Japanese school textbooks feature 'hip' topics

AKB48 members (L - R) Ayaka Umeda, Minami Takahashi and Minami Minegishi attend a press conference in Washington.

From pop idol groups to Internet slang, high school textbook makers have tried to stir the interest of students by using topics familiar to them.

Casual topics will be used more often in English textbooks to be used from next spring compared with the teaching material in other subjects. Some English textbooks will feature expressions useful for e-mails and blogs. One example is, "I want a mobile phone that automatically deletes junk mail," while another says the Internet slang for great is "gr8."

Several textbooks discuss "kyaraben," a type of bento, which is an elaborately arranged lunch box, with food decorated to look like animals, animation characters and others.

"Even children who aren't good at English are likely to find the material interesting if familiar topics are used," an editor of a textbook maker said.

A publisher replaced a photo of an athlete in its English textbook with a picture of Homare Sawa, a star player on the Japan women's national soccer team, after the team, known as Nadeshiko Japan, won the World Cup last year.

A Japanese history textbook carries a photo of Kanako Murakami, a figure skater who has won titles in international competitions.

Celebrities are also included. Music textbooks features sheet music for popular J-pop band Ikimono-gakari's big hit "Arigatou" (Thank you) and idol group Arashi's "Beautiful days."

Japan's top-selling group AKB48, a symbol of the nation's culture of "kawaii," or cuteness, is used in an English textbook that has a photo of the group performing a concert in France.

Other English textbooks feature pianist Nobuyuki Tsujii. Singer Angela Aki's "Tegami: Haikei, Jugono Kimihe," (Letter: Greetings to a 15-year-old) is also included, with the song's Japanese lyrics translated into English.

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