Guest blog by Michiko Ashitani, Professor of Shiga University, Clinical
psychologist, and mindfulness (MBSR) Teacher
A project to promote mindfulness for Japanese children has been taking place in Japan for a number of years now, launched by Michiko Ashitani (Professor of Shiga University, Clinical psychologist, MBSR Teacher), Yashi Ito (Physicians, Certified MBSR Teacher Trainer) and Kazumi Yamamoto (Clinical psychologist, Certified MBSR Teacher Trainer).
Read all about the project below or watch this audio-visual summary:
The beginning of our journey
Our project’s aim is to introduce programs such as “.b”, verify their effectiveness, and then disseminate them to Japanese children in collaboration with Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP).
This journey (and the team’s origins) began in 2016 when Michiko, interested in introducing mindfulness to Japanese children, picked up an eraser dropped by Yashi, .b teacher, at a psychosomatic medicine workshop! To help a small number of .b Japanese teachers trained in the UK at that time, a Japanese translation of Teachers’ Notes was started with the assistance of some 20 MBSR graduates trained by Kazumi and Yashi.
2019 was a momentous year. MiSP offered us an opportunity to hold a Teach .b programme for Japanese teachers. But first, we felt it important to verify the effectiveness of the programme in Japan. Therefore, we decided to conduct a .b study in Japanese schools after the initial Teach .b programme.
2020 was supposed to be the first year of Teach .b in Japan and the start of the study. So all the existing Japanese translations, including slides and animations, had been professionally upgraded, awaiting a visit by MiSP’s then-representative, Claire, to Japan. And you can guess what happened… the COVID-19 pandemic changed our plan.
In 2021, we received additional training from senior MiSP-trained trainers and conducted Teach .b in August, with assistance from MiSP trainers from the UK.
Similarly, we conducted Teach .b in August of 2022 with the assistance of Faiy and Ben at MiSP.
Participants’ comments included:
- “I am very happy to have the opportunity to learn this wonderful programme… I can’t believe it was just 4 days. This intense program taught me the importance of connecting with children and the potential of mindfulness.”
- “I have been waiting for this programme since 2017 and am so glad to be able to attend the course finally. The content was outstanding. I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your efforts in organising this program. I will work out the ways to reach the youth who will create the future.”
Our team would like to thank MiSP and all the teachers who kindly assisted us. To date, 334 children from 15 schools and educational facilities across Japan have participated in the programme. Preliminary analysis confirmed the effectiveness of the programme, including decreases in depression and stress, and wellbeing improvements.
Children who took part in the programme commented:
- “I feel calmer and more broadened.”
- “I came across mindfulness and learned how to calm myself down and feel less stressed.”
- “I get less upset in a challenging situation during a baseball game.”
- “I try it in class, and it helps me focus, so it’s so good!”
- “I am gradually becoming able to concentrate when I feel like it.”
- “I am now able to look at mistakes positively and take on the next challenge.”
- “I am able to sleep very relaxed after beditation every day.”
What’s next in Japan?
While we are pleased about this progress, the level of recognition and understanding of the programme among educators is still low. With schools busy implementing the fixed and packed national curriculum and the primary emphasis on school education being academic achievement, it feels there is little space for a program like .b. But we believe there are opportunities. The evidence suggests that mindfulness may support achievement directly and indirectly by providing children with a safe, secure, and comfortable environment in which to flourish. We hope to establish further evidence with new approaches so that more schools will incorporate mindfulness into Japanese school settings.
To this end, we created the Mindfulness for Children’s Project (MfCP) in Japan. Through the website, .b Teachers can obtain various resources, share and discuss their activities and conduct group work. We are also piloting a “.b club” where children who have participated in .b can get together to continue their practices.
In the next year, we will be able to analyse data from the above-mentioned study involving more than 300 Japanese children, which we plan to publish. We also plan to translate “.breathe”, “Paws b”, and “Dots” materials, train instructors, implement the programs, and evaluate their effectiveness in collaboration with MiSP.
We are all excited about what this journey will bring about and where it will take us.
If you’d like to discuss how MiSP can help you bring mindfulness to your school or setting (wherever you are in the world), please get in touch.