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Society, No.21  Mar. 27, 2014

The University Outcry – Merits and Demerits of Rankings and Performance EvaluationUniversities 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]

Society, No.21  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” out of a strong ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.17  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 (*1).  Tomita Michio, the Blue Sky Library, and the Future of Books Fund The voice ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.17  Nov. 26, 2013

Comments on Current Events 2013Blue 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, ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.17  Nov. 25, 2013

Special Feature — Win with Diplomacy! The Art of War for a Country that Cannot FightSuccessful lobbying and presentation helped bring the Olympics to Tokyo

TAMAKI Masayuki, Sports Commentator

Behind the success were well-calculated tactics, not to mention impressive speeches by Tokyo bid committee members. Tokyo has been chosen to host the 2020 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. First of all, I salute this brilliant achievement from the bottom of my heart. The outcome of the vote by International Olympic Committee (IOC) members belied all speculation, as Madrid, which was seen as the favorite candidate city and the one that would closely compete with Tokyo, was quickly eliminated. It looks as if people suddenly felt deflated, because Madrid had been rumored over the preceding several weeks as being quite likely to win European Union support, which would lead to a majority of the IOC members voting for the Spanish city. It is widely speculated that Paris, which is aiming to host the 2024 Games, was reluctant to select its neighbor (Madrid) for 2020 ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.16  Oct. 7, 2013

The English Essays of Minakata Kumagusu – Centering on his Contributions to “Nature”

TAMURA Yoshiya, Academic Trustee of Minakata Kumagusu Archives

Prologue: Minakata Before Contributing to Intellectual Periodicals Minakata Kumagusu (1867–1941) left Japan for the United States in 1886, at the age of nineteen. After living in Michigan and Florida for four years (including a short stay in Cuba), he moved to London in 1892, when he was twenty-five. He remained in the English capital for eight years until September 1900, when he ended his fifteen years abroad, mostly for financial reasons. Minakata’s life overseas appears to have been of a diffuse nature, a feature ultimately characterizing his whole life. His main aims changed several times. Initially he entered a school of finance and accounting in San Francisco, in January 1887. In August that year, however, he left and headed east. After a day’s stay in Lincoln, Nebraska, to visit the University of Nebraska, he traveled on through Chicago to Lansing, Michigan, and enrolled in ... ... [Read more]

Society, No.16  Oct. 7, 2013

Minakata Kumagusu and the British Museum

Minakata in the British Museum According to Minakata Fumie (1911–2000), the daughter of Minakata Kumagusu (1867–1941), her father continued to share his memories of the BritishMuseum late into his life. “When I first entered the Library, I found it to be the very place I had always dreamed of going,” [1] Minakata had said. It was on April 10, 1895 that Minakata applied for readership at the British Library, one the world’s largest libraries, then located inside the BritishMuseum in central London [2]. Minakata had been introduced by Charles Hercules Read (1857–1929), Keeper of the Department of British and Mediaeval Antiquities and Ethnography, to the Museum’s Augustus Wollaston Franks (1826–97), Read’s predecessor as Keeper, on September 22, 1893 as a young, learned Japanese scholar able to advise the Museum on the Department’s Oriental collection. Minakata became acquainted with Robert Douglas (1838–1913), the first Keeper ... ... [Read more]

Society, KUDO_Yasushi, Nos.13-15  Mar. 6, 2013

(JAPAN POLITICS CHANGED?) Change in Civil Society and Change in Politics

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, many people in Japan have given donations and taken part in volunteer activities in the disaster-hit areas, and protests calling for an end to nuclear power are being held outside the prime minister’s office every week. Japanese politics found itself back in the hands of a Liberal Democratic Party administration, but was this change of government driven by changes among citizens and voters? World Vision Japan national director Nobuhiko Katayama, who is well-versed in NPO and NGO activities in Japan and overseas, Tamotsu Sugenami of the Takagi Fund for Citizen Science, a grassroots fund that supports citizen movements opposing nuclear power, and Japan NPO Center adviser Yoshinori Yamaoka, who helps support Japan’s NPO sector, discussed the... [Read more]

Society, Nos.13-15  Mar. 6, 2013

(JAPAN POLITICS CHANGED?) At Crossroads: Japan’s Civil Society and Politics — Has Japanese Society Changed since Great East Japan Earthquake?

1. Introduction Has civil society in Japan been transformed following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011? And has there been any kind of change in the relationship between the people and national politics? Behind such questions lies this hypothesis: “Having experienced such a catastrophe that affected the whole country, Japanese society must have developed greater fortitude and become stronger. Moreover, in response to this, certainly political thinking too has undergone changes.” Underlying such an optimistic hypothesis are recollections of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. In that disaster, Japan itself was... [Read more]