Corona Virus /Japan School Closure Documents

Just wanted to share a few documents as souvenirs of my last few days as a teacher in Hiroshima Prefectural public high school.  These may be of interest to anyone who is interested in the recent unilateral school closings instituted by Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe last Thursday evening, and effective tomorrow (March 2, through the end of this month).

These closings, which were initiated at the highest level of Japanese national government came as a surprise to everyone, both Japanese and non-Japanese.  But as an American expat, the breadth and scope of such a policy being instituted from the top-down was and is unimaginable in an American context.

The closest American analog I can think of would be the closures that have taken place in certain States or local jurisdictions after natural disasters– Hurricane Katrina, for instance, in Louisiana, or perhaps Sandy in the Northeastern U.S.  But, to my knowledge, if there were blanket school closures in these instances, they were initiated at the State level, if not the local (e.g. city or county level).  It begs the question: does the executive branch of the U.S. government have the power to close schools across the United States?  This is a question that I won’t be able to answer here definitively.  Somehow I doubt it.  My instinct, given the contentiousness of “states rights” along educational lines, is that even if a U.S. President tried to make a move like Mr. Abe’s last week, that it would meet resistance if not outright defiance from some jurisdictions on ideological if not practical grounds.

One of the most glaring problems that these school closures have left is the problem of what working parents are supposed to do with their elementary-school-aged children, who are suddenly at home for the next month.  Will they get parental leave of some kind?  Will the state intervene again to provide care or those students who may need it?

The documents I have linked to this post provide a bit of a backdrop against which we can pose these bigger labor questions, and evaluate this specific school-closure policy in the face of an admittedly dangerous disease.  They could also serve as a useful body of evidence in a critique of authoritarian, centralized, top-down, bureaucratic education systems, which are kind of “a thing” here in Asia.

A brief outline of each document follows.

1) 保険だより  Dated 2/2/20 This is the periodic (monthly? twice-monthly?) newsletter of the school nurse’s office.  Last week, when this was released the school was getting over a bout of the flu.  Several students in each class had been absent.  And so this helpful brief outlines proper “manners” for dealing with cold and flu symptoms.  It recommends gargling as well as frequent hand-washing, and wearing masks.  These are all common sense habits, really.  But they are being more frequently referenced in public these days, like on the train, I’ve noticed.

2) Special Events 教育長より Dated Reiwa 2/ 2/ 27  This message from the Superintendent of Hiroshima Schools advises caution in the carrying out of large events in the prefecture– meant to include in particular things like graduation ceremonies.  March 1st is the date for the majority of graduation ceremonies around Japan.  This doc is similar to the School Nurse’s newsletter in content, but it has the force of a policy memo.

It recommends limiting the face-to-face interactions of participants, making preventative measures like alcohol disinfectant spray available, and limiting the number of participants to those directly participating in events.

*It was the evening of 2/27 that Mr. Abe made his announcement of the school closures.

3) 臨時休校について (連絡)Memo Regarding the Temporary Closure of Schools

This doc came down the pike in the middle of the day last Friday 2/28 along with the letter (Document 4) to be sent home with students.  In gives the dates 3/3 to 3/19 of the initial closure.  Closure is the wrong word though– teachers are still expected to be at work.  There will be no club or sports meetings.  Students are to check the school homepage twice daily for any updates, but emails will also be sent through the emergency email system.

4)  Dated 2/28  This is the offcial letter from the Superintendant of Hiroshima Prefectural Schools outlining in broad strokes the information provided in greater detail by our individual school in number 3.  It’s labeled 通知– “Notice” interestingly– not 連絡, “communication” or “memorandum,” which I take to mean that it is merely an official communication of the Prime Minister’s announcement of the previous evening.  The details are left to the individual school to work out within the framework set out by those actors higher up the bureaucratic chain– in this case stretching all the way up to the top!

So, that wraps up this batch of documents.  It hope it was at least a little enlightening.

八月六日 And America’s Cult of (Military) Superiority

August 6— It’s an overcast and windy morning. There was an occasional drizzle on my way into work.  The school and the city just observed the anniversary of the first nuclear carpet bombing.  74 years ago today this city was reduced to smoldering, irradiated rubble in carpet-bombing targeting civilians, designed to strike terror and hopelessness into the hearts of the Japanese population and win the Pacific War ahead of a Russian invasion of the Japanese mainland.  It was a unique bombing only in terms of the type of weapon used.  Otherwise, it is I think fair to say that bombings like these continue into the present day, initiated by the American Executive, left unchecked by the Congress and largely ignored by the American populace.  These bombings still target civilians and kill tens of thousands of innocent people every year in places like Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.  End the American Capitalist Death Cult!

Portrait of Sadako Sasaki - a young girl who became the symbol of the innocent lives lost in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to the brutalities of World War II.  Artwork by Joëlle Jones.

Portrait of Sadako Sasaki – a young girl who became the symbol of the innocent lives lost in the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima and to the brutalities of World War II. Artwork by Joëlle Jones. From Red Flag Magazine: https://redflag.org/magazine/issue-6/wish-upon-a-crane/

 

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This piece I found on consortiumnews.com was written in June by William J. Astore. It’s a great summary of America’s obsession with “air supremacy.”  Astore calls the American Military Industrial Complex a “cult,” as do the authors of the “Eyes Left” podcast, which I highly recommend.

 

https://consortiumnews.com/2019/06/10/the-american-cult-of-bombing/

 

Back to School August 2018 Hiroshima, Japan

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One of the most severe mudslides caused the highway to collapse into a pile of mud on top of the commuter train line below.

Schools in Japan typically operate on a trimester system, so it’s not the start of a new school year, but it is the end of summer vacation. August is when, according to Shinto tradition, the dead return en masse to the world of the living. But these imperialist ghosts are also joined in August in Hiroshima by the ghosts of the victims of the atomic bombs. The number of living hibakusha (atomic bomb victims) are declining along with the population of this country, which has suffered the slow burn of neo-liberalism since the 1980s Nakasone government.

The public high school where I work has only about 600 students now, compared to 1200 a quarter century ago. And the future of public schools here does not look good. In a picture typical of any system you might find globally where the government has been completely captured by capital, public infrastructure is allowed to crumble while school curriculum is reduced to the churn of human resources to feed the corporate machine.

As a more disturbing illustration of the damage global capital is doing to my local school district, I present the case of the landslides, and flooding which left some of the more mountainous areas outside of Hiroshima in chaos and cut some communities off almost completely from the rest of the country. As you can see in the video I’ve included, the main highway connecting Kure, the suburb where I live, to Hiroshima, where my school is located, has collapsed and what used to be the railway line below, is buried under several meters of mud and rock. At the beginning of the summer, my home, like many thousands of my neighbors’ homes, was without running water. We relied on military supply stations for drinking water and even laundry and bathing facilities

In short, this was my first direct experience with the extreme environmental harm wrought by global climate change. Like the levees in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit, the drainage systems, roads and river bridges in our community just couldn’t withstand the onslaught of a super-storm. To hold capitalism responsible for such disasters doesn’t mean that I believe Sony or Mazda or Tepco or Ratheon or Amazon somehow ordered up this storm. It just means that these companies have too long held the human and environmental costs of their enterprises at arms-length as externalities or liabilities.

When the trains start running again, and as my commute time returns to normal in the next few weeks, I intend to teach about the connections between these seemingly disparate phenomena: mudslides, atomic bombs, and decaying schools.

Wide Island View » Blog Archive » The Usual Suspects: The Who’s Who of Your Karaoke Room

Wide Island View » Blog Archive » The Usual Suspects: The Who’s Who of Your Karaoke Room.  Excellent, hilarious article with beautiful illustrations in the WIV, a web-based periodical I have contributed to in the past…  I’ve been out of touch with the editors of the WIV, who have probably changed since I’ve been in Canada, but I’d love to get back into writing for this ezine.  To be completely honest, my contributions to the WIV are some of my best memories of my first 3 years in Hiroshima-ken.  Kudos to the WIV editors for keeping this puppy up and running.  The Tambourine Player Here are a few links to my favorite old-school WIV pieces, some of which were even published in the days before WIV appeared as a slick WordPress blog.

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Language Learning Tool Reviews: All Japanese All the Time

Language Learning Tool Reviews: Electronic dictionaries