You’ve probably heard about the elaborate Olympic handover from Rio to Tokyo that included a video animation of Super Mario walking through Shibuya, jumping through a green tube, and then appearing at the closing ceremony in Rio. The super Mario custom dropped to the floor and there was, lo and behold, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, standing in a red hat holding a red ball, ready to take the helm of the Tokyo Olympics, which will take place in 2020. It was an unusual moment, to say the least, for the Japanese leader, who is typically reserved and anything but showy.

But the scene perfectly captured the contemporary push by the Abe administration to internationalize Japan. There he was in front of a global audience, showing off Japan’s athletes and pop-culture icons. Abe has been on a march to change Japan: he’s trying to alter the constitution to allow Japan to send military forces abroad, something that has not been done since World War II. And his administration started something called super-global universities, which aim to allow graduates to “walk into positions of global leadership.”

Reforms to Japanese education are not knew and we can learn a lot by looking at previous experiences. My guest today, Peter Cave, has a new book that explores changes in Japanese junior high schools in the 1990s and in the early 2000s.

Dr. Peter Cave is a Senior Lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester. Through an ethnography of two schools over 11 years, he was able to detail how, if at all, educational reforms translated into educational practice.

And these insights can help us understand the reforms being proposed today by the Abe administration.

Peter Cave’s new book is “Schooling Selves: Autonomy, Interdependence, and Reform in Japanese Junior High Education”, which was published this year by the University of Chicago Press.

Citation: Cave, Peter, Interview with Will Brehm, FreshEd, 39, Podcast audio, August 28, 2016.