SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

  • Viktor Virág “Professor, do I have to go back to my country?”

    Japanese universities must fundamentally rid themselves of the premise that international students go back to their countries. Already thirteen years have passed since I first came to Japan. I have spent most of this period at institutions of higher education. Yet, I still feel uneasy about the kind of education that takes it for granted that international students go home after graduation. After majoring in sociology, a discipline that is supposed to be open-minded and sensitive about various biases, I have chosen the field of social work and social policy where a tolerant attitude is a must. In spite of this, I have been directly asked numerous times the questions ‘What will you do when you go home?’ or ‘How will you make use of what you have learnt in Japan in your home country?’. In addition, I cannot even count the occasions when I have heard the same questions targeted at international students around me. Going home after graduation and contributing to one’s country of origin are sometimes even included in the requirements for scholarships in Japan. If for long years on a daily basis you face insensitive manners that not even assume any choice other than going home, naturally you cannot help but think of the psyche behind it. First, I feel that a sort of exclusionism or for lack of a better term, xenophobia is deeply rooted, that is why people tend to think negatively about the diversification of Japanese society by the settlement of international students after graduation. Let us compare this with the 2020 Olympics and recent buzzwords. While people are ready to do their best to ‘pamper’ only temporary ‘guests’, principally they tend to treat them as the ‘other’. There are many people who cannot step beyond this frame of othering. So the person always remains ‘the one outside the wa (輪, circle)’. ‘The one outside the wa (輪, circle)’ is not Japanese and he or she disturbs the harmony, hence of course seen as ‘the one outside the wa (和, harmony or Japaneseness)’. Literally, the person becomes a gaijin (外人, outsider). In other words, he or she does not get the chance to stand in an equal position on a level ground. What is more, amidst the narrative that necessarily associates cultural diversity with higher crime rates, there is an extreme tendency to speak of such gaijins (外人, oursiders) as if they were gaijins (害人, harmful individuals). However, I believe unconscious influences on the trend to prefer international students going home are more serious. In short, a considerable proportion of people have a sense of superiority without any purposeful ill feeling. Namely, one can find the implication in the background suggesting that ‘Lucky enough, you were given the chance to study in advanced Japan, so make use of it and work for your backward home country!’. It seems that such thinking about international students considering them coming to Japan as a form of overseas aid or international contribution in the form of knowledge and technology transfer is especially strong towards students originating from non-western countries. Still, it is not only the theory of Japanese uniqueness turning into racism or nationalism combined with supremacist features, not even something as simple as ethnocentrism resulting in a one-dimensional view of the world. Rather, it reminds us to the arrogance and paternalism that developed nations show towards developing ones while drawing on some colonialist lineage too. Students from countries of the Asia-Pacific may just recall the ideology of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Obviously, there are many who consider ‘international study ending in going home’ without thinking about it deeply. But we must not forget that such lack of imagination or rather ignorance is also unconsciously influenced by the above mentioned ideologies. Deep-rooted ways of thinking appear to lurk behind attitudes that make the premise for international students to go back to their countries after graduation. Further on, it is also true that insensitive approaches and attitudes easily shift into actions such as prejudiced treatment. For instance, the aforementioned clause in scholarship applications is a manifestation of the most outspoken institutionalized discrimination. Also, we might as well look at examples in academic advice. In the author’s experience, academic advisors who encourage studying one’s country of origin even though they are in Japan are unfortunately not rare in the field of social sciences. The environment for such studies is of course not ideal in Japan and the meaning of international study itself becomes ambiguous. Moreover, in case of students from East Asia, research on the Japanese colonial or occupation period tends to be preferable. Let us assume that Chinese or Korean students go home just as many in their surroundings want them to. It may depend on the arrangement of arguments or the final emphasis, but it is certain that there will be serious difficulties that have to be faced with the evaluation of a final thesis about the Japanese rule era in one’s country of origin. The possibility and the risk remain that one cannot even feel safe to explicitly write on a resume about the research undertaken while studying in Japan. I may read too much into and think too much about a simple exchange of words. Yet an environment where international students in Japan have to day-by-day stand a storm of questions based on the premise of going home cannot be worthy of university education in a globalizing age. In any case, the message that ‘international students are OK, but they are not really welcome as people who work or settle here’ is clearly being sent out even if it is unintentional. In addition to the ethical perspective, what we have to think of here is the loss for Japan. Due to the common problem of low birthrates and aging faced by developed countries, the struggle for a global workforce has already started on the international labor market. In the future, competition between countries will only get more and more tense. In Japan, a country that unwillingly leads the global tendency of low birthrates combined with population aging, the issue of securing human resources is an urgent imperative in many different areas. Establishing an atmosphere on campuses that recognizes domestic employment and settlement in Japan in a more positive way is necessary for becoming a country that can attract workforce and ‘people’ ultimately. Furthermore, building a country where anyone can reside safely and a society where anyone can live in comfort is one of the absolute conditions for Japan to become more multi-ethnic and multi-cultural. Henceforth, the internationalization of universities while keeping in mind a more open position about careers after graduation is a very meaningful initiative with considerable expectations and responsibilities. (Part-time Lecturer at Sophia University & School of Social Welfare, Hosei University, Showa Women's University, and Tokyo Metropolitan University. Research Fellow, Social Work Research Insitute, Japan College of Social Work. Secretary for International Affairs, Japanese Association of Schools of Social Work. Assistant to the Regional President, International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) Asia-Pacific.) SGRA Kawaraban 486 in Japanese (original)
  • Sangryul JEON `The Fifth SGRA Fukushima Study Tour Report “Iitate, Challenge for Return” ´

    SGRA (Sekiguchi Global Research Association) have fulfilled a study tour on Iitate Village every year since the autumn, 2012. Iitate-Village in Fukushima Pref. is a disaster- stricken area of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. This year, SGRA carried out the Fukushima Study Tour, with the theme “Iitate, Challenge for their Return”, from May 13(Fri.) to 15(Sun.) It was the fifth SGRA Fukushima Study Tour. The number of participants of the tour this time was ten;Raccoon members, foreign students, professors of universities,and members of societies and they came from several countries such as America, Italy, Canada, Korea, Sweden and Japan. Only SGRA can do this type of tour. On the first day, May 13, we left Tokyo at 9:24am by Tohoku-Shin-kansen “Yamabiko-113”.for Fukushima. Firstly, we visited the “Fukushima Renewal Energy Building” and got an explanation that this building is run by several companies or organizations exchanging and cooperating with each other. These organizations are “Resurrection of Fukushima - Fukushima Saiseino Kai” which receives us every year, “Iitate Electric Power”, “Aizu Electric Power” and “Iitate Madai-Life Association” (*”Madai” is regional dialect which means “slowly” or “leisurely”). We left this building and visited “The First Matsukawa Temporary Housings” in Fukushima City and were told by Chairman, Ichiro Kihata about “a life in temporary house” and “uneasiness for their return”. Then, we took lunch at ramen shop in the premises. (Kohaku-Ramen, it was so nice!) After lunch, we visited the Iino-Branch Office of Iitate Village Office which was the last visiting site of the day. We were told by Deputy Village Headman, Mr. Nobuichi Monma about their scheduled return (to Iitate Village). After visiting the other places in Iitate Village, we arrived at “Ryozen Center” which is the activity base of “Fukushima Saiseino Kai” and deepened our friendships, enjoying home-cooked food prepared and brought by the tour participants from various countries. On the second day, we visited the house of Mr. Muneo Kanno, who is the deputy chairman of “Fukushima Saiseino Kai” and worked setting up “electric fence”. In the afternoon, we inspected the village together with people from NPO “Platinum- Guild”.We visited the house of Mr. Keiichi Kanno first in Hiso and were informed about details after the disaster and the present conditions. We were also enlightened about the decontamination work of “Igune” (regional dialect meaning “windbreak woods surrounding houses”) and the program for pilot houses (huts). Forests in Iitate are excluded from the object of decontamination works. In such situations, this is a test for the works on how the forests or the woods are contaminated and how it becomes possible to decontaminate. Listening to his words, we had a feeling how the situation is complicated and difficult to solve We also made a study tour to the gate of Nagadoro, a restricted area and special vehicles for radioactivity measuring. In the evening, we had “a big gathering (about 60 persons)”, at a dining room of the Ryozan Center, who came from the village and Higashi -Tamano-area. Without formal compliments, we talked with each other friendly and freely. We were able to establish a new circle of friends. It was a wonderful night.  In the morning of the third day, we visited Mr. Kinichi Okubo’s house in Komiya area. After getting explanation about decontamination of fields from Prof. Suguru Mizoguchi, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Science, Faculty of Agriculture, The University of Tokyo, we did paddling works for decontamination of the test field in Komiya area by ourselves. After paddling by a tractor, we drained water by brushes. We repeated such works. They have been experimenting everyday honestly, based on scientific theory and by using new idea and their experience, as to what extent decontamination of field is possible. After such works, we returned to Kanno-san’s house and listened to his remarks, while taking “onigiri (rice ball)” lunch and each members of the tour exchanged their impression about this study tour . Radiation value, which was most concerned for us, was 0.1-0.3 micro Siebel (μSv) at Ryozan-Center where we lived and did works, Kanno-san’s house and field, and test field at Komiya. When we left Iitate on the last day, my own measuring equipment showed 10-13(μSv). The study tour this time was a tour of “looking, knowing and thinking”. As Mr. Kanno said, “I remember what I saw and experienced at the disaster-stricken area, and think what I can do and try to let the people, as much as possible, know the present Fukushima (people’s interests are gradually fading)”. If I have a chance to visit Iitate again, I hope the present feeling of “uneasiness and fear for their return” would change to “hope and smile”. Photos of Fukushima Study Tour 2016  (Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo)   Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA  News  [2016.06.23] in Japanese (original)
  • Lamsal Bikash “The First Health Camp in Japan for Nepal People”

    In any situation, there is an important thing as long as we live.  It is a healthy body. Without a healthy body, we cannot do anything well or we lose our motivation.  Especially in recent years, there are quite a few people who cannot take care their own health, being engrossed in their works. Health will be the most important thing especially for foreigners living in a country, not their home country. In case of disorder in their health, these foreigners find it difficult to get medical help; unlike in their  home country where they can easily go to a hospital any time and get the needed medical care, . In Japan there are many problems if foreigners would go to a hospital, without knowing the Japanese language. There are about 3700 Nepalese students, technical trainees and self-employed persons in Tochigi and Gunma Prefectures. There are many of these people who cannot go to hospitals since they have no national health insurance cards. The Nepalese people suffered big damages from the earthquake in Nepal on April 25, 2015.  After the earthquake, there was an activity in Japan to help Nepal and its people In the City of Ashikaga, Mr. Yoshimi Watanabe and Chief Priest Genda of a Buddhist temple, called out to enterprises in Asikaga City; 15 companies agreed to support this activity. I went to many places and consulted with many people as I wanted to initiate a project to have a “health camp” for health check-up of Nepalese in the city. The project is to be supported by Mr. Watanabe and Priest Genda.  Thanks to them, I got people who helped and supported me to establish the “Ashikaga – Nepal International Association”. On April 30 and May 1, 2016, we were able to put up a “health camp” where Nepalese could get free health check-up and enjoyed meeting at the campus of Ashikaga Institute of Technology where I am enrolled The health camp started on April 29.  At 6:00AM, I left Ashikaga for Tokyo to fetch six Nepali doctors who were joining the health camp. After getting lunch at Ashikaga station with  the doctors, I went to the campsite and put up the signboards. At 6:00 in the evening, I went to the Asikaga Kenkou (heath) Land to welcome the doctors. At the welcome party, 17 people from the enterprises which supported us, three from the Ashikaga Institute of Technology, three from the Nepal International Association, 10 doctors, 3 volunteers and one reporter, altogether 36 members met together to organize and manage the event. After welcome party, doctors and some volunteers stayed at the “Health Land”.  On April 30, I arrived at the camp early in the morning as the event was to start at 9:00 AM. After preparing and installing the signboards and guideboards, we had a morning gathering with the doctors and volunteers. We set up two information desks, one for interview and another for registration of patients. After connecting a PC to a network, we prepared data for doctors who could easily access basic data of patients’ private information. The Nepalese doctors said “we are very glad to examine patients using the  Nepalese language in Japan”. Patients also said “we were examined in Nepalese language after a long time” and “we thought we were at home in Nepal”. On this day, 82 patients were examined during 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM . On the next day, the event went as smoothly as the first day: 68 patients were examined. At first we forecasted that the number of patients on the second day would exceed the first day.  But, I was pleased that everybody was satisfied with our work. There was one Nepalese patient who was not understood in a Japanese hospital due to a difference between American English and King’s English. She sadly narrated: “I was not understood though I spoke properly. ’Piles’ in King’s English is ’hemorrhoid’ in American English. In Japan, American English is main stream and ’Piles” cannot be understood. In India, Pakistan and Nepal, which had been English colonies, they use “piles” even now.  She thought she would be understood in Japanese hospitals, but she was not. There was one case which we could not solve in the health check-up time. It was a consultation from a young lady. She went to the obstetrics and gynecology hospital in Japan to remove “Norplant” which was inserted in Nepal, as she wanted to get pregnant, But she was refused service because Japanese hospitals do not deal with “Norplant”. “Norplant” are simple and slender tools which are inserted under the skin. Removing it will require a small surgical operation.  We stopped the medical check-ups at four o’clock as the Charge d’Affaires of Nepal would come to the place at 4:30. We fixed up the place in a hurry. A thanksgiving feast started after the arrival of the Charge d’Affaires, Gahendra Rajbhandari. Forty seven  persons, including Charge d’Affaires, Gahendra Rajbhandari, Mr. Yoshimi Watanabe, Chairman of the Ashikaga – Nepal International Association, and Priest Genda, Vice-Chairman of the Association participated in the thanksgiving. Hon. Gahendra Rajbhandari said “I realized, on the occasion of the Nepal-Japan Friendship 60th anniversary, how strong is the friendly relation between Nepal and Japan.  And we could have this event as we have such friendship”. Hon. Gahendra Rajbhandari presented the Certificate of Appreciation to Ashikaga Institute of Technology and the Ashikaga – Nepal International Association. Mr. Watanabe and Priest Genda, Chairman and the Vice-Chairman, respectively, of the Association presented the Letter of Thanks, covered by the Nepalese “DakaTopii” (Nepalese yellow and sacred cloth- Kada), to Dr. Hidemaro Tochigi, the Director of Tochigi Obstetrics and Gynecology, and to the volunteers.  Lastly, the event ended with light meals. Many patients told us “thank you very much for such a nice event!” or “I hope there would be such an event twice a year.” Volunteers also expressed their thanks saying ”I appreciate to have joined this event”. It seems this event was very impressive for all of us. (Ph.D. candidate, Ashikaga Institute of Technology)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA Kawaraban in Japanese 494 (Original )
  • Kim Woonghee The 15th Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum “International Development Between Japan and Korea, Hereafter”

    The 15th Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum was held at the Tokyo International Forum on February 13 (Sat.) 2016, (the second consecutive year in Tokyo) under the theme “International cooperation hereafter for development of Japan and Korea:Group for Co-evolution in Architecture”. We have an awareness of the issues how Japan, as a front runner in the field of ODA (Official Development Assistance) and Korea which has some experience in the field of development, contribute to sustainable development in East Asia and its regional cooperation. We can deeply consider about the concept of international politics and economy of ODA in which the institutions and interest of Japan and Korea are mingled.  Following the opening address by Professor Li Jingyu, the chairman of the board of director of the Center for Future Human Resource Studies, keynote speeches by both Japan and Korea were made. This time, we introduced new attempt, proposed by Professor Fukagawa, that researchers of Japan and Korea report alternately. Firstly, Professor Song Hyokusan of Kyung Hee Unversity、introduced Korean viewpoints on Japanese ODA. He discussed the similarities and differences between of ODA by Japan and Korea through his systematic summing up of the results of analysis and points by Korea researchers who reported in the papers about the ODA by Japan. He argued mainly on the objective and motive of the Japanese ODA, background of establishment of the new JICA which is an executing organization, details and changes of scale and projects of ODA and participation of citizens. Especially he insisted that Japan is a textbook for Korea in the field of ODA, and the “Japan Model” should not be criticized.  Professor Yukiko Hukagawa, Waseda University, Institute for Research in Contemporary Political and Economic Affairs, urged that Japan, as a smart donor, should lead economic development and poverty reduction in the international societies. And it is an important key, in the stream of economic aid, to cooperate with Korea which is closely sharing the experience in the development of industries in East Asia. She said that it is the same in Korea. Under such awareness of the issues, she introduced how such experience is reflected in the Korean ODA and discussed the example, Saemaul Undong as a Movement and KSP as a Knowledge Sharing Program. She explained how the inclination of sharing experience relates with the preparation for an ODA system in Korea. As a conclusion, as Japan has similar experiences with Korea in industrialization both countries complement each other in advantage and weakness, this relationship it will be a big advantage for Japan, which is aiming to be a smart donor, to cooperate with the Korean ODA. She emphasized that it is essential for Japan to fully understand the details of the economic development of Korea and the characteristics of Korea as an ODA grant country. At the same time, it is essential for Korea to have a conversation for it to fully understand the benefit of segregation and cooperation strategically.  After the coffee break, Professor Hitoshi Hirakawa made short speech titled “Looking Back over ODA in Japan” as a basis for discussion. He said that self-recognition of the “Japanese ODA model, as a successful experience” became stronger because Asia made economic development in the 21stcentury. And, he added that it will be necessary for us to shift to a well-balanced “theory for aid” through re-evaluation of practices of the people who have actually been involved in traditional aid activities.  Dr. Ferdinand Maquito, lecturer at the Temple University, Japan, reported briefly from the viewpoint of “partner countries” (recipient countries). According to him, ODA from Japan and the West are a little different. One of the reasons for such difference comes from the different of experiences of development of the donor countries themselves. As in the case of the ODA by Japan, he pointed out of uniqueness of development financing which was made domestically in Japan. This is a shared-growth type of ODA with a distinctive feature of Japan’s experience for development.. He explained, through an example in the Philippines, meaning or question in applying to policies for ODA for economic development model.   After such speeches, Professor Tetsushi Sonobe from the National Graduate Institute for Policy, Mr. Kouki Hirota, JICA Chief Economist and Emeritus Professor, Chang Hyonsik, Seoul University, postgraduate school for public policy(former Director for Planning and Strategy、KOICA)had a lively discussion. The discussion went further, not only just the comparison of difference of the ODA of Japan and Korea, they also talked about the possibilities of building up a new ODA as a “Model of East Asia” evolving and cooperating together based on their standpoints and specialties. It was a wonderful discussion of their own dreams.  I think, as I mentioned at the forum last year that, in order to make the “Japan-Korea Asia Future Forum” more fruitful hereafter, on the subject “an issue between Japan and Korea in the post-developing period and cooperation in East Asia”, we have to deeply investigate a more concrete subject, and not limit to general discussion. We will take up ODA issue for three more years from now, and we like to proceed more carefully at the next forum, watching for a presence of China in the field of international development. I like to express my deep appreciation for Ms. Junko Imanishi, Director of SGRA , Mr. Li Jingyu and all the staff members of SGRA for their support to this 15th Forum.  Please access the following for the photos of this forum.   (Professor/Inha University, Korea)   Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Max Maquito   SGRA News(17th March,2016) in Japanese (Original)
  • Xie Zhihai “Japanese Market Hereafter Depends on India ?”

    Rapid progress of technologies and internet has made the world “borderless”. However, international issues became more complicated though it seems to be a contradiction to borderless. For scholars or analysts of economics, it is very difficult to forecast the economy or the international situation of the year 2016. Present anxieties for the world economy are decline in oil prices, slow down of the Chinese economy, opaque future of the economy in EU and difficulties in the growth of US enterprises.Furthermore, the Bank of Japan announced “Negative Interest Rate” first in the end of January.  After the announcement, the Nikkei Stock Average fluctuated violently and has kept on declining. According to the Nikkei (newspaper) which I gave a once-over,  an analyst of the stock market says “in order to turn the Nikkei Stock Average to an upward trend, it is necessary to have a new theme like acceleration of progress of the economy of India”.I pay attention to India, not ASEAN. India is now attracting world attention not only in its economy but also in various phenomena. As I live in Japan, I cannot get information about India as expected, although the Japanese people like Indian-curry.  India, a faraway country, is now becoming familiar to Japanese.Masayoshi Son, president of Soft Bank, chose an Indian, not a Japanese, as his successor.This news, together with the huge amount of his officer’s compensation, made the headline all over the world. At the same time, we came to know that Mr. Son invested huge amounts of money on enterprises in India.  Since Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi’s visit to Japan in 2014, the Japanese people have now become interested about India. Does the economic growth of India have a power to push up the Nikkei Stock Average? The more we know about the country and people of India, the more we realize that Japan and India stand in the exact opposite positions: Japan is ahead as an aging society, but low in birth-rate.On the other hand, the population under 25 years old in India is about 50% and its population density is high. They do not control their population like China. Population in India is increasing. We are overwhelmed by such energetic image. We notice now that India is producing many excellent business executives to the world. We can see a lot of Indian CEO names in the world’s big enterprises. The Nikkei Business (magazine), issue of September 28, 2015 featured under the title “Indian CEO control the world” and analyzed three points as the reasons for “why Indian CEO?” ―Large number of men of talent who have IT skills, for example, which can be used in the world. ―Way of thinking or management styles which are set forth for assumption of diversity ―Patience, creativities and response capabilities all of which have been developed by its severe circumstances.It comes as no surprise that these three points affect the Japanese economy. These three points may be insufficient in the Japanese people. For this reason, Mr. Son did not choose a Japanese CEO as his successor. I am not saying India is stronger than Japan. There are a lot of troubles in India like the deep-rooted caste systems, confrontation among religions as India has various religions or a male-dominant society.  I think they can live in the global world only after they crawl their way up from such a complicated society. Both in China, my home country and in Japan, where I am living now, people are still interested in India these days. (Full-time Lecturer of Maebashi Kyoai Gakuen University)  Translate by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA Kawaraban 484 in Japanese(original ) 
  • Wang Huijun “Assisting Foreign Students in Japan to Learn Japanese Language”

    I realize that it has been already ten years since I came to Japan in March, 2007 to pursue a master’s degree course at the graduate school of Waseda University.In the summer of 2005, I came to Japan first as a trainee under an internship program and spent the summer holidays of the 3rd-year in the University in Tokyo. It was my first time of living abroad and I felt freshness and excitement during those two months. I used Japanese language which I have learned since I was freshman in the university and it was the time when I became conscious of the pleasure of speaking Japanese with a lot of people, home-stay family, staff members of the training institute, and friends with whom I got acquainted in Japan. When I thought of my job after graduation, I realized, from my stay in Japan, that it would be good if many foreign students who have learned the Japanese language can enjoy speaking and understanding Japanese like me. Furthermore, I hope to work in a job which supports foreign students who have learned the Japanese language. And, finally I decided in my study to major in Japanese language education in the graduate school of a Japanese university. After proceeding to the graduate school, I have been intent on my research. In April, 2015, I worked as an assistant of Japanese language education research in the university which had a class in Japanese language mainly for foreign students.I studied for 8 years since 2005 as foreign student, and now I am working as  an assistant for educational activities supporting foreign students who study Japanese language.  Actually I do not have any class for Japanese language, but I can help foreign students from a closer standpoint so that they can take better opportunities for learning Japanese language.  As I chose a way which I learn Japanese language enjoying communication by Japanese language, I can say that this job is just my heart’s desire. I never dreamt of getting such job in Japan when I first came to Japan. One year has already passed since I got the job as an assistant. Sometimes I remember my first individual consultation meeting for a Japanese language curriculum, which was very impressive. When I arrived at the meeting place on that day I found that just before the meeting, everything was prepared and made ready. Teachers who actually had classes and volunteers who could communicate in English, Chinese and Korean were already seated.  Foreign students began to arrive on the starting time outside the place.  But, it seemed some of them were too nervous to enter the place and were just watching and hesitating to enter into the hall.I called out to students who were hanging about outside the hall and guided them inside.  Some of them gave me worried glances.  The glance of a student, who could not speak Japanese seemed to me like a voice which he cried for “help!”  I tried to listen to his concern or problem as carefully as I could, so that his worry could be eased. When I assisted in such guidance sessions, I noticed one thing. All students were supposed to come here for consultation about their curriculum of the Japanese language study, but actually some students did not understand what they should be consulting with us.  When I guided Chinese students to the teachers or volunteers, I was told: “I will come again after I decide what I should ask”.  Frankly speaking, I was surprised a little at the comment, though I clearly understand their nervousness, based from my own experience as a foreign student. The individual consultation meeting was established to assist foreign students to solve any problem which they may have. But we came to realize that it was not easy for foreign students to come to such meeting. We understood that they hesitate to come because they cannot understand Japanese language well. But, it seems that the language problem is not the only concern. They are not familiar with getting consultation or assistance from people with whom they are not acquainted in a big hall and they have never experienced consulting with others. I was impressed with their seriousness that they were thinking carefully about their question before they left their chair for our consulting table. And, at the same time, I had a feeling which I, as a foreign student, did not experience before.  When I came to Japan, I had no trouble in speaking Japanese because I had learned Japanese language in university.  I had a feeling now, also, especially during this one year when I was working as an assistant, that there are many foreign students who cannot speak Japanese well. Moreover, I realized that now is the time for diversification. When they left home country, these students had varied purposes, backgrounds and experiences,  and their level of knowledge of the Japanese language were also different. When we assist various foreign students who are learning Japanese language, I think   there may be a lot of things which I could not imagine if I follow my experience. Of course, we can solve some of their concerns based on my experience. However, we cannot solve their worries or trouble like an equation because their backgrounds or purposes are different. We have to listen to what they are saying first how much they have learned by then, what are they aiming at and what kind of worry or hesitation they have now.  In March, we will receive new students and our activities for such foreign students will be developed again. Though I have little experience, I like to do my best keeping my posture of scrupulously listening to what each foreign student is saying. (Japanese Language Research Assistance at Graduate School, Waseda University)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA Kawaraban 483 in Japanese(Original)
  • Xie Zhihai “Luxury brand articles are in trouble with capricious consumers”

    It is not as easy as the present for enterprises which have luxury brands to forecast consumers’ behaviors. Everybody has a smartphone and access to internet every day. In such circumstances, it seems to be easy for such enterprises to analyze customers’ tastes  from purchase records or search history. But, actually this analysis is not so easy to do.. I have a feeling that world-wide long-established brand companies, whose brands are easily recognized merely by their logos, are being tossed around by capricious consumers’ behavior.  When we look at both sides, luxury brands companies and consumers, we note that there has been a relation that the companies which produce high-grade brand articles which have strong or outspoken impact and consumers’ demand for them. The rich customers could get them easily. People who cannot afford to buy hankered for the articles and yearned for the rich. Images of high-grade brands were getting higher valuation. Recently, however, when I see SNS (Social Networking Service) or “YouTube”, it seems to me that people do not admire the brand as before.Where have their interests gone ? I found an interesting research in Harvard Business Review (the November 2015 issue of Japanese version). The title was “High-grade brand article which copes with “inconspicuous consumption”. Consumers, as shown by a recent trend, do not like such articles to be conspicuous as before. Such trend started from Europe and America and became stronger. In China too, sales of clothes and bags which have famous logos dropped recently. The research about consumers’ behavior points out that there is a trend which avoids luxury brand article in the world. And, according to this analysis, there are three factors which support such trend. The first factor is high-grade brand articles became popular to middle class people and their logos are no longer mark or proof of being rich. This is because high-grade imitation goods by “fast-fashion” and diffusion-line (popular products of high-grade brand articles) of brands. (For example, diffusion line of “Armani” is “Armani-Exchange”.) The second is blatant status-symbols do not fascinate the upper class consumers any more. The third is the niche brand articles went in for the boom owing to promotion in the social media. For example, in the case of handbags, Bottega Veneta which has less brand logo is becoming more popular than the Gucci brand. In the case of coffee, Blue Bottle Coffee is preferred rather than Starbucks This research analyze mainly how upper class people trend away from brand logos.  And those three factors mentioned above are related also to middle class consumers who are the most important customers. First of all, the rise of “fast-fashion” is unavoidable. And, everybody can enjoy their dressing up now.  Besides, owing to popularization of internet and smartphone, everybody can access any information which they like to get and they can use their information by themselves. It is now in fashion in the world that people introduce their clothes by themselves using “Selfie” (picture taken of yourself mainly for SNS) or “Instagram”. If they do such introduction every day, they prefer to have many variations of dress and accessories which they purchase at “fast fashion” as much as possible, rather than having only one high-class brand handbag.  Actually, popular “fashionista” in “Instagram” is the one who wears a dress stylishly not the one who has a lot of high-class brand articles. According to the research, niche-brand boom made by social media, the third factor mentioned above, is explained as exchange of “subtle signal” among people regardless of socio-economics classes. In other words, there is no wall on the internet among social classes. Everybody can communicate freely from site to site. By doing so, like-minded people of tastes or purposes get together naturally. A fashion is created by attracting people’s attention. As an example, when Chinese tourists came to Japan in the past, they usually bought SKII (high-class cosmetics) . But, nowadays, they buy facial packs at drug stores in town. Why? It is because those facial packs have been used and guaranteed as good by the people who have visited Japan and have written “good” in their blogs. Consumers enjoy shopping using information from like-minded (visiting Japan and enjoy shopping) people rather than enterprises that invest big money for advertisement.   Not all the Chinese tourists stopped buying luxury brand articles. If you go to Ginza, you can see many Chinese tourists in luxury brand shops. We can say that consumers have many options now. They go to luxury brand shops, drug stores and Don Quixote. Now, it is not a status symbol for the people who have luxury brand articles. I think an experience becomes a status by popularization of SNS rather than possessing luxury brand articles. It is easy for people who can share “experience” on SNS saying “good!”rather than showing off luxury brand articles which they have bought. The existence of social media has changed consumers’ behavior and tastes. Did marketing people of luxury brand enterprises presume such changes?  As the conclusion of the Harvard Business Review, a trend of high-quality image which does not show their brand logomark becomes very personal not social. In other words, a bag whose design is refined and has brand-logo mark inside symbolizes higher status than a bag which has conspicuous logo mark outside. Yes, the key-word is “personal”! On the internet now, there is a page like “Facebook” or “Instagram” which consumers can open by themselves. This “personal whereabouts” page spreads out to friends or to hobby pages. There is another site “Pinterest”, not SNS, which can preserve favorite pictures and specializes for enjoying “possessing” those pictures personally,. We can book-mark on our personal board our favorite pictures from the internet. We can classify such pictures by categories like clothes, interior etc. and it is possible for somebody else to access those “Pinterest”.  It is a good chance to show our sense. By collecting our favorite pictures, we can build up world view by our own and can get our feelings that we possess. For example, when we bookmark a picture of watch which we could not possess before we can enjoy a feeling that the watch comes near now. It is a show of “personal” hobby of middle-class enjoying our “whereabouts” on internet without possessing. Rich consumers are enjoying casual (or nonchalant) luxury now. Other consumers are also enjoying their own luxury not sticking to possessing. It is not easy to forecast such bipolarization hereafter. It is said that there are enterprises which correspond properly to such customers’ changes restraining from exposing their logo marks. Marketing of enterprises which have luxury brand articles will be forced to face hardships hereafter. (Full-time Lecturer of Maebashi Kyoai Gakuen University)  Translated by Kazuo KawamuraEnglish checked by Mac Maquito SGRA Kawaraban 482 in Japanese (original)
  • Yeh Wenchang “How to Express History ? ”

    It is said that history is written by the victorious in a war or conflict. But this assertion is limited to within a country or to an occurrence in nationalism. If history will be written in a country for their own convenience, neighboring countries may understand it in a different way, and people after ages cannot take either version on trust. Under a democratic system, there are many understandings of history and regimes or governments will change also often. So, beliefs and understandings do not turn out as those in power wished.   I studied in Japan from the first to the third grade in elementary school. I read a biography of Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1536-1598), one of the great Japanese unifiers, and I thought he was a great person as was written in his biography. However, when I returned to Taiwan, I found that Hideyoshi is written up in a history textbook as a bad fellow. I grew up in a family which believed in the time under Japanese reign. My parents told me that public security in Taiwan had been good under Japanese reign and everything became worse under the Nationalist Party. In school, we had to study our history from Chinese viewpoint and impression about Japan was not so good. I came to know that there were many people who had been oppressed and discriminated against even during the period of Japanese reign. People felt in different ways even if their experience occurred in the same place and in the same period. I thought it arrogant to understand history from the experiences of only a part of the people.   Science leads to the same answers for everybody. In this sense, we cannot say present history textbooks are not science. What should history textbooks be ? I had a chance to talk, over “sake,” about history textbook with learned men in Japan and scholars about the history of China and Korea. They are trying to write history textbooks which all of them can accept for establishing a society by scholars of histories in Japan, Korea and China. According to them, the most difficult point in the process of reconciling histories was the problem of communications among different countries. The meaning of a word or concept would be different depending on the quality of the translation. If they use English as a common language, they can communicate only superficially. Moreover, doyens of historians in each country cannot speak English well.   In the world of science, it would be best to explain by the use of easy languages which can be understood by everybody. So, I told them that they can communicate in simple English if they have difficulty to describe historical events. But history researchers replied to me that they have to explain the relation of cause and effect, and in a subtle nuance when they explain histories. So, it will be difficult to explain histories using easy languages.   It seems to me historians make simple occurrences or events complicated. For example, when Japanese historians explain a battle or a war, they use a word differently. For example, they use the word “Rebellion“(乱) for coups d’etat which failed and “Incident”(変)for coups d’etat which succeeded. Both are coups d’etat anyway, and they make it complicated. It is said that such complicated Japanese expressions are “refined or graceful”. It is the same with Chinese expressions “深奥”(meaningful) or “奥妙” (superb) which Chinese people in Taiwan use in the Chinese culture. So, I think historians who use such words do not understand well the cultures of other countries. Such complicated expression of histories in Japan originally came from China. In China, there are many expressions in Chinese history books about “War” or “Killing others”. In the case of “War”, they use several Chinese characters to describe it as simple occurrences, conquests or invasions, all of which are very subjective. For example, the Syrian War can be explained as “Conquest” from a viewpoint of one country and “Invasion” from others, depending on their standpoint. So, I think histories should be written using simple vocabularies as much as possible and excluding sentiment about right or wrong.   So, in the case of the Sino-Japanese War, I will write “Japan sent its troops” to China. The words “invasion” or “conquest”, are both very subjective, and are unnecessary. And if we write “sending troops”, we will be released from mental complication, that is, we have to use the word “conquest” when we send troops to another country and “invasion” when another country sends its troops to our country. If we are asked whether “sending troops” are right or wrong, I think it is unnecessary to judge in history because we have been taught by teachers since the first grade of primary school that it is wrong to strike the first blow or to bring in weapons first. There are a lot of interpretations for a historical occurrence. When there are objections among historians, they mention only the part which they agree after verifying evidence. About the part on which they cannot reach agreement, it will be enough to let the young conclude from the opinions of historians of both sides of the issue.   (Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Faculty of Science and Engineering of Shimane University / Researcher of SGRA “Environment and Energy” Research Team)   Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Mac Maquito   SGRA Kawaraban 481 in Japanese (original)
  • Yang, Yu Gloria Report on “Construction Site (Redevelopment of Kachidoki 5chome Area) Visiting”

    We visited the construction site of Kajima’s project “Redevelopment of Tokyo Kachidoki 5-chome Area” on November 4, 2015. Our visit was made together with ten scholarship students and officers and staff of Atsumi International Foundation composed of Ms. Imanishi, Managing Director, Mr. Tsunoda, Secretary-general, Ms. Ishii, Ms. Ota and Ms. Honda.   We assembled at a ticket gate of the Kachidoki Station of the Oh-Edo Line and walked to the site enjoying the special atmosphere of downtown Tukishima area under a clear sky. As the site was not yet opened to the public, our curiosity was stimulated. A Kajima staff explained to us about the outline of a high-rise apartment project which is under construction and its special and technical features.   The construction of a 53 stories apartment started in 2013 and will be completed by December 2016. They complete five stories a day integrating their most advanced technologies. He explained also, as the most prominent feature of the project, that Kajima adopted the “VD Core-Flame method of construction” as Japan has frequent earthquakes which is inadequate for high-rise buildings. It is the first method of construction in the world. They install “oil-dumpers” among three buildings which are combined together and this method absorbs the shock of earthquake. Structures of combined three buildings, called “Tristar (three stars) Type” are strong but superior in design. Traditional box-type huge buildings give us an oppressive feeling.  But we think the Tristar type is more well-matched with the surroundings because of its being well-lighted and expansive approaches on the ground.   After this explanation, we went up to the upper floor via the temporary elevator, after putting on a helmet and having a transceiver.  In our elevator which is operated at high speed, all of us were excited imagining how the site will look like.   When we got out of temporary elevator, we were captivated by panoramic view of the Bay of Tokyo which was very  wide under a clear sky.  We were impressed by such grand sites as the Loop 2 which is just before the opening to vehicular traffic, the Hamarikyu Gardens, the Tokyo Tower, the roofs of the Tsukiji Outer Market and the bridges over Sumida-River.  All of us shouted “Wow! Mt. Fuji!” It was a valuable experience for us that we could see, in our presence, actual “light (in weight) tubes” and “oil dampers” which were explained to us just now as being the most advanced technologies. We were impressed also by the splendid clean and systematic administration of the site where Kajima execute such works like pillars, structural members, floors and wirings of each room perfectly, as scheduled. When we were told the recycling ratio of industrial wastes reaches to 98%, we recognized clearly that Kajima is very particular about creative construction.   After visiting the site, we moved to a nearby “gallery for high-rise apartment” and visited a theatre for publicity and show rooms. The entrance hall of the gallery is decorated with modern taste as actual entrance hall.  At the theatre, were shown the premises, urban space and living style on 3D cinema and three motion videos. Panoramic simulation of sunset, at a show room, which seems to symbolize elegant and refined living style of adults were very impressive. We had an animated discussion about sociability of high-rise apartments and a change of social structure which comes from the change of urban space from horizontal to vertical.   Visiting the jobsite of “Kachodoki 5-chome Area” was a very valuable experiences for the scholarship students. This high rise apartment, which is under construction, would be certainly a new land-mark. The under construction living apace influences the life of the residents. Apartment numbersing more than 1400 units can be said to compose a town. We expect valuable social and cultural role of “Kachidoki-tower” in Tsukisima area in Tokyo which would show case the most advanced technologies and design concept.   (Scholarship student of Atsumi International Foundation)     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Mac Maquito   AISF Report in Japanese (original)
  • Yutaka Tonooka “J.I. Forum – the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II: Thought on Historical Memories and Their Recognition –“

    I attended the Japan Initiative (J.I.) Forum under the coordination of Mr. Hideki Kato, Representative of JI:”Ko-so Nippon”, which was conducted in Japanese.  Professor Tadashi Kinomiya (Graduate School of Arts and Science, University of Tokyo) who specializes in Korean Political History and Professor Liu Jie (School of Social Science, Waseda University), a specialist in Modern History of the Relations between Japan and China). Both speakers are closely related with SGRA.   I gave my opinion, at the last session of questions and answers which was moderated  by Prof. Liu Jie, who pointed out that anybody who likes to promote “national reconciliation” by “public (common) wisdom”, should establish a platform on the internet. At the get-together meeting, however, I became aware that my opinion was misunderstood and given an opposite meaning. So I like to clarify my opinion in this essay.   When we conducted a survey of the histories of East Asia, there was a lot of confusion or unusual conditions.  The Opium War in China, separation of North and South Korea after the Korean War, and, in Japan, consecutive wars, including the First Sino-Japanese War, the Russo-Japanese War, the Second Sino-Japanese War and the Pacific-War after the Meiji Restoration. Although Japan lost the Pacific-War, we can say that all the confusions in East Asia have been caused by advances of the great powers in Europe and America who aimed to impose colonial rules.   We cannot always justify colonial rules by different races over Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria.  After the Perry (USA) Expedition in 1853, Japan had thought it necessary to oppose, as a nation of Asia, the advances by great powers into East Asia. There are deep-rooted opinions that Japan should have definitely insisted that they had fought consecutive wars, which were said to be wars of aggression, in order to protect (at least, at the beginning) Asia against the great powers.   After World War II, in the history education in Japan, the Japanese people have been taught, as convenient for America, that all the wars undertaken by Japan were “wars of aggression”. Some people say that this mindset caused Japanese to develop a masochistic view of history. After the War, the American occupation army forced on Japan a distorted history education characterized by fear of Japanese united power, fear of rising again as a warlike nation and fear of national pride. This distorted history exists even now. According to a public-opinion poll of the world, the young in Japan are notably weak among advanced countries, in terms of patriotic spirit, in respect of parents and in self-confidence. It is said those weaknesses have been an American strategy.  But it is also said that activities to recover national pride are being undertaken recently. Though I am not so positive, I am attending a study group of this kind in these days in order to learn if there are many people who have various opinions.   It is said a history is always written so that it will be convenient for administrators of the time. If so, the problem of historical recognitions is not solved as a national sentiment. As proposed by Prof. Liu Jie, if we like to establish histories as “public wisdom” of Asia, it is necessary to accumulate objective historical materials which are not affected by the politics of nations. Unfortunately, the Japanese people are lacking basic knowledge of histories and they do not know histories of surrounding countries. Knowledge and information, which would make researchers realize the pains of the people, who were under colonial rule, are also insufficient.   Governments are liable to impose on their people their understanding of histories which are convenient for these governments and would try to insist this understanding on other countries. However, as we are now living in the internet societies where we can share information among people of other countries. The citizens of the world should build networks for sharing objective materials of histories as “public wisdom” across national borders. There may be various opinions, but scholars of histories are asked to have a role to spreading such fundamental knowledge with opinions based on objective reasons and explainations which can be easily understood by everybody. People in each country will realize that there are opinions different from those of the government. There are many viewpoints. With this realization of general and objective understanding, people will come to know that it would be meaningless to confront each other on different views of histories by governments. As such, I expect some good result which will gradually remove individual ill feelings.   On the other hand, it will be a job for diplomats to solve confrontations among governments, including problems of different recognition of histories by countries. Recently, it is a reality that negotiations among Japan, China and Korea are not always going well, and I am afraid that this situation comes from poor negotiating abilities of  the diplomats of these countries.   Mao Zedong of China said “Existence decides Consciousness”. He preached that people who are concerned with politics have to think on the standpoints of the people (especially the poor and lower class farmers). This indicates that if politicians are not conscious of such standpoints, they are apt to think from their limited viewpoints. For the Japanese people, it is difficult to imagine standpoints or sentiments of other people who have been ruled.   As I was taking the above thoughts into consideration, I expressed at the meeting: “as Japan has never been colonialized, we have difficulty understanding the standpoints of Korea, China and Taiwan”. And I was aware afterward that I affirmed my indifferent attitude without self-examination.   At a social gathering after a lecture meeting, I was told by somebody that “Japan has an experience to have been occupied by American armed forces”. While talking with him, I became aware, for the first time, that my statement in my presentation was misunderstood. In Okinawa, many people have been certainly sacrificed; in the main land, also, a huge number of people (more than 300 thousand) died from the atomic bombs dropped at Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and in the Great Tokyo Air Raid many people also died.  I have stated that we have no experience to have been occupied because ours was not a colonial occupation for long period.   We, Japanese, have not yet gotten out of our understanding of a defeated country due to a skillful occupation which came from Japan-US relations for 70 years since the end of the War. The US military bases are still here and there is no future prospect for their going away. Some people say that the US wanted to occupy Iraq softly as they did with Japan so that Iraq would obey everything that the US says. I should have said that Japan is as good as being under (hidden) colonial occupation.   The Pope of Rome said definitely that present business enterprises are plundering and damaging the environment. As Mr. Thomas Piketty (French economist) pointed out, modern enterprises in advanced countries are getting profit skillfully but legally and are establishing the composition of societies where one percent are wealthy people and 99% are poor. There is another economist who pointed out that the US taxation system causes inequalities in societies. In the US, various financial instruments (e.g. derivatives) are developing and when company directors sell their shares, they are treated preferentially in taxation. There is another penetrating opinion that a part of the people in the world are active behind the scene influencing governments in the pursuit of their personal profit, and their activity is stirring up disputes in the world.   There is no point if we, as Asian comrades, are hostile to each other under the circumstances where a small part of the world’s population (consisting of the wealthy), pursuing their personal gain, dominate the governments of the world. In the societies of Japan, China and Korea, where there is a common Confucian culture of working together, I think we have a base which is easy to be reconciled with each other.   I am proud of the Atsumi International Foundation which, as you know, holds international research conferences in several cities in the world. These conferences have contributed to establishing common wisdom as Prof. Liu Jie said. Many men of talent who are scholarship students of the Foundation are very active all over the world. I hope we can enlarge the circle of friends for better understanding and establish reciprocal societies as Asian economic communities equal to the EU. This present research meeting is significant and, hopefully be the first step toward this end.     (Yutaka Tonooka / Professor of Humanities and Social Science, Saitama University, Visiting Researcher of Waseda University)     <Reference>   Co-hosting “JI Forum – the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II:Thoughts on Historical Memories and Their Recognition-“   On September 28,2015, we (SGRA) co-hosted the Japan Initiative (JI) Forum. JI is presided by Mr. Hideki Katoh, who is also Councilor of the Atsumi International Foundation and they have been examining problems in Japan such as “program (by the Government) review”. They offered us this time to discuss international issues also and we, as SGRA, have been thinking that international problems should be studied by Japanese people more. And we have decided to cohost the forum. JI held the first Forum in July 2015, titled “At the ‘70th anniversary of the end of World War II”, and they study this time the same period from the side of China and Korean peninsula. We decided on the title “Forum II, Thoughts on Historical Memories and Their Recognition at the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II”, asking Prof. Liu Jie (Waseda University) and Prof. Tadashi Kinomiya (the University of Tokyo), both have been supporting SGRA for a long time.   Prof. Liu showed retrogression of relations between Japan and China comparing two pictures:one is friendly photo of Mao Zedong・Zhou Enlai and Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka・Masayosi Ohirain 1972 and the other is a stiff shaking hands between Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping in November, last year.  He referred also, according to an attitude survey, not only politicians, more than 80 % of the people of both countries expressed their dislike of each other. He also said that there is recently a movement of history-recognition in learned societies in China.  In order to improve such situation, he asserted to promote  exchange at the intellectual level in Japan studies and necessity of common knowledge which can be shared among the whole Asia,about experiences of success and failure in Japan including the period before World War II.   According to Prof. Kinomiya, when the Japan-Republic of Korea Basic Relations Treaty was concluded in 1965, serious disputes had started between Japan and Korea because the Treaty did not solve problems properly. There were such changes in the relation between the countries like changes from vertical (Japan, as ruler and advanced country in economic development) to horizontal (equal partners in power). In Korea, there appeared domestic confrontation due to their diversification and stratification of society, and people found it difficult to compromise with Japan being afraid of being criticized domestically. He pointed out, as a solution, that Japan should tackle positively historical problems even though this may be in a narrow sense. And, it is necessary for Koreans to control themselves to avoid making a Japan-Korea problem into a “historical issue”.  He also insisted that, for recognition and policies against China, both countries should pursue common possibilities of access.   Moderator Mr. Kato premised “we like to look at historical issues on a broader scale without sticking at trifles”.  Opinion by both gentlemen, Prof. Kinomiya and Mr. Kato, were exactly an overlooking for big steps of modern histories. Based on responses to questionnaires after the forum, some participants commented: “it was difficult to give our own opinions on the theme this time because we could not identify what the truth is. We like to be as close to the truth as much as possible. We believe we can improve our chance to express our opinion by attending this kind of forum.” I thought, as the sponsor of this forum that it was effective because we were able to have such comment. We may lose free spatial feelings if we discuss on the basis of “justice” or “righteousness”.  Mr. Kato pointed out that we, Japan, came to feel cramped recently for certain though I do not know in foreign countries.  It was very impressive for me.   Lastly, I like to thank the participants in this forum and our co-host.   (Junko Imanishi /Representative for SGRA)     Translated by Kazuo Kawamura English checked by Mac Maquito   SGRA Kawaraban 471 in Japanese (original)