Japan's bad education
Under the current education system, Japanese students devote most of their effort to memorizing facts needed to pass exams. Even kindergarten students sometimes go to afterschool cram schools to prepare for elementary school entrance exams.

They have little opportunity to think critically or develop their own ideas. Faced with crushing stress and monotony, students often act out. While outside observers tend to think of Japanese schools as academically successful, the Japanese themselves have long understood their educational system's shortcomings and tried to fix them-albeit unsuccessfully.

In the early '70s the Japan Teachers Union, alarmed by a surge in classroom violence, bullying, truancy and suicides, began to push a new system known as yutori, or breathing space. It aimed to reduce school-related stress by giving students the freedom to freely exercise their imagination, develop intellectual curiosity and grow into valuable talent.

That was a noble goal, but the result was quite the opposite. Many teachers demonized competition, suppressed individuality, punished intellectual rigor and encouraged mediocrity in the name of egalitarianism. At school sports events, students who could sprint faster had to stop and wait so that everyone could cross the finish line hand-in-hand. Textbooks were dumbed down-the mathematical constant pi was reduced to just "3"-and classes trudged at turtle pace, adjusting to slow learners.

In order for the yutori reform to succeed, teachers needed to establish an environment where students could freely ask questions, express their opinions and explore new ideas. But many teachers failed to do so because they did not know how to encourage individuality while avoiding favoritism. Their solution: force everyone to act the same.

Aug 02
Tokyo police say the CEO of a failed Bitcoin exchange allegedly falsified his bank account balance and earned cash through Bitcoin transactions using that inflated amount. (NHK)
Aug 01
With this year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Imperial Household Agency made public on Saturday Emperor Showa's voice from the master recording used to announce the end of the war. (The Japan News)
Aug 01
Foreign visitors in Japan spent more than 880 billion yen, or seven billion dollars, in the April-June period. (NHK)
Aug 01
A lawyer for a Belgium-based graphic designer says his client will ask the International Olympic Committee and the Organising Committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics not to use the Games' current logo. (NHK)
Jul 31
The average life expectancy for Japanese women rose to a record high of 86.83 years in 2014 from 86.61 years the previous year, marking the world's longest for the third straight year, government data showed Thursday. (Jiji Press)
Aug 01
A fire occurred on an MOL Ferry Co. ferry about 55 kilometers off Tomakomai, Hokkaido, northern Japan, on Friday evening, leaving a crew member missing, according to the Japan Coast Guard and the operator. (Jiji Press)
Aug 01
Jimmy Page, the guitarist of the legendary British rock band Led Zeppelin, on Thursday visited Hiroshima and laid flowers for the victims of the U.S. atomic bombing of the city 70 years ago. (Japan Times)
Jul 31
Kanagawa Prefectural Police on Thursday said suffocation was the cause of death of a woman whose corpse was discovered floating off the coast of Miura City, reports TBS News (July 30). (Tokyo Reporter)
Jul 31
Last weekend, it was once again time for Japan's model and garage kit enthusiasts to gather for the summer iteration of Wonder Festival, held at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba Prefecture. (Japan Today)
Jul 30
Japan's Empress Michiko is set to receive checkups on her coronary artery using computed tomography on Aug. 9 at the University of Tokyo Hospital due to suspected myocardial ischemia, the Imperial Household Agency said Wednesday. (Jiji Press)
Jul 30
As a part of a crackdown on illegal drugs connected to musician Aska, Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Monday announced the arrest of a boss in an organized crime group, reports the Mainichi Shimbun. (Tokyo Reporter)
Jul 30
Tokyo Metropolitan Police on Wednesday announced the arrest of a 48-year-old male for stalking a woman and stealing her shoes, reports TBS News. (Tokyo Reporter)
Jul 30
The search resumed Wednesday for people missing as a result of an eruption at Mt. Ontake last September - 9½ months after the operation was suspended due to weather risks. (The Japan News)
Jul 29
It was a triple murder that shocked a nation already reeling from the crime spree by a doomsday religious cult, coming just four months after the cult's deadly nerve gas attack on the Tokyo subway system. (Japan Today)
Jul 28
The pilot of a light plane that crashed into a residential area in the Tokyo suburb of Chofu on Sunday had run a pilot training firm without permission from the transport ministry, it was learned Monday. (Jiji Press)