Why are kids allowed to play “metal game”?

Seeing as how pachinko also gives prizes (if ones which are almost always exchanged back into cash), why does anyone allow kids to play “metal game”, which is basically the same thing? Then again, last Xmas there was an actual Anpanman pachinko machine for sale in toy shops, so maybe some people see that kind of gambling as okay.



Why do kids like Baikinman?

Baikinman is the main “bad guy” in the incredibly popular children’s cartoon (and merchandiser’s dream) Anpanman. I say “bad guy”, but in fact he’s more pitiable than evil in the series, even when trying to crush people with his spaceship’s many arms. More surprisingly, after Anpanman himself he is the most common character on those merchandising cups, tambourines, boil in the bag curries, etc, more even than Anpanman’s sidekick Melonpannachan.

When I was growing up I can’t remember a single lunch box or pencil case that had Lex Luther or the witch character from Power Rangers on them, and the closest equivalent I can think of is the bad guys from Batman such as Penguin. I guess some of the Mr Men with negative names like Mr Grumpy could be kind of similar too.

I once read a serious academic book on Pokemon (really!) that convincingly argued that the good guy/ bad guy (with their white hat/ black hat) is a specifically Western thing, and that most Japanese kids’ TV programmes have characters who are a bit bad and awkward without properly being a “bad guy”, i.e. have a sophistication on this point that would be remarked on as incredibly mature in the West. From what I’ve seen of Pokemon (as little as I possibly can), that does seem to be the case there too. As far as I’m aware, though, none of those characters are nearly as popular as Pikuchu.

So, what puts Baikinman right up there in the top ten (I guess) most beloved Japanese childen’s characters? This being Japan, it could just be a deliberate marketing policy that consumers couldn’t resist. Alternatively, maybe it could just be because its face has more character and is easier to draw than most of the others. Feel like I’m not really there with an explanation yet though…

Why do we hear wildly varying accounts of discipline in Japanese schools?

Because the main weapon of Japanese teachers has always been peer pressure, so much so that traditionally classes with no teacher are left for hours or even days to get on with it under the instructions of the class monitor and the pressure of the other kids to behave. However, in some classes – or even whole schools- that peer pressure is rather one to appear too cool for school, etc. In others it could be to go totally wild.

The same explanation works quite well for explaining the extremes of discipline and lack of discipline in WWII, how the protests of the 1960s turned into virtually no protests today, and why Japanese sci-fi is so fascinated by the idea of a complete breakdown of the social order- because it could happen! Of course, peer pressure exists in every society. I think Japan uses it more as a form of control than almost any other country, though, apart maybe from the ones with reeducation camps…

Why are mixed race kids so loud?

It’s something I’d noticed long before I ever thought of having one myself, when if there was a noisy kid on a train it was either gaijin (usually white), mixed race, or son of a forty something Japanese first time mother. What was even more striking was that my daughter was by far the loudest crier in the hospital in Tokyo from the moment she was born, and now can bring nurses running in a panic from her ear shattering cries when she has a jab. She actually has two rather loud parents, but as I said I think it’s a bit more general than that.

Anyone else noticed it? Any theories?

Why do Japanese teachers not have the discipline problems of teachers in Britain or America?

At the worst high schools, some of the classes can actually look and sound more out of control, for some of the same reasons that most of them don’t:
-Lower standards set for general levels of noise, everyone finishing at the same time, listening to every word the teacher says etc means less reasons for teachers and students to clash
– Clear (some would say repetitive) classroom routines
– Alternating quite free and easy periods and very controlled ones
– Stronger peer pressure- usually to behave, but in the worst classes the opposite
– Going at the speed of the slowest students
– Putting one to one time sorting out problems with students ahead of retaining the attention of the rest of the class
– Fewer social problems such as broken families, chronic unemployment etc. outside class

– Consistent teaching methods and discipline methods from class to class and school to school

– Being allowed to totally let off steam when they are free, including almost complete freedom to fight!

– Patience from the teachers, mainly due to an understanding that discipline comes from socialization rather than from classroom techniques

“The nail that sticks out gets hammered down”

This overwhelming favourite Japanese proverb amongst Japan watchers is a MYTH. If you have ever seen a Japanese school teacher or mother at work you can instantly see that there is no hammering going on. The nail that sticks out is indulged until it decides it would rather not stick out after all in case that indulgence disappears.

See the Japanese Myths section for more Nippon stereotype busting.

Why does Japan have the world’s fastest aging population?

It’s a combination of the old people living for ever and the young people not doing their duty in the sprogs department. The first is due to getting almost everything you need for longevity- being married, keeping busy, close family ties, a healthy diet and an okay health service. The latter is a combination of the difficulties of getting married and having kids (expensive accommodation and education,difficulties in meeting people and hooking up) and an extreme version of a self-sacrificing generation spawning a self-indulgent one. Other factors include very low rates of pre-marital birth and unmarried couples, women who have babies still being expected to stop work, the difficulties of obtaining credit,and the even more risk averse younger generation not making a move without the increasingly rare permanent contract, mortgage and stack of savings.

The big list of my Japanese faux pas

Giving the impression I thought the UK was safer than Japan
I think I mentioned no earthquakes, tsunami or bears, and therefore squashed the great national myth about Safe Japan Read the rest of this entry »

Why are the Japanese so obsessed with their kids being genki (energetic, lively)?

Thailand is quite similar. It could it be an inherent trust in the good nature of kids due to Buddhism having no concept of original sin, or an understanding that lots of energy (more than lots of original ideas) is what they are going to need in their future educational and working careers. Alternatively it could be because rebellion and mental health problems in Japanese tend to come out as being lethargic and withdrawn

More on Japanese families and education on pages on the right

Why do Japanese students often switch off during explanations of games or grammar in English?

In Japan modelling is always used after/instead an explanation, so the explanation is not so important. In some schools, explanations in English are also followed by the same explanation in Japanese, so it usually is unnecessary to listen to the English version. There is also generally more tolerance for students not paying attention to the teacher in Japanese schools than in most Western ones.

More of this ilk in Japanese Education explained and Japanese English explained.

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