Philip Patrick Philip Patrick

Why ‘safe spaces’ are nowhere to be seen on Japan’s university campuses

A part-time lecturer and friend of mine was reported to his university last month for making ‘inappropriate comments’ in the teacher’s room. These comments, related to his sceptical views on man-made climate change. The accuser, another part-time lecturer irate at such heresy, clearly wanted my friend to be sacked. Had this been a British or American university, I would have gravely worried about my friend’s position. Luckily for him, it happened in Tokyo. So his job is safe.

Why? I know exactly how this complaint will have been received: politely, of course, and with the Japanese equivalent of ‘Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention’. And I know what action will have been taken: absolutely none. It will have been logged in the ‘So what?’ file, then quickly forgotten.

I am increasingly aware how lucky I am to work as an academic in Tokyo. Japan is like neutral Switzerland in the culture wars, a safe haven where the hostilities raging elsewhere can be observed but avoided. Teachers are treated with respect and trusted to know what’s best without constant monitoring from the SJW thought police.

We are not instructed on what opinions we can express, nor given guidance on the correct use of pronouns. Classic literature is not scrutinised for its potential to trigger fragile students. I could probably wear a Make America Great Again hat in class and no one would mind.

Oh, and there are no gender-neutral bathrooms. Or ‘safe spaces’. After all, everywhere is safe.

University societies (or ’circles’) are striking apolitical; it’s basically sport or arts. My favourite is the drama society. Why? Because campuses in Japan may be the last place where classic plays are performed with men playing the male parts, women playing the women and the audience left to draw its own conclusions about the contemporary significance of the work.

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