counseling
Growth Strategy.                                          dustry, government and academia edu-       Research Center, “the report clearly
     Initially devised in 2006, the New                   cation partnerships” and push ahead        underlined the need for career educa-
Economic Growth Strategy (“Growth                         with initiatives such as creating an en-   tion in order to create a link between
Strategy”) was revised in view of sub-                    vironment conducive to career educa-       students’ school lives and subsequent
sequent socioeconomic conditions in                       tion from elementary school onwards        working lives. From 2002 onwards, a
September 2008 before being ap-                           and practical vocational education at      group of experts within the Ministry
proved by the Cabinet. The Growth                         universities and other such institu-       of Education launched a study to ex-
                                                                                                     amine what form career education
                                                                                                     should take. This was prompted by a
Figure 1: Number of “freeters”                                                                       major shift in employment patterns
 (ten thousand)                                                                                      after the collapse of the bubble econo-
                                                                                                     my, with the rate of employment
                    age 15–24                                                                        amongst high school graduates bot-
                    age 25–34                                                                        toming out and youth employment
                                                                                                     issues such as growing numbers of
                                                91         98        99                              NEETs (not in employment, education
150                                                                         97
                                      49                                                  92         or training) and “freeters” (people opt-
                                                                                                     ing for temporary over permanent em-
                            29                                                                       ployment) starting to emerge just as
                   23                          117        119       115                              the study was getting underway.
 50                                  102                                   104     95     89
        17                  72                                                                       Career education was an attempt to
        34                                                                                           address this situation in collaboration
       1982       1987    1992      1997      2002        2003      2004   2005   2006   2007        with organizations outside schools.”
          Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications                                         Since the publication of a report
 4    Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
on the promotion of career education          Figure 2: Number of unemployed young people
in 2004, career education has started         (ten thousand)
to be rolled out as a specific national       70
policy. Rather than being overseen ex-                        age 15–19           age 25–29
clusively by the Ministry of Educa-           60
                                                              age 20–24           age 30–34       17 18 18 19 18
tion, Culture, Sports, Science and            50                                                                          18
Technology (MEXT), the govern-                                                                      35 36 37 39 36
                                                                             11 11 10 13 18                                  37
ment’s career education policy is im-         40              11
                                                      9   11        9   10      24    24       28     18 19 20 18 18
plemented in conjunction with the             30        19 22         19 21 13 13 13 23 15
Ministry of Economy, Trade and In-                   10 11 12 10 11
                                              20                                                  17 16 18           17
dustry, the Ministry of Health, Labour               13 12 13 12 12 13 15 24 12 13                  29 28 27 16 25 26 16 25
and Welfare, the Ministry of Agricul-          10       21 20 22 21 21 22                  21 21
                                                      8    8   9    9    9    9     9    9   8    12 11 10       9   10    9
ture, Forestry and Fisheries and the            0
Cabinet Office amongst others.                     1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
     As a result of revisions to the          Source: Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications
Basic Law on Education in December
2006 and the School Education Law
the following year in March 2007, cre-    personal capabilities and social capa-                   tary School as an excellent example of
ating ties with the professional world    bilities (to help them make the transi-                  well-balanced harmony between lead-
is now clearly positioned as one of the   tion into society) through collabora-                    ership from the school’s principal and
objectives of education in Japan, with    tion between the school and the local                    NPO support. He believes that the
the significance and purpose of career    community, working hand in hand                          foundations are there for practical edu-
education explicitly outlined under re-   with local people.                                       cation based on a functioning local
vised curriculum guidelines and the            As part of career education, stu-                   community and that the involvement
government’s Basic Education              dents engage in structured, practical                    of businesses commissioned under the
Promotion Plan in an effort to facili-    activities from the first to sixth grades,               Ministry of Economy, Trade and In-
tate classroom activities in schools.     including listening to talks from adults                 dustry (METI)’s Local-Oriented Pri-
                                          they encounter in their everyday lives,                  vate Sector-Involved Career Education
Community Schools                         getting to know themselves, thinking                     Project has also been a factor in the
                                          about the reasons why people work                        success of the school’s initiatives.
At Daiyon Elementary School in            and starting to think about life plans.                  Fujita rejects any suggestion that this
Mitaka, Tokyo, career education and       As part of entrepreneur education                        is a one-off case that can’t be used as
entrepreneur schemes are organized        meanwhile older students work with                       an example for other communities.
for students in every grade. This ap-     the Dream Support Network to come                             “Initiatives such as those at
proach originally stemmed from the        up with ideas for products that harness                  Mitaka Daiyon Elementary School
recognition that too much emphasis        local resources, specifically Edo-                       would be equally feasible in other
was being placed on knowledge             murasaki clematis, a plant traditionally                 communities too. Even less populated
through learning and upbringing, with     used for dying kimono fabric. The pu-                    communities where there are no com-
students’ after-school activities re-     pils collected the plants and produced                   panies can still provide career educa-
volving around cram schools, to the       crepe wrapping paper, tissue case cov-                   tion using the unique resources they
detriment of relationships with the       ers and the like using the distinctive                   have available, such as agriculture,
local community. The school has been      dyestuff. They established hypotheti-                    forestry or fishing for instance. The
striving to make itself more open to      cal companies and produced plans                         problem is how to provide experiences
the community since 2000 and has set      covering everything from prototype                       that reshape children’s perspectives
out a policy of strengthening exchange    production through to sales. They then                   from scratch. It is because of their
in its capacity as a focal point where    submitted their plans and received                       small scale that communities can play
students learn about life in the local    funding from the school, enabling                        their part. It is also important that
community and get to experience as-       them to actually go out into the com-                    teachers recognize the need to provide
pects of society and nature. One of the   munity and sell their products.                          career education.”
key features of the school’s activities        Initiatives such as these were                           Essentially, children need to come
is that they involve around 200 local     commended by MEXT in November                            into contact with members of their
volunteers registered as Community        2008 as practical examples of how ed-                    community, see what sort of jobs are
Teachers. The school also promotes        ucational capabilities within the local                  out there, understand how each pro-
entrepreneur education via the Dream      community can be harnessed extreme-                      fession functions and get to know
Support Network, a NPO set up in          ly effectively.                                          how those involved in each profession
2003, primarily by the same local vol-         Teruyuki Fujita from the National                   work. That is the basis of career edu-
unteers. The school’s aim is to become    Institute for Educational Policy Re-                     cation. Teachers and instructors
a participation-oriented community        search regards the initiatives being                     therefore need a discerning eye in
school that equips students with both     carried out at Mitaka Daiyon Elemen-                     order to identify and bring out such
                                                                                             Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   5

aspects of education.                                     nation (getting acquainted with and                    nical personnel to come in and give
                                                          experiencing a profession) and (4) self                talks. The idea didn’t go as planned
Work Ability                                              fulfillment (drawing up a life plan).                  however as schools responded nega-
                                                               Students progress through the pro-                tively, claiming that it was unwork-
As one might expect from a school                         gram by researching jobs in the local                  able due to safety concerns.
that has been commended by MEXT,                          community and visiting local work-                          The turning point came when a
Misono Junior High School in                              places in the first grade, undergoing                  private organization that happened to
Tokyo’s Ota Ward has been organiz-                        work experience placements and                         be researching collaboration between
ing experience-based education in                         thinking about their own aptitudes in                  schools and the work place, called
manufacturing, harnessing local in-                       the second grade and thinking about                    Gakushoku Renkei Net (cooperative
dustry in the area, since fiscal 2006.                    career options in the third grade.                     network of education and career),
Brimming with over 5,000 backstreet                       Surveys carried out after students have                started to organize meetings for man-
                                                                                                                       agers of local factories, teachers
                                                                                                                       and anyone else interested in ca-
Figure 3: Junior high school students’ working experience by days                                                      reer education.
                                                                                                                            One factory manager got the
                                                                                                                       ball rolling by saying “there may
FY2004                         43.0                                29.0                 19.2      1.9 6.1 0.7          be some difficulties, but we’ll
                                                                                                                       give it a go. I know there are
FY2005                      36.4                             29.5                  19.6      2.2 11.5 0.7              some issues to be addressed, but
                                                                                                                       I’m sure we could work some-
FY2006                 29.1                           28.6                   22.9       2.1     16.5      0.6          thing out with the help of the Ota
                                                                                                                       City Industry and Economy
FY2007          17.6                    26.4                         30.6          3.7         21.2       0.6          Department. I’ll try approaching
                                                                                                                       them too.” Ota Industrial Union
                                                                                                                       Corporation also started to take
         0                     20                  40                 60               80                100 (%)       action and Ota City began to ad-
           One-day             Two-day            Three-day         Four-day      Five-day          Over six-day       dress career education as well.
Source: National Institute for Educational Policy Research                                                             The issue of ensuring students’
                                                                                                                       safety was resolved through “a
                                                                                                                       last-ditch policy of asking indus-
factories, Ota Ward is one of the main                      undergone work experience in the                     trial schools to provide advance train-
centers of the manufacturing industry                       ward, in places such as convenience                  ing sessions for students going to local
in Japan, alongside Higashi Osaka,                          stores, hair salons, hotels and small                factories and catering colleges to pro-
and provides support for everything                         factories, show that 87% learn that                  vide training for those going to food-
from prototype production for cutting                       work can be interesting and 82% learn                related plants,” Hayakawa says.
edge industries the world over to the                       how great it is to be an adult. The                       “It takes an awful lot of prepara-
manufacturing of components.                                school’s efforts were commended on                   tion to offer a placement. Having chil-
    As part of its career education                         the basis that they improve students’                dren come into the workplace however
policy, since fiscal 2005 METI has                          understanding of the local community,                stimulates activity and boosts morale.
been promoting a program called Ca-                         equip them with a realistic outlook on               Companies frequently comment that
reer Start Week, whereby junior high                        work, help prepare them for life after               ‘they work pretty hard for junior high
school students experience life in the                      leaving school to a certain extent and               school students.’ Placements also have
workplace for a period of at least five                     nurture the ability to work.                         the added bonus of giving parents and
days, and is working to lay the foun-                             From companies’ point of view                  children more to talk about.”
dations for increased collaboration be-                     however, there are always difficulties
tween the likes of schools, industry                        with regard to issues such as assigning              Securing Placements
and related government bodies.                              placement supervisors, reorganizing
    As part of this program, Misono                         operations to accommodate students                   Securing placements as part of career
Junior High School has set out the ob-                      and ensuring student safety.                         education is no easy matter, placing a
jective of providing students with an                             Takayuki Hayakawa, a teaching                  considerable burden on teachers in
outlook on work and a professional                          consultant at the Board of Education                 schools. By way of support, the Tokyo
viewpoint through career education                          in Ota Ward, viewed the idea of ask-                 Metropolitan Government Education
and also equipping them with “the                           ing schools to provide work experi-                  Bureau compiles a list of companies
ability to work,” namely (1) self-                          ence placements as merely an exten-                  offering placements.
awareness (getting to know oneself                          sion of their experiences prior to the                    “We are trying to emphasize the
and thinking about the future), (2)                         Career Start Week program, including                 importance of career education to vari-
self-discovery (thinking about a pro-                       organizing factory tours for students                ous different industries,” explains
fession and aptitudes), (3) self exami-                     and inviting engineers and other tech-               Shuichi Yamamoto, a teaching con-
 6    Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
sultant at the Education Bureau. “We         them. Put simply, career education is a          tion building in the future.
keep stressing that career education is      form of developmental education that                 The Trends in International Math-
hugely valuable in the long term and         gives children the awareness they                ematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is
asking companies to work with us to          need to lay the foundations for a rich,          a study that uses standardized tests to
help nurture the children that will          full life in the future.”                        assess the level of educational
shoulder the next generation. We have             In order to effectively achieve this        achievement in the fields of numeracy
got the likes of department stores in        goal, it is essential to work together           (mathematics) and science amongst
the Kanto area, Japan Railways and           with coordinators outside school,                fourth grade elementary school stu-
childcare and kindergarten facilities        through organizations such as NPOs               dents and second grade junior high
on board so far and have compiled a          and boards of education. Indeed,                 school students. The TIMSS results
list of over a thousand workplaces.          METI has continued to expand the                 for 2007 rank Japanese elementary
We are currently working to dissemi-         aforementioned Local-Oriented Pri-               school fourth graders fourth in the
nate the relevant information.”              vate Sector-Involved Career Education            world in both numeracy and science,
     According to a 2006 summary             Project, whilst MEXT has set up Com-             with junior high school second graders
compiled by the Career Education             munity School Support Teams as part              ranked fifth in numeracy and third in
Promotion Committee, a subdivision           of its efforts to increase cooperation           science. The level of basic scientific
of the Youth Development Committee           with local communities. Since fiscal             knowledge amongst adults in Japan
headed by the prime minister, the per-       2008, both ministries have also been             however is lower than that of other
centage of junior high schools around        discussing standard qualifications for           countries. The reason for this discrep-
the country organizing work experi-          coordinators and minimum require-                ancy stems from the fact that Japanese
ence placements lasting five days or         ments for outside-school coordinators.           education is geared towards exams,
longer is on the increase, rising from                                                        with no real connection between
7.9% (807 schools) in fiscal 2004,           Nation Building                                  learning and everyday life. It is impor-
prior to the Career Start Week pro-                                                           tant however that we learn in order to
gram, to 13.8% (1,409 schools) in fis-       Japan is a nation founded on manufac-            live. It would be no exaggeration to
cal 2005 and 19.6% (1,983 schools) in        turing and has established itself as the         say that basic learning and career edu-
fiscal 2006.                                 world’s second largest economy based             cation will form the basis of nation
     According to Yamamoto, the key          on science and technology, accumulat-            building in the future.
to increasing this percentage in the fu-     ing a wealth of intellectual property in             What is important in career edu-
ture rests with regular educational ac-
tivities in one respect.
     “As it stands, a lack of expert staff
and time is both one of the weak-
nesses and one of the strengths of ca-              “Career education is a form of developmental
reer education. What I mean is that
there are plenty of opportunities for                education that gives children the awareness
students to learn the basics of career
education, such as formal greetings,                   they need to lay the foundations for a rich,
attire, appropriate language and man-
ners for instance, in the course of their                                    full life in the future.”
regular lessons and school lives. It is
therefore important to specify and                   —Teruyuki Fujita, National Institute for Educational Policy Research
place priority on elements of career
education within the context of regular
educational activities.”
     The aforementioned Fujita is keen       the process. Technology and knowl-               cation is that it encourages young
to stress the importance of career edu-      edge could effectively be regarded as            people to find a job soon after gradu-
cation from a similar perspective. “In       the basis of the Japanese people’s               ating and allows them to find an ap-
addition to preventing students from         wealth. Nonetheless, Japan is currently          propriate role in society and work
becoming NEETs or freeters, provid-          facing a dwindling birthrate, an aging           within it productively and continuous-
ing career education from elementary         society and a declining population,              ly. Having stressed the fact that
school onwards makes for a wide-             ahead of any of the world’s other ad-            human development is the basis of
ranging education irrespective of            vanced nations. There is no doubting             nation building, in February 2009
issues such as the current state of the      that technology and knowledge will               Prime Minister Aso instructed the
economy or youth employment, in-             form the basis of Japan’s efforts to de-         Meeting on Education Rebuilding to
cluding helping children to map out          velop new industries and create em-              begin discussing career education
their various options in life and equip-     ployment, retain its economic power              with direct links to employment.
ping them with the values they need to       and contribute to the international
choose the options that are best for         community within the context of na-              Hitoshi Chiba, The Japan Journal

                                                                                         Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   7

                 An Unwavering                                                        Masakazu Yamazaki, playwright, critic and former chairman
                                                                                      of the Central Education Council, looks at the history of

                 Enthusiasm for
                                                                                      education in Japan and the roles it has played in society.

                                                                                           In a parallel develop-    and katakana—were used, and each

                                                                                      ment, private schools          had about fifty letters. In spite of this
                                                                                      known as terakoya be-          difficulty, Japan enjoyed very high lit-
                                                                                      came popular in agricul-       eracy rates. This can be attested to by
                                                                                      tural communities and          the fact that novels called “kibyoshi”

                                                                                      cities, where the merchant     sold in the thousands when they were
                          apanese education has been                      class lived. According to one theory,      published in the Edo period.
                          distinct in that it has for a very              members of the warrior class, who had           Merchants were particularly en-
                          long time been available to the                 flourished during the Sengoku              thusiastic about education. In addition
                          ordinary person.                                (“Warring States”) period (1467–           to providing the elementary school ed-
                      At least from the beginning of the                  1568) that preceded the Edo period,        ucation I described above, merchants
                 Edo period (1603–1867), not only                         lost their jobs with the arrival of        often taught what could be called busi-
                 warriors in a high social position but                   peace. A great majority of these un-       ness ethics or business manners to
                 also the commoners down to farmers                       employed warriors are said to have         their children and adults including
                 and merchants were receiving an ele-                     found work as teachers at terakoya.        warriors at private schools which they
                 mentary school education under a class                   Naturally, reading, writing and arith-     had established on their own.
                 system known as “shi-no-ko-sho,”                         metic were taught at terakoya. The
                 which ranked warriors at the top, fol-                   Japanese literacy rate in the Edo peri-    Education and
                 lowed by farmers, craftsmen and mer-                     od was believed to have been very          Employment
                 chants. The lords of feudal domains set                  high, compared with the literacy rate
                 up schools called “hanko” to educate                     in not only other countries in Asia but    Then the modern age arrived. With the
                 the children of their retainers. These                   also in European countries. The num-       Meiji Restoration (1868), education
                 schools offered education that corre-                    ber of terakoya is believed to have        became the greatest challenge for
                 sponds in level to today’s elementary                    reached approximately 1,500 in Edo         Japan as an emerging nation. Educa-
                 school education and in some cases to                    (present-day Tokyo) and approxi-           tion in the Meiji period (1868–1912)
                 a junior high or senior high school ed-                  mately 15,000 nationwide by the end        became extremely centralized because
                 ucation. There were about ten hanko in                   of the Edo period.                         Japan rapidly introduced from the
                 the first half of the eighteenth century.                    Incidentally, a somewhat special       West modern manufacturing industry
                 That number grew to about 260 at the                     kind of difficulty is involved in learn-   and various legal concepts or basic so-
                 beginning of the nineteenth century.                     ing the Japanese language. That is the     cial assumptions that were global stan-
                 Hanko seem to have placed an empha-                      coexistence of ideograms imported          dards. For example, the Ministry of
                 sis on literature and Confucianism.                      from China, which the Japanese call        Education (now the Ministry of
                                                                          “kanji,” and original Japanese phono-      Education, Culture, Sports, Science
                                                                          grams called “kana.” The number of         and Technology [MEXT]) was estab-
                                                                          letters Japanese language students         lished as an integrated central govern-
                                                                          needed to master was enormous, be-         ment body to oversee education in
                                                                          cause two types of kana—hiragana           1871, three years after the administra-

                                                                          The enthusiasm of Japanese citizens for
                                                                          education remained extremely strong in the
                                                                          postwar period. Virtually no Japanese
                                                                          children failed to undergo compulsory
                                                                          education.... Parents sent their children to
                                                                          school even when food was scarce.

                                                                          —Masakazu Yamazaki, playwright, critic and former
                                                                          chairman of the Central Education Council
                  8   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue

                                                                 Contemporary illustration of a classroom scene at
                                                                 an Edo-period (1603–1867) terakoya. Such private

                                                                 schools, established by merchants before
                                                                 education became compulsory in the Meiji period
                                                                 (1868–1912), were very well attended by children in
                                                                 the cities and agrarian communities, and along with
                                                                 the hanko schools for children of the feudal lords,
                                                                 ensured that Japan had a high level of literacy by
                                                                 world standards at the end of the Edo period.

tive switch from the Edo Shogunate to       ty, were certified at this point. At the         politics and tended to withdraw to the
the Meiji government. The establish-        same time, national universities, then           foxholes of their specialties by the
ment of the ministry represented a re-      called imperial universities, began to           time they had graduated from univer-
markable centralization. Initially, only    increase in number. Ultimately, nine             sity. The second class of middle intel-
four years of elementary school educa-      imperial universities were established,          lectuals centering on those involved in
tion was compulsory. Then, the com-         as were a large number of senior high            journalism went on to form extremely
pulsory schooling period was extended       schools. To state the details, only eight        political and ideologized groups. And
to six years. Subsequently, an educa-       national senior high schools existed             the third class of grassroots intellectu-
tion system consisting of six years of      originally, including the ichiko (the            als created a certain social group, with
elementary school education, five           first senior high school). As a result of        a special focus on the military.
years of junior high school education,      the Ministry’s policy change, a large                 As a result, a structure of ideologi-
three years of senior high school edu-      number of senior high schools bearing            cal confrontation between academi-
cation and three years of university        the geographic names of their regions,           cism and populism, or between upper
education had been established in           such as Matsumoto Senior High                    and middle intellectuals, developed.
Japan by the 1920s. The first universi-     School and Niigata Senior High                   The former class of intellectuals was
ty in Japan, the University of Tokyo,       School, came into existence.                     not able to lead public opinion, while
was founded as a national university             Consequently, a huge social prob-           the latter became overly populist.
in 1877 out of the Shohei-zaka              lem emerged in Japan, albeit for a               Caught in this ideological battle and
Gakumonsho of the Tokugawa                  brief period. That is to say, Japan did          influenced by additional poverty in ag-
Shogunate in an independent initiative.     not have sufficient employment for               ricultural communities, Japan produced
    Interestingly, Japanese citizens        the intelligentsia, which expanded               an ill-fated current that ultimately trig-
looked up to this sole university as a      rapidly in number. More specifically,            gered the Second World War.
school that provided benefits or leader-    there were three classes of people
ship. I believe this is a unique charac-    known as the intelligentsia. The first           Enthusiasm for Education
teristic of Japan, compared with the        class consisted of academics who con-
frequent occurrence of “town and gown       fined themselves to imperial universi-           However, the Japanese government’s
conflicts” in the course of university      ties or, in other words, remained in se-         enthusiasm for compulsory education
establishment in the United States. Of      clusion in ivory towers. They occupied           remained constant. For example,
course, elementary schools were free        the highest rank. So-called middle in-           school buildings constructed in accor-
to attend. Schools at higher levels cost    tellectuals who worked at ordinary               dance with strict criteria regarding
money, including tuition or textbook        companies, centering on those in jour-           local geographic features and architec-
fees. Higher education was beyond the       nalism, formed the second class below            ture are the safest places during natu-
wildest dreams of most aspirants.           the top one. Graduates of military               ral disasters, whether they were locat-
    The Ministry of Education com-          schools or specialized vocational                ed in villages or cities. This unchanged
mitted itself to improving higher edu-      schools, such as teachers’ training col-         government enthusiasm can be attested
cation in 1922. That is to say, the         leges and agricultural, forestry and             to by the fact that, even today, people
Ministry began to acknowledge pri-          fisheries schools, shaped a group                go to school buildings to take refuge
vate universities, which had not exist-     known as grassroots intellectuals at             when a disaster of some kind strikes.
ed up to that point, as universities.       the third rung. Unfortunately, this bur-              Following its defeat in World War
Universities now famous, such as            geoning group of academics in the                II, Japan incorporated significant ele-
Keio University and Waseda Universi-        first class became totally indifferent to        ments of the U.S. school system. For
                                                                                        Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   9

example, the so-called 6-3-3-4 system,                    continued in postwar Japan. The            tionship between equality and freedom
consisting of six years of elementary                     Ministry of Education continued to         in learning. Needless to say, the ideal
school education, three years of junior                   play a role. However, at the same          is for people to share equally substan-
high school education, three years of                     time, Japan introduced a decentraliza-     tial and advanced knowledge. How-
senior high school education, and four                    tion of power, modeling itself on the      ever, achieving this is a difficult task
years of university education, is ad-                     United States. Consequently, we can        for any country. It is difficult because
opted from the United States. The en-                     say that Japan today balances central-     knowledge differs from wealth.
thusiasm of Japanese citizens for edu-                    ism and decentralism.                      Achieving equality does not end with
cation remained extremely strong in                           To give a specific example, the        a division of knowledge. In other
the postwar period as well. Virtually                     Japa nese government grants basic          words, educational opportunities may
no Japanese children failed to undergo                    qualifications to teachers in a central-   be offered equally but learning and
compulsory education, in other words,                     ized manner. In other words, aspirants     achievement depend on the skills and
six years of elementary school educa-                     can become teachers by earning cred-       efforts of each individual.
tion and three years of junior high                       its prescribed by the government at             For this reason, differences in aca-
school education. Japanese parents                        universities. The subjects required for    demic standards exist among schools
sent their children to school even                        study at universities are particularly     in present-day Japan, in the same way
when food was scarce. The percentage                      centralized for those aspiring to be-      as they do in other countries. There is
of junior high school graduates who                       come elementary school teachers.           a considerable degree of competition
go on to senior high schools has risen                    However, it is the local boards of edu-    to enter the most renowned schools.
to the present level of 98% over the                      cation that actually hire teachers.        For higher education overall, all
years. This means compulsory educa-                       Decentralization of power is more or       young Japanese already have the op-
tion has in effect been extended to                       less maintained in this way. As for        portunity to go to a university of some
twelve years. Incidentally, all expens-                   textbooks, the prewar government ed-       kind if they wish to do so, thanks to
                                                                                                     the declining birthrate. But the compe-
                                                                                                     tition is still severe when differences
Educational opportunities may be offered equally but                                                 in the academic standards among
                                                                                                     schools are taken into consideration.
learning and achievement depend on the skills and                                                    Calls have been made for a diversifi-
                                                                                                     cation of education as a natural solu-
efforts of each individual. For this reason, differences in                                          tion to this problem. A number of dif-
                                                                                                     ferent approaches have been tested to
academic standards exist among schools in present-day                                                provide knowledge that corresponds
                                                                                                     to the different capabilities of each in-
Japan, as they do in other countries. A resolution has                                               dividual in different ways. Still, an ul-
                                                                                                     timate resolution has yet to be discov-
not been discovered because differences in                                                           ered. This resolution has not been
                                                                                                     discovered because differences in oc-
occupational preferences [also] exist.                                                               cupational preferences exist in Japan
                                                                                                     as they do in other countries, in addi-
                                                                                                     tion to disparities in academic stan-
es for elementary school and junior                       ited and distributed the same text-        dards among schools. Competition for
high school education are covered by                      books to all parts of the country.         desirable jobs is fierce in each specific
the National Treasury. Students pay                       Today, textbooks are edited and pub-       occupation for that reason. No such
nothing, including the cost of their                      lished by private companies. MEXT          thing as perfect equality is sought in
textbooks. Substantial reforms also                       screens the textbooks to ensure they       this competition.
took place in the postwar period at                       conform with established criteria.              Meanwhile, a strong antipathy to-
universities at the top of the ladder. As                 Local boards of education and respec-      ward elite education exists in Japan as
a result, national universities in rural                  tive schools are entrusted with the task   a natural part of general society. How-
areas were improved. Under a govern-                      of selecting textbooks from the            ever, scholars and researchers with
ment policy of establishing at least                      screened candidates.                       high levels of achievement are being
one university in each prefecture, the                                                               sought as the world transitions to a
number of universities increased. The                     Equality and Freedom                       knowledge-based society. Japa nese
percentage of senior high school grad-                    in Learning                                education is continuing to struggle
uates who enroll at universities has                                                                 with the dilemma of equalizing its
reached about 50%. This means uni-                        Under these arrangements, Japanese         broad base and maintaining its high-
versity education in Japan has entered                    education retains the equality and uni-    est peaks.
the so-called universal stage. Inciden-                   versality it had in the Edo period.
tally, programs for national education-                   However, Japan shares an essential         Masakazu Yamazaki is a playwright, critic and former chairman
al unification and full state support                     problem with other countries: the rela-    of the Central Education Council.

 10   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue

Trust-based Training
                                                                                            course, with the remainder either
                                                                                            going on to take specialized courses
                                                                                            or transferring to a four-year degree
                                                                                            course at a university. There are also
                                                                                            some students who go on to do post-
Iichiro Kono, president of the Institute of National Colleges of                            graduate study after finishing their
                                                                                            specialized course. Particularly in re-
Technology, Japan, discusses the characteristics and goals of the                           cent years, the proportion of students
distinctive higher education facilities that are Japan’s technical colleges.                aiming to acquire a higher level of

                                                                                            technical expertise while they are still
        he system of “colleges of tech-    be described as an extremely success-            students has been increasing, due to
        nology,” otherwise known as        ful example in the history of higher             the demand from industry for the cul-
        “technical colleges,” started      education in postwar Japan.                      tivation of a skilled workforce.
        with the establishment of               Another significant change took
twelve technical colleges in 1962.         place in 2003, when the legal status of          Distinctive Features
Since then, sixty-one technical col-       universities and technical colleges
leges have been established, so that       changed so that they became “inde-               The greatest attraction or feature of
there is now at least one technical col-   pendent administrative agencies” and             technical colleges is “trust-based edu-
lege in every prefecture. (Fifty-five of   the Institute of National Colleges of            cation.” Generally speaking, the day-
these technical colleges were estab-       Technology, Japan (INCT) was estab-              to-day reality of most university edu-
lished by the national government,         lished. This process brought the fifty-          cation is that the bonds of trust
with three established by other gov-       five national colleges of technology             between teachers and students are be-
ernment bodies and three established       together as a single legal entity, which         coming weaker, as the number of stu-
by private organizations.) The educa-      was established by the INCT. This                dents increases and classrooms be-
tional objective of these technical col-   was an extremely significant reform,             come larger and larger. It is not an
leges is to “train technical workers to    as it created a higher education institu-        exaggeration to say that whether or
be both practical and creative”—in         tion with about 53,000 students and a            not a young person between the ages
other words, to “foster a core cadre of    national network of technical colleges.          of fifteen and eighteen grows and de-
technical workers who will be at the            Students can enter regular courses          velops is determined by whether or
center of Japan’s monodzukuri”             at a technical college from the age of           not he or she is motivated. The rela-
(small-scale manufacturing).               fifteen after they have graduated from           tionship between teachers and learners
    The idea for a system of technical     junior high school. They then go on to           does not simply involve a transfer of
colleges emerged from a strong de-         receive five years of integrated and             knowledge and skills. Rather, it is
mand from industry during Japan’s          continuous education, after which                only when there is a relationship of
rapid industrialization in the late        they receive an associate degree.                mutual trust that students truly devel-
1950s. As Japan moved from the peri-       Students can then complete two more              op the desire to take classes, take
od of postwar reconstruction into the      years of specialized courses to receive          exams and participate in practical
period of high economic growth, there      a bachelor’s degree. Students that               training. More than forty years’ of in-
was a call from industry for the estab-    enter the regular courses have the ad-
lishment of educational institutions       vantage of being able to receive con-
that could cultivate technical experts     tinuous training and integrated profes-
who would be ready for action. The         sional development, without having to
government responded to this call, and     suffer through the so-called examina-
technical colleges were systematized       tion wars of trying to qualify for
with the establishment of the Colleges     university. About 60% of students
of Technology Law in 1961. This can        graduate after completing the regular

       Technical colleges are highly regarded for
           having personal relationships [between
      teachers and students] that are far stronger
         than tends to be the case in universities.
                                                                                                                                                EIICHIRO IWASA

       —Iichiro Kono, president of the Institute of National
                            Colleges of Technology, Japan
                                                                                       Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   11

volvement with universities has made                      students an opportunity to learn by co-      things work in the real world before
me aware that technical colleges are                      operating of their own initiative, de-       they return to the technical colleges to
highly regarded for having personal                       veloping the skills that they will need      continue their studies.
relationships that are far stronger than                  when they enter the workforce, and                In such circumstances, students
tends to be the case in universities.                     building trust-both between students         develop the desire to receive the train-
    To be more specific, the key as-                      and between teachers and students.           ing needed to become even more ad-
pects of trust-based education in tech-                        The expectations of society and         vanced technical workers, as they as-
nical colleges are as follows. Firstly,                   industry for these technical college         pire to gain even more advanced
by limiting the size of all classes to no                 students are high. One example of            technical skills. Industry once required
more than forty students, technical                       these expectations is a twenty- to thir-     the kind of human resources that were
colleges have created an educational                      ty-fold increase in the number of job        immediately ready to contribute to
environment that allows teachers to                       offers coming from companies. The            Japan’s rapid industrialization during
recognize and understand every stu-                       central pillar of Japanese monodzukuri       the period of high economic growth.
dent, including their individual per-                     is made up of medium-sized enterpris-        That is, they needed people who had
sonalities. This kind of environment is                   es rather than big companies, and            acquired basic knowledge and tech-
difficult to imagine in a typical uni-                    these medium-sized enterprises require       niques, and skills that could be used
versity where students tend to move                       a huge amount of manpower. The de-           straight away. However, we have now
from one massive classroom to anoth-                      mand for students who have received          entered an age where the medium-
er for each different subject.                            practical training at technical colleges     sized enterprises that are the central
    Secondly, technical colleges have                     is almost completely unaffected by the       pillar of Japan’s monodzukuri must
student dormitories, and teachers                         ups and downs of the economic cycle.         work to maintain their international
have a guidance role here too. By liv-                    There are also many former graduates         competitiveness. A new requirement
ing together students learn teamwork                      of technical colleges who have found         for technical college students is that
and cooperation. This also gives them                     jobs and worked hard before going on         they have the creativity needed to pro-
an opportunity to develop closer                          to start their own businesses. In this       duce technical innovations.
bonds with each other and with the                        way, they are contributing to society             Following these two changes, the
teaching staff.                                           as the skilled workers that support          INCT has recognized the need for re-
    A third feature, which is a special                   Japanese manufacturing.                      forms and improvements, and has
case that typically emerges from the                                                                   been promoting reforms around two
second feature that I just mentioned, is                  Partnerships                                 goals: making education and training
our engagement with the “Robot                                                                         more advanced, and strengthening the
Contest of Colleges of Technology.”                       Another feature of technical colleges        services that build regional partner-
This contest, better known as “Robo-                      is their intimate relationship with local    ships. We are also considering moving
con,” was started by NHK in 1988 and                      industries. All around Japan, technical      from a flat, two-dimensional arrange-
has now become a national event.                          colleges have been set up not in major       ment whereby all fifty-five schools are
Technical colleges have been assisting                    cities, but rather in regional cities that   all at the same level to a three-dimen-
with the organization of this event                       are one or two degrees smaller in            sional structure that takes into account
since 2000.                                               scale. Major cities tend to have many        regional differences.
    Each year, students start by orga-                    universities, and so there has been an            Specifically, we plan to set up four
nizing their ideas for robots when the                    ongoing policy to place technical col-       new “super technical colleges” to be
theme of the Robocon contest is an-                       leges in regional cities and promote         key schools for their respective re-
nounced in April. They then set about                     local partnerships, such as joint re-        gions. These “super technical colleg-
designing and creating robots for the                     search with local industry and local         es” will be created by upgrading and
regional finals in autumn and the na-                     government. In recent years, industry        reorganizing four technical colleges
tional finals in winter. Students form                    leaders and people with experience in        that will be selected from the many re-
project groups and get together out-                      local government have been involved          gional areas where technical colleges
side of class times, working day and                      in the planning process, in order to         have already been established. The
night to brainstorm and share their                       strengthen joint education, such as in-      idea is that campus and the teaching
knowledge. This gives students an op-                     ternship programs, in order to develop       staff will remain unchanged, but the
portunity to experience the process of                    even better training and develop work-       curriculum, subjects and teaching con-
creating something of their own by                        ers with even better skills. Even more       tent will be revised in order to raise
sharing knowledge collectively and                        recently, both students and teachers         the standard of the educational content
thoroughly discussing their ideas with                    have been able to participate in practi-     and to strengthen regional partnership
one another.                                              cal training at partner companies            services by establishing innovation
    As well as Robocon, there are                         overseas, as a result of partnerships        centers together with local partners.
other similar contests, including a pro-                  with trading companies and so on. In
gramming contest, a design contest                        these programs, students see how             International Exchange
and an English speech contest. These                      monodzukuri really works in medium-
contests have several functions: giving                   sized enterprises, and learn about how       Exchanges of teaching staff have ex-
 12   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
panded significantly in recent years.       early age of fifteen. (The five years of  for both teachers and students.
At present, roughly two-thirds of the       continuous and integrated training in              There is no doubt that in future
teachers at technical colleges are engi-    the regular course is one of the dis-     Japan must pursue national develop-
neering doctorates, with the remainder      tinctive features of the education sys-   ment through science and technology.
being technical experts with rich in-       tem in technical colleges.) This means    It also goes without saying that the
dustry experience, such as former           that there are numerous issues that re-   mission that has been assigned to
head technicians. In order to respond       quire due consideration, in terms of      technical colleges and their graduates
to the changes in the requirements that     both sending and receiving exchange       is extremely significant, and technical
industry now demands of new gradu-          students. However, technical colleges     colleges must produce large numbers
ates, as discussed earlier, teaching        also offer specialized courses for older  of technical experts who can fulfill
staff now need not only to read re-         students as well as dormitories, and      this mission. For example, many tech-
search papers published overseas, but       these points suggest significant poten-   nical colleges are cultivating technical
also to lift their own research activities  tial when it comes to considering fu-     workers specializing in industrial
to the next level. As medium-sized          ture expansion.                           areas, but if we consider the challeng-
enterprises become increasingly inter-           Specifically, we are considering     es facing Japan, such as the food sup-
national, teaching staff must also be-      establishing a center for exchange stu-   ply problem and the energy problem,
come more international in terms of         dents at the Okinawa College of           it is clear that we must aim to cultivate
the academic and technical                                                                                a workforce with a richer
research that they conduct.                                                                               set of skills in a wider
INCT has established ex-                                                                                  range of areas. In the agri-
change agreements with                                                                                    cultural sector, in future
more than 100 overseas-                                                                                   we should probably ex-
based higher education in-                                                                                pand our programs to cre-
stitutions such as universi-                                                                              ate more graduates with
ties. As well as exchanges                                                                                expertise in food technolo-
conducted by individual                                                                                   gy, such as food process-
technical colleges, the                                                                                   ing and biotechnology.
INCT also sends dozens of                                                                                 Similarly in the energy
teachers overseas every                                                                                   field, we are already en-
year, for periods ranging                                                                                 gaged in developing tech-
from six months to a year.                                                                                nical experts in the areas
We are also receiving                                                                                     of fuel science, petro-
                                   COURTESY OF INCT

more and more visitors                                                                                    chemistry and nuclear
from other higher educa-                                                                                  power, but in future I think
tion institutions such as                                                                                 that we should also expand
foreign universities, and        Technical colleges have been assisting with the                          our programs to cultivate
we expect that internation-      organization of the televised “Robocon” event since 2000.                technical workers with the
al exchange at the teacher                                                                                skills needed for the fun-
level will continue to grow                                                                               damental energy sector.
in terms of both quantity and quality.      Technology. This center could, for ex-    To do this, technical colleges, as edu-
     Most of the exchange students          ample, accept exchange students dur-      cational institutions, must move for-
that we receive are from Korea, China       ing the summer holidays, and utilize      ward by strengthening their trust-
and Southeast Asian countries such as       the dormitory and training facilities     based education, improving the quality
Malaysia, and most of these students        available at the technical college. It is of their training, and doing everything
are on government-funded scholar-           possible that the technical college may   necessary to increase their ability to
ships. The scale of these exchange          be able to conduct practical technical    develop skilled workers.
programs is smaller than that of uni-       training or familiarization training.             The world is now facing serious
versities. The government has created            The fundamental concept in inter-    problems, such as environmental
a plan to accept 300,000 foreign ex-        national exchange is that, no matter      problems, energy problems and finan-
change students per annum by 2020,          what differences there may be in ap-      cial problems, and we are in a position
and technical colleges are also con-        proach or methodology in the way that     of real adversity. However, in adver-
sidering ways of expanding their in-        technical training is carried out in dif- sity there is opportunity. This is be-
take of exchange students, including        ferent countries, it is extremely impor-  cause it is at times such as these that
self-funded exchange students.              tant that we learn about these differ-    society selects and chooses what is re-
     Actually, there are some difficul-     ences in order to develop skilled         ally necessary.
ties associated with expanding the ex-      workers. With this awareness, it is es-           This is also true of technical colleges.
change student program, not the least       sential for the development of techni-
of which is the fact that the five-year     cal colleges’ education that we expand    Iichiro Kono is president of the Institute of National Colleges of
regular course starts at the relatively     our international exchange networks       Technology, Japan

                                                                                                   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   13

Flexible Education
Since 2003 the Japanese government has been promoting the                                           municipal board of education offers a
                                                                                                    special teacher’s certificate to working
establishment of “special deregulation zones” in local areas, to meet                               adults who have particular experience.
more efficiently the demand for services identified by local authorities                            Chiyoda Ward in Tokyo is one such
and private companies. Education is one area that has benefited from                                example, and has been approved as a
the special zones initiative. Koji Takahashi, director of the Office for                            “special zone for the use of private
                                                                                                    manpower in a school established by
Administrative Reform at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports,                                Chiyoda Ward.”
Science and Technology (MEXT), introduces the “special structural                                       This is an example of an attempt
reform zones for deregulated educational services” created to date.                                 to nurture the people who will lead the
                                                                                                    next generation by proactively recruit-

                                                                                                    ing enthusiastic people from the pri-
         pecial structural reform zones                   case of special structural-reform zones   vate sector as teachers or full-time in-
         for deregulated educational                      for deregulated educational services,     structors, even though they do not
         services are one type of spe-                    202 have been approved.                   possess a teacher’s license. Taking ad-
         cial deregulation zone created                       The majority of applications for      vantage of the central location, English
by the Law on Special Zones for                           special structural reform zones for de-   lessons are conducted by native
Structural Reform promulgated on                          regulated educational services are for    English speakers from diplomatic es-
April 1, 2003, where regional public                      English-language education or inte-       tablishments, while mathematics is
bodies undertake the implementation                       grated elementary and junior high         taught in an engaging way by technical
of specific educational projects in ac-                   school as a result of the creation of     experts from IT companies or science-
cordance with the characteristics of                      flexibility in the curriculum which has   related businesses in Chiyoda Ward.
the area and boost the human re-                          expanded across the entire country,
sources that lead the local industry.                     discussed below. The next highest         Successful Applicants
The potential for replication nation-                     number of applications is for special
wide of approved special zones for                        zones for the establishment of schools    The Ota Foreign Language Education
structural reform is deliberated each                     by corporations for supporting truant     Special Zone in Ota City, Gunma
year at an evaluation and investiga-                      elementary, junior and senior high        Prefecture submitted an application at
tion committee set up in the Head-                        school students, or for the develop-      the beginning of 2003 and was the
quarters for Promotion of Spe cial                        ment of experts working with those        first special zone to be approved. This
Zones for Structural Reform. If there                     students. Other unique zones are the      special zone proposed an initiative for
is no particular problem associated                       “Read Write Speak Listen” language        teaching international tourism through
with the special zone, the aim is to                      and culture Itami Special Zone in         lessons conducted almost entirely in
make the relaxation of regulations                        Itami City, Hyogo Prefecture, and the     English, by native English speakers
that was restricted to the special zone                   integrated elementary and junior high     using English textbooks approved by
effective nationwide.                                     school special zone “Nara—the city        the Ministry of Education, Culture,
    The special zones have been ap-                       where you can walk with us and learn      Sports, Science and Technology.
proved by the prime minister, and as                      about world heritage” in Nara City.            In collaboration with the private
of January 2009 number 1,060. In the                      There is also a special zone where the    sector, Ota City established a school
                                                                                                    that implements integrated elementary,
                                                                                                    junior and senior high school educa-
                                                                                                    tion with the goal of creating an edu-
                                                                                                    cational environment where the chil-
      Special zones have two aspects in common. One is                                              dren would be able to acquire real-life
      the fostering of world citizens through the early                                             English and an international sensitivity
                                                                                                    and mindset that have world currency.
      introduction of English language education. The                                                    The second case was Arakawa
                                                                                                    Ward in Tokyo, which aspired to revi-
      other is the smooth transition through the stages of                                          talize its image as “Arakawa, the inter-
                                                                                                    national city” and “Gateway to Tokyo,
      the compulsory education period as a result of the                                            the Nation’s Capital.” Arakawa Ward
      flexible operation of the curriculum.                                                         applied and was approved as a special
                                                                                                    zone for the implementation of inte-
                                                                                                    grated elementary and junior high
 14   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
school English language education,          students, in the light of medical               the existing system, is rising, and the
conducive to the nurturing of inter-        knowledge regarding the changes in              schools established by corporations
nationally minded people. The Narita        the human body that occur after the             are the result of increased demand.
New Rapid Railway linking Narita            age of eleven, which is from grade              Moreover, in the case of universities
Airport with the Tokyo metropolitan         five of elementary school.                      established by corporations, special-
district was planned to open in 2010,           In questionnaires conducted in all          ized graduate schools predominantly
with the goal of making metropolitan        special zones by the Ministry of Edu-           in business administration, universities
Tokyo a tourist destination hub by di-      cation, Culture, Sports, Science and            for the training of advanced technical
rectly linking Arakawa Ward’s               Technology, with a view to replicat-            artists, professional graduate schools
Nippori Station with Narita Airport in      ing them nationwide, many rated the             for teacher training, and others have
thirty-six minutes. This special zone       fact that initiatives of this kind were         been approved.
was for the establishment of a special      possible, enabling teaching to take                  Currently, some schools estab-
zone research and development school        place in accordance with the stage of           lished by corporations are offering ex-
that would create a flexible curriculum     development by linking elementary               cellent education content and are
and nurture practical communication         and junior high school. Special zones           widely accepted in the area. However,
skills through the medium of English.       have the advantage of enabling teach-           there are many schools that are beset
     The third application to be ap-        ing guidelines to be drawn up flexibly,         with operating difficulties, and 80 per
proved was Tome City, Miyagi Pre-           thus making it possible for education           cent of universities established by
fecture. Here, the existing compulsory      to respond to the needs of the region           corporations and slightly less than 70
education system of six years elemen-       and of the times. On the other hand,            per cent of senior high schools are in
tary school and three years junior high     special zones targeted at elementary            the red.
school (6-3) was replaced by the 3-4-2      and junior high schools also present                 To realize the potential of schools
system: three years lower elementary        challenges. Education is compulsory,            established by corporations, we must
grades, four years middle grades, and       and if a student moves then a change            investigate the compatibility of indi-
two years upper grades, in an effort to     will occur in the learning environment          vidual companies’ decision-making,
instill basic knowledge through a flex-     and content. As a result, children              based as it is on the need to collect
ible curriculum that accords with the       themselves will find it difficult to            capital from the market and the direc-
development stage of the children or        cope, and there is a danger that this           tive to bring profit to shareholders,
takes account of individual difference,     could have an adverse effect. How-              with the need in school management
and to nurture children who are             ever, those who cite specific benefits          to achieve continuity and stability. We
equipped to cope with globalization         far outnumber those who voice such              need to continually collect information
through early exposure to English lan-      misgivings, and the initiative has              from those schools established by pri-
guage education. The aim is to provide      taken off from the special zones to be          vate companies to help ensure their
a continuous nine-year period of com-       replicated nationwide.                          success. Furthermore, it is very impor-
pulsory education that follows a con-                                                       tant to consider the necessary mea-
sistent educational approach.               Education by Corporations                       sures going forward by analyzing the
     Broadly speaking, these special                                                        achievement of the special measures
zones have two aspects in common.           To date, applications have been made            at each educational stage, from ele-
One is the fostering of world citizens      for a variety of types of school, from          mentary school upwards. Expansion
through the early introduction of           elementary schools to junior high               of the school corporation system
English language education. The other       schools and senior high schools, as             nationwide is now under discussion.
is the smooth transition through the        well as universities. Twenty-eight out               Originally, there was a need for
stages of the compulsory education          of the forty-three so far accredited            educational institutions established by
period as a result of the flexible opera-   have opened. This number comprises              corporations because it was anticipat-
tion of the curriculum. It has been         six universities, twenty senior high            ed that the corporate funding that
pointed out that such a system may          schools, one junior high school, and            would be forthcoming would make
produce students who cannot ade-            one elementary school.                          possible initiatives that ordinary
quately cope with the move from ele-             Schools established by corpora-            school corporations were unable to fi-
mentary school to junior high school,       tions are currently confined to special         nance. In particular, applications for
given that this entails a sudden and        zones and have not been replicated              senior high schools offering part-time
significant change in the education         nationwide. In the case of senior high          correspondence courses as a new al-
content and learning environment,           schools, for example, many schools              ternative to accommodate students
such as the level of difficulty of text-    established by corporations are                 with a record of nonattendance at reg-
books, lesson times, and the special-       correspondence- course senior high              ular schools as mentioned above are
ized nature of the curriculum. Debate       schools, with many of the students              increasing and playing a certain role.
is taking place about whether the “6-3”     having a record of nonattendance [at
system needs to be revised to suit the      regular schools]. The number of stu-
                                                                                            Koji Takahashi is director of the Office for Administrative
stages of development of elementary,        dents who are not accepted in the ex-           Reform, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
junior high, and senior high school         isting school system, or do not fit into        Technology, Japan.

                                                                                       Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue              15

Building Bridges to the
                                                                                                                             course, this alone is not the solution,
                                                                                                                             but in the present situation it is an in-
                                                                                                                             dispensable method to aid the transi-
                                                                                                                             tion into the workforce of young peo-

World of Work
                                                                                                                             ple in Japan.

                                                                                                                             Present Situation of
Yukie Hori, vice senior researcher at the Japan Institute for Labour
                                                                                                                                             Internships from junior high schools
Policy and Training (JIL), explains Japan’s initiatives and vision in respect                                                                through the mediation of universities
of internships.                                                                                                                              and other public institutions are cur-

                                                                                                                                             rently expanding. As well as universi-
             ntil the 1980s, Japan was                                      such education is the internship,                                ties, employers’ associations such as
             highly rated for the successful                                which means work experience while                                the Japan Business Federation and
             transition of its young people                                 still at school.                                                 private-sector companies that wish to
             into the workforce. The fact                                         The age of young people in Japan                           attract publicity are also promoting in-
that in Japan young people were able                                        making the transition from education                             ternships. In particular, approximately
to make a smooth transition from se-                                        to employment spans a wide range of                              90% of universities provide courses of
nior high school into a situation of                                        fifteen to thirty-four years, compared                           study that include internship periods,
stable employment, without going on                                         with the global range of sixteen to                              though the percentage of students par-
to university, has come to be appraised                                     twenty-four years. The reason for this                           ticipating remains at an estimated 20%
as the finest aspect of Japan’s postwar                                     is that the time of transition from edu-                         of the total. Student awareness of dif-
education system.                                                           cation to employment is late and ex-                             ferent types of job lags behind the
     However, the collapse of the bub-                                      tends over a long period, with approxi-                          system, so it is hoped to expand the
ble economy in the 1990s brought a                                          mately 97% of students going on to                               opportunities for students to find out
change in this unique Japanese feature.                                     senior high school, and approximately                            about the variety of jobs that exist.
In the late 1990s, the economic slump                                       70% of students going on to universi-                                   Various kinds of internship exist.
forced companies to drastically reduce                                      ty, junior college, or other vocational                          For a university, for example, the work
their intake of new employees, and this                                     school. While this means that students                           experience period is around ten days,
as well as other factors led to increas-                                    possess higher levels of knowledge                               while in other settings this may be as
ing numbers of freeters and NEETs,                                          and skills, their more advanced age                              short as a single day, or extend to al-
mainly comprising young people who                                          means that they are more likely to ex-                           most one year. The content, too, var-
left school before completing their se-                                     perience difficulties in making the                              ies, from a quite specialized period of
nior high school education.                                                 transition. Therefore, it is all the more                        practical on-site training related to the
     This was the turning point for the                                     necessary to arrange internships when                            engineering department of a university
start of career education. The focus of                                     young people are still at school. Of                             where internships have been arranged
                                                                                                                                                              before, to just a brief
                                                                                                                                                              glimpse into a company.
Status of internships                                                                                                                                (%)
                                                                                                                                                                  However, students
                                                            600                                                                                       100
                                                                                                                                                              who have participated
                                                                                                                                                              in internships generally
                                                            500                                                                                               have a favorable im-
                                                                                                                                                              pression, with 80% in
                                                            400                                                                                               one particular survey
                                                                                                                                                      60      indicating that they
                                                            300                                                                                               were “quite satisfied.”
                                                                                                                                                      40          Their participation
                                                            200                                                                                               aims can be classified
                                                                                                                                                              into four types: “Want
                                                                                                                                                      20      to get work experi-
                                                                                                                                                              ence,” “Will be useful
                                                               0 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 0                                for finding a job,”
       No. of universities with intern programs                    104    107    143    186    218    281    317    384    418    447    482    504           “Want to acquire some
       No. of colleges with intern programs                         36    39      57     81    108    127    117    139    155    157    162    170           business experience,”
       No. of National Technical Colleges with intern programs
       % of universities sending students
                                                                    31    35      39     48     52     54    57      57     57    60     60      61
                                                                 17.70% 18.30% 23.70% 29.90% 33.50% 41.90% 46.30% 55.00% 59.00% 62.50% 65.80% 67.70%
                                                                                                                                                              and “Want to get some
       % of colleges sending students                            6.40% 7.00% 10.30% 14.70% 21.10% 23.40% 23.90% 29.90% 35.30% 37.80% 40.60% 43.60%            specialist knowledge.”
       % of National Technical Colleges sending students         50.00% 56.50% 62.90% 77.40% 83.90% 87.10% 90.50% 90.50% 90.50% 95.20% 98.40% 100%                There are three
Source: MEXT                                                                                                                                                  types of work that stu-
 16    Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
dents can experience. One is the “task     in the difficulty of securing compa-             tional categories other than the ones
attainment model” that requires stu-       nies that will accept students. Univer-          they know. When it comes to students’
dents to attain a task. For example, the   sities are looking for companies that            hopes, these tend to focus not on what
student participants are gathered in a     will accept students by making free              they themselves are suited or not suit-
separate room from the employees,          use of the connections of the supervis-          ed to, but rather jobs that they know
formed into teams, and assigned the        ing teacher or the alumni network, but           or occupational categories that are
task of creating a company homepage.       this does not necessarily mean that              very popular. So, regarding the ques-
This type accounts for around one          the company accepting the student                tion of whether students who partici-
third of the total. The second type is     suits the type of occupation the stu-            pate in internships in workplaces they
the “core business model” that teaches     dent desires. Meanwhile, the company             do not aspire to are not satisfied, that
by showing the work actually per-          has to make adjustments to its business          is not necessarily the case. In some
formed. For example, participants          in order to allocate a person in charge          cases, they are inspired by the discov-
may be allowed to accompany em-            if it is to accept the student, for exam-        ery of something new. Conversely, al-
ployees on business activities. The        ple, which leads directly to the prob-           though they may have got the place-
third type is the “casual/part-time        lem of financial burden. Consequent-             ment they wanted, they may
model,” where the experience is that       ly, there is a strong sense of social            experience disappointment owing to a
of actually working in the workplace.      contribution on the part of a company            gap between what they had imagined
An example of this is the service sec-     accepting a student. But aside from              and the reality. In order to resolve
tor, which has a high percentage of
casual and part-time workers. This
may lead to the provision of uncom-                 Some say that their workplaces are revitalized
pensated labor and a low level of stu-
dent satisfaction, which to an extent        simply by young students coming in. If companies
cannot be helped.
     If the goals of students and the               are able to experience for themselves benefits
content of the experience are matched,
naturally the level of satisfaction is                    such as these, they will continue to accept
enhanced. However, the level of satis-
faction is nothing more than an im-               students and perhaps even expand their intake.
pression after participating, and does
not relate directly to the effectiveness
of the internship, and at present no       large corporations, the burden on me-            such issues, it is important to expand
method of measuring the effective-         dium and small-sized companies is                the number of companies that will ac-
ness has been established. Still more,     large, and there is a tendency for them          cept students, and to increase the op-
many of those who participate in in-       to be unenthusiastic.                            portunities and alternatives for experi-
ternships are students with a high              However, there are also benefits            encing a variety of jobs.
level of awareness. This means, or         for companies. Many companies had                     Today’s economic climate is
rather the problem with this, is that      held off recruiting during the reces-            worsening, and for this reason this is
internships have the function of con-      sion, and a hollow in the generational           not an era when everyone can become
necting those students who do not          structure of permanent employees is              a permanent employee, unlike the
have a high level of job awareness in      occurring. In other words, originally            high-growth period. We cannot easily
a bottom-up approach.                      there was the opportunity for employ-            say whether internship is the best sys-
     Consequently, as stated previous-     ees in their late twenties to train new          tem to bridge the world of education
ly, efforts are being made to expand       young employees and gain experience,             with the world of work, which until
the participation of students, and to      but now they are advancing in age                now have had no ties, but there is no
create an awareness of jobs. Presently,    without being able to do that, and this          doubt that both in Japan and overseas
in universities education before and       is damaging organizations. Such com-             it will continue to be a necessary sys-
after the internship is being empha-       panies are responding to internships as          tem in the future.
sized, by for example increasing moti-     a good opportunity to fill this gap.                  In any case, it is necessary to ex-
vation prior to participation and               Further, some say that their work-          pand the job awareness of young peo-
providing opportunities following par-     places are revitalized simply by young           ple. The experience of just one job has
ticipation to present their experiences,   students coming in. If companies are             the possibility to achieve this. In that
encouraging students to share the          able to experience for themselves ben-           sense too, we must ensure that even in
ways in which they were inspired.          efits such as these, they will continue          the present harsh economic climate,
                                           to accept students and perhaps even              young people are able to make a
Challenges of Internships                  expand their intake.                             smooth transit ion into society.
                                                The problem as far as the students
The problematic aspects concerning         are concerned is that they have a ten-           Yukie Hori is vice senior researcher at the Japan Institute for
the implementation of internships lie      dency to show no interest in occupa-             Labour Policy and Training (JIL).

                                                                                       Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue                17

                                                                     Financial Planning for All
                                                                                                                                                                           pendent entities rather than subordi-
                                                                                                                                                                           nate agencies. The governors and vice
                                                                                                                                                                           governors of prefectures and the man-
                                                                                                                                                                           agers of Bank of Japan branches as-
                                                                                                                                                                           sume the position of chairman at the
                                                                     People’s dealings with money are changing significantly under the                                     various organizations. They undertake
                                                                                                                                                                           activities jointly and severally with the
                                                                     impact of advancing IT innovations and financial technologies. Economic                               Central Council.
                                                                     and social conditions are also undergoing substantial changes with the                                     The Financial Services Informa-
                                                                     progress of globalization. The Central Council for Financial Services                                 tion Council was launched in 1952 as
                                                                     Information supports the economic activities of Japanese citizens by                                  the “Central Council for Strengthening
                                                                                                                                                                           Savings” in a bid to control inflation
                                                                     offering financial education and financial services information. Koichiro                             following the end of World War II.
                                                                     Shibuya, deputy director-general of the Central Council for Financial                                 The Central Council was set up above
                                                                     Services Information, explains these efforts to the Japan Journal.
                                                                                                                               Journal                                     the organization. After various
                                                                                                                                                                           changes, the Council originally de-

                                                                                                                                                                           clared 1999 to be the “first year of fi-
                                                                          n broad terms, financial education                   The Central Council operates under          nancial education” for promoting con-
                                                                          fosters the attitude of working in-                  two pillars, the provision of financial     sumer education. In response to
                                                                          dependently toward the creation                      and economic information and support        numerous issues that had arisen in
                                                                          of a more affluent lifestyle and                     for financial and economic studies, in      connection with financial products
                                                                     improved society, while understanding                     cooperation with parties such as the        and the like, the Council once again
                                                                     the various functions of money and                        Financial Services Agency, the Cabi-        brought financial education in schools
                                                                     credit transactions, thinking in depth                    net Office, the Ministry of Education,      to the fore and declared 2005 to be the
                                                                     about life and society based on this                      Culture, Sports, Science and Techno-        “first year of financial education.”
                                                                     understanding, and improving one’s                        logy, their affiliated bodies and private   Since then, the Central Council has
                                                                     personal lifestyle and values.                            organizations. In other words, activi-      operated with financial education and
                                                                         Local Committees established in                       ties for imparting financial knowledge      consumer education as the two
                                                                     the various prefectures and the Central                   and providing financial education           branches of its activities.
                                                                     Council for Financial Services Infor-                     comprise the core operations of the
                                                                     mation (hereinafter referred to as the                    Central Council.                            Background of
                                                                     “Central Council”) act as parent orga-                         The Central Council and Local          Financial Education
                                                                     nizations that foster these activities.                   Committees are established as inde-
                                                                                                                                                                           Two viewpoints were behind the shift
                                                                                                                                                                           to an emphasis on financial education
                                                                                                                                                                           in schools in 2005. The first was rapid
                                                                                                                                                                           changes involving credit transactions.
                                                                                                                                                                           The second was the importance of
                                                                                                                                                                           lifetime plans.
                                                                                                                                                                                The first viewpoint is that the con-
                                                                                                                                                                           ditions for using, earning, saving and
                                                                                                                                                                           borrowing money have undergone
                                                                                                                                                                           dramatic changes as a result of tech-

                                                                                                                                                                           nological innovations in recent years.
                                                                                                                                                                           For example, in terms of using money,
                                                                                                                                                                           people buy goods and services with
                                                                                                                                                                           credit cards, cellular phones and the
                                                                                                                                                                           Internet. In terms of the conditions for
                                                                                                                                                                           earning money, ways of working have
                                                                                                                                                                           changed significantly for young peo-
                                                                                                                                                                           ple, as demonstrated by phenomena
                                                                                                                                                                           such as job-hopping and permanent
                                                                                                                                                                           part-timers. From the viewpoint of
                                                                                                                                                                           saving, a large variety of complex fi-
                                                                                                                                                                           nancial products with the risk of prin-
                                                                                                                                                                           cipal loss have emerged. From the
                                                                     Hands up who knows what money is.... In collaboration with experts, the                               viewpoint of borrowing, such financial
                                                                     Central Council provides a range of financial education services for children                         products may lead to social problems,
                                                                     of elementary-, junior high- and senior high-school ages.                                             including multiple debts in some
                                                                      18   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
cases. Frequent issues involving adults     Japanese citizens are entering a period where financial
and minors alike are particularly prob-
lematic, including Internet scams.              literacy is more important than ever before. Various
     The increasing number of finan-
cial options available to Japanese citi-              problems attributable to a lack of basic financial
zens is not a problem in itself. How-
ever, self-responsibility is the basic               knowledge are arising in Japan as well, including
assumption for the choices they make.
Japa nese citizens need to develop
                                                 multiple debt problems. There is a growing need to
their abilities to live in society with      disseminate financial knowledge and provide financial
an awareness of the changes. In that
respect, the study of credit transac-                                 education under these circumstances.
tions is becoming more important
than ever before.
     The second viewpoint, or the im-           As stated above, it is critical to          nancial education studies. Other
portance of life plans, means that fi-     offer balanced instruction in the                achievements in teacher-student coop-
nancial education needs to start early     course of school education, relative to          eration include a short essay contest
and be provided in stages so that          the stage of development.                        on “The Future of Finance and Econo-
Japanese citizens can draw up their             The Central Council is taking               my.” In addition, the Central Council
life plans from a long-term perspec-       practical steps to popularize the finan-         is preparing teaching materials and the
tive when they reach a certain age.        cial education programs, including               like aimed at keeping students safe
Financial education opportunities de-      sponsoring seminar meetings to sup-              from future debt.
creased in the postwar period as a re-     port the implementation of the pro-                   As incentives for teachers, the
sult of greater urbanization and the       grams, and inviting many related par-            Central Council for Financial Services
trend toward the nuclear family. At        ties to open classes at model schools            Information is organizing a short
present, practical financial education     for financial education.                         essay contest on “Thinking about
is only provided in schools. Initiatives        To implement the financial educa-           Financial Education” for people in-
are underway to offer financial educa-     tion programs, the Central Council is            volved in education nationwide. It
tion in line with the various stages of    preparing content that can be incorpo-           also accepts and rewards practical re-
development from early childhood to        rated into school subjects such as               ports, research findings, proposals and
junior high school education, particu-     home economics, social studies and               the like on financial and economic ed-
larly in the nine years of compulsory      citizenship, rather than establishing a          ucation from a wide spectrum of
education. Seminars are now being          separate course of study. This content           teachers in the field and other people
held for teachers in the various regions   needs to be improved and made more               involved in education.
to ensure the smooth progress of in-       practical through adjustments made                    The Central Council is establish-
struction on a prefectural basis. How-     with the help of working teachers and            ing a financial services information
ever, schools, homes and local com-        other parties. The Central Council is            advisory system to ensure the effec-
munities need to unite and carry out       currently in the process of enhancing            tive use of such content and initiatives
financial education together, rather       the content. When it comes to imple-             in financial education. Former em-
than leaving the task to the classroom.    menting the programs, it is particularly         ployees of local financial institutions,
                                           important to provide systematic                  retired teachers and financial planners
Financial Education                        content-based education by age group,            are supporting this system as volun-
Programs                                   and improve understanding at home                teers. People’s sense of money differs
                                           and in local communities.                        from one region to another. The situa-
The Central Council produces and of-            For example, at the elementary              tions in which money is used also
fers financial education programs for      school level, the Central Council uses           vary, depending on factors such as the
schools in collaboration with experts.     four-panel cartoons with themes such             availability of cellular phones and
The objectives of these programs are       as “how to use money,” “money and                convenience stores. It is essential to
to offer educational support in four       life” and “money and work.” At the               implement education that is suitable
areas: career education, economic and      junior high school level, the Central            for local children. For this reason, ex-
financial mechanisms, prevention of        Council is preparing a supplementary             pectations of the advisors are ex-
financial problems, and life planning      reader called “A Teenager’s Guide to             tremely high.
and family budget management. They         Money,” which covers share transac-                   On its website, the Central Council
are designed to provide knowledge of       tions and the like, in addition to orga-         publishes outstanding financial educa-
areas that are necessary for financial     nizing a contest for compositions                tion methods, the distinct approaches
survival in the real world, including      written on the theme of money.                   in the various regions, and the instruc-
credit transactions and the economy,            In financial education at the senior        tion techniques used by the advisors,
and to teach people how to handle          high school level, the Central Council           in a bid to provide references to parties
money based on this knowledge.             holds open classes designated for fi-            that offer financial education.
                                                                                       Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   19

Outlook for                                               ly speculative operations, rather than      nese citizens bear in mind the points
Financial Education                                       from investment. Japanese citizens          explained above, understand their bank
                                                          need to make a sharp distinction be-        deposits and postal savings, and know
There is a theory gaining considerable                    tween the two. The importance of fi-        the roles played by their bank deposits
support in North America and Europe                       nancial education is also evident in        and postal savings at various life
that a lack of financial knowledge on                     this respect.                               stages. These requirements demon-
the part of consumers was one of the                                                                  strate that Japanese citizens are enter-
causes of the subprime loan issue in                      Financial Literary                          ing a period where financial literacy is
the United States, which was the                                                                      more important than ever before.
source of the global financial crisis.                    When Japanese citizens make their life           As stated earlier, various problems
The view is that that the lenders acted                   plans, it is essential that they keep fu-   attributable to a lack of basic financial
illegally, but that the problem may                       ture requirements for funds at each life    knowledge are arising in Japan as
not have expanded to such propor-                         stage firmly in mind. Financial knowl-      well, including multiple debt prob-
tions if consumers were more finan-
cially literate.
    The United States is already ad-
dressing the issue by reestablishing
the President’s Advisory Council on
Financial Literacy, while the Organiza-
tion for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD) is also imple-
menting a financial education project.
Awareness of the importance of im-

                                                                                                                                                                   COURTESY OF THE CENTRAL COUNCIL FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES INFORMATION
parting accurate financial knowledge
and the need to provide the financial
education necessary for such knowl-
edge is rising to an extremely high
level, both in advanced and emerging
countries. The OECD is showing in-
terest in the financial education con-
tent advanced by the Central Council
according to developmental stage, age
and class. Mean while, the Central
Council is studying research conducted
in other advanced nations. Credit
transactions are also particularly rele-
vant in the age of globalization. The                     The Central Council offers public seminars nationwide, where it disseminates
Central Council believes that it must                     financial services information and business start-up planning advice.
step up the programs to make them
suit the Japanese character and cul-
ture, while at the same time giving                       edge is indispensable for doing so. It      lems. There is a growing need to dis-
them universal relevance.                                 goes without saying that medium- and        seminate financial knowledge and
    In my view, one point requires at-                    long-term investment based on such          provide financial education under
tention with regard to the financial                      preparations is crucial. The financial      these circumstances.
crisis. It is the rising trend for avoid-                 markets are still unstable at present, so       Ultimately, Japanese citizens need
ing riskier assets in favor of safe as-                   it is natural for people to take a cau-     to become excellent consumers and
sets. Bank deposits and postal savings                    tious stand on investment at this point     members of society. In this context,
have been extremely heavily weighted                      in time. However, individuals need to       “excellent” means being self-reliant
in Japan, compared to other advanced                      look carefully at their future fund re-     and possessing the knowledge and
countries. In that sense, Japanese citi-                  quirements at various life stages, and      wisdom required to stay out of trouble.
zens share a strong low risk orienta-                     accumulate the financial knowledge          As a matter of course, financial educa-
tion. Japan has seen a shift from sav-                    needed for ascertaining the character-      tion is essential for adults. Financial
ings to investment in recent years.                       istics and nature of various financial      education from early childhood may
There is concern that the negative atti-                  products in preparation for making          seem like an indirect way of going
tude toward investment may intensify                      medium- and long-term investments           about it, but it is actually the most ef-
as a result of the latest financial crisis.               when the turbulence settles down. At        fective way.
Investment is not something that                          the same time, needless to say, bank
should be rejected. I believe that the                    deposits and postal savings are impor-      Koichiro Shibuya is deputy director-general of the Central
financial crisis originated from strong-                  tant. The important thing is that Japa-     Council for Financial Services Information.

 20   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue

Reworking Employment
                                                                                            nancially, creating a cycle that enabled
                                                                                            companies to increase productivity.
                                                                                                 This became one of Japanese
                                                                                            companies’ strengths as they were
                                                                                            commended for keeping job losses to
Professor Yoshio Higuchi, an expert in labor economics at Keio                              a minimum compared to other coun-
                                                                                            tries after the second oil crisis in the
University, examines changes in Japanese management in relation to                          1970s. Given the results it produced,
employment practices and discusses some medium- to long-term                                even workers were prepared to put up
approaches to related issues.                                                               with this system.
                                                                                                 As times have changed however

                                                                                            and Japan can no longer expect to ex-
        racing employment practices         of company unions and the so-called             perience such a high rate of growth,
        back to the 1920s or there-         three treasures of Japanese manage-             companies have increasingly devel-
        abouts, the so-called Japanese      ment. Needless to say, this was all un-         oped a tendency towards trying to cut
        system of seniority-based pay       derpinned by Japan’s soaring growth             fixed personnel costs.
and life-long employment still didn’t       rate. During an economic boom, em-                   From the standpoint of corporate
exist at that time. In those days, the      ployment turns into a buyer’s market,           financing, the primary objective of the
job retention rates of workers in lead-     with human resources not attached to            major banks that provide companies
ing U.S. companies were higher than         any company thin on the ground. Natu-           with funding is to ensure that they are
those in Japanese companies. The            rally, companies had to train their own         repaid, meaning that it is in their inter-
labor market in Japan was extremely         human resources and then ensure that            ests for companies to maintain stable
fluid, with companies facing a situa-       a high percentage remained with the             growth rather than bringing in short-
tion whereby they would train human         company once they had been trained.             term profits. On other fronts, the idea
resources only for them to leave the        This gave rise to a system that benefit-        of cross holding schemes gained
company immediately afterwards.             ed workers the longer they stayed with          ground as companies tried to safe-
Japanese companies went through a           a company, namely seniority-based               guard mutual growth from a long-term
process of trial and error as they tried    pay or seniority-based employment.              perspective. It was as a result of prac-
to increase staff retention rates. Due in        In spite of any temporary lulls in         tices such as these that Japanese cor-
part to a government ban on changing        the economy, Japan’s growth rate                porate management came to adopt a
jobs during World War II, long-term         continued to soar. Realizing that they          long-term perspective.
employment started to become in-            would need human resources in any                    As these trends gradually started
creasingly common during the postwar        eventuality, companies began to alter           to fade away however, and even large
period and the early years of Japan’s       working hours for their existing                companies increasingly started to se-
economic boom.                              human resources rather than resorting           cure funding from the likes of institu-
     With Japan experiencing rapid          to layoffs.
growth from the end of the 1950s and             Under this approach, labor and
into the 60s, long-term employment          management worked together to en-
and seniority-based pay became firmly       sure the growth of their company. This
established, resulting in the emergence     in turn benefited company workers fi-

    The market is split between non-permanent employees,
      who have no job security and are paid low wages, and
       permanent employees, who are under strict restraints
    requiring them to work long hours. At either end of the
     scale, employees are in situations that could potentially
     lead to mental health problems. It is therefore essential
       that we put an end to this system of polarization and
      create an environment in which individuals are able to
      choose how they work rather than management staff.
                                                                                                                                                TADASHI AIZAWA

                      —Professor Yoshio Higuchi, Faculty of Business
                                    and Commerce, Keio University
                                                                                       Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   21

tional investors and overseas share-                      used to offer a degree of job security,     tial that we put an end to this system
holders, companies found themselves                       guaranteeing their employees’ liveli-       of polarization and create an environ-
having to pursue short-term profits as                    hoods to a certain extent. In some          ment in which individuals are able to
well as working from a long-term per-                     cases, companies have even provided         choose how they work rather than
spective in order to survive. During                      employees with a reason for living          management staff.
the mid to late 1990s, it was often said                  and guaranteed them opportunities to             This is ultimately linked to the
that when a company announced it                          develop their skills. In return for such    concept of a work-life balance, some-
was restructuring, its share price fell                   guarantees, companies have always           thing that should ideally be promoted
because it meant that things were so                      imposed various restraints on their         in a strategic manner.
bad that the company had finally been                     employees, including requiring them              The bottom line is that companies,
forced to make cutbacks to personnel.                     to work long hours for instance or          the employees and individuals who
As major companies began to an-                           transferring them to different posi-        work for them and society as a whole
nounce restructuring packages after                       tions. To put it another way, those         all need to think about and engage in
this point however, the opposite hap-                     workers not covered by such guaran-         in-depth discussion regarding person-
pened. Companies engaging in re-                          tees are non-permanent employees or         nel strategies aimed at striking a work-
structuring saw their share prices rise                   those on fixed-term contracts. Essen-       life balance.
on the grounds of a positive outlook                      tially, an increase in the percentage of
for the future. To complete the turn-                     fixed-term and non-permanent em-            Work-life Balance
around, companies failing to carry out                    ployees compared to permanent em-
restructuring in the face of over-                        ployees has seriously weakened com-         In December 2007, the government
employment actually experienced a                         panies’ ability to offer guarantees to      put together a Work-Life Balance
drop in their share prices. Managers                      any of their employees, including per-      Charter and an accompanying set of
took this on board and, as a result,                      manent employees.                           Action Guidelines for a Work-Life
began to place a greater emphasis on                           The key issues now are how to          Balance based on an agreement with
short-term profit.                                        deal with these changes from the            representatives acting on behalf of
    Amidst such a major turnaround,                       standpoint of society as a whole rather     both employers and employees.
managers became more aware of the                         than individual companies, what sort             Whilst the charter sets out a broad
need to cut fixed personnel costs than                    of safety net society can offer as indi-    direction for national initiatives, the
ever before. This became starkly ap-                      viduals accept greater responsibility       action guidelines outline effective ini-
parent in 1997 in particular, as Japan                    and how people can develop their            tiatives for companies and their em-
was plunged into financial crisis in the                  skills. As Japan faces a dwindling          ployees and policies for measures to
wake of the Asian currency crisis on                      birthrate, an aging society and a de-       be implemented by national and local
an international front and develop-                       clining working population, its top         public bodies.
ments at home such as the collapse of                     priority should undoubtedly be to cre-           Put simply, having been agreed
Yamaichi Securities and the Hokkaido                      ate a society in which everyone can         upon by economic, labor and local
Takushoku Bank. This sparked a sig-                       put their enthusiasm and abilities to       leaders as well as the government and
nificant change in managers’ approach                     good use. In order to do this, the tradi-   its experts, the charter and action
to corporate governance, resulting in a                   tional relationship between companies       guidelines represent an attempt to cap-
growing preference for a patchwork                        and their employees, based on guaran-       italize on current initiatives as a major
approach to employment whereby                            tees and restraints, will need to be re-    opportunity to spur society as a whole
companies strived to keep permanent                       assessed. In other words, it will defi-     into action, based on recognition of
employees to a minimum and use non-                       nitely be necessary to remove existing      and reflection on the fact that efforts
permanent staff instead. This is what                     restraints such as long work hours and      to reassess existing work patterns to
led to current trends in employment.                      transfers, which restrict access to work    date have relied on individual compa-
                                                          amongst women and the elderly, and          nies and have failed to penetrate any
Guarantees and Restraints                                 reshape society so that the likes of        further into society than a handful of
                                                          women and the elderly can fully har-        successful forward-thinking initiatives.
One of the most important points to                       ness the skills they have to offer.              There are three main reasons why
consider with regard to management                             One problem however is the effec-      the charter and guidelines were put to-
and employment in the future and cur-                     tive polarization of the labor market.      gether in unison between these three
rent issues is that the trend towards                     The market is split between non-            parties, namely the government, em-
the pursuit of short-term profit will                     permanent employees, who have no            ployers and employees. Firstly, the
not be easy to change given the glo-                      job security and are paid low wages,        Aging Society Committee concluded
balization of corporate financing.                        and permanent employees, who are            that approaches to work need to be re-
Another key point meanwhile is that                       under strict restraints requiring them      assessed in order to deal with Japan’s
the role traditionally played by                          to work long hours. At either end of        aging society. Although the govern-
Japanese companies in their employ-                       the scale, employees are in situations      ment has continued to work on im-
ees lives is changing considerably.                       that could potentially lead to mental       proving financial support, through ini-
    In the past, Japanese companies                       health problems. It is therefore essen-     tiatives such as the child allowance
 22   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
scheme, and childcare services, it has     effort needs to be made by all of the            mediate and other managerial staff
been called upon to address the issue      concerned parties nationwide, includ-            also need to change their way of
of striking a work-life balance based      ing corporate management, workers,               thinking. At the same time, both men
on the perceived need to reassess it as    non-workers and local authorities.               and women also need to change their
another key approach to work.                   The guidelines specify the roles            attitudes in the workplace. Even so,
Secondly, the Committee for the Pro-       that each of these parties should play.          people cannot be ordered to change
motion of Gender Equality called for       In the case of companies and those               their way of thinking; it needs to be a
work patterns to be reassessed in order    who work for them, the guidelines                cooperative process.
to provide support for different meth-     state that “labor and management                      It is crucial that changes are made
ods of working for women, especially       should discuss effective methods based           as part of a cooperative process from
to enable them to strike a balance be-     on the individual company’s situation            an overall perspective too, encompass-
tween their work and home lives,           and ensure that measures are imple-              ing the government, private compa-
building on the existing Child-Care        mented willingly.” In terms of require-          nies, individuals and local authorities.
Leave Law, which is designed to help       ments for the national government and
women find employment whilst rais-         local authorities, the guidelines state          A Shift in
ing children. Thirdly, the Council on      that “as achieving a work-life balance           Individual Attitudes
Economic and Fiscal Policy (CEFP)          is integral to ensuring the sustainabili-
stressed the need to break down exist-     ty of Japanese society, the national             As attitudes change, both men and
ing barriers, such as those between        government and local authorities                 women are increasingly trying to
permanent and non-permanent em-            should actively provide support for              make the most of their time. The issue
                                                                                            of how to increase productivity per
                                                                                            hour will be crucial for companies in
                                                                                            the future, if not already. With this in
                                                                                            mind, it is vital that companies reas-
It is vital that companies reassess the                                                     sess the nature of their operations and
                                                                                            work practices in the interests of in-
                                                                                            vesting in the future as well as merely
nature of their operations and work                                                         cutting costs. This approach would
                                                                                            also benefit society as a whole as it
practices in the interests of investing in the                                              would allow for a diverse range of
                                                                                            flexible work patterns and help open
future as well as merely cutting costs.                                                     up the workplace to human resources
                                                                                            that have a great deal of potential but
                                                                                            are currently excluded from working.
                                                                                            In addition to enabling companies to
                                                                                            improve productivity per hour, this
ployees and men and women and              companies and those who work for                 would effectively make it possible to
those excluding the elderly, in order to   them and for public initiatives and ac-          forge win-win relationships from the
effectively harness human resources        tively engage in social infrastructure           point of view of both labor and man-
given that Japan is expected to experi-    development in areas such as childcare           agement. Furthermore, judging by
ence a dwindling birthrate and aging       support and care services in line with           successful examples to date, compa-
population in the future.                  a diverse range of work patterns.”               nies that develop an awareness of such
    The fact that the government has            For their part, companies need to           relationships will undoubtedly become
recognized issues such as these under-     change the way they think. Given that            more competitive.
lines the need for a work-life balance.    each company has its own circum-                      In addition to enabling individuals
All this stems from recognition that       stances to consider and that work pat-           nationwide to feel motivated and ful-
the current situation, whereby the         terns clearly vary depending on the              filled as they work and perform their
labor market has become polarized,         area in which each company is based              work responsibilities, as stated in the
resulting in non-permanent workers         however, it is essential to ensure ex-           charter, it is essential that we capital-
being unable to marry due to an un-        tensive dialogue between labor and               ize on initiatives such as these to cre-
certain future and permanent employ-       management. In that respect, the ac-             ate a society in which everyone can
ees opting not to have children due to     tion guidelines show how to set, pub-            choose from a diverse range of life-
problems at home as a result of being      licize and work towards targets based            styles to suit whatever stage of life
forced to work long hours, simply has      on cooperation between labor and                 they are at, from child rearing age to
to change.                                 management. Looking at examples of               middle and old age, at home and in the
    The action guidelines state that       companies that have already started to           community as well as at work.
achieving a work-life balance is not an    implement measures, it is evident that
issue to be tackled solely by the na-      leadership is required from manage-              Yoshio Higuchi is a professor in the Faculty of Business and
tional government but that a concerted     ment first and foremost and that inter-          Commerce at Keio University.

                                                                                       Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue              23

The New Energy Award
                                                                                                      Industry Prize, the New Energy
                                                                                                      Award equivalent to the gold prize,
                                                                                                      was given to the Tsubetsu-Tanpan
                                                                                                      Cooperative of Hokkaido. The Coop-
                                                                                                      erative directly incinerates large vol-
Recipient projects for the thirteenth New Energy Award were finalized                                 umes of sawdust generated from a
                                                                                                      local lumber factory that processes
in December 2008. Masaki Yamada examines the status of new                                            conifers and recovers electricity and
energy development and application in Japan as seen through the                                       heat, thereby reducing waste treatment
winning projects.                                                                                     and energy costs for the factory and
                                                                                                      establishing a more economic woody

                                                                                                      biomass cogeneration system. Fossil
        he New Energy Award was                           services related to new energy (includ-     fuel consumption was reduced by
        launched in 1996 as the Award                     ing financial products), actual adoption    24,000 kiloliters per year in crude oil
        Program for 21st Century Type                     of new energy by local governments          equivalent, along with a reduction in
        New Energy equipment/                             and NPOs, and activities for promot-        CO 2 emissions of 69,000 tons. The
System and Application (New Energy                        ing new energy and raising awareness.       Cooperative also supplies part of the
Vanguard 21; the name changed to                          Starting in FY2008, a Best Green            electricity generated as green electric-
New Energy Award in 2000), with the                       Energy Introduction category was            ity, thereby successfully establishing a
aim of encouraging the growth of new                      added for corporations and local gov-       business that encompasses forestry,
energy by recognizing outstanding                         ernments that use new energy through        lumber manufacturing and biomass
new energy equipment and their ap-                        the Green Power Certification System,       energy use. The Award gives high
plications. In FY2004, the category of                    a program for contracting power gen-        marks to the innovative and effective
the awards was expanded as part of                        eration using renewable energy.             use of woody biomass.
improvements geared toward promot-                            The criteria for examining the               The Director-General of the
ing new energy.                                           New Energy Award are multi-facetted,        Agency for Natural Resources and
    A total of 146 projects have been                     and include its innovativeness, track       Energy Prize, equivalent to the silver
awarded over the thirteen years to                        record, future potential, economy, and      prize, was given to the Bureau of Sew-
FY2008. Each has played a significant                     effectiveness in encouraging use and        erage, Tokyo Metropolitan Govern-
role in developing and encouraging                        building awareness. Selections are          ment and Sony Corporation. The
the use of new energy equipment and                       made by the New Energy Award                Bureau successfully produced carbide
systems, with some cutting-edge and                       Review Board, which consists of ex-         fuel from sewerage sludge that was
leading examples. Makoto Tanaka of                        perts in the field. In FY2008, forty-six    formerly treated by incineration, and
the New Energy Foundation, which                          applications were received from all         used the fuel as biomass fuel to be
oversees the New Energy Award                             parts of Japan, and nine were awarded       mixed with coal at coal thermal power
under the auspices of the Ministry of                     as a result of the strict but fair selec-   plants. The initiatives to improve the
Economy, Trade and Industry, ex-                          tion procedure.                             efficiency of energy systems and con-
plains the circumstances that led to the                                                              vert sludge into an energy resource are
establishment of the Award.                               Projects Praised                            the main points credited.
    “The Japanese government devel-                                                                        Sony Corporation introduced the
oped the Basic Guidelines for New                         The Minister of Economy, Trade and          Green Power Certification System in
Energy Introduction in 1994, and in re-
sponse New Energy Vanguard 21 was
established, the predecessor of the New
Energy Award. The government began
a major effort to promote the use of re-
newable energy obtained by solar
power and wind power generation and
recycling energy exemplified by waste
power generation, which were still at a
nascent stage at the time the Award
                                                                                                                                                 COURTESY OF NEW ENERGY FOUNDATIION

was established. New Energy Vanguard
21 started hand in hand with these
government initiatives.”
    The New Energy Award is not
only given to tangible products such as
energy equipment and systems. In fact,
there are eight divisions to the Award,                   The Hokkaido factory of Tsubetsu-Tanpan Cooperative, a lumber
which include advanced and unique                         manufacturer praised for its innovative and effective use of woody biomass.

 24   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
                                                                                 Example of a Certificate of                                          ents of composite technologies that
                                                                                 Green Power purchased by                                             combine solar power generation and
                                                                                 Sony Corporation.                                                    fuel cells, and comprehensive services
                                                                                                                                                      where operation support and mainte-
                                                                                   use of new energy, we must deepen                                  nance services are provided instead of
                                                                                   understanding among those who are                                  merely selling new energy equipment.
                                                                                   not yet familiar with it.” As an exam-                             We also see businesses making use of
                                                                                   ple, the minister mentioned that col-                              the Green Power Certification System,
                                                                                   laboration with other ministries and                               as evidenced by the establishment in
                                                                                   agencies would be sought to adopt                                  FY2008 of the Best Green Energy
                                                                                   solar power generation systems in fa-                              Introduction category. At the outset,
                                                                                   cilities of the national government                                awards were given mostly to new en-

                                                                                   and railway and other public facilities,                           ergy equipment and products that
                                                                                   so that the public would get to see ac-                            were newly developed. In recent
                                                                                   tual systems.                                                      years, many of the recipients have
                                                                                                                                                      been companies, local governments
                                                                                   Beyond Development                                                 and NPOs that have adopted energy
                                                                                                                                                      equipment and have been involved in
                                                                                   A look at the recipients of the first                              activities to encourage the use of new
                                                                                   New Energy Vanguard 21 reveal that                                 energy and promote awareness. In
                                                                                   they are mostly projects by major                                  other words, new energy is now mov-
                                                                                   companies, such as an electric vehicle                             ing on to the phase of broader aware-
                                     2001 and is the greatest user of green        (Toyota Motor
                                     electricity among Japanese corpora-           Corporation), a
                                     tions today. Sony is also actively en-        solar power genera-
                                     gaged in supporting forest conserva-          tion system for
                                     tion, which provides fuels for woody          multimedia (NTT),
                                     biomass power plants. The company             a solar power gen-
                                     was praised for its contributions in en-      eration system for
                                     couraging the adoption of new energy,         house holds (Sharp
                                     in terms of both demand and supply.           Corporation) and a
                                          Five more entities were also             collective wind
                                     awarded the Chairman of New Energy            power generation
                                     Foundation Prize, including Sekisui           system (Tohoku
                                                                                                            COURTESY OF NEW ENERGY FOUNDATIION

                                     House for commercializing a ready-            Electric Power Co.).
                                     built house product that significantly        In recent years,
                                     reduces CO 2 emissions by utilizing           however, “Not only
                                     solar power generation systems and            large projects by
                                     fuel cells (CO2 Off House); Numata            major companies
                                     Town Government of Hokkaido for               but also small and
                                     developing a cold energy station uti-         midsize companies              The carbonized sewerage sludge facility of the
                                     lizing large volume of collected snow-        and local govern-                     Bureau of Sewerage, Tokyo Metropolitan
                                     fall; and Electric Power Development          ments that have            Government, praised for the efficiency of its energy
                                     for building Japan’s largest wind farm,       made sustained ef-         systems and for converting sludge into a resource.
                                     with an output of 65,980kW.                   forts to develop and
                                          Also, the Forum for the Future           adopt new energy
                                     Energy, Okayama, which received the           have come into focus,” noted Tanaka.      ness enhancement, incorporation and
                                     Review Board Chair’s Prize, earned            The nature of the projects recognized     practical application, expanding from
                                     recognition for its consistent efforts in     also seems to have undergone signifi-     the phase of development.”
                                     raising awareness of new energy               cant changes in the past twelve years.         In addition to recognizing cutting-
                                     through its natural energy caravan,               Tanaka explains: “One of the          edge examples and promoting new
                                     dispatching lecturers and hosting             major changes is that the number of       energy development, a major theme of
                                     events, which started when the organi-        composite projects and comprehensive      the New Energy Award is to inform
                                     zation set up a solar power generation        and diversified services has increased    the public of the current status of new
                                     facility at a local kindergarten.             among recipient projects. In the past,    energy through promotional activities,
                                          Regarding this year’s recipients,        the majority of recipients were for a     and to deepen public awareness of en-
                                     Minister of Economy, Trade and                single technology, such as solar power    ergy usage and related issues.
                                     Industry Toshihiro Nikai commented            generation, wind power generation
                                     that, “To continue to encourage the           and fuel cells. Today, we see recipi-     Masaki Yamada is a freelance writer.

                                                                                                                                                 Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   25

Yokai and the Japanese Mind’s Eye
Yokai are one representation of the mental images of the Japanese.                                      The Japanese attached a personal-
                                                                                                   ity to everything. They believed that
Various yokai have been depicted since the middle ages and are                                     the gods of the mountain or water
believed to be the roots of modern animation and horror works. The                                 were angry. And shaping such fear
closest translation of “yokai” would be “monster”—a strange creature                               into a form was far too enormous and
created within the context of the human world. Every culture in the world                          difficult a task. They therefore consid-
                                                                                                   ered the snake or oni the messenger or
has a version of this, using different symbolism and forms, yet few have                           embodiment of these gods’ anger.
actually depicted them symbolically as the Japanese have. Kazuhiko                                      Fearful mental images eventually
Komatsu, a professor at the International Research Center of Japanese                              segmented into more minute catego-
                                                                                                   ries, and people began portraying
Culture, discusses the world of Japanese monsters.                                                 them in individual forms. As they re-

                                                                                                   flect human nature, these mental im-
     t is believed that monsters were                     yokai. Under the animistic belief that   ages were given personalities and
     created when humans felt fear.                       every being that has existed before      emotions similar to humans, and peo-
     For example, the fear of thunder                     humans possesses a spirit, the snake     ple believed their spiritual power
     is an animalistic instinct, but hu-                  held a significant role as the most      would grow stronger and cause vari-
mans began to believe it had a spiritual                  fearsome creature.                       ous miracles the more they aged.
cause, or that it could endanger their                        The notion of oni, on the other      People called these powers tatari
lives. Faced with such difficult-to-                      hand, came from China as a ghost that    (curses), and whenever directed to-
comprehend events or phenomena,                           did not go to the world of the dead,     ward humans, they became yokai.
humans began to think about the pres-                     and instead remained among the liv-           In Europe, for instance, Christiani-
ence of something non-existent or in-                     ing. What was known as ki was invisi-    ty was the basis of this type of seg-
visible, and created monsters. Every                      ble in China but in Japan developed      mentation. Europeans clearly distin-
culture in the world has created its                      into a form resembling a human and       guished between good and evil or God
own characters.                                           that would hold grudges against hu-      and devil, and anything unknown that
    Snakes and oni (demons) are                           mans, cause natural convulsions and      was not God was considered to be the
typical forms of ancient Japanese                         thunder, and spread disease.             devil. The Japanese yokai are based

A section of the Bakemono konrei (Monster marriage) emaki, in which yokai can be seen carrying betrothal gifts.
The tai carp at left is walking to the feast by itself, carrying the tray upon which it will be served.
 26   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
                                                                 on the notion of yaoyorozu no kami        horns and fangs became the typical             popular in the Edo period, and tengu
                                                                 (eight million deities) that possess      representation of oni, and has re-             rankings were developed.
                                                                 human personalities, not necessarily      mained that way up to the present.
                                                                 distinguished as either good or evil.     While oni are depicted nearly the same         Yokai as Characters
                                                                 Due to the animistic notion that all      everywhere, each region has its own
                                                                 things possess a spirit, every living     variation, with its own name and story.        The Japanese have always believed
                                                                 being, including humans, is equal in          For example, tengu was a yokai             that even manmade objects possess a
                                                                 nature, and no god or non-god is either   conveyed by priests of the Tendaishu           spirit, and anything with a name has
                                                                 ultimately good or evil. People gave      sect as its religious enemy, often de-         aspects of both devil and god.
                                                                 every being its own story just as they    picted in the form of a black kite or a             Snakes and oni represented fear in
                                                                 would a human, and the negative emo-      crow. Tengu was always portrayed as            the form of a yokai, but in time yokai
                                                                 tions from these stories took shape       a thief, as in a story of a tengu dis-         would come from manmade objects.
                                                                 and were transformed into oni, which      guised as an Amitabha (Buddhist                This meant that such objects would
                                                                 artists made into pictures.               deity) that kidnaps a priest.                  also possess mystical powers over
                                                                                                               But in the Edo period (1603–               time. If they were not treated careful-
                                                                 Shaping the Invisible                     1867), tengu was given a long nose,            ly, their devil would arise and inflict

                                                                 As yokai that began as snakes
                                                                 and demons took the form of
                                                                 pictures, they gradually took
                                                                 on more specific personali-
                                                                 ties and appearances. They
                                                                 were naturally influenced by

                                                                                                                                                                                                              COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH CENTER FOR JAPANESE STUDIES
                                                                 China and the legend of
                                                                 Buddha, of which major parts
                                                                 were portrayed in pictures for
                                                                 those who could not read.
                                                                 This contained evil creatures
                                                                 such as a demon-like pres-
                                                                 ences, animals and snakes
                                                                 that attack Buddha and thwart
                                                                 his practice.
                                                                     Just when the Japanese
                                                                 oni took form is not known,
                                                                 but the thirteenth-century
                                                                 Kitano tenjin engi emaki de-
                                                                 picts oni that create lightning   A section of the Hyakki yagyo (Night parade of 100 demons) emaki. Here a biwa lute
                                                                 and cause disease. The yokai      appears to be tugging along a reluctant koto zither.
                                                                 appearing in the picture scroll
                                                                 are all minor characters.
                                                                     The Shigisan engi emaki, a fa-        influenced by Western missionaries.     illness on people or become an oni
                                                                 mous picture scroll and a national        Every monastery built in mountains      seeking vengeance on them. This has
                                                                 treasure, shows the presence of a go-     around the country would have a her-    led to the moral of caring for one’s
                                                                 houdouji, a guardian demon which a        mit practicing Buddhism, and a tengu    possessions. The Tsukumogami emaki

                                                                 master priest manipulates when offer-     would always be there. Originally cre-  illustrates this well. The word “tsuku-
                                                                 ing his prayers, and which is said to     ated within the Buddhist world, tengu   mo” symbolizes “99,” which repre-
                                                                 be invisible to common people. As         were related as beings possessing       sents a multitude of time, experience
                                                                 with the Kitano tenjin, these scrolls     knowledge and sword skills, and as a    or types. The yokai that appear in the
                                                                 portray yokai even though they are re-    presence close to humans. Stories told  picture scroll are disposed tools, with
                                                                 ligious scrolls having no need for        of tengu protecting humans, guarding    eyes and mouths, and they turn into
                                                                 them. Despite their depiction of the      the capital city, or granting humans    oni to take revenge on humans. But
                                                                 bad aspects of humans, people are         sword skills and knowledge. Another     from a certain point, people began
                                                                 drawn to the fun aspects of yokai ex-     interesting point is that tengu around  portraying them as yokai with an oni
                                                                 pressing a human trait, which is por-     the country, each with its own person-  personality, but clearly defining their
                                                                 trayed in their pictures.                 ality, were given ranks. People en-     origins as tools. From this point on,
                                                                     Forms of oni in those times varied,   trusted strong powers to tengu in cre-  objects did not evolve into oni. These
                                                                 including features such as horse heads,   ating their stories. Thus some people   yokai arose from tools with eyes and
                                                                 bull heads and horns, but ultimately      saw the tengu as a master practitioner  mouths, partially donned an oni trait,
                                                                 the image of a brawny body with           with superhuman traits. Tengu became    and took on an animal form. By clari-
                                                                                                                                                     Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   27

fying their traits and separating the                     a mouth, nose, hands and legs, which       some, sometimes comical. Modern
paths that various mental images took                     it does not possess, creates a gro-        creators can, in a sense, emulate this
in becoming an oni, the Japanese took                     tesque image, and this is believed to      tradition while adding new elements
their yokai in diverse directions.                        have started yokai culture. By provid-     to create new stories and works.
    Yokai pictures were drawn purely                      ing each yokai with a story and per-            A recent example is the animated
for fun. For example, the idea and                        sonality, people made characters out       movie Spirited Away, directed by
                                                                                                                Hayao Miyazaki. The film,
                                                                                                                which received worldwide
                                                                                                                critical acclaim, beautifully
                                                                                                                portrays the traditional
                                                                                                                world of Japanese yokai.
                                                                                                                     Interestingly, the film’s
                                                                                                                characters are soundly root-
                                                                                                                ed in the traditions of yokai.
                                                                                                                For example, the personified
                                                                                                                frog that also appears in the
                                                                                                                Yokai emaki, is not a ghost;
                                                                                                                it becomes a monster when
                                                                                                                placed inside the group of

                                                                                                               COURTESY OF INTERNATIONAL RESEARCH CENTER FOR JAPANESE STUDIES
                                                                                                                yokai. And, as mentioned,
                                                                                                                tools become yokai in the
                                                                                                                Yokai emaki and play when
                                                                                                                humans are not around.
                                                                                                                “Spirited Away” portrays
                                                                                                                this essence of yokai as free-
                                                                                                                transforming beings.
                                                                                                                     Creators—of the
                                                                                                                Miyazaki film, among
                                                                                                                others—develop their works
                                                                                                                beyond the yokai classifica-
                                                                                                                tions and definitions offered
                                                                                                                by religion, folklore or stud-
A section of the Shigisan engi (Legends of Shigisan temple) emaki, a national                                   ies. Clearly they are inherit-
treasure, showing a dashing gohoudouji guardian demon                                                           ing the traditions of Japa-
                                                                                                                nese culture, without being
                                                                                                                consciously aware of it.
method of personifying animals exist-                     of them. This culture turned into the      They simply use their own methods
ed from the Heian period (794–1185)                       yokai pictures loved by people in the      and perceptions to portray Japanese
when the Chojugiga—known as the                           Edo period. Townspeople also en-           culture’s joy of turning everything
root of manga—was drawn. This gave                        joyed a bit of eeriness in their fashion   into a character.
clothes to four-legged animals and                        by lining their staid kimonos with              In sum, Japan has a history of cre-
made them stand on two legs and per-                      yokai- print fabric. Yokai, in other       ating numerous yokai or characters,
form human actions and chores.                            words, diverted themselves from be-        which goes back to its tradition of
    One medieval story goes some-                         coming an oni and diversified, turn-       personifying everything and creating a
thing like this: A traveler staying at a                  ing into characters, and ultimately        story for each character. Today’s
noble house hears voices. He hears the                    into entertainment.                        yokai, comics and horror culture are
furniture having a discussion: “It’s                                                                 in line with this tradition.
night now, let’s sing poems.” Though                      The Roots of                                    Yokai have symbolized people’s
the furniture is quiet during the day it                  Modern Culture                             mental images as well as the social
starts moving during the night and                                                                   customs, culture and ideals of the time.
sings poems. But as soon as the trav-                     The creators of modern animation,          In that sense, yokai are tools for study-
eler shines a light on them, they all re-                 comics and horror movies are taking        ing Japanese people and culture.
turn to being normal furniture.                           good advantage of these traditions. A      Looking at the presence of yokai
    In giving frogs and rabbits cloth-                    rough example of a yokai tradition is      today, which is well beyond a fad, we
ing and making them play, people                          that ukiyo-e are, in a sense, comics       find that yokai may be tools not only
personified tools. Giving a mouth and                     that have a laugh at society, and yokai    for viewing the past but also the future.
nose to an animal, as with the                            artists are similar in that they drew
Chojugiga, does not create a yokai,                       their characters creatively as an alter-   Kazuhiko Komatsu is a professor at the International Research
but by personifying a tool by giving it                   nate form of humans; sometimes fear-       Center of Japanese Culture.

 28   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue

                 Signs for All Times
                                                                                                        Nations established a design subcom-
                                                                                                        mittee within the International Council
                                                                                                        for Breaking the Language Barrier
                                                                                                        (ICBLB). In 1965, which was Inter-
                                                                                                        national Cooperation Year, the public
                 Pictograms such as those depicting restrooms, public phones and                        was invited to create and submit de-
                                                                                                        signs for seven types of pictogram,
                 restaurants were introduced in Japan at the time of the 1964 Tokyo                     symbolizing men, women, lavatory,
                 Olympic Games. Their roots, however, reach back much further than                      information desk and so on, by the
                 that, as pictogram designer Yukio Ota explains.                                        end of the year. It was during this time
                                                                                                        that the pictograms used at the Tokyo

                                                                                                        Olympic Games became a model for
                          ictograms are a visual lan-     facilities and so on were highly ac-          the pictograms that followed.
                          guage that readily conveys      claimed for their effectiveness and               Why, then, was the quality of
                          meaning to anyone in the        quality. Pictograms came to be used           these pictograms so high? Masaru
                          world, transcending language    at all Olympics and World Expos               Katsumi, who served as the art direc-
                 barriers. The 1964 Tokyo Olympic         held thereafter.                              tor for the pictograms used at the
                 Games turned out to be a prototype           At the time, there were active in-        Tokyo Olympic Games, stated, “It
                 that showcased their impact to the en-   ternational movements in favor of             was the tradition of crest designs in
                 tire world. A total of sixty pictogram   using pictograms to provide guidance          Japan that we attempted to put to good
                 designs symbolizing sporting events,     to the public. In 1964, the United            use in our design policy.” I, too, be-
                                                                                                        lieve that the outstanding designs were
                                                                                                        born in Japan because crests have
                                                                                                        been part of the daily lives of Japanese
                                                                                                        people for a long time.
                                                                                                            The use of family crests in Japan
                                                                                                        commenced during the Heian period
                                                                                                        (794–1185), when the nobility dis-
                                                                                                        played them on cow carriages and
                                                                                                        other items as family symbols. During
                                                                                                        the period of warrior families that fol-
                                                                                                        lowed the Heian period, family crests
                                                                                                        were displayed on armor, standards
                                                                                                        and banners on battlefields to discern
                                                                                                        friends from foes, and as an easy-to-
                                                                                                        spot symbol for deeds of valor. Not
                                                                                                        only the ruling classes of the nobility
                                                                                                        and warriors, but also common people
                                                                                                        such as shop owners and artistic per-

                                                                                                      When designing a
                                                                                                      pictogram, the creator needs
                                                                                                      to gain technical and
                                                                                                      cultural insights into the two
                                                                                                      aspects of selflessness and
                                                                                                      the necessity of eliminating
                                                                                                      everything other than the
                                                                                                      necessary elements. The
                                                                                                      same applied when family
                                                                                                      crests were designed.

                                                                                                             —Tama Art University Professor
                                                                                                                                 Yukio Ota
                                                                                                   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   29

formers used family crests as a symbol                    generation. The Japanese people have          process of creation. It is also worth
of the family, kin or trade. Even                         always cherished the crest designs            noting that the act of using pictograms
today, many people dress themselves                       thus created, and have kept them with         is the act of eliminating national lan-
in formal attire adorned with the fami-                   them in their daily lives.                    guage barriers. Along with the ano-
ly crest on ceremonial occasions.                                                                       nymity of the creator, the design work
Family crests have been passed down                       Olympic Symbols                               involves a process of blending into in-
for over 1,200 years as a part of Japa-                                                                 ternational society. When designing a
nese culture.                                             Yoshiro Yamashita, who designed the           pictogram, the creator needs to gain
     I believe that one of the reasons                    symbols for the sporting events at the        technical and cultural insights into the
why family crests have also been                          Tokyo Olympic Games and Sapporo               two aspects of selflessness and the ne-
passed down through the generations                       Winter Olympic Games, notes the fol-          cessity of eliminating everything other
among common people in Japan, un-                         lowing three basic policies that were         than the necessary elements. The same
like in the West where they have                          maintained for finalizing the designs:        applied when the family crests men-
mainly been passed down by the nobil-                     (1) design the symbols like those of a        tioned above were designed.
ity, is because the quality of the design                 visual language; (2) represent the es-             What, then, is a visual language?
created to symbolize each family has                      sential features of each sporting event;      It is a language that enables the essen-
been maintained. These are designs                        and (3) make the designs simple and           tial meaning to be understood visually
that are convincing and satisfying to                     clear. The ultimate aim of the designs,       at a glance, irrespective of differences
everyone who sees and uses them. A                        he says, was to eliminate everything          such as whether the viewers are adults
family crest needs to have a design                       other than the essential elements.            or children, or differences in levels of
that can serve as a symbol of solidari-                        The same applies to the emergen-         education, knowledge, or academic
ty, equal in quality compared to others                   cy exit sign that was approved as the         degrees. It is a skill that everyone ac-
and exceptional in all aspects, while at                  world standard symbol in 1985. The            quires by accumulating experience in
the same time being capable of culti-                     International Organization for Stan-          daily life. Pictograms are prototypes
vating a sense of affection and pride                     dardization (ISO) almost adopted the          that aim to establish the most impor-
among users across generations. This                      pictogram design submitted by the             tant type of communication using vi-
is something astonishing.                                 (former) Soviet Union. However, the           sual language. Today, people repre-
     How were these family crests cre-                    design submitted by Japan at a later          senting 135 countries and regions are
ated? We use a technique of Japanese                      date was highly acclaimed, and it was         studying how to unify pictograms and
painting referred to as simplification.                   adopted as the international standard.        turn them into a common language.
Simplification is a process whereby                       The chairperson of the Subcommittee                As typically represented by the
the necessary and unnecessary ele-                        at the time is recorded to have com-          signs that indicate an emergency exit
ments of the object are singled out to                    mented, “We are grateful for the sub-         or tsunami danger, pictograms include
eliminate all unnecessary elements,                       mission of such an outstanding design.        signs for saving lives. These are com-
and a design representing the essential                   Good designs are worth considering,           mon assets of society. For this reason,
characteristics of the motif is created.                  even if they are received late.” This         pictogram designs need to be perfected
Simplification is carried out to con-                     also indicates how highly the design          so that no one in the world can ever
dense the meaning into a form. If there                   was rated.                                    misunderstand their meanings. In the
is any unnecessary element in the                              Pictogram designs should not be          pursuit of this objective, it would be
form, its meaning is difficult to dis-                    created to suit the designer’s taste.         unforgivable if pictograms were used
cern. If properly simplified, the mean-                   The characteristics of the motif need         to achieve personal benefits. We need
ing will be conveyed with more im-                        to be fully condensed into a simple           to be extremely prudent about how
pact, accompanied by an image that                        form and clearly represented. This is         they are used.
transcends the meaning. This is where                     quite difficult for commercial design-             Today, everyone is a member of a
the richness of the design is found.                      ers, who are expected to express their        global community that extends beyond
Richness results in appealing effects,                    identity as artists. It is extremely diffi-   national borders, whether we like it or
and the beauty and power of an order-                     cult, and even distressing, to identify       not. To achieve results through global
ly form is imprinted deep in the mind                     the indispensable representation of the       cooperation, relationships could not
of viewers at a single glance. As such,                   theme and force oneself to abide by it.       be established between people if we
designers of family crests were re-                       Many abandon the effort unconscious-          did not understand each other’s lan-
quired to possess the ability to narrow                   ly during the process. In such cases,         guages. In this regard also, pictograms
down the elements used in the form to                     the users of the pictogram cannot             need to be cultivated with great care
make the essential characteristics visi-                  identify themselves with the represen-        as a communication means common
ble. Furthermore, they were required                      tation. Each time they see the picto-         to everyone on Earth. It is my sincere
to work selflessly, without even in-                      gram, they have to eliminate the inter-       hope that everyone will view picto-
cluding their names. Only when these                      fering identity of the creator, and then      grams this way.
requirements had been met were the                        elucidate and discern what is repre-
Japanese family crest designs created                     sented. As such, it is extremely impor-       Yukio Ota is a professor at Tama Art University and director of
and handed down from generation to                        tant for the creator to be selfless in the    N.P.O. Sign Center.

 30   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
                                                   particularly in the Genroku years when peace

Family Crests                                      prevailed and cultural activities flourished,
                                                   family crest designs became more decorative
                                                   and delicate. Family crests representing a fam-
There is a wide variety of family crests, which    ily or lineage were disseminated widely, not
are categorized into the following: plant crests   only among warriors and the nobility who
with motifs such as hollyhocks, linen leaves,      were allowed to have a surname, but also
rice plants, plum flowers, chrysanthemums,         among common people as a logo mark, or a
cherry blossoms and bamboo; animal crests          crest design inscribed on tombstones.
depicting horses, birds, wild geese, cranes,            As noted, there are around 200 prototypes
and doves; natural phenomenon crests de-           of family crest designs. Among them, wisteria,
rived from thunderbolts, beaches, the moon,        paulownia, hawk wings, melon, and oxalis,
stars, waves, and mountains; structure/            from which the greatest number of family
artifact crests of paving, round fans, fan-        crests are derived, are referred to as the five
shaped fans, carriages, bows and arrows; and       major motifs.
patterned crests of fish scales, tortoiseshell,         Wisteria motifs are designs derived from
and bull’s eyes. It is said that there are over    wisteria flowers and leaves, and many fami-
20,000 types of family crest designs, of which     lies whose names use the Chinese character
the prototypes number 200. The multiplication      meaning wisteria, such as Fujiwara, Kato, and
of the prototypes by several hundredfold is a      Saito, use wisteria motifs. The paulownia mo-
reflection of the Japanese family system.          tifs, based on paulownia flowers and leaves,
According to the system, the first son inherits    were used as family crests for royal families,
the household from his father, and the other       along with chrysanthemum motifs. They were
sons establish new households by separating        graciously bestowed by the royal families to
from the household of their birth. At the time     the Shogun families, and then to their subor-
of separation, an approved version of the fam-     dinate warriors. Today, they are relatively
ily crest of the main household was created.       popular. Motifs that became popular among
    Family crests originally began to be used      warrior families during the Edo period in-
when noble families and warrior families           clude hawk wing motifs, melon motifs de-
started designing them based on the above          rived from cut melons and melon plants, and
motifs and displaying them on cow carriages        oxalis motifs, which is another plant design
and standards, banners and armors, to show         that became popular following paulownia.
the might of the family. During the Kamakura            All the designs are simple yet beautiful
period (1185–1333) when warriors came into         and elegant. This must be why family crests
political power, their family crests began to be   have been passed down to this day, and why
used on clothing as well. Warrior families         they are at the source of pictogram designs
began to display their family crests on formal     originating in Japan.
attire. During the Edo period (1603–1867),                                          Hitoshi Chiba

Five examples of Japanese family mon, or crests

                                                                  Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue   31

              Three Lanes to Safer Roads
              According to data released in February by Japan’s National Police                                     most other countries the time frame is
                                                                                                                    thirty days,” explains Senior Super-
              Agency, road accident fatalities in 2008 were at their lowest level for                               intendent Katsumi Ikeda from the
              more than fifty years. Advances in automobile safety technologies,                                    strategy section of the road safety divi-
              improvements to the road system itself, and tougher regulations have all                              sion at the NPA. Could this mean that
              played a part. With a focus on the last of these, Gavin Blair explains the                            the drastic reduction in deaths is mere-
                                                                                                                    ly a statistical anomaly caused by im-
              reasons for the decline in road deaths.                                                               provements in medical treatment that

                                                                                                                    keeps victims alive long enough for
                            hile Japan’s streets are fa-                throughout that decade. In 1980, they       them to be discounted from the road
                            mously safe in terms of                     once again began rising in tandem           fatality figures? The answer, thankful-
                            the low levels of violent                   with the increased total distance being     ly, is no. The NPA also keeps statistics
                            crime, the same could not                   driven by the population, going back        on those who pass away within thirty
              always be said of the country’s roads,                    over the 10,000 mark by the end of          days of an accident, and those have
              where death and serious injuries were                     the 1980s.                                  fallen at almost the same rate.
              once not uncommon consequences of                              The mass of statistics compiled by
              traffic accidents. However, a concerted                   the National Police Agency (NPA) on         Strict Laws on
              national effort has halved road fatali-                   traffic accidents can make confusing,       Drink Driving
              ties, and cut by 80% those caused by                      and sometimes apparently contradic-
              drink driving. The figures for accident                   tory, reading, showing as they do fa-       Two of the major reasons for the de-
              deaths last year showed just over 5,000                   talities falling sharply while the num-     cline in road deaths are the dramatic
              people killed on the roads—numbers                        ber of accidents and injuries rises.        drop in the number of accidents in-
              that low were last seen in 1953.                          Indeed, during the 1990s, as the annu-      volving drink driving, and those at
                   A combination of legal, social and                   al fatality figure once again fell below    very high-speeds—considered to be
              technological factors has saved tens of                   10,000, the total number of annual in-      over 80 km/h (50 mph) in Japan.
              thousands of lives even as the number                     juries broke the one million mark for            Up until around fifteen years ago,
              of cars has risen alongside the rapid                     the first time.                             attitudes to drunk driving were sur-
              growth of the elderly population, who                          “One thing that is different from      prisingly relaxed given that Japan is,
              are much more likely to suffer fatal                      the way these statistics are measured       on the whole, such a law-abiding and
              injuries if involved in accidents.                        in other countries is that in Japan,        rule-governed society. In the event
                   The number of annual traffic acci-                   cases of road traffic fatalities are con-   that drivers were stopped at the infre-
              dent fatalities actually peaked back in                   sidered to be those who die within          quent roadside police checks on their
              1970 at over 16,000, before falling                       twenty-four hours of an accident. In        way home from a night out, a quick
                                                                                                                    exhalation that didn’t reek of alcohol,
                                                                                                                    delivered in the general direction of
                                                                                                                    the officer, was often enough to ensure
                                                                                                                    a motorist’s journey homeward con-
                                                                                                                    tinued without further action. “The
                                                                                                                    truth is there used to be a real lack of
                                                                                                                    proper breathalyzer kits for the po-
                                                                                                                    lice,” admits the NPA’s Ikeda.
                                                                                                                         The law and social attitudes to-
                                                                                                                    wards drink driving have hardened,
                                                                                                                    and annual deaths due to such acci-
                                                                                                                    dents are 20% of what they were in
                                                                                                                    1993. In 2002 the blood-alcohol level
                                                                                                                    deemed legally safe to drive with was
                                                                                                                    reduced from 0.25 milligrams (mg)
                                                                                                                    per liter to 0.15 mg. By comparison,

                                                                                                                    the average in Europe is 0.5 mg and is
              Signs at the roadside showing the number of traffic accidents (top),                                  0.8 mg in the United Kingdom. At the
              fatalities (middle) and injuries (bottom) recorded by the police during the                           same time a more serious offence of
              day in the local area (left) and wider prefecture (right) serve as a constant                         drunken driving was created for mo-
              reminder to motorists and pedestrians of the need to be vigilant.                                     torists who were judged to be severely
               32   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
 Trends in traffic accidents in Japan
                                                                                                    ���������������                                          �����
                                                                        ���������������������������������������                                                                                         Notes:
                    ������                                                                                                                                   �����

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1) Since 1960, figures include minor
                    ������                                                                                                                                                                              accidents such as injury requiring
                                                                                                                                                             ���                                        less than eight days to be cured or

                                                                                                                                                                                                        property damage under ¥20,000.
                     �����                                                                                                                                   ���                                        2) Since 1966, figures exclude
                                                                                                                                                                                                        property damage.
                     �����                                                                         ����������������������������������������                  ���                                        3) Since 1972, figures include those
                     �����                                                 ����������������                                                                                                             of Okinawa Prefecture.
                                                                                                                                                             ���                                        4) The figures for the leap year are
                                                                                                                                                                                                        calculated on 366-day basis.
                         �                                                                                                                                   �
                             ����   ����   ����   ����   ����   ����   ����          ����          ����           ����        ����            ����   ����                                               Source: National Police Agency

 impaired by alcohol, irrespective of                              500,000 yen fine. The same penalties                                               of the over sixty-fives—around twice
 blood-alcohol level.                                              now apply for merely being a passen-                                               the percentage in Europe or the United
     The 2002 law was partially a re-                              ger in a vehicle, in the knowledge that                                            States. This figure includes pedestri-
 sponse to an accident involving a                                 the driver is drunk.                                                               ans and appears to be largely account-
 drunken trucker who crashed into a                                     The first few court cases involving                                           ed for by the large elderly population.
 car on an expressway causing it to                                the new laws inevitably drew much                                                       A range of measures including
 burst into flames. A video showing the                            attention as bartenders and passengers                                             regular tests checking elderly drivers’
 truck swerving erratically around the                             protested their ignorance and inno-                                                mental faculties and eyesight, have
 road, and then the desperate mother                               cence. Ikeda explains that the authori-                                            been introduced. In 2008 a law requir-
 unsuccessfully trying to save her two                             ties have worked closely with hotelier                                             ing an elderly driver’s badge to be
 young children from the burning car,                              associations at educating staff in the                                             displayed by the over seventy-fives
 was repeatedly shown on Japanese                                  hospitality industries as well as intro-                                           was passed. “A lot of people objected
 TV. Then in 2006 another high-profile                             ducing warning labels on alcohol and                                               to it on privacy grounds, and also ap-
 accident occurred when a young driver                             “designated driver” key chains.                                                    parently they didn’t like the design ei-
 who had been drinking rear-ended an                                                                                                                  ther. The law is still on the books, but
 SUV on a bridge, knocking it into a                               Driving and the Elderly                                                            we’re not enforcing it now,” says
 river. The two parents escaped but                                                                                                                   Ikeda with a smile.
 their three young children perished in                            The reduction in the number of acci-                                                    Technological improvements in
 the vehicle. Ikeda is able to identify                            dents involving speeds of over 80                                                  car safety over the years, such as ABS
 the dates of these two accidents on the                           km/h—down approximately two-                                                       brakes and airbags, have certainly con-
 graph of road fatalities, by the sharper                          thirds over the last decade—has been                                               tributed to reducing accident deaths.
 drops shown immediately afterwards,                               achieved without major changes in the                                              Better use of available technology—
 even before the subsequent law                                    related law. “The fact that the popula-                                            the wearing of rear-seatbelts became
 changes came into effect. It is the                               tion of young people is falling has al-                                            compulsory in 2008—is also helping.
 change in societal attitudes towards                              most certainly contributed to the de-                                              Advancements in existing technology
 drinking and driving in response to                               creased incidences of reckless driving.                                            look set to play their part in the near
 these accidents that may be saving                                Better road safety education has also                                              future. The NPA is currently involved
 hundreds more lives even than the                                 played its part,” suggests Ikeda.                                                  in testing a system in the Odaiba bay-
 new stiffer legal penalties.                                      Strategic police crackdowns on motor-                                              side area of Tokyo that will send sig-
     The resulting law change in 2007                              bike gangs and illegal road-racing                                                 nals from sensors at road junctions, di-
 increased the maximum prison sen-                                 groups have also helped make Japan’s                                               rectly to car navigation units. The units
 tence for drink driving to five years,                            roads safer places to drive.                                                       will then give audio warnings to driv-
 from three, and doubled the maximum                                    With the fastest-aging population                                             ers, such as, “pedestrians crossing on
 fine to 1 million yen (10,300 dollars).                           in the world, Japan is experiencing                                                the left” or “motorbike coming up the
 The penalties for anyone considered                               issues that other countries will shortly                                           inside right.” Although the point where
 to have aided and abetted drunk driv-                             be facing. A growing population of el-                                             human error can be eliminated from
 ers have also been greatly strength-                              derly drivers—classified as aged over                                              driving hasn’t quite been reached yet,
 ened over the years. In fact, lending a                           seventy-five in Japan—is one such                                                  this is certainly another step in that di-
 car to someone known to be under the                              phenomenon. Ikeda points out that,                                                 rection. In the meantime, both the au-
 influence now attracts the same penal-                            contrary to popular belief, older driv-                                            thorities, and drivers, can continue to
 ty as actually driving while drunk.                               ers do not have more accidents than                                                work on ways to make the nation’s
 Similarly, serving alcohol to someone                             younger drivers, though they are more                                              roads safer for everyone.
 in the knowledge they are driving                                 likely to die if they are involved in
 after wards now carries a maximum                                 crashes. In fact, nearly half of the fa-                                           Gavin Blair is a freelance journalist living in Tokyo who writes
 prison sentence of three years and                                talities in traffic accidents is made up                                           for publications in the United Kingdom, United States and Asia.

                                                                                                                                              Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue                                          33
                            COOL EARTH 2050

                          The Land of the Rising Sun
                          Despite dark clouds hanging over the Japanese and world economies,                            At the PV expo, Mitsubishi Elec-
                                                                                                                   tric unveiled a polycrystalline solar
                          at Japan’s annual solar power exposition the sun was shining, reports                    cell with a record-breaking 18.9%
                          Tony McNicol.                                                                            conversion efficiency (the percentage

                                                                                                                   of sunlight the cells convert to elec-
                                   nce the world’s top solar         new “feed-in tariff” system in Japan.         tricity). Kyocera had its own compet-
                                   power producer and consum-        Presently, utilities voluntarily buy          ing high-efficiency cell at 18.5%. Not
                                   er, Japan has been put in the     electricity from domestic solar panels        far away, Sharp displayed a range of
                                   shade by Germany and China        at 24 yen per kilowatt hour. But              products including a solar cell module
                          in recent years. But Japan is deter-       Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade            for residential use with a class leading
                          mined to regain its reputation as the      and Industry plans to submit a Diet bill      efficiency of 14.4%. The company is
                          land of the rising sun. Photovoltaic       which will force them to pay 50 yen           the second largest solar cell producer
                          power is one of twenty-one priority        per kilowatt hour. In a system based          in the world after Germany’s Q-Cell,
                          CO2 reducing technologies identified       on German legislation, power compa-           and has the lion’s share of the Japa-
                          by the government.                         nies are expected to raise electricity        nese domestic market.
                              And to see the excited crowds at       bills to cover the additional expense.             More exotic solar cells were also
                          the second International Photovoltaic      The price would be fixed for ten years.       on show. Several stalls had CPV cells
                          Power Generation Expo in Tokyo this        “Now, the quicker people buy the              which use lenses to concentrate sun-
                          February, you would never guess there      solar panels, the cheaper the power           light onto photovoltaic cells, and are
                          was a world recession. The trade show      will be—that’s the incentive,” says           motorized to follow the sun for maxi-
                          featured 452 companies from twenty-        Taichi Ozawa, a senior specialist at the      mum exposure. CPV are particularly
                          two countries and attracted some           New Energy Foundation in Tokyo.               suited to large scale generating plants,
                          37,350 visitors over its three-day run          Only a few years ago Japan led           being more efficient, but also more
                          —a third more than attended the pre-       the world in solar panel installation,        expensive than regular cells. One such
                          vious year.                                but the rate peaked in 2005—perhaps           site was set up last year by Japanese
                              The big news at the expo was the       not coincidentally around the time            steel manufacturer Daido Steel. The
                                                                             government subsidies for solar        experimental 30 megawatt plant in
                                                                             panel installation phased out.        Aichi Prefecture is the largest CPV
                                                                             The intention was to subsidize        system in Japan.
                                                                             installation until prices came             Another emerging technology is
                                                                             down to affordable levels. “At        super-thin and transparent solar cells
                                                                             the time the first subsidy ended,     that can be built into walls and win-
                                                                             the government said that the          dows. Kyoto-based Evatech brought a
                                                                             price had come down enough,           large see-through solar cell to the
                                                                             but sales haven’t been strong         expo. According to a spokesman for
                                                                             since,” says Ozawa. In January        the company, such panels could one
                                                                             this year the government              day generate electricity while dis-
                                                                             brought in a new subsidy              guised as tinted office windows.
                                                                             scheme. From April, 70,000
                                                                             yen in support will be available      Recession-defying
                                                                             for each kilowatt of solar panel
                                                                             installed in domestic homes.          Japanese manufacturers have an-
                                                                                   Two other factors key to        nounced recession busting plans to
                                                                             solar power adoption are cost         boost solar cell production. Last
                                                                             and efficiency. The use of silicon    November, Sharp unveiled a joint
                                                                             is crucial to both. In recent years   venture with Italy’s largest power
                                                                             a run on polysilicon, a derivative    company, Enel, to develop solar
                                                                             of sand also used to make semi-       power plants in Italy with an annual

                                                                             conductors, has strangled pro-        generating capacity of 189 megawatts
                                                                             duction and driven up prices.         by 2012. The two companies, plus a
                                                                             The challenge for manufacturers       third unnamed partner, will also build
                                                                             is to make cells thinner and          thin-film solar cell factories for the
                          Flexible thin solar cells on display at PV         cheaper with less silicon, while      European market.
                          Expo 2009                                          still maintaining efficiency.             Earlier this year Kyocera an-
                           34   Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue
                                                                                           The Power of Technology
                                                                                           Japan’s targets are ambitious and rely
                                                                                           heavily on technological prowess—
                                                                                           luckily the nation’s strongest card.
                                                                                           But, of the solar cells made today, the
                                                                                           vast majority are based on a design
                                                                                           unchanged in its basic principles
                                                                                           since the 1950s. Such cells typically
                                                                                           have an efficiency of 10% to 15%.
                                                                                           Considerable improvement will be
                                                                                           needed if solar power is to compete
                                                                                           with fossil fuel.
                                                                                               The upper efficiency limit for sili-
                                                                                           con cells is probably around 20%, but
Visitors examine a transparent solar cell at PV Expo 2009                                  in the prototype stage now are ad-
                                                                                           vanced cells which use innovative
                                                                                           materials like organic dyes and quan-
nounced it would expand its solar           ergy sources are growing even more             tum nanostructures. Such exotic de-
module manufacturing factory in             quickly. Six percent of Germany’s en-          signs could theoretically give efficien-
Tianjin, China. The company aims to         ergy comes from wind, and renewable            cies of up to 50%.
quadruple production for the Asian          energy provides 15% in total. In fact,             Japan is aiming for a ten-fold in-
market there by 2011. Meanwhile,            Germany is one of the few developed            crease in solar power use from 2005
Sanyo Electric and Nippon Oil Corpo-        countries on course to meet its Kyoto          levels by 2020. In the longer term, the
ration (Eneos) announced in January         treaty targets.                                government hopes new technology
that they would form a joint solar-             Nor is the recession deflecting the        could dramatically reduce the cost of
panel producer, Sanyo Eneos Solar           nation from its green goals. “Germany          solar power and make it a viable option
Co. They plan to output one gigawatt        has realized that our renewable energy         to replace conventional energies. At
of solar cells a year by 2015.              industry—now that we have this reces-          present, a kilowatt-hour of solar power
     Japanese companies are clearly         sion in established industry—can be a          costs 46 yen. According to the govern-
determined to catch up with their in-
ternational competitors. But why has
Germany’s solar power industry, for
example, been so successful? Tobias
Homann, on the Germany Trade and
Invest GmbH stall at the PV expo,
says the biggest success factor was the
renewable resources act in 2000.
Germany was one of the first coun-
tries to introduce a feed-in tariff and
now fifty countries have followed
their example.
     The legislation guaranteed that
consumers could sell their solar-
generated electricity back to the grid at
a price fixed for twenty years. In addi-
tion, five percent of electricity bills
goes to support all renewable energy.
“We have always had strong science                                              An exhibitor shows off his company’s CPV
and technology, and we have been re-                                             (concentrating PV) cells at PV Expo 2009
searching photovoltaics for decades,”
says Homann. A lot of the innovation
has been led by small and medium-           key industry for Germany’s industrial          ment’s road map for development, that
sized companies based in eastern            future,” says Homann. “German banks            could come down to 14 yen by 2020,
Germany, the so-called solar valley.        consider renewable energy projects as          and seven yen by 2030—the dirt-cheap
     Japan looks set to follow              conservative investments.” As for              price of thermal electricity today.
Germany’s example. One percent of           consumers, Homann says, “People
Germany’s electricity comes from            would rather put their money on their
                                                                                           Tony McNicol is a freelance journalist and photographer based
solar power and other alternative en-       roofs than invest in shares.”                  in Tokyo.

                                                                                      Highlighting JAPAN —through articles— March Issue            35
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