Growing Up Japanese (1975)

20 Mar
Director  Michael Berger
Producer  Gordon Newsfilms Inc., The U.S. – Japan Trade Council
Contributors  Released by Modern Talking Picture Service, Inc.
Length  25 minutes
B&W/Color  Color
UO Library Catalog description:  Helps promote an understanding of the Japanese people and way of life by examining Japanese ways of learning to get along together
Call #  FILM MC228
Genre  Documentary
Rare  Yes
Online  No
Copyright status  Public Domain
Physical condition  Fair
Oregon-related  No


Growing Up Japanese was released by the U.S. – Japan Trade Council (now known as the U.S. – Japan Business Council) to promote good relations between Japan and the United States.

The film is prefaced with this announcement, as required by the Counterespionage Section of the National Security Division of the U.S. Government:

“This material is prepared, edited, issued, or circulated by Charles Von Lowenfeldt, inc., San Francisco, which is registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) as an  agent of the Japanese government through the U.S.-Japan Trade Council, which is also registered under the FARA. The Japanese Government provides almost all funding for the council. Dissemination reports on this film are filed with the Department of Justice. This statement is made in compliance with the FARA.”

This sort of statement was common, at the time, for films produced by foreign governments but released in the United States. However, it’s requirement by the National Security Division and its mention of dissemination reports provide a sour and suspicious note at the beginning of an otherwise pleasant documentary.

An American woman narrates the film with an even voice as we see many facets of the young Japanese students life in Japan. We watch them study, play baseball, and perform morning aerobic exercises (a daily ritual which carries through to adult life in the workplace).  Students engage in a balloon popping relay and other activities, not unlike spirit-weeks of students in the United States. Later, students take difficult tests and decide which advanced schools to enter based on their grades. Schools are very competitive in Japan, and some students develop phobias and aversions to the rigorous testing regimen.

The film emphasizes a particular focus on the sense of community shared by the Japanese. Although very different countries, the viewer is encouraged to draw positive parallels between Japan and the United States.

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