Archive | Japanese School

The Boy in the Mirror

July 19, 2011   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — “What are you going to say if I don’t make it?” my son asked me before he left for a long-distance ocean swim required by his school. “I’ll say, ‘Can’t you even do that? What a waste of tuition!”‘ […]

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The Legacy of Human Torpedoes

November 3, 2010   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times I was blown away when my son told me he wanted to do his sixth grade research project on Japan’s human torpedoes, the manned missiles that crashed themselves into enemy ships toward the end of World War II. Since then I’ve […]

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One Son, Four Characters

March 20, 2010   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times The postcard-sized paper my son brought home from school had four imposing Chinese characters written vertically down the middle. It was from a school assignment where the fifth graders each selected a yoji-jukugo, or four-character idiom, that best suited another classmate. […]

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The Three R’s, Japanese Style

March 10, 2009   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — If sound travels 331 meters per second in zero degrees Celsius, and the speed increases 0.6 meters as the temperature increases by one degree, what is the distance between a person and lightning if the person hears the bolt […]

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Identically Distinctive

December 1, 2008 By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — I witnessed a bizarre scene at my son’s primary school earlier this year. A dozen or so school mothers had encircled a teacher and were bowing deeply. They were apologizing after being scolded for chatting too noisily at a field […]

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Homework for the beach

February 11, 2008   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — As I plan our spring vacation, I’m dreading how much homework my 8-year-old son will have. During our winter holiday in Hawaii, too many beach days were cut short by our laboring to get through the inventory of five […]

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For Japanese children, little time to daydream

April 28, 2006   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The International Herald Tribune/The New York Times TOKYO — Today is Thursday, so I meet my 7-year-old son after school at the bus stop and nag him to walk home quickly so we can make it to soccer practice on time. At home, Yataro changes into his soccer […]

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Are They Too Young to Ride the Trains Alone?

August 15, 2005   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA Newsweek Like most Japanese primary- school students, my son, 6, is expected to get to school on his own. Donned in his uniform, white, rolled-brim hat and navy blue shorts, and carrying a heavy black leather satchel on his back, he rides two trains and a bus for […]

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Making The Grade

March 20, 2005   By KUMIKO MAKIHARA The New York Times Magazine When I started inquiring about cram schools for my 5-year-old son’s primary-school entrance exams, I knew I would be chastised for starting late. It was May, and most children in Tokyo had already been studying a year or two for the tests in […]

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