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Readers’ views on intercultural insensitivity, Japanese schooling, English gaps and an inspirational Indian

Some readers’ responses to recent stories on the Community pages:

Intercultural insensitivity

Re: “Japan Times readers sound off on courtesy, blackface and education” (Community Chest, Feb. 22):

With “vehemence,” “unbelievability” and “astonishment” as his supposedly measured reaction to particularly shallow aspects of (Japanese and American) culture, Jose Frederico Soares masterfully represents the trap of stereotyping. That The Japan Times would print these two opinions about culture from neophyte cultural analysts is also remarkable when there are so many among us who could author a much more educated perspective with a balanced view of the positive and negative aspects of Japanese and American social behavior.

Was The Japan Times attempting to create some kind of shouting match between people who hold simplistic stereotypes of these two cultures? This could hardly be constructive. As such was the goal to be inflammatory? There’s enough of that going on in the sensationalizing media as is without the JT joining those forces.

Soares continues, after reflecting on the “untrue, incorrect and most unfair” practices of the original author to whom he is responding with his own opinion that such “could only be written by an American, insensitive and pushy as they are in their vast majority, to say the least.” And then he goes on to blast the Japanese for “their inexplicable … admiration towards so many things American.” Did he ever once in his life attempt to clarify recognizable cultural differences of behavior through inquiry and learn from the other’s interpretation before leaping to judgment in a way that only shows his own biases.

But, the good news is that he has achieved the first step toward cultural learning by recognizing, rather than denying, that there are indeed cultural differences. Perhaps he should also question himself as to why it bothers him so much that some Japanese may admire Americans. Why is he seemingly suffering from relative deprivation?

Self-reflection is an essential component to learning about culture, especially when you open up to “seeing yourself as others see you.” This was the conference theme of the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research’s gathering in Vancouver decades ago. Practicing that process through participating in genuine intercultural interactions is a mind-blowing developmental experience I would recommend to anyone, especially those who deal in stereotypes with an extremely blind bias.

There are SIETAR groups all around the world, in Europe and in Japan, where you can learn about intercultural communication competencies.

CLIFFORD H. CLARKE
Kyoto

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Vindication for move to Ghana

Re: “Schools plus rules equals Japan minus two” by Colin P.A. Jones (Law Of The Land, March 11):

Thanks a lot, Mr. Jones, for your insightful views. I have been a resident of Japan since 1992. I was blessed with the ability to establish three small private schools in Chiba Prefecture, in the Kashiwa, Noda and Tennodai areas.

I have been blessed, again, with two daughters from my Japanese wife, but had to bring all my girls home to Ghana to further their education when they got to grade 5. Our reasons for choosing this path were all those that you stated. We found that they were lagging behind in so many social and intellectual stages of their growing up, and we were alarmed.

Thanks for your article. It is encouraging to know that I didn’t put my girls through undue challenges because of my perception of our host nation and its system of education. My girls are all back in Japan now and taking their tertiary education.

I believe in our little ways , we can contribute to bringing changes for the better in our localities, if only we try.

EDDIE ESSIL
Kashiwa, Chiba Pref.

Mind the gap since junior high

Re: “Springtime in Japan brings the sadness of the eikaiwa exodus” by Charles Lewis (Learning Curve , March 21):

I’m facing my first eikaiwa (English conversation school classes), but fortunately my private students are still eager to learn. More worryingly, I just spent half a year teaching at a university here in Aichi and was astonished at the unwillingness of students to engage in conversations or discussions (set pieces, such as one-to-three-minute presentations, were manageable) and, equally, their low ability in listening. When the students told me that they hadn’t used English since junior high school, I told them to listen to English/American radio stations. Slowly they began to gain confidence.

Now, with my first full year ahead of me, I’ve been able to choose my textbooks, and with more understanding on my side, I’m celebrating hanami (cherry blossom viewing) rather than being sad.

CHARLES DAVEY
Tahara, Aichi Pref.

Inspirational life story

Re: “Chandru G. Advani, 1924-2018: ‘Uncle’ to Japan’s Indian community” by Megha Wadhwa (Obituary, March 21):

I found this article extremely inspiring. It’s good to know that somebody so zestful was working towards improving relations between India and Japan.

I am an Indian who is learning Japanese. It is my dream to visit Japan one day and be a part of its terrific culture. But I am not sure how that would be possible since the visa process does not really allow for entry of less-skilled workers. Still, I am still positive about one day making it to Japan.

SHATABDI DEY

Hyderabad, India

Dates refer to when stories were published online. Readers’ letters may be edited for length or clarity. Your comments: community@japantimes.co.jp