It is with a deep sadness to acknowledge that the "operating system" of Japan is most probably out of date. The nation is lagging behind, and I would like very much to do something about it, but judging from the daily encounters with people, especially those in the "elite" positions within the nation such as the academia and the media, the national disease is a deep and serious one, albeit not incurable.
I find some hope and solace in the fact that young people are increasingly disillusioned with the status quo. There are mounting pressures, still invisible but certainly going up, to change the current situation. One should have one's principles, and do daily chores, to bring about the change however gradually.
In Japan, the more established a system or an institution is, the deeper the problem lurks. Take University of Tokyo, for example. I have been a proud graduate of this prestigious academic institution, but recently I have my serious doubts about the nature of its constituting principles. The overwhelming majority of its undergraduate students are Japanese. Entrance to the university has been considered as a ticket to success for many years. Some weekly magazines even carry articles about how many students have entered the university from which high school.
Compared to other excellent universities in the world, however, the closed nature of the university is scandalously singular. Harvard University in the United States, for example, gathers its graduate and undergraduate students from all around the world, as a natural reflection of the global nature of today's world.
In the Times Higher Education Ranking (2009) , the University of Tokyo is ranked 22nd. The University is performing very poorly in "International Staff Score" and "International Students Score". Should the university amend this defect, the ranking position would be improved considerably.
When I discussed this point with a few University of Tokyo professors, they invariably answered that "the entrance examination for undergraduate is sacred, and cannot be changed". According to their views, the current entrance examination, conducted in Japanese, effectively limiting the undergraduate students to Japanese or people brought up within Japan, is the raison d'etre of University. If they change the entrance exam, the constitution and the nature of the University will be transformed beyond recognition. And they have no plan to do that. What a shame!
Probably it is not fair to single out University of Tokyo, but the status quo of the academic institution is the symbol of the sinking nation of Japan. University of Tokyo has been traditionally producing high officials in the government, the cream of Japanese system. There was a time when the world marveled at its efficiency. Sadly, no more. The cream is rotting.
It is never too late to bring about the necessary changes. As an alumnus of the university, I would very much like to see its entrance exam changed, so that it is at least partially based in English, to admit more international students. The time is ripe.
It is now time to rewrite the "operating system" of Japan. I hope those people in responsible positions would realize the need, and act quickly.