A sociocultural comparison of Japanese and American high schools

Any anime appreciator has surely asked themselves: “Are Japanese high schools really like this?” After reading Thomas P. Rohlen’s Japan’s High Schools, I would be inclined to respond, “yes.”

In 1983, Rohlen published an anthropological study of the Japanese high school system based on a year’s worth of fieldwork across five different Japanese high schools in the city of Kobe. Upon reading this account of Japanese high school life, I could not help but draw comparisons to the American high school system ー comparisons which are deeply unflattering to America! Despite wide criticism of its inflexible, exam-focused educational system, the portrait of Japanese students in Rohlen’s study was striking in its description of their independence and extracurricular engagement.

High school is typically considered to be a formative gateway into the adult life of a university student. This is all the more true in Japan, where the admissions process sorts students into tiers of vastly differing abilities, in stark contrast to the robust mixing of socioeconomic classes in elementary and middle schools. I summarize some particular areas of interest below, which I hope to be of as much interest to my reader as they were to me.

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A translation of Iwamura Tooru’s “A Great Scream” (大叫喚)

From the Minato City website:

1870-1917. Art historian and art critic. The firstborn son of a government official, Takatoshi Iwamura. From 1888, for five years he studied art in the United States and Europe. In Europe he learned painting techniques and read the history of Western art at the Academie Julien in Paris. When he returned to Japan, he formed the Hakubakai with Kiyoteru Kuroda, whom he met in Paris. He later became a professor at the Tokyo Art School (now the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music). He also served as judge for a Ministry of Education art exhibition and devoted himself to founding the National Association of Art.

This short story was published in 1909. Source text.

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How to learn Japanese

This is a no-nonsense post on how to learn Japanese.

In this post, I lay out a basic description of how I attained intermediate competency in the Japanese language with a focus on reading comprehension. I describe the fundamental tools and sources I used as well as the rationale behind the design of my study plan.

Many gaps are left to the reader. I do not link every single resource, explain how to set up your flashcard software, etc. Instead, my goal is to give you the fundamental context behind what I did and why I did it, which should equip you with the ability to design your own course of attack.

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