A general listing of universities and colleges focusing on arts & culture may be found at this page: http://www.bunka.go.jp/culture-online/jp/relation/university_list.html  Tokyo University’s Art department is considered at the apex of the ranking system. However, the Yomiuri Shimbun article posted below focuses on what is popularly considered among the top ranking private art universities dubbed Musabi and Tamabi.

Educational Renaissance / Art schools united in quest for students

Mina Matsumoto, Shigeru Nakanishi and Takumi Mizutani / Yomiuri Shimbun

The following are excerpts from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Educational Renaissance series. This part of the series focuses on open campus events that universities hold to attract prospective students.

Prospective students visiting an open campus event at Musashino Art University in mid-June were able to learn about two schools at once, as it featured a presentation held in collaboration with one of the university’s competitors this year.

When high school students and their parents visited the campus in Kodaira, Tokyo, one room was occupied by a large screen on which two phrases were flashing: “Musabi versus Tamabi” and “Musabi and Tamabi.” Musabi is the Japanese abbreviation for Musashino Art University, while Tamabi stands for Tama Art University, which has campuses in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward and Hachioji.

In front of the screen sat two representatives of the universities, both of whom were extolling the virtues of their respective institutions.

“Musabi attracts various kinds of talent,” said Ichiro Chiba, 37, who was in charge of public relations at Musashino at the time of the event. “The appealing point of Tamabi is [we boast many artistic] gemstones,” responded Kenichi Yoneyama, 35, Chiba’s counterpart at the other institution.

With about 140 visitors in attendance, the two representatives covered not only the history of the two institutions, but also examples of eccentric behavior they had observed on campus. “One day under a scorching sun, a group of students suddenly created a fountain,” Yoneyama said. “Unfortunately, it was removed shortly after.”

For the two private universities, it was the first chance for members of staff from each side to talk to their prospective examinees.

“Art has not been given the respect it deserves, as the nation’s education has been focusing on improving students’ deviation scores [on exams],” said Musashino President Yoji Koda, 69. “We’d like to emphasize the significance of art as it requires us to think on a deeper level. We shouldn’t compete against each other in our quest to attract as many examinees as possible.”

Summertime is the peak period for universities to hold open campus days to attract prospective entrance examinees, with campus events being held almost every weekend across the country.

Open campus events date back to the 1970s, when universities held briefing sessions for high school students to outline their programs and trends in their entrance exams. Today’s format, in which institutions open their facilities to prospective examinees, began in the 1980s, mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Today, almost all universities hold open campus events, which examinees regard as a major opportunity to decide which institutions they will apply for. Major features in these events include sample lessons, counseling by faculty or senior students and free meals at campus cafeterias.

Musashino held its first open campus event in August 2001. The following year, the event was brought forward to June, as it was thought that allowing visitors to see how students produce their work would be more authentic.

Musashino’s open campus events do not include features that other institutions offer to visitors, such as free meals and free transportation to and from the nearest train stations, because the institution believes that these special incentives make it difficult for visitors to get a sense of a normal day on campus.

As a public relations officer involved in designing Musashino’s open campus events, Chiba visits about 100 high schools every year, but he often finds it difficult to understand what motivates high school students to choose art schools.

Chiba often found high school teachers automatically narrowed down possible universities to which their students should apply based on their deviation scores, before finally suggesting that they should choose an art school just because they were good at drawing.

But Chiba also met high school students who wanted to go to art school and attended cram schools specializing in helping students prepare for entrance exams of such institutions. Despite these efforts, he found that some of these students were unable to tell him about what they really wanted to draw.

“I’ve found that people misunderstand art schools. This is a place where students examine artworks and consider what their creators wanted to express and learn something from the work,” Chiba said. “I believe that unless children realize this aspect at an early stage, more and more students will not become interested in art schools and, eventually, art itself.” That was the starting point of his talk at the open campus event.

Chiba remembered a toaster designed by a Musashino professor that can toast only one slice of bread. The product has drawn media attention not just because of its fine design, but also because of the message behind it–users are encouraged to relax a little and consider others while making toast by allowing another person to eat first or dividing one slice between themselves and someone else.

Musashino uses unusual methods to build up students’ skills. Some courses for freshmen, for example, require them to walk blindfolded and barefoot around a building so that they can feel with their body everyday scenes they tend to overlook, thus helping them improve their creative powers.

Chiba introduced these and other initiatives with the aim of making it possible for high school students to understand what it is actually like to study at art school.

Yoneyama expressed approval of Chiba’s efforts, saying that it was important to let students know there is “a future in art.”

Waseda-Kansai exchange opens doors to other regions

There was something odd about a sample lecture at a Waseda University open campus held earlier this month: The speaker was from Kansai University, not Waseda.

Sociology Prof. Yoji Kimura, from the Suita, Osaka Prefecture, school, was at Waseda’s main campus in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, to give a talk titled, “A Scientific Look into Laughter,” for which he used a special instrument to measure how much a person is laughing by measuring vibrations from the subject’s cheeks, diaphragm and abdominal muscles. The lecture and sample of what Kansai University has to offer was part of a reciprocal agreement completed by the two schools in May.

“We chose this lecture because this topic isn’t available at Waseda, even though it covers a wide range of academic fields,” said Kazuhiro Yabuta, head of Kansai’s admissions office.

The Osaka area is known for a rich culture of laughter and humor. Kansai University is planning to begin offering in 2010 a new humor studies program, and this is why Kimura, who also serves as vice president for the Japan Society for Laughter and Humor Studies, gave the talk.

Kansai University is one of the most renowned academic institutions in the region, but despite this, Yabuta was worried about attracting Tokyo students. He was ultimately relieved after seeing 50 prospective students–including a high school senior who had made Kansai her first choice–attending the two laughter lectures that day.

A small portion of Kansai’s student body is from the Kanto region, while a similar portion of Waseda’s is from Kansai.

Meanwhile, on the same day, the Tokyo institution invited students to attend three sample classes and briefings at the Kansai campus, attracting about 700 people. In addition, the institution introduced its so-called Tutorial English lessons, in which four students were taught by one instructor.

About 30 prospective students attended the day’s lessons, in which native-speaking instructors encouraged the students to introduce themselves and ask other members of their groups about their favorite sports and music. The instructors often offered the students hints for keeping their conversations moving.

“I think this class will help me improve my speaking and listening skills. I’d like to take courses at Waseda as soon as possible,” said a 19-year-old from Kakogawa, Hyogo Prefecture, who is hoping to enter the commerce department at Waseda. “It’s quite helpful that Waseda has held an event where I live, because it’s difficult for me to go to Tokyo during the summer ahead of the entrance exams.”

Waseda Prof. Aiji Tanaka, who was in charge of the event, said: “We had more prospective students than we had expected. Waseda focuses on enabling our students to use English as a tool. I think we were able to get this across to our guests.”

(Aug. 28, 2008) Yomiuri Shimbun

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