Japanese people’s dark side – Byakuyakou

7 Sep

Byakuyakou is a TV drama series based on a novel which is written by a famous Japanese author named Higashino Keigo. This story is about the journey of two children, Kirihara Ryouji and Nishimoto Yukiho. They have been in love with each other since they are very young. On the fateful day, when they are still primary school students, the little boy, Ryouji, witnesses his father raping his beloved girl, Yukiho, whom her mother sells her body for money. Ryouji feels so angry with and ashamed of his father that he intervenes and murders his father. Retaliating against the coldhearted mother, Yukiho plots with Ryouji to gas her mother to death. To silently bear this secret for self-preservation, they keep committing more crimes until the very end.

Japanese education encourages people to suppress their emotion

It is not surprising that all people have dark sides. However, they hardly disclose their dark sides unless they can no longer control their behavior and emotion rationally. Comparing to western countries, people in Japan are more likely to develop mental illness, which easily lead their dark sides revealed. According to a journal article written by Emily A. Butler, Tiane L. Lee, and James J. Gross, ‘the Japanese suppressed their emotion more than Europeans.’ They believe that this is the main reason why many Japanese people suffer from metal disorder. However, why do Japanese necessarily restrain their emotion all the time? This can be imputed to the Japanese educational system. Japanese schools exert great emphasis on ‘fitting in’ and ‘conformity’. Students are carefully watched in schools, to prevent any bad behavior, rumor and gossip’. Being monitored since they are very young, the Japanese people lack courage to be criticized and lose confidence to show their real emotion and different ideas.

Akihabara massacre is one of the negative results of over-suppressing emotion

However, it is not an encouraging schooling. Without any ways to express their own thoughts and feelings, many Japanese people suffer from serious emotional disturbance. Some of them even start behaving extraordinarily. Akihabara massacre is a good example. It was an incident of mass murder that took place on Sunday, June 8, 2008, in Akihabara. Seven people were killed and 10 were injured by a man called Tomohiro Kato. According to the perpetrator’s brother, Tomohiro Kato had an unpleasant childhood. At that time, Kato always felt pressure from teachers as he did not manage to achieve high academic results at school. Not knowing how to deal with his stress, he began to act violently and even attempted to commit suicide in 2006.

No doubt, Ryouji, Yukiho and Tomohiro Kato are the victims of rotten education system. If they are taught how to express their own thoughts and know how to develop their self-confidence, those tragedy would not have happened. Therefore, Japanese government should no longer neglect the defect of their education system.


Keigo and Foreigners – Nihonjinn No Shiranai Nihongo

23 Aug

Nihonjinn No Shiranai Nihongo (“The Japanese that Japanese people don’t know”) is a Japanese drama based on a Japanese graphic novel of the same name where a teacher is narrating how she teaches foreign students with different cultural backgrounds. This drama provides abundant information. It explains numerous rules of Japanese language which is likely unfamiliar with foreigners, or even the Japanese people.

The emphasis of social stratification is one of the well-known cultures in Japan, and ‘Keigo’ plays a key role in communication between people from various social classes. ‘Keigo’ is a Japanese term of honorific expression used to show respect to the person address. Generally, the Japanese people use ‘Keigo’ when they talk with one whom they first met or one who comes from upper class.

According to this scene in “Nihonjinn No Shiranai Nihongo”,  the Japanese have to accommodate their use of honorific expression to those in different position in a company when communicating with them.

  • Question: Are you having lunch?
  1. To a vice-president:                 “gohan wo meshiagarimasu ka.”
  2. To a department manager:    “gohan wo otabeninarimasu ka.”
  3. To a deputy-manager:             “gohan wo taberaremasu ka”

‘Keigo’ is always the difficult part of Japanese language for learners to master, especially for English-native speakers. Japanesestudent notes that people from Western Countries tend to be slow at mastering Keigo. Even though there are some polite expressions in English, the complicated Keigo system is still hard for them to comprehend. Just like the end of this scene, a foreigner misused honorific expressions and eventually irritates his client.

So, is it necessary for foreigners to learn Keigo?

To advance Japan’s globalization, it is  unnecessary to expect or to force foreigners to master Keigo well in working place. Not being accustomed to Keigo, foreigners find it difficult to communicate well with Japanese people. It adversely affects the efficiency on doing global business and enhancing internationalization.

How about you? what do you think about the necessity of speaking fluent Keigo in globalized Japanese society?

2Channel phenomenon in Japan – Densha Otoko

15 Aug

‘Densha Otoko’ (Train man) is a Japanese movie, premiered in Japanese Cinemas in March 26, 2005. The story is all based on an allegedly true story formed by considerable amount of messages posted on 2Channel, which the most popular Internet forum in Japan. A 23-year-old “Otaku”, a Japanese term referring to those who are addicted to anime, video games computers or manga, successfully rescued a young lady, Miss Hermès, from being harassed by a drunken man on train when he was on his way home. Without any date experience, he began sharing his romance on the internet and sought advices from 2channel users on how to date Miss Hermès and impress her.

According to Hiroshi Hiyama and Lisa Katayama, 2Channel is one of the biggest online bulletin boards in the world. It consists of roughly 800 active boards with over 1000 topics, from politics to manga comics. Moreover, there are approximately 10 million visits each month and 2.5 million posts created a day. 2Channel brings a diverse group of people together and allows them communicating and sharing data with each other more easily and conveniently. The story of “Densha Otoko” explicitly illustrates this power of 2Channel. After preventing Miss Hermès from being harassed on train, the “Otaku”, nicknamed as “Train Man” on 2Channel, successively updated his situation, shared his feelings and even asked for advices on everything such as where to date and what to wear. Other 2Channel users enthusiastically offered enormous amount of suggestions to Train Man and posted plenty of Shift JIS art pictures to encourage and support him.  Alisa Freedman notes that the conversation between Train Man and other 2Channel subscribers created 29,862 posts only within 57 days and “Densha Otoko” online community was rapidly established in 2Channel. Despite the fact that most of the 2Channel users belong to different social classes, 2Channel unites all users together and form an unique community which allow them “meeting” various people who they seldom get in touch with in reality, and share feelings or opinions with each other. And probably, owing to various advices and support from different people, Train Man could eventually confess his love for Miss Hermès and successfully got her reciprocation.

Undeniably, social networks like 2Channel do exert positive impact on Japan society. It is well-known that social stratification is one of the representative Japanese cultures. However, this culture restrains Japanese people from different social classes freely communicate and share their ideas with each other. Thanks to the existence of 2Channel, they are capable of having fun in an online community, without being known their name and social classes. This Japanese social network not only changes the communication habit of Japanese people, but it also provides a platform for various people to gather together.

Why do Japanese students long for getting into Toudai? – Dragon Zakura

9 Aug

“Dragon Zakura” was a popular Japanese school TV drama in 2005.  This is a story all about  how a high school teacher called Sakuragi Kenji  guides his failing high school students into Japan’s most prestigious university, Toudai (The University of Tokyo).

“If you want to change your life, get into Toudai!”

Dragon Zakura – Speech

(Please watch it from 5:20 to 8:27)

In this scene, Sakuragi Kenji is presenting a very ‘inspiring’ speech to students. He believes that getting into Toudai  is the only key to success. Those who are not capable of passing the entrance examination of Toudai will definitely become losers in the future. To excel in exams, students should exert their effort to the fullest and spend all their time on studies.

Examination-centered schooling & Juku in Japan

Examination-centered schooling is a prevailing notion of education in Japan. According to “A piece of Japan ”, Bruce W. Davidson, a professor at Hokusei Gakuen University, states that

“Everyone knows that the only important thing for advancement in society is to pass those tests, so time spent on other things is basically time wasted”.

This deeply influences the learning style of Japanese student: they study merely for examination. In order to improve their academic performance, many Japanese students attend Juku (Japanese cram school) after school. Scareylarry presents a brief interpretation of Juku: a study place for students to attend outside of school so as to catch up with school works and prepare for entrance examination. This Juku phenomenon has widely spread throughout Japan. In “Diversity and Unity in Education” published in 2010, Sugimoto notes that over one-third of primary school student and approximately two-third of middle school students go to Juku after school.

Influence on Japanese students

However, the notion of examination-centered schooling and the ubiquity of Juku put immense adverse influence on Japanese students. As the mere purpose of studying in school is to prepare for entrance examination of top schools or leading universities, learning becomes monotonous and tedious. Students lose interest in studies and behave negatively in class. In “Schooling for Silence”, Brian J. McVeigh, who focuses his research on Japan’s education system, indicates that the national phenomenon of “collapse of the classroom” is rapidly increasing. Students become undisciplined and unenthusiastic about studies. Also, the prevalent Juku phenomenon implies that Japanese students are lacking in leisure time to participate in different out-of-school activities. As a result, they lose opportunities for personal development such as enhancement of social capability, sense of group cohesion and sense of leadership.

Thanks to the belief that getting into prestigious university is the only key to a ‘promising’ future, Japanese students start loathing studies, become undisciplined, and even lack ability to socialize with others. At the end of “Drogan Zakura”, some of Sakuragi Kenji‘s students do successfully pass the entrance examination of Toudai because of their great effort. No one knows whether they will achieve in the future. However, no matter how their futures are, one thing can be sure of: both of them are pitiful victims under the rotten education system in Japan.