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Japan struggles to keep up as China woos international students

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Japan’s efforts to increase the number of international students coming to its shores are being dwarfed by similar initiatives in neighboring China. Lofty goals such as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to attract 300,000 foreign students by 2020 appear to be struggling to gain traction.

While few, if any, nations can compete with the deluge of financial investment and hordes of students China has fed into the global education system since the early 1980s, the Asian giant’s strategies and ambitious approach can offer pointers to Japan about what more it could be doing to catch up.

While China now hosts 8 percent of the world’s 4.3 million international students, it accounted for less than 2 percent just a decade ago, according to the Institute Of International Education (IIE). During this time, Japan has remained fairly constant with a 3 percent market share. Globally, China has become the third most popular destination for higher education after the United States and United Kingdom, with an international student body that has been growing by 10 percent annually. Meanwhile, Japan has fallen from sixth to eighth place in the rankings, trailing France, Germany, Australia and Canada.

Of course, Japan’s booming economy was once the main draw for international students coming to Japan. Now, China is benefiting from the same phenomenon.

“In the 1980s, when everybody was studying Japanese, it looked like America’s future was going to be tied to Japan’s economy, but now that’s not the case,” says Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor to the president of the IIE. “America’s future is now tied to the Chinese economy, as will the economies of many other countries.”

At Dartmouth College, for example, an Ivy League school in New Hampshire, while first-year enrollments to study Japanese were slightly higher than those for Chinese in the late 1990s, Chinese enrollments are now two to three times those for Japanese.

So who still comes to study in Japan?

“When the downturn of the Japanese economy sank in, the enrollments were really supported by the anime, manga, J-pop crowd,” explains James Dorsey, chair of the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Languages and Literatures at Dartmouth, where 65 percent of undergraduates participate in study-abroad programs. “Any student who matriculates at Dartmouth today has grown up playing ‘Pokemon.’ I call them the Pokemon generation.”

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has pledged to invest $500 million over a 20-year period in its Cool Japan global PR campaign, partly with this demographic in mind. Connie Zhang, a student from Beijing studying business and commerce at Keio University in Tokyo, fits this characterization.

“I was interested in Japanese culture, drama, movies, fashion, food and idols,” she says. Her family, however, wanted her to study in the U.S. because she had been studying compulsory English since primary school.

Some have criticized Japan’s higher-education sector for its narrow international focus, arguing it has undergone an “Asianization” rather than internationalization. Of the 135,000 international students in Japan, 90 percent come from Asia. Chinese represent 60 percent of the total, South Koreans 11 percent, followed by Vietnam with 5 percent and Taiwan with 4 percent, according to the Japan Student Services Organization.

Meanwhile, China has a more diverse international student body. According to the China Scholarship Council, of the 300,000 international students in China, 21 percent hail from South Korea, with 8 percent from the U.S., 6 percent from Japan, 5 percent each from Thailand, Vietnam and Russia, and 4 percent from India. That total is likely to top 500,000 within the next two to three years, believes IIE President Allan E. Goodman.

A commonly cited obstacle to studying in Japan is the predominance of classes conducted in Japanese. Because of language similarities, this is a less intimidating hurdle for students from Northeast Asia.

“Chinese students that have a Chinese-language background tend to have less difficulty mastering Japanese,” says Yukiko Shimmi, assistant professor and international education adviser at Hitotsubashi University’s Graduate School of Law in Tokyo. “Also for Korean students, their grammatical similarity helps them study in Japanese.”

On the other hand, says IIE’s Blumenthal, “China’s great success in attracting international students has come from offering full degrees in English.” But, she adds, “Many students from Korea and Japan and other parts of Asia are studying in China, and studying in Chinese, to prepare themselves for careers that will be linked to China’s booming economy.” Learning the Japanese language no longer holds such promise.

Another consideration is the classroom learning style. Students from within Asia “are willing to accept the Japanese style of teaching in traditional huge lectures where a professor is lecturing and reading,” says Blumenthal. “It’s different from the American style of education requiring students to challenge the professor.” And though many universities in China still teach in the traditional way, more Chinese professors are studying abroad and then incorporating more Western styles of instruction into their teaching upon their return.

A decade ago, inspired by venerable cultural organizations such as the British Council, Alliance Francaise and Goethe-Institut, China began subsidizing Mandarin language and Chinese culture study through the establishment of Confucius Institutes at partner universities and Confucius Classrooms at primary and secondary schools. There are now over 1,000 such programs globally, including at top-ranked universities like Stanford in the U.S., the London School of Economics, the University of Melbourne, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and Waseda here in Japan.

“The Japanese have not really stepped up and said, ‘We are going to subsidize it,’ ” says Blumenthal, referring to Japanese language study. “It’s hard for schools to decide to keep on offering Japanese when the Chinese government is offering to pay for Chinese. . . . To be realistic, the Japanese will have to subsidize it.”

As a further incentive for foreign students to study in China, Chinese universities are forging partnerships with globally renowned universities. Students can enroll in the MBA programs of Tsinghua University or Fudan University and graduate with a degree from the host school and a course certificate from the MIT Sloan School of Management, for example. These programs are taught entirely in English and in the American style.

Another route for international students and Chinese nationals alike is to matriculate at the branch campus of a Western university in China, such as New York University in Shanghai, the soon-to-be-opened Duke University site in Kunshan, or the University of Nottingham campus in Ningbo.

“Although this recently became one of the trends, it is still considered a peripheral issue,” says Hitotsubashi’s Shimmi. “So the challenge is how to make these issues part of the central mission.”

Bruce Stronach, dean of Temple University Japan, the Tokyo campus of the university based in Philadelphia, recalls that there were about 40 foreign U.S. institutions with Japan campuses in the 1980s. Most closed, he says, “because of two basic factors: faulty business plans and no real sense of mission. Their business plans really depended upon continued funding from the Japanese side, and that dried up over time in the post-bubble era. They never really designed their programs to be self-sustaining with study abroad and domestic students.

“The other thing is that although there was an attraction to developing programs in the leading country in Asia and the second leading economy in the world, few had any real sense of mission — and here’s the important part — a real sense of commitment on the home campus,” Stronach says.

China is also investing heavily in scholarships for incoming students. According to Blumenthal of the IIE, 50,000 scholarships are available annually through the China Scholarship Council, a nonprofit institution affiliated with China’s Ministry of Education. In tandem with Beijing, the U.S. is promoting the use of these scholarships by American students. In 2009, President Barack Obama announced the 100,000 Strong China initiative to increase the number of U.S. students studying in the Asian country. The Chinese government offered an initial 10,000 Bridge Scholarships just to get the program started.

Meanwhile, the already low and decreasing number of Japanese students venturing abroad for study may influence the low numbers of international students coming in, as the former act as ambassadors for Japan overseas. Between 2006 and 2010, Japan’s outgoing numbers have fallen 10 percent annually, dropping to 40,000 in 2010. Though data is not available for the years since, it is believed that the numbers have continued to fall.

In contrast, China — with an overall population 10 times that of Japan — sent 340,000 students abroad in 2011, and the number is growing, a trend that is unlikely to end anytime soon considering the aspirations of the burgeoning Chinese middle class.

To be sure, Japan is making greater efforts to send more of its students overseas on scholarships, through initiatives such the Ministry of Education’s Tobitate! Japan project, established last year. And Kyoko Shibata of the ministry’s Higher Education Bureau says efforts are being made to introduce joint degree programs and increase the number of courses taught in English.

However, alarmed by the reduced flow of students to and from Japan, the United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange convened a task force last year that came up with a comprehensive 33-page document outlining specific recommendations to be put into place to halt the rot.

“The problem is that some of this will not be done and will be talked about for years,” says Blumenthal, one of the experts who advised the committee. “And, if these things don’t happen, it will be very hard for Japan to change the numbers.”

Whether projects like the recently announced Super Global Universities project, which will subsidize 37 universities’ efforts to internationalize, will make a difference remains to be seen. If all goes according to Abe’s plan, Japan will have 10 universities within the list of 100 top-ranked higher education institutions within a decade. Conversely, the worst-case scenario is that a lack of investment and initiative will leave Japanese universities lagging behind their up-and-coming competitors in emerging countries such as China.

Regardless, Japan will be forced to shift its focus and cast its net wider because incoming student numbers from China are falling, Blumenthal says, amid a “diplomatic and strategic struggle” between the two countries over issues of territory and history.

“With over 60 percent of Japan’s international students from China . . . Japan will be hard-pushed to have their total international numbers double when the largest sending country is becoming reluctant to send,” Blumenthal warns.

Comments: community@japantimes.co.jp

  • Steve Jackman

    The question Japan needs to ask itself is, why would foreign students be attracted to study in Japan? I think there should be no mystery as to why foreign students are not interested in coming to Japan, since it is mainly for the following two reasons:

    1) If foreign students decide to stay in Japan after graduation, they will be marginalized in their daily lives and at work. They will face racism, prejudice and discrimination in housing and employment, and will never be allowed to integrate into Japanese society. They will forever be thought of as outsiders by the Japanese. At work, they will be treated as second-class disposable workers with little career development or advancement opportunities and will have no job security. They will likely be bullied and mistreated by their Japanese employers, since the employers know that foreign workers have no recourse against them. Employers will ignore and violate labor laws, since they know that the MHLW and the corrupt Japanese judicial system will always side with Japanese employers and against foreign workers. On top of all of this, Japanese salaries are not competitive with other developed countries, especially given the high cost of living here.

    2) If foreign students decide to return home or go to a third country after graduation, they will find that most of what they have learned at Japanese universities and any skills they may have picked up here are of limited use outside of Japan. Japanese universities and companies operate in uniquely Japanese ways and have not globalized at all. The teaching methods used in Japan and the ways of doing business here are rightly likened to Galapagos, since they are so different from global norms. What makes someone succeed at a Japanese university or at a Japanese company is often the total opposite of what it takes to succeed globally, so the skills learned in Japan are not transferable to a place of employment outside of Japan.

    Studying in a foreign country is a huge investment of time and money by foreign students and they often do a careful cost-benefit analysis in choosing the foreign country they want to study in. Japan is increasingly losing out to other countries in this analysis and the reasons for this should be obvious.

    • phu

      “Limited use” is an extremely generous portrayal of the skills international students stand to gain from living in Japan.

      I believe experiencing any foreign culture for an extended period of time is valuable for personal development, but as far as places to do so with an eye to future prospects of any sort, Japan is not currently a rational choice.

      • itoshima2012

        Don’t bother, this guy’s just a racist troll

      • Steve Jackman

        itoshima2012, it would be helpful if you could point out which part of my comment you find racist.

      • itoshima2012

        Your whole mindset on this is blatantly racist, every comment you made is negative and every point you make either starts with “Japan” or “The Japanese” that’s a very clear sign of racist thinking. Nothing you write is based on any evidence except on your opinion, and you don’t even back that up. A fair and objective analysis that need improvement in Japan is always welcome by myself and I also see need to do this to develop and improve society but just slurring about how bad, racist, unfair to foreigners and economically, culturally as well as higher eductaion wise irrelevant this country(‘s society) is just makes me sick. Regarding you cost/performance analysis, I was an exchange student myself in Japan (and on 2 more continents by the way) and can tell you that it has the most generous financial support of any, even to much. Regarding work, I’m here, earning a 7 figure salary so maybe just maybe I’m prove that a) education in Japan is a good ROI, b) the society is welcoming if you have something to contribute, c) they are not more racist than the rest of the world.

      • Steve Jackman

        You may be making a 7 figure salary, but your rambling comment still does not answer my question about what specifically in my comment above is racist (since you accused me of racism in your earlier comment, which I believe has now been deleted).

      • Oliver Mackie

        I doubt he was referring simply to one point above, I’m sure he has based his opinion of you as (more) racist (than those you accuse) on your accumulated posts on this site. His accumulated experience of you, as it were.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oliver, itoshima2012 is making a 7 figure salary, so I’m sure he’s quite capable of replying himself.

        BTW, I thought we were discussing the above article here, not all my “accumulated posts on this site”. Am I wrong?

      • Oliver Mackie

        I would say you’re wrong in the sense that it’s perfectly o.k. for someone to bring up another poster’s past history, if it reflect’s any views that may be relevant to the current discussion. You have many posts on similar topics. If you are a racist, it’s certainly relevant.

      • Steve Jackman

        In that case, I suggest you take a look at itoshima2012 and your own past comments on this site. They are anything but balanced or rational.

      • Oliver Mackie

        Thank you for reminding me to look at my own comments. How silly of me not to have done so before!

      • Steve Jackman

        p.s., itoshima2012, I guess grammer and spelling are not important in your job paying a 7 figure salary. Good for you!

      • itoshima2012

        My job’s languages involve, Japanese, English, Italian and German……. based in Japan, all my correspondence is strictly in Japanese, written or spoken….

      • Steve Jackman

        I believe that should be “written and spoken”, not “written or spoken” (unless, you can only do one of these activities at a time).

      • Gordon Graham

        Actually, if he’s writing an e-mail he’s not speaking to the person he’s writing to, nor would he be writing to the person he is talking with over the phone, so or is appropriate here. Just imagine the omitted “either” before written or spoken. Come on, Steve! You’re an English teacher! No wonder the Japanese have such poor English skills.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, you must have a hidden agenda, since you keep repeating that I’m an English teacher, even though, I’ve told you many times that I am NOT an English teacher (and never have been).

        BTW, you don’t seem to know the difference between “or” and “and”. Good thing you’re a hockey coach where such things don’t matter much.

      • Gordon Graham

        When I’m walking my dog or feeding my cat. When I’m walking my dog and feeding my cat. What’s the difference in these two sentences?

      • Steve Jackman

        What I do is none of your business, Gordon. I’ve had enough of your trolling, so goodbye!

      • Gordon Graham

        Why so hurt, guy? “Join the conversation”.

    • Gordon Graham

      I see you’re not very familiar with China.

      • Steve Jackman

        Well, you don’t seem too familiar with Japan, in spite of having lived here for 27 years as a hockey coach (according to your past comments).

      • Gordon Graham

        I’m familiar with the people I know and the place in which I reside. I’ve also had the occasion to spend 3 consecutive summers in China in a development program. Suffice it to say if you lived in China your internet activities would be 10 fold…

    • MéliMélo

      I slightly agree except for the fully integrating party, because you’ll remain a foreigner in China too.

      • Yamatosenkan

        You’ll remain a foreigner about everywhere in the world, maybe with the exception of Canada and Singapore.

      • Steve Jackman

        China is much more diverse than Japan in every way.

      • Gordon Graham

        You have no idea what you’re talking about.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, enlighten me! So far, all your comments are completely devoid of any substance.

      • Gordon Graham

        Go stay in China for an extended period of time then come back and we’ll continue the discussion.

      • Steve Jackman

        Oh, ok, I’m packing my bags as I write this. I hope I can hang with Mao there and we can drink some Tsingtao beers together. Is the cultural revolution still going on in China?

      • Gordon Graham

        Get used to the colour grey…

      • Steve Jackman

        I’m already used to it, I live in Tokyo.

      • Gordon Graham

        You have no idea…

      • itoshima2012

        should I cry or should I laugh now ;-)

      • Steve Jackman

        Aren’t you supposed to be working at your 7 figure job right now itoshima2012, since it is the middle of the work day?

      • itoshima2012

        yes but I work with my brain, staff does what I don’t need to do ;-) I don’t get paid by the hour, like on an assembly line… that’s it, have a good day!

      • Steve Jackman

        Yes, go, your staff needs you. BTW, is that 7 figure salary of yours in Dollars or Yen?

    • Lộc Luyến Hàm Teo

      I’m kinda lost here. Is Japanese really racist?

      • Gordon Graham

        You’re asking the wrong person

      • itoshima2012

        definitely

      • Yamatosenkan

        Not really. But Japanese are a bit nervous about foreigners not knowing the rules and how things are done.

      • Steve Jackman

        Sure, if by “rules” you mean that foreigners are inferior to Japanese and have no rights, so they should know their place in Japan.

      • Yamatosenkan

        I see your point, but I think it is a bit more complicated. Often white foreigners are put on a pedestal.

        With “rules” I mean broadly how things are done, the words used, the customs observed. Many things are very complicated in Japan (also for Japanese people), so many people (unfairly) assume if you’re a foreigner you don’t know how things work and will try to change things. I think that’s the main reason for discrimination in hiring decisions and so on.

      • itoshima2012

        you really are a xenophobic troll, this comments are truly ignorant.

      • Steve Jackman

        itoshima2012, you are persistent, if nothing else. After your earlier abusive comment was deleted, you posted it again!

      • Steve Jackman

        You write that I am a “xenophobic troll” and “this comments are truly ignorant”. Which “this comments” are you talking about?

    • Enkidu

      If foreign students decide to stay in Japan after graduation, they will be marginalized in their daily lives and at work.

      Your use of “will” is incorrect. I see former foreign students buck your assertion every day; I’ve even hired some of them.

      They will likely be bullied and mistreated by their Japanese employers,
      since the employers know that foreign workers have no recourse against
      them.

      Your use of “no recourse” is incorrect–foreign workers do have recourse. (Have you ever tried to terminate one of them?)

      Employers will ignore and violate labor laws, since they know that
      the MHLW and the corrupt Japanese judicial system will always side with
      Japanese employers and against foreign workers.

      Your use of “will ignore and violate” and “will always side with Japanese employers” is incorrect. Many employers don’t ignore and violate labor laws, and the MHLW and judicial system are more than happy to side with employees (including foreign ones).

      • Steve Jackman

        You must live in some parallel universe.

      • Enkidu

        Perhaps, but a parallel universe that does exist in Japan.

        Maybe your experience is too limited to go around saying that certain things “always” happen in Japan? For example, how many people have you hired and fired here? I think if you had much experience with this, you would see that many employees (including foreign ones) use the law to their full advantage.

    • Steve Jackman

      Given some of the abuse, personal attacks and negative reaction I’ve been getting to my comment by a handful of the regular posters to this site, I think the article by Martin Fackler just published in The New York Times is very timely and makes for good reading.

      The article talks about the increasingly aggressive nature of Japanese right-wing internet activists and their online movement to stop what they see as negative portrayals of Japan in the media. I highly recommend reading the article, since I think it also applies here. It is titled, “Japanese Village Grappling With Wartime Sins Comes Under Attack” (dated: Oct 28, 2014) and is available on the New York Times website.

      • Gordon Graham

        Stay on topic Steve…”Japan Universities lagging behind China’s wooing”…In other words, Peggy Blumenthal is lobbying for more woo from Japan.

      • Steve Jackman

        The New York Times article is very much on topic. Read it and see for yourself.

      • Gordon Graham

        I did…It’s not related to international student enrollments one iota.

      • Steve Jackman

        So what was your take on The New York Times article by Martin Fackler?

      • Gordon Graham

        Personally, I’m one for moving on…like the Japanese who’ve forgiven the Americans for incinerating 3 cities of civilians. That said, if I could snap my fingers and make those black trucks disappear forever I most certainly would.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    I love Japan but sadly, as this article demonstrates, it is in terminal decline, has no plan for addressing the decline and is becoming irrelevant.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    I love Japan but sadly, as this article demonstrates, it is in terminal decline, has no plan for addressing the decline and is becoming irrelevant.

    • Yamatosenkan

      I understand why many people say Japan is in decline, but it’s not really fair to say this only about Japan. Sure, it slipped from number 2 economy to number 3, but it is more accurate to say that China climbed from 3 to 2. Japan is greying, but so are all European countries, and China and Korea too. Japan is selling less high-tech, reason being Korea is doing very well, not because Japan is doing exceptionally bad. etc. etc.

      In the 1980’s people were saying Japan is going to be number 1, now people say Japan is in terminal decline. Both are overstatements.

      • Steve Jackman

        I live in Japan and wish that it was not in decline, but the unfortunate fact is that Japan is indeed in a secular economic decline.

        I agree with you that things are not that dire right now if one looks only at the surface, but things look pretty bleak once you scratch the surface. Japan had unprecedented growth in the 60’s and 70’s during which time its companies did really well and a great deal of wealth was created. Japan also made significant investments internationally during this time. These past successes and investments are still paying dividends and will continue to do so for some time to come. Japan is currently reaping the benefits of what it sowed 30-40 years ago. But, sooner or later, the benefits of past successes will start to diminish. It’s like living off an inheritance. How long can it last?

        The problem with Japan is that most of its current wealth is coming from industries of the past. There is very little going on in Japan that can be considered companies or industries of the future.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Yes, and Japan has more internal strength, owing to its higher degree of social cohesiveness, and as farcical ‘globalization’ grinds to a halt, due to the rise of the BRICS and the demands for better labor standards and environmental laws, there is a chance that Japan is not in decline, but simply better attuned to the present circumstances, with the end result being better balance.

      • itoshima2012

        terminal decline? All this talk is irrelevant, it’s just Japan bashing, in the 80s they were hailed to be the future, now China is hailed to be the future, next a country in Africa will be hailed the number one, the financial analysts love it cause by pumping countries up one by one they suck your money out by making you invest in them. The countries that are the happiest are the ones that don’t need to be “number one” – Japan is a peaceful country, no wars since their defeat (hello UK and USA, any comments here?) it doesn’t need to be “number one” – and the demograhics, well, people get older, what do you wanna do, kill them? Import more and more foreign labour? Look at the far right parties all over Europe, Jesus Christ, thanks god we don’t have them here in Japan. I feel save, accepted and integrated in Japan. Sure there are problems, but I had them in Australia (some white Australians didn’t even shake my wife’s hand….), the UK (called her Chinaman….) and Germany (ChingChongChun they called here from time to time…) – well, except for the occasional real idiot and the “gaijin” it works fine for me for almost 20 years…

    • Gordon Graham

      This from the guy who tells Japanese children to eff off when they greet him with a hello.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Japan is doomed with Meiji Oligarchy wannabe’s like Abe and Aso.

    Japan’s strength is indeed cultural, and it used to have a huge pull in China, before the ultranationalists tried to steal the Diaoyu/Senkakus.

    Japan had the potential to be not only a major economic engine in China, but also a major cultural presence, which would have given her many advantages. It’s hard to see how that can be recovered at this point, absent a 180 degree reversal on the Diaoyu/Senkakus.

    • KetsuroOu

      You cannot steal what you already rightfully possess.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Read the book by Suganuma Unryu called:

        Sovereign Rights and Territorial Space in Sino-Japanese Relations: Irredentism and the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands

        and see what you think.

  • zer0_0zor0

    Look at that photo!

    People interested in manga coming to Kyoto do such poses…and they’re from Dartmouth!

    America, too, is doomed!!!

  • tiger

    I would still love to go to japan for studies – once I don’t need to study and have lots of free time and money.

    • Gordon Graham

      I was thinking the same thing about Switzerland.

  • rossdorn

    Of course it depends on what you want to study. Flower arrangement, shoba making and child porn are best studied in Japan….
    But, any subject that concerns the real world will make any thinking person choose China, of course. China is going to be the biggest economic power in a few years, while Japan….
    What sense does it make to learn a ridiculous language like japanese, that no one speaks, while Chinese will gain more and more usefulness, as already one third of consumers worldwide speak it, and the biggest corporations of the world will be chinese soon.

    Japan cannot separate itself from the USA. In any conflict for Super Power Status the US will sacrifice Japan in any war with China immediately. Everybody, and most certainly the chinese know, that there are stockpiles of nuclear weapons in Japan and the chinese would be idiots to not take them out at first sign of war….

    The people of Japan simply are not able to elect rulers that govern in their interest. That is a bad habit in most democracies, in Japan it is going to be deadly in the end.
    Japan is an obscure place at the end of the world, nice to visit, but study? How long did Japan think, it can get away with what it does, and still make people believe there is any future here?

    • Gordon Graham

      I suggest you study English.

      • rossdorn

        I do apologize, but english was the last of my five languages. Alzheimer’s overtook the learning process…

      • Gordon Graham

        Perhaps you should try to master one instead of butchering five.

      • itoshima2012

        Gordon Gordon, you really are the man! Thumbs up!

      • Steve Jackman

        Birds of a feather flock together.

      • Gordon Graham

        Flock off!

  • Gordon Graham

    If you think the Japanese don’t speak English well, then you haven’t been to China.

    • james

      My point isn’t that the Japanese need to improve their English; it is that they might focus on their attitudes about foreign language in general — especially about Japanese as a foreign language.

      • Gordon Graham

        Perhaps they prefer initiative to mass accessibility. Who knows? I had no trouble finding materials in Canada some 30 years ago when I decided to come to Japan.

      • itoshima2012

        guess james hasn’t head of the internet ;-)

    • itoshima2012

      agree, from time to time I have to travel for business there (Shanghai and Beijing), unbelievably bad English…. far worse than in Japan, by any standard

  • Lawrence B Goodman

    Great article focusing on international education competition. I am disturbed by the US losing its education leadership after being number one for so many years.

    • Yamatosenkan

      Don’t worry, the U.S. is still destination number 1, and will be for the coming years. It might change one day, but not tomorrow.

  • itoshima2012

    The article is actually rather good, not balanced, but ok I would say. The racist slur from most in the comment section is just disgusting and a good example of their ignorance, especially Mr jackman, can’t get more racist than that!

    • Steve Jackman

      Can you point to the “racist slur” and “ignorence”, which you refer to in my comment? Trying to have an honest discussion about Japan is not racism, especially when it is supported by the stats and other facts in the article.

    • Yamatosenkan

      I don’t agree with all of Steve Jackman’s point, but I don’t think he was racist.

    • Toolonggone

      If you say someone is racist, you should be able to identify the words, references as conduct that could raise a red flag. Although I don’t agree with his overgeneralization of Japan or Japanese society, I don’t see anything that strikes racism in his message. Criticizing Japan may invoke an incitement for culture-bashing, but that alone does not constitute as an act of racism.

  • zer0_0zor0

    What exactly do you mean by “international culture”?

    • james

      A culture that is engaged in dialogue and exchange with others–one that is confident and open enough to at times to be permeated by elements of other cultures.

      • Gordon Graham

        In other words…willing to become a grey sludge, indecipherable from anywhere else in the world

      • zer0_0zor0

        It appears that you don’t know much about Japanese history and culture.
        Japan is generally lauded for its ability to receive and incorporate influences from abroad, making them her own in due course.
        The obvious starting point for that is Buddhism. Japan is the world’s foremost home to Mahayana Buddhism. In fact, many sects developed here, tracing their origins to China. Most Westerners think that Tibet is the world’s center of Mahayana Buddhism, but that is only due to inaccurate disinformation in the media.
        Japan also absorbed Western learning and science rapidly, and industrialized at what many found to be an astounding speed.

      • james

        I agree that Japan excels at making foreign elements her own: the Meiji restoration is a good example, as well, of finding the best (German education, French jurisprudence, etc. ) in other cultures and using them to advantage for the Japanese and in a unique Japanese way. What visitor to Japan hasn’t marveled at the quality of her patisserie?

        However, Japan does not excel at being comfortable with foreignness. It shows little tolerance for foreignness in its midst–unless those foreign elements are completely made, modeled and performed by Japanese. This assertion isn’t meant as an insult to the Japanese, but it is problematic for outsiders living or working in Japan; and it is also generally acknowledged as true.

        I have much admiration and love for the Japanese language and culture, but I can also look at Japan with a critical eye. And when engaging in debate, I aspire not to stoop to insults and dichotomous thinking.

      • Firas Kraïem

        “What visitor to Japan hasn’t marveled at the quality of her patisserie?”

        I, for one. Mainstream Japanese pâtisserie is just fluff and pretty colourings, with no substance and very artificial flavours. I find better stuff at the boulangerie of my home town, population 1005 on the last count. (Of course, you find some excellent pâtisseries at high-end places in Japan, but that’s true anywhere in the world, even in the US.)

      • Gordon Graham

        I miss the Italian bakeries of Toronto…I can’t seem to get decent bread here.

  • KenjiAd

    I’m a Japanese national living in China. I work as a part-time teacher at a Chinese university, so I can offer some insight into the discussion.

    The major reason why Chinese universities have more international students than Japanese universities, I think, is a financial one. For the students from developing countries, Japan is still a very expensive place to live and study. China is not.

    Also the title of this article is a bit misleading. A large fraction of international students in China are from African countries with which China historically has a strong tie. Japan simply isn’t a destination for the students from these countries.

    • Elena Caselli

      Even for Southern European, because of the financial crisis, Japan is really expensive sadly! I can’t afford ATM to pay 10mila+ euro to study there and I didn’t find any convention even if I am studying Japanese at University. I am saving up but that’s quite frustrating.

    • Steve Jackman

      The article points out that at Dartmouth, enrollments to study Chinese are 2-3 times higher than Japanese now, whereas, in the 1990’s student enrollments to study Japanese were higher than Chinese. I wasn’t aware that Chinese language courses at Dartmouth are cheaper than Japanese language courses. As always, nice attempt to put a spin on the news, though.

      • KenjiAd

        Chinese as a second language offers more job prospect than Japanese, so that’s obviously why more American students choose Chinese over Japanese. However, because they are studying Chinese in America, this doesn’t explain why there are more International students in China than in Japan, other than the implication that, among students in America, there may be more interest in China than in Japan.

        To address why there are more international students in China than in Japan, you wrote a comment consisting of ~380 words in which you basically described how bad Japan is towards foreigners. While I acknowledge your sentiment, your comment lacks any insight into why, then, China is any better in the areas you are complaining about.

        I offered my opinion, which may or may not be valid, that Japan being a more expensive country to live, could be a big reason why many students from developing countries tend to choose China over Japan. That’s all. Just my opinion.

        I’m also pretty sure that you have never lived in China, because if you had lived here, you would have realized, as MéliMélo and
        Gordon Graham pointed out, that China is basically the same as Japan when it comes to how foreigners tend to be treated. Simply put, we laowais (or ‘gaijins’ if you will) will never be equivalent to native Chinese locals.

        I can even tell you that, in most expat forums in China, there are always a few whining ethnocentric individuals who are hell bent to criticize China and Chinese people, just because Chinese people don’t behave the way the whiners think they should. So you are not unusual here.

      • Steve Jackman

        Given that you are Japanese and have no experience of living in Japan as a foreigner, your comments about how things are for foreigners in Japan has very little credibility.

      • Gordon Graham

        Tell us again how things are in China, Steve

      • Toolonggone

        Steve, that doesn’t make sense. He doesn’t say foreigners who have harsh experience of discrimination or harassment in Japan are blowing out of proportion–which some posters here are tempted to call out anyone for doing so.

      • itoshima2012

        So a Japanese is not even able to comment on such issues, wow, you would make Himmler proud!

      • Steve Jackman

        Not based on personal experience.

      • KenjiAd

        Given that you are Japanese and have no experience of living in Japan as a foreigner, your comments about how things are for foreigners in Japan has very little credibility.

        (My) “comments about how things are for foreigners in Japan”?? I didn’t comment on that, Steve. Are you seeing something that you imagine I would say just because I am Japanese?

        Now _that_ tells a lot about you, not me. If what you wrote above is really what you believe, you are living in a country where you believe >98% of people have “very little” credibility to discuss about your situation, I see.

        As to my “credibility,” I don’t even know why having the exact same experience is the only thing that matters here.

        As someone who spent 29 years as a foreigner (mostly in America), I do have some insight into the topic. Whether you agree to me or not doesn’t matter to me at all, because you strike me as someone who never chnages anyway. I do, however, want to express my opinion to the audience.

        Believe or not, China does have the problems very similar to what you described. I have even met a few Americans who basically keep ranting about how “racist” Chinese people are, just like you did about Japanese people.

        Invariably, these people have never been a target of racial discrimination in their own countries. No I take it out. They have been a primary beneficiary of racial and perhaps gender discrimination.

        So when they came to a country like China, where racist behaviors are tolerated or even encouraged (like “Caucasian only” job advertisement for English teachers), they get shocked and, when they themselves became a target of discrimination, become very much hurt.

        Now every foreigner goes through this in any country to varying degrees. Then two groups of expats diverge.

        There are some expats who can’t stand it and get into some kind of siege mentality in which they feel like surrounded by people who never understand their feelings. Many of these men actively look for local female friends whom they actually look down on.

        Other expats find a way to cope with the situation, accepting the reality as reality, and start looking for something positive. More importantly, they can and will find many positives.

        Personally, I belong to the latter. I am Japanese in China and my nationality belongs to the lowest stratum in the likability totem pole here. Still, I find the vast majority of Chinese people friendly to me and have no problem expressing my feelings and problems with them. I like them all and, if I’m not mistaken, they like me too.

        Your next persona, Steve, suggests to me that you are constantly angry and frustrated by your surroundings. Many of your frustration is probably justifiable. But even if so, it’s not a good idea to keep talking so negatively, because a negative talk is self-fulfilling.

        If you want to change Japan, then do something real, instead of talking trash in a forum like this. At the same time, you might want to change your attitude a little bit.

      • Steve Jackman

        KenjiAd, I hope you can see the fallacy and poor logic you have used in your comment. Or, perhaps you cannot take criticism well, as some other Japanese I know who tend to get extremely defensive at the slightest criticism of Japan. You have wrongly assmed that I must be “angry and frustrated”, just because you do not agree with my comment. What does this say about you? I think it is more a reflection of you, than me.

        You know nothing about me, so making such false assumptions about me is probably just your coping mechanism to deal with anyone who says things about Japan which you disagree with. The fact is that I am anything but “angry and frustrated”. Please try to understand that foreign residents of Japan like myself may be critical of Japan because we care about Japan and want it to improve, so it can reach its full potential. Unfortunately, this point seems to be a real blind-spot for many Japanese I know. I wish Japanese like you would not act so fragile and insecure, and not let their pride/nationalism get hurt so easily, so as to feel that you have to come out swinging at anyone who criticises certain aspects of Japan. Japan would be stronger for that.

        I always give Japan credit where it deserves credit. Just today, there is another article in this paper about how Toyota topped the JD Power survey in the US, to which I wrote this in the comments section, “Congratulations to Toyota. Without question, Toyota makes the best cars in the world.” There was not an iota of “anger and frustration” in my comment.

      • Toolonggone

        Steve, KenjiAd has a point. You need to keep in mind that problems occurring in Japan are not always unique and unparalleled.

      • KenjiAd

        Aiya, you are hopeless, Steve. I have no idea what you are talking about, because I didn’t even talked about Japan in my comment above. I talked about China and how expats in China behave.

        Me defending Japan? Please… That’s the fantasy you manufactured, presumably because you know I am ethnically Japanese and, in your mind, Japanese people are supposed to “get extremely defensive at the slightest criticism of Japan” (your word).

        Steve, the difference between you and me is not that complicated.

        In a foreign country (Japan for you and America/China for me), you are basically just trying to teach whatever values you have and, when not accepted, get pissed.

        I on the other hand don’t even bother imposing my values on people in the host country. When in Roma, do as Romans do, more or less. Instead of preaching my values and ranting about how “they” don’t get it, I try to learn their values.

        Americans taught me a lot and I thank for that. I believe I am a more mature person because of that. And Chinese people are teaching their values to me too. I thank for that, too.

        Steve, you just keep complaining. That’s a sad life.

      • Steve Jackman

        KenjiAd, I guess it did not occur to you that I could be vested in Japan and care about what happens to the country I live in, whereas, you don’t give a damn about China.

        I bet I have a happier life than you, since you seem to fit the profile of the angry and defensive right-wing

      • Gordon Graham

        You’re embarrassingly impressionable, Steve. Are you so easily titilated by every article you read?

      • Sam Gilman

        This is an excellent post, and there are strong parallels with the ex-pat situation here, right down to the depressing sexism of the alienated ex-pat male.

        The poster you’re interacting with has developed a rather implausible persona involving management positions in several major Japanese companies in each of which he has failed by his own account, because of the Japanese character, to communicate or manage or team build or do anything that a manager needs to be able to do. I wouldn’t waste too much time on him.

      • Steve Jackman

        Sam Gilman, you seem completely delusional, since I have never said the things you have attributed to me in your comment. There are lies and then there are lies, but this takes the cake! You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

      • Toolonggone

        You clearly has a character– catcall or whachumighcallit.

      • zer0_0zor0

        Regardless of whether Gilman has mischaracterized Jackman’s posts or not Kenji’s posts were insightful, and Jackman’s are by and large propagandistic.

      • Toolonggone

        True. But, behavior of his opponent(s) does not seem to be much different, either.

      • Steve Jackman

        I highly recommend everyone read the New York Times article by Martin Fackler just published today (Oct. 28) on their website, since it is a very timely piece on the increasingly aggressive tactics and online movement by Japanese right-wing cyber activists to quash what they deem to be negative portrayals of Japan. The article is very relevant to some of what’s going on here. It is titled “Japanese Village Grappling With Wartime Sins Comes Under Attack” and is available on their website.

      • Toolonggone

        OK. But how does that connect to this topic?

      • Steve Jackman

        The connection between the two is how Japanese nationalists and right wing cyber-activists make personal attacks on anyone who they consider says things which reflect poorly on Japan (something which is happening in this comments section, just like The New York Times article talks about).

      • Toolonggone

        I see your point. But are they necessarily defending Japan’s troubling education system discussed here or elsewhere? I haven’t heard anything of that, so far.

        And not all some detractors here are agreeing with everything nationalists and/or cyber-troll say for the defense of poor Japan, right!? To me, they seem to be more interested in picking on those who stand out for being “seen” by pretending to be ‘neutral bystanders.’ I’m not gonna say who they are, though.

      • Gordon Graham

        Personal attacks like…”you’re racist, insular and backwards!”…wait, those are your comments about the Japanese.

      • Steve Jackman

        Gordon, you are once again fabricating lies against me in your ongoing trolling and attempts to discredit me. These are the typical tactics used by Japanese right-wing and ultra-nationalist cyber-activists which articles in The New York Times and this newspaper have covered. GOODBYE, GORDON.

      • Gordon Graham

        I enjoin anyone who comes across this thread to peruse your past comments to determine whether I’m “fabricating lies” or not. This is the Internet, Steve…You can’t absolve yourself from ownership of what you say…Your name is forever fixed to your insults of the Japanese. Be a man and stand behind your words, guy.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Dartmouth is one American university out of many where you can study Japanese. Its enrollment patterns may or may not be typical.

    • Gordon Graham

      I’m curious to know how many foreign students in China have Chinese surnames.

    • itoshima2012

      China needs to catch up and needs “friends” and “buddies” in resource rich countries, so for them it’s a good economical and geopolitical investment, they obviously don’t do it out of pure love of the foreigner….

      • Steve Jackman

        Apparently, Japan does not need “friends” and “buddies”.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        Indeed. In the 1970s there were many students from Iran in the US. Look how friendly US-Iran relations have been in subsequent years. No better way to make “friends” and “buddies” than to host foreign students.

      • zer0_0zor0

        With friends like the CIA, who needs enemies?

  • Elena Caselli

    I am saving up in order to study in Japan for 6-12 months after my bachelor’s degree in Foreign Languages applied to Law and Economics but I think the same it is way too expensive.

    In my personal case, here where I live, in Milan, Italy, there are no conventions with University, you have to pay everything in Japan even if you’re have a degree in Asian Languages/Foreign Languages and so on: flight, rent, food, transport, medical assurance and so on.
    If you’re lucky you can go to a host family but it’s not very common in Japan (in other countries it’s way easier!) and save up a little, but not that much.
    Also, there are very few cultural exchanges with Japanese Universities, and they are always paid by the student. The only project where you don’t have to pay a lot is for Engineering Students, but for us that we study Japanese language and culture there’s NOTHING.

    The cousin of a friend of mine got her Master Degree in Languages and Communication in Business with Japanese and English as curricular languages, she also got JLPT N2, but she didn’t find any convention which could allow her to save up some money to study in Japan. The Japanese professor and the University suggested her to take a Doctorate in Japan, but payed entirely by her, for the price of 12.000 EURO + rent + food + flight… is this normal? Japan sadly is only for rich people, except some lucky case.

    (Sorry for my bad English!)

    • itoshima2012

      Ciao Elena, il Giappone offre tante borse, di solito coprono il 100% delle spese e in piu ti danno circa 1000 Euro/mese. Io sono venuto qui 18 anni fa dall’Universita degli Studi di Padova alla Osaka University. Anche se dovresti pagare da solo costa relativamente poco. Io studiavo anche in Gran Bretagna, gia a quei tempi pagavo 8000 sterline all’anno, ora mio professore mi diceva che full time siamo a oltre 16,000 GBP all’anno – In Giappone sono 500,000 Yen, circa 3300 Euro….. – la vita costa poco se ti muovi bene, tipo un pranzo buono ti costa meno di 4 euro. Poi, 12.000 Euro sara il costo di 3 anni di Phd, pochissimo, sarebbe circa 16,000 GBP x 3 anni in the UK….

      • Elena Caselli

        Purtroppo quel tipo di borsa di studio non c’è per chi studia lingue orientali/mediazione linguistica e facoltà simili, le ho trovate solo per laureandi in Ingegneria, Economia o Fisica :/ Se mi trovassi un link dove trovi borse di studio simili per laureandi in Lingue e affini sarebbe tutto un altro discorso, per ora purtroppo non ne ho trovate e il mio stesso prof di giapponese ci ha detto che purtroppo da 5-6 anni a questa parte sia l’Italia che il Giappone hanno fatto ingenti tagli per quanto riguarda gli scambi internazionali. Purtroppo la cifra che avevano proposto alla cugina della mia amica (quest’ultima faceva anch’essa giapponese ma ha smesso di studiarlo proprio perchè demotivata dalla quasi totale assenza di borse di studio) era solo per UN ANNO, per di più non a un università di Tokyo tipo Waseda Meiji etc, no, a una scuola di specializzazione per stranieri, quindi il prestigio sicuramente è minore per un investimento del genere. Io spero di riuscirci ad andare lo stesso, ma per questo so bene che dovrò risparmiare molto in questi anni di Università e sperare che aumentino le borse di studio per noi di Lingue…

  • Elazar Goldstein

    I wouldn’t visit Japan even if the Abe lowers the value of the Yen. Oh wait a minute the clown keeps on doing that. So see I am not visiting.

    • Gordon Graham

      That’s OK, Elly…hang on to your shekels and visit the West Bank.

    • zer0_0zor0

      What would be your reason for wanting to visit in the first place?
      Concentrate on your investments!
      (Despite the negative effect a strong Japanese manufacturing sector may have on your strategy…)

  • Dave Jones

    Actually there are many great reasons for students to come and study in Japan (and live and work here following their formal education), not just in absolute terms but also relative to China. Try comparing quality of life: air pollution, quality of food and food safety, transportation/efficiency, a culture of respect, a collaborative approach rather than one of constant arguing… It is fair to say that for a foreigner, having a career in Japan at a Japanese company isn’t always straightforward, but life is not just work and for all the non-work aspects Japan can be a much more enriching place to live. And it’s not just manga, but rather a sophisticated and deep culture that respects its past and is much more attuned to its core than China which in many respects is laser-focused on “get rich at all costs”

  • Gordon Graham

    This “article” is tantamount to panhandling. I suspect Tera Clavel is looking for a kickback from Peggy Blumenthal who is clearly lobbying for subsidies from the Japanese, “Japan will be forced to cast its net wider because incoming student numbers are falling…amid diplomatic and strategic struggle between the two countries over issues of territory and history.” As if these “struggles” just cropped up yesterday! By “casting a wider net” it’s clear she means…send more money to American universities!

  • Gordon Graham

    I assumed the cost of living is a big factor, as is the fact that international students can study exclusively in English (kind of like eating at McDonalds and Subway when you go to Kyoto). I understand that China has a lot invested in oil rich countries in Africa which makes the influx of African students predictable. What I’m curious to know is what percentage of those international students constitutes Americans or Europeans with Chinese heritage.

    • KenjiAd

      I don’t know of any stat, but as far as our department is concerned, I’m pretty sure there is zero Americans/Europeans with Chinese heritage (out of ~200 undergrads) or I would know about them.

      Anecdotal evidences suggest to me that China isn’t a popular destination for American or European students with Chinese heritage.

      I’m just guessing, but many of them already have visited China, so there wouldn’t be any excitement to visit a new place.

      And I must admit that, at least compared to America, the living standard in China is still quite low. Also there are problems of pollution, unsafe food, dirty streets, kids peeing and pooing on the street, etc that would freak out average Americans, including Chinese Americans.

      I don’t know what exactly Steve is fantasizing about China, but I’m pretty sure that anyone who can’t even stand Japan would have a very difficult time in China.

  • Japanese Bull Fighter

    Numerous errors of fact in the article. “Huge lectures” are very common in the US even at expensive private universities. You might get to challenge a teaching assistant, but not the professor. A number of American universities have been backing away from the Confucious Institutes because of concerns that the selection of faculty is political and not under the control of the host university. It’s far from obvious why any student would go to either China or Japan for a degree program taught entirely in English except possibly in science or medicine. Would anyone go to Spain, Italy, France, or Germany for an undergraduate degree taught entirely in English? More international students is not necessarily a “good thing.” The US hosted hoards of students from Iran. What did it get out of this? Students who study science and engineering subjects often return to their host countries with technology that ultimately results in job loss for the host country. Why should taxpayers in a host country pay to educate scientists and engineers for their foreign competition?

    • Gordon Graham

      The JT is pandering to its disgruntled expat readership’s appetite for thumbing its collective noses at Japan…and providing Ms.Blumenthal a forum to lobby for funding for programs in American Universities. Facts are inconvenient…

    • Toolonggone

      Teru Clavel is a private education consultant–not a research scholar. Unfortunately, some of her studies on curriculum/educational trend(such as privatization) are not free of bias.

      I don’t know what you mean by “more international students is not necessarily a “good thing.” The majority of students are coming from the neighbors and the southeast Asia. Moreover, it is Chinese, Indians, and Mexicans that come on top list of international students in American universities. Iran is still in the watch list since 2002.

      To be fair, Japan is still left behind in facilitating cross-cultural diversity and reciprocity in higher education. That’s what many scholars–both Japanese and internationals–have been pointing out for years. It’s obvious if you see the struggles of MEXT’s Global 30 project.

      • Japanese Bull Fighter

        From its inception under the Fukuda regime, I have suspected that the plan to raise student numbers to 300,000 was a scam designed to bring in cheap foreign labor by the backdoor (foreign students can legally work 28 hours/week) and a disguised subsidy to private colleges that are suffering because of the shortage of 18-year old Japanese. The Global 30 project is another scam. It is more about league table rankings than education, diversity, or exchange. Large numbers of foreign students does not in and of itself lead to cultural interchange. It has been well documented in the British case that Chinese students hang out with Chinese students, Greek students hang out with Greek students, etc. You only get interaction between foreign students and local students if there are so few foreign students from any one country that they are forced into contact with local students because they cannot form nationality or ethnicity based social groups. This is something almost never mentioned by people in the international exchange game.