education

Why are some Japanese preschools banning awesome, adorable character bento?

Considering how much Japan loves food and cute things, it’s no surprise that the country is in the middle of a chara-ben boom. Chara-ben, bento boxed lunches with their contents arranged like popular characters such as Hello Kitty and Doraemon, are a hit with adults and children alike, as parents seem to be having as much fun making them as their kids are eating them.

But not everyone loves this trend of culinary creativity, though, as some preschools and day care centers have started banning chara-ben.

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Thai schoolgirl uniforms poised to edge out traditional Japanese ones in Japan?

It looks like Japanese girls can’t get enough of schoolgirl uniforms these days. Once loathed by their wearers as stuffy, boring and a symbol of conformity (pretty much kryptonite to teenagers), Japanese girls have – over the last few decades – come to embrace the schoolgirl uniform as a sexy, fashionable and customizable wardrobe choice in and out of the classroom.

The problem, though: It looks like it isn’t Japanese schoolgirl uniforms that girls really want nowadays. What they really want are Thai schoolgirl uniforms.

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What’s wrong with English education in Japan? Pull up a chair…

When you speak to foreign English educators in Japan, one thing becomes crystal clear: English education in Japan isn’t working. It’s just awful. While English classes are mandatory in Japanese schools, the percentage of students who emerge with actual English abilities are surprisingly low. Students in China, Korea and Japan are in an arms race to see who can produce students with the best English, and Japan seems to be trailing far behind in third place.

With the Olympic Games coming up in 2020, the Japanese government has proposed changes to increase the level of English ability in their students. Changes like starting introductory English classes in 3rd grade elementary school and making the subject compulsory from the 5th grade. Are these changes really going to help? We’ve gathered opinions from both foreign teachers and Japanese citizens about issues with the system and what might improve it.

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English-learning smartphone app teaches Japanese students to say “I just took a dump”

While the English edition of RocketNews24 is primarily focused on Asia in general and Japan in particular, our Japanese-language sister site, Pouch, covers stories from around the world. Sometimes, the source information they work with is in English, so Pouch’s team members are always on the lookout for ways to brush up their language skills.

So we weren’t shocked to hear that one of Pouch’s writers, Marie, had recently gotten really into a new English-learning smartphone app. What did surprise us, though, was when we took a look at the phrases she was learning, including such nuggets as, “I just took a dump.”

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Chinese parenting posters from 1952 gave insightful advice that still makes plenty of sense today

When the word “education” pops up, most of the time, the first thing that comes to mind is education for children. While parents and adults in general are often concerned about educating our future leaders, we tend to forget that parents need education too because, unfortunately, parenting skills do not come as a bonus with the birth of a baby.

A set of parenting posters produced in Shanghai in 1952 reveals some golden words that were given to parents of that time. Time and technology may have changed the way parents and children interact these days, but these 62-year-old parenting tips are surprisingly relevant even today.

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Hacker Mom takes on Gamer Son in China, erases his accounts for the sake of education

For hardcore video gamers, life is a never-ending series of battles as they try to overcome the next boss, unlock achievements, or climb up the online leader boards. And for some of their parents, life is a never-ending series of battles as they try to get their kids to stop doing all that and study.

While more honorable gamers limit themselves to utilizing the best in-game equipment, some give in to the temptation to use hacks to gain an advantage over their adversaries. Recently, one education-minded mother in China adopted the same tactic by hacking her son’s online gaming accounts, then deleting them.

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Chiba teacher arrested for threats to “blow up government buildings” because of Saturday classes

On 19 July the Noda City department of the Chiba Prefectural Police announced the arrest of 49-year-old elementary school teacher Masaki Yabusaki on charges of intimidation.

The suspect had allegedly sent around half a dozens emails to the Noda Board of Education with oddly-worded threatening remarks such as “I will blow up bad guys and their government buildings” if they didn’t rescind a decision to extend the school week to include Saturday classes introduced this year.

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Gorgeous female Cambridge student unsurprisingly makes Chinese heads explode

Well, as we’ve seen time and time again, it seems the Chinese Interwebs simply cannot handle (or, in the parlance of teens today, “Cannot even”) the idea of an attractive woman who’s doing something other than sitting around being attractive all day.

Our newest recipient of the dubious “Beautiful woman doing things” distinction – which the Chinese Internet media seems to be giving away like an unplanned litter of kittens these days – is this Asian doctoral student, which the Japanese media and creepy Internet commentators haven’t even bothered to name – presumably because they were too busy breathing heavily for an uncomfortably long time and mopping sweat from their brows.

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Are you familiar with “seme” and “uke”? Japanese universities give lessons on Boys’ Love!

You might recall that last year, we introduced the revolutionary Japanese textbook A Fujoshi’s Guide to Japanese and an illustration guide book that made many BL (boys’ love) manga artists rejoice. Well, apparently that’s not all the BL related education there is!

Universities in Japan have actual lectures that delve into the depths of boys’ love literature! As the mighty Wiki explains it, boys’ love is “a Japanese genre of fictional media focusing on homoerotic romantic or sexual relationships between male characters” and it’s said that BL titles make up about 30 percent of romance manga targeted at the female audience. When you’re a literature student, you often have to come in contact with all sorts of literature, and that includes stuff that revolves around sexuality and homosexuality. Let’s take a closer look at some of the BL course content from Japan!

Note: Some of the boys’ love university lecture material is NSFW.

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High schoolers’ epic stop-motion fight jumps between the third and second dimensions 【Video】

In Japanese schools, it’s the responsibility of students to clean the classrooms at the end of the day. But while some kids take this responsibility seriously, others are more interested in goofing off while their more earnest classmates do the majority of the work.

This has to be extremely frustrating. For example, imagine you just put in the time to diligently wash the blackboard, only to reach the end, turn back, and discover someone ruined your efforts by doodling over the section you’d already cleaned. You’d probably be pretty angry, right? But would you be so angry that you’d start a brawl that almost destroys the entire schoolhouse?

If you were the star of this amazing stop motion video, you would.

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Attack classroom boredom with Attack on Titan notebooks

Unlike a lot of children, I never doodled in my notebooks because I was bored at school. This wasn’t because I was consumed with the beauty of education or absorbed in what my teachers were saying. I was simply such a bad artist that listening to them drone on was still more enjoyable for me than trying to draw a picture, even if the lectures ended up putting me to sleep as often as not.

If they’d only had these Attack on Titan notebooks when I was a kid, maybe I would have stayed awake more often.

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New Face Grand Prix lets the public vote for the cutest freshman in Japan

With a new school year comes new students, new possibilities, and a new round of beauty competitions.

“Wait,” you’re asking, “Beauty competitions? Shouldn’t that be ‘roommates’ or ‘textbooks’ or ‘professors?'” And, yes, those are just a few of the new experiences that come with starting college, but thanks to New Face Grand Prix, new Japanese female college students can also “compete” to be the cutest freshman in Japan.

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Stunning murals bloom in an impoverished Indian school with the help of Japanese artists

Each year, volunteer artists from Japan travel to one of the poorest regions of India to share their talents with schoolchildren at the Niranjaya Public Welfare School. They join local artists at the annual Wall Art Festival to collaborate with the students on amazing works of temporary art in their school.

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Grumpy tweet receives backlash, Netizens discuss morality of sitting on floor

You never know what’s going to cause a mini Twitter storm in this day and age. One grumpy commuter caused fellow netizens to take sides on an issue that is surely one of the great debates of the modern era – should teachers be making their students sit on the floor of a train?!

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Japan’s Kinki University decides to change its naughty-sounding name

Sometimes, a name that’s perfectly normal in one language can sound funny, or maybe even offensive in another. One day in college, for example, my friend Gary and I volunteered to show some visiting Japanese students around campus. We met them in the student union, and as soon as Gary introduced himself, one of them couldn’t suppress a tiny chuckle.

You see the name Gary sounds an awful lot like geri, which means “diarrhea” in Japanese. So when my classmate said “Watashi wa Gary desu,” they didn’t hear “I’m Gary;” they heard “I’ve got the runs.”

Of course, the same thing can happen in reverse, too. Just ask the students and faculty of one of Japan’s proudest institutions of higher learning, Kinki University.

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Elementary school’s morning greeting is so intense it almost makes us miss long division

In Japanese schools, it’s customary for the students to start the day with a formal greeting. The teacher walks in, the students stand, bow, and say good-morning. It’s a fairly somber ritual, in keeping with the general attitude in the country that education is serious business.

One elementary school, though, does things a little differently, with a morning greeting that’s packed with more energy than most people show all day.

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Put away your textbooks, kids – the key to learning Japanese is Minecraft

We’ve talked countless times about how to learn Japanese. Heck, we’ve even brought you lists of essential applications and resources to help you in your quest to master the language. But we’ve always maintained that the best way to learn Japanese, or any language for that matter, is to make practical use of it and make it relevant to your own life.

And what better way to use your newly acquired Japanese than making friends all over the world while avoiding being crushed to death by spiked ceilings or knocked into a bottomless pit?

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Terrible advice for making college friends involves cold shoulders, weird stockpiles

Academically speaking, most Japanese students don’t have that much trouble with the transition from high school to college. University entrance exams are notoriously difficult, and compared to the diligent studying they had to do to get into college in the first place, most find their educational workload, especially as freshemen, to be pretty easy to handle.

Making friends, though, can be tough. Rural Japan isn’t peppered with college towns in the same way some other countries are, and many students have no choice but to move far away from home to one of the nation’s big cities to pursue higher education. And while many students abroad can look forward to meeting new people in their dorm, very few Japanese universities provide any kind of student housing. Even in the rare case that they do, having a roommate is unheard of.

So it’s no surprise that many students are keen to pick up pointers on how to make interpersonal connections in their new surroundings. Unfortunately, not all advice is good advice, as one Japanese freshman recently found out.

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【TBT】Learning language through nonsense – Japanese author of “Unusable English” speaks

Fantastic octopus wiring!

My brother has been observing the slugs since he got divorced.

Let’s start from where we left off yesterday. Get down on all fours.

No, these aren’t the ramblings of a man with concussion; these are genuine excerpts from Twitter feed and study guide “Non-essential English Vocabulary: Words that will never come up in tests”, a language resource for Japanese students of English that presents entirely useless but infinitely memorable phrases.

With more than 40,000 Twitter followers so far, Twitter feed curator and author Nakayama-san (otherise known as @NISE_TOEIC)’s cheeky tweets are clearly resonating with English learners here in Japan, but why, when the rest of the nation is busy with earnest study, would someone take the time to create a Twitter account dedicated entirely to unusable English? Japanese website Excite Bit sat down with the Nakayama-san to pick up a few study tips and learn little more about the thinking behind the bizarre project.

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Free highway bus for students connects Tokyo and Fukushima for business or pleasure

In Japan, the job hunting season is under way. From late December to April or May, students who will graduate in the coming year search for jobs en masse. Companies are busy trying to recruit the best and the brightest to apply to their firms, while stressed students rush here and there attending loads of job fairs, company briefing sessions and employment seminars.

For companies in Fukushima Prefecture, still recovering from the 2011 disaster and subsequent nuclear meltdown, recruiting new applicants is doubly hard. They have to contend with the usual tides of urban migration as well as the negative associations now attached to the area, but one local company, Niraku Corporation, has hit upon an idea to help bring young job seekers in: bus them in for free.

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