education

Enjoy a little lesson in Japanese sign language – it may prevent serious misunderstandings someday

I always thought sign language had a certain elegance and grace to it, and I always wanted to learn it. But like many other things in life such as fashion design and ice sculpting there was never a pressing need master it, especially with my busy schedule of eating wasps.

Luckily, short programs often shown on TV and many videos online teach a few useful words in sign language and allow me to pick it up bit by bit. Now, I’d like to share a few of these so that we can all learn and better ourselves just a little bit.

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New crossover skirt Japanese school swimsuits are elegantly cute, available in adult sizes

During the swimming portion of their P.E. classes, students in Japan are required to wear what’s commonly referred to as a “school swimsuit.” In the case of girls, this means a black or dark blue one-piece, and while that’s less revealing than a bikini, some would still rather have something that covers a bit more of their legs.

Bringing to market an alternative is Japanese swimwear maker Footmark, which has just released this new skirted design that manages to be cute and stylish while still keeping its wearers’ hips and backside completely covered.

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University students in Gifu Prefecture can now earn credits while working at Aeon shopping mall

On April 15, representatives from Gifu Prefecture’s Chubu Gakuin University and its affixed junior college reached an agreement with Japan’s major retailer Aeon that will allow university students to earn credits while working part-time in paid internships. The deal was born out of a desire to provide students with more practical work experience while at the same time strengthening ties to the surrounding community.

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Is this the coolest kindergarten in the world? Probably 【Pics & Video】

Does the architecture of a building have an effect on the lives of the people inside of it? One famous Japanese architect thinks so and we’re pretty convinced now too.

Takaharu Tezuka, a Tokyo-based architect, designed a revolutionary kindergarten building that not only lets the kids run free, but also teaches them about life.

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Voice actress’ art history lecture will soothe you into a power nap, may help your test scores

When I was a student, there were a handful of teachers whose lectures had a better than even chance of putting me to sleep. As a matter of fact, in classrooms that had a mix of furniture, I always tried to avoid grabbing a seat with one of those one-armed, half desks attached to it, because they were less comfortable to doze off on.

Of course, I’m sure my teachers would have rather I’d stayed awake the whole time. But hey, a well-rested mind is a critical component of the learning process, right? That’s why one educational company in Japan has produced this video lecture, starring a famous anime voice actress, with the specific goal of putting you to sleep.

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You haven’t really graduated unless you were dressed as Tetris 【Photos】

Springtime in Japan means graduation season, and for increasing numbers of students that means cosplay. And with years of costuming excellence preceding them, students of Kyoto University have a lot to live up to. This year’s grads didn’t disappoint, though!

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Everything looks better in anime, even correspondence courses 【Video】

Comedian Dave Chappelle once said that “Everything looks better in slow motion,” since time seems to slow down during the coolest moments of music videos. But you could make the same statement about Japanese animation.

Don’t believe us? Here’s an animated short that somehow manages to make taking a correspondence course in high school math feel beautiful and dramatic, proving that everything looks better in anime.

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Japanese Netizens (and the rest of the world) confused by America’s imperial measurement system

Last year, one of our Japanese reporters went on an extended visit to the United States. While he had plenty of nice things to say about the country, he also had some complaints, and, as an American myself, I can’t really say that I blame the guy. Having to drive literally everywhere unless you live in one of maybe three specific cities is a major hassle and a huge drain on your budget, certain services seem staffed entirely by people who are barely even aware of your existence or what’s going on more than a few inches on either side of their smartphone, and yes, the police are a little on the brutal side and drunk on their own power a lot of the time no matter how you slice it (annnnnd… now I’m on an NSA watchlist. Hi, guys!).

But, there’s one complaint our reporter had that I just can’t relate to: how crazy America’s systems of measurement are.

I mean, I grew up with feet, inches, pounds and whatnot, so I can’t really speak to our reporter’s profound confusion. Is it really so bad? We had to find out, so we donned our troll-proof vests and dove deep into the smelly, dark recesses of 2chan to see what other Japanese Netizens thought of America’s wacky measurement systems:

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Someone in Japan hits on killer formula for textbook covers: stick a cute anime girl on there!

Do you remember the characters in your school textbooks? Perhaps you have fond memories of doodling in the margins and augmenting the illustrations.

Well, just when we were thinking that study guides in Japan in recent years were all looking a little bit same-y, some clever marketing person (or, more likely, about 100 clever marketing people) has come up with a one-step technique for designing these educational guides. It doesn’t matter whether it’s history, philosophy, social studies or English – just put a smart, cute anime girl on the front cover!

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Four Los Angeles “schools” closed for fraud, arranged visas for fake exchange students

It’s no joke that living and studying in the US costs a pretty penny. So, instead of paying the hefty tuitions of universities on top of living expenses, some young foreigners have been taking a sneakier route to staying in the States.

Recently some “students” have been opting for “institutions” like the four schools recently closed down for fraud in Los Angeles, which function under a “pay-to-stay” program, where the “students” basically pay for a student visa with no expectations of attending classes, wishing only to stay and work in the U.S.

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Tiffany necklaces?! Are recent grads’ commemorative gifts from their high schools too much?

Take a moment to think back to your high school graduation. As recent or as long ago as it may have been, do you recall getting a present from your school; a nice momentum to celebrate your years there? Some of us did not even get a card from our schools, but many students in Japanese high schools, on the other hand, often get commemorative gifts, such as key chains, mugs, card holders, pearl necklaces or designer wallets

Yeah, you read that correctly. While not all graduation gifts are worthy enough to post about on the internet, this year, some kids, from apparently high-rolling educational institutions, have been posting pictures of commemorative gifts more exquisite than you could ever imagine getting from your high school or even university, for that matter.

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Students at new online high school in Japan make anime-style avatars for virtual campus

As society and education changes, Japan is slowly opening up to the idea of online high school courses. But while modern technology makes video lessons and email correspondence easy to implement, some things are still lost in the transition to a virtual classroom setting. One major issue is the lack of ability to affirm your own individuality, as well as the increased difficulty of building bonds with other students without any sort of visual representation of their identities.

Hoping to alleviate these problems is a new online high school in Japan that requires students to create anime-style online avatars, and even provides a simulated school campus for them to mingle in.

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Japan’s craziest ad ever? English school commercial as likely to make kids terrified as bilingual

The very first job that brought me to Japan as a gainfully employed adult was teaching at a private English school. While most of our customers were in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, we also offered kids’ classes, even for preschool-aged children.

With young learners, the first hurdle to get past was for them to not freak out about talking with someone from a different country. While that might sound horribly racist, there just aren’t that many opportunities to meet people from other cultures in Japan, especially in a child’s daily life, and the first meeting was usually a little intimidating for them (the company policy that didn’t allow foreign staff to speak Japanese in front of the customers probably didn’t help in this regard).

Thankfully, it usually only took a couple of minutes for the kids to see that non-Japanese instructors aren’t terrifying monsters. Unfortunately, this startling commercial for a chain of children’s English schools in Japan only takes 15 seconds to visually imply that, yes, actually, they are.

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Japanese educators call for twice monthly No Video Game Days, recommend kids go fishing

Compared to some other countries, video games enjoy a fairly high standing in Japanese society. Nintendo’s Mario is seen by many as not only a symbol of wholesome fun, but an example of how innovation and craftsmanship can lead to sustained economic prosperity. The world of Final Fantasy isn’t just a great setting for an epic quest, but for lunch or dinner, and some particularly stylish game characters even go on to leave their mark on real-world fashion.

Still, not everyone in Japan is a fan of video gaming. The Hokkaido Board of Education would rather see kids with schoolbooks or fishing poles in their hands than game controllers, and to that end is calling for parents to institute twice monthly No Game Days, and not just for the kids in the family.

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Autistic teen artist creates masterful sketches with help of photographic memory

Sixteen-year-old Yap Hanzhen of Malaysia apparently suffered through a childhood in which even the most simple of communications was difficult. Hanzhen’s parents say he barely spoke through most of his adolescence.

Like many children who display difficulties communicating during early development, Yap turned out to have a form of autism – a fact that his parents struggled to convince doctors and child psychologists, who were apparently quick to presume simple bad parenting as the source of young Yap’s speech difficulties.

In taking the special needs care of their young son into their own hands, Yap’s parents gave him a sketch book and pencil to help him associate thumbnail drawings with words for everyday objects, inadvertently nurturing a latent talent that would eventually see Yap touring the world, showing off his extraordinary drawings.

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Tokyo University campus has its own sushi restaurant where great dining meets higher education

No matter how scholastically talented you are, it’s hard to concentrate on an empty stomach. Even the bright minds at Tokyo University, Japan’s most prestigious institute of higher learning, need to take a break from studying and grab some chow now and again.

Of course, it’s hard to give yourself a mental recharge eating bland cafeteria food. Thankfully, that’s not a concern for the students of Tokyo University’s Kashiwa Campus, who’re lucky enough to have an amazing sushi restaurant right on the school grounds.

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Nobel Prize-winner Shuji Nakamura to Japan’s young people: “Get out of Japan”

In 2014, Dr. Shuji Nakamura, along with two other scientists, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work in creating bright blue LEDs. In 1993, Nakamura held only a master’s degree and worked with just one lab assistant for a small manufacturer in rural Japan, yet he was able to find a solution that had eluded some the highest paid, best-educated researchers in the world.

If his story ended there, he would no doubt be the poster boy for Japanese innovation and never-say-die spirit, but in the years since his discovery, he has instigated a landmark patent case, emigrated to the US, given up his Japanese citizenship and become a vocal critic of his native country. Last week, the prickly professor gave his first Japanese press conference since picking up his Nobel and he had some very succinct advice for young Japanese: Leave.

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Haruki Murakami’s advice on how to be a great writer: Be born with talent

Among contemporary writers, there’s no Japanese author with a bigger international following than Haruki Murakami. The novelist and translator is also highly respected within his home country, as Japan holds an especially deep respect for any of its citizens who succeed in making a name for themselves on the international stage.

As such, we imagine one young graduate student was hoping for some sage advice when she contacted Murakami and asked him for pointers on how to become a better writer. The response she got was as surprising, unique, and challenging as Murakami’s books themselves.

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QR codes and pop culture, what are you doing in my textbooks?

Textbooks are boring. There is too much text, few pictures and back in our school days you had to accept whatever was in the textbook and struggle through it. It was an uphill battle…both ways! But with all the advancements and conveniences of technology, why not bring a little of the 21st century into the classroom?

Textbooks around Japan have been incrementally upping their game with QR codes, “hip” songs and whatever else to keep students entertained and excited about learning. But sometimes these advances in textbook technology don’t provide any benefit, and actually confuse more than they teach.

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Nihon-no: Is an entirely English-speaking village coming to Tokyo?

What is the best way to learn a language? Many foreign people in Japan will tell you living here and being immersed in Japanese is a pretty good way to pick up the lingo. When you realize you have to be able to speak and understand the language in order to live your daily life, it certainly becomes a huge motivation to make the Japanese language your own.

Do you know what isn’t a particularly good method of learning a language? Four classes a week of language learning taught in your native language with little to no chances to utilize what you’ve learned.

As the whole world knows, the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo in 2020, and Tokyo wants to be as prepared as possible. The city is trying to do everything it can to improve its citizens’ grasp of English, and there is now talk of plans to create an “English Village” where everything will be conducted in the language so many Japanese wish they were fluent in.

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