Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More young Japanese people should go abroad to study and work

I have posted a new entry in Japanese. The entry's title is "If you are a 15 year-old Japanese person, get out of Japan and go abroad".

In this post, I insisted that young people under 15 years old give up entering a Japanese university. Japanese universities, especially those teach liberal arts, are infamous for allowing students to graduate from them without substantial study. After 4 years of study, students would neither acquire any professional knowledge nor English proficiency. They are like innocent babies compared to students who studied in English speaking countries like US. Why? The reason is simple; Japanese companies have never looked for graduates with professional knowledge. They are just looking for young ignorant people who graduate from prestigious universities for screening purpose only. They don't care what students have studied in university.

This post has aroused strong emotional reactions among the readers. I have got more than 20,000 hits within only two days. Perhaps, a half of the readers supported and the other half of them opposed my assertion.

Why has this kind of post created such vehement responses from a variety of people? Probably, almost all Japanese people are already aware that something is seriously wrong with Japanese economy and feeling uneasy, at least subconsciously. Nevertheless, many of them do not wish to admit it. When you witness something that you don't want to see, it will cause an intense discomfort in your mind. This explains why my post saw such fervent oppositions.

Some people who live abroad and are able to speak a good English have also attempted some objections to my post. Probably, many of them simply don't know what's going on at workplaces in Japan. Anyway, they can survive anywhere in the world, so good for them. More miserable people are those who are monoligual and have no choice but to stick to Japan. I am afraid I can't come up with any good solution that allows them to get by in this tough economic situation in Japan. I am sorry, but they need to think by themselves.

I just want to give a piece of advice to the younger generation below 15 years old. "Get out of Japan to get a broader view". They are innocent. It is our responsibility to help them acquire abilities enough to lead a happy life in coming days. They will deadly need English skills and global perspectives. This is just minimum requirements for them to have a good life in the future. After making some effort to get professional skills, they will be able to get a job anywhere in the world including Japan.

24 comments:

HAL said...

While the Japanese previous journal has got more than 20,000 hits within only two days, anyone hasn’t commented this journal yet. I think this is the obvious problem which Japanese people have now.

Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...

Thank you for your comment, HAL. I am kind of fed up with writing posts in Japanese these days because it gets nowhere. So many Japanese people are stuck in complacency and have no courage to face the mounting economic and political risks. Our only hope is the young generation, whose thoughts are yet tainted by the ugly status quo.

yoppi said...

I agree with you in the point that it is better to go abroad for study, work or whatever reason "at least once in our life time". You can gain a lot, foreigh language skill, understanding of other cultures, objective view toward Japan or an international network. I am sure that experience abroad enrichs your life a lot. However, I cannot agree with you in two points.

First, I think that you are too pessimistic about the future of Japan. I have read almost all or your entries and kind of know what kind of experience you have. But still wondering what makes you that pessimistic about Japan? Do you have any past experience which made you think that way? Or the idea came just from information provided by Japanese media? Because of a long economic stagnation of Japan?
It is true that Japanese economy is not as good as before and many old inefficient customs does not disapper. But I still feel that Japan is great economic power, peaceful and rich in food and culture. I cannot come up with any countries which are better than Japan in every points.

I am sure that China will surpass Japan in many field in the near future. But I also think that it is stupid to compare China, a country of 1.3 billion people and Japan, a country of 120 million people. When you compare these two countries, we should see GDP per capita or the "quality" of life, not the size or quantity. Besides except for China and India, no country will be able to surpass Japan in GDP. It means that Japan will be the fourth largest economy in the world even 50 years later. is it a bad future?

Secondly, I believe that it is impossible for ordiary high school students to study abroad because of financial reason and language reason. It costs you 5 to 10 million JPY for one year study in US university without scholorship which is not available for most students. Who can pay for that? In adition, even those who go to Tokyo Univ will not be able to get 80 in TOEFL ibt which is required to enter a "middle level" University. You have to change the elementary or secondary education drastically to send many children abroad. Language barrier is higher than you think for ordinary Japanese people to take academic education in English.

I kind of understand your message and how you feel now. But going abroad after junior high or high school is not a possible choice for most of children today. Besides, the future of Japan is not as bleak as you think, in my opinion.

Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...

Thank you for your comment, Yoppi.

First of all, I have never been pessimistic simply because I got influenced by Japanese media coverage. Rather I don't really know what kind of news they are covering. Even if they are also pessimistic, the reason why they think so must be different from mine.

>It is true that Japanese economy is not as good as before and many old inefficient customs does not disappear. But I still feel that Japan is great economic power, peaceful and rich in food and culture. I cannot come up with any countries which are better than Japan in every points.

Well, I am not talking about Japan's present. I am discussing Japan's future. Japan might still be one of the world's greatest economies. However, its very foundation has been undermined for many years. People have not been fully aware of what's going on and what it will be like in the near future. Especially the leaders(both economic and political) are so indecisive that they are unable to make harsh but necessary decisions to reform the economic and political structures. Japan is just like a boat with a caption, floating nowhere.

China's presence is indeed very important, but it's irrelevant to my points here. All we Japanese have to do is to adapt the 21 century's new global reality where Japanese will be sandwiched between the two superpowers, China and US. It is perfectly ok as long as Japanese leaders take necessary actions. Do you think that Japan is moving toward that way? I don't think so.

>Secondly, I believe that it is impossible for ordinary high school students to study abroad because of financial reason and language reason.

I don't think so. There are many ways to achieve this goal. Have you ever heard of Korean families who send their children to schools in the Philippines? In many cases, even their mother also accompanies them to take care of them. After a few years, the children will be able to speak a decent English. American universities might be more expensive, but maybe you might want to reduce cost by combining learning through the internet and actually attending the class. If Japan is one of the richest countries as you mentioned, there must be some families who can afford to send their children to the most expensive top universities in US. There are so many ways to tackle this problem.

If you say I should not be pessimistic, why do you say "it's impossible for ordinary high school students to go to university overseas". Is it not pessimism? Now I live in Vietnam. There are some families who make desperate efforts to send one of their family members to go abroad to study and work. For example, if Vietnamese want to work in Japan under the internship program(kenshusei seido), they have to make a deposit in the amount as much as 1.4 million yen (15,000 USD). When an ordinary Vietnamese earns only under 200 USD a month, how can they make such much money? Many of them manage to make it. You know why? Because they are enthusiastic. Enthusiasm is one of the virtues that Japanese have lost in the process of its economic development.

yoppi said...

Thank you for your reply. I have never heard that Vietnamese people have to make deposit to do internship in Japan. Is this because there is a risk that some of them illegally immigrate to Japan? Anyway, that is interesting information.

I totally agree that leaders in Japan are indecisive. I personally support Osaka governor Hashimoto. I hope he will become the prime minister.

I am not as pessimistic about the future of Japan as you are. It is very important for Japan or Japanese companies to make profits from the growth of China. I believe that Japanese companies have the potential to dominate markets in China. We should allow the immigrant of able Chinese or Indian and create the environment where they can have a comfortable life.
On the other hand, I am concerned with accumulating national debts.(you've mentioned this point over and over again, right?) It is quite obvious that that kind of budget deficit is not sustainable and in the near future, Japan has to depend on foreigners for the purchase of government bonds.(I am afraid nobady would purchase Japanese government bonds at that time).I am worried what is going to happen when that time comes. Skyrocketing long-term interest rate? or hyper inflation? it will be disaster,anyway.

Japanese parents will not make the same kind of action as Korean or Vietnemese do today because the situation is still not that desperate. Today, the financial benefit of studying abroad is not that big. Sometime it works against you if you want to work for Japanese companies. Unless this situation changes, no parents would not dare to make drastic action as Korean or Vietnemese parents do. Only when studying abroad brings you huge benefits, parents start to seriously think of sending children abroad. It is possible that that time comes, but not for sure.
I think that if a half of top 1 percent students in Japan go to the top Universities in the world with the support of the government, it is really a positive change. But ordinary people do not have to take that kind of risk. They should acquire skills in Japan. If top students take the risk of studying abroad from undergraduate and compete with elite from all around the world, the future of Japan will be brighter. Is this the same situation you imagine? Then, I totally agree with you.

Ei "Ray" Murakami said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ei "Ray" Murakami said...

Japanese people who has only domestic knowledge and experience just past the stage of shock to the reality of the 21st century and are now going through the stage of denial. However some are entering the stage of anger as shown in the responses to your post in Japanese. I wonder how long it will take for the majority to reach the stage of acceptance.

Japan had followed the similar change process about 100 years ago - the anger stage was the war against UK and US and the acceptance stage was the surrender - so it was a forced one.

There are some ominous coincidences around Japan around Great Depression and current Japan around Great Recession. The same rush to Chinese market is only one of them. Maybe the Toyota Production System could be likened to the Carrier Battle Group. Both invented by Japan, dramatically demonstrated by Japan, then followed by the world and ultimately utilised to defeat Japan.

I think you should have set your target audience 4 year younger to be 11 years old. Competing for entry to "escalator schools" absolutely makes no senses according to your discussion.

Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...

Thanks again, Yoppi. Your comment includes some interesting views so please let me comment on your statements.

>Thank you for your reply. I have never heard that Vietnamese people have to make deposit to do internship in Japan. Is this because there is a risk that some of them illegally immigrate to Japan? Anyway, that is interesting information.

Yes, you are correct. Vietnamese workers, Vietnamese placement agencies and Japanese employers are all kind of dubious. Personally, I think that Japanese government should abolish this government-certified "internship program" and integrate it into a more transparent immigration system.


>I am not as pessimistic about the future of Japan as you are. It is very important for Japan or Japanese companies to make profits from the growth of China. I believe that Japanese companies have the potential to dominate markets in China. We should allow the immigrant of able Chinese or Indian and create the environment where they can have a comfortable life.

I perfectly agree with you in terms that Japanese companies should tap into the potential of the Chinese market. Regardless of whether you like or not, Japanese people have to sell goods and services to China and otherwise we won't be survive the new economic order in Asia. We should also invite a larger number of excellent workers from across the world, especially from Asia. We have to treat them in a humane manner and prepare a consistent and transparent immigration system(point system used in many advanced countries) that entitles them to permanent residency if they wish.

Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...

>On the other hand, I am concerned with accumulating national debts.(you've mentioned this point over and over again, right?) It is quite obvious that that kind of budget deficit is not sustainable and in the near future, Japan has to depend on foreigners for the purchase of government bonds.(I am afraid nobody would purchase Japanese government bonds at that time).I am worried what is going to happen when that time comes. Skyrocketing long-term interest rate? or hyper inflation? it will be disaster,anyway.

The problem of the accumulating governmental debts is one of the most dangerous risks in Japan. As you know, there are four solutions to get out of this crisis. 1) economic growth 2) increase in taxation 3) declaration of default 4) hyperinflation. 1) is a happy ending but the rest of all are bad endings. If we assume that the current political situation goes on, option 1) and 3) look unlikely. When either 2) or 4) takes place, Japanese people cannot avoid to feel acute pain for a few years or longer. Since we know that the only happy ending is option 1), we must try our best to facilitate economic growth of Japan by deregulation including freer movement of both capital and people.

Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...

> Japanese parents will not make the same kind of action as Korean or Vietnamese do today because the situation is still not that desperate. Today, the financial benefit of studying abroad is not that big. Sometime it works against you if you want to work for Japanese companies. Unless this situation changes, no parents would not dare to make drastic action as Korean or Vietnamese parents do. Only when studying abroad brings you huge benefits, parents start to seriously think of sending children abroad. It is possible that that time comes, but not for sure.

Your analysis is absolutely correct. Money matters. Japanese people show no interest in the outside world simply because they don't make much money there. So the exchange rate will play an important role here. If the Japanese yen will weaken, then more Japanese people most likely will take a risk to go abroad to study and work.

Irony here is that when people need international communication skills(e.g. English skills, understanding multiculturalism, etc) in the wave of globalization, Japanese people are not economically motivated to acquire those skills. After Japan has seen its economy declined, Japanese people find themselves facing a global mega-competition where they are least prepared. Japanese economy is still big and has considerable amount assets that they can depend on. But maybe this fact might adversely affect young people and let them mistakingly believe that they need no international literacy.

>I think that if a half of top 1 percent students in Japan go to the top Universities in the world with the support of the government, it is really a positive change. But ordinary people do not have to take that kind of risk. They should acquire skills in Japan. If top students take the risk of studying abroad from undergraduate and compete with elite from all around the world, the future of Japan will be brighter. Is this the same situation you imagine? Then, I totally agree with you.

Well, to be honest with you, it is not necessary for everybody to go abroad to study and work. Probably, the most intelligent and motivated people going there is sufficient. First of all, when I said "15 year-old Japanese should go abroad", I mainly meant open-mindedness toward the outside world rather than being physically present abroad. As I did mention in the original Japanese post, you can also learn English in Japan thanks to new technologies. However, going to abroad, if permitting, is still preferable because you will have a better chance to encounter people with totally different backgrounds and that experience can broaden your view and enrich your life. If you don't have enough money but still wish to communicate with outsiders, you can still achieve that goal through numerous methods in this Internet age. No matter whether you have studied in Japan or overseas, once you get a sense of living together with those who have different ethic and cultural backgrounds, you will be more open-minded and aware of more choices and possibilities in your life. Then you will never be an obedient robot who blindly follows your company's orders and make yourself depressed.

Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...

Hi Ei "Ray" Murakami, thank you for your comment. Your analysis is very interesting. I agree with you. Japanese people are in transition from the state of denial to the state of anger.

I anticipate that Japan will be caught in a series of economic and political turmoils in the near future. I will try my best to protect myself, my family and my close friends from them.

Hiroshi said...

Hi, I found this from your blog in Japanese.

As a Japanese who went for a graduate school in US, I pretty much agree with your most of opinions.

But I wonder how on earth people believe your suggestion. Going abroad from Japan is risky for most of people. Even if some people go for studying abroad, there is no way you can guarantee their lives like jobs or degrees in other countries.
I think that is a big point you are missing. You are just saying that.

You can say whatever you want to say, but your opinions or suggestions should be believed in people, right? How can you make people agree with your beliefs?

Again, I agree with your opinions and hope more people going abroad.

Thanks,

Hiroshi

Andy M. said...

>More young Japanese people should go abroad to study and work

I cannot agree with you more! Recently, I see a lot of young Chinese and Korean engineers in America, but there aren’t many of them from Japan (not around me).

>In this post, I insisted that young people under 15 years old give up entering a Japanese university. Japanese universities, especially those teach liberal arts, are infamous for allowing students to graduate from them without substantial study.

I really wanted to study in an American university, but I couldn’t afford. So after I got an engineering degree from a Japanese university (I also took English courses with native English teachers), I got a job with a Japanese subsidiary of an American firm. Later I transferred to its US HQ and eventually became an American citizen.
When I was in the university, I had to study hard and it wasn’t exactly like a party life. I think some schools in Japan were more like a diploma mill and students didn’t have to study hard at all. It was about 20 years ago. I am not sure if those schools are same way now.
> After 4 years of study, students would neither acquire any professional knowledge nor English proficiency.

What a waste of time and money!

> Japanese companies have never looked for graduates with professional knowledge.
>They are just looking for young ignorant people who graduate from prestigious universities for screening purpose only.

I wonder how Japanese companies could be successful in the past. Companies need workers who can perform the job task for the position. It is kind of odd that they don’t look for applicants with required skills, knowledge and experience.
If Japanese companies change the way to hire people (when a position opens, select the best candidate from applicants with relevant skills, knowledge and experience regardless of age, gender and ethnicity), schools and students must change their way of studying as well.
> Probably, almost all Japanese people are already aware that something is seriously wrong with Japanese economy and feeling uneasy, at least subconsciously. Nevertheless, many of them do not wish to admit it.

Is it somehow related to “kotodama (the belief that bad things happen when people talk about bad things)”? In the US, many of us view Japan as a nation that used to be successful. There was a time when many Americans though that Japan was a toughest competitor of all, but it was years ago.

> I am afraid I can't come up with any good solution that allows them to get by in this tough economic situation in Japan.

They can study globally accepted subjects (e.g., computer science), study English hard, work for foreign firms in Japan, apply for assignments outside of Japan and save money in foreign currencies.

> It is our responsibility to help them acquire abilities enough to lead a happy life in coming days.

You are a good man.
Living in America, I have a hard time understanding why many Japanese people feel so uneasy or objectionable about studying and working in a foreign country. When I saw some of the comments in Japanese like (“are you abandoning Japan”), I felt funny. How many Americans will say “are you abandoning America” to those who decided to study and work in Canada? Lol.


Andy M.

Eiji Sakai a.k.a. elm200 said...

Hi Andy,

Economically speaking, the current Japanese people's behavior is not irrational. In short, it does not pay off for them to go abroad. Studying in US college is very expensive, not to mention the language barrier. Even though they are educated only inside Japan, many university graduates earn a decent amount of money once they successfully enter big Japanese corporations...so far.

This is a fortunate, and at the same time, a tragedy for Japanese people. In the past, Japanese exporters(mainly manufacturers) were so successful that it pushed up the value of Japanese yen. A strong yen created a vast domestic market large enough to support most of Japanese people. This is where their complacency originated.

Japanese people stopped looking outside. They became inward. They stopped learning good things residing outside of Japan. They became narcissistic, saying "hey, look, we have manga and anime. It's so unique. Don't you think it's cool?"

You can call this a self-righteous attitude. Japan will be punished by its own arrogance.

This is sad. But it would be very difficult for Japan to get out of this trajectory until it hits the iceberg and stops like Titanic.

Andy M. said...

Hi Eiji,
I agree with you analysis. For most Japanese students there are not enough incentives to study abroad now. It is a classical case of risk and reward equation. It will take a major economic disaster (e.g., a debt financing crisis that triggers hyper inflation) to wake up most of the Japanese.
I kind of see the similarity between today and the war time in mid 20th century. Most of Japanese people didn’t see that they were in the disastrous misadventure that devastated the entire country till their situation became really grim. (I think that in the US, people can call a misadventure as it is.)
In my opinion, Japan’s situation now is more like a time after the battle of midway. The country already passed the point of no return (in terms of the aging population and the percentage of public debt per GDP), but Japanese people by and large are not compelled to take their own actions and still hoping that everything will turn out to be good just like they were even after the battle of midway.
History suggests that most of the Japanese people will not change the way they think and hang on to status quo till the end. The trouble is that it is very hard to persuade them before it’s too late. In Japan, alarmist ideas rarely trigger a change of the course as if it always takes a disaster to convince the Japanese the need to change the course. Even if some of them know what is coming, they rather keep silence because they know too well about what will happen to people who dare to speak up.
I hope that there will be a better country in an aftermath of the economic and demographic crisis. I hope that Japan will become a truly modern multilingual and multicultural nation in the future.

Andy M.

JP said...

I just found you blog today and it is exciting to find this kind of discussion in English by Japanese. I tend to avoid reading Japanese language blogs because it takes me far longer to read them than blogs in my native language.

I am a 12 year resident of Japan, originally from USA. I came to Japan to get my international experience after college and it has been the best decision that I have ever made. I think the best advice you could give anyone is to leave their "comfort" zone and go abroad for an extended period. Unfortunately, it is not always feasible for a number of reasons, but "where their is a will there is a way". I wish that more Japanese would go abroad. It would make my life in Japan much easier. We would understand each other better.

As far as the problems faced by Japan in the near future; I am very concerned for my future, my retirement, and my family. The governments unwillingness to address critical issues like the debt and aging society will have major impacts on all of us. I can always leave, being bilingual and having a foreign passport, but a majority of the people here cannot. I wish us all luck!

Ei "Ray" Murakami said...

Hi JP,

One thing you might be struggling is that in Japan most of adults pay no serious attention to the opinions of your age.

I was impressed by the scene in the movie "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" where the leading young boy makes friends with an elderly women and discusses on life. It hardly happens naturally in Japan.

Anyway you now got a stereoscope view of the world rather than a monocular view most people have. I hope you learn heaps from Japanese culture and understand much deeper with your own, too.

Good luck!
Ray

sophie said...

Great views, I’m loving this discussion
study abroad

Anonymous said...

Hi,
JP lived in Japan for 12 years after his college and is not 12.

evision said...

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Imelda Samulde said...

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Anonymous said...

Do not think that your English is somewhat good; you still have a lot of careless grammar mistakes which could have been avoided. To give an example,
"This is just minimum requirements"

is - requirements
singular and plural.

what i think is the best way of rewriting this sentence is:
This is just one of the minimum requirements.

If you think you are already somewhat good enough as a Japanese,
your improvement in English will stop there.

"初心にかえること" is always one of the most effective ways of enhancing own improvement, I suppose.

To talk about the content of your blog, I thought you need to explain a bit more in detail what the definitions of "good life" and "bad life". People have different perspectives about those topics.
Make sure you state something in one-way perspective only.

But overall, I like your thoughts :)
Nice work.