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Creativity in Japan (9)

The KJ Ho (Method) is a creative thinking and problem solving methodology, which was originally invented by Japanese cultural anthropologist, Professor Jiro Kawakita (1920-2009). It has gone through over half a century’s development and refinement as a result of applications to many kinds of complex and unique problems in Japan. This article is an up-to-date presentation of the current state of the KJ Ho by those who have contributed to its recent developments and improvements.

Written by Professor Toshio Nomura, Professor Susumu Kunifuji, Dr Mikio Naganobu, Dr Susumu Maruyama & Professor Motoki Miura.

This research was in part supported by Nomi City.


The KJ Ho (Method) is a creative thinking and problem solving methodology, which was originally invented by Japanese cultural anthropologist, Professor Jiro Kawakita (1920-2009). It has gone through over half a century’s development and refinement as a result of applications to many kinds of complex and unique problems in Japan. This article is an up-to-date presentation of the current state of the KJ Ho by those who have contributed to its recent developments and improvements.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. (Charles Darwin)
Tuesday, 08 November 2016 13:52

Guest Editor - Dr Kenichi Yumino

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Dr Kenichi Yumino is an Emeritus Professor at Shizuoka University, Japan and the former President of the Japan Creativity Society. In high-school and college, he studied Electricity & Computer Science and proceeded to a doctoral course of Educational Psychology at Kyusyu University. His current interests are creative problem solving, how to foster pupils’ creativity in school, creativity training for pre-service teachers, and the use of praise words for encouraging creative attitudes and behaviours.
Of his own publications, the one that he most values is 'Creativity Education in the World', published in 2005, which includes creativity education in the United States, Canada, the UK, Germany, Finland, China, Taiwan and Japan.

Monday, 07 November 2016 23:32

Creativity in Japan - an introduction

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We are delighted to showcase a series of articles by our esteemed Japanese colleagues which provide a valuable insight into creativity development in Japan, guest edited by Emeritus Professor Dr Kenichi Yumino. This includes a fascinating account of creativity at the Sony Corporation, how to rapidly generate a wealth of creative ideas, the role played by serendipity in creativity, and actions currently being taken to augment creative production in the Japanese workplace, higher education and in Japanese schools.
Complementing this series, is an article on the popular Japanese KJ Ho (method) of creative problem solving by Professor Dr Toshio Nomura and we thank him and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation (GBSF) for supporting this special series of articles.
You may also be interested in a related article by artist, Alex Devereux, whose recent visit to Japan is inspiring his work.

Our links with Japanese creativity experts began in 2000 when I was commissioned by a government body to review creativity development programmes internationally, with a special emphasis on certain countries including Japan. This led me to our guest editor, Professor Kenichi Yumino. Since then our links have been strengthened through our collaborations and research visits between our two countries which are continuing today. It has been a most valuable experience for us to learn about Japanese creativity development and to experience this at first hand.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016 17:14

Is Creativity Transferable?

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This issue has long been the focus of debate in educational circles. In this paper Professor Yumino addresses this issue with particular reference to Japanese education today. He illustrates his argument with a series of lesson plan examples.

Domain-Specificity of Creativity and School Education


In this article, the concepts of ‘domain-specific’ and ‘domain-general’ creativity and its supporting data are introduced. During thirty years, Baer conducted a series of studies for examining the nature of creativity. And he found that creativity is ‘domain-specific’ rather than ‘domain-general’, and sometimes it is ‘task-specific’. Based on Baer’s findings, it is recommended that creativity education in school should be attained through all subjects. The author proposes and argues the unique means and implication of creativity education in several school subjects, based on the concept of ‘domain-specific/ task specific’.

Learning consists of two phases, ‘Acquisition: Manabi in Japanese’ and ‘Creation: Tsukuri’. Yumino (2012) differentiates strictly between the two, and concludes that ‘creativity’ belongs to ‘Tsukuri’. The characteristics of Manabi and Tsukuri are summarized in Table 1. In order to realize Tsukuri in a certain subject, it is necessary to make clear the key points for realizing Tsukuri. Here, the key points of Tsukuri in four subjects are proposed, together with lesson plans in Social Studies and Science with Tsukuri Questions and Praising Words.

Key words: domain-specific, task-specific, creativity, Tsukuri (creation), Manabi (acquisition), fostering creativity in math, science, social studies, Japanese language

Thursday, 06 October 2016 15:09

Generating Creative Ideas

Do you find it difficult to generate creative ideas? If so, this article is for you. In this paper Dr Takeo Higuchi, who established the Idea Marathon System (IMS) describes how you can use this process to significantly increase the number of ideas you can generate. According to Professor Sidney Parnes, quantity breeds quality – in other words the more creative ideas you generate the more likely it is that your list will include some valuable ones. The rest of this article is devoted to examining whether or not training in IMS (which is gaining in popularity in Japanese universities and elsewhere) increases participants’ capacity to be creative. Dr Higuchi employs the Torrance Tests of Creativity (TTCTs) to assess this.


Enhancement Effects of the Idea-Marathon System (IMS) on Creativity for University Students


Thinking and writing form an inseparable combination for creativity education, and idea notebooks are still more powerful for creativity than personal computers, handy phones, or any digital equipment. The Idea-Marathon System (Idea-Marathon or IMS) is a self-encouraging and self-promoting creativity development system based on integrated notebooks in serials, with accumulating ideas to be written everyday without any limit of categories. It was founded by the author in 1984 when the author was staying in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a liaison representative of a Japanese trading house.

When he retired in 2004, the author established the Idea-Marathon Institute and started IMS staff training for various companies in marketing, sales, R & D and company laboratories. This was followed by staff training of new employees as well as for various universities and colleges in Japan. The University of Electro-Communications (UEC) started to adopt IMS for their sophomore students in the Career Design (CD) course with Team Teaching Assistants (TTA) in 2007. This UEC class has now expanded to almost all the sophomore students - about 700 per year in this university. The number of TTA has been increased accordingly. The TTA in this class also started IMS quite well from the first year, resulting in their coaching those students smoothly.

Various IMS support system were also devised to keep all participants successfully continuing to the goal of the term. As a result, almost all the students in UEC are doing IMS, except the new students. To analyze the creativity effects of the Idea-Marathon on students quantitatively, the Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking (TTCT) Figural were introduced for 3 months’ Idea-Marathon between pre-test and post-test in several universities. The TTCT Figural pre-test and post-test showed significant creative results among the basic five norms of Fluency, Originality, Elaboration, Abstractness of Titles, and Resistance to Premature Closure. In addition to the experiment at UEC, TTCT tests for the three-month Idea-Marathon training at Kanazawa Gakuin University and Ohtsuki City College (OCC) also contained the test results of both the ‘Experimental group of IMS’ and the Control group (Non-IMS Group)’ with significant difference of TTCT score results. The results show that the Idea-Marathon is effective in improving the creativity of the students.

Keywords: The Idea-Marathon System (IMS, Idea-Marathon), Idea Notebooks, ‘TTA-Supported IMS Education Method’

Thursday, 06 October 2016 15:06

Fostering Individuality and Praise in Japan

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This article highlights the importance of ensuring that any interventions aimed at increasing creativity are appropriate to the culture concerned. It focuses on one aspect of motivation, namely praise, which Professor Yumino regards as essential for promoting individuality and creativity amongst Japanese children and young people, as well as raising their levels of self- esteem and self- efficacy. As he points out, Japan is a group-oriented society and it was only after the Second World War that the concept of individuality emerged. So it is hardly surprising that not everyone has an extensive repertoire of praising words they can use with children and young people. To address this issue, he reports on work in which the idea-generation technique, Brain Writing, is used to increase different groups’ repertoires of praise words.

As these authors point out, creativity development is not new in Japan but it is being increasingly regarded as essential in education and training. Yet there appears to be a problem in that many people still find it difficult to exercise their creativity in practice. The authors suggest that the problem may lie in the lack of a creative mindset and they test this proposition with a series of sample groups – high school students, researchers working for a manufacturing company and members of the general public. The results are very interesting and point the way to future actions which need to be taken.

Cultivating a ‘Creative Mindset’ – Our Practice in Schools, Companies and Public Institutions in Japan



In Japan, education in creativity is becoming more and more important. Innovations have been considered increasingly important in Japan’s economy, and the Japanese Government has pointed them out as a major economic growth strategy. Along with that, creativity education is being more and more expected in various target segments. The government guidelines for secondary education have included the nurturing of creativity. Also it has started to be applied even in elementary education. Recently, a rising momentum in ‘Design Thinking’ has fueled the boom even more. Design thinking, started in the West Coast of the U.S., has spread worldwide. In Japan, it has been a hot topic for the last few years. In Japan, creativity education is not a new topic. It has been conducted for the last several decades and studied by many researchers. According to Takahashi’s study, there have been two different approaches: an individual approach and a systemic approach.

Does chance favour the mind prepared for the unexpected? And might this lead to more creative solutions?


The aim of this article is to investigate the mechanism of serendipitous discoveries and to develop a training method to use it. H. Walpole coined the term ‘serendipity’ and indicated that the two factors of accidents and sagacity are essential in discoveries. R. K. Merton pointed out the importance of serendipity for the progress of sciences (Merton & Barber, 2004). In this paper, we analyze the mechanism of serendipitous discoveries in terms of accidents and sagacity according to the theories of S. Kuki and C. S. Peirce, respectively. Finally, we propose a training method for serendipity using ‘serendipity cards’ that are externalized subject matter on to cards with hypotheses and results with one case study. We can compose hypotheses effectively using the concepts of ‘seeing as’ and ‘seeing that’, as proposed by N R Hanson (Hanson, 1969).

This article provides a fascinating insight into the significant role played by creativity development in the success of Sony. The authors’ account of the ‘Ibuka Way’, developed by Masaru Ibuka, the founder of Sony, provides valuable learning for all managers who are wondering how to embed creativity in their organisations. The article goes on to describe his contribution to lifelong learning and the work that is continuing today.


Masaru Ibuka, founder of Sony (1908-1997) inspired those who worked with him to challenge for a human-centric paradigm. This article intends to reveal the secrets of the ‘Ibuka Way’, how the style of Ibuka’s management has inspired and encouraged the Sony community and led to the company’s success to date. The article will first address how creativity was set forth at Sony in its prospectus for foundation, his management style that inspired engineers and scientists, and the key creative outputs generated as a result. The article then highlights: Ibuka’s enthusiasm in developing creativity from infancy and during pregnancy; his vision for a paradigm shift from analytical reductionism to a human-centric approach; and social capital development through Sony alumni associations. In conclusion the ‘Ibuka Way’ is a powerful way of making oneself or groups incredibly active and successful. The authors hope that the reader will also be inspired to take up this challenge and unleash creativity in positive surroundings, which would help achieve a better world.

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