Reviewed by Henry Kiernan
As the high school companion piece to Tune in Japan: Approaching Culture Through Television, this film is unique in its frank portrayal of how the Japanese are attempting to solve contemporary social problems. Each problem is discussed openly, and direct reactions from Japanese teens provide viewers with a unique, personal understanding of the effects of both the problems and solutions. The greatest strength of this film is its ability to evoke in the viewer a sense of how Japanese solutions draw from Japan’s traditions and cultural experiences. In addition, viewers can assess how America’s solutions to some of the same problems are based on our own traditions and cultural experiences.
The forty-five-minute program is divided into four segments that may be used separately or together. The segments include discussion about creating a personal identity while maintaining allegiance to a group, preserving community and national security, implementing recycling programs, and increasing global communications through such activities as exchange programs and the Internet. While the film could be used effectively in a Global Studies course, individual segments could easily be applied in environmental studies, geography, sociology, political science, psychology, and a unit on post-World War II Japan in world history courses.
I would recommend the first two segments particularly for their candid portrayal of such problems as ijime, or bullying, and murahachibu, the practice of excluding people from the community so that they receive no help of any kind except in emergencies such as fire or death.
While these segments refer to the increase in petty crime, drug use, truancy, and drop-outs among Japanese teens, the film reflects the recent efforts of the Monbusho to reduce bullying in schools. Additional issues focus on the effect of immigration on a relatively homogeneous culture, Japan’s rice importation policy, and the cautious reactions from Japan’s neighbors as to the use of Japan’s self-defense force.
The third segment investigates Japan’s environmental efforts to improve recycling, land reclamation, and the use of alternative energy sources. The final segment on global communications will be of interest to students and schools wishing to engage in dialogue with Japanese teachers and students using the Internet.
The Teacher’s Guide contains several effective teaching/learning activities suitable for high school students, and the opportunities for independent work, such as using the Internet to exchange ideas, provide potential real-world applications for further research and study. The film Tune in Japan: Global Connections and its corresponding Teacher’s Guide make excellent resources for inclusion into a high school curriculum.