Spreading the charms of Japan to the world from Fukui




The very first student studying abroad from Fukui: Taro Kusakabe 



I watched a special program of FBC (local TV station of Fukui), which depicted Taro Kusakabe and W.E. Griffis. I know their names, but I didn’t know how they lived their lives. And I was moved by their lives watching the program.


Taro Kusakabe was born in 1845 in Fukui City. In 1856, a new domain school was opened in the city. Normally, students enter the school at the age of 15, but Taro was such a bright child and he entered it at the age of 13. In 1867, Taro went to America to study Rutgers University in New Brunswick, where Taro met Griffis to learn Latin. Taro often used to boast to Griffis about how good Fukui was.


On the other hand, things were very expensive in America at that time. Taro lived on a little money from Fukui, so he had to cut down on food expenditure. Also, he cut back on sleeping and studied hard in a cold room, and finally, he became infected with tuberculosis. In 1870, Taro ended his short life of only 24 years in New Brunswick just before his graduation.


The university was closed because of Taro’s funeral. In the church that it was held, professors, students, friends, and also Griffis, who was overwhelmed with sadness, attended. No words can describe his loneliness and sorrow that died in a far foreign country. I feel a great pity.


That is, in Fukui, in the era from the late Edo Period to the beginning of the Meiji Period, two brilliant young persons, Taro Kusakabe and Sanai Hashimoto (executed in 1859 at the age of 25). I cannot help but think if they were alive.


By the way, Griffis received a letter from Fukui Domain after several months after Taro’s death. I will continue this in my next week's blog. (H.S)


Taro Kusakabe (From Fukui City History Museum’s website)


Bronze statue of Griffis and Taro located on the river bank of Asuwa River in Fukui City

Why has Japan’s English education been confused for thirty years?


Random thoughts

I read an article on PRESIDENT Online, which I sympathized with. It was a talk between Kumiko Torikai and Takashi Saito. I would like to excerpt some of their dialogue as follows.


Kumiko Torikai (from PRESIDENT Online)


-Adopting English private examinations for the University Standardized Test, which starts in fiscal 2020, have canceled at the last minute. Not only this, Japan has been confused about English education for thirty years. What is the cause? Kumiko Torikai points out that regarding the ability to speak English as English conversation is fundamentally wrong. -


Torikai: “An enormous problem of the series of English education reform is the relation with Japanese language becoming weaker. Mother tongue is important to study foreign languages, but they are trying to dismiss it. “
Saito: “Japanese in general have a complex about speaking English. Speaking English fluently is cool. Halting Japanese English is embarrassed. But is that an ability to test by university entrance examination?
Torikai: Exactly. Those who want to speak English fluently should make an effort to do so. But university entrance examination should test basic skills that studied in high school, especially reading skills.
Saito: Basically, systems should be improved gradually, and it tends to get good results. Current National Center Test for University Admissions includes listening test. So if the test will be improved, I think that they could measure students’ communication ability.
Torikai: I agree with you. There is no need to measure four skills separately. The four skills
should be learned comprehensively. So examination has to measure comprehensive ability. I don’t understand why speaking ability should be measured separately.


I felt relieved when I read the Torikai’s opinion. There were descriptions in a book that she wrote as follows. -According to a questionnaire, many companies need English writing skills. Because nowadays, e-mails are the mainstream rather than phone calls. Apparently, those who are very good at English are not always good at work. (H.S)

What I want a ramen shop to continue even after coronavirus


Random thoughts

The picture above was taken in at a ramen shop Taniya in Fukui City, which shows ramen I ordered, a pair of chopsticks and a soup spoon served on the counter in front of me. The ramen is my favorite "Soy sauce based soup with thick noodles".


Soon after the emergence of the coronavirus problem in the city, the seasonings, chopstick stands, and soup spoon stands that had always been on the counter of this shop have completely disappeared. But now, the shop staff puts them as necessary. Now I wonder why they had been placed on the counter which anyone could touch as if it were a matter of course.


Although it may take a little more work for the shop staff, looking at the really neat countertop now, I hope that this way will continue even after coronavirus has converged.


The ramen shop's previous state of the counter before coronavirus
(This photo is quoted from Tabelog)

The Japanese film “Fukushima 50”



From the official website of the ”Fukushima 50"


I wanted to see this film at a theater, but I have hesitated to go to theaters due to coronavirus, and eventually they themselves had closed. I gave up seeing the film for the time being. However, online distributing of the film has started despite a new one and I was able to watch it the other day.


Needless to say, the film depicts desperate effort at the Fukushima-1 plant by about fifty workers when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. (Based on the book “Man who saw the edge of death-Masao Yoshida and Fukushima-1 plant” written by Ryusho Kadota) The unexpected state of emergency at the nuclear plant resembles the world today. The words by Mr. Yoshida such as “Don’t panic””Stay alert””Why did this have to happen?””What did we do something wrong?””Let’s go back home alive” resonated very deeply within me. The nuclear accident in the film inevitably seemed like a foretaste of today’s pandemic.


And, what I realized from the film are planning a more worst-case scenario than a worst-case scenario, there is no “definitely” in this world, crisis management, manual preparation, doing first things first, regular practice, preparing all the time for emergencies, adhering to rule, fear of unfounded optimism. Of course, a reliable leader and a unified chain of command are necessary.


In the future as well, unprecedented natural disasters or unknown viruses might attack us. Human beings tend to be like the proverb “The danger past and God forgotten”, but I had an acute feeling that we should examine recent events in all aspects and keep learning. And I think that I should never forget that there are people who secure our country at the risk of their own lives even at this very moment. (H.S)



Dinosaur parent and child at Michinoeki (roadside station) Kuzuryu


Random thoughts


The video above shows a parent and a child of dinosaur in motion, who are a symbol of the Michinoeki (roadside station) Kuzuryu in Ono City, Fukui Prefecture. It was taken last fall. They 'hibernated' in a storehouse throughout winter and have returned to their usual place after the snow season.


When I heard both sound of cars on the nearby road and the dinosaurs roaring, it seemed that the parent was trying to protect its child who was scared of cars.