Tomomi, a 17-year-old high-school junior in Kudamatsu, is a talented singer who has represented her prefecture at numerous national voice competitions.
But Tomomi is frustrated. She attends the most rigorous academic high school in town, earns A's and B's, is a particularly good student in mathematics, and studies up to five hours a day so that she will be able to pass the entrance examination to attend a national university.
Like most of her classmates and students at other academic high schools, Tomomi is so busy studying that she has no social life. The yoke of school and examinations weighs heavily on her. She also chafes under the regulations at her high school. "They have rules about everything," she says. Length of shoelaces, color of book bags (red is out), style of hair (no permanents, boys' hair cut above eyebrows), no part-time jobs. "We have to wear helmets whenever we ride a bicycle."
Her father, Takao, sympathizes with her frustration but says it is not a result of the examinations and juku, but rather of the confusion in the society about the value of study.
"She just needs to learn to find the joy in her work," he says.