Kumiko Makihara, an Associate Research Scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, has recently received media attention for her new book Dear Diary Boy: An Exacting Mother, her Free-spirited Son, and Their Bittersweet Adventures in an Elite Japanese School, which was published by Arcade Publishing in 2018. An excerpt from the book was featured in Salon and an op-ed by Makihara related to the book, titled “How a Japanese Elementary School Prepared My Child for College in the U.S,” was published in the Washington Post.
From the publisher’s synopsis of Dear Diary Boy:
When her five-year-old son passed the rigorous entrance exams to one of Japan’s top private elementary schools, Makihara, a single mother, thought they were on their way. Taro would wear the historic dark blue uniform and learn alongside other little Einsteins while she basked in the glory of his high achievements with the other perfect moms. Together they would climb the rungs into the country’s successful elite. But it didn’t turn out that way. Taro had other things in mind. While set in Japan, their struggles in the school’s hyper-competitive environment mirror those faced by parents here in the US and raise the same questions about the best way to educate a child—especially one that doesn’t quite fit the mold. Public or private? Competitive or nurturing? Standardized or individualized. Helicopter parenting or free-range? Amid this frenzied debate, how does one find balance and maintain a healthy parent-child relationship? Dear Diary Boy is an intensely personal, heartwarming, and heartbreaking chronicle of one mother and child’s experience in a prestigious private Tokyo school. It’s a tale that will resonate with all parents as we try to answer the age-old questions of how best to educate our children and what, truly, is in their best interests versus what is in our own.