An Update from the Dean

TUJ at the Center of Japanese-American Cultural and Educational Relations

January 21, 2013

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you all had a good and relaxing break.

TUJ students have come from about 60 different countries over the years and we are proud to define ourselves as an international institution of higher education. But our role as an international institution of higher education exists within the US-Japan context as 40 percent of our students come from each country and we are the Japan campus of an American university. This US-Japan aspect of TUJ has been much on my mind over the past six months as I have had the privilege of advising the United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange’s (CULCON) Task Force on Education. The Education Task Force was created last spring as a response to concerns about maintaining strong cultural and educational ties between the United States and Japan.

The US-Japan relationship is one of the most interesting bi-lateral relationships in the postwar world. It is a relationship in which overwhelmingly positive attitudes by each nation toward the other have been consistently maintained for decades, even during the “trade war” years of the 1970s and 80s and even during the occasional periods of concern over the US military presence in Japan. The positive public attitudes toward the other, and the cooperative diplomatic, military, and even economic relations between the two nation-states, are definitely counter-intuitive. Karl Deutsch, one of the 20th Century’s great theorists of international relations, stated that alliances are strongest and will last the longest when the fundamental glue that binds them together is cultural; including similar language, history, and religion. If one looks at the history of alliances in the national-state era, he is mostly correct, but the Japan-US alliance is the exception to the rule. In just a relatively few years following Pearl Harbor, the firebombing of Tokyo, and the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese-American relations began to warm quickly, and have never seriously cooled in the 60 years since the end of the American occupation of Japan.

The positive relationship between the two countries has been built upon a history of cultural interplay, an important part of which has been the education of Japanese in the US and, especially in the postwar period, the education of Americans in Japan. Almost two million Americans came to Japan during the occupation and many of them not only enjoyed the experience, but they were motivated to study about Japan by using the GI Bill when they returned to the US. Similarly, some of Japan’s most influential business and political leaders also took on the challenge of studying in the US.

Although most people think that American students’ interest in Japan has declined as interest in China has grown, that is not the case. The number of American study abroad students in Japan rose from 2,000 in 1996/97 to 6,000 in 2009/10 but then did drop back to about 4,000 immediately after 3.11. The increase over the decade of the 2000s and the fact that the numbers are rebounding again demonstrate that American students are not “passing” Japan for China. Indeed, both are growing simultaneously which demonstrates a growing interest in Asia as a whole.

However, the number of Japanese students studying in the US has dropped by more than 50% over the past ten years, from a high of 46,000 in 2001 to a low of 20,000 in 2011. Diplomats, educators and business people all see this as a threat to the future of US-Japan relations. The memories of shared struggles of the cold war and the shared struggles of forging a beneficial, peaceful relationship after years of war that bound us together in the postwar period have faded into the past for most young people in both countries.

Our task at CULCON is to determine how best to again increase the numbers of Japanese student coming to the US, and going abroad generally as the number of Japanese students studying abroad in all countries has dropped from a high of 83,000 in 2005 to a low of 60,000 in 2010. Some argue that the problem is with the lack of motivation in Japanese young people. They are too afraid to go into the unknown. They don’t want to risk losing the opportunity to find a job in Japan. They do not want to spend the money to go abroad. While this may be true, the problem is not with Japanese young people; it is with Japanese institutions. Japanese universities and MEXT have to do more to support those who want to study abroad, and they must also make better efforts to motivate them at a younger age to do so. Japanese companies and the government have to undertake the steps necessary to change the recruitment system and to see the positives in hiring people who have international experience. And American universities have to do more to help Japanese students afford study in the US.

TUJ, as the only American, the only foreign, full university campus in Japan has an important mission to play in supporting the internationalization of Japanese higher education by helping Japanese students to benefit from studying in an American university. TUJ has undertaken programs in partnership with Japanese high schools, Japanese universities, and the Temple University main campus, that prepare Japanese students to study at Temple or at other universities in the US, and that allow them to experience an American higher education here at TUJ as a "domestic study abroad". Temple University has always been proud of the role that TUJ plays in supporting Japanese-American educational and cultural relations and we will continue to expand that role as Japanese higher education continues to internationalize.

With best regards,