Saturday, December 16, 2017

What is the Logic behind Donating Money to a Foundation that Gives Money to Essay Contests?

Japan is a rather small country with an efficient public transport service, so moving across half the country, and then back, in a few hours within the same day is quite doable.  And the author did exactly that today on a trip to Kyoto for an essay contest presentation.  However, just because it is fast and easy does not mean such a trip is cheap.  The four-hour round trip between  Tokyo and Kyoto easily cost up to 200 USD without seat reservation, which is equivalent to more than 10% of what a corporate newbie earns in a fairly decent company here in Japan.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

When Mental Strength Rather than Skills and Techniques Become the Primary Determinant for Success

Today was the final exam for graduating medical school students at the University of Tokyo.  The final exam took the form of individual clinical simulations, where each student separately, in designated time periods, perform certain required medical checkup procedures in front of their professors.  Students from other departments were called up to perform as mock patients for the final exam, and the author was luckily selected as one of the privileged (?) few who had the opportunity to witness firsthand the final examination process.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

When a Niche Market is Put in a Rich, Massive Market, It is No Longer a Niche

It is hard to imagine something that is as uncommonly sought after among the stylish trendy 20-somethings walking around a (relatively) balmy winter afternoon in one of Tokyo's major shopping areas.  Yet, the Reptile Expo in the 4th floor of a shopping mall in Ikebukuro attracted enough traffic to warrant a 40-min wait for ticket purchase.  Inside the exhibition hall that took up a whole floor, a slew of booths peddled everything from hamsters in the range of ten USD to snakes that can cost more than 10,000 USD.  Gerbils, owls, chameleons, hedgehogs, turtles, among other unusual pet choices, fought for attention of attendees.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The Sensitivities of Making an Invisible Community More Visible

At the first sight, the Won Won Shopping Complex looks like any other retail/office building in central parts of Taipei.  The concrete two-floor building is devoid of paint, excess decorations, and frankly, any character that would make it stand out among dozens of similar buildings with similar grey/brown hues on a rather nondescript street.  The sign for the complex is small and fading, hidden behind little booths selling cheap SIM cards and a seat for the tired, half-napping security guard.  For those in a hurry to their destinations, the Won Won Complex do not really deserve a second look, in the same way its neighbors also would not.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Encouraging Signs of a More International Socialization of Japanese Kids

When the author was attending elementary school in Japan as a child, the concept of catering for foreigners within both the school environment and community was practically unheard of.  While foreigners have already been not rare even in a provincial city like Kanazawa by the early 1990s, the general mainstream society basically pretended that if the foreigners are treated not any differently from the Japanese, they will assimilate into Japanese culture in no time.  As much as many foreign residents treated to go along with such idealistic wishes of the Japanese majority, to accept a new culture while abandoning an old is difficult.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Are Some Exam Formats More "Juvenile" Than Others?

One of the favorite tools for teachers in American high schools is the Scantron.  These machine-readable little slips are the key to automating multiple choice tests.  Teachers enter the correct answers in the scanning machine before the multiple-choice test even happens.  And then students color in the bubbles that correspond to what they think are the right answers on the Scantron slip.  Immediately after the test, the teacher gathers all the slips and shove them into the scanning machine.  The machine automatically grades everyone's test, and the teacher is saved from having to manually check all the answers.