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Views on Society on Valuation of Japan 1

Source: Chapter 3:Valuation of Japan from Monograph vol.53, " Relationship with Society -the Social Awareness of High School Students" edited by Educational Research Center, Benesse Corporation, May 1, 1998 (Supervising Editor: Dr. Masashi Fukaya, Professor, Tokyo Seitoku Junior College)


(1) Research Objective of the Survey "Valuation of Japan of High School Students"

It seems that high school students nowadays are more interested in their daily life and in familiar issues rather than thinking about the future. Do they think about the society, different cultures, and the issues of global environment? Is there a new type of social perception or interest in volunteer activities? The purpose of this research is to clarify their social perceptions and values toward society.

(2) Survey Method

This survey covers 1,699 students of 6 high schools in 5 prefectures (5 public schools and 1 private school). By gender, 903 are male and 792 are female, 4 are unknown. By grade, 891 students are seventh graders, 649 are eighth graders, 155 are ninth, and 4 are unknown. The survey was conducted in October and November 1997.


(1) Image of Japan

More than 50% of the students see Japan as "having a high standard of living, being very safe, being comfortable to live in, and being very democratic." On the contrary, a low rating was given to gender equality, nature, freedom, respect for life, and kindness. There was also much criticism regarding irresponsible politicians and academic goals-oriented society (Table 1).

(2) Interest in Society and Social Participation

50% of the students are interested in the Aum Shinrikyo (a religious cult) trial; a little under 50% are interested in food assistance to North Korea and the people's referendum; 30% in comfort women and textbook screening; a little over 20% in reclamation of Isahaya Bay; a little under 20% in the "Big Bang" financial reforms (Table 3).

The students supported many socially controversial issues. 90% of the students support home care of old people and promoting organ transplants. 80% support public acceptance of euthanasia; a little under 80% are positive about accepting foreign laborers; a little under 60% support the grade-skipping system; 50% are for a married couple having different family names (Table 5). The students are motivated to take part in various social and volunteer activities (social gatherings with non-Japanese living in Japan, volunteering for social welfare work, environment protection campaigns, disaster-relief work and peace-keeping operations). A little under 60% to 70% of the students want to join one of these activities (Table 7).

(3) Views on Japan and Social Awareness

Compared with those who have a negative image of Japan, the students who have a positive image of the country, namely, who see it as being beautiful (i.e. nature) and being democratic are more interested in social issues and are more motivated to participate in social and volunteer activities (Table 10-a, Table 10-b).

(4) Degrees of Social Awareness and Social Participation

The students who are highly interested in current social issues are more willing to join social and volunteer activities and have a relatively good image of Japan (Table 11). The older generation was critical of Japan and this was correlated with a great social awareness, but this is no longer the case. High school students who have a high social awareness and are more willing to join social activities give a high rating to the affluence of Japan and its good living environment.


In the process of modernization to catch up with Western nations, the Japanese government and people had an ideal vision of society that reflected their own perspectives. In the post-war era until the period of high economic growth in the 1970s, groups were more important than individuals. Do high school students nowadays, who were born around 1980, also have the same ideas about their nation, the society and social groups? Are they less interested in the state and society?

During the period of militarism before World War II, it was generally thought that criticism of the nation and society was a reflection of concern for the society. However, with the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the Berlin Wall as well as the end of the old political systems since 1955, criticism of the nation and the government does not necessarily indicate a high interest in society.

In this situation, what kind of social values and social awareness do high school students have these days? What is their level of interest in volunteer activities? During the next four weeks, we will look at their views on Japan and their political and economic perceptions together with their interest in social issues and participation in social activities.


What kind of image do high school students have of Japan? The figures below show their image of Japan for the following eleven categories (Table 1).

[Positive Image of Japan]
(1)High standard of living
(2)Very safe
(3)Comfortable place to live

[Negative Image of Japan]
(1)Irresponsible politicians
(2)Academic goals-oriented society
(3)Few kind people
(4)No respect for life
(5)No respect for freedom

Although Japan has a high standard of living and is a very safe and comfortable place to live, there are many irresponsible politicians and its society is academically goals-oriented, and there is little respect for freedom and life. They also think that there are few kind people in Japan.

Their social awareness in general seems to be quite appropriate. That is to say, they appreciate their country for its living standards and for being a comfortable place to live as well as for its economic aspects, but there is much room for improvement from their political and social viewpoints.

Unexpectedly, only 37.2% of the students think that Japan has a beautiful natural environment. This is probably because they have witnessed the destruction of nature that is the negative impact of high economic growth, and, as a result, they have fewer opportunities to encounter the beauty of nature.

By gender, a higher percentage of female students think that Japan is a comfortable place to live, but that gender equality has not been achieved. On the issue of gender equality, in particular, there is a difference of as much as 15.8% between male and female students (Table 2).

The percentages of how many students think that gender equality exists are as follows:

10th grade

11th grade

12th grade
As we can see, a smaller percentage of both male and female students in the upper grades answer that there is gender equality (there is a significance difference of ±5%). This may be because students in the upper grades have more social experience and social education, making them less naive.

The percentages of students who think that Japan's nature is beautiful, are as follows:
School A (38.5%)
School D (31.4%)
School B (32.6%)
School E (51.8%)
School C(35.7%)
School F(45.7%)
A higher percentage of students in rural areas (School E and F) gave a positive answer compared with those in metropolitan areas (School A, B and C), reflecting their different levels of exposure to nature.

By the way, have students changed their image of Japan during these past several years? No continuous research has been done, but we had conducted a similar survey ten years ago (Monograph Vol. 23 "Have Young People Become More Conservative?" 1988).

The following are the percentages of students who gave positive answers in their descriptions of Japanese society:
(1)Academic goals-oriented society
(2)Very democratic
(3)Respect for freedom
(4)Gender equality
Students continue to see Japan as an academic goals-oriented society and this has not changed very much compared with ten years ago. If we interpret democracy as democratization, there is no big difference, either. However, their views on freedom and gender equality have reversed. School rules and regulations are stricter; schools are more strictly controlled than before and students must study harder for their entrance exams. It must be very difficult for them to say there is more respect for freedom compared with the past. On the other hand, there are more positive answers with regard to gender equality. This may be due to the enactment of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law (1986), which promotes gender equality, not only in a legal framework, but also in practice.

To summarize, there has been no major change in their image of Japan since the late 1980s. But we cannot ignore the fact that they are keenly perceptive of social trends in their lives.
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