On a chilly, wet Saturday in November, I made my way over to Senzoku Gakuen, a renowned private all-girls junior and senior high school located almost equal distance between Tokyo and Yokohama. I had been invited to assist at a college fair sponsored by the school together with a nonprofit that does these things — the U.S. College Alumni Network of Japan (USCANJ).

Hundreds of Senzoku students preened in their noble Dartmouth green blazers and sweaters filed into the school's impressive daikōdō, or grand auditorium, where the privileged youths joined students from nearby schools and interested parents for four hours of presentations and panel discussions by polished alums promoting their elite alma matres.

The Princeton rep powered up his PowerPoint by pointing out that his university had been at the top of the U.S. News and World Report rankings for umpteen consecutive years. Another rep talked about his decision to choose Middlebury College in Vermont over the University of Tokyo. Graduates of Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania discussed the leadership opportunities accorded women in an all-female environment.