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Japan places a tremendous importance on education. Many would even argue that studiousness is part of Japan’s national character, and diligent students are seen as source of pride and an object of respect in Japanese society.

Nevertheless, a lecturer at one of Japan’s renowned universities is calling out the lazy Japanese youths he says he encounters in his classes, while praising his hard-working Chinese and Southeast Asian pupils.

Koji Watanabe has worn many hats in his professional life. After graduating with a degree in literature from Waseda University, one of Japan’s top institutes of higher learning, Watanabe has been a musician, copywriter, video game journalist, and author. He’s also a part-time instructor in at his alma mater.

It must feel good to help students at the same school he attended, but Watanabe laments that some of them don’t seem at all interested in their teacher’s assistance. In a recent tweet, he said:

“When I give undergraduate or graduate lectures, it’s almost entirely exchange students from China and elsewhere in Asia sitting in the front rows of seats. Even the ones who aren’t so proficient with the Japanese language enthusiastically take notes and ask questions once the lecture is over.”

The back rows are occupied by Japanese students who are playing with their cell phones and munching on pastries. Those guys don’t even show up to class if it rains, in which case it’s just the students who sit in the front rows.”

Considering that he’s speaking from his own experiences, it’s hard to dispute what’s happening in Watanabe’s classes specifically. Some other Japanese Twitter users, however, took issue with his scathing dismissal of his unenthusiastic Japanese students as being simply lazy.


In impoverished Asian nations, it’s only the elite of society who go to university. Japanese people can get into university as long as they can write their name. I think that’s all that’s going on here. People like you, who feel like you’re better than others and say ‘I’m so cool and socially aware because I can disparage Japanese people’ make me want to puke.”

A student from Tokyo University added:

“Isn’t this just a case of your Japanese students deciding ‘There’s no point in taking this lecture seriously’? If it’s a poorly designed lecture that they’re just taking because they have to get the units, students will naturally lose motivation.”

Not having sat in on any of Watanabe’s classes ourselves, we can’t speak to his skill as an educator. The claim that anyone who can write their name can get accepted by a Japanese university is pretty far off, though, given the notorious difficulty of the country’s college entrance exams (and Waseda’s test is no exception).

On the other hand, there is some validity to the comment about international students often coming from backgrounds where financial success, many times built on a foundation of scholastic achievement, is expected. There’s also an additional factor in that Japan has much higher costs of living and education than its Asian neighbors, meaning that many foreign students see their time at Japanese universities as a serious investment that they hope to earn a return on.

As such, it’s hard to say that the disparity in effort Watanabe is observing is strictly a product of his foreign students putting more effort into their education. Still, those kids in the back row might want to put down their snacks and take some notes now and again.

Source: Hachima Kiko
Top image: Wikipedia/Kakidai