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No.23
No.23 ,Society  Sep 17, 2014

Former Self-Defense Forces Members Volunteering in Mine Clearance Overseas: They see it as, “Work only we can do.” — An international contribution using a developed skill

Arakawa Ryuichiro・Natsume Yukiaki

In May 2002, retired UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) disposal experts from the Ground Self-Defense Force, established a new organization, the Japan Mine Action Service (JMAS). An estimated 100 million mines and UXO are left untreated around the world. JMAS is an NPO formed to dispose of these by giving local specialists skills and information, working alongside them. Why would people who might have been leading a comfortable retirement life with their grandchildren set out for mine areas? What are their real activities? What are they thinking of? Natsume Yukiaki listened to their frank words. Not About Risking Your Life Natsume Yukiaki: Specifically, how do you go about removing mines and unexploded bombs? Arakawa Ryuichiro: In Cambodia, we meet up with former soldiers from the time of ... [Read more]

No.21
No.21 ,Society ,Discussions  Apr 13, 2014

The Modern-Day Family Without Tora-san

From Otoko wa Tsurai yo (It’s tough being a man) to his latest Chiisai Ouchi (The little house), movie director Yamada Yoji has continued to portray the Japanese family for more than half a century. What has the Japanese family in the Heisei period lost from Showa? BAISHO Chieko: I heard that with your latest, Chiisai Ouchi (The Little House), it’s already been fifty years since Shitamachi no Taiyo (The Sunshine Girl, 1963), which we worked on together. We’ve come a long way, haven’t we? YAMADA Yoji: The movie Otoko wa Tsurai yo was started in 1969. Baisho: Torajiro Kurenai no Hana, which was the last of the Otoko wa Tsurai yo series was released in 1995, so it lasted twenty-six years. Yamada: Looking back, the Kurumas in that series was a collapsed family. ... [Read more]

No.21
No.21 ,Society  Apr 03, 2014

Working to Restore the Scenic View of Onomichi — TOYOTA Masako, Representative Director of the Onomichi Vacant House Restoration Project

“Many people help me. I have no skills but I am good at involving people around me,” says Toyota with a smile. Photo: YOSHIDA Akihito

Located between the Seto Inland Sea and the mountains, Onomichi in Hiroshima Prefecture is a small city with an approximate population of 150,000. It is a city of slopes and boats. It has narrow streets intricately entangled on slanting land. It is a place where ferry boats sail to and from nearby islands. Its unique taste has grabbed the hearts of remarkable novelists and movie directors and the city has provided the setting for many literary and cinematographic works. This scenic city of Onomichi is now at risk. TOYOTA Masako noticed the change in her hometown when she returned to live there after eight years of working in Osaka.... [Read more]

No.21
No.21 ,Society  Apr 03, 2014

Hoping to Save as Many Lives on Mountains as Possible — OHSHIRO Kazue, Diploma in Mountain Medicine

“My biggest goal is to prevent mountain climbers from suffering accidents,” Ohshiro says. Photo: KAWAMURA Isao

In May 2013, adventurer Miura Yuichiro stood atop the 8,848-meter-high Mt. Everest. Ohshiro Kazue, a medical doctor, had stayed behind at the base camp at an altitude of 5,300 meters. Amid the jubilation after Miura, at eighty, had become the oldest man to climb the mountain in recorded history, she was concerned with the changes in his physical condition. Miura, having removed his oxygen mask at the summit, lost more stamina than expected. When he began to descend, his legs failed him and he could not get enough energy to propel them. “At the sight of his safe return to the base camp, I was afraid that he would break if I hugged him as I usually do to fellow climbers rejoining me on a mountain. He looked so brave in his weakness and so adorable,” Ohshiro recalls. At that moment she became both relaxed and relieved.... [Read more]

No.21
No.21 ,Society  Apr 03, 2014

Treasuring This Current Moment with My Family — TAKEKAWA Yoichi, Toy Importer

In front of his home is the Biei wheat field, a characteristic view of Hokkaido. Photo: KAWAMURA Isao

Toy Store of the Biei Hills stands facing a vast Hokkaido field that is among Japan’s most beautiful scenery is where the. This store is only open until 3 p.m., at which time it turns into a playground open to the local children. This is because Takekawa Yoichi, who moved here in 2010 from Saitama Prefecture, aims not to make money but rather to develop family time amid Mother Nature. The four years it took to get this started were not easy. “When you read stories of people who moved to Hokkaido, you get the impression that they all made the transition so smoothly,” Takekawa reflects. “I’ve often wondered why we had to have it so tough.” ... [Read more]

No.21
No.21 ,Society  Mar 27, 2014

The University Outcry – Merits and Demerits of Rankings and Performance Evaluation
University Reform and Far-reaching National Policy

No Global Excellence Without National Competition

UEYAMA Takahiro, Professor, Keio University

Why evaluate academia?  Sustaining the world of knowledge is difficult in any era. As well as pinning high expectations on the benefits of the technologies and new ideas that emerge from universities, the patrons of society are always casting a stern eye over academia. In The Higher Learning in America (1918), Thorstein Veblen commented on this ironic state of affairs, “[…] idle learning has sought shelter in the university as the only establishment in which it could find a domicile, even on sufferance, and so could achieve that footing of consecutive intellectual enterprise running through successive generations of scholars which is above all else indispensable to the advancement of knowledge.” Before growing to require the enormous financial foundation of today, academia maintained strained ties with patrons for its survival and was continually shaken by the evaluations of the external parties that supported its universities. ... ... [Read more]

No.21
No.21 ,Society  Mar 27, 2014

The University Outcry – Merits and Demerits of Rankings and Performance Evaluation
Universities losing their ideals to internationalization and the mass-production of academic papers

You Can’t Rank Academics

INOKI Takenori, Specially-appointed Professor, Aoyama Gakuin University

The pros and cons of converting everything to figures We find ratings and ranks in so many fields these days. Ratings – numerical indices that put things in order – have some kind of quality that stimulates people’s curiosity and arouses competition. When we are shown international rankings or levels such as the per-country rating list of the Olympic gold/silver/bronze medals won, we have the impression that the strength of something has been measured “objectively,” and nationalism of sorts rises in us. Ratings offer us immobile criteria with which to make judgments, which may become the grounds for drafting a policy or a change of politics. But this “ratings fever” tends to create radical competition based on collectivist psychology, making us lose sight of the true purpose of things. Let me offer just two examples from my familiar field of education and research. Late ... ... [Read more]

No.21
No.21 ,Society  Mar 26, 2014

The Responsibility of Developing “Global Human Resources”

MURATA Koji, President, Doshisha University

In 1968, the one hundredth anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, Japan rose to become the world’s second economic superpower after the United States. However, in 2011, the one hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Revolution, it was confirmed that China had overtaken Japan to become the world’s second economic superpower. It is believed that by 2030, Japan’s economy will drop to fifth place in the world rankings. China, on the other hand, while beset by a variety of domestic problems such as wealth disparity, environmental destruction, and the depletion of natural resources, is set to overtake the United States in 2025 to become the world’s number one economic superpower. China also has the potential to surpass the United States when it comes to national defense spending. The fact that Japanese industry and the Abe Cabinet are committed to fostering “global talent”... [Read more]

No.17
No.17 ,Society  Nov 27, 2013

The Blue Sky Library: Tomita Michio’s Dream of a Disciple Outshining His Teacher

Tomita michio at the event “The Blue Sky Library, with 800 Volunteers and 10,000 e-book Titles” held by Voyager Japan, Inc., in July 9 2011. Courtesy of Voyager Japan, Inc.

A memorial symposium titled “The Dream of Aozora Bunko: The Future of Copyright and Culture” was held at the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan hall on September 25, 2013, in memory of Tomita Michio, the person who initially proposed Aozora Bunko (hereinafter referred to as the “Blue Sky Library”). This event was sponsored by the Tomita Michio Memorial Event Executive Committee (co-chairpersons: Tomita Akiko and Yamaki Mie of the Blue Sky Library) along with the Blue Sky Library, Voyager Japan, Inc., Movements for the Internet Active Users (MIAU), Creative Commons Japan (a nonprofit corporation commonsphere) and ThinkC (a forum for discussing an extension of the copyright protection period). Niconico’s Internet broadcast service broadcast the symposium proceedings live on the Web. The proceedings are also available as archive videos on niconico’s website. The voice and... [Read more]

No.17
No.17 ,Society  Nov 26, 2013

Comments on Current Events 2013
Blue Sky Library and Books that Cannot Rest in Peace

TAKEDA Toru, Journalist

My wish was to allow them to sleep peacefully in their graves.”So said the late Tomita Michio when I interviewed him about electronic books at his house in Yokohama in 1999. I think even people who have never heard of Tomita might be familiar with the website Aozora Bunko, or the Blue Sky Library. Tomita is the Library’s founder. After Tomita left a publisher that specialized in science and technology books and became a freelancer, one of his close editor friends asked him to write a series of original paperbacks. It was a time when personal computing was beginning to emerge. Finding a need to document events in this period of transition to an information-oriented society as contemporary history, Tomita began gathering materials in 1984 and published Pasokon Soseiki (Personal Computer Genesis), his first solely authored book and the first in his series, in the following year... [Read more]

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