J MAGAZINE REVIEW no. 1: MOE

This year, the publishing industry turns its eye on the educational market. With readership on the decline for all categories of books and magazines due to increased availability of internet content, the publishers are now targeting the one last niche with staying power – parents concerned about their kids’ education.

And the competition is hotting up. This series of reviews begins with the light(-er) weight magazines and then works its way up to the serious read for kyoiku-mamas readying for battle in exam wars. We feature below 7 of the most important local magazines related to the education of  J kids. (There are a few new magazines targeting tots and the wee ones, but they are not included below.)

1. MOE

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This is a magazine that reviews picturebooks for parents with kids in preschool to kindergarten age group. The magazine itself resembles a lovely children’s picturebook itself. The picks are excellent, look for good visuals, creative artwork, content and cover both classics and newer books. For the bookloving snuggleup-to-kid-readaloud parent. At the back, the magazine also reviews kids’ movies, this edition featured Harry Potter’s latest movie which will be out in the theatres in just a couple of weeks, with the scoops on the characters, very nice photos in a doublespread.

2. Crayonhouse Ehon School

 

Crayonhouse is another magazine that reviews children’s books but the coverage is wider than MOE’s and extends to older kids. Will appeal to the bookworm family.

3. Yochien Jyohou (Kindergarten and Preschool Information)

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This is mainly a directory of preschools and kindergartens, mostly private. In addition, there are a few pages listing advertised products and services and offering reviews of kid-friendly shopping malls and spaces. There is always a need for such a guide for parents searching for suitable preschools and kindergartens to place their kids in. The coverage is not comprehensive however, and there is much more information to be had on the internet, and even on this website on what is available out there.

4. Aera with Kids

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Aera with Kids is at the low end of the academic spectrum. It keeps on the light side of academics, focusing on themes that interest the young trendier and less kyoiku- or educationally-oriented parent. Hence, the focus on shopping malls, nice photos and reviews of great playgrounds, trendy kid-friendly eateries. Educational topics are there of course, but generally the magazine keeps it light and cheery.

5. Nikkei Kids Plus

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Along similar lines as Aera with Kids, is Nikkei Kids Plus. Nikkei Kids Plus judging by the cover which has the same bearded Dad on each issue of this year’s covers doing various fun and cool things with his child… as well as the contents, targets the family that is trying to veer away from the staid image of the family with the forever absent salaryman father. It is newsy, briefs on all sorts of things, from cool foods that kids will love columns, to cool fashion-shoots in zoos, to cool new toys, cool state-of-the-art or eco-friendly kindergartens and preschools, cool activities and sports for kids… if you get my drift, the emphasis is very much on what’s hip and cool for kids these days. There will be the one or two educational themed articles, tips or interviews, eg. 2007 June’s edition has a series of interviews with educators designed to answer the question posed: From now on, what is necessary in education? (Korekara no kyoiku ni hitsuyounamono nani?). It also featured an article laying out the merits and demerits of public vs. private schools and a roadmap for entering the nation’s best schools. These articles are well chosen and mirror the concerns that most parents have, but do not explore the issues with sufficient depth, in my opinion. However, given the attention span and time the average parent has these days, maybe this magazine has it finely tuned just right for its market niche.
6. EDU
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketSimply titled EDU, this magazine is targeted at the educationally concerned and hands-on parent (usually the kyoiku-mama please excuse the gender bias). It is a magazine for the mother who wants to be “in the know” about the best of everything in education. As such it offers step-by-step educational tips on how to “afterschool” the kid, from how to deal with testing, tips for what to do before-during-and-after the test; best methods for learning kanji, math, social studies on whatever may be the topic or focus on the month; insider look at schools with maverick teaching as well as track-proven methods. There is nothing half-baked about its writeups. They are pretty solid. Even the educational tips are clear, step-by-step usually with illustrations/photos or actual drills laid out with clear explanations, accompanied often with online links where you can download further drills, puzzles or other necessary worksheets. Most issues also offer one freebie that you WILL WANT – nicely done solid stock paper, usually a drill book of some sort eg. one issue offered a Geography facts to know and memorize booklet, and another offered a kanji booklet containing grades 1 – 6 must-know kanji (you get to save a lot on the year-by-year kanji posters that you buy from the bookstores)

7. FAMILY

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketGoing up the ladder, also priced at 680 yen, you can see that the serious competition for EDU readers is FAMILY. Not as visually pretty in its presentation and print layouts as EDU, it makes up for it by offering more of everything…more edu articles, writeups, and interviews. This is a magazine for the true-blue kyoiku mama, and probably for the dedicated and thoughtful…educator teachers and school principals looking at their competition will be buying this too. June’s issue offered articles looking at famous schoolmasters philosophies and directives, featured 20 of the newest or strongest learning methods. It also offered an “inside look” at some of the best school environments, methods in the country. Wide-ranging in its coverage, the topics include school architecture, educational travel, homestays, nature trips, food (picnic basket set was the topic in the last issue). The non-Japanese parent will need a strong command of the Japanese language to tackle this one.

This is for the mother who if she wants fashion tips will buy her Vogue copy, and wants value for money in her EDU magazine. Nevertheless, there is a very nice segment at the back, which features the meanest cutting edge products that your kids will want to have. Last issue featured these neat umbrellas with felt handles that curl around your kids shoulders (especially for randoseru-carrying kids) and that hold fast while leaving their hands free. Very solid magazine. Oh, I forgot to mention, the magazine at 680 yen is a tad pricier than Nikkei Kids Plus and Aera with Kids which are 550 yen.

7. Gakken MOOK

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAt the top of the eduzine ladder is perhaps Gakken MOOK, also the priciest at 980 yen. This is clearly prep material for the entrance exam-and-kid-in-juku warrior mum set. The last two volumes were entitled Ways and Methods for Raising Smart Kids. Theories, methods, diet, lifestyle, tips from juku educators, all are found here. This month’s (June) issue (vol. 2) also features rankings and details of jukus. Kyoiku mamas would probably have bought EDU, FAMILY and Gakken MOOK to round off their armoury. Gakken MOOK’s special editions are well-researched on important topics or issues and are consequently for keeps.

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