If you’re looking to be up and about town with the kids, there’s quite a bit going on in the eiga / cinema and museum world right now…DD particularly enjoyed the anime Naruto Shippuden 5 this week. Check out these potential field trips:

“Ancient Civilizations of The Americas: Man, Nature and Spirit in Pre-columbian Art”

This show explores the pre-Columbian spiritual world of the Americas by presenting some 100 works. They exceled in mathematics and astronomy, and had the most highly developed calendar systems in the world. It is said that the pre-Columbians used their calendars to carefully schedule religious ceremonies, which they believed to be essential to the harmonious existence of the universe and the flow of life through birth, death and rebirth.

Items on display include masks and statues created by the Olmec, the first major civilization in Mexico (900-600 B.C.); Mayan jade accessories; and Nazca clothing; till Aug. 14.

Miho Museum; (0748) 82-3411; 300 Tashiro Momodani, Shigaraki-cho, Koka, Shiga; 20-min. taxi ride from Shigaraki Station, Shigaraki Railway Shigaraki Line. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. ¥1,000. Closed Mon. miho.jp.
At the Kyoto National Museum, animal lovers can combine their love for animalia with a foray into history and art at the unusual ‘Creatures’ Paradise: Animals in Art from the Kyoto National Museum exhibition.  For a lesson on history, the exhibition to check out would be:“Kukai’s World: The Arts Of Esoteric Buddhism” Tokyo National Museum Heiseikan.


Here is our weekend roundup on what’s happening on the educational scene:

School bullying cases increase in 2011 (NHK, August 05, 2011)

The number of school bullying cases in Japan increased in the 2010 school year for the first time in 4 years.
An education ministry survey showed that the number of bullying cases recognized in elementary, junior-high and senior-high schools rose 3.5 percent from the previous year to 75,295 cases.

It was the first increase since 2006 when the definition of bullying was reviewed to include all cases in which a student felt he or she was being bullied. The review followed an increase in suicides by apparent bullying victims.

Asked how the schools discovered the bullying, 26 percent of the total cases were through questionnaires, and 23.1 percent were reported by the person being bullied. In 19.9 percent of the cases, the teachers discerned the bullying.

The ministry has been urging schools nationwide to use the questionnaires to detect bullying following a series of suicides last year by students who were bullied.

The ministry says schools that have not handed out the questionnaires are requested to do so as soon as possible.

Education board cites negligence in drowning of 7-year-old boy in Osaka pool (Aug 5, Japan Today)

The Osaka Board of Education has blamed negligence on the part of school officials and a pool safety management company after a 7-year-old boy drowned in a swimming pool at Sunagawa Public Elementary School in Sennan City, Osaka, on July 31. The board said in a statement that only one lifeguard was on duty. It also said that on July 25, a visitor had complained to school authorities about the lack of lifeguards assigned to supervise children while they were swimming.

According to TV news reports, Taisho Corp is the company responsible for the school’s pool safety management. On Aug 2, Osaka police conducted a search of Taisho’s offices on the grounds that the company might be guilty of professional negligence resulting in death. Police believe the number of lifeguards did not meet regulations on many occasions in the past. Municipal regulations state that four lifeguards must be present at big pools.

According to the school board, a woman who visited the pool with her child on July 25, phoned in saying there was only one lifeguard at the big pool. The school said it contacted Taisho Corp and requested more lifeguards.
The boy, identified as Kizuku Hokari, drowned in the pool at around 1:20 p.m. on the 31st. Neither the school nor Taisho have been able to say how many lifeguards were on duty that afternoon.


Fukushima teens get Austria home-stays (Japan Times, Aug 5) Excerpts follow:

“The Rotary Club of Austria has invited 21 high school students from Fukushima Prefecture who were caught up in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami to spend time in the country to help recover from the disaster.

During their visit, which will last about three weeks, the students will stay with host families and engage in cultural activities, including sightseeing and concerts.

The trip came about after the Austrian Rotary Club proposed the idea and received help from its Japanese counterpart.

The students are from Soma, Minamisoma and other cities. Some lost family members and friends. Others lost homes.

The Austrian side will cover the cost of the students’ stay in Austria and the Japanese side will finance the cost of the round-trip plane tickets to the country.” … Read more here.

Three school teachers in Kanagawa Prefecture have been disciplined recently for various infractions, according to TV reports. A 48-year-old teacher at a Chigasaki school driving home from a restaurant was pulled over and found to have imbibed two beers before getting behind the wheel.

The teacher reportedly told police he was having trouble at work, and had completely forgotten about the drunk driving laws. Japan introduced much more severe drunk driving policies countrywide several years ago after a string of fatal accidents.

Another teacher from the Yamato City school district faced six months disciplinary leave for allegedly breaking a student’s nose in the course of administering physical punishment, the board of education said. The teacher chose to voluntarily resign.

In the third incident, a teacher is currently serving three months disciplinary leave for giving massages to female students.


Talent Strategies for Innovation: Japan, by Economist Intelligence Unit

A new report from the Economist Intelligence Unit Talent strategies for innovation: Japan, examines how Japanese companies face the challenge of recruiting, nurturing and retaining talented people to ensure their organisations remains innovative . The report, based οn a comparison between a survey οf 179 senior executives around thе world аnԁ one οf 50 senior executives іn Japan, suggests thаt, whіƖе Japanese companies hаνе tended tο rely οn internal development programmes аnԁ graduate training schemes tο attract аnԁ nurture talent іn thе past, thіѕ іѕ changing. OnƖу 24 per cent now believe thаt training existing employees tο prepare thеm fοr key roles wіƖƖ bе thеіr main strategy іn five years’ time. Thе attributes thеу value mοѕt іn recruits аrе strong technical knowledge аnԁ thе ability tο learn quickly, whіƖе global respondents аrе more interested іn creative аnԁ collaborative skills.
Mοѕt companies аrе already looking further afield tο attract high-quality employees аnԁ believe thаt thеу wіƖƖ hаνе tο mονе closer tο talent pools. Bυt Japanese companies аrе less ƖіkеƖу thаn those elsewhere tο believe thаt talent management improves thеіr ability tο innovate. Aѕ a result, thеу tend tο give responsibility fοr thіѕ tο comparatively lower-ranking managers.


Yokohama adopts controversial textbook for junior high schools (Kyodo, Aug 4 )  The Yokohama City education board on Thursday adopted history and civics textbooks compiled by controversial publishing house Ikuhosha to be used at 147 public junior high and other schools from next spring. Tokyo-based Ikuhosha Publishing Inc. inherited from its parent Fusosha Publishing Inc. the rights to an earlier history textbook compiled under the leadership of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform — known for its bent toward nationalistic views. According to the Yokohama municipal office, the textbooks will be used by about 27,000 students at junior high schools, making them the country’s most widely used.

Related: History textbook choice brews debate in big school district (Kyodo, Aug 2) This summer local governments are in the process of picking which textbooks are to be used in public junior high schools in the next academic year that starts in spring, including those on history that have been a source of controversy in various circles. In 2009, Yokohama, the second-biggest metropolis in Japan after Tokyo with a population of 3.7 million, became the first city where a controversial history textbook by K.K. Jiyusha was adopted for some schools. Jiyusha is a publishing house led by the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, widely known in Japanese as “Tsukurukai.” The society’s members are known for their bent toward nationalistic views.


90% of firms say Japanese is a must when recruiting non-Japanese fresh out of university (Real Voices Read Japan  Aug 2)

A recent survey by Intelligence HITO Research Institute Ltd., asked companies how they felt about recruiting non-Japanese fresh out of university. Approximately 30% of respondent firms said they are hiring or are considering hiring non-Japanese, the survey revealed.

Comparing firms with overseas affiliates/operations to those with none, firms with an overseas presence were more likely to hire or consider hiring non-Japanese than those without, 43.9% compared to 26% respectively.  “It is clear that companies that are branching out overseas have more incentive to recruit non-Japanese,” the report said.

In addition, only 8.1% of respondent firms did not consider Japanese language ability as a requirement. Even among companies with overseas subsidiaries, just 10.2% responded that Japanese was not required. This suggests that only a tenth of companies would hire non-Japanese regardless of their Japanese abilities.

More college seniors stay on due to job scarcity (NHK, Aug 4)

More Japanese university graduates are struggling to find work, putting pressure on colleges to offer long-term support beyond graduation.The education ministry says only 62 percent of nearly 553,000 people who graduated in March this year landed jobs.

That’s up just 0.8 percentage points from the previous academic year, when the employment rate among university graduates marked its biggest ever year-on-year drop following the 2008 global financial crisis.

More than 45,000 seniors stayed on after failing to find a job — the figure was up for the second straight year.

The number of the so-called “NEET” — those Not in Education, Employment or Training after graduation — reached 88,000, for the third annual rise in a row.

“Consumers are beginning to hoard last year’s rice as their dietary staple over concerns that freshly harvested rice may be contaminated with radioactive materials released from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, retailers said Friday.

The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry is working to establish a system for ensuring the safety of rice ahead of the harvest season in autumn, with plans to inspect the crop in two stages.

The buying spree, however, indicates deep public distrust of the government’s handling of food safety issues in the wake of the nuclear crisis following a scare over contaminated beef.

A rice seller in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward said regular customers began asking it to keep rice on stock just around the time the ministry disclosed its rice inspection plans on Wednesday.

A supermarket in Koto Ward, also Tokyo, said rice is selling at twice the normal pace at the outlet, while various rice brands were mostly sold out at a nearby shopping center.

“It’s like a rice panic,” said a store clerk at a supermarket in Chuo Ward, noting that given the strong demand for old rice, wholesalers are hesitant about quickly releasing their stock. …” Read more here.

DPJ bends on child allowances (Japan Times, Aug 5)  Excerpts follow:

“Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s ruling party agreed Thursday with major opposition parties to pare its signature pledge to provide benefits to each child of junior high school age or younger regardless of family income.

Starting from fiscal 2012, families whose heads of household receive annual pretax income of around ¥9.6 million or more will be excluded from receiving benefits, lawmakers said. …Under the new program, those eligible who have a child under the age of 3 will be paid ¥15,000 each month, up ¥2,000 from now. But the rest will basically receive ¥10,000 until their child graduates from junior high school, the lawmakers said.

The changes will be applied from October, they said, while the income limitation is likely to be introduced next June.

The three parties agreed to pass a bill necessary to realize the changes to the child allowance program during the current Diet session, which runs through the end of this month, the lawmakers said.”

Fukushima high school festival opens for non-athletes(Asahi Aug 4)


Elsewhere in the world, the educational news:


Figuring Out Personality Type Can Help in Choosing Major (Edweek, Aug 2)  This article gives you tips on choosing colleges…

“Students choose colleges for a variety of reasons. While cost is a key factor in where they enroll, a recent survey shows the most-cited reason for students’ decision is the strength of the college’s academic major.

But what if you don’t know what you want to study? You could go for the most lucrative career and look to the latest numbers comparing lifetime earnings by college major from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

For the floundering high school student searching for some direction in his or her college pursuits, Laurence Shatkin has written a new book, 10 Best College Majors by Your Personality (Jist Works).

Readers start by determining their personality type: realistic, investigative, artistic, social, enterprising, or conventional. To help with your soul searching, there is an assessment in the beginning where you mark if you like or dislike a number of activities. After totaling your answers, you are given a score for your primary personality type and secondary personality.

Then you look at the lengthy list of majors that suit your personality type.” …Read more here.

UK student wins world Excel prize (BBC News, Aug 4) | Are children becoming ‘digitally illiterate’? (Click Online 4 JUNE 2011)

(UK) Universities with the happiest students (Telegraph) |

Universities accused of ‘hiding’ £1bn fraud crisis (Independent)

US campus lockdown ends, no gunman found (Straits Times, Aug 5) Excerpts below:

“VIRGINIA Tech university, scene of the worst school shooting in US history, was on lockdown for several hours on Thursday as police hunted for a man said to have been spotted with a handgun.

Police teams combed the campus for more than five hours looking for the man who was described by three youths attending a camp at the university in Blacksburg, Virginia.

‘The campus alert is lifted.”

Harry Potter website adds Google-magic  (Japan Today, Jul 23)

Rowling’s beloved Potter titles will be available on Google eBooks platform at Pottermore.com and Google Checkout will be the preferred payment system, according to Larissa Fontaine of Google Books new business development.

“When you buy a Harry Potter ebook from Pottermore, you will be able to choose to keep it in your Google Books library in-the-cloud, as well as on other e-reading platforms,” Fontaine said in a blog post.

The Pottermore team reportedly plans to use Google-owned video sharing service YouTube for online broadcasts.

“Pottermore and Google are teaming up to integrate Pottermore with a number of Google products,” Fontaine said. “Stay tuned for more Pottermore and Google wizardry on the web.”

In June, Rowling unveiled an interactive website featuring new material about the boy wizard’s world, while his adventures will also now be sold as e-books for the first time.

The free website, www.pottermore.com, will go live from July 31 for one million Potter fans who pass a special online challenge, and to the general public from October.

On health and safety matters:

PEST ALERT! Roaches may encroach … Watch out — a Level 4 gokiburi alert has just been called!   (KUCHIKOMI JUL. 30)

Last April Varsan, a maker of insecticides, even launched a cockroach forecasting service on the web called “Gokiburi Tenki Yoho” or “Gokiten” for short, at gokiten.varsan.jp/—and up to mid-July, it had received over 1.8 million page views.

The site categorizes cockroach activities around Japan on a scale of four, based on temperature and other factors. The highest, Level 4, is issued on days when the temperature peaks over 30 degrees Celsius and the low remains above 25 degrees.

Apparently cockroaches, like humans, also suffer from “natsu-bate” (heat exhaustion), according to Hiroki Kamezaki, a researcher at Lion Corporation.

“They become sluggish over 30 degrees and become debilitated over 35. And 40 degrees is enough to kill them,” he says, adding that the 25 to 30 degree range is the most hospitable for the repulsive bugs.

Unfortunately, the government-recommended thermostat setting of 28 degrees provides “gokiburi” with the coziest of conditions.

Gifu man busted for taking up-skirt photos with miniature cameras (Japan Today, Aug 4)

Gifu police said Wednesday they have filed charges against a male lab technician in Gifu City for indecent conduct in May. The 23-year-old man allegedly took photos up the skirts of girls by using miniature cameras disguised as a chewing gum package or lighter.

According to a report on NTV, police confiscated a USB drive with more than 700 up-skirt photos from the suspect’s home. The man is believed to have been taking such photos for many years. The suspect was caught on May 19 at around 7 p.m. when he was seen using what looked like a 100-yen disposable lighter to take photos up the skirts of three girls at a library in Gifu City.

Last year’s rice being hoarded over radiation contamination worries (Mainichi, Aug 5)

Japanese parents live with radiation fear (Straits Times, Aug 5)

“PARENTS living near Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant are facing a nightmare dilemma: evacuate their children or live with the fear that radiation will make them sick.

Since the crisis started on March 11, authorities have raised the exposure limit for children to that used for atomic plant workers in many countries but have sought to reassure families their children are safe.

Some people have listened to the official advice, then voted with their feet and moved out of the fallout zone – but most have stayed, reluctant to give up their jobs, homes and lives, despite the lingering fear. In Fukushima city, home to 300,000 people, playgrounds are eerily quiet while children play indoors, one layer removed from the dangers of the atomic plant 60km away on the tsunami-ravaged coast.

Most schools have banned children from playing football or baseball on outdoor fields or splashing around in swimming pools exposed to the sky. The windows of classrooms remain shut despite a summer heat wave. More than 300 children have left the city’s elementary and junior high schools since April, says the education board in Fukushima, where town workers have been washing down the walls of school buildings.

‘We fully understand the feelings of parents, but we want them to act calmly,’ board official Yoshimasa Kanno told AFP, adding that the city will hand a radiation dosimetre to every student by September. One mother, Ms Sachiko Sato, 53, who lives in Kawamata, just 35km from the crippled plant, has moved her two children to another town, although she has stayed behind in the family home. ‘We asked ourselves what’s most important to us,’ she said. ‘For some people it’s their job, for others its family ties. For me it’s my children’s future.’

Another parent, Mr Hiroshi Ueki, 40, a former kindergarten worker, moved his wife and two sons, aged one and four, to Matsumoto in the mountainous prefecture of Nagano, 280 kilometres away. Remembering family life in their home town, he said, ‘everyday I used to tell my sons: ‘Don’t touch this. Don’t eat that. Don’t take your mask off”. When we got to Nagano, my son was still asking me: ‘Dad, can I touch this flower? Can I touch that car? Can I play in the rain?’ When I heard him say that, I was almost crying’. — AFP”

Avoid raising overweight kids by feeding them home-cooked meals: study

Radiation exposure over lifetime studied (Kyodo, July 27, 2011)

A government food safety panel recommended Tuesday that safeguards be taken to ensure that cumulative radiation exposure during one’s lifetime not exceed 100 millisieverts, a benchmark beyond which the risk of cancer increases.

The Food Safety Commission’s conclusion paves the way for the health ministry to consider revising its provisional limits for radioactive nuclides in food.

They were set amid the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant crisis based on annual internal exposure levels that don’t take into consideration amounts absorbed through external exposure or lifetime accumulated amounts.

The commission also urged the government and the public to note that children may be more vulnerable to radiation than adults, indicating the possibility of more discussions on lowering allowable levels for children.

The current government limits are set at the same levels for adults and children for most foods, with a few exceptions, including water and milk, whose limits are set lower for infants.

The panel’s decisions Tuesday were reached after analyzing research conducted in Japan and abroad on the health impact of radiation exposure, participants said.

Almost none of the studies were conducted solely on internal exposure from food consumption, prompting the panel to set the yardstick from the viewpoint of lifetime cumulative levels, including external exposure.

Finally, the updates on the Fukushima crisis:

Water treatment facility at Fukushima plant improves operation( Asahi, Aug 5)

After two months of stoppages and other problems, there are finally signs that efforts to purify highly radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are paying off.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, said Aug. 3 that the system worked at 74 percent of capacity during the seven-day period through Aug. 2, up 16 percentage points from the preceding week.

The improved performance was the result of uninterrupted operations, officials said.

However, an influx of rainwater increased the amount of radioactive water at the plant.

TEPCO said 6,190 tons of radioactive water was treated between July 27 and Aug. 2, up 1,320 tons from the preceding week. This means that 120,770 tons of highly radioactive water remains at the power plant.

TEPCO said no reservoir water was pumped to cool the nuclear reactors. It said all the coolant water came from treated radioactive water.

Despite the accelerated treatment, rainwater was responsible for the increase in radioactive water. The figure rose by 120 tons compared to the previous week.

Alternative version: TEPCO makes little headway in decontaminating water (Japan Times, Aug 5)

Panel lists five key challenges at Fukushima(Asahi Aug 5)  Excerpts follow below:

“TEPCO will have to remove about 3,100 fuel rods from fuel pools of the No. 1-No. 4 reactors and store them in a common pool for shared use.

It must stabilize the reactor cooling system and set up a sustainable system for treating radioactive water.

It will also have to prepare to remove damaged fuel that has been discharged into reactor containment vessels and treat radioactive waste discharged during the decommissioning process.

Finally, the committee said, TEPCO will have to clearly explain how the accident happened and use those findings to remove the fuel rods.”

Toys “R” Us will be hosting a booth that offers kids and families a variety of giveaways, discount coupons and more (Japan Today, Aug 4)

Toys ‘R’ Us/Babies ‘R’ Us to open store in Sendai Toys “R” Us will open its newest location on Sept 30. The new Toys “R” Us/Babies “R” Us Sendai Izumiosawa store will be located in the AEON Sendai Izumiosawa Shopping Center in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.

To help mark the upcoming opening, and as continued support for the relief efforts in the Tohoku region, Toys “R” Us said it will participate in a Sendai concert event dedicated to the disaster relief, and aimed at bringing some joy back to the people of the hard-hit region. The Date fm Yusuzumi Concert – Let’s Go TOHOKU is planned for August 6-8 at Sendai Kotodai Park, coinciding with the city’s famous historic Tanabata summer festival. The concert features performances by artists such as Thelma Aoyama, Koji Kikkawa, Aoi Teshima and CHAGE.

2m tsunami waves caused severe structural damage (NHK, Aug 4)

Japan’s government has created a map of destruction by the March 11th tsunami showing that the severity of structural damage increased significantly in areas where waves exceeded a height of 2 meters.

The map made by the Land and Infrastructure Ministry shows the height of waves and severity of damage for every 10,000 square meters along a vast stretch of Japan’s northeastern coast.

The map uses 4 different colors to indicate the height of waves on a scale ranging from below 2 meters to over 8 meters.

It shows that in areas hit by waves under 2 meters, less than 35 percent of buildings were completely destroyed, but that in areas with higher waves, the rate surged to over 70 percent.

The ministry is to provide the data to local governments in the disaster zone to help them plan reconstruction to prevent damage by future tsunamis.

Kan to express aim to reduce nuclear power (NHK, Aug 5) | Japan should have nuclear weapons: Tokyo Governor. (TodayOnline Jul 20, retr. from Crisisboom, July 23) Excerpt below:

“Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has criticised Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s vow to reduce dependency on atomic energy after the Fukushima disaster, saying instead the country should deepen its nuclear embrace to include weapons.

“Japan should absolutely possess nuclear weapons,” Mr Ishihara said in a July 15 interview at his office citing China and North Korea as potential threats.

“I don’t think we can easily do away with atomic power. Nuclear energy is inexpensive if managed well,” he also said.

Mr Ishihara has built a political career by taking on consensus views on everything from Japan’s pacifist constitution to economic ties with the United States, with a record of success with voters that’s withstood controversial remarks that have forced public apologies. Read more here

Nuclear energy can be replaced with renewable energy (Mainichi, Aug 5) See also Mainichi’s Hibakusha Series

Fukushima people seek science savvy on skepticism of government (Mainichi, Aug 5) | Minami-Soma to turn down nuclear subsidies(Asahi Aug 5)

U.S. Navy storing radioactive waste from quake relief mission at Sasebo | Documents reveal U.S. plan in mid-1950s to deploy nuke arms in Japan (Asahi, Aug 5)

TEPCO to build seawater containment wall off Fukushima plant(Asahi Aug 3)

And that wraps our news roundup for this week,

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe