JIN-214 -- New International School Breaks from Mold

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
T H E J @ P A N I N C N E W S L E T T E R
Commentary on the Week's Business and Technology News

Issue No. 214
Thursday, February 6, 2003


++ Viewpoint: New International School Breaks from Mold

++ Noteworthy News
- Struggling Companies Turn to Cash-Rich Toyota for Help
- Roppongi Hills Ahead of Plans, Mori-Shacho Says
- Finance Ministry Backs Down on Plan to Issue Taxpayer ID Numbers

Attend a free seminar on cost reduction strategies especially for
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Organized by J@pan Inc and the Ibaragi Prefectural Government, the
seminar will include case studies on reducing business costs in Japan
and incentives for relocating outside of the capital.
For more information or to register in advance, please send an email
to events@japaninc.com.

++ Viewpoint: New International School Breaks from Mold

Pete Juds and Mariko Maeda, a husband-and-wife team, have run two of
the best little international preschools in Tokyo for about a decade
now. Juds runs the Sunshine Montessori School in Minami Azabu and
Maeda runs Little People Montessori School in Yoga. But from
September, the two will open an elementary school that breaks from the
mold and offers several key things sorely lacking in Japan's
international school scene: lower tuition (about 10 percent less than
the bigger schools, Juds says), financial aid for families paying
their own way, and a more flexible approach toward students having
troubles in the classroom.

The new Montessori school will open just a short walk away from
today's Sunshine School, which is tucked in behind the Korean Embassy
in Minami Azabu. The first elementary "school" will consist of one
class for 6-to-12 year olds and will expand from there.
"Multi-age-level classrooms have been getting a fair amount of
recognition recently," Juds says, "and, in fact, the New International
School (opened in Ikebukuro last year) has such classrooms. Due to the
response, we are also considering a middle school, but I will need to
have some definite registrations before I'm going to commit to that
one. We do plan to get our own land and buildings within three years
or so and eventually have a high school, too."

Juds, originally from South Africa, took over Sunshine in 1993. On
earlier talks with him, he has mentioned the need for international
schools to reach out to families that aren't on expat packages,
families like ... well, like mine (full disclosure: My 5-year-old
Kimiko is a happy graduate of Little People School). Consider that
tuition for most international schools starts at about $10,000 a year
and can cost considerably more. Tuition is buffeted by all sorts of
fees for registration, special levies, building development, et
cetera. In the end, paying for an international school education
without corporate backing is rough if not impossible.

"Tuition will be around 10 percent less than the bigger schools for
the same grades," Juds says. "We will have no further charges. We are
hoping ours is 'all in' aside from a one-time registration fee. We
will have a financial aid program in place by September for families
that pay fees themselves. Details are still to be worked out."

But even if money isn't an issue, parents of international school kids
often complain about the sameness of the schools. Especially when it
comes to disciplining the "troublemakers" or dealing with children
with special needs, the schools show little flexibility. "Many people
are at best satisfied with their current international school," Juds
says. "Although each school has a different character, there are more
similarities among them than anything else. In my view, the most
common flaw is that if a student or family is having a difficulty, the
school expects the student or family to change to fit in to the
existing structure of the school."

Juds and Maeda hope they can attract parents who want their children
to "think outside the box," to put it in Juds' words. And, of course,
the fact that the school will be run on the Montessori system has its
appeal for some parents. It's heartening to see that while the expat
community is in a state of flux, at least some educators are
responding to that change.

-- Bruce Rutledge

The Sunshine School home page

"International Schools in Japan," an advertorial from our Jan. issue

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** Struggling Companies Turn to Cash-Rich Toyota for Help

In Brief: Toyota Motor recently posted healthy profit of 216 billion
yen for the quarter ending December 31, putting it on pace for a
record fiscal year. The carmaker has become so strong and so cash-rich
-- it has more than 2 trillion yen in surplus funds, according to the
Nikkei -- that it is reluctantly fielding requests from struggling
companies for loans. Toyota has agreed to help Tomen work out of its
troubles, but rumors have it infusing capital in UFJ Bank, bailing out
Italian automaker Fiat and helping plenty more smaller Japanese
companies. So far, the Japanese automaker has been wary of its role as
a de facto bank, but considering it has the capital of a midsize bank
and it is in far better shape than any Japanese bank, this just might
be one more burden for the world's No. 3 automaker to bear.


Nikkei Net (password required)

"Cars for the M Generation" from our Jan. issue (password required)

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** Roppongi Hills Ahead of Plans, Mori-Shacho Says

In Brief: The massive Roppongi Hills complex, scheduled to open in
late April, is ahead of its plans for finding tenants, according to
Minoru Mori, president of Mori Building. He told Dow Jones that
"things are proceeding better than planned" and that the complex has a
70 percent occupancy rate now, which is 10 percentage points better
than the company's minimum goal. Clients include Goldman Sachs, Lehman
Brothers, Konami and Yahoo Japan.

Commentary: Despite Mori's positive outlook, this massive complex is
going to put serious strain on Tokyo office prices. Consider that
Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers are just moving from another Mori
building, Ark Hills, and the "positive" news seems less impressive.
Even if Roppongi Hills does well, other large office buildings are
going to suffer, especially other buildings that haven't updated
themselves for the Internet age.

From Dow Jones

"First Tokyo, Then the World" from a Nov. article on the Mori family

** Finance Ministry Backs Down on Plan to Issue Taxpayer ID Numbers

In Brief: The Finance Ministry has decided to shelve a plan to issue
taxpayer identification numbers for all Japanese citizens, and instead
is considering a plan to issue ID numbers only to those people who
need to report losses on stock transactions. The plan to issue numbers
for every Japanese citizen had met with severe resistance in some
parts of the country, with whole cities -- most notably, Yokohama --
refusing to take part in the so-called "Juki Net" project.

Commentary: From the start, the government botched its Juki Net
project because of a lack of any sort of public relations effort. It
just shoved the plan on the citizenry and bullied those who initially
resisted. So now the plan is being sent back to a committee for
further consideration from April -- a just fate for a poorly planned

Nikkei Net (subscription required):

"Resident Registry Network Stumbles Out of Gate" from our Oct. issue

SUBSCRIBERS: 6,604 as of February 6, 2003

Written and edited by J@pan Inc staff (editors@japaninc.com)


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