Are Japanese students super smart?

Q: Hi Richard, thanks for sending us such an informative and fun newsletter.
It may be a weird question, but are Japanese college students really crazy smart? I am an artistic person and although educated, definitely don’t have the traditional Western education, and although I’ve wanted to work or study in Osaka for a long time (animation/screenwriting fields), I don’t want to feel stupid or unable to hang out with people who are way above me mentally. Also, is Japan an open society, or is it still a bit closed to expatriates or foreign students?  Thanks!  -Anna

A:  I think those of us who know lots of Japanese students are probably getting a big smile from this question!  Yes there probably are lots of smart students around, but in general you’d never know it!  Outside the more famous universities, the academic level of the students seems very, very, very low.  In fact I often get university teachers asking me for help and the things they are teaching are the same things we’re teaching in primary schools!   It’s mainly the education system, high school is all cramming for tests (as opposed to learning anything) and university is a time off before starting work.  So I wouldn’t worry too much.  There are smart people out there, but they’re quite cool with it.

As for the open society, just like anywhere you get the insular racists, and you will be quite a novelty in the countryside, but in general everyone is really friendly to everyone else over here so you’ll have no problem making friends and getting along.   Beer is what makes the country go around though, so partake of plenty of “nomikai” or drinking parties, that’s where you get to know everyone.  And no worries if you don’t drink, just order uloncha tea and everyone will be cool!

Wow, that was a long answer!

Be genki,


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