by Hiratate Hideaki Translation for Japan Focus by John Junkerman. Surprisingly, he also did Mr. Baseball with Takakura Ken! http://www.tvguide.com/movies/database/ShowMovie.asp?MI=34896#castcredits http://www.tvguide.com/movies/database/ShowMovie.asp?MI=34896 Full article here . Excerpts here: [The quality and elan of primary and secondary education have long been regarded as among the achievements of postwar Japan. Journalist Hiratate Hideaki uses the window of increasing teacher suicides to probe recent changes in education that have placed many of Japan’s finest teachers on a collision course with their principles, supervisors, and ultimately the Japanese state. The author shows how a combination of the new nationalism, neo-liberal criteria for teacher assessment, and increased demands on teachers have brought about a situation in which large numbers of teachers are succumbing to mental illness, committing suicide, or taking early retirement. These articles appeared in the July 4 and August 29, 2003 issues of Shukan Kinyobi.] Full article here . Excerpts here: “Yumiko, I’m sorry. I’m a bit tired from work at school.” It was on January 24, 1983 that Kikuchi Akinori, then 29, a teacher at Heita Elementary School in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, left his wife this note and took his own life. …What distressed Akinori was the approach used in the moral education class. This had been dubbed the “Heita method” and involved dividing the class into groups of “good,” “bad,” and “normal” children, and then conducting the class with children from each of the groups. Akinori had serious doubts about this discriminatory approach. However, the evaluation of the school depended on the success of the public sessions. Under this psychological pressure, Akinori had begun to suffer headaches and low-grade fevers in the first term of the year…. Full article here . Excerpts here: …Meanwhile, since the total number of employed teachers decreased by more than 70,000 over the same decade, the percentage of teachers taking medical leave for psychological reasons has increased even more dramatically (from 0.10 percent to 0.27 percent of the total teacher workforce)…. …Ota Hiroyuki (a pseudonym for a teacher in his 50s) developed depression soon after being appointed senior teacher [an administrative position] at a junior high school. During his years as a teacher, he had never been depressed, even when his ribs were broken as a result of student violence. Dealing directly with children had always buoyed his spirit. Ota was a dedicated teacher and, with the encouragement of his principal, he decided to pursue an administrative position. However, in his training prior to his appointment as senior teacher, he was drilled in the proper administrative frame of mind, which included directing teachers to display the national flag and require the singing of the national anthem, and putting an end to teachers’ at-home training [a practice whereby secondary school teachers are allowed stay-at-home days to conduct individual research or study]. Ota sensed a wide gap between these directives and his own philosophy of education… Full article here . Excerpts here: …The absolute policy regarding the national flag and anthem at graduation and entrance ceremonies is an example. The report form sent to all school principals by the prefectural board of education required detailed information in response to such questions as, “Was the flag displayed at the front of the stage?” and “Did the singing of the anthem echo across the ceremony hall?” In the “Principal’s Handbook” there was even a manual, in question and answer format, for how to deal with teachers who refused to stand for the national anthem. In this manner, 100 percent of public high schools in Hiroshima Prefecture were brought into compliance. Full article here . Excerpts here: There are reports of a principal who called the parents of a child who remained seated during the singing of “Kimigayo.” There were those who took photographs of teachers as they were singing to record how widely they opened their mouths. Someone connected to a PTA came into a classroom one day suddenly and demanded, “You’re the teacher who sat during the singing of ‘Kimigayo,’ and you have the nerve to think you can teach!”–what amounted to a regional surveillance of teachers’ speech and conduct. And, in February 1999, Ishikawa Toshihiro, the principal of Sera High School, committed suicide as a result of contention over the national flag/anthem issue…. Full article here .