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A Novel Kind of University Opens in Shibuya (January 9, 2007)

A lesson exploring the meaning of chopsticks ((c)Shibuya University Network 2006)
An unusual university has opened in Tokyo's Shibuya district, a bustling cradle of Japanese youth culture. Named Shibuya University Network, it has made the district itself its campus. With its new approach to what a place of learning should be, it is creating waves on the educational scene.

Lifelong Learning Rooted in the Community
Launched in September 2006, Shibuya University is not a regular educational institution awarding degrees. It features a collection of public lectures, courses, and other educational offerings made available free of charge. Anyone can participate in this university, and there is no graduation from it. Although originally conceived as a municipal project, it began operating in the private sector as a nonprofit organization. Its president is Sakyo Yasuaki, a former trading company employee.

With the concept of "creating Japan's future from Shibuya," this project is looking to provide a new type of community-based lifelong education targeting a wide range of people from children to adults. Shibuya is a center of fashion shops, chic restaurants, theaters, and live music venues, and it also has many educational institutions, parks, and other public facilities. Shibuya University views all such places as classrooms where educational courses can be offered.

The teachers at the university are a diverse bunch, including music critics, cartoonists, lighting designers, and art directors. In its public recruitment of instructors, the school adopts the unique stance of making no firm distinction between those who can be teachers and those who make up the student body.

Classes take place in a vibrant atmosphere. ((c)Shibuya University Network 2006)

The Joy of Learning
Already various courses have started, and they all provide unique learning experiences that cannot be gained in an ordinary college or university. In a course on "the spirit of chopsticks," the proprietor of a shop selling chopsticks teaches students about the dietary culture that has evolved from the use of this tableware. In another course on new ways of appreciating movies, a volunteer working with the visually impaired suggests to students that they experiment with listening to movies. The classrooms are also varied. They may be a record shop, a bookstore, a restaurant, or a room in an elementary school.

With its debut on the educational stage, Shibuya University Network has caused quite a stir. Hopes are high that it may provide just what is needed to instill the joy of learning in modern youth.

The university wants to offer much more than public lecture courses. It intends to take classes into elementary and middle schools, organize school festivals, and support seminars and club activities voluntarily arranged by students. Enlisting the collaboration of local eating establishments, it also plans to set up a student cafeteria of sorts. Functioning as the "simulacrum of the university," it hopes to forge links between individuals using Shibuya as a stage and to give birth to new creations.

In an interview published on the Internet, President Sakyo offers this comment: "Constructing splendid school buildings and erecting multistory structures aren't the only ways to breathe life into the community. I want the facilities and people of our school to exist in symbiosis with the community."

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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