Foreign scientists in Japan

Peter Osborne “Japanese system stifles foreign scientific talent”

日本における外国人労働力というとブルー・カラー労働が採り上げられることが多いが、Peter Osborne氏*1は、高度のスキルを持った専門職が日本に定着しないこともそれに劣らず問題であるとする。自身も神経学者であるOsborne氏は、その例として、日本における外国人自然科学者の現状を綴っている。
京都大学のBrian Budgell氏の例;

Brian Budgell is a Canadian scientist, resident in Japan for the past 15 years and currently an associate professor at the School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine at Kyoto University. Here he recalls his introduction to the university five years ago.

"On my first meeting with the head of school and the head of my division, I was informed that I was 'not a doctor in Japan' and that I would be assigned to teaching English. I was told to forget about research. This was quite different from the position that I had been led to believe I would hold. However, for the sake of my children, I could not suddenly resign.

"In the intervening years, every request to the school for research support, and every request for 'kakenhi' (government grants) has been denied.

"Fortunately, most years I have been successful in getting grants from overseas bodies. I usually travel to Australia during school breaks to do research with my colleagues there. It actually works out very well for me, but my students in Japan are denied the benefit of exposure to this research. Also, I am not allowed to teach professional courses, such as diagnosis and treatment, in which I am highly qualified.

"I feel as if my students are being victimized by the archaic attitudes of the elderly Japanese professors. However, it is a Japanese problem that Japanese people have to solve.

"Now that my youngest son has graduated from Japanese high school, I am looking for positions outside of Japan.

"The institutionalized obstacles to integration are just too pervasive. I would be happy to stay here, but with this atmosphere I can do better science elsewhere."


Foreign scientists usually cannot provide tuition in Japanese and thus are restricted to teaching in the scientific lingua franca. Unfortunately, the low level of English-language proficiency of the majority of students at Japanese universities/colleges means that employment of foreign research scientists to lecture in English is a luxury that can only be afforded by the more prestigious Japanese universities.