The number of students at schools for Japanese children in China – particularly in the cities of Beijing and Shanghai – has drastically fallen due to the well-publicized haze in the Chinese cities coming from the country’s air pollution. The decline was very much noticeable as the school year began this month, with many Japanese employees assigned to China choosing to leave their children and other family members in Japan rather than expose them to the made up of particulate matter 2.5 (PM 2.5).
On April 11, the Beijing Japanese School held its opening ceremony to mark the start of the new school year. On that day, the concentration of PM 2.5 was close to the Japanese permissible environmental standard, a rare event in China where levels have been very high in recent months. PM 2.5 stands for the proliferation of fine particle matter in the atmosphere whose diameter is 2.5 micrometers or less. PM 2.5 is usually a byproduct of exhaust gases from cars and factory emissions, and it can cause respiratory and cardiovascular illness, especially in children. The number of students at the school stood at 491 this year, 101 less than the total on opening day last year.
The decrease may also reflect the continuing tensions between the two East Asian neighbors over historical and territorial issues. But the main reason is mostly air pollution. “The main reason for the decline was not that the number of students who return to Japan has increased but that the number of children who come from Japan has drastically decreased,” said the school principal Kenichi Tada. Translator Ken Kasai, 45, who has his eldest son coming to this school said: “At this time of year, he usually makes more new friends. But that hasn’t happened this year.” When asked why they still chose to live and work in China, Kasai answered, “All my efforts are devoted to having all of my family members living together without being too nervous about the air pollution.”
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