Japan Now Vol. 1, No. 5 (October 18, 2005)



Expo 2005 in Aichi
Ends After Attracting 22 Million Visitors

Brief article by Foreign Press Center Japan (Sept. 29, 2005))

Steady Progress
Toward Resumption of U.S. Beef Imports by Japan

The Economic Section

(Embassy of Japan)

Food Safety Commission (FSC) of Japan has been deliberating since May on the
safety of resuming U.S. beef imports–under certain conditions–which were
banned in December 2003 following the first mad cow case in the U.S. At issue
is the safety of food, and not protection of the domestic beef industry. Recent
progress at the FSC indicates that Japan is moving steadily toward resuming
the import of U.S. beef.


On September 12,
the FSC started discussions on a draft conclusion document pertaining to this
matter. After a meeting on October 4, the Chairman of the Prion sub-committee
of the FSC expressed the view that the safety of beef to be imported again
from the US will not be very different from that of Japanese beef. He also
said that if all things went well, it would take only two more meetings for
the sub-committee to finalize the conclusion document. The FSC then announced
on October 17 that its next meeting at the sub-committee level to consider
the resumption of U.S. beef imports will be held on October 24.

Although there
will still be some necessary steps remaining after the FSC arrives at a conclusion,
including a public comment procedure of four weeks, there are some promising
signs. On October 5, the Japanese media reported that “resumption of
import of U.S. beef by the end of the year is now almost a certainty.”
The Tokyo stock market reacted positively as well: also on October 5, the
stock of Yoshinoya D&C, the most famous gyudon (beef bowl) fast
food chain, which relies essentially on U.S. beef, recorded a maximum allowable
single day gain. At the same time, the U.S. government is preparing to lift
its ban on Japanese beef imports. Although a specific date for the resumption
of bilateral beef trade cannot be given, Japan and the U.S. are close to having
access to beef imported from one another.

China Starts Gas
Production in East China Sea Over Japanese Protests

Brief article by Foreign Press Center Japan (Oct. 3, 2005))

Foreigners in
Sumo–Threat or Salvation?

Brief article by Foreign Press Center Japan (Sept. 30, 2005))

FMF Memoirs <2>

-A Series by Past Fulbright Memorial Fund Participants-

Lois Rothman

by the Government of Japan, the Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program provides
American primary and secondary school teachers and administrators with fully-funded
short-term study programs in Japan.

June and July of 2001, I had the pleasure of being one of 200 American teachers
chosen to travel to Japan by the Fulbright Memorial Fund program, a scholarship
funded by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology as a “thank you” on behalf of the Japanese students who
received a college education in the United States through Fulbright scholarships.
We stayed for a week in Tokyo, attending lectures and cultural events. We
then broke into 10 groups of 20 and traveled to various areas of the country.
I had the good fortune to go to the city of Kanoya in Kagoshima prefecture,
on the southern tip of Kyushu. We were interviewed by the media, met with
the mayor of Kanoya, and on the last night had a banquet with the Japanese
Minister of Education.

The purpose of
our trip was two-fold. We American teachers toured Japanese elementary, middle
and high schools, met with school teachers, administrators, students and parents,
and attended lectures on the Japanese system of education, the government
and the economy. We were also there as part of a cultural exchange, in the
interest of fostering better relations and understanding between our two countries.

The trip was incredibly
enlightening on many levels. For years we in America have heard of the fantastic
results of Japanese students on national exams, especially in the areas of
math and science. While this is true, I was surprised to find that the Japanese
government is in the process of a nationwide educational reform. Testing in
Japan is a very serious thing, especially for high school students. The results
of the test will have a large impact on their entire future. Getting good
test scores ensures placement in a good university, where the connections
they make serve them well in business, and the top jobs only go to those who
graduate from certain universities. Many Japanese high school students attend
special cram schools in the evening after regular classes. These are called
“juku.” The slogan I heard from teachers was “six hours’ sleep,
fail; four hours’ sleep, pass.” Because of this intense pressure, even
regular schools sometimes teach students how to pass the test. Many Japanese
students have a challenging time applying the test knowledge to real world
situations, according to some of our educational lecturers. For this reason,
the Japanese government is looking to the United States, where a greater degree
of academic freedom has been achieved. Interestingly, we in the United States
are moving in the opposite direction, looking towards standardized testing
as a way to improve our students’ education.

There were so
many positive, wonderful and exciting things in the Japanese schools I visited.
There was absolutely no vandalism or theft. The students at all levels are
responsible for cleaning the school every day. They don’t seem to mind, as
they are taught from a young age the value of cleanliness. The students have
a real stake in the condition of the classroom, since it is the teachers,
not the students, who move from room to room during the day. The fact that
the students clean the classrooms saves money, as the schools hire very few
custodians. Virtually all of the activities for the young folks in the town
are connected to school so this is an added incentive for the kids to clean.
In the elementary and middle schools, lunch supplies are brought to the school,
where the students from first grade on up serve them to each other in their
own classrooms. Little funds are spent on cafeteria staff. In the classrooms
I saw and ate in, the teacher would often leave the room for an extended period
of time. There were no fights about food or arguments over who got more. One
day, I was served by 4th graders, and I got much more soup than the students.
The last child hardly got any soup. The boy and girl whose turn it was to
serve went to everyone in the room, and took one spoonful from each bowl of
soup and put it in the shorted bowl. Only after everyone had enough did we
all begin to eat. It was an absolutely amazing thing to witness.

While we were
at the Japanese schools, we also met with the PTA. Parents in Japan are very
involved and PTA membership is compulsory. That doesn’t mean one has to attend
every meeting, but if parents have a student in the school, they pay dues
to the PTA. The role of the PTA is very different from that of the US. Parents
seemed to have much less input on the way the schools were run. Many folks
in Japan credit the success of their students to “kyoiku-mama” or
“education mom”: the mothers who play a big role in the education
of their children.

Teachers in Japan
have less academic freedom than teachers in the US. Prospective teachers apply
to the national government, which in turn assigns them to a school. Only 20
% of teaching applicants are accepted. In every grade nationwide, it seemed
to me that all students were using exactly the same books and that teachers
had a rigid scheduled curriculum to follow. This was another thing the Japanese
were trying to reform: giving their teachers more leeway in what they teach,
how they teach it, and how work is assessed.

Another big difference
we noticed is the role of the teacher in society. While most people, men and
women, were addressed by their last name, with the respectful “san”
at the end, teachers had their own honorary title, with their name followed
by the respectful “sensei.” In Japan, when I told folks that I was
a teacher, they bowed, and I was often invited to join them for dinner or
coffee. Every class began with the students bowing respectfully and asking
the teacher, “Please teach us,” and included bows and thank you’s
from the students. What a teacher’s dream!

I loved visiting
the people, schools and wonderful land of Japan.

Lois Rothman
is a Art Teacher at Farmland Elementary School in Rockville, MD and participated
on the FMF Teacher Program in June and July of 2001. More information on the
Fulbright Memorial Fund Teacher Program is available at www.iie.org/fmf.
Applications are available online, and the deadline for submission for next
year’s program is December 10, 2005.

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