Japanese language education in Japan is the featured subject of recent issues of "Subaru" and "Bungakukai," both monthly literary magazines.

Under a revised senior high school Japanese teaching curriculum, scheduled for implementation in fiscal 2022, Japanese literature will become an elective subject.

This would mean less exposure to literature for students who decide not to take this course, and the consequences have some educators worried.

So far, we have taken it for granted that contemporary Japanese deals with novels, poetry and literary criticisms. But we should brace ourselves for a big change.

The new curriculum guidelines show some sample test questions that are made up of texts of an administrative guideline and a parking space rental agreement. Even to a total amateur such as myself, who has never tested someone's Japanese, these test samples just don't look right.

Poet Machi Tawara, a former high school Japanese teacher, noted in her contribution to the September Issue of Bungakukai: "Students need to be able to comprehend texts of practical writing, but I don't see any point in going on and on with something like this as a teaching material."

She went on, "What is the purpose of being so mean as to deliberately prevent the kids from experiencing the richness of words and expressions?"

According to Tawara, a tanka poem can express something, worth 100 letters or 1,000 words, in just 31 letters. On the other hand, a 100-letter contract explains what requires exactly as many letters to explain. And to use the latter as a Japanese teaching material, she said, "is to treat words as nothing more than 'pins' to keep facts in place."

I imagine that some people have experienced the thrill of opening and reading a brand new Japanese textbook at the start of a new school term. But I don't believe such an experience is possible with any text of an administrative guideline or a contract.

As a former high school pupil of decades ago, I sincerely hope the worries voiced by Tawara and others will not come true.

In the July issue of "Subaru," novelist Yoko Ogawa noted that there are works of literature one would never know, had one not encountered them in school textbooks.

And Ogawa described literature as "a doorway to a bigger world," something that frees one from their narrow world and narrow mind.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 17

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.