Survey finds obesity rates fell, but eyesight worsened among Japanese schoolchildren

Don’t take P.E. for granted ever again, kids.

It’s safe to say life was far from normal in Japan during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic–including multiple “soft lockdowns” and nationwide school closures–and now we have the data to back that up. Without the mandatory P.E. classes, after school activities, recess, and more at Japanese schools, obesity rates among Japanese school students climbed sharply between the end of 2019 and throughout 2020.

But recent survey results show that this trend is reversing, and it’s more than likely due to more in-school time. According to an annual survey conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), obesity rates for year 6 elementary school students fell 0.4 points to 10.9 percent; year 3 junior high school students 0.6 points to 9 percent; and year 3 high school students dropped a full point to 9 percent.

The National Center for Child Development and Health (NHCCD) also suggest that food was a big part. Without school-provided meals in elementary schools and carefully-made bento lunchboxes in junior high and high school, kids were more prone to choosing snacks over nutritious foods during Japan’s “soft lockdowns”. But now that schools are running in-person and on schedule, students’ eating habits are easing back into the norm.

What hasn’t changed since the pandemic began in early 2020, unfortunately, is students’ worsening eyesight. In a survey that included over 3,330,000 students, results found that 36.7 percent of elementary school students had impaired vision, and that number jumped to 60.7 percent among junior high students–the worst it’s been since the 1970s.

Unsurprisingly, smartphone usage and other digital devices are speculated as some of the main contributors. Studies are to be conducted on the relationship between smartphone usage and students’ vision, so those will hopefully provide some proof.

Sources: Nikkei …continue reading


Three manga to learn kanji, katakana and old Japanese as recommended by a Japanese teacher


Good news for Japanese learners!

Kadokawa Corporation has published three new books about the Japanese language. The three books are part of the のびーる国語 nobīru kokugo (stretch your Japanese language skills) series, which is popular among elementary school students in Japan.

The books are for studying, but in manga style!

These are the recurring characters in this book series. Studying with them must be fun!

However, the series isn’t only good because of these these manga-style characters. The contents are inspected by elementary school teachers and professors, which enables readers to study enjoyably and effectively. Judging from the sample pictures in the press release, I’m sure that these books are very useful for Japanese learners at intermediate to advanced levels and even for professional translators.

As a writer who has a Japanese teacher certification, I’d like to introduce these books!

Kanji book

If you want to study kanji compounds, I strongly recommend this kanji book. The official title is 角川まんが学習シリーズ のびーる国語 使い分け漢字 同音異義語・反対語・類義語他 kadokawa manga gakushū shirīzu nobīru kokugo tsukaiwake kanji dō’on’igigo hantaigo ruigigo hoka, an approximate translation of which is “Kadokawa manga learning series – stretch your Japanese language skills: proper use of kanji, homonyms, antonyms, and synonyms, etc.”

If you have already started studying Japanese, you may know that many Japanese kanji compounds have the same pronunciation, but can express different meanings depending on the kanji used. With this book, you can make learning such very confusing kanji compounds fun!

Look at the sample above. This page explains the word kyōsō. There are two kinds of kanji compounds, 競走 (kyōsō) and 競争 (kyōsō).

競走 (kyōsō) means “to race and compete/compare speed over a certain distance.” It would be the compound to use if you want to say “Let’s see who can run 50 meters faster.” …continue reading


Japanese schools to introduce genderless swimsuits with unisex two-piece design


Three Japanese schools plan to introduce new genderless swimsuits with unisex two-piece designs during the current academic year (April 2022 to March 2023), with ten schools currently considering implementing them in the subsequent year.

The swimsuits are made by Footmark, Co., Ltd., a leading provider of swimming caps and school swimwear for school children in Japan.

The long-sleeved top reduces exposure to ultraviolet rays when swimming outside. The bottoms are half-pants that minimize the contours of the body. According to the company’s press release, this unisex design is intended to allow students to participate in their swimming lessons without them (or others) paying attention to gender.


Amidst a growing understanding of and interest in LGBTQ* issues in Japan, some schools have been adopting new initiatives such as allowing students to freely choose their school uniforms.

However, although there have been changes in the shapes of swimsuits for men and women in the past fifty years, Footmark explains, “gender-specific designs have persisted, and many of these swimsuits highlight the differences between genders.” Other companies have also sold swimsuits that hide the contours of the body, but there have been no unisex two-piece swimsuits specifically designed for schools.

As you can see below, Footmark’s school swimsuits, following the general trend in Japan, went from one-piece swimsuits for girls and swimming briefs for boys in the 70s to swimming legsuits for girls and medium-length shorts for boys in the 2000s. Then in 2004, they introduced a two-piece swimsuit for girls and long swimming trunks for boys. In 2010, they introduced their “Shine Guard” tops to protect students from ultraviolet rays.

Swimsuit design

Numbers added by grape Japan as reference for description below

Footmark paid particular attention to the material and fine-tuned the pattern to create …continue reading


Debate: “Leashes make kids look like pets!” Manga artist’s genius rebuttal wins praise online


Even parents can’t predict how their young children will behave.

In addition to their limited physical abilities, their poor judgment makes it more likely that they can place themselves in danger at a moment’s notice.

To protect children from accidents and trouble, kid leashes are becoming increasingly popular in Japan.

The leashes are attached to harnesses worn by the child, and parents, legal guardians, or caretakers can hold the leash to prevent the child from straying away, running into the road, or putting themselves in harm’s way.

On the opinion that “leashes make kids look like pets”

On Children’s Day, May 5th, 2022, manga artist 洋介犬 Yohsuke Ken (@yohsuken) posted an episode from his manga 『反逆コメンテーターエンドウさん』 hangyaku komentētā endōsan (Rebellious Commentator Mr. Endo), in which the titular character appeared in a news program discussing the issue of kid leashes.

His co-host had a negative view…

Our English translation follows below each panel.

Reproduced with permission from 洋介犬 Yohsuke Ken (@yohsuken)

TITLE: Commentator Mr. Endo and the kid leash debate. | FRAME 1: (Co-host) The other day, I saw a mother who had a leash on her kid… I couldn’t help but think to myself: ‘Aw, come on now…’” FRAME 2: “…Just like a pet, don’t you think?… Tied up like that, it made me feel sorry for the kid.” (audience laughs)” FRAME 3: (Mr. Endo) “If it were me, I’d gladly use a leash to protect my kid from accidents. You’re the one I feel sorry for since you’re ‘tied up’…” FRAME 4: “…by old values and notions of common sense.”

Reproduced with permission from 洋介犬 Yohsuke Ken (@yohsuken)

TITLE: Commentator Mr. Endo and the limits of endurance. | FRAME 1: (Co-host) “But…but is it really a good idea …continue reading