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EDUCATION

Pressured to review outdated prohibitions, an entire prefecture says goodbye to “relics of the past”.

Controversial school regulations have been under the spotlight in Japan recently, with an overwhelming number of people calling for reviews to be made after it was revealed that students were being forced to dye their hair and even show their underwear to teachers.

These rules, which have been in place at a wide number of schools across the country for decades, ultimately aim to uphold uniformity amongst students. However, when students with naturally brown hair are forced to dye their hair black to align with a school’s no-dyed hair colour policy, and student handbooks advise that pupils’ underwear must be white or beige for “hygiene reasons”, basic human rights start becoming a legitimate concern.

▼ If you were a student born with this hair colour, chances are you’d be accused of dyeing it, and would have to dye it black.


Because of these concerns, schools and prefectural boards of education are now under pressure to review outdated regulations, dubbed “black school rules” for their negative nature. Thankfully, this pressure is slowly leading to change, with Saga Prefecture recently announcing it would do away with underwear and hair checks, and now Western Japan’s Mie Prefecture has revealed it’s followed suit.

According to Mie’s prefectural board of education, as of this spring all public high schools in the prefecture have abolished school rules regarding hairstyles, the colour of underwear, and also dating. The changes came into effect after a 2019 survey found that out of 54 public high schools in the prefecture, 24 had provisions banning the “two-block” undercut hairstyle (short back and sides), 17 required students to …continue reading

    

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For expats living in Japan, aside from the realization that you are expecting, that fear may be compounded even further by having to figure out prenatal care, doctors, official registration and the like. I can relate. Not to worry, Savvy Tokyo is here to help! After you’ve done your little happy dance, a few fist pumps and taken some deep calming breaths—read of the following tips.

Confirming the pregnancy

If you suspect you may be pregnant, you’ll be happy to know that simple, pee-on-a-stick type home pregnancy tests (ninshin kensayaku) can typically be found at any drugstore for a few hundred yen. To confirm your pregnancy head to your local hospital or ladies’ clinic for a checkup.

Hospitals and birth centers book up very fast, so you will want to get onto this fairly quickly.

I went for my confirmation appointment when I was six-weeks pregnant amid much ribbing from my husband—who thought I was being a little overeager—only to find that the delivery suite at Kawasaki Municipal Tama Hospital (my local) was already fully booked for anyone beyond the eight week mark. Note that you don’t need to go to the facility where you wish to give birth for this initial checkup, but depending on the hospital, it may mean your name gets pencilled in even before confirmation.

Your doctor will confirm your pregnancy via transvaginal ultrasound. This can be a blessing and a curse. While it’s exciting to have a scan and possibly see your tiny, flashing bean straightaway, it can also be unnecessarily concerning if no heartbeat can be found, since it’s not always possible at such an early stage. So if not, try not to worry—your doctor will likely ask you to return the following week to try again.

Once your doctor spies a heartbeat, you will be issued …continue reading

    

Parents are less than pleased with overly hands-on approach to education.

In narrative fiction, there’s certain appeal to a teacher with a fiery commitment to their pupils’ academic development. The strong, dedicated educator who absolutely won’t give up on a kid, and won’t let them give up on themselves, is a celebrated archetype of schoolyard dramas in both animated and live-action formats.

But while fans might cheer as the teacher protagonist of an anime or J-drama shows they care enough to physically drag a truant student back to the classroom, that’s not always the best course of action in the real world, as evidenced by what happened in the town of Handa, Aichi Prefecture.

Sometime last fall, an elementary school boy started showing up to school less and less often, and once winter rolled around he stopped going almost entirely. His homeroom teacher decided she should pay a visit to the boy’s house to encourage him back to go back to school, and so she rang the doorbell of his family’s home on a school day in mid-December.

The boy’s parents were not home at the time, but he himself came to the entryway to talk with the teacher. However, he still refused to go to school and eventually broke off the conversation. The teacher then followed him into his kitchen, picked him up, carried him to her car, and drove him to school.

The boy’s older sister, who was home at the time, witnessed the academically motivated abduction and called her parents, who in turn contacted the school before the teacher arrived on campus, and the boy was allowed to return home without attending classes.

“I wanted to create an occasion for him to return to school,” explained the teacher, adding, “I thought I was doing the right thing.”

The school board, however, disagreed, and has …continue reading

    

While counters may seem tricky, they are really useful for saying something quickly. 三本ちょだい (sanbon chodai), for example, tells the listener that you want to be given three chopsticks without the word chopsticks (割り箸, waribashi) actually needing to be said.

However, observant readers will notice something strange about that pattern. Usually the counter for chopsticks is 本, which is pronounced ‘hon’; however, when you talk about three chopsticks, the counter is pronounced as ‘bon’ instead of ‘hon’. So what is going on?

The grammar of counters

Before we look at the pronunciation, it is worthwhile mentioning the grammar of counters. Although there are other patterns, the most common pattern in Japanese is: OBJECT plus NUMBER plus COUNTER with the object occasionally being dropped, as in the chopsticks example, if it is understood by the context.

As with many things between the two languages, this pattern is the more or less the opposite to English, so, for example, we might reply to our host that we want three slices of bread with our soup in English, in Japanese this would be pan (bread) san (three) mai (slices).

Counting with counters

As a general rule, to make most counters, it is simply a case of taking a number and adding the counter to the end. Therefore, ichi (one) plus en (Japanese yen) creates 一円 (ichien) and this is the name given to the one-yen coins.

Easy, right?

It would be except that numbers, as we saw in the chopsticks example, can take different readings depending on which counters are attached to them.

A common challenge for learners is the counter for 10, which is commonly changed from 十 (jyuu)to じゅっ (jyu with a small tsu). This means that the sound following the small tsu has a stronger sound. 十冊 (Jyussatsu, 10 books) is a good example to practice …continue reading

    

Kamikakushi (神隠し) is a word that has been in Japanese culture for hundreds of years. It means “hidden by kami (god, deity, divinity, tengu, yamanba, oni, fox, or spirit)”, and often translated to “spirited away.” You may have heard of Hayato Miyazaki’s movie.

Even in the present day, many people disappear in a blink of an eye (一瞬に isshunni). And we call such incidents kamikakushi. Historically, the Japanese have been fascinated by this – many folklores (民話 minwa) have been shared, and of course, many people know the movie “Spirited Away” by Hayato Miyazaki. Every year, many special TV programs are produced asking the public to call in any information on missing persons. Usually, former FBI investigators and psychic investigators from overseas are invited to assist investigations. As you can see, the programs are often viewed as entertainment at the expense (〜を犠牲にして 〜wo giseinishite) of victims’ families. But some victims’ families do participate just to keep the news alive. TV producers also use actors/actresses as amnesia patients, asking the public to help to identify them.

Viewers are interested in the stories especially when the missing persons disappeared at the wink of an eye. Recently, a young child disappeared at a wink of an eye at a campground without a trace. So kamikakushi is not a classical word but is very much used nowadays.

In folklore, foxes (狐 kitsune) and tanuki-dogs (狸 tanuki) also are blamed to be tricksters (いたずら者 itazuramono) and lead people into a mysterious world momentarily. Do you play Animal Crossing, New Horizon on Nintendo Switch? You see Redd (Tsunekichi) always tries to con you. And some argue that Tom Nook (Tanukichi) is the biggest scammer.

Takashi Uchiyama, in his book …continue reading

    

The law also pressures workplaces to make child care leave policies transparent to soon-to-be parents.

Japan’s already declining birth rate took an even harder hit in 2020. It’s an expensive country in which to raise a child, and with the added financial complications caused by the coronavirus, more and more couples are opting out of having children than ever before.

One additional hurdle for new parents is that despite being available, it is extremely uncommon for men in Japan to take paternity leave. Data has shown that only a tiny percentage of them do, and one of our Japanese-language reporters previously shared his thoughts on why taking paternity leave is still not socially acceptable. To make it easier for fathers to exercise their leave allowances, on June 3 the House of Representatives (the lower house of the National Diet of Japan) approved by a majority vote special revisions to the Child Care and Family Care Leave Law. Under this new system, fathers will be able to take a maximum of four weeks of paternity leave within eight weeks after the birth of their child, thus offering more flexibility for families navigating the challenges of adding a new member to their household.

▼ Taking care of a newborn is a cinch…right?

Furthermore, the revised law also aims to lower the barriers for requesting parental leave in the workplace. Employers will be required to ask soon-to-parents, both men and women, whether they intend to take time off, thereby making leave policies more transparent and easier to broach the subject.

The revised law provisions are intended be enacted in fall 2022. Proponents hope that these changes will be the next small step towards also closing …continue reading

    

Those less sportingly inclined had a hard time.

Annual school events are taken very seriously in Japan. For many, a lot of time is spent rehearsing for them, making sure they are absolutely perfect. As someone who went to a state school in the UK, the idea of spending any time at all practicing for things like sports day is enough to make me laugh — we were ten year olds, not Olympic champions, after all.

Still, I can’t deny how impressive the finished result usually is, and when I see kids marching out onto the athletic field in perfect unison, waving their team flags and yelling battle cries at the opposing team, I can’t help but think, “…damn, that’s pretty cool.”

Of course, I’m only looking at it from an outsider’s perspective. I never had to spend the grueling hours put into the perfection, and not everyone who participated looks back on them with fond memories.

500 Japanese adults were recently surveyed and asked “What school event in elementary school did you hate the most?” Here’s their ranking:

10. School Trip (37 people)
9. Culture Festival (38 people)
8. Mountain Climbing (39 people)
7. Entrance Ceremony (42 people)
6. Graduation Ceremony (44 people)
5. Music Festival (62 people)
4. Emergency Drills (87 people)

3. Parent Observation Classes (117 people)

The third most disliked event was the Parent Observation Classes, where parents and guardians come and watch lessons at school. While most other events on this list happen only once a year, Parent Observation can happen multiple times throughout the year, depending on the school.

”I always felt uncomfortable when my parents came to school. It was like my home life mixing with my school life.”
“I’m pretty sure my teacher hated Parent Days, too.”
“I remember one day, my mom had to work on a Parent Day and couldn’t come. I was so relieved!”

2. …continue reading

    

Okonomiyaki are often translated as Japanese pancakes, but the only pancake-like thing about them is their shape. They are a savory dish which combines vegetables, carbs and protein all in one, perfect for a snack, lunch or dinner! This street food from Osaka is also great for using up whatever you have in the fridge. Especially if you live in Japan, and are likely to have access to a lot of ingredients that, while uncommon in other countries, are staples here! They are good for using up whatever protein you have on hand, chicken, pork, fish or even tofu…

The basic ingredients for okonomiyaki can be found in most grocery stores anywhere in the world. This recipe serves 1-2 people.

Ingredients

  1. 100g okonomiyaki flour. If you don’t have okonomiyaki flour, you can mix 100g regular flour + 1tsp baking powder + 1 tsp soy sauce (or 2g dashi stock powder instead of soy sauce)
  2. 100ml water
  3. 1 egg
  4. ¼ cabbage
  5. 1 spring onion
  6. Oil for frying
  7. Any meat or seafood of your choice. For a vegetarian option, you can use firm, smoked or deep fried (age) tofu or tempeh bacon.
  8. Mayonnaise (Japanese-style mayonnaise like Kewpie is best)
  9. Okonomiyaki sauce (to make your own see recipe below, worcestershire sauce and sriracha are also less traditional but delicious additions)

Instructions

  1. Whisk together the okonomiyaki flour (or flour + baking powder + soy sauce/dashi powder) and water. To make the batter fluffier you can refrigerate for 1-8 hours to let the gluten rest. However, even if you don’t, the okonomiyaki will still taste good.
  2. Finely chop the cabbage and spring onion. Add the chopped vegetables to the batter.
  3. Mix the egg into the batter, being careful not to over mix, or the final okonomiyaki will be too chewy and tough.
  4. Thinly slice your protein and set aside.
  5. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or griddle, on medium heat.
  6. Once …continue reading
        

Thrust-ball-bearing din711 ex

Particularly in the prewar era, Japan decided that Western sports should have native Japanese names, so this ranking survey from goo Ranking looks at Japanese names for sports that it would be impressive to know.

Most of these names have faded into history with the usually English name imported into the language; about the only one to survive is field-ball, yakkyu, baseball. Table tennis is table-ball, takkyu (which everyone knows), but I presume that comes from Chinese, so it doesn’t count.

Note that the results appear twice; first without the original English so you can try your hand at guessing from the literal translation.

Googling “thrust ball” gives me this, which might not be a sport:

Ranking result

Q: What Japanese name for sports would it impressive to know? (Sample size=941)

Rank Kanji Literal Votes
1 撞球 Thrust-ball 268
2 排球 Expel-ball 104
3 鎧球・米式蹴球 Armor-ball, American style kick-ball 101
4 避球 Evade-ball 71
5 籠球・籃球 Basket-ball 61
6 打球・孔球 Hit-ball, hole-ball 51
7 杖球 Cane-ball 50
8 闘球・ラ式蹴球 Fight-ball, Ra-style kick-ball 49
9 塁球 Base-ball 47
10 送球 Throw-ball 44
11 蹴球・ア式蹴球 Kick-ball, A-style kick-ball 33
12 庭球 Garden-ball 25
13 洋弓 West-bow 14
14 羽球 Feather-ball 8
14 拳闘 Fist-fight 8
16 氷球 Ice-ball 7

Q: What Japanese name for sports would it impressive to know? (Sample size=941)

Rank Kanji Literal Sport Votes
1 撞球 Thrust-ball Billiards 268
2 排球 Expel-ball Volleyball 104
3 鎧球・米式蹴球 Armor-ball, American style kick-ball American Football 101
4 避球 Evade-ball Dodgeball 71
5 籠球・籃球 Basket-ball Basketball 61
6 打球・孔球 Hit-ball, hole-ball Golf 51
7 杖球 Cane-ball Hockey 50
8 闘球・ラ式蹴球 Fight-ball, Ra-style kick-ball Rugby 49
9 塁球 Base-ball Softball 47
10 送球 Throw-ball Handball 44
11 蹴球・ア式蹴球 Kick-ball, A-style kick-ball Football 33
12 庭球 Garden-ball Tennis 25
13 洋弓 West-bow Archery 14
14 羽球 Feather-ball Badminton 8
14 拳闘 Fist-fight Boxing 8
16 氷球 Ice-ball Ice hockey 7

Demographics

Between the 5th and the 19th of February 2021 941 visitors to the goo Ranking site and associated properties completed a public questionnaire. No further demographics were given.

The post Obscure Japanese names for Western sports first appeared on 世論 What Japan Thinks.

…continue reading

    

Source: Gaijin Pot

On the edge of a woodsy Nagano Prefecture road, the Picchio Wildlife Research Center team held the perimeter and yelled instructions. A young college intern yanked on a rope tied to a metallic, drum-like container, and, suddenly, a 55-kilogram Japanese black bear bolted from its door.

Another team member shot a projectile skyward. It thunderously exploded in a smoky cloud. The startled bear dashed through the thick green foliage and disappeared down a steep valley.

A fearless black-and-white Karelian Bear Dog and her handler trailed after it to confirm the escape. Fortunately, since the bear was heading away from residential areas, the dog and her handler returned quickly. This late afternoon release in the mountains above Karuizawa was a scary but positive end to the bear’s experience.

It was also a textbook example of a safe wild animal release designed to condition local bears to avoid people.

Trapping in Japan

Japanese translation: Warning wild bears.

The same bear had stepped into a snare trap set up near an isolated farm earlier that morning. Across Japan, as wild deer and boar populations grow, farmers and hunters use traps to limit their numbers and reduce damage to fields and various habitats.

These snares capture wildlife indiscriminately, sometimes even wandering pets.

Most animals caught in them can suffer for hours or even days before they are killed. The snares encircle the legs, paws or snouts of panicked creatures, cutting off blood circulation as they struggle. A small number manage to escape with a lost limb.

Luckily for this bear, the hunter who discovered it contacted a local government official who called Picchio and asked their specialists to collect the bear and release …continue reading