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Japanese schools welcome the world

May 30, 2017
Credit : GMI Post


In recent years, Japanese universities have stepped up their efforts to reaching out to the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Supported by Japan’s highly industrialized economy, they have also expanded their role as a critical partner to development in other countries.

According to the Organization of Economic Development, as of 2012, 94 percent of foreign students in Japan came from Asia. So 2017 was significant because Japan universities opened new networks in booming regions of Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

Inside Linden Hall, which forms part of Japan’s Tsuzuki Education Group

Japan’s global leadership in specialized manufacturing, healthcare and business has helped nurture an intellectually stimulating atmosphere, wherein students can acquire the communication, critical thinking and decision making skills needed in the 21st century.

Innovation through design

One area where Japan’s leading edge shines is in engineering products.

The Advanced Institute of Industrial Technology was set up by the Tokyo municipal government in 2006 to offer a rigorous science education and to train its students on how to quickly apply fast-changing developments in information science and technology.

AIIT President Dr. Seiichi Kawata believes this interdisciplinary approach to information science and technology will further sharpen Japan’s competitive edge in technological innovation.

“In 2008, AIIT established the Masters’ Program for design and engineering in response to the rapid changes in the market, especially in terms of product design. We teach our engineers that human-centric design is just as important as superior build quality,” Kawata explained. 

“We keep close contact with Japan’s industry leaders to listen to what they need and the challenges they face. Today, innovation no longer belongs to one person. Innovation becomes more possible with collaboration,” he added.

World-class disaster and emergency response

Japan’s geographic location makes the islands susceptible to natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons. Through the centuries, the country has developed survival techniques and now wishes to share the knowledge with other countries facing the same challenge.

“We hope that Nippon Medical School doctors will play a role in international missions and in practical clinics. Across the region, we have shared our top-notch technology with countries that face the same challenges as Japan, such as natural and man-made disaster response. We deployed our team during the 2004 earthquake in Aceh, the 2008 Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar and the 2012 earthquake in Nepal,” said Nippon Medical School President Dr. Akihiko Gemma.

“For us, the development of emergency medicine is important in order to respond to terrorist threats and natural disasters. Japan has hosted and will host some of the world’s most significant events, such as the G-7 summit in 2016 and the Olympic Games in 2020. Because of our strengths in emergency response, the Nippon Medical School Hospital is the most important hospital in Japan, so we must develop this system in order to respond to these challenges,” Gemma also said.

More than medical pioneers

Established in 1907 by Dr. Ichigoro Nakahara, Nippon Dental University has established a reputation as a pioneer in the field of regenerative medicine. Having celebrated its 110th anniversary in 2016, NDU is looking towards the next century by taking on medicine’s greatest challenge: how to regenerate parts of the human body.

And as the number of 65-year-olds and above is predicted to exceed 25 percent of the population by 2025, Japan is seeing the importance of geriatric medicine increasing. Ahead of that demographic challenge, the number of dental treatments of elderly people especially, treatments of periodontitis and dental caries have been growing every year.

“Five years ago, NDU established the world’s first dental pulp cell bank. We see a lot of potential in utilizing the stem cells derived from deciduous teeth (milk teeth) to cure various forms of illnesses. As countries face rapidly changing demographics, regenerative medicine will play a big role in maintaining quality of life,” explained President Dr. Sen Nakahara.

NDU is Japan’s largest dental school with more than 2,000 students, 1,000 teaching staff and 20,000 graduates. It also boasts several international partnerships, among them with the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Maryland, University of Paris, and Mahidol University in Thailand.

But Nakahara sees a larger mission than just being medical pioneers: “Being the largest dental school in the world and developing the field of regenerative medicine, Nippon Dental University recognizes its obligation to society. We established the TAMA clinic in Tokyo, which is the only oral rehabilitation clinic in Japan meant to improve the oral health of elderly and handicapped patients. NDU has also established mobile clinics in Niigata Prefecture in order to reach populations with no access to dental care. 

One region that is emerging popular among international students is along Japan’s western coast.

Forming a new role in the future, Niigata University has stepped up efforts to deepen ties with its foreign partners and form new partnerships in Japan, East Asia, and the rest of the world.

“We are welcoming ever increasing numbers of foreign students wishing to study at Niigata University. Many of these international students see Niigata University as a cultural, academic and business hub for study in or about the East Asian Rim regions, and ultimately a gateway to East Asia and the world,” said President Sugata Takahashi.

“We hope not only Japanese students, but also East Asian students and students from other areas of the world, will obtain the knowledge and skills they need for their future at Niigata University. Students and researchers alike can expect Niigata University to be a vibrant hub of academic activity,” Takahashi said.

Nurturing global citizens

As the only national university in the prefecture, Mie University is committed to solving problems in rural areas around Japan. Because more than two-thirds of its graduates leave the area to seek work in larger cities, the university works closely with the local government, institutions and businesses to encourage its students to stay and contribute to the sustainable region’s development.

“Young students play a very important role in Mie. To entice them to stay, we are revitalizing the system to ensure good education and quality research,” President Yoshihiro Komada said.

The university has partnerships with more than 100 international schools across Asia, Africa and the rest of the world. It also has set up unique research institutes, such as Ninja Studies and Whale Research, which have attracted foreign students.

In recent years, Mie University opened several satellite offices to promote itself and strengthen cooperation with other universities and companies. By doing so, the school hopes to broaden the worldview of its students by teaching them about regions that are very different from theirs.

“We are fostering the future community leaders through this global education,” Komada said.

Raising the profile of women

One of the aims of Abenomics is to increase the role of women in the working world. In OECD’s latest available statistics, 61 percent of women aged 24 to 34 did well above the OECD average (45%) and better than Japanese men of same age with the same level of education (56%).

But significant challenges remain to fully integrate women into working society. Japanese tertiary institutions are doing their part.

Sugiyama Jogakuen’s 111-year history traces its roots as a sewing school for women. After the Second World War, the school became a full-fledged college with a new mission to equip women with skills and knowledge to meet the demands of the 21st century.

University President Kimio Morimune believes that the institution must expand its mission beyond education and become a huge contributor to the ongoing global debate over the evolving role of women in society.

Morimune noted: “Now more than ever, there’s a need for action to create a bigger role for women in Japanese society. We can only attain clear visibility of Japan’s future once women form part of that vision.”

While the all-women school accepts a small number of international students, it wants to partner with more universities abroad for student exchange programs.

“Our professors are our ambassadors. When foreign students come here, they enjoy the experience because the school takes very good care of international students and encourages them to interact with the locals and work together,” he said.

Fast-forward Fukuoka

Due to a dynamic population and an aggressive focus to become a center of entrepreneurship, Fukuoka has attracted many young people, both Japanese and foreign. In fact, the city is home to more foreign students per capita than anywhere else in Japan.

Fukuoka Women’s University is one such university where foreign students get to experience Japan through its unique housing set up.

Fukuoka Women’s University opened its doors in 1923, as Japan’s first public college and later, in 1950, became a full-fledged university. In addition to its broader mission of forming globally-minded students, the university does not neglect the nurturing of the “heart.”

President Tisato Kajiyama has placed great importance on emotional intelligence or kansei, which means “sophisticated feelings” in Japanese. “High grades are important, of course. But we further equip our students to embrace a more globalized future by being aware of diversity. We are surely the only college in Japan to emphasize the importance of kansei in education and campus activities,” he explained.

While more than 70 percent of its students have experienced studies abroad, the university also introduced mixed nationality dormitories to further complement its efforts to internationalize the learning environment.

“The students not only learn English with their foreign peers but, through the shared housing set up, they live and breathe the language. This transforms our students in so many ways, such as honing a spirit of nurturing and emotional intelligence,” Kajiyama said.

A global campus in Kobe

Ever since its foundation, Kobe International University has prioritized internationalization. As of 2017, around 28 percent of its freshmen were foreign students, while 10 percent of its Japanese students have joined overseas programs. To further raise those numbers, KIU has partnered with several international universities to allow its students to take fully-credited courses abroad.

“My idea of a global campus is to share our campus and academic programs with our worldwide partner universities. Thus, all the prospective students can participate in them according to their needs. KIU’s aim is to grow together with our partners, learn from them, develop new programs and finally innovate a new era of global education,” President Yuki Shimomura said.

As KIU marks its 50th anniversary in 2018, Shimomura said the school will continue its internationalization program.

“Globalization is not new to us. In the next years, we hope to find more partners with whom we can grow and work together to create an actual ground for globalization,” he said.

Revitalizing Japan’s  shonin spirit

The Kansai Region is the home of Japanese industrial giants, such as Panasonic. Composed of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, the region is a major trading hub and traces its roots to Japan’s shonin or merchant class that propelled the country to rapid industrialization.

The Osaka University of Commerce has stayed true to its origins by creating an environment that is very conducive to molding Japan’s future leaders in trade and commerce.

“A large number of Japan’s CEOs came from our school, which reflects its reputation as a world-class institution. Moreover, as Japanese companies continue to expand overseas and in new markets, we invite students from these countries to experience Japan and learn the Japanese way of doing business. Doing so would enhance communication and would benefit regional development and partnerships with Japan,” President Dr. Ishiro Tanioka said.

Gateway to Asia, gateway to the world

May 30, 2017
Credit : GMI Post


Across the Asia Pacific region, the flow of goods, people and ideas is growing at an increasing rate. Nowhere is this movement more pronounced than in the area of education.

In 2008, the Japanese government under Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda launched the “300,000 Foreign Students Plan” campaign in order to attract more talent from abroad and spur innovation within the country. To date, Japan has about 216,000 and is on track to reaching its target.

Shifting demographics within Japan and increasing technological competition from its neighbors are some of the challenges that Japan is facing. Aware of the need to adapt to a fast changing world, the country’s largest education group sees its schools as a crucial player in raising the country’s living and working attractiveness.

Tsuzuki Education Group Chancellor Kimiko Tsuzuki (left) and Vice Chancellor Asuka Tsuzuki

For Tsuzuki Education Group Chancellor Kimiko Tsuzuki, the task of forming 21st century minds is both challenging and exciting: “Japanese society is at a crossroads. We need to ask: How do we welcome new talent? What ideas will propel Japan forward? At the same time, how can Japan’s unique fusion of tradition and innovation impact the world?”

Origin: From tradition

Composed of some 37 schools and campuses offering primary education until graduate level studies across the country, two philanthropic foundations, and supporting education in developing countries such as in Africa, the 60-year-old organization has evolved throughout the years to meet the needs of Japanese society. Today, the Tsuzuki Education Group aims for its universities to be both centers of excellence within the Asia Pacific region, and to contribute to the present and future needs of Japan.

Founded on its philosophy of “Training for Life through Development of Personality,” Tsuzuki Education Group, as it faces new challenges in a fast-changing world, has adopted the principle of Wakon Eisai or “Japanese Spirit and Talented Scholar.”

Linden Hall

“It is about striving for constant learning and openness to the world without having to sacrifice what it is to be Japanese,” Vice Chancellor Asuka Tsuzuki explained.

Six of its universities, for example, each specialize in pharmacology, economics, technology, and social and medical welfare. For pharmacology, what they uniquely offer are qualifications on traditional medicine and an education that fuses the best of Western and Eastern medicine. Graduates from the Yokohama, Daiichi, and Japan University of Pharmacology receive certification in western pharmacy and also have competent knowledge with traditional medicines.

“This reflects in a specific field the wider philosophy of the group to retain the best of Japanese traditional culture and combine it with the best practice and knowledge of the wider worlds.”

Kimiko Tsuzuki also said: “We adopted this motto as the group celebrated its 60th year anniversary in 2016. It reflects the idea that globalization is not a one-way affair where Japan accepts simply innovation from the outside. Through Japan’s social and economic advances, we think Japan’s ancient culture can become a stabilizing influence throughout the region.”

The number of the schools’ overseas students reflects the international character of the group. Over 5,000 foreign students from more than 30 countries consider Tsuzuki Education Group’s schools their home in Japan, and they bring back the experiences they gained in Japan that benefit their home countries. “We make sure they receive the best support from our high caliber faculty, state-of-the-art facilities and prestigious international partnerships, such as those with our partners in Cambridge and Oxford universities,” Kimiko Tsuzuki said.

Yokohama University of Pharmacology

For example, Japan University of Economics (JUE) sends its English language students and researchers to St. Anne’s College in Oxford and Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge to learn English in its country of origin as part of its Research of Original Schools of English Program (ROSE).

Through the Tsuzuki Scholarship Program (TSP), the group has given some Oxford and Cambridge students the opportunity to study Japanese culture and language in Japan for a full year. In the 20 years since the program began, more than 200 students have benefitted from this opportunity, viewed as an effective cultural bridge between Europe and Japan.

In fact, situated in the JUE Campus is the English Garden, a symbol of partnership and friendship between England and Japan, and marked the beginning of the relationship with St. Anne’s College Oxford and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge. With around 100,000 roses spread across 100,000 square meters, the English Garden is also, in a way, the physical manifestation of the Wakon Eisai spirit through the fusion of Western and Eastern design and approach.  

One of Tsuzuki Education Group’s most interesting and innovative projects that embodies “Wakon Eisai” is Linden Hall (LH). The school follows the Japanese curriculum but conducts its classes in English. The combined approach provides students with all the skills, language included, sought by any good IB World school, as well as a substantial foundation in their own language and culture such as Zen Buddihism. Many graduates of LH have been accepted to Ivy League schools in the United States, Russell Group universities in the UK, and top national and private universities in Japan.

Japan’s elites have held on to the bunbu-ry?d? ethic, which values martial and cultural skills and achievement.

“We at Linden teach the various traditional arts with this very much in mind. At the same time, the students hone the language skills to acquire and contribute to knowledge around the world,” she explained.

Promoting a unique civilization

In his bestselling, critically acclaimed book “The Clash of Civilizations,” Harvard professor Samuel Huntington accorded Japanese civilization a status unique from that of neighboring China. 

The Tsuzuki Education Group established the Japanese Civilization Institute, whose fields of studies fall into five categories: Ideology, Philosophy and Ethics; Economy and Management; Industrial Art and Technology; Medicine; Politics and Religion. Its goal is to study Japanese civilization and pass it to people in and outside Japan.

By disseminating the conclusions of its studies, the group hopes to be making its own contribution to efforts to promote peace and development in Japan and the outside world.

Destination: To the Future

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics marked the rebirth of Japan as an economic power and technological pioneer as the event coincided with the inauguration of the shinkansen or bullet train, the world’s first high speed train.

“The next Olympics in 2020 will happen at a time Japan sees itself as more comfortable and more confident in its role as a benevolent economic power. Through our Wakon Eisai philosophy, our students learn the value of individuality and independence and become more comfortable in welcoming change while being confident in Japan’s perennial traditions as a force for good,” Kimiko Tsuzuki said.

For Asuka Tsuzuki, the question about Japan’s future is closely tied to how Japan molds the minds of its youth: “What is the future of Japan’s universities? What kind of social space will make the students flourish in their own right? Forming independence has been our teaching principle for 60 years. We will enhance this through cutting edge innovation, new paradigms of learning and a fresh approach to the world.”

Japan 2017, Part 2 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

PDF of the printed report

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