NHK Reaching Out to Teenagers with Angela Aki’s Tegami

Life for a Japanese teenager is supposedly harder than for anyone else. The pressure to study hard has driven many people over the edge, as demonstrated a couple of years ago when there were a spate of suicides among junior high school students in Japan.

The Japan broadcasting corporation, NHK, has an educational channel filled with children’s programming every evening. Currently they are playing a song by Angela Aki which is clearly targeted at junior high school kids. It’s about a 15 year old student struggling with life who writes a letter to his/her future self to ask for guidance… and gets a reassuring letter back.

There are two animated videos that NHK shows – one with a boy and one with a girl, but I’ve picked the official video to show you instead. It’s called “Tegami” (letter) and really is a beautiful song, one of those anthem-type tracks like Celine Dion’s Titanic offering. Just don’t cry, ok?

Do you think Japanese junior high school students have it harder than their peers in other countries?

If you like, you can find me on Twitter at @nick_ramsay. I'd love to hear from you!

8 thoughts on “NHK Reaching Out to Teenagers with Angela Aki’s Tegami

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  2. Interesting and I do like Angela Aki as she is a real talent. I do think there is more pressure to succeed here but can only base my opinion on my own experiences of when I went to school.
    Children seem not to have much of an outlet here to express themselves and it’s either fall in-line and do what everyone else does, or fall by the wayside with no obvious net.
    I have had many opportunities to speak with Japanese high school and junior high school teachers and to me at least, they don’t seem to have much idea about how to deal with students who aren’t conforming to Japanese protocol.
    I have seen students who had problems ranging from lack of focus in class, to severe family problems that affected their learning abilities (Obviously there were many other reasons in between) placed in one class room which had lesser facilities than the other rooms.
    The teachers openly laughed about this class but never onced tried to reach out to these kids, at least while I was there. I’m not going to say western teaching standards are better but I will say that because we have a lot more individuality in our lives, if one of us did not measure up to the teacher’s expectation, we either did not stand out as much or simply did not care as much due to everyone being so different.

    1. Yeah, I certainly don’t remember school playing such a huge part of my teenage years. It was more basketball and video games for me! Of course, we had a choice of subjects so at least we could pick things we were interested in, and there weren’t any cram schools or any weekend schooling either. Plus, we weren’t with the same classmates either. They changed depending on the subject we were studying. Actually, the more I think about it, we didn’t even have the tight friendship groups that the Japanese do. If anything, we’d hang out more with the kids in our street than the kids in our classroom.

  3. Very interesting comments from both Keith and you, Nick. I think in many respects you were one of the lucky ones. There are so many young people who find it difficult to mix and go through many a heartbreak over it. Others seem so dependent on their peers they will do anything to belong to a group, hence the drug taking and self abuse. As a primary school teacher we were constantly making sure the children were aware of what they might face in their secondary schools in the hope they would be better prepared to deal with problems which might arise.

  4. Wow Nick, hanging out with people in your neighbourhood… does that mean yo knew your neighbours?? Is that normal in Britain (that’s where you’re from, right?) I moved a lot so had no chance but everywhere I went school was the centre of life – for good or bad. My husband had a similar experience to you because he went to a local school but still his friends (who he still knows today) were those from school and he barely knew his actual neighbours.

    I was having this exact discussion about kids having personal interests and outlets with someone who had lived here for 15 yrs and she said that many of the “cram” schools are actually becoming a bit of an outlet – offering extension courses in everything from Engineering to Fine arts. Assuming the kids get to choose the subjects they want (big assumption I know) maybe that is the way forward.

  5. Yeah, one of the saddest questions you can ask Japanese teenagers is “What makes you happy?” Usually they have no answer.

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